Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021)

Late yesterday, a good friend offered me her ticket for the Sundance Film Festival world premiere of “Prisoners of the Ghostland” later that same evening. The film is directed by Sion Sono, a Japanese director making his English language debut. It stars Nicolas Cage and Sofia Boutella.

My wife and I were immediately game but also hesitant. Neither of us have seen a Sion Sono film, nor could either of us remember the last Nicolas Cage movie we watched. I still intend to see “Mandy” at some point based solely on the recommendation of a pair of wrestlers I like. By no means are we the target audience of this film.

Then again, who is?

“Prisoners of the Ghostland” follows Nicolas Cage as Hero, a captured bank robber. He is forced by the Governor, a man who speaks with a Southern (U.S.) accent (“Aren’t you a cuss?”), to find his missing “adopted granddaughter”. Her name is Bernice (played by Sofia Boutella) and she went missing “up the highway” in a place that may or may not be haunted by ghosts.

To guarantee Hero’s cooperation, the Governor outfits him in a black leather suit with selectively placed explosives. Two of these are placed where his testicles are and will trigger if he tries to sully the Governor’s dear Bernice. There are other gimmicks attached, but they are never the focus of the film.

I am going to be up front with you: this movie was weird. I am not sure that at any point any of it made sense. It seems destined for some kind of cult classic status, but for me (and my wife) there was a lot that did not work.

Despite being Sion Sono’s English language debut, much of the film is also in Japanese. In his introduction of the film, Sono talked about moving the production to Japan so I imagine that had a lot to do with it. Given its bilingual nature, the film constantly feels stuck between worlds which, whilst likely the intention and admittedly a cool way to deliver a specific vibe, does contribute to its overall weirdness.

As such, there are a lot of Japanese extras yelling in English. It contributes a sense of madness to the film. It also leads to almost every character but Nicolas Cage and Sofia Boutella being especially over-the-top. Despite her talents and screen time, Boutella gets almost no lines. Cage gets more screen time but is subdued and often left with little to do by the film’s script.

Now that the negatives are out of the way, let’s talk about the best aspects of “Prisoners of the Ghostland”: its visuals.

From the first second, this is a stunning film to see. There is a strong East-meets-West vibe throughout. Characters are mostly costumed in traditional Japanese garb and the sets feature traditional Japanese architecture, but the fronts of these buildings are setup to resemble the buildings you would see in an American Western. Plus, you get an eclectic mix of samurai and cowboys, a sentence I did not expect to write.

Beyond Samurai Town as described above, the Ghostland sits in stark contrast. It features more muted colors fitting its wasteland vibe. There is junk everywhere (mostly old trucks outlined in flashing lights). Without intending to, the costumes for those in Ghostland give me a similar feel to 1985’s “Return to Oz”. I am unsure why exactly, but there is a sort of junk-meets-acid trip aesthetic that runs through both films.

Visually, “Prisoners of the Ghostland” never bores. The costuming and sets are rich with color when necessary or visual density when color is not needed. The film is also overrun with symbolism. As my wife described it, this is a “show don’t tell” kind of movie, but we both thought to its own detriment.

“Prisoners of the Ghostland” is a hard movie to rate. I feel like I need to see it two or three more times to feel comfortable with any theories I might have about the nature or purpose of its characters and the strange limbo they appear to be stuck in.

At the same time, I question if there is more to it or if this is just a confectionary treat – all sugar-as-style and nothing but empty calories. It lacks enough exposition for someone like me to understand it. The action scenes are too few. There are some fun lines and scenes, but I was mostly glued to its prettiness and trying to unravel whatever the hell was happening.

I doubt I will watch it again, but I may check out more of Sion Sono’s work. He has an interesting eye and I would love to see what he can do in his own language.

WB Top 100: Best & Worst So Far, Part 2

After another 25 movies, it is time to look back at the second quarter of this overall list and do some comparisons and ranking. For our previous “Best & Worst”, click here.

As a reminder, here are the 25 movies we watched:

My Top 5

#5: What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962) – “I finally found out, and it was a terrible, horrible, thrilling story.

#4: A Star Is Born (1954) – “I didn’t expect much, but what I got had me tearing up in the end. Always swim with a lifeguard, kids.”

#3: The Dirty Dozen (1967) – “Strangely funny and endearing, this is that every dude movie should dream of being.”

#2: A Face in the Crowd (1957) – “Powerful from beginning to end. This has made me rethink Andy Griffith the actor, a staple of my childhood, and wish more people watched this film for it’s haunting reflection of modern politics.”

#1: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) – “It was hard to pick this over my #2 choice, but Bogart’s descent into madness from his greed will forever stay with me.”

Diane’s Top 5

#5: A Star Is Born (1954) – “Solid movie despite the racist song and missing scenes (included in our version as stills).”

#4: What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962) – “Nice to see two stars channeling their real life hatred in such a productive way.”

#3: The Dirty Dozen (1967) – “I bet my dad watched this movie so many times.”

#2: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) – “Finally, a Bogart movie we actually enjoyed.”

#1: A Face in the Crowd (1957) – “I’ve never watched “The Andy Griffith Show” and now because of this movie I never will be able to.

Our Worst 5 (Combined)

#5 (Combined): Bullitt (1968) – We forgot too much about this boring film to come up with a good quote. Car chase, maybe?

#4 (Me): Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

#4 (Diane): How the West Was Won (1962)

#3 (Me): Viva Las Vegas (1964)

#3 (Diane): Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

#2 (Me): How the West Was Won (1962)

#2 (Diane): Viva Las Vegas (1964)

#1 (Combined): Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) – “When people think of a musical where women get kidnapped and develop Stockholm Syndrome they usually think of Beauty and the Beast when they should really be thinking about Seven Brides for Seven Brothers“.

Alabama Snake (2020)

“Alabama Snake” is a 2020 documentary film on HBO. It presents Appalachian folklore and religious beliefs through the lens of true crime (with a healthy dose of horror too). The story focuses on a Pentecostal minister convicted of attempted murder of his wife. The weapon of choice?

Snakes. Lots of ’em.

The first half was a bit strange. I kept expecting a true crime experience, but that is not “Alabama Snake”. The details of the case are glossed over quickly. Instead, this is a film about faith that tries to balance believing in those who believe while also taking a critical look at their beliefs from an outsider’s perspective.

I have never been to this part of Alabama (the film focuses on true events in the northeast of the state), but growing up, I had heard of snake handlers in relation to Christianity. There was often an air of disbelief, shame, or wonder when they came up. I, perhaps thankfully, never experienced their particular brand of religious service first hand.

“Alabama Snake” works because it presents the story according to its subjects. We get versions of the truth from both the accused (the aforementioned minister) and his wife. Unlike most true crime documentaries, however, both stories are equally weird. Albeit it seems likely that the minister was correctly convicted, tales of him being demon-possessed by his wife (in the literal sense) do little to aid the truth.

I would recommend watching it for the last 30 seconds alone (where our shared reality undercuts the reality the convicted minister has constructed for himself in comedic fashion).

Score: 1.50 from me and 1.25 from my wife.

Creed II (2019)

“Creed II” is the 2018 sequel to “Creed” starring Michael B. Jordan (Adonis Creed), Tessa Thompson (as Bianca), and Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. In addition, Dolph Lundgren reprises his role as 80s supervillain, Ivan Drago, the man who killed Apollo Creed, Adonis’s father, in Rocky IV. There’s also an appearance by Brigitte Nielsen whom I only know, regrettably, from VH1’s The Surreal Life.

The first half of “Creed II” was painful to watch. In place of Ryan Coogler’s well-executed and well-directed “Creed”, it’s obvious from the beginning that the sequel (without Coogler in the director’s chair) is a pale imitation.


Worse, the first half feels both fast and slow. To give the audience all the reasons to care about the fight at the heart of its plot, the film breezes through a bunch of personal things (Adonis proposing to Bianca, Bianca getting pregnant, Bianca’s advanced hearing loss, Adonis and Bianca moving out of Philadelphia, etc.) In the first film, these would’ve all felt monumental, but “Creed II” treats them like checklist that must be completed before people will care about Creed versus Drago II.

The fights also suffer, either from new direction or perhaps a change in budget. Each feels closer to what the Rocky series managed to do in the 1980s. Gone is the fight choreography and film from the first movie. With it, much of the weight and realism that made “Creed” standout are replaced by with the floaty physics of film (less than) magic.


The performances also take a hit. Though much of the film’s latter half redeems it, especially in terms of acting, Michael B. Jordan is far less impressive in this one. He has the physicality of the performance perfect, but his motives suffer from poor writing early on. I am still not 100% sure why he and Rocky have a falling out or why Adonis Creed felt he absolutely had to fight Ivan Drago’s son. It all felt forced.

Thankfully, the second half of the film, and the final fight (the film’s second between Creed and the Drago) go a long way to rehabilitate an otherwise forgettable sequel. Michael B. Jordan finally turns on his talent when he plays the beaten and battered Creed who won the first fight only technically. In addition, he must face a fear of not wanting to box again and his role as a new dad at the same time.


I found it important that Adonis and Bianca’s daughter was born with Bianca’s hearing loss. So often, movies, especially these kinds of movies, tend to gloss over the personal life or use it solely as a fuel for the film’s greater conflict. The couple knew that it was a risk their child could inherit Bianca’s hearing loss. Adonis struggles with the news at first, but the movie neither gets bogged down or ignores this struggle. Rocky, as the wise elder in these films, wakes him up to the truth that, no matter what, he will love the child. And, to be honest, that kind of messaging is important in films and adds valuable depth and honesty to what could’ve been a moment of suspense and an otherwise perfect baby born to two perfect-looking people.

With all that in mind, I was prepared to really hate this movie until its final fight. After “Creed”, “Creed II” felt like a wasted opportunity that rested too neatly on nostalgia for the most popular of all Rocky films. And that remained true until Ivan Drago, 80s supervillain and the sole reason why Russia lost the Cold War, threw in the towel to save his son who refused to stay down in a grueling fight with Adonis.


Whereas 80s villains were often one-dimensional, this was “Creed II” reaching back in time to add layers to the hated bad guy. It was awesome. It reminded me why I like modern films so much more: the attempt to humanize even our worst enemies. It is one of the biggest draws to sports anime as well. Anime like Hajime no Ippo or Yowamushi Pedal go to great lengths to introduce new villains as terrifying things to overcome, but after they are overcome or sometimes simultaneous to the overcoming, they are almost always given new life and dimension as the author actively seeks to tell their side of the story in a way that makes them appreciable as human beings and not just monsters.

Likewise, throwing in the towel makes certain the fact that “Creed II” should’ve been “Drago”. After being abandoned by his country and his wife, the elder Drago raises his son to be a boxer in relative obscurity and poverty. It’s only through a boxing promoter that they manage to get the fight with Creed and only Creed taking and failing to secure a true victory that puts Drago back in the good graces of high Russian society. It’s a heartbreaking story covered up by the red herring that Ivan Drago is still a monster when he just wanted his son to have what was wrongfully stolen from him.


Some of that may be projection, but so much of “Creed II” is better if you project or, even better yet, remix it. The emotional arch conclusions that come at the end of the film when Rocky finally meets his grandson and Adonis finally goes to see his father’s grave would’ve fit so much better in the middle of the film. Or, leave them at the end, but at the end of “Drago”.

“Creed II” was okay. That’s unfortunate because “Creed” was such a fantastic film and I genuinely looked forward to seeing the sequel. It could’ve been easily improved with restructuring and the adage about how often broken clocks are right probably applies in terms of how the Dragos were handled. Sadly, unless Coogler returns, I won’t be so interested in a probably “Creed III”.

The Fill-In Filmography

I have never purchased anything from Pop Chart before, but I really wanted their Fill-In Filmography the first time I saw it.

You may think that Diane and I watch a lot of movies. We don’t. Outside of this month and our ongoing Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film project, we are lucky if we watching anything else. Truthfully, I prefer watching television series, and she hasn’t watched all of my favorites yet.

That said, I do love watching movies with her. I am glad we’ve made it a fun couple pastime. With the Fill-In Filmography now proudly hanging in our apartment’s entryway, we’ve formalized that pastime.

By the rules of the chart, there are spots to fill-in if you have seen a movie, if you liked it, and if you loved it. We changed the rules up a bit:

  1. None of the liked it/loved it stuff. The bubbles are small and it is hard to tell them apart anyway. We only fill-in for watched it.
  2. Seen it together or not at all. Since I have seen more movies and the few she has seen often differ from mine, it didn’t seem fair to strike-off a bunch of films we’ve seen on our own. The new rule is we must watch it together, even if we have seen it before individual, in order to mark it off.
  3. This is just for fun. We are not racing to complete this thing. 1,500 movies is a lot of movies, and they are not all made equally.

Rules aside, having this chart has been a lot of fun in our short time owning it. We have a small ritual of checking it for something we’ve recently watched or we use it to find something to watch.

Plus, it goes great with all the big movie box sets I bought a few years ago …

WB Top 100: Bullitt (1968)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.

We both have heard of Steve McQueen – thank you Pixar – but neither of us had ever seen any of his movies. I had expected an action-packed adventure. And, though I am sure it got pulses racing in 1968, “Bullitt” played more akin to a Film Noir movie than anything with any real action.

McQueen plays Lt. Frank Bullitt, a renowned San Francisco police officer. He and his men are entrusted with protecting a key witness for an upcoming Senate subcommittee hearing by a senator (Robert Vaughn) with eyes on a bigger office. So far, so good (for an action movie plot).

“Bullitt” isn’t an action movie, however; it is a fairly by-the-books police procedural. There is nothing wrong with that, but I found the film to be painfully slow. The long, drawn out moments of suspense were about as suspenseful as driving over a suspension bridge. That is to say, only if you try holding your breath because you will likely run out of air before anything happens.

Even the movie’s renowned car chase sequence was a letdown. Sure, it is shot great and took real talent to pull off, but flying through the deserted (huh?) mid-day streets of San Francisco either means lots of uphills or downhills. Once they got out of the city to straighter roads and they had to weave through traffic, it got exciting, but then it ended on the forever cheesy trope of “running over something explosive and dying horribly”.

The problem with a movie like “Bullitt” is that it’s kind have not aged well. More realistic portrayals of police procedures and the inside of an emergency room help, but Law & Order does that even better these days and you can watch it all day long when you visit your parents/grandparents. Plus, each episode is a tight 45 minutes (forgetting the commercials).

That’s not to say it was a bad film, just one I didn’t enjoy. The shots of San Francisco and the cinematography are all fantastic. I can buy into Steve McQueen as a cool dude too. I also loved that we got some actual blood and gore for a change. It made me realize we are getting closer and closer to the modern era after all.

I am sure this film is a favorite for a lot of dads and granddads out there, but film and television have done everything “Bullitt” does better and more often. Appearances from Robert Duvall and Stanley from Three’s Company couldn’t even save it. I would turn on whatever channel in your country marathons Law & Order or its international sibling and take a great nap.

For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

For dad’s birthday weekend extravaganza, we took a break from eating lobster tails and watching baseball to watch a movie. We chose “If Beale Street Could Talk”, the 2018 drama, because dad had “heard a lot about it on TV”. This isn’t a shocking reason for choosing anything and it was a welcome choice when we easily could’ve queued up any number of bad action films that were also present in Hulu’s movie library.

I am unsure if dad liked the film. As dads do, he took a smoke break during the sex scene, nodded in and out of consciousness, but otherwise paid some attention. Diane and I both enjoyed it, however.


“If Beale Street Could Talk” follows Tish (played by KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), two young African Americans who grew up together, fall in love, and have an unplanned baby while Fonny is falsely imprisoned. Unfortunately, it is a uniquely American story and one worth hearing. Despite the charges against Fonny being flimsy at best, there is little they can do to fight against the American justice system.

The story was moving enough on its own. Throughout, I wanted Tish and Fonny to be together. Interspersing the horrible present with moments of their past happiness only heightened that want and made plainer the horror of their situation. Even with a realistic, albeit happy ending, “Beale Street” is a hard film to watch with a lot of terrible things happening to good people.


The story may have felt tired (although it has a social conscious motive that should never be ignored) if not for the wonderful directing, acting, and editing. To me, “Beale Street” felt every bit as good as a film like “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” only without the baggage of being based on a play since being based on a book means the characters can go places and do things outside the confines of a one-room set. 

Similar to “Cat” and movies like it, “If Beale Street Could Talk” focuses on dialogue and relationships between characters. Every performance sells each well-written line with the utmost respect that each deserves. The close-ups on the actors faces and their emotions punctuates each scene. It was a deeply moving film and one I hope not to forget. Barry Jenkins, the film’s director, did a phenomenal job.


Diane and I shared a favorite scene. Early on, when Tish reveals to Fonny’s family that she is pregnant (this occurs after Fonny is already in jail), the way everyone acts and reacts was so familiar to some of the same people I grew up with and around. Fonny’s mother is deeply religious and she is immediately offended. She thinks the baby is born to sin and a proof to her belief that Tish is a bad influence on her son. As Fonny’s two sisters share their mother’s distaste, two dads celebrate, and Tish’s sister jumps in to protect her little sister’s honor, the scene plays out in chaos and fury. It was as well-executed as it was hard to watch.

And that’s true of the whole film, not just that one scene. Everyone, and I mean everyone, brought their A-game for this one. Even the smaller roles for actors I did not expect to see were heartbreaking, especially Brian Tyree Henry as Fozzy’s friend who is suffering from his recent stint in prison. They even managed to get a non-distracting performance from Dave Franco!


“If Beale Street Could Talk” is a wonderful, fantastic movie. It’s exciting and beautiful and terrifying all the same. I hope to see more of its leads, and I wish to see less truth in the reality the film reflected. Until then, movies like this are what we all need to be watching.

A Bulleted List of Reasons We Turned Off Aquaman

When it comes to writing thirty-one movie reviews in a row, not every review written can be a winner and neither are all the movies we watch. Sometimes you have your father coming over for his birthday the next day and you just want to have something on while you bake a cheesecake. Sometimes that thing is an action movie you missed a few years ago which everyone said was okay. Sometimes those movies are not okay, despite what people say.

This is some time.

Tonight, we turned on Aquaman and turned off Aquaman. Here’s why in as many bullets as I need to get through the word salad in my head:

  • It sucked.

  • That’s unfair: it was pretty, the two leads were attractive, and it had a decent big screen interpretation of Atlantis whenever we spent time there.

  • We did not spend time in Atlantis.

  • We did spend time on the origin of Black Manta, a black man playing a villain with the words “black man” in his title. That’s not the movie’s fault, but I am considering adding a villain to my next D&D campaign named White Manticore who comedically pauses between the “man-” and the “-ticore”.

  • The punchline in that bullet was the word “comedically” because that joke wasn’t funny.

  • Seriously though, the movie lacked an anchor and seemed to be fishing for a plot.

  • We are supposed to care about not one but two McGuffins: the title of Ocean Man and the Trident of Atlan. Both are vaguely defined.

  • You can correct me and say the title is actually Ocean Master, but I know you don’t want to out yourself as someone who cares that much.

  • We do get some mom issues to work through and some hubbub over rightful heirs and what not, but the movie made me care about its government situation like Khal Drogo cared about the rightful king of Westeros.

  • It was cheesy and the tone was all over the place. We go from watching humanoid minions suffocate to one of them sticking their head in a toilet? Black Manta mutters a bunch of one-liners that belonged, at best, in an episode of Power Rangers? It was just … just no.

  • I am out of effort.

Aqu-nah, man.

Ex Machina (2014)

“Ex Machina” was the perfect follow-up to watching “2001: A Space Odyssey”. In many ways, the films are similar. The dialogue and exposition are limited. There’s a constant flow toward something – a building tension – but you are not sure what. Both also talk about artificial intelligence and related concepts. And, for us, “Ex Machina” was the better movie despite not being as visionary as “2001”.


The movie only features four characters. Oscar Isaac plays Nathan, the CEO of a fictionalized version of Google who has retreated to a paradise stronghold to use the power of search engine data to fuel the creation of an artificial intelligence that can pass as human. Domhnall Gleeson is Caleb, a programmer at Nathan’s company who “wins” a contest to spend a week with the boss. Alicia Vikander plays Ava, the artificial intelligence. Finally, Sonoyo Mizuno, in a non-speaking role, plays Kyoko, Nathan’s A.I. servant.

My biggest takeaway from watching “Ex Machina” was how refreshing it felt to get “back to basics”. In “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the A.I. HAL managed to win me over by singing as his brains were being literally pulled out. Here, Ava isn’t a fresh idea brought to the big screen for the first time. Over the last decade, we have seen a ton of media focused on artificial intelligence gone awry. For instance, a show like HBO’s Westworld that featured A.I. raising hell and fucking there way through it. In “Ex Machina”, we hit the reset button as we, the audience, and Caleb, our stand-in, meet Ava and are challenged to question her humanity, self-awareness, and agency.


Despite feeling less than fresh, it is this clean install that makes “Ex Machina” interesting. In challenging its lead to participate in a Turing test, it also challenges the audience to consider Ava as well. Rather than jump to sex and violence, “Ex Machina” is slow and intentional in a way that makes its heady concepts easier to swallow.

It doesn’t hurt that Oscar Isaac gives a marvelous performance as the asshole Nathan. It is hard not to hate and mistrust him from the first moment he is on the screen until the last. Throughout the film, he uses Caleb, but it is in his duplicity that the audience is challenged. Whether Ava has free will or not, whether she cares for Caleb or not, whether Nathan is a red herring or not. These are all the things that keep “Ex Machina” interesting. Nathan, and loathing him, is a distraction that makes everything else work.


That’s not to say that “Ex Machina” is a revelatory experience. It is less exciting simply because its a common trope these days, even if it is well-executed. Telling a great story about A.I. in the 2010’s differs little from telling a great story about zombies 15 years ago at the height of its craze: everyone is doing it, so it’s harder to stand out.

I realize I liked “Ex Machina” more as a palette cleanser than something in its own right. It helped clear out the aftertaste of “2001” and some of the lingering flavors of the second season of Westworld (which was pretty bad). And that’s not a bad thing. Diane and I both enjoyed it.

Plus, after seeing Oscar Isaac in “Inside Llewyn Davis”, I will watch him in most anything once.


WB Top 100: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


Like so many fans of film, I consider myself a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s work. Whereas many of the films on this list thus far have been described as varying degrees of “fun”, Kubrick’s movies are rarely anything of the sort. I have looked forward to rewatching his work and seeing his movies with fresher eyes or hearing what Diane has to say as she has only seen “The Shining”. Perhaps most of all, I had looked forward to seeing 1968’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, a Kubrick film I always managed to miss. After seeing it though, it is now my least favorite example of his work.


Some of you may recall that I enjoy reading science fiction novels. Though I have slowed dramatically in recent years, when I was a teenager, I swore I would read every Hugo Award winner for Best Novel. As such, Arthur C. Clarke (the film’s co-writer and the writer of the short story that inspired it) is not an unfamiliar name to me and I could feel his fingerprints, and the fingerprints of the sci-fi genre at the time, all over “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Married with Kubrick’s vision and imagery, it should’ve been a hit for me, but I felt even more adrift than any of the film’s many spaceships.

Since the film’s release, the only thing I knew about it was an astronaut named Dave who has to contend in some way with an artificial intelligence named HAL. Unfortunately, the peak of their conflict occurs in the back half of the film and encompasses all of about five minutes. For a film that wants to flirt with things beyond human comprehension, it spends its precious few lines of dialogue humanizing a malfunctioning AI, makes him a fixture of pop culture history forever, and instantly jets off to a literal kaleidoscope of psychedelic imagery that has not aged well.

It’s all a shame too because so much of “2001” is timeless in its execution despite being a reflection of a future of buttons and vending machines and stewardesses. The depiction of early man as yet-to-be evolved apes visited by a strange alien monolith and discovering how to make weapons was strange but a startling way to open. From there, we move to the best retro-future vision ever set to film (this is a positive: I love the future as mankind saw it in the 50’s and 60’s).


In discussing the film afterward for this review, I realized “2001: A Space Odyssey” seemed to me to be a past generation’s “The Matrix” or even “Inception”. Kubrick threw out every script we have seen before on this list and gave us all a wholly unique vision. One of the best things about older movies is I get to say, “How the hell did they do that?” For the first two acts of “2001”, I never stopped asking that question.

Unfortunately, with so much of the philosophy of the film wrapped up in depicting, but not showing, extraterrestrials too incomprehensible to show, I am reminded only of the acid burnout stories that plague so many classic science fiction writers I have read. While neat in idea and likely revolutionary and inspirational for the time, “2001: A Space Odyssey” fell victim to smoking its own self-image, a hallucinogenic thing short on substance. To me, as technically amazing and truly brave as this film was, it felt more akin to something like “Cloud Atlas” with a lot to say and no real way of saying it that felt impactful.


None of this is to say “2001: A Space Odyssey” is a bad film. It is not. It was revolutionary, but as necessary as revolutions are, I’d never ask to live in the middle of one. It would be unfair to say that I was not let down at least somewhat by what I perceived the film to be before seeing it. I expected a horror film, better than “The Shining”, about man versus machine. As I said before, that part of the film, as memorable and terrifying and tense as it was, was also too brief. The bulk of the film is spent on a soundscape both pretentious and genius, that conveys the uncaring nature of space, and fills the rest with equally uncaring humans pretending their way to an unknowable enlightenment for the benefit of no one.

Art at its best and its worse, “2001: A Space Odyssey” is an experience worth having once.


For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.