Tag Archives: future

Military and Religious Dystopia in Mexico’s 2033 (Movie Review)

Pablo orders some Pactia Pop

Mexican science fiction film 2033 is an intriguing glimpse into a dystopian future set in Villaparaíso (Paradiseville), the newly renamed Mexico City.  The Mexican government is a military regime that uses a drug called Tecpanol (and its derivative food product, Pactia) to control the population. Under pressure from corporations and the original coup d’état leader, the ailing PEC, General Jamaro crushes any sort of rebellion coming from religious rebels that are banned from practicing any form of worship.

The movie has a “Gattaca” look with its futuristic buildings and pretty privileged people. In contrast with the Gattaca protagonist, the story is seen form the point of view of a privileged person, Pablo- the closest thing to a son General Jamaro has. Pablo is basically a douchebag that believes in the system, and abuses his power quite dramatically. What will someone who is destined to become a regime commander do when confronted by the religious leader of the rebellion and his father’s secret past?

[SPOILERS!] As you might guess, Pablo will become involved with the “good guys.” However, the way this happens is one of two issues I have with the film. Pablo quickly accepts the rebels in spite of his lifelong indoctrination and hatred of religious fanatics. Also, the rebel priest leader Miguel trusts Pablo far too easily with sensitive missions- why risk telling him so much so soon?  The second issue I have is Pablo’s out-of-the-blue romance with rebel Lucia. It was so out there I could only justify it with “pretty people in peril” syndrome. Still, I think 2033 is a good movie and recommend you check it out. Seriously, there is even a Mexican standoff. [END SPOILERS]

Nerd harassment is alive and well in 2033

2033 is a solid scifi film. It’s definitely set up for a sequel, although no word as to whether this will happen. If you’ve seen it, comment and let me know what you think.

Francisco Laresgoiti directs, Jordi Mariscal wrote the screenplay. The official website is here and their Facebook page is here.

Watch the official trailer below. If you’d like one with English subtitles, click here.

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The Raven, Futuristic Film Set in Los Angeles (Sci-Fi Short)

Beautifully shot shorts on a budget are quite popular these days. The web is buzzing with this new short directed by Peruvian Ricardo de Montreuil  and written by de Montreuil and Antonio Pérez. Their budget was all of $5,000. Set in 2074, the film shows Chris Black (played by Víctor López), a young man of mysterious powers persecuted by the LAPD. The Raven short is based on a trilogy written by de Montreuil which he hopes to film one day. Click here for a look. For more information on this film, go to their official Facebook page.

UPDATE 7/17/10: Latino Review reports“Mark Wahlberg is in talks to star and produce the feature version of THE RAVEN at Universal with Montreuil directing! Screenwriter Justin Marks is penning the script.” I have mixed feelings about this.  It’s great for de Montreuil, but if Wahlberg is the star, then we missed out on the opportunity of a Latino lead like the one in the short. Not saying that it has to be the same actor, and I do like Mark Wahlberg, but…  slightly disappointed here for what could have been. Still, if these ‘talks’ go through, congratulations are in order for de Montreuil and his original crew for a job well done.

UPDATE 7/19/10: Cinema Blend and other sources confirm Mark Wahlberg is already developing the script, and will star in the movie.

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‘Repo Men’ the Movie Compared to the Book ‘Repossession Mambo’

The Repo Men film is a dark, at times comedic dystopia with plenty of action and tension. Essentially it is about a Credit Union repo man –the kind that takes your car if you don’t make your payments– except instead of cars, he repossesses artificial organs (artiforgs), almost always killing the client in the process. It is gruesome -at times qualifying as torture porn- and definitely earns its R rating. It is great popcorn fun and I really enjoyed it; you will too if you have the stomach for it.

The book was written by Eric García (Anonymous Rex trilogy) and the screenplay by García and Garrett Lerner (John Doe, Smallville, Roswell). Besides García, there are other Latinos in this production:  director Miguel Sapochnik, cinematographer Enrique Chediak, and supporting actress Alice Braga (I Am Legend). There are other Latinos in the cast and crew. For example, John Leguizamo is in it, although we’ll have to wait for the DVD because his main scene was cut and you barely get a glimpse of him in the movie. He plays Asbury, a black market artiforg dealer. All in all, lots of Latino love in this film. Just listen to the musical intro! Of course Forest Whitaker, Jude Law, and Liev Schreiber help make the movie first-rate.  Law plays the main character Remy and Law’s son Raff plays young Remy. And for NBC’s Community fans (like me), there is a nice surprise! The casting was perfect all around. There were no weak links among the actors.

Overall, the movie is faithful to the book. Even the name change to Repo Men is redeemed. Speaking of names, in the book the main character had none. So, according to the book’s Author’s Note, screenwriter Garrett gave him a name based on ‘Repo Man,’ RM, or Remy for reference. The name isn’t used in the movie  (unless it’s in a deleted scene). Jude Law is credited as Remy though. Here are some differences between the book and movie:

  • The repo men tattoos in the book are dark circles with golden arrows running through it; in the movie they’re Union logos with stripes underneath according to rank.
  • The endings were very different. I’m not spoiling this bit, but let me say that they are both interesting endings, and I’m not sure which one I like better.
  • [SPOILER] In the movie, Remy is married and lives with his wife Carol and little boy Peter. He is a likeable anti-hero. The book Remy is divorced four times and is arrogant in his repo man status. He is married to his fifth wife Wendy. His one good feature is his relationship with his son Peter, a college student (son of third wife Melinda), even though he manages to frak that up too.
  • [SPOILER] The one adaptation I was totally bummed about: in the book, a woman called Bonnie finds Remy and goes on the run with him. Bonnie is badass and more interesting than her movie counterpart Beth, who needs to be “saved.” (In the book, ‘Beth’ was the name of the first wife, a prostitute who couldn’t be bothered to switch careers once married. This Beth is unrelated to movie Beth.) In the movie, Remy finds a drugged-out woman in hiding called Beth, helps her detox, and wants to save her. In the book, the woman he finds hiding out is someone else entirely, and it’s the most dramatic point of the novel. The screenplay watered down the female costar and that dramatic moment.
  • [SPOILER] The four times Remy became unconscious according to the movie: tank test during soldier training, a bar fight, defibrillator accident with songwriter T-Bone, and botched repo job. In the book: tank test; attacked by two “beefy” guys he interrupted at the Red Light District while searching for his prostitute wife Beth; misuse of ether on first solo job, and defibrillator accident with kid show actor Captain K.

I liked the movie more than the book it’s based on, Repossession Mambo (itself based on the short story The Telltale Pancreas)  although they both have pros and cons. The best feature of the movie over the book is the stripping of excessive wives and soldier back story. The storytelling is linear and straightforward. The book jumps to different times and characters, symbolizing Remy’s fragmented view of the world. It’s not as easy to grasp as the movie. Plus action sequences do much better visually, especially an awesome hallway fight scene that’s not in the book. The movie soundtrack is excellent, by the way. The best feature of the book over the movie is the expanded artiforg, supply house, and Credit Union history. Also, the female lead is stronger in the book and you get a better sense of Remy’s thought process- something that’s hard to do with a movie script.

If you liked the book, you will definitely like the movie. If you liked the movie, you might want to read the book for its extra details and character development. The jumping around in the plot won’t be a problem if you know most of the story already. On the other hand, reading the book first might be confusing. To sum up, it’s a great story of a scary future that just might be ours.

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Lunar Braceros: 2125-2148 by Rosaura Sánchez and Beatrice Pita (Book Review)

Cholos in Space

Lunar Braceros (Calaca Press, 2009) is a science fiction novella set in a dystopian 22nd century in which class relations have taken a turn for the worse and where corporate greed is barely limited by the State. The United States is no longer united; after an east-west war some U.S. states joined several Mexican states to form a new political entity called Cali-Texas. An association of the top multinationals has formed the New Imperial Order and control just about everything, including governments.

The unemployed and homeless are rounded up in Reservations, where they are forced to work as cheap labor to pay for their upkeep unless they can get a job outside the reservation or have the smarts to go to college for an in-demand position. Earth has no more room for trash, and since humans depend increasingly on nuclear energy, corporations have decided to ship off some waste to Earth’s moon. They also expand the lunar mining business and begin establishing lunar colonies. The main character, Lydia, is a Reservation resident who joins the burgeoning resistance movement with her brother and gets sent to prison for her troubles. To get out early and send money to her family (thus freeing them from the Reservation) she signs up to use her computer skills as a lunar waste worker. While there, Lydia and her coworkers discover a horrifying truth that forces them to reevaluate their jobs and create a new resistance, this time on the moon.

While I found the concept very interesting and different, I wasn’t particularly fond of Lunar Bracero’s narrative style. It is contrived so different people jump in telling bits of the story and world history to a ten year old boy- often making it read like a lecture. I preferred the parts where it seemed more real-time, drawing you into the action. Also, because the story is set up so only the rebellion sympathizers are speaking, you get a very limited view of the world. The ones telling the story are the little boy’s family and friends, so the voices are biased, presenting themselves (the poor people) as inherently good, and the rich capitalists (if we see them at all) as evil or at best indifferent. Still, it is refreshing to see the point of view of the oppressed and their grassroots efforts at improving their situation when a lot of sci-fi tends to focus on solitary heroic figures or present a top-down approach. Another thing I liked was the mixture of cultures and a strong, smart, female presence.

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A Latina in Space: Paula Garcés on Defying Gravity

Astronaut Paula multitasks teaching & annoying her coworkers

Astronaut Paula multitasks teaching with annoying her coworkers

Did you get a chance to watch Defying Gravity this summer on ABC? If not, you missed out on a gem cut short before its time. ABC aired eight episodes of this show and hasn’t decided whether or not to air the remaining five. This is a shame, because while this series is definitely sci-fi and us geeks could revel in its space station beauty and solar system CGI, it also has suspense and romance that could appeal to a wider audience. I’m not sure how well publicized this show was, but considering how I am always on the lookout for new sci-fi shows, Defying Gravity caught me off guard and I didn’t hear about it until a few episodes into the first season.

So here’s the story: It is the year 2052, humans have been to Mars, and the next great multinational exploration mission is aboard spaceship Antares. For six years, it will travel around our solar system visiting several planets for research purposes. I like this premise because it seems realistic that humans will be able to space-travel close to Earth this century (here’s hoping). There is a team of eight astronauts that all have well-hidden emotional baggage, so there is drama amongst the crew and the Mission Control staff back on Earth. The mission itself has its own secrets unbeknownst even to most team members.

Paula Garcés, of Colombian heritage, plays Paula Morales, a former schoolteacher from Texas. She is the payload specialist on the Antares. Fluent in English, Spanish and Ameslan, she is also a shuttle pilot and documents the trip for the whole planet. For example, she carries a video camera around and interviews the other astronauts, then relays the videos to school children. Most of the time she speaks in English, but she also speaks in Spanish making me wonder if she’s talking to English-speaking students studying Spanish, Spanish speaking students studying English, or bilingual students. This may or may not be related to the steady growth of Latino minority groups in the United States. Whatever the reason, it is nice to hear Spanish in space. Never mind that Paula tends to annoy the other astronauts with all her questions.

Paula is very religious and isn’t afraid to display her faith to the crew. She consults her bible whenever she gets stressed out. While the character’s faith is possible, I find it hard to believe it is probable that an astronaut at her level can be so religious.  However, I would let this slide if not for Ajay Sharma, a fellow astronaut from India who is also very religious. They both relate their jobs directly to their faith and destiny. While the one black astronaut transcends ethnic stereotypes, Ajay and Paula unfortunately represent the exotic on the show.  The other characters, white and black, are distinguished by their personalities more than by their religion so it is disappointing how Paula and Ajay are introduced.  I am absolutely not saying that I want no religion or heritage on display and everybody should hide their culture. I am saying that cultural idiosyncrasies shouldn’t be as dominant as it is for these two characters. They are definitely not well-rounded roles. On the bright side, I am grateful that Paula is not the ship’s sex bomb. It is a shame we might not get more episodes because I was beginning to see a glimmer of much needed character development for Paula.

The first eight episodes of Defying Gravity are available on iTunes along with a free preview. They are also available on the ABC and CTV websites. CTV is airing the remaining episodes that ABC can’t decide on showing. As is usual in the case of great shows getting the axe, there is a Save Defying Gravity campaign you can join here and here.

UPDATE: Seems like the show was canceled, but if you’d like some resolution, here is an article interviewing its creator James Parriott.

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