WARNING: What has been seen cannot be unseen, and may scar you for LIFE!
Overview: One of the key themes in cyberpunk is how technology affects humanity, whether for better or for worse. Untraceable opted to show the for worse part with a tech-savvy psycho who creates the website KillWithMe.com (it works for now, but don’t expect much there). The website streams live video of people being tortured and killed by various means, with the victim dying faster as more people watch. FBI cybercrime agent Jennifer Marsh is the one who needs to stop the killer site before the killings get too gruesome.
This is one movie that’s not for cyberpunk fans, unless they are also Law & Order/CSI/NCIS fans as well. Despite the cyber message the movie tries to deliver, the lack of other cyberpunk themes makes this one movie that cyberpunk fans may want to steer clear of.
The Story: FBI agent Jennifer Marsh (Lane) works as part of the cybercrimes division, mostly at night because she’s a widow with a daughter. She has enough tech skills to track down and solve common ID fraud cases, maybe some other cybercrimes that the FBI deals with. She gets a tip for the site killwithme.com, and when she logs in she sees a dead kitten on a live video stream. Her team tries to shut the site down, but the person behind the site has advanced tech skills that makes his site virtually untraceable. Before long, the site shows a man being pumped with anticoagulants which causes him to bleed to death. The more people who visit the site, the more anticoagulant is pumped into him to make him bleed more. Marsh and company now need to find who is behind the site, hopefully before more people die on it. The problem she has is the publicity and schadenfreude the site generates, making it increasingly popular.
Schaden-whatthefuck? Schadenfreude - (German, noun) Enjoyment derived from the suffering or misfortune of others. You must have experienced schadenfreude many times in your life, often starting at a very young age; Taking a toy away from another toddler and making him/her cry, watching a baddie get his ass kicked by the hero, LOLs while watching The Three Stooges slap each other around. These are but some small examples of schadenfreude that we have experienced. In the Internet age, that concept has become wide spread and even viral as noticed on YouTube. But then, America’s Funniest Home Videos has been doing it since 1989.
Unfortunately, schadenfreude also takes on darker tones as Untraceable shows. The Internet can take a personal tragedy and make it viral not only for the people who videoed the event, but for whatever site/station that also broadcasts it. This is the driving motivation behind killwithme.com’s mastermind, exposing humanity’s dark schadenfreude while taking personal revenge on those who benefited from his father’s suicide.
Hello, Jennifer. Look out the front window, under that street light. That’s where my father fell over the railing. Some websites show the whole thing in slow motion because it’s just so much better that way. One archives it in a section called “whoa.” That’s it, just “whoa.”
You and the people you work with you let people say and do almost anything they want. It doesn’t matter who it hurts.
A One-Star Wonder? The main problem, other than being geared for the police-procedure crime-solver types, is the lack of cyberpunk themes. The negative impact of technology is obviously there, along with the undertones of ubiquitous Internet access shown with all the handhelds and cellphones shown being used. The rest, not so much. And those who prefer the crime-solving may feel like they’ve solved this crime before the agents do, and not because we get to see the perpetrator select his victims.
Conclusion: While the message about our dark nature on the Internet is strong, the lack of cyberpunk themes will be a turn off of most. Recommended ONLY for Law & Order/CSI/NCIS fans, and even then with some reservations.
The bots are back in the official “unofficial” sequel to Westworld. Actually, the makers, American International Pictures, was bought up by Filmways, which was bought up by Orion Pictures, which was bought up by MGM, who made Westworld.
Overview: The idea of making a (crappy) sequel to a popular movie isn’t exactly new, as Futureworld will show. As the now “official” sequel to Westworld,Futureworld tried to take the storyline into a new (some would say “misguided”) direction by answering the big unanswered question: Why did the robots suddenly turn on the human guests of Delos?
I managed to catch this on Reelz a few weeks back. I’ve been looking for a DVD for some time as well, but this rare film is… well… rare. I resorted to torrenting it to give you this review. I’ll keep on searching for it.
The Story: Reporter Chuck Browning (Fonda), who first reported the Westworld fiasco, gets a phone call from a person who says he has important information. When they meet, the contact dies, but uses his last breath to say why he needed to contact Browning… “Delos.”
The Delos Amusement Park is now set to reopen after two years and some $1 billion in “improvements,” and want Browning and fellow reporter Tracy Ballard (Danner) to visit the park and report on the improvements to show that it is now safe. Among the improvements made are the abandonment of Westworld in favor of the space adventure “Future world.” Browning soon discovers that the park has a more sinister operation behind it than just entertainment.
Another moment in cinematic history: Just as Westworld was the first to use 2D CGI, Futureworld is the first to use 3D CGI. The hand on the monitor is the first example.
A Gunslinger’s last stand.
Ballard gets to try out a brain-wave scanner. This is where we see Yul Brenner in his last movie role before his death in 1985. Meanwhile, Browning is watching it all through a scanner.
An unanswered question is answered. And now, the answer to the million dollar question: Why did the robots go screwloose and kill everyone in Delos?
Somehow, the robots were learning through their contact with the guests, and what they learn is that humans are a threat not only to them (the robots), but to the the planet as a whole:
“The human being is a very unstable, irrational, violent animal. All our probability studies indicate that, if left alone, you will destroy much of this planet before the end of the decade. We at Delos are determined to see that doesn’t happen. We don’t intend to be destroyed by your mistakes.”
To stop the humans, the robots came up with a plan:
Invite the world’s “elite”… the rich, the famous, the powerful and influential… to visit Delos park.
Drug the guest’s meals and measure and sample their inert bodies.
Create clone “duplicates.”
Program the duplicates to act on behalf of Delos.
Have the duplicates kill the guests.
Send the duplicates out into the world to work on behalf of Delos.
WORLD DOMINATION! (Why not? They already run Delos.)
But, is it cyberpunk? Like Westworld,Futureworld was made before anyone ever coined the word, so they could not have made this cyberpunk… at least not on purpose. The visuals aren’t there (even the access tunnels are brighter and cleaner than what one would expect), there are no hackers or underground resistors, and there’s no word on the state of the world in the movie other than the above mentioned probability studies. The added themes of corporate control (Delos’s plan) and the robots running the show do push Futureworld closer to being cyberpunk, but not totally into that arena.
Conclusion. Since its release, Futureworld has had a rather hard-knocked life of being constantly panned by critics (Rotten Tomatoes gives it only a 33% “Rotten” rating), some see it as a worthy sequel to Westworld. At least, it was worthy enough to attempt a television series, Beyond Westworld. I sort of liked it, but you may feel differently, depending on how you see ‘unofficial’ sequels.
Spring must be around the corner. I can hear the birds… flipping.
Feeling burned out from net surfing? Has the grind of cyberpunk turned you cortex to pudding? BOY HAVE WE GOT A VACATION FOR YOU! Come on down to Delos Amusement Park and play with our robots that have been programmed with your safety and enjoyment in mind. NOTHING CAN PUSSIB… POBABAB… POSSIBLY GO WORNG!
With Michael Crichton’s death earlier this month (04-Nov-2008), I’d thought I’d review one of his most classic movies because of its influence on cyberpunk. Though mostly known for his books-turned-movies like Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain and the television series ER, he has also written and directed several movies including Looker and Runaway.
Westworld primarily focuses on the theme of technology run amok, and very little… if anything… on the rest. Crichton’s theme-park-gone-fubar plot would be repeated in Jurassic Park, while the idea of robots gone berserk would appear a decade later in a low-budget piece featuring a then unknown Austrian muscle man, and in some other cyberpunk flicks since.
Murphy’s law in action. Delos Amusement Park is a near-futuristic adult playground divided into three areas corresponding to different time periods in world history; RomanWorld, MedievalWorld, and the titular WestWorld (briefly refered to as WesternWorld during an orientation video.
John Blaine (Brolin) is returning to WestWorld and brings his friend, Peter Martin, along to experience the six-shooting action where a Yul Brynner robot gunslinger is the main attraction. Things go smoothly… for a while. In the underground control centers, the park technicians notice that robot “malfunctions” are becoming more severe, until a guest is killed in MedievalWorld. Then they realize that even in a place where nothing can possibly go wrong, everything can go wrong.
The Three Laws revisited. While cyberpunk themes are lacking, there is a definite play on Asimov’s Three Laws at work. The First Law (protect humans) is obvious with The Gunslinger, who must always lose the duels he starts. The guns also enforce The First Law with sensors that disable firing when it senses it is pointed at a human.
The Second Law (obey humans) is seen in WestWorld’s whorehouses and MedievalWorld’s slave girls, who are programmed to comply with sexual advances of the guests. When a MedievalWorld slave girl rejects such a request, the technicians begin to suspect that things are about to take a turn for the worst.
The Third Law (protect self) is a bit harder to detect. The robots are programmed to put up a fight and will defend themselves… to a certain degree, but will always allow themselves to be beaten by the guests (again, The Gunslinger).
The Gunslinger gets a facelift… and some new optics.
OK, so why not cyberpunk? Other than being released before Bruce Bethke invented the word, what other factors keep Westworld from being a true cyberpunk movie? For one thing, we don’t see much of the world outside the park other than the opening minutes in the hovercraft lounge, so we don’t know what state the world is in. Then again, if average-looking schmoes (for the 70’s anyway) like Blaine and Martin can afford a grand a day to play with robots, the world can’t be in that bad of shape.
Perhaps the biggest reason why the “not cyberpunk” tag is the biggest weakness in the movie: The question of “Why did the robots go screw-loose?” is never answered. Bad software? Hardware flaw? “Outside” influences? If the question had been answered in this movie, it could have been a true cyberpunk movie… at least, its star rating would have been higher.
A moment in cinematic history: This chase scene is the first use of computer generated images (CGI) in a movie. Primitive by today’s standards, but groundbreaking for 1973.
Overview: We, who do reviews for Cyberpunk Review, sometimes feel the need to review such crappy media not only to let you know what is/is not cyberpunk, but what stuff is truly deserving of the label “crap.” Stealth is such a movie, as it attempts to be Top Gun, Firefox, and The Terminator in one overstuffed turkey. Jamie Foxx was better off behind a piano as music legend Ray Charles than he was in the cockpit of this doomed flight.
So why bother doing a review of it anyway? If you’ve seen the plot synopsis of Stealth as I have, you might have been tempted to call this cyberpunk, too:
The Story: The near future US military is engaged in a war against terrorism (still?), and they’re investigating any and all technologies to help strike the enemies heavily, quickly, and quietly. The result: The F/A-37 Talon, a multi-purpose aircraft that can out-shoot and out-fly any aircraft. Three pilots are selected out of four hundred applicants as they achieve perfect scores during a field test and are assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. There, the trio learn they will be joined by a fourth, an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) known as the Extreme Deep Infiltrator, EDI or “Eddie” as everyone calls it.
EDI is not just a UCAV; The “pilot” of EDI is a quantum computer with a highly advanced AI on a neuronal network. This gives EDI the ability to learn quickly, as the rest of the Talon squadron are initially instructed to teach what they know to it. It’s EDI’s appearance that triggers a debate about the use of robots in wars: How humans can appreciate the perils and ugliness of war, while machines can exceed human performance without being subject to the emotional baggage.
Negative impact of technology? Check. This ethical debate makes the first half of the movie a bit more interesting as we watch the EDI and Talons take on their first mission: The heads of three terrorist cells are meeting in Rangoon, and the squadron must take them out.
EDI gathers intelligence about the terrorists from satellites and even retinal scans (Ubiquitous access to information. OK.), and comes up with a way to take them out without innocent casualties. EDI is ordered to make the kill, but Gannon belays that order and makes the shot himself. While the squadron returns to the Abraham Lincoln, EDI is struck by lightning and starts to take on some human characteristics: EDI starts learning at an exponential rate, develops ethics and an ego, and even downloads all the music files from the Internet. Man-Machine fusion? Sounds like it.
Second mission: Terrorists have acquired nuclear warheads. The squadron must take them out, but the mission is aborted when it is discover the warheads cannot be destroyed without fallout causing civilian casualties. EDI attacks anyway, citing Gannon’s disobedience in the previous mission. The squadron is now ordered to escort EDI back to the Abraham Lincoln, take control of it, or shoot it out of the sky.
From there, Stealth degenerates into another cookie-cutter action movie that crashes and burns, like Purcell does when he tries to chase EDI. The debris damages Wade’s jet and forces her to return to the carrier, only to eject over North Korea, and leaves Gannon to hunt down EDI.
Nothing more to see. Well, maybe a little bit… If you’re looking for a focus on the underground, you’ll find nothing. Then again, you really can’t focus on the underground when doing Mach 5 above the Earth.
On the other hand, there is some evidence of someone trying to control society, at least the Navy anyway. Throughout the movie the carrier’s captain is seen talking on the phone to a Congressman who seems to have a vested interest in the EDI program. Also, after Gannon crash-lands in Alaska, some black-ops types try to kill him, but escapes with the help of EDI’s creator, Keith Orbit.
This is the problem in trying to call Stealth cyberpunk: The themes are there, just not enough to call it cyberpunk. And not enough to even call this dodo a “good movie.” Leave this bird on the runway, or stay within reach of the ejector button if you insist on watching.
Attention, passengers. Due to terminal crappines, this flight has been canceled PERMANENTLY! Thank you for flying Cyberpunk Review Airlines.
Don’t worry, folks. Last weekend, I came across a DVD that sounded like it was very much cyberpunk, and I have a couple of others to watch and review, with some other titles from the forums to check, so we’ll have some real cyberpunk movies for you to enjoy.
SFAM Note - Change to Review: CPR now has a number of people doing reviews here. Inevitably, there will be differences over whether or not we think of something as being cyberpunk or not. In the case of the Transformers, Mr. Roboto feels that it is, but I do not (nor do many who listed comments below). I have changed the categories to reflect this (its being placed in the “It’s Not Cyberpunk” category), but the rest of the review is still Mr. Roboto’s.
Optimus Prime: Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.
Overview: Anyone growing up during the mid-80’s must have played with, or at least heard of, Hasbro’s Transformers and watched the animated series that began in 1984. Since then, the Transformers have attained a cult status among nerd types who dreamed of owning a muscle car or heavy duty pick-up that can transform into a kick-ass robot. Now, those fans have a live-action movie to go along with the animated 1986 movie from those heady first-generation days.
I went to see this movie, not expecting cyberpunk themes, but like Optimus Prime and Megatron colliding, BOOM! There they were, though some may say there’s a bit of a stretch for them. Like Alien, there will no doubt be some discussion about the themes and visuals and if the movie qualifies as cyberpunk.
Negative Impact of technology on humanity: Decepticons and the power-hungry Megatron will destroy Earth and the humans for the Allspark, and Megatron even shows his disgust for our species as he flicks a human away during the final battle. Also, the ongoing war between the Autobots and Decepticons could be a metaphoric warning about a possible future “robot war” on Earth.
Keller: We’re facing war against a technological civilization far superior to our own! Our enemy can take any shape! They could be anywhere!
Since America’s technology was based on Megatron, leader of the evil Decepticons, it makes our cyber-present sound like it is the seed of evil, forged by evil, for evil purposes. This origin of our technology causes the Allspark to turn ordinary electronic devices into transformer robots that attack humans.
Fusion of man and machine: There isn’t the deep, philosophical aspects of Blade Runner with this theme, but there are signs of lines between man and machine being crossed somewhere between Earth and Cybertron.
At the car lot, Bobby Bolivia (a cameo by Bernie Mac) tells Spike “A driver don’t pick the cars. Mmm-mm. Cars pick the driver. It’s a mystical bond between man and machine.” Spike and Mikaela interact with the Transformers like they were real, even though they’re just CGI animations added afterwards.
The Transformers themselves act sentient, even human like, with their own personalities. Optimus Prime acts like a real leader, keeping trigger-happy Ironhide in check, sacrificing Bumblebee when he’s captured to get to the Allspark, and even plans to sacrifice himself to protect the humans and destroy the Allspark if needed. There’s even dissension among the Decepticons, especially between Megatron and Starscream in their ongoing power struggle since their animated days.
What isn’t clear is if the Transformers were created by organic beings, or used to be organics, but found a way to transfer themselves into robot bodies, or if the Allspark just created the robotic race as the opening narration suggests. I would find it interesting to hear of the Transformers’ origins (creation or evolution?). Maybe a future “prequel” will deal with that.
Control over society: There doesn’t seem to be an “all-controlling entity” present in the film… until Sector 7 enters the scene.
Sector 7 was created by president Hoover when Captain Archibald Witwicky’s Arctic Circle expedition stumbled upon a frozen Megatron to keep the find secret. They reverse-engineered the Decepticon’s technology to create the technology of modern America and her military.
Story focuses on the underground: Mikaela has a juvenile record, thanks to her father showing her how to steal cars. Not much else here. Moving along…
Ubiquitous Access to information: Early on, the Decepticons try to hack America’s military systems, looking for information on the whereabouts of Megatron and the AllSpark. After Blackout’s attack on America’s Qatar base to access the military nets, the Pentagon tries to decipher the signal used to hack the systems. One of the analysts copies the signal to a memory card and takes it to a hacker friend she knows, who succeeds.
The Decepticon Frenzy, who first appears as a boom-box, furthers the hacking cause aboard Air Force One, and succeeds in obtaining information on Sector 7 and “Project Iceman.” He then uploads a virus that causes military systems worldwide to shut down to aid the Decepticon’s attack.
Autobot Jazz: What’s crackin’ little bitches?
Sam ‘Spike’ Witwicky: Where’d he learn to talk like that?
Optimus Prime: We learned Earth’s language through the World Wide Web.
Also, both sides learn of Spike and Captain Witwicky’s glasses from his posts as Ladiesman217 on eBay.
Cyberpunk visuals and style: The desert battle with Scorponok is probably the most cyberpunk visually, with all the sand and the primitive village hosting a high-tech battle between the Americans and a killer robot. There are scenes inside the Pentagon (a cyber-romanticized version) featuring rooms of computers to gather and analyze data. Many scenes take place at night in locations like junkyards and industrial parks. In the final battle in the city, Spike runs through what looks like a long-abandoned rail station. The scenes inside Hoover Dam could be called steampunk.
Do note the color schemes between the bot sides; The Autobots have brigher colors while the Decepticons have darker, militant paint jobs.
A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away… (Oops, wrong movie… My bad.) Optimus Prime narrates the opening of the movie; How the Cube of the Allspark gave life to Cybertron (well, ANY planet it came across), and how the evil Megatron tried to abuse its power. The civil war that erupted practically destroyed Cybertron and all life on it, and the Allspark was lost for thousands of years, until it was discovered on an unknown-to-them planet called Earth.
Captain Archibald Witwicky was leading an expedition to the Arctic Circle when he stumbled upon a frozen Megatron and accidentally activated his guidance system, causing the Decepticon leader to imprint the Captain’s glasses with the location of the Allspark. The glasses are now in the possession of his great-great-grandson, Sam “Spike” Witwickey, who is trying to sell them to buy a car.
Sam and his father, Ron “Sparkplug” Witwickey, eventually buy an old Camaro that helps Sam attract Mikalea Banes, who knows her way around cars thanks to her father.
What could be hotter than a babe who knows her way around cars?
One night the car drives away with Sam in pursuit, believing his car was being stolen. The car arrives at a junkyard and transforms into a robot that transmits a signal into space while Sam watches in disbelief. The next day, the car returns and Sam runs believing the car is stalking him. Sam encounters the Decepticon Barricade, in disguise as a police cruiser, who demands the glasses. Sam’s car transforms to fight the Decepticon off, and then reveals his role as guardian before taking Sam and Mikaela to the arriving Autobots and Optimus Prime, who reveals Sam’s connection to the Allspark.
Sam ‘Spike’ Witwicky: It’s a robot. You know, like a super advanced robot. It’s probably Japanese.
What follows is a race to get to the Allspark, followed by a huge city-wrecking mech battle between the deadly Decepticons and the heroic Autobots and American military, including survivors of Blackout’s attack in Qatar.
Robot Apocalypse? We never see the death and destruction of Cybertron, but it wouldn’t be hard to imagine it based on current human events. With two opposing sides fighting over a valuable resource, whether it’s energy or the Allspark, such Armageddons are always possible whether anyone wants them or not. And with the Transformers’ civil war now being played out on Earth, the humans may become unwilling victims of such an Armageddon, especially if the Decepticons win out.
But what about robots the humans will make? Advances in robotic and computer technology have made “human-like” robots more of a possibility in the near future. Future improvements in artificial intelligence can lead to learning machines, machines that can think and act for themselves, and possibly sentience like the Transformers. At that point, our robots may take sides to be human-friendly or anti-human. That could lead to a robotic civil war that could wipe humanity out and leave the planet unlivable, while the robots take their dispute to the stars, possibly destroying other sentient worlds and life forms.
Fortunately, we’re far from that robotic civil war, and the Autobots do keep Earth protected from Megatron’s lust for power and the Allspark. The final lines in the movie are spoken by Optimus Prime as he sends an invitation to his fellow Autobots:
With the Allspark gone, we cannot return life to our planet. And fate has yielded its reward, a new world to call home. We live among its people now, hiding in plain sight, but watching over them in secret… waiting, protecting. I have witnessed their capacity for courage and though we are worlds apart, like us, there’s more to them than meets the eye. I am Optimus Prime and I send this message to any surviving Autobots taking refuge among the stars. We are here. We are waiting.
Conclusion: While geared for the toy-line fans, Transformers does offer something for cyberpunks to think about, whether it was intended or not. There’s little question that it will be this summer’s blockbuster, but some might question if it belongs in the Parthenon of cyberpunk movies.
All I can say is: Do watch it and see if you also notice the cyberpunk themes as I did. It’s OK, it’s a pretty good robot action movie.
Overview: Based on the very deceptive cyberpunk-looking DVD cover, I felt it wise to give Future War a brief mention - I say brief because this movie sucks so bad that anything more than brief would constitute more effort than was spent on the entire script. Now I would consider giving Future War the same treatment I gave Cybernator, but unfortunately I just can’t possibly call this movie cyberpunk. Sure, it has time travel (I think), and these evil looking cyborg dudes, but Future War can’t put together a semblance of even an incoherent plot to explain things.
Check out the henchmen cyborg! You gotta wonder why they just didn’t go all out and make him into a Vampire Cyborg - that woulda been Kewl! (perhaps they couldn’t afford the fake teeth). And get used to the boxes. They are in about 40% of the movie - so much so that they even have a guy in the credits listed as “box wrangler”!
Lets just start with the intro lines from the movie (punctuation and capitalization remain intact from the film - yes, some sentences have periods, others have capital letters at the beginning, but not all):
From the future traveled a master race of Cyborgs.
The made abductions from Earth’s past.
The dinosaurs were trained as trackers
The humans were bred as slaves
Now a runaway slave escapes to a place his people call heaven…
we know it as Earth
Doesn’t this dinosaur remind you of the Stonehenge set piece in Spinal Tap? Just a wee bit too small, ey? Don’t worry, he grows another 10 feet a few scenes later
Um, OK, so these master race of cyborg dudes, who incidentally get their asses kicked by a second rate martial arts guy (who in Matrix Reloaded, turns into the ultra-cool Agent Johnson) because they don’t use their gun attachment till its too late, go back in time to get dinosaurs and train them to track escaped human slaves. Yeah, this works. Lets be clear here: some jackass with a spare $10,000 bucks wanted to make a really kewl film with cyborgs, dinosaurs and martial arts fighting – oh oh! and also a hawt chick prostitute-turned-nun! – unfortunately this was the best plot he could come up with.
Yes, nothing beats martial artists fighting master cyborgs in a warehouse church! Too bad the cyborg dude died in the last scene. Ah well, why not use the Jason resurrection thing? It works, right?
The Bottom Line: Pretty much the entire movie takes place either in the director’s dive house or in this really dull looking warehouse. The warehouse is “decorated” with either cardboard boxes or well-used 8×8 wooden pallets standing upright, depending on whether its supposed to be a sewer (the pallets) or um, a warehouse (the cardboard boxes). Due to a neurotic use of forced perspective, the rubber dinosaurs are constantly changing size. They go from beaver-sized to allosaurus-sized, depending on the scene (well, OK, sometimes in the SAME scene). So, does the prostitute-turned-nun decide to have sex with Agent Johnson or will she say her final vows to become a nun forever? More importantly, who the fuck cares? I understand Future War was also featured on MST3K - I would recommend that route if you must watch this. And just for the record, Cybernator is LOADS funnier.
Overview: Every so often, I get around to reviewing something more to point out that it is NOT cyberpunk. I intended this category for movies like New Rose Hotel - while Gibson’s short story is top-notch, awesome cyberpunk, the movie of the same name is an unmitigated non-cyberpunk mess. The other reason I review a non-cyberpunk movie is because even though the movie packaging or description may indicate some cyber elements, movies in this category are going for deceptive advertising to sell their flick. Some erotic spoofs of popular movies are downright awesome. My favorite cyberpunk spoof is probably the Terminatrix (I still need to do some screencaps for that movie). However, in many other cases, soft core porn productions will try to leverage off a big title, but in fact really doesn’t have much of anything to do with it. Sexual Matrix fits this pattern, having nothing whatsoever to do with the Matrix movies, or much of anything else cyberpunk other than VR love scenes.
The Story: Sexual Matrix is pretty straightforward – a professor looks to get funding to build a prototype for helping people act out their fantasies in VR. To get started, he cons a local university into thinking he has funding lined up from a major corporation. The university, in their infinite wisdom doesn’t check his lie, and instead sends an ultra-hawt grad student to “oversee” his research. For some reason, the prototype appears already built, so no real work is necessary, other than a few twists of knobs on the Star Trek looking light panel. From this point, most of the movie involves students and test subjects coming in for fifty bucks to try out the VR system. There’s a brief human interest story dealing with the professor and his hawt assistant, but this isn’t worth going into.
The Bottom Line: Again, nothing special here from a cyberpunk perspective. The movie itself is decent quality production. Their “fantasies” are done up in decent quality production soft-core porn, but there’s no cyberpunk aspects and only one that shows cyber-type scenery. Most are regular soft-core porn scenes. If you’re interested in a decent quality soft core porn showing lots of breasts in a façade VR setting, Sexual Matrix may be of interest. I do however deduct a quality point for the misleading cover and description.
Overview: Yet another completely misleading title, marketing campaign and DVD cover. Look at this title, cover, and then read this blurb on the back of the DVD:
Rosetta’s lab holds more than the usual beakers and Bunsen burners. This bio-geneticist isn’t just creating the perfect woman: she’s creating three of them.
Rosetta has downloaded her own DNA into the Self Replicating Automatons – S.R.A.s that look human, but were bred as intelligent machines. But in order to survive, they need sustenance of male Y chromo, found only in sperm. Now the cyborgs have to get out into the world and feed.
Who knew the future would be this sexy?
Now reading this, you’d have to be thinking, “Soft – core cyber – porn flick, good for a bunch of guys on a Friday night!” Um, no. This movie is about the farthest thing from this description. Teknolust is actually a chick flick. Seriously. So in marketing it as they have, the distributor has ensured that NOBODY who actually might be interested in watching this movie will ever see it. But to reiterate:
Teknolust has no lust in it, or nudity for that matter
Teknolust has no robots, as depicted on the cover
Teknolust has no real science aspect to it. It has fantasy science.
Teknolust doesn’t take place in the future
The Actual Story: Teknolust is about this nerdy, introverted genetics scientist who, because her entire family died in an accident when she was young, has decided to replicate herself into artificial life-forms who live inside her microwave (actually a computer screen). These digital lifeforms somehow are able enter into the real world by a magical doorway – one of which does this to go get sperm by seducing people into quick blow-jobs (they don’t show anything at all though – not even kissing). She takes the sperm back to the scientist (also not shown), who then makes some sort of drink out of it, which the semi-VR versions of her then drink to sustain themselves (it was never really clear what these chick’s apartment was made out of – it seemed partially virtual and partially real).
Unfortunately, in getting sperm from their hosts (through protected sex – the condom is kept to keep the sperm for later use), they somehow infect the sperm donor with a virus that ends up rendering them impotent, and leaves a red rash between their eyes. We later learn that this is in fact a random computer virus that somehow got attached to the SRA’s, which was later passed through their fingernails (I’m guessing) to the unlucky guys.
Questions You Might Ask: Why do VR beings (SRAs) need sperm for sustenance? How is it that they can go from their bizarre, color-matched virtual world to the real world, you ask? How do these SRA chicks wave their arms at a TV screen and change the entire direction of the stock market, you ask? How do computer viruses, which apparently are similar to real viruses, randomly form, you ask? And more to the point, how do computer viruses “jump hosts” to people??? All good questions, but unfortunately, Teknolust doesn’t think they are deserving of answers. This is all good natured fairy sci-fi fluff, but at least they don’t take it seriously.
The one cool visual involves one of the SRA’s online portals. Here it is. Enjoy.
The Bottom Line: In the end, Teknolust is about one of the VR chicks finding love in the real world, and the nerdy scientist finally doing the same. None of this is intended to be believed. Instead the sci-fi façade is just there to provide a strange avenue into an average chick-flick story. Why the sperm thing is here, I’ll never know. Truly, they’d have been better off using something like strange touches that generate electric energy or something – this would serve the same purpose, would make more sense in the context of the narrative, and would then be something that matched the intended audience. At least Tilda Swinton delivers fine performances in all four of her roles (nerdy scientist and three VR chicks). This movie probably deserves at least 5 or 6 stars just for quality, but I’m knocking some off due to the misleading nature of the marketing. Bottom line, if you like strange chick flicks, this might be your movie. Otherwise, pass.
Overview: Every now and then, soft core porn “as cyberpunk” provides a hilarious gem like Terminatrix. Then you find things like this. Yes, the cover looks cyberpunk-like, but no, none of that here. Just to be clear, if you wonder why I even bother reviewing shit like this, I made this site with the idea that ALL cyberpunk movies (or those that claim to be) will be reviewed (except hard core porn). Even pieces of crap like these ones (when the writer is credited with a “teleplay” you KNOW you should be worried!).
Their entire cyberpunk budget consisted of a blinking red Christmas tree rope light thing sitting on a table that you can buy for $7.49 at your local drug store. Well, that’s not completely true - there was also a piece of aluminum foil they used to wrap the chick’s midsection with. And anyways, I’m guessing that this was filmed right after Christmas, and someone brought the Christmas light from home.
So you wanna know the plot? Here it is: Some time way into the future (I’m gonna guess the year 2030), when sexual cravings have all diminished, in a feverish attempt to save the planet’s libido, a group of three scientists (two guys, one girl) develop a perfect and semi-hawt android (well, they seem to think she’s dynamite!). So while the other two scientists go to bed, the last one ends up accidentally waking up the android chick, has sex with her, and then, by accidentally typing something into the keyboard, accidentally sends her back in time! Even though they hadn’t invented a time machine! Cool, ey! Upon being sent back into the slipstream of time (our time of course) the hawt android chick surprisingly ends up in a down-and-out fetish lingerie studio in need of a hot model to compete with the mean lingerie studio down the street! She decides this is the perfect place to learn about love. From there, lots of cheesy soft core porn sex ensues, along with an occasional fetish lingerie show. No more plot talk needed.
So why a completely convoluted plot? So they could immediately leave the futuristic setting (consisting of the Christmas light on a table, the aluminum foil covering, and oh, a hot chick scientist with glasses in a white lab coat) to go for cheaper surroundings of course! Like the director’s living room! OK, well, maybe its not that bad, but we’re not talking high class here. Suffice to say, the only other thing you need to know about the plot is that
The Bottom Line: If you’re looking for your every day bouncing bimbo blondes with surgically enhanced breasts having soft-core porn sex while wearing fetish fishnet stockings and black PVC lingerie, this is your movie. The T&A rating is high, with your regular standard Skinemax standards in play. Now, as a movie this only really merits one star (if that), but I gave it an additional one because there were a few really nice fetish lingerie dancing scenes. But, um, no cyberpunk here (I think I need to add “non-existent” to my cyberpunk visuals rating). This is false advertising at its worst. Time travel and andriods? Yeah, right.
Overview: It’s not cyberpunk, mkay? No, truly, it’s not!
Yes, it was based on a very good cyberpunk short story written by cyberpunk Godfather, William Gibson,
Yes, New Rose Hotel is on most every list of cyberpunk movies you can find on the internet, some of which are only 10 movies deep,
Yes, this movie seems to be a throwaway mention in about half the cyberstudy reviews of modern cyberpunk movies.
Please trust me here - I’ve seen (and own) at least 95% of all cyberpunk movies currently in production and a very high percentage of the ones out of print (all that I can find out about and get). New Rose Hotel is NOT cyberpunk. These people are lying to you. I’m betting major bucks that the vast majority of those who have New Rose Hotel mentioned as cyberpunk have never seen it. If they had seen it, New Rose Hotel would not be on their cyberpunk list. Why do I say this?
This movie has NO cyberpunk visuals,
This movie has NO interesting philosophical message,
This movie has NO cyberpunk themes embedded in it, and
This movie takes place in modern time, not in a near future.
On top of its lack of cyberpunknesss, New Rose Hotel as a movie is boring as shit! Ferrara needs an award for taking a high quality cast consisting of Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe (both of whom I LOVE as actors) and Asia Argento and producing this steaming pile of dung!
The story: So what’s it about, you ask? Dafoe and Walken try to use a hooker (Argento) to convince a high profile geneticist to defect from one corporation to another. If they do, they pocket major bucks! In short, things go bad after an affair develops between Dafoe and Argento. But the bottom line is nobody watching this cares as the story as the cinematography and the acting are poorly enacted and uninspired. Worse, the last 15 minutes involves replaying of scenes from the first half of the movie. Why? For absolutely NO reason! Believe me when say that I look for meaning in films even when there isn’t really a basis - there was absolutely no reason for the flashbacks.
Truly, this movie sucks on just about every aspect of movie making one can imagine. But I really don’t berate it for this reason - I intensely hate the fact that everyone has engaged in a cow-like groupthink in continually mentioning this as one of the main cyberpunk movies out. New Rose Hotel is only interesting in that it seems to have turned into a virus meme, infecting as many as possible with the mistaken belief that it’s something worthy of mention. As punishment for New Rose Hotel’s atrocities against good cyberpunk, I’ve dropped it a few stars in my rating (if I was unbiased, I might have given it a 3 out of 10 star rating). So in closing:
Memo to other movie sites who have this listed as cyberpunk: Admit it, you haven’t seen it. Please remove New Rose Hotel from your cyberpunk movie list.
Memo to cyberstudies researchers who list this movie as a representative cyberpunk movie: Please remove it. There at minimum 80 movies which would come before New Rose Hotel as far better examples of cyberpunk. If you are looking for specific movies to back up a particular point you are trying to prove, just drop me a line, and I’ll be happy to provide you detailed assistance in selecting more appropriate movies. Just PLEASE stop spreading the belief that this movie is cyberpunk!
And um, yes, there are MANY other selections due for a rant like this. Escape from New York, anyone?