The waters in Lark Harbour, Newfoundland, are frozen solid right now and the snow banks in town are easily four metres high. The fishing boats have all been hauled ashore and the few bright orange huts still clinging to the rocky shore are boarded up for the season.
The only evidence left of the great viking/alien war of 2009 is a lone viking ship half-buried in the town square, the last remnant of the low budget sci-fi flick Outlander that brought B-Grade filmmaking to Western Newfoundland with a premise after my own heart.
Jim Caviezel (Jesus in The Passion of the Christ) stars as a futuristic astronaut who comes from away and crash-lands his spaceship in 709 AD Norway and a tribe of badass Vikings led by Ron Pearlman (Hellboy, City of Lost Children) who are on the brink of war with another tribe that has been launching brutal attacks on their village.
Except they haven't. The culprit is actually a gnarly dragon/alien thing called the Moorwen. And you can bet the vikings will need Old Jim's help to unify the tribes and defeat the greater evil.
It sounds stupid. It is stupid. Born-and-raised Lark Harbourer Jon Thorne worked on Outlander as a "viking rower" and he was kind enough to give me this review: "It'd be best to save those two hours of your life for more productive endeavours, like brushing your teeth for two hours."
Let the record show that Newfoundlanders are the best people in Canada but I think Jon is being a bit hard on Outlander. It's definitely not great but there is a certain group of film fans out there that were sold at "vikings vs. aliens" and those people will be kinda into it. Outlander is super heavy on dubious CGI effects, but it's also a decent mix of fantasy, horror and sci-fi. Monster movies are always worth it because they remind us that although life is chaotic, it can always get worse. Outlander is the download of the week.
Speaking of chaos, Chappie opens Thursday, March 5, at the Whistler Village 8 and stars Sharlto Copley (District 9, A-Team) as a member of the world's first robotic police force (oppressive, of course) who gets reprogrammed by rebels and starts thinking and feeling for himself. Then he embarks on a super-awesome version of what you dreamed Short Circuit 3 would look like.
I was unable to find any pre-screenings of Chappie out here in Western Newfoundland but writer/director Neil Blomkamp reinvigorated sci-fi with District 9 and it looks like he's brought the whole band back together for this one and added an actual band — tabbed out South African punkers Die Antwood — as Chappie's friends.
What excites me about Chappie is that Blomkamp creates worlds that seem not only possible, but probable. He never goes too far. District 9 perfectly integrated aliens and humanity so, in the age of big data and washer/dryers that can record our personal laundry habits, I'm stoked to see his take on artificial intelligence and upcoming-age robots. The awesome thing about sci-fi is that it is pure fiction, creative versions of a possible future, but then it also affects the actual future by spreading ideas to the masses. Life imitates art, it always has, and I have no doubt that there will be some shitty corporation or government pushing for "Automated Security Forces" soon enough. We'll win though, there is no greater force than the ability to learn, change and evolve. Robots might be able to do all that, but we will always do it better. That's what makes humanity rad.
And Rad, the incredible 1986 BMX, movie is playing this Friday, March 6, at the Rainbow Theatre. Filmed in Calgary, Rad is currently rolling with a zero per cent rating on the ubiquitous film review website Rotten Tomatoes. So it's an underdog film (with a ridiculously long acro-BMX opening sequence) but the chance to watch Rad on the big screen should not be passed up. The screening is a fundraiser for the Whistler BMX park, and in a town that pedals as hard as we do, that alone requires full support. Also, it's a good movie. No vikings, but still better than brushing your teeth.