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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Five science fiction movies to stream now

Joe Thomas and Declan Baxter in “We Are Not Alone.”

By Elizabeth Vincentelli

This month’s picks include aliens, pandemics and post-apocalyptic romance.

‘We Are Not Alone’

This British goof will remind many of Edgar Wright’s early genre comedies “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” except that it’s more laid back and more gently paced. (Fans of classic TV satire may also suss out a certain Coneheads vibe.) Written by Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond, both alums from the excellent British version of “Ghosts,” the movie starts with blue-haired Gu’un aliens swiftly taking over Earth. Running the place is less easy, especially when it comes to Territory 78, formerly known as Britain. The new overlords move the capital to Clitheroe — which the aliens mispronounce exactly as you’d imagine — where the commander Trater (the brilliantly droll Vicki Pepperdine, from “Getting On”) chooses the willfully underachieving Stewart (Declan Baxter) as her guide to local mores.

Most of the humor is derived from the aliens getting used to human behavior, as well as from the good cop/bad cop between Trater and her second-in-command, the stern, authoritarian Gordan (Mike Wozniak). A subplot about a resistant group named the Anti-Alien Alliance is less effective, but every time the action switches back to the central Gu’un trio, which also includes the hapless Greggs (Joe Thomas), the movie is on firm comic ground. Look for the cameo from Rob Delaney as the head of Territory 3.

Stream it on the Roku Channel.


The new film by Canadian director Jeremy LaLonde (“James vs. His Future Self”) has a terrifying premise: As a new virus spreads in water, people are left with a choice between dying from thirst and dying from illness. After millions perish and with an extinction event expected within five years, scientists all over the world are racing against the clock to find a vaccine. One who is getting close is Dr. Jennifer Ashgrove (Amanda Brugel). Until, that is, the stressed-out scientist experiences a blackout and is packed off for some enforced rest in the countryside with her husband, Jason (Jonas Chernick). At that point, which is pretty early on, “Ashgrove” turns into a relationship drama, especially as we soon realize that the couple is experiencing some strain — think “Scenes From a Pandemic Marriage.” Jennifer feels Jason is behaving unkindly, and it’s often unclear whether he is or she’s projecting because of other issues. But as soon as you get somewhat comfortable with the new focus, a plot twist rejiggers the stakes once again — and makes a viewer reconsider everything that preceded.

Rent or buy on most major platforms.


The title character of Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper’s remarkable European production is a 13-year-old girl (Raffiella Chapman) trying to survive in the post-apocalypse — ironically, Earth ended up being ravaged by the genetically engineered viruses and organisms that had been invented to fight off environmental doom. A title informs us that we are in “the new dark ages,” and it does feel as if the world is enduring medieval times all over again, albeit with lab-created beings and freakish mutations. As evocative as “Vesper” is, the film is also fearlessly bleak, without any of the sentimentality that drags down much American young adult material (a tag that could apply here because of the protagonist’s age). The plot revolves around Vesper meeting a denizen of an elite Citadel compound (Rosy McEwen), but what matters most is the film’s visual artfulness and its poetic world-building. Some details, including the squishy exploration of a drone’s innards by Eddie Marsan’s amorally pragmatic character, are straight out of a David Cronenberg nightmare — a high compliment, and a most apropos reference for a biopunk narrative.

Rent or buy on most major platforms.

‘A Guide to Dating at the End of the World’

The moral of this Australian speculative romantic comedy boils down to: Be careful of sweeping statements made at (possibly well-lubricated) dinner parties. After her friends try to set her up with the geeky John (Tony Brockman), Alex (Kerith Atkinson) loudly declares to the other guests that she wouldn’t date him if he were the last man on Earth. But guess what: She wakes up the next morning in a spookily deserted Brisbane, and eventually runs into John, who does appear to be the last man on Earth. He has spent the mysterious apocalypse — the cause seems to involve the Hadron Collider and orgasms — acquiring a better haircut and developing not just survival skills but conversational ones, too. Alex warms up to him and realizes that he might not be as repellent as she initially thought. The title of Samuel Gay’s movie is actually a little misleading because Alex’s problem is not so much dating (which implies options she does not have anymore) as it is settling: Is John now attractive because he is the only man around, or is he really her soul mate? It’s a great question, even if Gay does not fully exploit it. Still, the relaxed pace and the charm of the very Aussie jokes (watch for the Crowded House one) make this an congenial entry in the busy sci-fi rom-com subgenre.

Rent or buy on most major platforms.

‘Residents of Arcadia’

Remo (Nick Preston) and Mira (Ishaval Gill) may be on a budget but they have found a way to experience the sweet comforts of Canadian life: via online avatars. Remo lives vicariously as a motivational speaker named Steve (Michael Stephen Perry) while Mira is a “lifestyle entrepreneur” named Anika (Kamantha Naidoo). Virtual reality is a pretty common subject in film these days, but writer-director Dom Cutrupi’s spin brings a frisson of novelty. “Residents of Arcadia” (the title refers to a cyberworld with branches in many countries) keeps hesitating between satirizing a certain kind of vacuous existence — an exasperated Mira seems to revolt against her programming, exclaiming “I was in a bikini all the time, for no reason at all” — and looking at ways people might try to integrate into new cultures. The best idea, however, is the description of a two-tiered internet, here called Common Internet and Internet Prime. Needless to say, Arcadia is located in the upper tier so when Remo and Mira run out of money, they lose their access and thus their alter egos. Cutrupi has quite a few good ideas, which is quite a few more than most low-budget movies, but he is unsure of what to do with them. For now, “Residents of Arcadia” at least makes for a good conversation starter and brain teaser.

Rent or buy on most major platforms.

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