Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Endless

The Endless; science-fiction horror drama, USA, 2017; D: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, S: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Callie Hernandez, Tate Ellington

After receiving a video cassete from Camp Arcadia, a UFO death cult, brothers Justin and Aaron, their ex-members, decide to drive back to the commune for a day to reconnect with the members, since their lives in the city are going nowhere. The commune lies in the middle of nowhere. Nobody seems to have aged in the meantime. A member, Anna, seems interested in Aaron. However, strange things start happening. Justin encounters a man in two versions at once: both dead, hanged in his shed, and alive. The man explains him that the entity trapped them in a time loop and is replaying them, and that they have to either kill themselves or the entity is going to kill them, until a new cycle begins, all for the entity's amusement. Justin and Aaron escape in their car from the place, just before the three Moons appear on the sky and the entity destroys the place. 

A strange mish-mash and horror version of "Groundhog Day", "The Entity" and "The Wicker Man", "The Endless" is an intelligent, ambitious and surely directed independent film, but it is rather incoherent in its meandering storyline, which is why its final act disappoints. It starts off mysteriously and engaging, with the two protagonists Aaron and Justin, ex-members of a cult, deciding to drive back to the commune and try to reconnect with their members, though they are ambivalent about them, which is represented neatly in the scene where a cult member greets them: he hugs Aaron, but just shakes hands with the formal Justin, who keeps his distance. Throughout the film, the viewers sense something is off the entire time, but cannot quite put their finger on it: during an evening, a man shows his magic trick by throwing a baseball up in the air, as Justin waits for an awkward minute for it to fall back down, but it doesn't. The man then stretches out Justin's hand, and the baseball falls exactly in his hand, freaking him out. There is also a surreal sequence, also at night, when Justin is pulling a rope against someone (or something) at the other side of the dark in the open. However, the dialogues are boring, schematic and stiff, exhausting the viewers' patience in the overlong first half, whereas the characters are all mostly routine. Since the entire story leads up to the final act when the plot twist is presented and everything should be explained, a problem occurs, since not everything fits in the end, and it doesn't feel like a proper conclusion. The ending feels almost arbitrary, and not that well thought out, raising questions as to why so many random subplots and plot points were introduced before, when the movie could have been half an hour shorter. One great moment: random magical sticks are placed in the ground, and as the protagonists cross through these invisible "borders", they enter a different time. This is demonstrated in an imaginative scene where Justin is walking, an empty hill is seen above him, but as he crosses the "border", suddenly a trailer appears on the hill, since he entered a different time.


Tuesday, March 14, 2023


Serenity; science-fiction adventure, USA, 2005; D: Joss Whedon, S: Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Summer Glau, Adam Baldwin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Gina Torres, Morena Baccarin

In the far future, humans have colonised other Solar systems, and now the Alliance rules with an iron fist after a war with the independentists. A girl psychic, River, escapes from their laboratory with the help of her brother Simon. Ruthless Alliance Operative is hunting her down. River and Simon hide aboard the spaceship Serenity, led by Capt. Malcolm, and with the crew consisting out of Zoe, Hoban, Jayne and others. They go to a mysterious planet named Miranda, a word River pronounced in her subconscious. There they find 30 million colonists dead after the Alliance tried out a chemical which would make them docile, but killed them. The only survivors on the planet are zombies. The Operative and his army attacks them on the planet, but Malcolm manages to broadcast what happened on Miranda. The Operative changes his mind after this and decides to help the crew, ordering his army to repair Serenity. 

After the cancellation of his TV series "Firefly", Joss Whedon continued the story by restructruing it into this film, a wild, daft and charming amalgamation of science-fiction, action and comedy. The story may be slightly convoluted and meandering at times, yet the whole thing simply knows how to be fun and conjure up a good time. The opening is already so astonishing that one wonders how it is never brought up during various film discussions: psychic River is saved from a laboratory by her brother Simon, they flee to the hallway, she holds on to an improvised elevator that ascents up—and all of a sudden the frame freezes. A voice is heard saying: "Stop! Backtrack!" And the scene starts going in reverse, until it stops on River's face—as all of a sudden a man "walks through" her, revealing it is a 3D holographic recording of the event, analysed in an office. Truly, ingenious. The main tangle involving the sleazy spaceship Captain Malcolm who unwillingly has to help River and Simon also has a lot of spirit and wit. Malcolm and his crew survive by small robberies, and in one of such he opens the door of the vault, shouting: "We're coming down to empty the vault now!" The Vault Guard replies: "You'll have to give me your authorization password!" Jayne then fires several shots out in the hallway. And the Vault Guard says: "Uh... okay!

The main flaw is that the cast is simply not that charismatic. They are all serviceable, but they don't stand out. Even the cynical Malcolm isn't that memorable. The only actor who is truly outstanding is Chiwetel Ejiofor as the villain The Operative, since his charisma and expressionistic stoicism overshadows everyone else in the film. One great moment in the middle of the film has Malcolm finally encounter The Operative, as they debate and bicker who is on the right and who is on the wrong side of the fight against the Alliance of planets. The Operative proudly announces his trump card: "I have a warship in deep orbit, Captain. We locked onto Serenity's pulse beacon the moment you arrived. I can speak a word and send a missile to that exact location inside of three minutes." However, Malcolm is on to him and replies: "You do that, you'd best make peace with your dear and fluffy lord", as he throws said tracking device right into the hands of The Operative. The final act is rather shaky and questionable, since it wasn't that well incorporated into the first two thirds of the story, though it is within the theme of the fight against authoritarianism and the tendency of authority to control every aspect of people, limiting their freedoms. Whedon proved that he has a sense for snappy dialogues, quirky characters and amusing ideas with a lot of twists, and thus it is a pity "Serenity" never had a sequel.


Sunday, March 12, 2023

Planet of the Vampires

Terrore nello Spazio; science-fiction horror, Italy / Spain, 1965; D: Mario Bava, S: Barry Sullivan, Norma Bengell, Ángel Aranda, Evi Marandi, Franco Andrei

Two spaceships, Galliott and Argos, head towards an unknown planet from which a distress signal is coming. Suddenly, an unknown force catapults them towards the planet, and they barely land safely thanks to Captain Mark. However, other crew members get possessed to attack each other, before regaining consciousness after a minute. Argos is safe, but it seems nobody survived the landing on the Galliott. Mark and the crew explore the desolate planet, and discover a giant skeleton and remnants of a station. It turns out that the planet is inhabited by energy beings which take over the body (or even the corpse) of another being because they know their Star is dying, so they want to escape and move to another planet. Mark, Sanya and Wess are the only ones able to escape from the planet alive in Argos. However, Mark and Sanya turn out to be possessed by the energy beings, too. Wess kills himself by destroying the spaceship's engine, so Mark decides to land on Earth.

"Planet of the Vampires" (also known as "Planet Terror") is a testimony to the long lost audacity of the Italian cinema which hereby underwent a remarkable enterprise of conjuring up a science-fiction horror film without the big budget usually found in Hollywood, and yet, it works since the director Mario Bava's ingenuity was able to surpass the movie's limitations. The set-designs, costumes and special effects are lacking (the stars in space and the design of the planet all look charmingly naive), but that is compensated through a slow-burning, scary mood which builds its suspense since the crew is stuck on the alien planet full of rocks and fog for the majority of the film. The opening features a really well made scene (stars in space seen rotating through the window of the spaceship, as the camera pans down to look at the astronauts downstairs) and another good one is on the planet when they discover a skeleton of a giant on the ground. More of these kind of ideas would have been welcomed, since the movie loses its creative swing in the second half, turning rather routine, standard and improvised. The authors created a threat without a single monster make up since the villains are invisible "energy creatures" which possess the bodies of the astronauts, making this at times a stretch and a cheat, though still a good forerunner and amalgamation of Scott's "Alien" and Carpenter's "The Thing", contemplating about some themes of invisible threats and paranoia, whereas the twist ending is well done.


Saturday, March 11, 2023

Ace in the Hole

Ace in the Hole; drama, USA, 1951; D: Billy Wilder, S: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur, Porter Hall, Richard Benedict

Albuquerque, New Mexico. Reporter Chuck Tatum, who was fired from a dozen newspapers, finds a local newspaper office and persuades the editor in chief to hire him. A year later, Tatum is bored with trivial stories used as news, but as he was driven in a car by assistant Cook, they stop at a gas station run by Lorraine, whose husband Leo has been trapped in a cave after the walls collapsed. Tatum senses this is the big news he was looking for. He persuades the sheriff to listen to him, and uses the newspaper to attract a huge crowd of people to the cave. Tatum rejects en engineer's proposal of shoring the walls, and instead orders the rescue team to use a drill to reach Leo, so that the event will last for six days and he can earn more money from the news coverage for a New York newspaper. But Leo dies from pneumonia, just as the drill was 10 feet away from him. Tatum is disgusted by his profiteering of the news, and regrets.

One of Billy Wilder's darkest, most somber movies, without his usual sugar-coating of events or corny jokes, "Ace in the Hole" (also known briefly as "The Big Carneval") is a bitter dismantling and review process of journalistic ethics and distorted news reporting, contemplating how it can become hugely detrimental at the expense of the subject matter. Even though the film critics were at first repulsed by it, from today's perspective the story seems surprisingly modern and visionary for its time, a stinging dissection of conflict of interests and exploitation in journalism. The opening act, showing the anti-hero Tatum bored to death for having to report about trivial matters in New Mexico, has some fine dialogues (to illustrate his point, Tatum takes some papers and lists the events, such as a hurricane that "double-crossed them and went on to Texas"), which all leads to the main plot point, of his "discovery" of a major news in the form of Leo, a man trapped in a collapsed cave. Instead of accepting a proposal of an engineer of shoring the walls, which would mean the rescue would take 12-16 hours, Tatum rejects it and insists he should apply a drill method from the top of the cave, which would take six days, and "prolong" the news event, leading to Tatum accepting an exclusive news coverage for a New York newspaper for a 1,000$ per day. The event becomes more and more bizarre, since tourists start flocking to the rescue site, parking hundreds of cars out in the desert, and even assembling a carousel for kids, all under the feign that all the proceeds go to the Leo rescue fund. The observations are sharp, shocking and brave at the same time, showing how simple humanitarian events can get out of hand and get stuck in a neverending spiral of sensationalism. However, the movie is not perfect, since Tatum isn't a particularly interesting character all until the finale when he feels remorse, and Leo's wife Lorraine is underused. Some of the points against the media could have also been even sharper and more subversive, maybe even heading more towards the satirical. The dark ending feels very fitting today, wrapping up the events nicely, while Roger Ebert even included it in his list of Great Movies. 


Thursday, March 9, 2023

Skin Deep

Skin Deep; erotic comedy, USA, 1989; D: Blake Edwards, S: John Ritter, Vincent Gardenia, Alyson Reed, Julianne Phillips, Chelsea Field

Los Angeles. Writer Zach is caught by his mistress while cheating on her with her hairdresser, and is also caught by his wife Alex who enters their home. Alex banishes Zach from the house, but he is a womanizer who simply cannot settle down. His rare friend is barkeeper Barney. Zach has a series of flings: with Lonnie, a woman bodybuilder; with Amy, who broke up with her boyfriend, a British guitarist, but as the latter returns back to the hotel room, Zach has to quickly hide; with Molly, who gives him a too long electro-therapy, leaving him too agitated. Finally, Zach quits alcohol. This helps him calm down, return to writing, and thus he is able to reconcile with Alex again.

"Skin Deep" seems like either a continuation or a restructuring of Blake Edwards' previous relationship comedy films "10", "Mickey & Maude" and "The Man Who Loved Women", all focusing on a man who is driven to overreach his relationship status by chasing after another woman, which indicates that he isn't quite satisfied with the woman currently right next to him: he respects her, but he yearns after some passion in his love life. "Skin Deep" is a fun comedy for grown ups, featuring one of John Ritter's best movie performances, but it also hides some bitter, tragic truths about life underneath the surface, contemplating how the protagonist Zach is never satisfied, and in depression that he cannot make more out of his life. This is illustrated in the amusing dialogue with Barney, the barkeeper, when Zach admits that he wants to have it both ways: he wants to stay with his wife, but also wants to sleep with which ever woman he meets. Edwards still has that knack for comedy, whether it is physical gags or snappy dialogues. In one sequence, the mother-in-law and Zach have this effervescent exchange: "Who gave you the black eye?" - "Why, you want to congratulate him personally?" The dialogues between Amy and Zach also have their moments; "I love good Heavy Metal." - "Really? That's impossible. It's like saying I love a good root canal." The movie doesn't have a whole lot of creative takeoffs, noticeable in the last 30 minutes which don't have any successful jokes anymore, since the inspiration seems to have exhausted itself in its final act, and some of the physical gags feel a bit forced at times. One comedy-gold joke is legendary, though: the one where Zach hides in the closet in dark, wearing only a blue flourescent condom, and then Amy's boyfriend enters the bedroom, wearing a red flourescent condom, causing a "sword fight" between the two condoms in the dark, reaching absurd levels.


Saturday, March 4, 2023

Only People

Samo ljudi; romantic drama, Croatia, 1957; D: Branko Bauer, S: Tamara Miletić, Milorad Margetić, Nikša Štefanini, Stjepan Jurčević

Engineer Predrag, who lost a leg in World War II, arrives to a mountain to oversee the construction of a hydroelectric dam. He goes to stay at a hut run by Ema, together with two other guests, the blind girl Buba, who lost her sight in the war, and doctor Žarko. Buba awaits an eye surgery by doctor Vrančić. Predrag uses a crutch to walk, but can also walk without it when using a prosthetic leg. Predrag hangs around with Buba, and the two fall in love, skiing on the mountain, but he hides from her his leg disability. Žarko's friend Lela also arrives to stay at the hut, causing Buba the urge to be more attractive for Predrag. After the surgery, Buba can finally see again, but Predrag decides to leave the hut without saying goodbye to her because he is ashamed of his misisng leg. Buba meets him on the bridge at the dam, and they embrace.

Included in a poll of Croatian film critics as one of the 10 best Croatian films of the 20th century, "Only People" is a gentle and unashamedly old-fashioned film about a romance of two disabled people. As unusal as it may sound, the main protagonist of this film is: humanity. It consists out of small 'slice-of-life' episodes which build character development of Buba and Predrag, and through which the director Branko Bauer shows his sense for refined emotions, reminiscent of D. Sirk. In one representative sequence, Predrag, Vrančić and Žarko want to cheer up the blind Buba by letting her throw a snowball at a snowman. Buba is directed in a close up shot by Vrančić to throw a snowball as strong as she can, right in front of herself. She does, outside of the frame, and asks Vrančić if she hit the snowman. He says she did, but she knows she missed, and then makes a few steps closer, as the camera reveals the snowball hit Predrag's head. In another moment, Buba is celebrating her 23rd birthday, and says: "If I manage to blow out all the candles on the cake, the surgery will be a success". She blows all except one candle, which remains burning, but Predrag quickly extinguishes it with his finger before Buba can touch the candles with her hand to inspect if she achieved her intention. The dialogues are also interesting, with Žarko saying at a meal: "Everyone lacks something in life. Some lack love, some money, some a goal in life." Predrag is even shown skiing with one leg on the mountain. While a lot of this is conventional and straight-forward, often close to being a melodrama, "Only People" is a very cozy and optimistic film, never turning too melodramatic, and its characters and their little gestures grow on you.


Friday, March 3, 2023

La Cérémonie

La Cérémonie; psychological drama / crime, France / Germany, 1995; D: Claude Chabrol, S: Sandrine Bonnaire, Jacqueline Bisset, Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Virginie Ledoyen

The wealthy Catherine invites Sophie at a diner and hires her as her maid at her secluded mansion. Sophie moves in to the mansion, consisting out of Catherine, her husband Georges, and their two teenage kids, Melinda and Gilles. Sophie is illiterate and hides this in all ways possible: when asked by Georges why she doesn't have a driver's license, she claims that she needs glasses, but when he drops her off at an ophthalmologist, Sophie simply doesn't go there and buys some fake glasses. Since she cannot read the list of groceries, she asks a post office worker, Jeanne, to order the food for her. It turns out Sophie was implicated when a house burned down and killed her father, but acquitted. Jeanne was also acquitted of the murder of her 4-year old handicapped child. When Melinda finds out Sophia cannot read, Sophie tries to blackmail her by threatening to reveal Melinda is pregnant. Upon finding that out, Georges fires Sophie. Jeanne and Sophie enter the mansion, take two guns and shoot the entire family. Later, Jeanne dies in a car crash because she drove at night without lights on.

As much as "La Ceremonie" is an excellent film, so much it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why. The story about a maid in a growing friction with a family for which she works for in a mansion is nothing new, the style and dialogues are also conventional, and yet, there is something fascinating and slowly absorbing about how all of this unfolds until the shocking ending. So many scenes sound ordinary on paper, but Claude Chabrol, the "French Hitchcock", somehow manages to make them appear intriguing, even though the viewers do not know what kind of a story they are watching until the finale. Chabrol uses crime elements to enhance the drama and use them to give a psychological analysis of the society. The stand-out performance is the extraordinary Isabelle Huppert, the actress who never gave a weak performance, and who plays Jeanne, the quirky-weird post office clerk who becomes Sophie's friend. Huppert gives little funny gestures, touches and bits that bring this character to life and ignite either a chuckle or amazement. 

In one scene, Jeanne knocks on the window of the mansion, Sophie opens it and says: "Wait, I'll open the door", but Jeanne just brushes it off: "Ah, don't bother", as she makes a huge step to cross inside the mansion through the window. While waiting on the phone in her post office job, Jeanne takes the bubble gum from her mouth and sticks it under the desk. After introducing themselves as church volunteers who collect donated clothes for the poor, Jeanne and Sophie enter a house, an old lady gives them a bundle of old clothes, but Jeanne just sits on the ground and picks one robe after another, and jokingly throws it behind her back, again and again, claiming it is all as no good. The finale gives the movie a new dimension, already hinted at in the chilling, disturbing scene of Jeanne telling about her "accidental" murder of her child while driving the car. Roger Ebert included "La Ceremonie" in his list of Great Movies, and even gave a great analysis that says it all: "La Ceremonie," he has said, is a Marxist film about class struggle, but perhaps it is more of a Freudian film, about the scarcely repressed sexuality of Jeanne and Sophie, and the ways it is expressed against a family that represents for both of them a hated authority." Indeed, these two seem to be stuck in an existence where nothing works, and thus rebel out of contempt against a family whose life is somehow settled and ideal.


The Prince of Tides

The Prince of Tides; drama / romance, USA, 1991; D: Barbra Streisand, S: Nick Nolte, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Kate Nelligan, Jason Gould, Melinda Dillon, Bobby Fain, Jeroen Krabbé, George Carlin

South Carolina. Tom is a teacher and football coach married to Sallie with whom he has three children. However, he has a dark family past, and it catches up with him when his sister Savannah tries to again commit suicide. Their late brother Luke already killed himself a long time ago. Tom thus accepts to travel to New York to talk with Savannah's psychiatrist Susan Lowenstein who tries to figure out what is the cause of this behavior. Tom hears Sallie had an affair in the meantime. He also falls in love with Susan and accepts to coach her teenage son Bernard. Finally, at a seance, Tom reveals his secret to Susan: as a 10-year old, he witnessed how three escaped convicts entered their home and raped him, his mother and Savannah, but his brother Luke took a gun and shot them. They disposed of the bodies and never told his dad. Reluctantly, Tom leaves Susan and returns back to his home in South Caorlina.

Arguably the best film directed by Barbra Streisand, "The Prince of Tides" is a gentle depiction of people struggling with trauma from the past and the efforts of psychiatrists to try to heal them. In adapting Pat Controy's novel, Streisand was criticized for removing large chunks of flashbacks from Tom's childhood, thereby reorienting the story to focus more on her character's Susan Lowenstein's romance with Tom and thus making the story about something else, yet she sufficiently managed to make it work either way. The movie is very well directed, concise and emotional, relaying on strong dialogues. While narrating about his childhood in the opening act, Tom says: "I suppose Henry Wingo would have been a pretty good father, if he hadn't been such a violent man." In another moment, during a psychiatric seance, Tom recounts an episode when his mother called him to her room, hugged him and told him he is her favorite child and that he is the only one in the family who will amount to something, only to later add: "She told this separately to all three of us". In another moment, the 'tough' Tom and Susan have this exchange: "I cry at weddings, at the Olympics. I'm real big at the national anthem." - "But not over Luke?" - "What the hell for? It wouldn't bring him back." - "No. But it might bring you back." Nick Nolte delivered an excellent performance as the tormented Tom, since the script allowed him to parade his acting abilities, though the romance segment is a bit weaker since there is no true chemistry between him and Streisand—they are simply not that good of a match as a couple. One great little comical moment has him take Herbert's violin and threaten to throw it down the balcony if Herbert doesn't apologize to Susan, and when Herbert protests, Tom throws the violin up in the air and catches it back in his arm, causing Herbert to apologize. The plot twist at the end which finally reveals Tom's dark secret is effective and shocking, but the movie suffers a bit since it feels like everything else after it feels like an anticlimax, an underwhelming 25-minute epilogue which lost its interest after the trauma was revealed. Still, "The Prince of Tides" is a truly well made film that will satisfy the viewers.


Thursday, March 2, 2023

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania; fantasy, USA, 2023; D: Peyton Reed, S: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, Katy O'Brian, William Jackson Harper, Bill Murray, Corey Stoll 

Thinking he left his Ant-Man days behind him, Scott Lang enjoys his life with partner Hope van Dyne and teenage daughter Cassie. However, one day Cassie invents a device that can establish contact with the Quantum Realm in her basement, and the device turns into a wormhole that sucks Scott, Hope, Cassie, Janet and Hank Pym into the Quantum level. There, Janet admits she encountered Kang, a villain who was banished to the Quantum world and who was left trapped there. Kang in the meantime conquered entire lands with creatures living there. Kang captures Cassie and uses her to blackmail Scott into finding an orb that could activate a portal for Kang to escape back to the real world. Scott and Hope are able to knock Kang out and escape with Cassie, Janet and Hank back to the real world.

The 31st Marvel Cinematic Universe film received an uncharacteristically underwhelming reception compared to the overhyped reception 2/3 of their previous films received, even though it's nothing particularly better or worse than any other Marvel film, except that the viewers were probably oversaturated by the series after 15 years, and were rejecting any new attempts to start a rerun of a Thanos-copycat which worked like an event five years earlier in "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame". "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" is a fun film, nonetheless, crafting a dynamic and imaginative world inside the Quantum Realm, while Paul Rudd is again equally as fresh as the sympathetic hero Scott Lang. The humanoid creatures inside the Quantum world are bizarre and surreal, a hit-or-miss-affair, since this entire Quantum segment is just one giant 90-minute special effect, and thus some ideas have spark (Bill Murray's character Lord Krylar enjoys eating a miniature live octopuss-like creature in his drink, but this comes full circle in a getaway scene when Hank uses his technology to enlarge the octopuss to a giant, so the octopuss now eats Krylar), though some forced attempts at jokes bring it down. The highlight is the new villain, Nathaniel Richards alias Kang (very good Jonathan Majors): while not so fully fascinating as, let's say, Thulsa Doom or Hannibal Lecter, Kang is still a very different, charismatic and intelligent adversary who has a way with words, and he grows on you. In one scene, Janet accidentally discovers his secret identity, so she has this exchange with Nathaniel: "Who is Kang?" - "The one I need to be." In another sequence, in the hallway, MODOK enters and says something, while Kang throws him away with a warning: "Do not speak while I am in the room". The final battle between Kang and Ant-Man also has a winning quote that is a blast: "You think you could win?" - "I don't have to win. We both just have to lose!" While overstuffed and too chaotic at times, "Quantumania" is still an energetic film that works. And the midcredits scene is extraordinary: suffice to say it is reminiscent of multiverse possibilities of "Rick & Morty" and manages to rejuvenate the faltered MCU mood by teasing with a very exciting concept that has potential to actually be awesome if done right in future films.


Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Expanse (Season 4)

The Expanse; science-fiction series, USA, 2019, D: Breck Eisner, David Petrarca, Jeff Woolnough, Sarah Harding, S: Steven Strait, Wes Chatham, Cas Anvar, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Burn Gorman, Frankie Adams, Dominique Tipper, David Strathairn 

A blockade of the wormhole ring is ordered, but a group Belters, settlers of the asteroid belt, manages to go through, enter a new Solar system on the other end and start a colony on the habitable planet Ilus. Later, Earth sends an expedition to Ilus, but gets into an argument with the Belters, who want the planet’s lithium reserves. Holden has visions of Miller who tells him to remove a root from a panel of the building of the extinct alien race, but this triggers an explosion and a tsunami that will flood a third of the continent in ten hours. Belters and Earthers hide in the building. They get an eye infection from microorganisms, but Holden’s cancer medicine neutralizes them. Miller orders the destruction of a power ring, which turns off all protomolecules. On Earth, Gao is elected the new UN Secretary General, replacing Avasarala.  

The 4th season of “The Expanse” improved some issues by condensing the overstretched standard 13 episodes per season to 10 episodes in this edition, yet it once again failed to perceive the most obvious omission, namely to be even shorter: it only should have focused on the exploration of the habitable planet Ilus, a former base of an extinct alien race, since all the other subplots of ploys and schemes on Earth, Mars and space station Rocinante have only a tenth of an engagement power compared to it. They are simply uninteresting. The long, arduous dialogues are again tiresome. If they still need so much exposition, at least make the lines fun or interesting. Here, only three work (“Bad news again? They must be contagious!”; the political debate between Avasarala and Gao, when Avasarala says to the public: "How would I have saved Earth from an asteroid threat? The same as last time!"). Since the only subplot that matters is the exploration of Ilus on the other side of the wormhole, it should be mentioned. And it has some fascinating moments, a sense of mystery as the human colonists encounter unusual things on a planet that is supposedly uninhabited. For instance, an abandoned alien building, that looks like a brown pyramid; Holden accidentally activating a panel that starts a lightning bolt hitting the ground and moving forward in equal intervals; swathes of cubes from the ground moving towards the settlement. The best part is the mysterious detonation on the other side of Ilus, seen from the orbit, while the settlers are informed that the shock waves and a giant tsunami will reach them in 8-10 hours, so they have to hurriedly evacuate and find a shelter. Indeed, the most suspenseful and successful achievement of the season, reminiscent of the problems of colonists experiencing a foreign land. Sadly, the rest is too grey, monotone and too slow. One wonders how they have made such a tantalizingly imaginative story so underwhelming at times.