Guest post by Dread Pirate Robots
ITN kindly invited me to write this list of sci-fi movies to enjoy in the longer evenings this time of year, and since I’m a suggestible type of fellow, who greatly loves sci-fi, I excitedly agreed. This is in no particular order, and I’ve picked some of my outlier favourites to offer to you guys. So, I hope you give some of these movies a watch.
Peter Weller is Buckaroo Banzai, a rockstar/neurosurgeon/test pilot/physicist/superhero who leads his own G.I Joe-esque band, the Hong Kong Cavaliers. Who are, incidentally, also his actual band.
Buckaroo accidentally gets caught up in a war between warring alien races, Red and Black Lectroids, after successfully completing a test of his experimental Jet-Car which can also travel through solid matter. The test draws the attention of the Reds, and brings their war to Earth.
Banzai must stop the evil Reds, defeat alien-possessed John Lithgow, and solve the mystery of Penny. Long lost twins, warring alien races (one of which appears as Rastafarians on Earth), and Jeff Goldblum inexplicably dressed as a cowboy, this movie is gloriously silly, and great fun.
2 : Ex Machina
Domhnall Gleeson is Caleb, a young programmer who is selected by his brilliant but reclusive boss Nathan (Oscar Isaac) to administer a Turing test to Ava (Alicia Vikander), a robot with apparent artificial intelligence.
Spanning a week, the suspense builds and builds as Caleb becomes paranoid, Nathan refuses to answer questions, and Ava increases the tension daily with disconcerting observations about both men.
I’m not going to give more away, you’re going to have to trust me and watch it. It’s a sleek, well-crafted film, done on a low budget and deliberately eschewing the fluorescent lighting and over the top action sequences of most modern sci-fi.
3 : The Martian
Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut who is lost and presumed dead after a storm separates him from his crew during an emergency evacuation of their Martian outpost. Alone on the surface of the hostile red planet, with limited supplies and resources, he must find a way to survive, and to let Earth know that he lives. No big deal, right ? It’s only 140 million miles or so.
Ridley Scott really returned to form with this film, you guys. It’s smart, it’s funny, and it manages to remain grounded in human terms while dealing with some pretty big ( I stopped myself from typing cosmic) ideas.
4 : Blade Runner
Adapted from the actually more depressing Philip K Dick short story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep ?, this is the dystopian future movie.
Synthetic life-forms created by the powerful Tyrell Corporation, replicants are forbidden on Earth, used only for labour on colony worlds. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is the titular Blade Runner, a hunter of rogue replicants, who is persuaded to take on a last assignment. Look, you already know this, right ? Let’s just agree that this is possibly Ridley Scott’s greatest work, and that the Hauer speech is just haunting.
5 : Sunshine
This 2007 beauty was brought to us by Danny Boyle, who cited its influences as including Tarkovsky’s Solaris, 2001 : A Space Odyssey and Alien. An all-star ensemble cast are the crew of a spaceship, the Icarus II, towing a nuclear bomb with mass equal to that of Manhattan, in the hopes that they can reignite the internal combustion processes of the Sun. Convincing sets and very smooth cinematography make this a treat for anyone who enjoys a thoughtful and thought provoking film.
6 : Chappie
A stolen police droid is reprogrammed with an advanced A.I matrix which allows for emotions and opinion-forming. The newly aware Chappie is totally naive, and at the mercy of the criminals who have taken him. This movie nicely showcases the stages of maturity, and the influences others have on our development. Based on Blomkamp’s own short, Tetra Vaal, there are elements reminiscent of Short Circuit and the beloved Johnny Five here for the 80’s children too. While it wasn’t universally loved, I certainly enjoyed it, and I hope some of you will too.
7 : Event Horizon
This 1997 sci-fi/horror wasn’t terribly well received upon arrival, though it’s become something of a cult classic since. An experimental ship, the Event Horizon was lost on its maiden voyage, testing a new type of gravimetric drive which creates an artificial black hole in order to bridge between two points in space/time.
Rescue ship Lewis and Clark is sent to Neptune to ascertain the the extent of the damage and the fate of the crew, only to find themselves quickly trapped up the Event Horizon. As more is discovered, events grow swiftly more terrifying and unreal for the beleaguered rescue crew. A stunning cast and perfectly unsettling score make it a good watch, though there are questions left unanswered.
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