SciFi movie night 3 – get your popcorn while it’s hot!

Here is part III. The last part for the DVDs. Hope you’ve enjoyed the list. Next up will be VHS, which has some great older stuff on it. Keep tuned. For reminder, I use synopsis from IMDB, and cites to Wikipedia for the movie, and book if appropriate. More lists from VHS, post-apocalyptics, Fantasy, and Kids/anime/animation will be forthcoming. The Saturn Award (for Best Feature Presentation) is from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA, and the OFCS rating is from the Online Film Critics Society, Please enjoy. The popcorn’s getting stale…

Last Starfighter (1984)

User rating 6.3/10, IMDB. Directed by Nick Castle, and starring Lance Guest and Robert Preston. “Alex Rogan lives in a trailer court where his mother is manager and everyone is like a big extended family. He beats the Starfighter Video Game to the applause of everyone in the court and later that day finds he has been turned down for a student loan for college. Depressed, he meets Centauri, who introduces himself as a person from the company that made the Game, before Alex really knows what is going on he is on the ride of his life in a “car”; flying thru space. Chosen to take the skills he showed on the video game into real combat to protect the galaxy from an invasion. Alex gets as far as the Starfighter base before he really realized that he was conscripted and requests to be taken back home. When he gets back home, he finds a Zan-Do-Zan (Alien Bounty Hunter) is stalking him. Unable to go home and live, Alex returns to the Starfighter base to find all the pilots have been killed and he is the galaxy’s only chance to be saved from invasion. To defeat the invaders, who are paying the Bounty on him, He must be victorious.” John Vogel, IMDB

“In his wildest dreams Alex never suspected that tonight he would become…The Last Starfighter.” This is an old favorite of mine, and I think the secret dream of young kids playing video games – that somehow, just like in Zathura, you’d be whisked away on an adventure. Robert Preston is his charming best, and Lance Guest is the right combination of spoiled teen-age boy, and courageous young man. A great family movie.

Lathe of Heaven, the (TV – 1980)

User rating 7.2/10. Based on the novel by Ursula K. LeGuin. “George Orr, a man whose dreams can change waking reality, tries to suppress this unpredictable gift with drugs. Dr. Haber, an assigned psychiatrist, discovers the gift to be real and hypnotically induces Mr. Orr to change reality for the benefit of mankind — with bizarre and frightening results.” Will Briggs, IMDB

This is the first of two television adaptations of LeGuin’s novel. This first one is a little more confusing than the second, and less faithful to the book, but I still recalled it 20 years after first watching it – it took me years to find it again. saw it first on PBS. The second film is below., (the show) (the book).

Lathe of Heaven (2002)

User rating 5.9/10, IMDB. Directed by Philip Haas, from the Ursula K. LeGuin book. Starring James Caan, Lucas Haas, and Lisa Bonet. “His dreams control our destiny, but who controls his dreams?” IMDB. This version is more in tune with the book’s plot and philosophy.

Logan’s Run (1976)

User rating 6.7/10, IMDB. Won Golden Scroll (later Saturn), and nominated for a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. Directed by Michael Anderson, based on the book by William Nolan and George Johnson, and starring Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Farrah Fawcett, and Peter Ustinov. “It is 2274. Some type of holocaust has decimated the earth, and the survivors sealed themselves into a domed city near Washington, D.C. To maintain the population balance, the computers that run the city have decreed that all people must die at 30. This system is enforced by ‘sandmen’ black-clad police operatives who terminate (kill) ‘runners’ (those who attempt to live beyond 30). Logan, a sandman, is sent on a mission to find ‘sanctuary,’ which is a code- word used by the master computer to describe what it believes is a place to which runners have been escaping. Logan begins to question the system he serves and after seeing for himself that there is life beyond the dome, he returns to destroy the computer.” IMDB

“An idyllic sci-fi future has one major drawback: life must end at 30.” This was a favorite movie of mine when I was young (19) and I thought it the best thing since sliced bread. I even found a print at a Renaissance faire that reminded me of carousel, and I still have it. I have the book as well. The movie is a sentimental favorite and will always be so. The story is basic, corny, but a little dystopian, but the addition of Peter Ustinov adds the needed bit of levity, and pathos. The styles are a little dated (hair, ‘futuristic’ sets, but the plot is real, and worth a look. It’s also interesting for its forward look at sexual attitudes, back when it was taboo in most SF.; (book)

Mad Max (1979)

User rating 6.9/10. OFCS #71. Directed by George Miller, and starring Mel Gibson in his break-out role. “Mad Max: George Miller’s vision of an apocalyptic future set in the wastelands of Australia. Total social decay is just around the corner in this spectacular cheap budget gang orientated road movie. Where the cops do their best to lay down the law and the outlaw gangs try their hardest to defy the system. Leather clad Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) husband, father and cop turns judge, juror and executioner after his best friend, wife and baby are killed. Here we see the final days of normality of a man who had everything to live for, and his slip into the abyss of madness. With its astounding car stunts, unbelievable bike chases and constant ultra violence Mad Max is the antihero on the road to vengeance and oblivion. Powerful. Dynamic. Honest. Brutal.” Cinema_Fan, IMDB

“The last law in a world gone out of control. Pray that he’s out there somewhere.” This is the first of three Mad Max films. I saw Road Warrior when it first came out, and it scared the crap out of me. Another movie I spent in my then-husband’s lap. This one I saw much later, long after I had gotten used to the brutalness of the saga, although the third entry is much tamer. This one is bleak, vengeful, and brutal. The others offer glimpses of hope and redemption. Not for the faint at heart.

Martian Chronicles, The

User rating, 6.8/10, IMDB. Directed by Michael Anderson, and based on Ray Bradbury’s novel, this was a 3-part TV miniseries, long out of print. Starring Rock Hudson, Darren McGavin, Bernadette Peters, Roddy McDowall and Barry Morse. “Earth sends its first manned probe to Mars in 1999, and a jealous Martian murders the two astronauts when his wife has erotic dreams of meeting them. Members of a subsequent expedition are hypnotized into believing that they have landed in the childhood community of their leader and have been reunited with deceased family and friends, and they are poisoned by the Martians. Col. John Wilder leads a third expedition and learns that a chicken pox virus brought to Mars by the first two expeditions has almost eradicated the Martian population. A member of Wilder’s team becomes obsessed with protecting Mars from Earthman and murders some of the others in Wilder’s party, before Wilder kills him. Colonists arrive on Mars to settle, among them priests seeking God, and a lone Martian masquerades as the most desired persons of various settlers. Global war on Earth reduces man’s natal planet to radioactive waste, and most of the settlers returned there prior to the holocaust. Wilder struggles to assemble the remaining humans on Mars, who cope with their loneliness in different ways and will not leave their piece of Mars, before Wilder meets a Martian of past or future who tells him the secret of simple Martian life and convinces him to abandon the Earth lifestyle.” Kevin McCorry, IMDB

I watched this when it first aired, and never forgot it. It took years for a print to be had. At 360 minutes, it’s a long one. Bradbury is reported to have had some “differences” with scriptwriter Richard Matheson (I am Legend), and supposedly said at a press conference that it was boring, so it was shelved for a half a year or so. But it eventually aired and as I said, I still recalled it, as does my then husband, Worth a look and maybe a place in the home library. (a “stub” only); (the book)

Matrix (1999)

User rating 8.6/10, IMDB. OFCS #12. Won Oscars for technical stuff, and the Saturn. Directed and written by the Wachowski brothers. Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Ann Moss, Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving. “Thomas A. Anderson is a man living two lives. By day he is an average computer programmer and by night a malevolent hacker known as Neo. Neo has always questioned his reality but the truth is far beyond his imagination. Neo finds himself targeted by the police when he is contacted by Morpheus, a legendary computer hacker branded a terrorist by the government. Morpheus awakens Neo to the real world, a ravaged wasteland where most of humanity have been captured by a race of machines which live off of their body heat and imprison their minds within an artificial reality known as the Matrix. As a rebel against the machines, Neo must return to the Matrix and confront the agents, super powerful computer programs devoted to snuffing out Neo and the entire human rebellion.” redcommander27, IMDB

“In a world of 1s and 0s…are you a zero, or The One?” This one I didn’t understand the first time, and only saw part of it. After I went to Hawaii to go to law school, some of my classmates, young enough to be my kids, decided I needed to watch it, since I professed a love of Sci-Fi, and had me over. They sat me between themselves, and Joe and Nate proceeded to provide stereo voice-over narration, line-by-line, for the entire movie. Needless to say, that didn’t help my concentration or understanding. It wasn’t until all three movies were out, and a few viewings later, that I began to unravel its “secrets.” An article on Artificial Realities vs. Virtual Realities helped to cement the job. The Matrix is an artificial reality. Case closed. But they remain a great trilogy, all three indelibly linked due to the unfolding nature of the story, and a must-have for any collector of SF, or those who just like really cool special effects. The effects are now legendary, and have lost some of their wow factor, simply from being copied in so many movies, a loss, really.; (the Matrix franchise, including the other movies)

Men in Black (1997)

User rating 6.9/10, IMDB. OFCS #92. Won the Saturn. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, and starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. “In present-day America, Agent K is a member of an organization that has been keeping track of extra-terrestrial aliens on Earth for over 40 years. When K finds himself in need of a new partner, a brash NYPD detective, James Edwards fills the position, becoming Agent J. Armed with space-age technology (which J barely understands) and their razor-sharp wits, J and K investigate a newcomer who is bad news for Earth.” David J. Gannon, IMDB

“Protecting the earth from the scum of the universe.” This send-up, based on the Marvel comics, is one of the best dead-pan TLJ roles ever. He is incredibly funny, and will Smith is at his best. The aliens are funny, kooky, and a bit over the top, but then so is the film. Followed by a sequel, with a very enjoyable opening with TLJ as a postman, these two will remains staples in the SF world. Never copied, or done better, this is one for all to enjoy.;

The Men in Black - first issue. Cover art by Max S Fellwalker.

The first comic book cover from 1990.

Paycheck (2003)

User rating 6.1/10, IMDB. Nominated for the Saturn. Directed by John Woo, and based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. Starring Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, and Uma Thurmon. “Jennings (Ben Affleck) is the best reverse-engineer in the business. He is hired by clients to take apart other companies technologies and find out how they work. He is hired to do a special job, against the advice of some of his associates. When the job is completed, all memory of what he has been working on is erased from his mind. That’s when his problem really start to begin. He is hunted for something he has no recollection of doing and has only a little time to work it out. He has sent himself 19 seemingly unconnected objects, before his memory was wiped, to allow him to put the puzzle together and discover just what has gone on and what he has done. But the authorities are after him and time is very quickly running out.” Alan Scott, IMDB

“The future depends on a past he was paid to forget.” This one is a futuristic sort of Bourne Identity is some ways – he has no memory of what happened and has to recreate it based on the clues he left himself, seeming random junk. BUt the pacing is good, the action fast, and it’s a good Affleck movie. You can’t go wrong with a Dick story. Critics say that Woo left out a lot of the SciFi elements to attract a larger audience, and that left the story less than it should be. Panned by critics, and fans of Dick. But still has a decent viewer rating, so it’s worth a screening, at the very least.; (story); (Philip K. Dick, writer).

Pitch Black (2000)

User rating 6.8/10. Nominated for the Saturn. Directed by David Twohy, and based on a story by Jim and Ken Wheat. Starrring Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, and Claudia Black. “Set in the distant future, a spaceship carrying some 40 people, mostly ones wanting to settle on other planets from their own, hits a meteor shower and crash lands on a distant planet killing all but about a dozen of them. The survivors, led by the second-in-command Carolyn Fry, find themselves on a hot and humid landscape with constant sunlight from three orbiting suns. Fry not only must help the survivors find food and water, but contend with a deadly criminal, named Riddick, who was being transported to a prison cell on their destination. But every 22 years, the planet’s three suns go into a total eclipse for a month where darkness brings out the planet’s real inhabitants; large, reptilian, vampire-like creatures that come out and dominate the surface in total darkness, killing and eating all life. The Fry and her people then must cooperate with Riddick, who has surgically enhanced eyes to see in darkness, to lead them to safety and off the planet before they all become dinner for the creatures.” Matthew Patay, IMDB

“One Rule: Stay in the light.” This is the first of the Riddick movies, and is pure terror, heart-stopping suspense, with plenty of popping aliens. It doesn’t give as much back-story on Riddick as you might like, and that’s where Chronicles comes in. Still, it was a great vehicle for Diesel, and is similar in set-up to Asimov’s Nightfall.

Predator (1987)

User rating 7.6/10, IMDB. Directed by John Tiernan, and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, and Jesse Ventura. “Dutch and his group of commandos are hired by the CIA to rescue downed airmen from guerrillas in a Central American jungle. The mission goes well but as they return they find that something is hunting them. Nearly invisible, it blends in with the forest, taking trophies from the bodies of it’s victims as it goes along. Occasionally seeing through it’s eyes, the audience sees it is an intelligent alien hunter, hunting them for sport, killing them off one at a time.” John Vogel, IMDB

“It came for the thrill of the hunt. It picked the wrong man to hunt.” Notable for having two governors in it, it doesn’t seem like it could be over 20 years old. It still reads like the great action SF movie it is. And that’s all it is. No pretentions to philosophy, morality, etc. Just pure action, Rambo style. This is a must-have for me, along with AVP, although when it first came out I couldn’t see the pull of it for my then husband. He loved it, and I hated it. With my ‘personality’ change, I grew to love it, and understand it, something you don’t always get on first viewing, the action is so intense.

Road Warrior, The (1981) – also known as Mad Max 2

User rating 7.6/10, IMDB. OFCS #27. Directed by John Miller, and Starring Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, and Virgina Hay. “A former police officer is now a lone wanderer, travelling through a devastated Australia after a nuclear war looking for the now-priceless fuel of petrol. He lives to survive and is none too pleased when he finds himself the only hope of a small group of honest people running a remote oil refinery. He must protect them from the bike gang that is terrorising them whilst transporting their entire fuel supply to safety.” Graeme Roy, IMDB

“In the future, cities will become deserts, roads will become battlefields and the hope of mankind will appear as a stranger.” This is the first Mad Max movie I saw, and I spent much of it in my then husband’s lap. When we came out of the theatre, which opened onto a small street, a group of low-riders came roaring by, forever cementing Mad Amx and motorcycles in my mind. It took me years to begin to get over the violence and appreciate the grittiness, tone, feel, and post-apolcalytic feel of the movie, as well as it’s uplifting ending. “The film’s depiction of a post-apocalyptic future was widely copied by other filmmakers and in science fiction novels, to the point that its gritt…junkyard society of the future look…is almost taken for granted in the modern sf action film.” Richard Scheib, NZ.

Serenity (2005)

User rating 8.0/10, IMDB. Won the Saturn, and the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Directed and written by Joss Whedon, and based on the short-lived series. Starring Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, and Summer Glau (the current Terminator in The Sarah Conner Chronicles. “River Tam and her brother Simon are hiding out from the totalitarian government that experimented with River’s brain aboard the space-freighter Serenity. Captained by a down on his luck, no faith soldier, the crew of Serenity must take jobs (legal or not) while avoiding the Alliance, and keeping the Tams safe. But when things get out of hand with the true extent of River’s powers, the Alliance sends a new Operative to make sure what River knows doesn’t get out. How will the crew of Serenity deal with this new threat? And what exactly does River know that the Operative is willing to kill for?” Michael Gettings, IMDB

The future is worth fighting for.” Insanely or not, this is one I have not yet watched. Just as I have not yet watched those remaining un-aired episodes from the DVD set I own. I tend to hoard, and once it is gone, it’s gone forever, and this is one series I loved with all my heart. I adore Whedon’s work, and will admit to being a Buffy and Angel fan. His witty dialogue sparkles, like an amped up Gilmore Girls in another universe, and so as I loved the series, I know I will love the movie, and I know many fans of the show that love this move. I only wish I had the guts to watch it, but my heart says to save it. Curious, but true. For a long time I had the words to the series’ title song printed out and hung on my wall, while I was in school, shortly after my divorce – they seemed dark and appropriate.; (series)

Silent Running (1972)

User rating 6.7/10, IMDB. OFCS #82. Directed by Douglas Trumball and starring Bruce Dern and Cliff Potts. “The loner crew member of a spaceship harbouring Earth’s last nature reserves goes renegade when he is instructed to jettison his beloved forests and return home. Accompanied only by three robots, he ponders the fate of his last pocket of nature and the murders of his fellow crew members in this far-looking speculative film.” Keith Loh,IMDB

“Earth’s last battle will be fought in space.” This was a long-time favorite of mine, and ‘lost’ during the years of only 3-4 channels and no VCRs. It was one of the first movies I bought on Betamax, yes Beta, still a superior format! And is still a sentimental favorite as he goes about tending the last of Earth with Huey, Dewey, and Louie. It’s a bit of a hanky one, and a family movie to some extent, although for older children, because some of the elements might puzzle the younger set. Watch it and use your discretion. Nothing graphic. Check the parental advisory on IMDB for full info.

Check out the final Part 4 coming soon to a theatre near you… and remember, if you don’t see a favorite, it may appear on my VHS list, or on my list of favorites I DON’T own!


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