Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Top 20 science fiction movies: Part 3, #6-10

My Top 20 science fiction movies (continued)

10. Blade Runner (1982)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer and Sean Young

Blade Runner is set in Los Angeles in the year 2019 and it’s the kind of film that makes you think. There’s not an abundance of action, but there’s enough to keep the story moving. It’s slower than most science fiction films, but that’s a positive in this case. Deckard (Ford) is a Blade Runner; a man charged with finding and killing six replicants. Replicants are androids who are hard to tell from humans. Ridley Scott is asking us to consider what makes someone human. Some of the actions of the replicants suggest that they are human, so it’s a difficult task telling the two apart. The film is an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. This isn’t Star Wars, so don’t expect to see Ford running around defying the odds. The first time I saw the film, I didn’t like it at all. It’s gradually grown on me over the years and is worth looking at a second or third time if you didn’t like it the first time you saw it. The Blu-ray presentation makes one of the best cases for upgrading to HD. I wouldn’t be surprised if I rank Blade Runner higher when I have seen it a few more times.

9. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Melinda Dillon and Teri Garr

Spielberg likes to make movies with mass appeal and Close Encounters of the Third Kind certainly fits into that category. It grossed $304 million worldwide and ranks 69th on the all-time list (adjusted for inflation). So why did so many people pay to see the movie? The title suggests that we will see a lot of close encounters, but that’s not the case. Spielberg shows a few spaceships at the beginning of the movie and almost two hours pass before we see any others. The movie works because of the suspense it creates. When Roy (Dreyfuss) has a close encounter, he starts to behave oddly. What is he doing and why is he doing it? Will he persist even though it threatens his marriage? Although the pacing never feels slow, there’s almost no action in the entire movie. The story is built around two people who feel compelled to travel to a certain destination. It was a plus to see François Truffaut in front of the camera rather than behind it and he was convincing as a French scientist. Spielberg has delivered a suspense movie disguised as science fiction. It works wonderfully. The Blu-ray looks and sounds almost perfect and includes all three versions of the movie.

8. War of the Worlds (2005)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning and Tim Robbins

I ranked the 1953 version of War of the Worlds at number 18 and I usually can’t stand seeing classics remade, but I like what Spielberg did with the 2005 version. First of all, it isn’t exactly a remake. It’s set in this century and includes modern technology. He sticks to the rules established in the first movie, but it’s shown from the viewpoint of a different set of characters. The special effects leave very little to the imagination and you’ll see people disintegrate before your eyes rather than simply vanish. The Martian machines are deadly and convincing and the acting is so much better than what we saw in the original version. The pacing is excellent and the action rarely lets up. Ray Ferrier (Cruise) tries to keep his children safe. He’s never completely earned their respect, but he steps up when the crisis develops and finally earns their trust. Spielberg respects the original movie by delivering a similar ending. It won’t appeal to everyone, but I’m glad he didn’t change it too much. You might have found yourself laughing at the original version, but there’s not much to laugh at here. It’s a suspenseful action movie with good special effects. The Blu-ray is a little grainy, but decent, and the sound quality alone makes it worth the upgrade. 

7. The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Directed by Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving

The three Matrix movies often leave viewers divided. While most people like The Matrix, Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions commonly meet with criticism. I like all three and consider each part of the trilogy vital to make all three work effectively. This middle entry is almost as good as the first in my opinion. Agent Smith becomes an even more interesting character and it’s good to have some background information showing how and where the crew lives. It also boasts one of the best chase scenes I’ve seen. I respect the opinion of those who were disappointed by the sequels, but this is my list and I would be lying if I failed to include The Matrix Reloaded. The Blu-ray presentation is highly-detailed and the sound mix is bold. Both definitely add something to the intensity of the overall experience.

6. Moon (2009)
Directed by Duncan Jones
Starring Sam Rockwell and the voice of Kevin Spacey

It’s difficult to talk about Moon without giving away too much of the plot, so I’ll keep this brief. Sam Bell (Rockwell) works for a mining company based on the far side of the moon. He can contact Earth by sending videos, but his only source of companionship on the station is Gerty (Spacey); a computer similar to HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Gerty talks to him, prepares his meals, cuts his hair and takes care of him if he gets hurt. Sam’s contract runs for three years and he’s only got two weeks to go. One day, he suffers an accident while on a routine mission to the surface, and wakes up in the infirmary. He’s unable to remember certain details and may even be hallucinating. We’re unsure whether he’s suffered brain damage or permanent injury. Director Duncan Jones has a few surprises in store. The feel of the movie is distinctly old school, and is similar to 2001 in some ways. Jones uses convincing models to portray events on the surface. Rockwell plays a difficult role extremely well, but I can’t describe the details without ruining the plot. The Blu-ray presentation looks great considering the film had a budget of just $5 million. Jones’ debut feature is a significant achievement and it was good to see him work with a bigger budget and other established actors in his second movie, Source Code.

Click here to see numbers 16-20 on the list.
Click here to see numbers 11-15 on the list.
Click here to see numbers 1-5 on the list. 

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  1. Great 10-6!

    I really like how War of the Worlds is on this list, I may have not seen the original (yet) but I did like the remake a lot (when other people seemed to have very mixed opinons)!

  2. Thanks.

    Yep, I like the updated version of War of the Worlds. It's not a popular opinion. If you see the original, you'll see what I mean about the ending. It's true to the original story though. I think it's a fun ride.