Grick Speaks – Some Shameless Self Promotion
Hello again, Grick here. There’s a rumor going around that the first three books of the “Man’s Best Friend” series will be published as a trilogy volume sometime late this year. This will include the as yet unreleased Book 3, which Amos tells me has yet to be titled by our able chroniclers, L.J. Stamm and R.J. Evanovich. I am told by reliable sources that many more of the questions and mysteries that have arisen in the first two books will be explained in the third. You can be certain of a few unexpected surprises also. Since I already know the story, having lived it first hand, I am anxious to see just how faithful an account they render. In the first two books, Messrs. Stamm and Evanovich have done very well in that regard and I expect them to continue their fine efforts.
LJ On Film – The Top 20 Nightmare Continues
Any list of “Top” anything is bound to be a matter of personal opinion. I have included films that are my favorites and that, in my judgment, have stood the test of time. There are plenty of recent sci-fi films that might seem terrific now, but have yet to stand that test. It is not necessary for a movie to have great special effects and plenty of action to be a classic. If all you want is splashy effects and frenetic action, you’ll be money ahead to stick with video gaming.
Filmmaking is like literature. (If you can remember what THAT is.) The story and the characters are the driving forces. If these two things are compelling, nothing else is needed. The same applies to science fiction. All the fabulous CGI in the world cannot overcome a weak story and dull characters. When looking at story and characters one may be stronger than the other, but every classic has substantial elements of both, along with a strong concept or premise in which to frame it. So here they are, in no particular order. (Ones with * are my “take to a desert island” group.)
* Blade Runner (1982) – This is a great one, both for its depiction of an oppressively dark future and its universal theme of basic survival. Relatively light on special effects, it is far more about characters and ideas.
Alien (1979) – Dark and creepy, this movie features that venerable sci-fi premise of unintentionally finding something you soon wish you hadn’t. The title perfectly captures the overall quality of the film.
Predator (1987) – This is a story notable for its interesting concept of aliens coming to earth on safari to hunt for US, subject to ‘sporting’ rules. It is mostly an action movie, but I don’t hold that against it.
The Andromeda Strain (1971) – It was very techie stuff in its day, depicting the attempt to contain an unknown disease organism from space. Good pacing and performances from a veteran cast makes it all quite plausible.
* Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) – This is the best of all the ‘Star Trek’ movies, regardless of the era. It is an exciting tale with hooks back to the original TV series. And who can forget “KHHAAAANNNN!”
Jurassic Park (1993) – Great effects and an interesting concept make this a good one, even if you don’t like dinosaurs.
The Matrix (1999) – A clever premise about virtual reality is depicted very astutely. I never figured out why some people had trouble understanding what it was all about.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – Another great concept, cyborgs from the future, is beautifully done, although I wonder why the machines built a T-101 with a German accent. ‘The Terminator’ is also really good, but not as.
* Forbidden Planet (1956) – Every sci-fi fan should be familiar with this movie. If not, their education is sorely lacking. It is one of the all time classics with a timeless story and effects that still look impressive.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) – One of the great classics that still gives me a shudder when Gort’s visor slowly opens and a sigh of relief when it closes. Capable actors and direction by Robert Wise makes for a good film.
Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – This is the best of all the ‘Star Wars’ movies, by a considerable margin.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) – The most credible depiction of a visit by friendly aliens yet produced.
Gattaca (1997) – People and their relationships manage to achieve a measure of triumph over their dystopian future world, and that’s a good thing.
* 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – The first of the ‘modern’ sci-fi films, it remains among the best, with an Arthur C. Clarke approved emphasis on the science. Director Stanley Kubrick did it right. It’s sad to remember that when I first saw this movie in 1968, the near-future it depicted seemed eminently reachable.
Metropolis (1927) – A groundbreaking (silent) film that paints a disturbing picture of the future, it is a somewhat forgotten classic. It is interesting from several perspectives, both as art and history.
The Road Warrior (1981) – This is the best of all near-era post-apocalypse movies. It is a compelling, atmospheric film starring a young Mel Gibson, where REAL cars, not CGI images, collide at high speed.
* War of the Worlds (1953) – A classic with great special effects that still look pretty good today, along with a lot of memorable quotes like, “This type of defense is USELESS against THAT kind of power!”
Back to the Future (1985) – Why not include a little fun along with your sci-fi? The time travel premise works just fine and most of it is pretty well done, except for the bad ‘aging’ make-up on Marty’s parents.
The Thing (1982) – A creepy and disturbing story that director John Carpenter crafted into a classic. Good actors including Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley don’t hurt either.
Serenity (2005) – While it helps to have seen the prequel TV series (‘Firefly’), it is not entirely necessary to enjoy this movie. It has interesting story and characters along with good effects and action.
p.s. – There are many, many other good sci-fi films out there. Find and enjoy them for yourself.