Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek’

AFI: 10 Top 10 – Science Fiction

June 18, 2008

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So, the American Film Institute (AFI) once again made a list.  That seems to be what they do.


On Tuesday, June 27, 2008, The AFI: 10 Top 10 was broadcast.  Basically, they took ten genres (TEN?!?  Really?) and declared the top 10 movies in each genre.  And, as usual, they were wrong.


I don’t want to go into all of the various lists, but since this is The Steve Austin Book Club, I thought we’d take a look at what the AFI is calling the top 10 science fiction films of all time.


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10 – Back to the Future – Okay, I liked this movie a lot… but putting it on a top 10 list for science fiction?  Seems a little much.  When I think “science fiction,” I gotta say – I don’t think, “Back to the Future.”  Yes, I know, it does revolve around time travel… it just doesn’t leap to my mind.  Still, for mass appeal and movie quality, I suppose I can go along with this, especially since it is this low on the list.


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9 – Invasion of the Body Snatchers – This one should be in this list.  Maybe even a little higher.  My only complaint with this film is the sorta cop-out “happy” ending – which was tacked on.  But, without a doubt, I think that this one does belong on the list.


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8 – Terminator 2: Judgment Day – Yeah, I’ll go with this.  At first, I was thinking that the original film should be here, but I can’t deny how much better overall this sequel is to the original.  This one seems right, and probably about this spot.


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7 – Alien – Now, some would argue whether this one or the sequel, Aliens, really belongs here.  I won’t get into that, but I will say that this seems a little low.  I would’ve thought this film would be in the top five, but I could be wrong.  At least it is on the list, right?


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6 – Blade Runner – At the risk of losing more geek-cred, I don’t like this movie.  I know I’m in the minority here, but I can’t help it.  Despite that, given the popularity of the film, I can see it in the top ten… I suppose… but certainly lower than the sixth position.  Like I said, though, my personal taste is factoring in on this one.


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5 – The Day the Earth Stood Still – I would’ve made it a little lower, but the 5 spot is perfectly acceptable.


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4 – A Clockwork Orange – I don’t know that I can adequately express how much I hate this film.  As such, and regardless of the way others feel about it, I can’t believe this is on any top 10 list, especially when I factor in the ridiculous number of other science fiction films that could have been on this list.  I… I have nothing more to say on this.


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3 – E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial – And as much animosity as I have for the previous film, I have an equal amount of love for this film.  Great movie.  That said, I don’t know that it would’ve made my top 10 for specifically science fiction films.  I probably throw it more in with family films.  And, if it had made my list for science fiction, I think it would’ve been a little farther down.


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2 – Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope – Of course a Star Wars film was going to be on this list.  I’m just surprised by two things – which one, and how high it is on the list.  I suppose A New Hope, being the original film and essentially self-contained, could make the list, but in my experience, most people seem to agree that The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the Star Wars films overall.  As for position, I would’ve put the representative of the Star Wars films somewhere in the fourth to sixth position.


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1 – 2001: A Space Odyssey – Not my favorite science fiction film, but I can absolutely understand it being on this list, and why it is 1.  If there is to be a flagship for science fiction film, this one fits the bill.


My biggest complaint with this list are the things that are missing.  I’m not positive that films like John Carpenter’s The Thing, Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan, Twelve Monkeys, Planet of the Apes, Total Recall, or Robocop would’ve made my top 10 list for science fiction films, but they would certainly have been more likely to be on this list than some of these offered by AFI.  And what about films like Forbidden Planet and Fantastic Voyage?  Or even The Running Man and The Matrix?


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Without a doubt, though, what makes this list most suspect is one ommission that is completely unacceptable in my mind – Where is Close Encounters of the Third Kind, AFI?  How can there be a list for the best science fiction films of all time that doesn’t include Close Encounters?!?


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Bah!  AFI, you have failed again.  Hang your head in shame.

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Lost in Space: Awesome Sauce!

April 14, 2008

 

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First off, dear readers, I feel the need to give a little background on this blatant attack from OG on me.

See, it all started with Dave.  Not an individual, but the film, Dave, starring Kevin Kline.  I saw the movie, and I found it to be neither good nor bad.  As a matter of fact, I found it to be the most perfectly balanced film I had ever seen, eliciting zero reaction from me of liking or disliking the film.

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Understand what I’m saying here – this movie, Dave, simply exists for me.  It is there.  It has no qualities I wish to exalt nor does it have detriments I wish to highlight.  On a scale of 1 to 10, it is a 5.  It is exactly 2 1/2 out of 5 stars.  It is the middle of the road.  It is the first zero sum movie I ever saw.

And, by that virtue… or failing… it is perfectly suited to judge EVERY other film by.  If a film is better than Dave, it is deemed good.  If a film is worse, it is bad.  If it is equal to Dave?  Well… now I’ve never encountered that.  I suppose it is possible, but for the moment, Dave lives a lonely life within the vacuum, simply being the balance point on the scales of enjoyment.

Now, OG is a bit of a contrarian and upon hearing my views on the movie Dave has, in his mind, lifted the movie up on a pedastal that is impossible for most really fantastic films to reach.  Last I heard, I believe that Dave now ranked as number 6 on his greatest films of all time list.  We both know that this is a false view, that it is an honor that Dave by no means deserves, and yet, OG’s nature cannot allow him to admit that I am correct about Dave.

As such, when the issue of taste in film comes up in film, two topics are immediately presented by OG – my view of Dave, and the fact that I think the Lost In Space film is the finest film ever made.

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The only problem is, I have never propogated this myth about Lost In Space.

The statement has grown over the years.  Originally, the accusation was merely that I thought Lost In Space was better than James Cameron’s Titanic.  Then, it grew to “he thinks Lost in Space was the best film of the year.”  And, now, myth has it that I think God Himself blessed the earth with the celluloid on which Lost In Space was filmed.

I can tell you the origin of this.  Picture it, if you will:  The year was 1998.  I was taking a light load of classes, finishing up my final semester of college.  As such, I went to a lot of movies.  At the time, the movie Titanic was going on something like its 8 millionth week as the number 1 movie.  Yeah, I saw it, and it was good.  But, after so long of hearing about it breaking records, the constant playing of Celine Dion on the radio, and the swooning of the fairer gender on the campus at the thought of this movie, I was pretty well sick of it.  Near the end of the school year, in April, I went to see Lost In Space.  And you know what?  I enjoyed it.  It was a fun movie, with great special effects.  It was complete eye-candy, perfect for someone finishing up their last semester in college.  Arriving back on campus, I shot off an email to my friend OG, in which I wrote something to this effect:

I think Lost In Space will finally knock Titanic out of the #1 slot.

That’s it.  That was the statement.  My view was that it was a big special effects film, the beginning of the summer blockbuster season, and the audience of poor males that had been drug to see Titanic 14 times would come out to see a film that was so completely NOT Titanic that it would win the slot.

And, by the by, I was right.  It did take over the 1 slot on its opening weekend.

Unfortunately, the email statement has been radically deformed from beyond its original meaning. 

That said, I still think that the 1989 film Lost in Space is an entertaining movie.

A lot of people refer to it as a bad translation of a TV classic.  I would disagree with these folks.  It is not a bad translation of a TV classic, but, rather, a valiant attempt to update a nearly unwatchable TV show.

That’s right, I said it – the Lost in Space TV series was nearly unwatchable.

Actually, that may be a little strong.  The show, in its infancy, was pretty good.  Later, though, particularly when the show hits the color episodes (seasons two and three), when it devolved into the “Dr. Smith, Will, and the Robot Show,” that’s when it became a travesty.  There was little drama, little danger, and very little character development.  Oh, and the “villains” on the show were… well, sad really.

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The infamous Tybo the Carrot… actual “villain” from the TV show.

This show wasn’t Star Trek (which I love).  This was not a platform on which one could easily build an empire.  No, this was a crummy TV show that has a following based more in nostalgia than any true merit.

(Hey, feel free to disagree with me.  Nevertheless, this is my opinion.)

So, the time comes for a new translation of this idea for film.  The creators are saddled with the responsibility to not only capture a new audience, but to also appeal to those that have a soft spot in their hearts for the original series.

Don’t kid yourselves – this is a tall order.

They take elements from the original series – the basic concept – A family goes into space as Earth faces the massive overpopulation in an effort to find a new world.  The ship is sabotaged by a stowaway using a robot.  The ship is “lost,” forced to try to find a way home.

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The filmmakers then spent a fortune on special effects.  If you haven’t seen the movie in a while, you should try checking it again.  The effects are really spectacular throughout… with one exception… but we’ll get to that later.  The ship looks great, the battles are good, lots of explosions, and, man, the space “armor” that is reminiscent of the Batmobile armor is really cool.

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And, you know what?  I liked the actors chosen for the roles. 

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William Hurt seemed a reasonable fit for an obliviously negligent father.

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Mimi Rogers worked quite well as the mother.

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Heather Graham was competent in her role as Judy.

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Gary Oldman was thankfully restrained to a massive degree in his portrayal of Dr. Smith.

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Lacey Chabert brought a nice bit of personality to Penny (who was pretty well forgetable in the original series).

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The kid that played Will Robinson (who I can’t be bothered enough to look up his name) was just as annoying as virtually every other kid actor ever. 

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And, they got the original voice actor for the Robot, Dick Tufeld (a real treat for fans of the original). 

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Plus – I saved this for last – I think that Matt LeBlanc’s portrayal of Don West is probably the best thing he has ever done, and was a shockingly nice surprise.  The chemistry between him and Heather Graham was quite believable.

The film also had the disadvantage of being an “origin” tale.  The makers had to establish the settings, the characters, the reasons they were doing what they were doing, and include an initial adventure all within about a two hour frame.  It is seldom done well, which is why films like X2: X-Men United and Spider-Man 2 surpassed their establishing films.  (On a side note, I think that if the studio had made a second film in this series, the result would have been a much, much better film.)

The movie could have been lighter, sure, but I suspect that the makers were trying to bring a seriousness to the concept that the original series gave up early on.  Their are moments of humor throughout, but the heaviness of the film overshadows them. 

The irony in that is the injection of lightness via the introduction of one of the worst examples of CGI in the film, the one short coming of the effects that I mentioned earlier – Blarp, the chameleon-monkey-creature-thing. 
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In a lighter type of film, such an obvious toy tie-in might not have been noticable, but in this film, it is glaringly inappropriate, and the very 2-dimensional look of the creature seems to reflect a lack of enthusiasm by the animators to include this thing among their other achievements in the film.

Was the film the best thing ever?  No.  Like I said, it was a little too dark (throwing the film off-balance), and had a really obvious and irritating toy tie-in.  Was it the worst thing ever?  Far from it.  I won’t even say it was a bad film.  It was entertaining, and I’d rather sit through it than any episode of the original series.  If you haven’t seen the movie in a while, check it out again.  You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Oh, and I enjoyed it more than Dave, so it must be good.