Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks - Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

Written for the blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join us by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and telling us about them!

I LOVE science fiction, so this week was full of fun films to pick, even with the restriction of no space or aliens. These are all different interpretations of science fiction. (It's been a busy week and day, so that's as much of an intro as you're going to get.)

Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011) Okay, so this may be cheating a little, because the sci-fi is really only at the edges, but Melancholia is such a GORGEOUS film, and it uses its science fiction conceit (a planet, the titular Melancholia, is on a collision course with Earth) to explore depression in a way no film has done before or since. Featuring a career-best performance from Kirsten Dunst that justly won the Best Actress prize at Cannes, and another fantastic performance from von Trier muse Charlotte Gainsbourg. The best opening and closing scenes of any movie in recent memory. And the repeated use of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, which features a minor chord repeated throughout that doesn't resolve until the very last note of the opera, is flat-out BRILLIANT. Bonus points for Udo Kier's hilarious minor role.

Minority Report (Steven Spielberg, 2002) For my money, Spielberg's greatest achievement of the 00s, Minority Report features some very cool, prescient special effects, great performances from Tom Cruise and Samantha Morton, and some of the coolest production design you'll see in a sci-fi film set in the not-too-distant future. The story is about a world in which crimes can be predicted by a set of three sibling "pre-cogs" who can see the future, and the policeman who hunts down the people who haven't yet committed the crime for which he's arresting them... until the pre-cogs announce he will kill someone. Of course it was written by Phillip K. Dick, and it's probably the best adaptation of one of the great author's works.

The Nutty Professor (Tom Shadyac, 1996) YES, THIS COUNTS. Eddie Murphy is a sweet, overweight scientist who concocts a weight loss formula which brings out his inner "Buddy Love" in this remake of the 60s Jerry Lewis picture (which I would have picked except I can't STAND Lewis in dork mode). Basically a comic spin on Jekyll & Hyde, The Nutty Professor is science fiction at its funniest. My family rented this one and were laughing so hard at the dinner scenes that we had to rewind and rewatch them. Murphy deserved an Oscar nomination for this, playing not only the titular Sherman Klump, but Klump's mother, father, brother, and grandmother, too, creating a whole family of comic genius. (Unfortunately, he was such a hit in all these roles that a sequel was made with more of them.)

11 comments:

  1. I so need to see Melancholia. I have a troubled relationship with Von Trier's work, but I've always heard this one is where it's at. Minority Report bros! I picked it as well. Such a great movie. In fact, my wife and I are re-watching it tonight. The Nutty Professor is out of left field. I like it. And it definitely works. Great picks!

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    1. Melancholia is gorgeous, and while not necessarily an easy sit, it's much easier to get through than any other von Trier I've seen.

      Minority Report is AWESOME. Whenever it's on TV I have to stop and watch it. So help me, I'm even considering watching the TV series they're making out of it!

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  2. Of your three I really like Minority Report-which seems to be the title of the week. I agree that Samantha Morton is great and I really liked Colin Farrell in it, even Cruise who I'm cool too is better than usual and the production design is great.

    I thought The Nutty Professor was cute but once was enough for me, it was the same with the Jerry Lewis one despite the presence of the wonderful Stella Stevens in the cast. It's a terrific out of left field pick, love those.

    I've avoided Melancholia. Every von Trier's movie I've seen, admittedly few, I've absolutely loathed, hated is too gentle a word, so even with the good word of mouth about Dunst's performance I've given it a pass.

    I enjoy sci-fi, particularly this kind that is more mood oriented then aliens or space travel, but its not one of my favored genres so I had to cast about a bit to come up with three but I did find three I really love.

    Source Code (2011)-As part of a secret military operation Colter Stevens is placed repeatedly in the body of a man during the last eight minutes of his life to find out the identity of the terrorist who blew up a commuter train and prevent them from striking again. As he goes through the calamity time and again he begins to see a way to prevent the original tragedy. A clever premise excitingly directed with a strong lead performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.

    Back to the Future III (1990)-Marty McFly and Doc Brown head out to the Old West by way of the flux capacitor where Doc finds love but also runs afoul of gang of bandits. After the scattershot BTTFII the series finds its legs again recapturing its sense of wonder and winds up with this charming and fun comic sci-fi western.

    Fahrenheit 451 (1966)-Fran├žois Truffaut’s only English language film is a terrifically chilly affair based on the Ray Bradbury classic. In the future Montag, a firemen whose job is to search for and burn books begins to question his existence. The masses, now called Cousins are under various degrees of mind control but there are still pockets of protesters who strive to keep knowledge alive. A perfectly cast film with amazing production design. Julie Christie is super in a dual role.

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    1. The thing with Melancholia is - what haven't you liked about von Trier's other films? Melancholia is very different from the other ones I've seen: It's far more interested in (and probably more sympathetic to) its characters, for one thing. The cinematography is STUNNING and both Dunst and Gainsbourg give tremendous performances. I want to tell you it's worth it but I don't know what exactly turns you off about von Trier. I will say this: I dragged my (now ex-)boyfriend to see it with the lure that it was sci-fi, and he had recently denied me movie-picking rights because he so detested The Tree of Life (which I kind of loved). I worried that he would hate this one too, but he liked the trailer, and liked the film itself even more. So there's that.

      I LOVE Source Code - Vera Farmiga is also great in it in such a nothing part. I always love when actors take a purely functionary character and turn them into someone who feels like a full, complete person. And you're right that it is a very exciting picture, and Jake anchors it very well.

      "Terrifically chilly" is a PERFECT descriptor for Farenheit 451. I loved the book was cool on the film, but perhaps it's for that reason. It's distant, but purposefully so.

      BTTF 3 is not my favorite of the trilogy, but it's fun and led to one of the funniest gags Seth MacFarlane has ever put on film, so I'm okay with it.

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    2. The first BTTF is my favorite but I was pretty sure that it would show up in other lists, I was right, and 3 is a close second. I didn't like #2 much at all.

      I think that remove in Farenheit was intentional on Truffaut's part. It looks at such an isolated society that any warmth from anyone but Clarisse would have wrung false. By the way the ending, which I think is so perfectly fitting showing the endurance of the spirit, was a happy accident. On the commentary track for the DVD Julie Christie recalled that they were shooting the final scene on her birthday which is mid April and unexpectedly it began to snow. Truffaut seeing an opportunity for striking imagery hurriedly pulled everyone together and shot as quickly as possible.

      My largest problem with von Trier's work, aside from unnecessary overlength, is his wallowing in misery. Breaking the Waves was the worst offender, although I admired Emily Watson's performance, to me that's not entertainment.

      And yes Vera did wonders in Source Code.

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    3. Yeah, as to von Trier's "wallowing in misery", well... it's right there in the title isn't it? There are certainly parts of Melancholia that are very difficult to watch because of the tremendous depression Dunst's character goes through. I thought it was worth it in the end, but your mileage may vary. I can say that, unlike in his other pictures, he doesn't seem to be REVELING in the unpleasantness here. So that's something.

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  3. The Nutty Professor absolutely counts! Great pick. Actually, all three of these are excellent choices.

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    1. Thanks, man! I wish I had had more time to come up with better ones because I keep kicking myself thinking of other ones I wish I had included. AH WELL. Such is life!

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  4. Nutty Professor is such a unique pick!

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  5. I think you did cheat with Melancholia, I don't remember scifi elements it. It's more apocalyptic. Anyhow I did like the movie. It was shot beautifully and the music was great too.

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    1. I disagree, since the very premise of a planet being on a collision course with Earth is by its very nature science fiction, plus both Keifer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg's characters are very into the science of it.

      But you're the boss, so if you say so... ;-)

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