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FOTEP Movie Reviews

Science Fiction

 

12 Monkeys (1995)

Until the TV series, this movie went largely unnoticed.

A convict (Bruce Willis), in a post-apocalyptic future, is sent back in time to find a group known as the Army of the 12 monkeys who are suspected of releasing a global plague that destroyed all but a handful of humanity.

James Cole (Willis) makes the inevitable mistake of telling authorities that he's from the future and is committed to an insane asylum where he meets Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt in an excellent performance). Together they escape the asylum and try to track down the infamous 12 monkeys.

This is a great film and features several excellent performances.

IMDB Score: 8.1/10
Amazon Score: 4.3/5

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Mostly for completeness, this review really only reminds the viewer that there is a great movie out there that really needs to be re-watched occasionally.

From the book by Arthur C. Clarke, this science fiction staple tells of a near/space-faring future where an obelisk is found on the moon and needs to be investigated. The investigation leads to Jupiter and a bit of trouble with the artificial intelligence of the computer, HAL 9000.

As is nearly never the case, the sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact is as good as the original. In the sequel, a multi-national crew is sent to Jupiter and the original ship, the USS Discovery, to find out just what happened. This is also based on a novel.

I highly recommend both movies and both novels, but the follow-up novels lacked something.

IMDB Score: 8.4/10
Amazon Score: 4.2/5

Alien (1979)

"In space, no one can hear you scream."

This is the first of several Alien movies and the precursor to the Alien vs. Predator series.

The crew of a spacecraft is brought out of suspended animation when the ship receives what may be a distress signal from an unexplored planet and swings by to investigate. Aside from a short face-suck from a little alien, everything goes swimmingly until, on the return trip, we find the titular alien aboard.

This high-suspense thriller stands the test of time and is still the best of the franchise. The movies that follow are more of the same and aren't worth the effort, but this movie shines.

IMDB Score: 8.5/10
Amazon Score: 4.6/5

The Andromeda Strain (1971/2008)

The Andromeda Strain is a book by Michael Crichton (4.0/5 stars) that has been made into a movie twice. Both are well-done.

The 1971 version is 131 minutes long and is starting to show its age.

The 2008 mini-series is 180 minutes long and is a good update without significantly changing the core of the story.

Both movies are taught thrillers. A satellite from Project Scoop crashes in the desert near a small town. It's mission was to collect space debris for an unknown purpose. Upon opening the satellite (because a small-town doctor should be the one to open a crashed space object) the members of the town die mysteriously.

A team of scientists (that have previously been recruited for just such an emergency, which is ominous) are dispatched to a secret lab to investigate the deaths and the satellite.

Tension is high throughout the movies.

The newer movie scored lower on IMDB and Amazon, but I thought both films were good.

IMDB Score: 7.2/10 & IMDB Score: 6.2/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5 & Amazon Score: 2.9/5

The City of Lost Children (1995)

First, this is a foreign film, specifically, it is French. So, it doesn't follow the Hollywood boiler plate and it is in French with English subtitles.

If you can get past that, this is a very good movie.

This film is surreal. Krank, unable to dream himself, kidnaps children for their dreams. But that's just the basic plot. This film is filled with subplots and dark imagery.

I don't know how to express just what this film is. It takes several viewings to reach an understanding that is itself based on the surface of an actual grasp of the film.

If you like foreign films, put this on your to-do list.

IMDB Score: 7.7/10
Amazon Score: 4.3/5

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

In a future much like our present, the world has its good citizens and its gangs. Alex (Malcolm McDowell) is the leader of a gang of "droogs." Out to basically rape and pillage, Alex is caught and sent to prison. In prison, a doctor looks for a candidate for a new procedure to condition the violence out of the subject.

This is the movie made from a book by Anthony Burgess. I haven't read the book yet, but the movie clearly stands on its own.

This movie is a classic and I think you'll enjoy the slightly dystopian version of England.

IMDB Score: 8.5/10
Amazon Score: 4.3/5

Stanley Kubrick: Visionary Filmmaker Collection - 8-Disc Box Set (1968-1999)

Both 2001 and A Clockwork Orange are included in the Stanley Kubrick Collection at a very reasonable $40. The collection includes:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • The Shining (1980) (120 min.)
  • Full Metal Jacket (1987)
  • Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
I wish I'd found this when I was already picking up blu-rays of 2001 and Clockwork.

Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)

This little gem is also from a book (Look for the book used if you can find it.)

Colossus is a massive US computer complex that is designed to protect our nation from external enemies as well as serve as a research nexus. Things don't go as planned when it not only develops intelligence, but also discovers its Russian equivalent.

Not highly rated, but still respectable, this is both a good book and a good movie.

IMDB Score: 7.1/10
Amazon Score: 4.1/5

Contact (1997)

Whether you're a SETI enthusiast or not, I think you will enjoy this film. Contact is an interesting movie about the contact of another intelligence at the Earth.

Eleanor Arroway (Jodie Foster) has been searching the skies for extra-terrestrial intelligence for years. After setbacks, she finally finds the holy grail of the SETI crowd, a repeating signal from deep space.

This tells her story, from modest beginnings, to her eventual triumph and beyond.

Who is this intelligence and how can we contact them back? Can the Earth get its transworld act together and reach out and what will we find?

This is both intellectual and action-packed and a good watch.

IMDB Score: 7.4/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5

Ender's Game (2013)

This one is a tough call. Do you read the book first or do you watch the movie and save the book for background and detail. Either way, once you get to the end, you know how it goes and the other will be a bit of an anti-climax.

Andrew (Ender) Wiggin is a third, a state-sanctioned third child. You see, The Hundred Worlds is looking for that one special candidate to lead the Worlds' fleet against "the buggers." Peter, Ender's older brother, was close but not right for command. Valentine, Ender's older sister was also close but also not right for command. So their parents were granted a rare third child to see if he could have what his brother and sister lacked.

The movie lacks the detail of the book but covers the high points well. The acting is good and doesn't suffer from the shortcomings of many child actors.

Either way you approach it, you will enjoy the story.

IMDB Score: 6.9/10
Amazon Score: 4.0/5

The Fifth Element (1997)

This sci-fi/action/thriller pits Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) against an Earth-destroying menace from space and an evil industrialist (Gary Oldman) by winning the heart of a perfect woman (Milla Jovovich).

In a fixed contest, Dallas wins a trip aboard a luxury cruiser and is continually interviewed by an outrageous radio DJ (Chris Tucker). The commentary during the big battle scene is priceless.

This is a great mix of science fiction and action flick that I think you'll really enjoy.

IMDB Score: 7.7/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5

The Final Countdown (1980)

What happens when a modern super-carrier is transported back in time to the day before the raid on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese?

IMDB and Amazon disagree on their ratings for this movie and I go with Amazon. This is a great movie and well worth a watch.

The movie stars Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen who put in great performances. The film mixes history with a time travel yarn that works.

IMDB Score: 6.6/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5

Flight of the Navigator (1986)

This one is pure mind candy. A ship visits Earth, abducts a boy and returns him to Earth years later, but at the same age because of the relativistic speeds of the craft. After a mishap, the sentient craft needs the boy and an adventure is born.

I have a little trouble getting over Pee Wee Herman as the voice of the craft but otherwise I really like this movie.

IMDB Score: 6.9/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5

Forbidden Planet (1956)

This is another classic. This 1956 film visits a planet with only two surviving humans. The rest of the planet's inhabitants were destroyed by a strange force which must be overcome by the visitors.

The movie features a robot, Robby, and an electronic score that was ahead of its time. This pioneering film sets the stage for the robot of Lost in Space, the adventure serial Star Trek and many movies of the future.

An otherwise out-of-character role Leslie Nielsen is joined by Walter Pidgeon and Anne Francis in more outstanding performances. This is worth a watch both because of its innovation of the time and its strong plot and implementation.

IMDB Score: 7.7/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5

Gattaca (1997)

In a time of gene manipulation, an in-valid (a person with no gene enhancement) tries to succeed in a world of valids where status and position are dictated by the quality of your genes.

The film stars Ethan Hawke as the in-valid, Jude Law and Uma Thurman in more outstanding performances.

Vincent Freeman (Hawke) seeks employment at the space agency where only valids are employed. He has the intelligence but lacks the genes to be considered. Starting as a janitor, Freeman finds a way to scam the system, but can he succeed without the genes of his coworkers?

IMDB Score: 7.8/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5

Harry Potter (2001)

Also included for completeness, this franchise features 8 films from 7 books by the wildly popular J K Rowling.

The different directors between the films make them a bit uneven but nonetheless all of the movies are worth watching just as the books:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows
... are worth reading and re-reading.

IMDB Score: 7.2/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5

Hocus Pocus (1993)

More mind candy, Hocus Pocus features Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy and Omri Katz.

Not particularly popular with reviewers, this movie is a great fantasy romp as three witches from the Salem witch trials are conjured from the past into modern day and must cast a spell (and a potion) over children to survive the night.

This movie is just plain "enchanting." Watch it on Halloween night.

IMDB Score: 6.7/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5

The Last Starfighter (1984)

This feel-good action/adventure finds a teen-age handyman in a fight for the galaxy after he finally beats a video game that is really a test and a training tool for Centauri (Robert Preston) to find a starfighter to join the forces of good against an alien enemy.

There's really not much else to be said, it's a good movie and worth watching.

IMDB Score: 6.7/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5

Logan's Run (1976)

In an idyllic future, in a fantastic domed city, you grow up, get "old" and go to Carousel for Renewal.

In this utopia, you only live until you're 30 and then you gamble on living on, unless you run. Of course being a runner will get you killed for sure by the Sandmen. Logan 5 (Michael York) is a Sandman and his job was to find runners and terminate them. Now he's asked to be a runner and find where runners go, Sanctuary.

For 1976, this was a pioneer in holography and other special effects. Now, of course, it's a bit hokey but still a good film.

IMDB Score: 6.8/10
Amazon Score: 4.0/5

Metropolis (1927)

This is where I have to respectfully disagree with the ratings.

This movie may well have been a pioneer in the genre, but I can't agree with the ratings.

It was released in 1927 and is a silent film. The quality of the transfer is a bit spotty and while the music is OK it isn't really that stellar, nor does it follow the on-screen action well.

The movie is set in a society where there is a sharp class distinction: a ruling/leisure class and a class of workers. The ruling class (for some unknown reason) wants to rile up the workers into a revolt so it can be put down violently. To do this, they kidnap an influential citizen and replace her with a robot who sows the seeds of rebellion.

In addition, there is a sub-plot where one of the ruling class falls in love with this woman.

The plotlines are pretty linear and (as is a limitation to silent films) is in no way intricate.

The movie is alright, but not as strong as the reviews would have you believe.

IMDB Score: 8.3/10
Amazon Score: 4.1/5

Minority Report (2002)

In a future where murder is predicted by psychics employed by the state, Washington D. C. is virtually homicide free. Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is on the task force to apprehend potential murderers and bring them to justice. PreCrime employs the mutant psychics to solve the crime problem but they are basically prisoners.

But the three psychics don't always view a crime the same way, when one vision conflicts with the others, it is called a minority report. When Anderton is predicted to commit a murder, he looks for the minority report to prove his innocence.

Can he prevent the supposed murder now that he knows about it? Is this something he would even do?

I don't particularly like Tom Cruise, but this was a good film.

IMDB Score: 7.7/10
Amazon Score: 4.0/5

Night of the Comet (1984)

Night of the Comet is a cult classic and worth all three dollars to buy it.

In a rare occurrence, a comet passes Earth. The last time this comet passed by the Earth, the dinosaurs became extinct, virtually overnight. This time, everyone who was out to watch it gets vaporized, leaving dust and some zombies.

Among the survivors are two girls (Regina - Catherine Mary Stewart of The Last Starfighter & Samantha - Kelli Maroney of Fast Times at Ridgemont High), a truck driver and the scientists of a secret underground government bunker.

The scientists want to study the survivors and a gang of hoodlums want to terrorize them. Hey, was that Santa Claus running across the street? And who is DMK?

Watch it for the tremendous drama, watch it for the superb acting, watch it for the stunning special effects, watch it because everyone else is.

IMDB Score: 6.4/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5

Parts: The Clonus Horror (1979)

OK. This movie is out of print and the asking price for a used copy is stupid. Now, the IMDB score is a little low and the Amazon score is a little high. If you're connected to my Plex server, watch this film for the joy of B movies and interesting plot ideas.

So, what to tell you without giving it away. In a future not far from our own, there is a secret project where tweens live in a special compound until they qualify to go to "America." But a clone escapes the compound when he finds out what is really going on.

IMDB Score: 3.4/10
Amazon Score: 4.0/5

The Philadelphia Experiment (1984)

In 1943, scientists experiment with a device that will make a destroyer escort radar invisible. It makes the ship disappear all right, it makes it vanish completely and two of the sailors aboard get dropped into the year 1984, more than 40 years into the future.

Coincidentally, in 1984, a similar experiment, this time a missile shield, is attempted with a small town which is sucked into a time vortex connecting the two experiments. It is up to David Herdeg, one of the sailors, and Allison Hayes (from 1984) to shut down the experiment and heal the rift in time. I really liked this film. The sequel was just OK and the 2012 remake is OK, not great.

IMDB Score: 6.1/10
Amazon Score: 4.0/5

Planet of the Apes Series (1968-1973)

The original Apes movies...

  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
  • Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
  • Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
  • Conquest for the Planet of the Apes (1972)
  • Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
.. are, and I'll use the word again, a classic.

Three astronauts crash land on a planet where intelligent talking apes are the dominant species and primitive mute humans are used as draft animals and for experimentation.

Taylor (Charlton Heston) is captured and, in a famous line, says, "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape," shocking the apes to find a human that had the power of speech.

Taylor is taken for experimentation and befriends a pair of ape scientists, Cornelius and Zira (Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter).

Planet of the Apes is the first of five movies all exploring humanity and evolution.

The remake is good but lacks the novelty of the original series.

IMDB Score: 8.0/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5

Predator (1987)

Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and a Special Operations Force are on a mission in South America with the CIA to rescue survivors of a helicopter crash that have been taken hostage.  But that's only the start of a bad day for Dutch.

An extra-terrestrial sport hunter has landed in the same jungle and is killing off the team, one at a time.  He has an unfair advantage, he is rendered invisible by technology beyond our own and he has advanced weapons. It falls to the survivors to hunt down the predator.

As usual, the first movie, this one, is better than the sequels which are still watchable.

IMDB Score 7.8/10
Amazon Score 4.4/5

Silent Running (1972)

Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern), a botanist, is one of the custodians of Earth's last plantlife. Held in pods on spacecraft, the Earth's forests survive away from the surface in carefully maintained habitats.

When the word comes down that the project is canceled and the pods are to be jettisoned into space, most of the crew rejoice about coming home, not so Lowell.

Lowell kills his colleagues and takes his ship deep into space where he lives alone but with three small robots. Then a rescue mission is launched.

This is a movie with a message without being heavy-handed with it. This is one of my favorite movies.

IMDB Score: 6.7/10
Amazon Score: 4.0/5

Soylent Green (1973)

This movie is from the book, Make Room, Make Room by Harry Harrison (one of my favorite authors).

In a turbulent future, food is scarce and the synthetic food is rationed. Produced by Soylent Industries, the new foodstuff, Soylent Green, comes under investigation as part of a probe into the death of a Soylent executive.

What is behind his death and what does it have to do with Soylent Green?

This is a classic science fiction movie that is best viewed without knowing the plot beforehand.

IMDB Score: 7.1/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5

Star Wars Trilogy (1977)

First of all, we're talking about the original trilogy, if possible, the ones before they were "improved" by Lucas.

In Episode IV, A New Hope, Luke Skywalker joins the rebel forces to destroy the Death Star.

In Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back, Luke takes training from a Jedi master, Yoda.

In Episode VI, Return of the Jedi, the rebels tackle a second Death Star.

I know, you know all about the original trilogy, so get a copy already.

IMDB Score: 8.7/10
Amazon Score: 4.0/5

Starship Troopers (1997)

Based on the book by Robert Heinlein, Johnny Rico decides to join the military which is a way to be granted citizenship in the Federation. What he doesn't know is that Earth will soon be locked into a war with alien insects known as the Bugs.

The bugs are hokey, but based on the book that is a little hokey.

There are four Starship Troopers films and this is the best.

IMDB Score: 7.2/10
Amazon Score: 3.5/5

The Terminator (1984)

Skynet becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th, 1997 and begins to wage war against humanity. One man leads the war against the machines, John Conner.

A terminator T-800 is sent to 1984 to kill John's mother before she can give birth to Skynet's biggest rival. On the same day, Kyle Reese is sent back by the resistance to stop the terminator, protect Sarah Conner and save the human race.

The Terminator franchise has 5 movies:

  • The Terminator (1984)
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
  • Terminator Salvation (2009)
  • Terminator Genisys (2015)
T1 and T2 are the best action.

IMDB Score: 8.1/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5

Timeline (2003)

This movie is based on a very good book written by Michael Crichton. What if you could vacation in the past... Actually travel to the past and witness great events, participate in world-changing times, study history first-hand.

In a still-secret project, an archeology professor has traveled to the past to study 14th century France, but he is stranded there. A group of archeology students go to rescue him but get stranded themselves. Can they survive long enough to be rescued?

Not as detailed as the book, of course, but still a good film.

IMDB Score: 5.6/10
Amazon Score: 3.5/5

Total Recall (1990)

Space travel can be a hassle, lost luggage endless boring hours in space. Why not just remember a perfect trip, we even provide souvenirs! Here at Rekall Inc. we'll implant memories of your vacation cheaper and better than the real thing!

Douglas Quaid has been having dreams of Mars and decides to take a virtual trip there. But when he goes to Rekall for the Mars/Secret Agent package, they run into, could it be, another implant?

Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) really is a secret agent from Mars, bent on bringing down Mars administrator Cohaagen. Now he goes to Mars for real, or does he?

This is a wild ride as fantasy and reality clash in a space adventure worth the price.

IMDB Score: 7.5/10
Amazon Score: 4.0/5

WarGames (1983)

While wardialing, David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) finds not a computer game manufacturer but the War Operation Plan Response (WOPR) computer. The WOPR is a war games simulation computer that has been given control of the US nuclear arsenal.

While "playing a game," Lightman accidentally starts the countdown to World War III. This is an oddly feel-good movie despite the taught nature of the film. IMDB Score: 7.1/10
Amazon Score: 4.5/5

 

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