An academic research crew of nine boards a star-bound freighter called the Nightflyer in search of the volcryn — legendary beings who have existed for millennia, passing through the galaxy at sub-light speeds, a mystery hinted at in the writings of many civilizations but never yet proved. As the journey proceeds, the researchers come to wonder more about the ship itself instead of the object of their pursuit. What they’re searching for may be far less of a mystery than what is taking them there.
(2009, rated R) Sharito Copley (Wikas van der Murwe), Jason Cope (Christopher Johnson), David James (Col. Venter), Vanessa Haywood (Tania Smit-van der Murwe), Louis Minnaar (Piet Smit). Music: Clinton Shorter. Screenplay: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchel. Director: Neill Blomkamp. 112 minutes.
Tags: Sci-Fi, CGI Bonanza, Xenophobia, Political
Notable: Inspired by incidents surrounding Johannesburg’s District 6, during the full reign of apartheid.
Twenty-some years ago, an alien spaceship comes to rest, hovering silently over Johannesburg, South Africa. The entire population of the ship — aliens who come to be called “prawns” for their crusty exoskeleton and mini-tentacles over their mouths — seeks refuge in an area referred to as District 9. Originally intended to keep them and humans separated for health reasons, the aliens become so disenfranchised that their area becomes something between a slum and a detention camp. There are now 1.8 million aliens in the encampment, and the Multi-National Union (MNU) intends to relocate them to a place some 200 kilometers away. The eviction, however, puts strain on an already tense situation, and when the head of that project, Wikas van der Murwe, appears to have become somehow “infected,” the entire project explodes into bloody warfare.
(2014, rated PG) Matthew McConaughey (Cooper), Anne Hathaway (Amelia Brand), Jessica Chastain (Murphy “Murph” Cooper), John Lithgow (Donald), Michael Caine (Dr. Brand), Casey Affleck (Tom Cooper), Matt Damon (Dr. Mann), William Devane (Williams). Music: Hans Zimmer. Screenplay: Johnathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan. Director: Christopher Nolan. 169 minutes.
Tags: Sci-Fi, Epic, Dystopian, Special Effects Extravaganza
Notable: Various aspects of “hard science” heighten the film’s believability; a PG-rated film with a single f-bomb in it, which used to make a film require an “R” rating.
In the mid-twenty-first century, the Earth can barely sustain life. Cooper (McConaughey) is a former NASA astronaut, now trying to eke out a life as a dust-bowl farmer after NASA had been abandoned some years before. His daughter Murphy finds a strange pattern in the dust on the floor of her room, a pattern she blames on a ghost. When the pattern keeps recurring, Cooper deduces that it’s a gravitic anomaly, that the lines are actually a binary code for geographic coordinates. Following them, Cooper discovers Brand (Hathaway), his old boss from NASA, heading a secret facility that has been researching the presence of an artificially-created wormhole, an opening in space that could lead to a planet that could sustain human life… if they can get there. Continue reading “Interstellar”
Through an accident of science, Earth now has a seemingly unlimited supply of energy, enough to last a trillion years. Three people — an outcast scientist, a rebellious alien in a parallel world, and a lunar-born human Intuitionist — are aware that this boon to humankind could cause an imbalance in the nature of nuclear attraction that will cause the sun to explode with enough force to destroy the entire solar system and beyond, in perhaps as little as a few years. Continue reading “The Gods Themselves”
(2012, R) Noomi Rapace (Elizabeth Shaw), Michael Fassbender (David), Charlize Theron (Meredith Vickers), Idris Elba (Janek), Guy Pearce (Peter Weyland), Logan Marshall-Green (Charlie Holloway), Sean Harris (Fifield), Rafe Spall (Milburn), Emun Elliott (Chance). Music: Mark Streuitenfeld. Screenplay: Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. Director: Ridley Scott. 123 minutes.
Tags: Sci-Fi, Prequel, Big-Budget Waste
Notable: Someone spent a small country’s GNP to make this horrifyingly bad pile of poo
Adapted from the Wikipedia description: In the late 21st century, the crew of the spaceship Prometheus follows a star map discovered among the artifacts of several ancient Earth cultures. Seeking the origins of humanity, the crew arrives on a distant world and discovers a threat that could cause the extinction of the human species. Continue reading “Prometheus”
(1987, Rated R) Catherine Mary Stewart (Miranda), Michael Praed (Royd), John Standing (Dr. D’Branin), Lisa Blount (Audrey), Glenn Withrow (Keelor), James Avery (Darryl), Hélene Udy (Lilly), Annabel Brooks (Eliza Scott), Michael Des Barres (Jon Winderman). Music: Doug Timm. Screenplay: Robert Jaffe (based on the novella by George R. R. Martin). Director: T. C. Blake. 90 minutes.
Tags: Science Fiction, Horror, Suspense
Notable: Dark sci-fi long before George R. R. Martin became Game of Thrones; comparatively low-budget film makes good use of atmosphere and suspense to supplant glitzy special effects.
In hope of finding an alien life form known as the Volcryn, a research professor is granted a small crew for a deep-space journey. The limited budget leads to the hiring of a computer-operated freighter called the Nightflyer, whose sole crew is Royd, the captain, who appears only as a hologram. Following a trail of weak psychic energy which may be the wake of the Volcryn’s journey through the galaxy, events on-board the ship lead the research team to wonder if the greater mystery lies within the ship itself. Continue reading “Nightflyers (1987)”
(1971, rated G “but may be too intense for younger children”) Arthur Hill (Jeremy Stone), James Olson (Mark Hall), Kate Reid (Ruth Leavitt), David Wayne (Charles Dutton), Paula Kelly (Karen Anson), Ramon Bieri (Maj. Manchek), Kermit Merdock (Dr. Robertson), Eric Christmas (Sen. Phillips), Ken Swofford (Toby). Music: Gil Mellé. Screenplay: Nelson Gidding (based on the novel by Michael Crichton). Director: Robert Wise. 130 minutes.
Tags: Sci-Fi, Suspense, Alien Contact
Notable: All of the tech that you see was directly from then-current-day laboratories, showing we’re further ahead than we all thought before; actor Arthur Hill really used the mechanical hands himself; James Olson, usually cast as a “bad guy,” gets to be the hero for a change.
A NASA probe, Scoop VII, has crash-landed near the tiny town of Piedmont, New Mexico (Population: 68). An Army team of two sent in to find and retrieve the satellite finds a town full of dead bodies, and they too are swiftly killed through no identifiable means from a distance. A biological agent is suspected, creating a “Wildfire Alert” – an immediate priority to scramble a specific team of scientists to gather at a huge underground facility specifically created to combat a biological emergency of this type. Jeremy Stone (Hill) petitioned the government to create it a few years earlier, citing a failure to avoid contamination at the NASA lunar lab; now, the facility, and the scientists who have been called, are about to be put to the test. Continue reading “The Andromeda Strain (1971)”
Tags: Social Morality, Science Fiction, Existential
The world of Stangerup’s main character, Torben, is both strange and familiar. Some of its elements would seem to be part of modern day Europe – perhaps Denmark (the author’s home country), or Sweden or Switzerland – while other elements seem part of a future that had only been conceived in George Orwell’s nightmarish visions of 1984. In this strange, familiar, antiseptic, perfectly balanced world, Torben kills his wife Edith in a fit of rage, and he is taken away by the Helpers to a state hospital. He is treated well, with compassion, and with understanding and forgiveness that surpasses all human comprehension. When his case of aggression has been duly dealt with, he is released back into his caring, clean, orderly society, free from any stain of crime or guilt. Continue reading “The Man Who Wanted to Be Guilty”
(1972, not rated) Christopher Walken (Pvt. James Reese), Joss Ackland (Dr. Frederick), Ralph Meeker (The Major), Ronny Cox (Sgt. Boford Miles), Marco St. John (Shannon). Music: Phil Ramone and Chris Dedrick (performed by Free Design). Screenplay: Ron Whyte, based on the play The Happiness Cage by Dennis Reardon. Director: Bernard Girard. 94 minutes.
Notable: Christopher Walken’s first starring role.
Army Private James Reese has anger issues, which lands him in a highly secluded and heavily secured country estate somewhere in the West German countryside. He and two other American soldiers are under the exclusive care of Dr. Frederick, who seems to be anything but an ordinary general practitioner. As Reese discovers that his orderly, Shannon, behaves more like a sadistic prison guard, and that his doctor has a separate laboratory with monkeys who appear to have had some sort of surgery performed upon their brains, he comes to realize that his presence is less for recovery than it is for experimentation. Continue reading “The Mind Snatchers (1972)”