1990
Total Recall
1995
La cité des enfants perdus
1997
Men in Black
The Fifth Element
1998
The Truman Show
Dark City
1999
Being John Malkovich
Galaxy Quest
The Iron Giant
Aeon Flux
The Matrix
2000
Pitch Black
The Cell
2001
Donnie Darko
2002
Minority Report
2005
Serenity

Fave Sci-Fi Films 1990–2004

Work in progress. Only a few entries so far.

rating legend
++ must-see
+ good but flawed
OK interesting but not for everybody
very flawed, some redeeming features

The Truman Show

1998

++ cool paranoid

La cité des enfants perdus

1995

++ beautifully surreal French

Being John Malkovich

1999

++

Galaxy Quest

1999

++ spoof

Men in Black

1997

++ spoof

The Iron Giant

1999

+ v. good animated

Total Recall

1990

+ paranoid action; regrettable ending

Aeon Flux

1999-2001 series

+ animated ultra-violence

The Matrix

1999

OK Sci-Fi drama

Pitch Black

2000

OK for low-budget scary

Minority Report

2002

OK action, paranoid

The Cell

2000

OK violent psycho Sci-Fi

Dark City

1998

Director Alex Proyas
Story Alex Proyas
Screenplay Alex Proyas
Lem Dobbs
David S. Goyer
Rufus Sewell John Murdoch
Keefer Sullivan Dr. Daniel. P. Schreber
William Hurt Inspector Frank Bumstead
Jennifer Connely Emma Murdoch
Richard O'Brien Mr. Hand
Ian Richardson Mr. Book
Bruce Spence Mr. Wall

+ political paranoid whodunit thriller

The title reflects the mood and tone, as well as shade of the film. Fun cinematography and story.

Aliens—or whatever— strangers, bald guys in long black rubber coats that act real creepy and have glowy multilegged creatures in their skulls. They "tune" the city nightly as the people sleep; they are manufacturing the coming day. They can levitate, and sometimes transform objects— but much of the transformation is very hands-on: at assembly lines making props for the next day's show.

Strangers sometimes travel standing on scooters, but the main machine is the city itself. It has aspects of various American cities, with styles and artefacts of the '30s, '40s and '50s, but some gadgets are quite Edwardian. And every night it is "tuned": people are given new memories, re-dressed and placed in new surroundings, whole buildings twist into the sky.

Sullivan's character is breathlessly oddly paced—he must have taken lessons from William Hurt, who plays his on part relatively straight and personal.

Main complaints: a little more is explained than was really needed, and—modern superheroics bore me. You'd think somebody would invent something new.

"Nothing like a little healthy paranoia."
"Don't talk to strangers."

Parables:
Boy meets girl who isn't really his wife, gives everybody new memories, meets same girl.
What makes us human is in some other organ than our brain.

Donnie Darko

2001

OK time-travel, psycho

The Fifth Element

1997

Story Luc Besson
Director Luc Besson
Screenplay Luc Besson
Robert Mark Kamen
Producer Patrice Ledoux
Bruce Willis Korben Dallas
Gary Oldman Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg
Ian Holm Father Vito Cornelius
Mlla Jovovich Leeloo
Chris Tucker DJ Ruby Rhod
Luke Perry Billy
Maïween Le Besco Diva Plavalaguna

++ Fantastic ideas, scenery, and acting mixed with imperfect plot and endless fight scenes

Vehicles:
Mondoshawn spacecraft, very odd looking, seen landing in Egypt.
Earth battleship
flying cars, flying Chinese take-in restaurant,
Mangalore fighters,
Zorg's personal spaceship,
Flohston Paradise resort ship

Aliens:
Mondoshawn—benevolent and philosophical and they really mean it. Seen only in very odd eerie ungainly space suits. These are among the stranger aliens I've ever seen.
Mangalore—Only warriors are shown, they have big fishlike mouths and sheeplike ears. Seem to have ability to appear as humans. Kinda cute in a brutal way.
Diva Plavalaguna—a singer of unnamed alien species, humanoid female in general shape but blue all over, with a bald cornucopia-shaped head, and with tubes coming out of her (?) head and body. Good singing voice.
Picasso—a pet mole-thing with elephant's trunk.

Weapons:
Willis prefers a conventional handgun.
But Zorg's ZF-1 beats all (but his sales pitch for it is at least as good as the weapon itself.)

Gadgets:
Tissue-reconstruction table rebuilds body from small fragment.

The cast is just amazing, every major performance is a knockout. For visual style and color, for texture, no Sci-Fi film beats this one. Loaded with little visual jokes and nuances.

As transport into a strange futuristic world... this is the ticket.

"Time is not important. Only life is important."
—A Mondoshawn, just before he himself ran out of time and life.

It's imperfect. The plot goes flat about halfway through, devolving into endless fight and chase scenes. There are cute moments, but way too many less-cute ones. Really, most of it should have been edited out. The overall plot held several good ideas, and some things that just didn't work out. The worst is the super-evil entity that just isn't all that scary, and so its defeat just isn't that impressive. (Although the means of its defeat is very cute.) Again, a good editor would have proved useful.

These are all relative judgments though: the worst parts are better than the best parts of the average Sci-Fi film. There's so much wildness so much fun, and even the formulaic parts are superbly done.

Serenity

Universal 2005

Nathan Fillion Captain Malcolm Reynolds
Summer Glau River Tam
Adam Baldwin Jayne
Gina Torres Zoë
Alan Tudyk Wash
Sean Maher Simon
Jewel Staite Kaylee
Ron Glass
Detective Harris in “Barney Miller”
Book
Morena Baccarin Inarah
David Krumholtz Mr. Universe
Chiwetel Ejiofor The Operative

Writer/Director Joss Whedon

Based on the short-run Fox TV series Firefly, aired in 2002. I saw several episodes, and loved them, but for a long time never met another person who had seen one.

Date: 2500

More space ships than you can shake a blaster at.

This a space-action filem, but also a very beautiful portrayal of futuristic worlds. The characters are great, the character development is superb. The dialog is a blast—being done in a variety of dialects, from a Westernesque twang of the outer planets to a sophisticated silk of the inner planets. Then the special effects… We don’t often see space scenes so carefully crafted in such movies. The starkness of light and shadow (absent in Star Wars. e.g.).

I have one main plot complaint. The mystery girl “River” is a profound psychic: OK, that’s standard SF fare. But she’s also a super kung fu fighting machine who beats up whole battalions of heavily armed soldiers. Why not give her a whole whack more magical powers? This sort of fiction involves a suspension of disbelief—but with a character like this, it hangs until dead. Even the one power was unnecessary for the plot: the bad guys want her—primarily, it turns out, for a bit of knowledge she might have. The superpowers were just an appendix, glued on perhaps out of fear that the dull-witted might lose interest in all the other excitement. Oh well. Not my movie.