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November 29 2010

Ten SciFi Movies to Catch Up on. MSN presents the Top 10 movies that could turn into the next Tron or Blade Runner -- movies that became 'classics' years after their release. Serenity is 4th on the list, along with Neil Patrick Harris' Starship Troopers.

I think this got overlooked in the kerfuffle over the Buffy movie, unless I'm just missing it.

Interesting list, most of the films on it worthy - Three of which I haven't seen. I had heard and read about The Fountain (not good things) so avoided it like the plague even though The Jackman is in it. The Road I have never been in the mood for. I'm tending to stay away from films with that subject matter, but I'll never say never.

Serenity as always, a wonderfully realized film by Joss that even someone not familiar with the 'verse could get into and appreciate.

The Mist I would put more near the top.

Starship Troopers once had a good little discussion here a couple of years ago that Joss joined into. Good times. Probably never have such a conglomerate of ideas congealed into making a whole that was so utterly, evilly and nastily enjoyable.

Children of Men - I too don't understand why it wasn't embraced because this is a hell of a film. You're missing something if you haven't seen it.
>> Children of Men - I too don't understand why it wasn't embraced

I find it disjointed and full of platitudes. And I have seen many better made dystopias : Handmaid's Tale and Brazil to name a few.
The direction for 'Children of Men' is stunning IMO but for me the story was a bit uninvolving emotionally (still not really sure why, it's the sort of thing that's usually right up my street. Maybe it's the whole dead inside/sold my soul to Satan thing ?). Good performances though, even Clive Owen - who I normally find has all the charisma of a wet teabag after its charisma has been squeezed out - fit his role well. 'The Prestige' was pretty decent particularly given that one of the central plot-points revolves around something that's much easier to pull off in novel form (as you'd expect the novel's denser with a few threads about our relationship to history and unreliable narrators that don't quite make it to the film but it's a reasonable adaptation). 'Dark City' is one of my favourite films, certainly of the 90s - 'The Matrix' before 'The Matrix' - and 'Sunshine' is also a fine film, stumbles in the last act aside (when I first saw it those bits almost killed the film for me but on re-watches they seem less significant. Watch/listen to the DVD extras for an entertaining early appearance by - in the UK at least - TV physicist du jour Brian Cox). Thought 'The Fountain' was ambitious and visually lovely in parts but it didn't quite work for me, felt a bit overblown.

And most reviews/people seem to emphasise the bleakness of 'The Road' but personally I found book and film to be, ultimately, quite uplifting and beautiful.

Haven't seen 'The Mist' so i'll likely check that out given that i've seen and enjoyed most of the rest of the list (I actually hadn't realised most of these didn't do very well).


ETA: Just thought i'd add that strictly this doesn't seem to be a top 10 BTW, just "10 movies..." so that the order probably isn't significant (they're not numbered for a start so, y'know, which end's which ? ;).

(second edit: actually they seem to be just in chronological order from top to bottom)

[ edited by Saje on 2010-11-29 17:56 ]
That's a fine list. Haven't seen The Iron Giant, which is the only one of these not really on my radar - although I'll proabably see it eventually - and The Road, which I already own on DVD but haven't gotten round to watching yet.

The rest of the list is pure magic, though, with Children of Men high up as maybe my favorite movie from the list (although Serenity wins out at the end - but take away the extra investment I felt because of my fandom and love for the characters, and CoM wins easily).

I agree with Saje that the direction of CoM is stunning. It's visually lush, has incredible one-shots I'm sure Joss would be very jealous of and is in-your-face and intense. The story also managed to hook me emotionally, but then I'm a sucker for these kinds of stories. For my money it's one of the best - and most overlooked - genre movies of recent years.
...but then I'm a sucker for these kinds of stories.

And didn't sell your soul to Satan. In retrospect I kind of regret it. Should've held out for two packets of cigarettes.

I watched 'The Iron Giant' with no small amount of trepidation (cos I loved the book as a kid) but it's a decent adaptation, worth watching I reckon.
Not sure I would call 'Starship Troopers' a forgotten gem, as I always thought it was quite highly regarded. It certainly is more discussed then many others on that list. Don't really understand how people could misunderstood it originally neither, as it is completely unsubtle over its satire.

I would recommend 'The Mist'. It isn't a brilliant film and covers a lot of ground that many others have done before, but it does it very well. The ending is probably the bleakest you will see in any film too.

Really enjoyed a lot of the films on that list. Not sure I would rate them as highly as Blade Runner or ET, but definitely a good mix of films.
A mix of films I love (Serenity, Sunshine), like (Children of Men, The Iron Giant), were interesting, but I didn't really care for (The Prestige and Dark City) and haven't seen because they didn't appeal to me (The Mist, The Road, The Fountain).

I do like Starship Troopers and it's been quite a while since I saw it (I have it on VHS!), but I feel it's a film that gets too much credit for its satire. To me it's equal parts satire with great action and dumb nonsense with terrible acting. Somewhere between Robocop and Showgirls on Paul Verhoeven's CV.

Hmm, so overlooked, excellent sci-fi films from the last 15 years. I'd have to go for Cube (1997) and Cypher (2002), both by Vincenzo Natali. Cube's a bit of a cult classic (and it has some rubbish straight-to-DVD sequels), but Cypher seems to be really overlooked. It stars Jeremy Northam and Lucy Liu and it's an intelligent, noir-ish, sci-fi thriller about corporate espionage. It's got great acting and a fantastic plot and it has some similarities with parts of Dollhouse, so I'd really recommend it.
I haven't seen all of them but I liked each one that I saw. I would place each of them higher than Tron but no where near Blade Runner or The Thing.

Children of Men probably comes closest in terms of tone and gritty cinematography.

Starship Troopers was fun but in a campy way. Lots of pretty people in coed showers and over-the-top "dumb" military guys all filmed in bright colors. Harris was the most realised character for me.

Mist was a long Outer Limits episode extremely heavy on the social commentary with an appropriately superb ending.

Still, even if I didn't think they were great, I did think they were good. I'm going to have to check out the few that I missed.

And it goes without saying that I offer nothing but accolades for my fave Serenity.
Yeah, Cube is great. The sequels in other hand...

Particulary, I prefer The 13th Floor to Matrix. Couldn't like much Children of Men, also, because the plot looked similar to Van Damme's Cyborg.
Ah, thanks for the heads up, Saje, that (edit) they were in alphabetical no particular order. In my haste to get to work I thought they were like all previous lists, rated in order and didn't have time to thoroughly look at it.

And also yes, Starship Troopers is far more well known than say, Code 46, a Michael Winterbottom film that also deserves to much more widely-known that it is. I would definitely include that on a list such as this.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2010-11-29 22:23 ]
I've seen the first four then none of the last six, but always meant to see most of those six. As far as "seen and think should be on this list", I agree that both Cube and The 13th Floor deserved inclusion, although Cube may simply be too highly regarded. I've read a few things about The 13th Floor, most of them dismissive, but I loved it. It only vaguely reminded me of The Matrix; it was more like Dark City in tone, and I thought the noir bits were really well done.
Don't really understand how people could misunderstood [Starship Troopers] originally neither, as it is completely unsubtle over its satire.
Oh, trust me, they did. I was trying to explain it to someone who thought the movie had good action and FX but no substance: "Didn't you notice that the supposed protagonists were all wearing Nazi uniforms?" to which this individual, clearly still not getting it and thinking that I had come around to her side of the argument, replied, "Yeah, and they're the ones we're supposed to be rooting for!" *facepalm*

(edited for botched punctuation)

[ edited by Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner on 2010-11-29 21:21 ]
HaHa! The whole recruiting method at the beginning of Starship Troopers is so obvious to anyone who understands history and film tropes. "Come young Aryans, serve your country in space, fight the bugs!" (complete with fresh-faced youth in posters and newsreels) Gives that extra added "yeesh" feeling for enjoying it all.
Interesting list. I've seen six of the movies (Serenity, Starship Troopers, Children of Men, The Iron Giant, The Prestige, and The Fountain) and with the exception of The Mist, the others are on my short list of movies that I've been meaning to watch (Sunshine, Dark City, The Road).

I agree with Serenity, Children of Men, The Iron Giant, Starship Troopers, and The Fountain. The Fountain and Children of Men didn't quite work overall for me either, but they were intriguing nonetheless (and as such, worth watching).

The Prestige was a fairly good movie, but the ending just ruined it for me. ***SPOLER*** First of all, I figured out one "mystery" (related to one of the main characters - no pun intended) pretty early on. And then I found the fantastical element thrown in at the end to be irritating for a movie that had been (to that point) founded in reality (the top hat thing just came across as strange in an earlier scene rather than a clue).***END SPOILER***

When I originally saw Starship Troopers, I really didn't like it (and I was a big Heinlein fan as a teenager). But it was mainly the questionable acting by a few of the cast and the gratuitous over-the-top violence and gore that turned me off. Upon re-watch, I suspect it would hold up better since it had many nice elements as I recall. I guess I've become numbed to that sort of thing in the intervening years. For instance, District 9 didn't affect me quite the same way. I don't have a problem with violence or gore, just their distracting gratuitous usage that takes me out of the film.

I thought Cube was quite interesting. Is Cypher as good? Also, I suppose I need to check out some other movies mentioned here such as the 13th Floor and Code 46...

I love Whedonesque discussions that point out pieces of entertainment that I have overlooked.
As a big Heinlein fan I just can't bring myself to think of Starship Troopers as good. I'm hard pressed to think of a movie that more missed the point of the original source material. The special effects were outstanding for their time and have actually held up well. The performances get worse with every viewing though, with the possible of NPH and of course Michael Ironside, who would be intimidating reading a phone book!

BTW Roland, awesome screen name!
Verhoeven is not a likeable director in terms of his subject matter. Oh sure, he has Robocop, a great sci-fi shoot 'em up, on his American film resume, but he also has Basic Instinct (one of the slimier soft-core porn/violently misogynistic films ever, and a sucker punch in Sharon Stone's gut if you believe her oft repeated story of betrayal by Verhoeven) and Showgirls (reportedly so vapid I have never seen it). I don't remember reading the original Heinlein story (novel) so I don't know how distorted Verhoeven's take on it is.

All I know is, that I love irreverence and over-the-top mayhem in a form that makes sense. And in sci-fi, almost all things are possible. The Aryan shtick cracked me up, but remember, rather than just glorifying that element, those kids were sent to certain death in their zeal to serve ("Citizen Rule: People for a Better Tomorrow") that corrupt government, so the Hitlerian allusions were also getting a big punch in the face. And Verhoeven, to his credit, while he has hot chicks on board in the film, also allows them to kick ass. Maybe not the ass that say, Private Jenette Vasquez kicks in Aliens, but damn near close. They're just prettier and they get to be injured and die right along with the men. It's weird I'm gushing over Verhoeven but hey, it's one of those anomalies I love. Plus, giant bugs. Color me happy.
Just wanted to throw my support out there for The Road, which many of you have mentioned not watching. I went into it on whim, having no clue what it was about, and thought it was exquisite. Definitely not a frothy action flick, but it's absolutely worth your time.
And before I become a total bore, I found this topic from May 10, 2009. Joss helped me remember another film that should be on this list, or one like it: Soldier, with Kurt Russell. Check out what Joss says about it and Kurt:

Seven Things I Love About Sci-Fi
I agree with Joss: Soldier didn't hold up. Kurt was the only thing that made it even slightly watchable. I thought it was a pretty bad movie at the time, to be honest (but I loved Sky High, which Joss also mentions in that link - it's not a classic, of course, but that's one highly enjoyable movie).
I love Soldier. It's like a van Damme movie with less talking.
'Soldier' was entertaining enough and i'm a sucker for "war dog" stories anyway (e.g. 'First Blood' - the novel - and also the excellent Next Gen ep 'The Hunted') but it's not really a classic IMO, didn't quite live up to its premise - there's a lot of stuff in there about freedom, ageing/mortality/obsolescence etc. that the film didn't quite tease out well enough for me (Kurt Russell was good in it though but then as J-Dub says, he is in pretty much everything he's in - he gives good pain, physical or otherwise).

Trying to think of some others... the 'Solaris' remake maybe ? Maybe slightly up itself at times but "big ideas" sci-fi in the old tradition. 'Primer' I suppose too though that actually did fairly well by indie movie standards (it's certainly quite widely known for an indie).

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