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Films To Get Excited About in 2015 [Part 2 – Sci-FI]

SCI-FI

(Or films that star at least one robot)

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens | JJ Abrams | USA

So the film that is so anticipated it is almost not worth mentioning.  We await with baited breathe to see if JJ Abrams has the skills to live up to the George Lucas space opera classics.  Most directors wouldn’t have the arrogance to think they could compete with the guy who created not only Jar Jar Binks, but the irrepressible Howard The Duck.  Abrams has a promising record after revamping Star Trek and he has managed to fill the cast with a great mix of old and new.  All the keys players from the original trilogy are back on board and the newbies are a who’s who of future star’s.  Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver, who previously starred together in Inside Lleweyn Davis, are fantastic additions.  I can imagine Driver playing either a charismatic Hans Solo type or a bad-ass Sith, or both!  Let’s not forget Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, John Boyega, and Game of Thrones favourite Gwendoline Christie.  Don’t get too excited though, as this won’t be with us till the end of the year.


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Tomorrowland | Brad Bird | USA

Like Pirates of the Carribean before it, Tomorrowland is inspired by a Disneyland ride.  It is directed by Brad Bird, a man famous for working on The Simpsons when it was at it’s best.  He also wrote the screenplay for Batteries Not Included, directed one of my favourite animated movies, The Iron Giant, and on top of that, two great Pixar movies (The Incredibles and Ratatouille).  Having struggled for years to get his 1906 San Francisco earthquake project off the ground he moved onto Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol which featured some great set pieces but lacked the genuine warmth we have come to expect from him.  Step up Tomorrowland.  The trailer hints at a world in chaos and introduces us to a young female lead who seem’s to have the ability to access another world.  Is it just me or does the other world look a lot like the place Russell Crowe dreams of in Gladiator when his mind wanders?  She will be joined by George Clooney (playing a former boy genius inventor) as they attempt to find a way to reach this new world.


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The Martian | Ridley Scott | USA

You owe us a good’un Sir Ridley!  The Riddler has churned out his fair share of dud’s in recent years, with promising projects spluttering out by the time they reach the big screen.  There was Cormac McCarthy scripted The Counsellor, a sloppy Alien prequel, and most recently Exodus: Of Gods of Men which managed to make some headlines but for all the wrong reasons.  The Martian is based on a best selling novel and the film will star Matt Damon as an astronaut who has only gone and managed to get himself stranded on Mars.  It has been described as Robinson Crusoe on Mars and Damon is by a stellar cast including Kristen Wiig, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Ned Stark (or Sean Bean to the uninitiated).  Hopefully the stripped back premise will draw the best from Scott.


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Ex Machina | Alex Garland | USA/UK

Alex Garland’s directorial debut looks very promising indeed.  The writer of 28 Days Later, Sunshine and The Beach steps into the director’s chair for a good old fashioned science fiction drama in the mould of Silent Running or the more recent Doug Jones movie Moon.  Put it this way, I, Robot this ain’t.  Domhnall Gleeson (who has previous in this kind of thing having once played a robot of sorts in Black Mirror) stars as the wide eyed innocent stepping into Oscar Isaac’s futuristic yet isolated scientific man cave.  Rising star Alicia Vikander plays the part of Ava.  Ava essentially seems to be the robot from the Bjork video All Is Full of Love with the added smarts of Siri.  Just from watching the trailer you get the sense that Vikander has really got a handle on finding the balance between appearing suitably robotic whilst offering enough to suggest there may be a soul within.  Rumour has it she prepared for the role by studying the work of England football sensation Peter Crouch.


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Chappie | Neill Blomkamp | Mexico, USA

Based on an idea seen in his early short Tetra Vaal, Neill Blomkamp sticks with what he know’s by returning to Johannesburg and casting Sharlto Copley as the titular robot.  Chappie, South Africa’s answer to Johnny 5, is kidnapped shortly after being created and brought up by a rag tag bunch, including one of his makers (Dev Patel) and a couple actors who will be familiar to fans of bizarre South African rap group Die Antwoord.  Jeopardy arrives in the form of retired soldier Vincent (Hugh Jackman with a mullet) and Sigourney Weaver, who are against the use of artificial intelligence.  Vincent sets out to kill poor innocent Chappie after discovering that the robot is learning to think, feel and make bad art.  Blomkamp likes to weave socio-politics into his films (District 9 = Immigration, Elysium = Private Healthcare) and there is certainly plenty to explore here.  The set up has similarities with Rise of the Planet of the Apes and only time will tell whether Vincent’s ‘robo-phobia’ is warranted.


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Jupiter Ascending | Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski | USA

The Wachowski siblings are back with a blockbuster space opera and their first original screenplay since The Matrix trilogy.  Curiously the film was due for release last summer but was shunted back to 2015 just weeks before release.  The official line from the studio was that this was to give the film makers time to finish the sheer mountain of special effects required, but since then other sources have suggested that poor test screenings led Warner Brothers to fear they would perform badly in a financial quarter that featured another risky blockbuster (Edge of Tomorrow).  There’s nothing quite like the thought of a throng of accountants frantically discussing fiscal quarters to build up the hype around a movie.  The film itself stars Mila Kunis as Jupiter Jones who is down on her luck and working as a caretaker.  Now you might be thinking that such a profession is unlikely for someone sporting the name Jupiter and rightly so, as she is interrupted from her janitorial duties by a genetically engineered albino wolfman named Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) who informs her that she is in fact the heir to planet Earth.  Another alien, Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne), is not best pleased with this development as he wants Earth all for himself.  Drama inevitably ensues (hence the need for all those special effects).  The film makes the list for the quirky character names alone.


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The Phoenix Project | Tyler Pavey | USA

A brooding low budget indie film in the vein of Primer from first time director Tyler Pavey.  The trailer cranks up the tension as four scientists work on an elaborate machine they hope will reanimate dead organisms.  Now if there is one thing we all know as seasoned film goers it’s that nothing good can come from bringing dead things back to life.  The film was funded with a Kickstarter campaign and if it manages to find an audience could be one of the success stories of the year.  Everyone likes an underdog.


HIGH-RISE 

High-Rise | Ben Wheatley | UK

One of Britain’s most exciting directors brings the work of one it’s most legendary writers, JG Ballard, to the big screen.  To top it all off it stars the man who made Thor so much fun in the form of Tom Hiddleston.  The director, Ben Wheatley, has been at the helm of some of the most interesting film’s to have come out of the UK in the last decade (Down Terrace, Kill List, Sightseers and A Field In England), and High Rise feels like the ideal project for him.  Details of the production have been kept under wraps but we do know that the novel is set in a self sustaining futuristic high-rise where the community live in luxury.  What could go wrong?  Rather a lot it would seem.  Living in isolation from the outside world results in the community dissolving into clans, spawning a class system where minor disputes escalate into extreme violence at a moments notice.  This is definitely one to watch.


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Midnight Special | Jeff Nichols | USA

Not much is known about Midnight Special but the latest from Jeff Nichols should receive plenty of attention after the success of his last film Mud.  Staring Joel EdgertonAdam Driver, Kirsten Dunst and Nichols regular Michael Shannon (Mud, Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter), the story follows a boy with an “extraordinary power” who is on the run with his father from the government and a dangerous religious cult (led by Sam Shepherd).  The director has suggested the film will be set almost entirely at night (which explains the title), that it will have an old fashioned chase feel to it, and best of all, he has cited Tremors and Starman as big influences.


NEXT UP: COMEDY

My Top 50 Film’s of the Decade (So Far)

I recently had the pleasure of witnessing a few friend’s have a fantastically abrasive argument on the relative merit’s of a couple of classic film’s.  It was a great example of how subjective film watching can be and it gave me a hunger to compile a list of my own favourites from the first half of the decade to see if they live up to the scrutiny of my ever so opinionated peer’s.

The very way we watch film’s has changed drastically in the last 5 years with the emergence of digital streaming, whether by legitimate mean’s or otherwise.  This has given us an endless pool of film’s to choose from whenever we settle down to watch the latest that Hollywood has to offer.  As a result I often find myself spending more time searching for potential film’s to watch than I do actually watching them so with any luck this list will stir you up enough to provide me with your own lists to help guide me through the online minefield that is the Netflix catalogue.  How many god-awful Nicolas Cage film’s must I watch before seeking help from other’s?  There is really not a lot of point in answering that question because if I can be sure of nothing else it is that for as long as Nicolas Cage continues to make film’s I will continue to watch them.  It is as if I have been put on this earth just to watch him growl and shout his way through the latest Ghost Rider sequel or any other piece of crap I can dredge up from his ever increasing back catalogue.  So in many ways this list represents the first step in an intervention of sorts.

This is my cry for help  (…please help)

Another reason for making rigorous lists in this ‘cloud’ based era is the lack of physical artefacts we collect of the thing’s we love.  Long gone are the days when you’d build a fort of VHS tapes around you and organise it in whichever unique way you so choose (obviously colour coded is best).  Perhaps this decluttering is good for the soul but if you aren’t the type of person to document your existence in the form of diaries and journals then there is a good chance that you will lose track of the things you love.  Streaming sites do a good job of collating and organising all the films they have to offer but the magical Algorithm’s working in the engine room of these websites are based on estimates and averages and they just can’t come close to predicting the random taste’s we all have.  They are programmed to keep us looking forward to the latest new releases rather than looking back and celebrating the film’s that played a role in shaping our warped little mind’s.

I have opened up the parameters of the list to a half decade which offer’s the benefit of a little hindsight as there has been time to watch the dust settle now that the award’s season hype has died down and the Hollywood marketing machine has moved onto the latest big budget mega movie coming soon to a screen near you.  It is only now that we’re able to look back at the last few year’s movie’s in the cold light of day.  I mean this figuratively of course, as daylight has no place in the movie watching process.

As a rule I have not included documentaries.  This is not because I am some kind of documentary hating man of fiction, but in fact because I don’t want to resort to lame tokenism by adding only one of two to the list.  There have been so many fantastic feature length documentaries in the last few year’s that they merit their own list which can be left for another day.

The film’s that are listed are not necessarily the bonafide classic’s of the last five years and there is no real logic to how I went about compiling and ordering them all.  All I can say is the heart want’s what the heart want’s and these are the film’s that I have really come to love.  Some of those that made the list I didn’t love immediately but they grew on me over time and some film’s that once seemed like obvious addition’s didn’t make the cut after failing to meet up to my repeated scrutiny.  I am a demanding film lover!  The film’s that do stay with me tend to be a little odd, are often unafraid to show their imperfections, but most of all they have an ability to vividly stay with me and perhaps offer a little insight into the way I comprehend the world around me.  Be sure to let me know of any glaring ommissions!

“Why do I feel like I just spent the evening with my ex-wife?”

49 Trollhunter

Troll Hunter

“Fairy tales are for kids. Trolls are animals. Predators. They eat, shit and mate. Eat anything they can.”

48 Margin Call

Margin Call

“There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat.”

47 Beginners

BEGINNERS

“I don’t want to just be theoretically gay. I want to do something about it.”

46 A Field In England

Michael Smiley in Ben Wheatley's A Field in England.

Friend: When you get to the alehouse, see a way to get a message to my wife.

Jacob: Anything, Friend. Anything.

Friend: Tell her… tell her I hate her. Tell her I did burn her father’s barn. ‘Twas payment for forcing our marriage. Tell her I loved her sister. Who I had. Many times. From behind. Like a beautiful prize sow.

45 Before Midnight

Before Midnight

“If you want love, then this is it. This is real life. It’s not perfect but it’s real.”

44 Source Code

Source Code

“What would you do if you knew you only had one minute to live?”

43 The World’s End

The Worlds End

“I remember sitting up there, blood on my knuckles, beer down my shirt, sick on my shoes and seeing the orange glow of a new dawn break and knowing in my heart life would never feel this good again. And you know what? It never did.”

42 Mud

Mud

“I like you two boys. You remind me of… me.”

41 The Way, Way Back

The Way Way Back

“You’ve got to go your own way, and you, my friend, are going your own way.”

40 Love Is All You Need

Love Is All You Need

Benedikte: I just love Italy. The food, the wine, the romance. Don’t you?

Philip: No

39 Sightseers

Sightseers

“He’s not a person, he’s a Daily Mail reader!”

38 Haywire

Haywire

“I don’t even know how to play that. I don’t wear the dress. Make Paul wear the dress.”

37 The Guard

The Guard

“You know, I can’t tell if you’re really motherfuckin’ dumb, or really motherfuckin’ smart.”

36 Philomena

Philomena

“She told four people today that they’re one in a million. What are the chances of that?”

35 The Illusionist

The Illusionist

Jimmy (Blog Writer): This is pretty much a silent movie so it has thoroughly destroyed my lovely quote system! Needless to say it’s a great film.

34 The Selfish Giant

The Selfish Giant

“What are you doing sat ‘ere? Let’s get out and make some money. C’mon!”

33 Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia

“It’s the kids who suffer in the end, doctor. Everyone pays for the things they do. But kids pay for the sins of adults.”

32 Hanna

Hanna

“Erik: What’s wrong? Are you hurt? You were half asleep. You must always be ready. Even when you’re sleeping, think on your feet. Adapt…

Hanna: …or die. I’ll do better next time.”

31 Martha Marcy May Marlene

 Martha Marcy May Marlene

“You’re my favorite. I won’t lose you.”

30 Never Let Me Go

 Never Let Me Go

“What I’m not sure about, is if our lives have been so different from the lives of the people we save. We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.”

29 Amour

Amour

“Things will go on, and then one day it will all be over.”

28 Chico and Rita

Chico and Rita

Chico: Have you thought about your career? About your future?

Rita: Future, what future? The future never gave me anything! All my hopes are set on the past.

27 Four Lions

Four Lions

“I may ask you to blow yourself up, but I will never ask you to piss in your own mouth.”

26 Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild

“The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece… the entire universe will get busted.”

25 Submarine

Submarine

“Jordana hates any place that could be termed romantic. With this in mind, I took her to one of my favourite industrial estates, for some quality one-on-one time.”

24 The Kid With A Bike

The Kid With A Bike

“Don’t be upset if it’s not the way you dream it’ll be.”

23 Winter’s Bone

Winter's Bone

“Never ask for what oughta be offered.”

22 Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips

UKMTO Officer: Maersk Alabama, you should alert your crew, get your fire hoses ready. Chances are they’re just fishermen.

Captain Richard Phillips: They’re not here to fish.

21 Berberian Sound Studio

Berberian Sound Studio

“I’ve never worked on a horror film before.”

20 Made In Dagenham

Made In Dagenham

“Jesus, Eddie! What do you think this strike’s all been about, eh? Oh yeah. Actually you’re right. You don’t go on the drink, do ya? You don’t gamble, you join in with the kids, you don’t knock us about. Oh, lucky me. For Christ’s sake, Eddie, that’s as it should be! You try and understand that. Rights, not privileges. It’s that easy. It really bloody is.”

19 The Golden Dream

The Golden Dream

“I feel as if I had a zoo in my stomach. As if a whole bunch of animals were running all over my body from the excitement of going over to the other side. “

18 The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

“You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that’s what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant… oh, fuck it.”

17 Paranorman

ParaNorman

“There’s nothing wrong with being scared, Norman, as long as it doesn’t change who you are.”

16 12 Years A Slave

12 Years a Slave

“I don’t want to survive. I want to live.”

15 Boyhood

Boyhood

“You don’t want the bumpers, life doesn’t give you bumpers.”

14 Another Year

Another Year

“Life’s not always kind, is it?”

13 The Kings of Summer

Kings of Summer

“You’re right, it’s a classic kidnapping. They took our children and the canned goods and pasta.”

12 The Raid

The Raid

“Let’s clean this city’s mess!”

11 Of Gods and Men

Of Gods and Men

“I’m not scared of terrorists, even less of the army. And I’m not scared of death. I’m a free man.”

10 The Angels’ Share

 The Angels' Share

“Even if you wanted to change they’re not gonna let ya”

9 The Secret In Their Eyes

The Secret in their Eyes

“A guy can change anything. His face, his home, his family, his girlfriend, his religion, his God. But there’s one thing he can’t change. He can’t change his passion.”

8 Inside Llewyn Davis

 Inside Llewyn Davis

“If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it’s a folk song.”

7 Wadjda

Wadjda

“If you set your mind to something, no one can stop you”

Frank

Frank

Don: You play C, F and G?

Jon Burroughs: Yeah.

Don: You’re in.

5 Skeletons

Skeletons

“Stick to the rules, tell them everything, leave and never come back”

Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations

“New York has the hair cuts, London has the trousers but Belfast has the bands”

3 Toy Story 3

 Toy Story 3

“Now Woody, he’s been my pal for as long as I can remember. He’s brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special, is he’ll never give up on you… ever. He’ll be there for you, no matter what.”

2 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

“He’s a fanatic. And the fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt.”

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim

“When I’m around you, I kind of feel like I’m on drugs. Not that I do drugs. Unless you do drugs, in which case I do them all the time. All of them.”