Runaway

Are you interested in a Michael Crichton movie about Technology going wild? No not the one with Dinosaurs on the loose. How about Robots gone wild? No not the one with Yul Bryner that is being adapted for an HBO Mini-series.¬† This one is about robots that are “Runaways”, that is they have gone out of control and threaten people or property in some way. Throw in a plot concerning an evil genius using micro-chip technology to weaponize robots and build a “smart bullet” and you have this next entry on the project, science fiction with Tom Selleck.

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For me in 1984, this was a highly anticipated film because one of the co-stars was making his motion picture debut. Gene Simmons the bassist and singer of the rock group Kiss, a band that I have been of fan of since 1976 was signed to be the villain of the story. The idea that he was going to star in a movie with Tom Selleck  jacked me up tremendously for the Christmas season in 1984. There were four big science fiction movies coming out in early December, and as a regular reader of Starlog Magazine I anticipated each of them.

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2010 The Year We Make Contact

If ever a movie did not need a sequel, it would be Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. This was a film that made intellectual discussion of movies a topic for everyone. So many people had to ask “What the Hell?” that most of us felt compelled to try to answer, and many of us disagreed on the answers. Science Fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, who co-wrote the script with Kubrick, based on a short story he had written, decided that he was not done with big questions and wrote three sequel novels. The first of these was turned into a film sixteen years after the original classic.

posterThis movie is more closely set in 1984 than in the future [now past 2010]. A new trip to Jupiter is planned in order to investigate the events of the previous expedition and cope with some strange phenomena occurring on the nearby moons of Jupiter Io and Europa. The Soviets are in control of the most ready spaceship and the Americans are tagging along. Hey, this may be the one thing that these films got absolutely right. In 2015, we are hitch hiking our way to the International Space Station, which we built, aboard Russian launch vehicles because we have no replacement for the Space Shuttle. Continue reading

Dreamscape

A Science Fiction film that predates “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, “The Matrix” and “Inception” yet has key ideas that each of those films exploit as their main plot devices. This is a thriller with horror elements and a good dose of 70s conspiracy thinking behind it. It also stars several notables who are recognizable in other more well known films. The special effects are dated but they worked well at the time and the story does make you do a little thinking as you go along.

dreamscapeThe film has some dark aspects to it and those might have been explored in more depth with greater meaning if this was an attempt to make an artistic statement. With the pulp marketing of the poster and an August release, you can tell it was really designed to make money not art. There is however a lot to admire in what is accomplished here. It was not successful at making much money but it is successful at being entertaining.

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The Philadelphia Experiment

Time Travel stories are fun for a lot of obvious reasons. Going to the future allows our imaginations to run wild and going to the past allows us to think of all the choice we had a a younger age. As the characters in a Time travel story face their predicament, we imagine ourselves confronted by some of the same obstacles and we wonder, “what would we do?” “The Philadelphia Experiment” is a Time travel story that exists within our history so it does not have new fangled do dads for us to marvel at (like the instant nail polish in “Total Recall”). This is a fish out of water story with a scientific crisis to make it more complicated.

philadelphia_experimentIn the early 1980s, New World Pictures was the home of Roger Corman and his philosophy of do it cheap, but be creative. This film claims to have John Carpenter as the Executive Producer and in later publicity material, his association was exploited as a selling point, but this is not a Carpenter film. It does however feel like a Corman inspired project, even though his name is nowhere to be seen. The premise takes an urban legend of a physics experiment gone bad and turns it into a Science Fiction action film with fuzzy science, unnecessary action, but some creative plot points that make it intriguing.

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The Last Starfighter

“Greetings, Starfighter. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada.”

Last year for about five months, I wrote a weekly post for Fogs Movie Reviews, under the title “Movies I Want Everyone to See“. I had a lot of fun doing so, but the site folded and I was left with a list of films I still wanted to talk about and had not yet had the chance. “The Last Starfighter” is one of those movies. It has a great concept, groundbreaking special effects, a wonderful script and a cast that includes a couple of old school actors, hamming it up and having a great time. Lucky for me this movie came out in 1984, at this particular time. I now get to cross it off of my list of movies I want to do a post on and have not, and it is a great palate cleanser for the three losers that preceded it on this project.

last_starfighter_posterI have a very vivid memory of the first time I saw this. It was actually a week before it opened in a sneak preview screening that followed a return visit to the Enterprise and “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock“. In the 1980s, a lot of films gave out promotional pinback buttons with artwork from the poster or the movie. I have three or four from this screening in a box in the garage from that sneak preview. Continue reading

Iceman

Our science fiction movie opens with an ominous musical cue and a shot of an ice cave, in light and shadow with the blue tint of the ice popping out dramatically. A helicopter appears and lands to pick up something found in the ice. It is a large block of ice that is then transported to a remote, arctic station, inhabited by scientists.¬† You could easily infer from this description that you are watching “John Carpenter’s The Thing”. Let’s face it, that is very close to the set up of the action in the earlier movie. This movie however has no real horror elements to it, a much more plausible scientific premise and a cast that includes a lot of fine actors but none as great as Kurt Russell. This movie comes two years after “The Thing” and is a serious eco-drama that has science fiction elements but really wants to comment on the world we live in today.

icemanA largely forgotten film from 1984, “Iceman” stars Timothy Hutton and John Lone as a pair of lost souls who end up helping each other to understand themselves a little bit better.

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Repo Man

The eighties were filled with offbeat movies about a variety of subjects, but science fiction seemed to fill the theaters on a weekly basis.Some big budget films failed to score as predicted and some little anticipated films have scored sequels right up through today. About four years ago, there was a Jude Law vehicle titled Repo Men, that had absolutely nothing to do with the 1984 singular form of the title. The science fiction roots of this story are hard to ignore, but ninety percent of the movie is focused on the ethos surrounding the guys who come and take your car when the payments are behind. The sci/fi stuff exits only to provide a framework for a story about a bunch of sad sack souls, who find ways to make their profession seem noble. repo_manLow budget science fiction appears to be a field where former Monkee Mike Nesmith felt comfortable. This was the second feature he had a hand in producing for his own company. His previous venture being “Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swann”, a time travel western. I don’t know that he had a big influence on the creative end of this movie, because his music is not anything like the punk aural wall that permeates most of the film. The real reason that this movie is thought of fondly has nothing to do with the science fiction storyline, it is all about the aesthetic of the film. This is a movie made by angry people for angry people. In other words it is “punk perfect”.

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