The Holiday Gift Guide: Essentials for the Geek in training – Sci-Fi films Part 2

When you think of a modern science fiction film, which titles come to mind? Inception, the Matrix, Avatar, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens are probably some of the first ones to come to mind. Since everyone and their mother has heard of these films, I will be avoiding them as recommendations because they are too obvious. I love each of these films dearly, but there is more to sci-fi than all of the popular films so I will be recommending films that are not quite as well known, but equally as enjoyable.

 

Equilibrium

is hands down one of the greatest movies I have ever seen in my life. It is damn near as close to perfection as a movie can get. The plot is simple, but far from stupid: Emotions are outlawed to prevent World War 4, so the “feeling police” is instituted to keep people in line. When the head of the “feeling police” forgets to take his drugs, he becomes the face of the resistance. The simplicity of the plot ensures that the movie does not overstay its welcome, and it allows the most interesting aspects of the movie take the forefront.

The exploration of what it is like to live without emotion is very interesting, and very few other works I have seen have explored the question, so that makes “Equilibrium” unique in that sense. Christian Bale is an excellent casting choice as John Preston, as one of his signature roles has always been a man struggling with his emotions (which can also be found in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Machinist, and 3:10 to Yuma). Taye Diggs makes a good antagonist to Bale, and their on-screen dynamic is fascinating to watch. The rest of the acting (including a short-lived appearance from Sean Bean), is also excellent and works well with the rest of the movie. However, the action sequences are arguably the best filmed in any movie in cinematic history. The fighting style in this movie is called gun-kata, which was created by the film’s director, Kurt Wimmer. It combines martial arts with guns into a beautifully crafted art, and the on-screen results are absolutely jaw-dropping. This is a good gift to give for those who like science fiction, or straight-up action movies, as it is excellent in both capacities. It is also only $8.31 on Amazon.

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Next

Featuring Nicolas Cage as a man who has the ability to see the events that are going to transpire two minutes into the future. This ability causes the FBI to seek him out to help prevent a nuclear attack on American Soil. I will openly admit that out of all the movies on my list, this is easily the riskiest one I am recommending, as the enjoyment of the film revolves around two aspects. The first is that the viewer must take Nicolas Cage seriously. Due to Nicolas Cage being in many, many, many, many many, MANY shitty movies (he was a voice in G-Force for fuck’s sake), and being memed to death on the internet, it can be hard to take him seriously. However, I do not think it will be that difficult to do since the script is good and it allows Cage to let out some of his crazy in the best way possible. The second element this film requires is that the entire movie revolves around a plot twist. You will never find me spoiling something as important as a plot twist, but how the viewer feels about the plot twist is directly related to how much they will enjoy the film. If the viewer doesn’t like the plot twist, it is highly unlikely they will like the movie as a whole. However, I enjoyed the hell out of the plot twist, and therefore I enjoyed the movie enough to recommend it to you. The only other person I know of that has seen this movie is the person who showed it to me, so as far as I can tell, it is a relatively unknown film. This film would make a good gift for people who like plot twists, and/or who like Nicolas Cage because this is one of his better movies. It is also $4.99 on Amazon, so it is a very affordable option, and you can use it as a stocking stuffer or a side-gift to go along with the main gift.

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Sunshine

One of the least-known science fiction films out there. There are only four people I know of that have seen it, and when you mention it in casual conversation, people just look at you and go, “Which movie? I’ve never heard of it.” I find this especially astounding as Sunshine is such a brilliant film. The film that I find “Sunshine” most similar to is “Event Horizon,” although there are many differences between the first two films. If “Event Horizon” were not a horror film, I think the final result would have ended up something very similar to the suspense thriller that is “Sunshine.” Sunshine does not try to use any fancy tricks or concepts to try and scare you, it is a straightforward story, and uses “what’s going to happen next” to maximum effect. With any space travel story, there are going to be problems of some sort, and these problems and how the characters try to solve them provide for a highly engrossing cinematic experience. While the acting is top-notch across the board, Cillian Murphy is the real standout performance as he pulls off his role flawlessly. The best part about this movie is that as of the time writing the article, $3.99 on Amazon, so it works as a nice stocking stuffer since it is cheap and very high quality. This film works for anyone who enjoys a good science fiction film, a good thriller, or even just a good story.

One of the least-known science fiction films out there. There are only four people I know of that have seen it, and when you mention it in casual conversation, people just look at you and go, “Which movie? I’ve never heard of it.” I find this especially astounding as Sunshine is such a brilliant film. The film that I find “Sunshine” most similar to is “Event Horizon,” although there are many differences between the first two films. If “Event Horizon” were not a horror film, I think the final result would have ended up something very similar to the suspense thriller that is “Sunshine.” Sunshine does not try to use any fancy tricks or concepts to try and scare you, it is a straightforward story, and uses “what’s going to happen next” to maximum effect. With any space travel story, there are going to be problems of some sort, and these problems and how the characters try to solve them provide for a highly engrossing cinematic experience. While the acting is top-notch across the board, Cillian Murphy is the real standout performance as he pulls off his role flawlessly. The best part about this movie is that as of the time writing the article, $3.99 on Amazon, so it works as a nice stocking stuffer since it is cheap and very high quality. This film works for anyone who enjoys a good science fiction film, a good thriller, or even just a good story.

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The Prestige

One of the greatest psychological thrillers of all time, and similar to “Sunshine,” very few people have heard of it. Although this is partially due to the fact that “The Prestige” was Christopher Nolan’s film in between Batman movies, and was greatly overshadowed by those and the later films in his filmography such as Inception. One thing that always remains true to a Christopher Nolan movie is that there is always an intelligent multi-layered story, and that remains true here. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale each play an illusionist trying to one-up the other with the next great trick. Both actors are in top form here and their chemistry together in trying to one-up the other in vengeance-fueled magic is, I would argue, two of the strongest characters Nolan has written to date. The movie is not fast-paced but never once does it feel boring or unwelcome. The pace allows the complex story to unfold at its natural pace and set itself up for an absolutely enthralling final twenty minutes. Another awesome bonus in this movie: small performances from David Bowie (may he rest in peace) and Andy Serkis, both of whom are absolute gems. This is another good movie to recommend for someone who likes good plot twists, good lead characters, and the expected grade a quality of Christopher Nolan’s direction. In addition, the DVD is for the inexpensive price of $7.91 on Amazon, so it is also highly affordable.

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Dredd

In my opinion the single most underrated sci-fi action movie from 2012. Set in a futuristic city, the police make up the entirety of the established region’s justice system, and Karl Urban plays Dredd, the Judge (police officer) the film focuses on. Dredd is tasked with taking out the base of a gang producing “Slo-Mo,” a drug that does exactly what it sounds like. In taking on the gang’s base of operations, he also has to bring in a rookie to grade and analyze as to whether or not she should become a Judge. This is easily the most bad-ass Karl Urban has ever been, and I highly doubt he ever will be again unless a much wanted Dredd 2 is made. Urban is absolute perfection as Judge Dredd, as everything works like gangbusters: his voice, his square jaw underneath the helmet, his personality, and his interaction with the trainee all show that Urban was born to play this role. Next to Urban is Olivia Thirlby as Anderson, the trainee. She has good chemistry with Urban and lets out the right balance between the bad-ass judge and struggling rookie trying to pass her field test. The plot is relatively simple, but it is merely the vehicle to get the action going, and Lord have mercy, is the action something. It is violent, bloody, and unforgiving. Director Pete Travis had a stroke of brilliance filming some of the sequences from the perspective of someone high on “Slo-Mo.” While the “Slo-Mo” action sequences are awesome, the non-action sequences filmed from the “Slo-Mo” perspective are equally as interesting and are the most unique thing about the movie. While Dredd is more of a straight-up action film, its futuristic setting and “Slo-Mo” are just enough to classify it as science fiction. Recommended for action-movie buffs and anyone who likes hyper-masculinity, as Urban is the best embodiment of that in a very long time. This film is only $14.99 on Amazon and absolutely worth purchasing as a gift or an addition to your own film library.

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One thought on “The Holiday Gift Guide: Essentials for the Geek in training – Sci-Fi films Part 2

  1. Pingback: The Harrow Holiday Gift Guide: Essentials for the Geek in training | The Harrow

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