Honor roll: Science Fiction films

Each of these Science Fiction films has received at least one award nomination. They are ranked by honors received.

Film:Terminator 2

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

James Cameron

After he pushed the envelope of computer-generated special effects in The Abyss, director James Cameron turned this hotly anticipated sequel to Terminator into a well-written, action-packed showcase for advanced special effects and for one of the most invincible villains ever imagined. Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a legitimate sequel: there’s more story to tell about a hulking, leather-clad android (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who arrives from the future to protect a rebellious teenager and future leader (Edward Furlong) from being killed by the…

Film:Men in Black

Men in Black

Barry Sonnenfeld

This imaginative summer comedy from director Barry Sonnenfeld (Get Shorty) is a lot of fun, largely on the strength of Will Smith’s engaging performance as the rookie partner of a secret agent (Tommy Lee Jones) assigned to keep tabs on Earth-dwelling extraterrestrials. There’s lots of comedy to spare in this bright film, some of the funniest stuff found in the margins of the major action. (A scene with Smith’s character being trounced in the distance by a huge alien while Jones questions a witness is a riot.) The inventiveness never lets up, and the…

Film:Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg’s 1993 mega-hit rivals Jaws as the most intense and frightening film he’d ever made prior to Schindler’s List, but it was also among his weakest stories. Based on Michael Crichton’s novel about an island amusement park populated by cloned dinosaurs, the film works best as a thrill ride with none of the interesting human dynamics of Spielberg’s Jaws. That lapse proves unfortunate, but there’s no shortage of raw terror as a rampaging T-rex and nasty raptors try to make fast food out of the cast. The effects are still…

Film:Independence Day

Independence Day

Roland Emmerich

In Independence Day, a scientist played by Jeff Goldblum once actually had a fistfight with a man (Bill Pullman) who is now president of the United States. That same president, late in the film, personally flies a jet fighter to deliver a payload of missiles against an attack by extraterrestrials. Independence Day is the kind of movie so giddy with its own outrageousness that one doesn’t even blink at such howlers in the plot. Directed by Roland Emmerich, Independence Day is a pastiche of conventions from flying-saucer movies from the 1940s…

Film:Armageddon

Armageddon

Michael Bay

The latest testosterone-saturated blow-’em-up from producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay (The Rock, Bad Boys) continues Hollywood’s millennium-fueled fascination with the destruction of our planet. There’s no arguing that the successful duo understands what mainstream American audiences want in their blockbuster movies—loads of loud, eye-popping special effects, rapid- fire pacing, and patriotic flag waving. Bay’s protagonists—the eight crude, lewd, oversexed (but lovable, of course) oil drillers summoned to save the world from a…

Film:Dark City

Dark City

Alex Proyas

If you’re a fan of brooding comic-book antiheroes, got a nihilistic jolt from The Crow (1994), and share director Alex Proyas’s highly developed preoccupation for style over substance, you might be tempted to call Dark City an instant classic of visual imagination. It’s one of those films that exists in a world purely of its own making, setting its own rules and playing by them fairly, so that even its derivative elements (and there are quite a few) acquire their own specific uniqueness. Before long, however, the film becomes interesting only as a…

Film:Contact (1997)

Contact

Robert Zemeckis

The opening and closing moments of Robert (Forrest Gump) Zemeckis’s Contact astonish viewers with the sort of breathtaking conceptual imagery one hardly ever sees in movies these day—each is an expression of the heroine’s lifelong quest (both spiritual and scientific) to explore the meaning of human existence through contact with extraterrestrial life. The movie begins by soaring far out into space, then returns dizzyingly to earth until all the stars in the heavens condense into the sparkle in one little girl’s eye. It ends with that same girl as…

Film:12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys

Terry Gilliam

Inspired by Chris Marker’s acclaimed short film La Jetée (which is included on the DVD Short Cinema Journal, Volume 2), 12 Monkeys combines intricate, intelligent storytelling with the uniquely imaginative vision of director Terry Gilliam. The story opens in the wintry wasteland of the year 2035, where a virulent plague has forced humans to live in a squalid, oppressively regimented underground. Bruce Willis plays a societal outcast who is given the opportunity to erase his criminal record by “volunteering” to time-travel into the past to…

Film:Stargate

Stargate

Roland Emmerich

Before they unleashed the idiotic mayhem of Independence Day and Godzilla, the idea-stealing team of director Roland Emmerich and producer-screenwriter Dean Devlin concocted this hokey hit about the discovery of an ancient portal capable of zipping travelers to “the other side of the known universe.” James Spader plays the Egyptologist who successfully translates the Stargate’s hieroglyphic code, and then joins a hawkish military unit (led by Kurt Russell) on a reconnaissance mission to see what’s on the other side. They arrive on a desert world…

Film:Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: 6th in Original Cast series

Nicholas Meyer

Star Trek V left us nowhere to go but up, and with the return of Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer, Star Trek VI restored the movie series to its classic blend of space opera, intelligent plotting, and engaging interaction of stalwart heroes and menacing villains. Borrowing its subtitle (and several lines of dialogue) from Shakespeare, the movie finds Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) and his fellow Enterprise crew members on a diplomatic mission to negotiate peace with the revered Klingon Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner). When the…

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