Axiom’s Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy

January 25, 2011

Features:

Are You Ready for the Sci Fi-Pocalypse? Tracking the 2010/11 Purge of Genre Shows.

Early 2011 Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie Preview

Mid-Season Science Fiction/Fantasy Shows


Ongoing Columns:

Cancellation Watch – The Latest Ratings Results and Cancellation Predictions for Genre Television Shows

The Must-Watch List – The Best of the Best among Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Movies

The Anti-Blockbusters – The Movies that Bucked the Hollywood Blockbuster Trend and Still Delivered a Superior Viewing Experience

Blockbuster Overload – The Big-Budget Blockbusters that Took their Craft to Extreme and even Excess

The Audio Files – Reviews of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Audio Books

Sci Fi Trifles – Useless but essential pop culture tidbits and trivia from the worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

The Latest Posts from Axiom’s Edge


50 Must Watch Movies of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

January 25, 2011

We started this column last May with our review of Blade Runner and now with today’s post for Alien (coincidentally, also a Ridley Scott film), we have reached 50 entries in our Must-Watch List of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror films. We approached this survey of the genre last year not so much as a “Best Of” list but more from the perspective of looking at what movies represent the best examples in these genres that fans and/or newbies must see at some point. And we have followed no particular order, we have just written about whatever movies we happen to want to pontificate on at at any given point in time. So do not consider this the 50 must-watch movies of these genres, just the 50 we have hit so far. And we have some notable absences at this point such as King Kong, Jaws, Aliens (hey, we just got to the first one today), Raiders of the Lost Ark, Gattaca, and more. But they are on the radar and we will be hitting them in the coming weeks and months. In the mean time, peruse through the current list to see the ones we have covered so far and maybe send us your suggestions on some that we should consider. Also, check out our Anti-Blockbuster reviews which look at the genre films that bucked the Hollywood Blockbuster trend yet still delivered an excellent viewing experience. And most, if not all of these, we believe count as must-watch movies as well and would definitely make their way on many “Best Of” lists such as Moon, The Man From Earth, The Road Warrior, Night of the Living Dead, etc. And then if you happen to want to have some fun with some grand sci fi misfires, take a gander at our Blockbuster Overload column that covers those bloated, sfx-gasm, mega-dollar films that reveled in their own excesses. And stay tuned as we continue to add more reviews to all three of these lists as the year progresses!

Go To: The Must-Watch List

Go To: The Anti-Blockbusters

Go To: Blockbuster Overload


Sci Fi Trifles: 10 Useless but Essential Bits of Knowledge from the Worlds of Science Fiction and Fantasy

January 25, 2011

Here are ten pop-culture tidbits from our ongoing Sci Fi Trifles column that may never prove useful, but that you now wonder how you have lived so long without knowing them.

What you Didn’t Know about Fish Heads, Bill Mumy, and Bill Paxton: Back in the 70’s, the comedy singing duo of Barnes and Barnes gave us the little ditty known as “Fish Heads” that lamented the inability of the aquatic craniums’ to do such simple things as play baseball, wear sweaters, or drink cappuccino in Italian restaurants with Oriental women. But do you know what genre actors Bill Mumy and Bill Paxton had to do with this song?

Questor – The Fully-Functional Proto-Data: All Star Trek fans know Data, the android who desired to be human whom Brent Spinner brought to life through his memorable performance. But did you know that back in the 70’s Gene Rodenberry did a pilot for a TV series that delivered his first fully-functional android character?

A Dune Movie with Salvador Dali? Did you know that there were several early attempts to adapt Frank Herbert’s Dune to the big screen and that one version generated a script that would have produced a 14 hour movie and would have cast surrealist artist Salvador Dali as Emperor Shaddam IV?

Godzilla – the Original Shark-Octopus-Gorilla-Whale-Beasty: Many genre fans are grudgingly familiar with Syfy’s ridiculously titled, Saturday night critter-run-amok cheese-flicks like Sharktopus, Dinocroc vs. Supergator, and Mega Python vs. Gatoriod (all real titles). But did you know that Japanese monster-movie legend Godzilla was the first hybrid-named giant beastie?

Thomas Edison Meets Frankenstein: We all know the 1930’s film version of Frankenstein that made Boris Karloff a household name, but did you know that back in 1910 Thomas Edison Productions did the first film adaptation of the story, a twelve minute silent movie?

Clancy Brown is a Pretty Crabby Guy: Character actor Clancy Brown may best be known for his role as the tyrannical prison guard captain in The Shawshank Redemption, but he has been a familiar face in many genre productions from Buckaroo Banzai to Lost and has provided the voice from animated characters such as Lex Luthor and Mr. Freeze in Batman and other DC related cartoons. But you may not know that he has voiced a particularly crusty character in a popular Nickelodeon cartoon that has been around for over ten years.

Holy Guest Stars! Everybody Wants a Piece of Batman! The 1960’s Batman may have gained a infamy as a camp classic rendition of the character, but did you know that when the show first aired that actors were lining up to get a gig on the show?

A Ninja/Power Ranger/Shogun Warrior-style Spider-Man? Some Spider-Man fans may be familiar with the short-lived live action series that CBS did back in the late 70’s. But who knows about the Japanese live action version where the title character gets his powers from the planet Spider (where else?) and flies around on a Shogun Warrior style robot called “Marveller” and did battle with Professor Monster his Iron Cross Army?

Will the Real Major Kong Please Report to the Bomb Bay? Those who have seen Stanly Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove know that Peter Sellers played three memorable roles (Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Muffley, and Dr. Strangelove), but did you know that the original plans for the film called for him to play a fourth role, the B-52 captain Major Kong that Slim Pickens ultimately made famous?

Strange But True – Zombie Ants: George A. Romero may have helped turn Zombies into a pop-culture phenomena with his Dead movies, but did you know that scientists have discovered a fungus that zombifies ants?

And read even more Sci Fi Trifles at this link


Ten Great Anti-Blockbusters of Science Fiction and Fantasy

January 25, 2011

By John J. Joex

We define an Anti-Blockbuster as a film that bucked the Hollywood bloated-budget, cookie cutter blockbuster trend and still managed to deliver a superior viewing experience. They may have had a respectable budget or modest or even non-existent funding and they may have done well in the box office or flew under the radar and perhaps eventually found an audience in the video market. But the main factor is that they diverged from the typical, formulaic output we see all too often from Hollywood and they showed the potential of film-making when the creative team pushes the boundaries and tries something new and original. Following are what I believe to be ten of the best movies covered in this column so far, and you can go to this link to see all of the Anti-Blockbusters we have reviewed.

  1. The Man from Earth – Written by the late Jerome Bixby (a respected Science Fiction author who also penned several classic Star Trek and Twilight Zone episodes), this movie has no special effects, no action scenes, no aliens, basically nothing you would expect from a Science Fiction film. Just a group of people sitting around talking. But it delivered a film that I would easily put on a Top 20 (maybe even Top 10) list of the all-time greatest Science Fiction films.
  2. Primer – This film could likely find its way onto the same Top 20 list right alongside The Man from Earth. Produced on almost no budget and written and directed by a mathematician and former engineer, it gives us one the best (if not the best) Science Fiction films to deal with time travel. It’s a pretty intense movie and demands multiple viewings, but it’s worth the commitment.
  3. Moon – This throwback to slow, intelligent Science Fiction films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running, and The Andromeda Strain (all of which we have covered on our Must-Watch List) may not have filled many seats in theaters last Summer, but it quickly gained a reputation as an instant classic in the genre.
  4. Pan’s Labyrinth – Guillermo del Toro had a decent budget to bring his dark fantasy to life, but he still did it at one third to one quarter of what it would have cost him in Hollywood. And if he had done it through that machine, he would have never had the freedom to tell the story the way he wanted and would probably been forced to tack on a more upbeat, less ambiguous ending.
  5. Cube – This Science Fiction/Horror tale from Vincenzo Natali (Splice) delivered an engaging, claustrophobic, paranoid thriller following a group of people trying to escape from a bizarre prison they don’t understand.
  6. They Live – Speaking of paranoia, this John Carpenter classic has it oozing from the seams. It gave us an 80’s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, not because it followed the same plot but because it delved into the Id of that decade like the 50’s classic did with its era.
  7. Beowulf and Grendel – You don’t have to have a bloated Hollywood budget and high-tech motion-capture animation (as we saw in the 2007 Robert Zemeckis directed Beowulf) to adapt this classic epic. Canadian director Sturla Gunnarsson along with Gerard Butler (300) in the lead role turn this Old English saga on its head and use it as a parable for our own times.
  8. Night of the Living Dead – I consider this actually a proto-Anti-Blockbuster as it came out prior to the Blockbuster era that began a few years later with Jaws and Star Wars. But with only a tiny budget, George A. Romero delivered a seminal horror film that spawned a whole sub-genre of zombie-pocalypse movies, books, comics, games, etc.
  9. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension – How much further from the Hollywood formula can you get than this genre-bending cult classic. It may take you a few viewings to catch everything, but you will enjoy it that much more each time around.
  10. Ink – This trippy Science Fiction/Fantasy indie film almost defies description but I would tell you to expect to see something along the lines of Terry Gilliam doing a Disney film while partaking in large quantities of hallucinogenic substances. It’s a love it or hate it affair, but I truly loved it and give it a high recommendation for those who appreciate an off-the-wall movie experience.

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