- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan --
I went to see this film, as was true of many SF films I saw as a lad, with my father. My dad enjoyed it, but this film solidified my place as a William Shatner fan. As I will say to anyone who will tolerate me long enough to listen, "I am not a Star Trek fan, I am a Shatner fan!" I have read all of his novels, own both his cds, and will wax poetic on the virtues of TJ Hooker. I know that there are many actors out there who are "better" at their craft than Shatner, but no one has entertained me so consistently.
If you don't like this movie...you are not a geek. KHAN!
- Blade Runner --
When my father took me to see this movie, I was expecting Han Solo in action. I was bored to tears. The weird soundtrack, the slow pace, the moodiness. Yawn. What can I say? I was eleven years old! It wasn't until I watched this film again when they first released it on video that I came to see the folly of my youthful analysis of the film. I have come to think of this film as one of the best SF films made to date.
As I mentioned during the most recent episode of my online radio show (the DVD extras episode), I am particularly fond of the theatrical release. I understand that it is "interesting" to think about the ramifications of Deckard as replicant, but I find leaving Deckard human to be more compelling. If Deckard is a replicant, then his "sacrifice" at the end of the movie is meaningless (though the allowed escape retains meaning). A replicant fleeing oppression to save another replicant, that's realistic but not heroic because there is no real sacrifice or overcoming of cultural biases. If Deckard is human, on the other hand, the sacrifice of a human abandoning his own society for the love of the "other" has a great deal of resonance with me. That is a moral message worth sharing.
Just my two cents. All versions of this film are great, I just prefer the theatrical.
- Poltergeist --
This is really two movies for me. The first half, the creepy Tobe Hooperesque half, is amazing. As an 11-year-old, the scene where the guy is pulling off his face was really disturbing. I liked the classic ghost tale parts of this film. When the film suddenly became a special effects extravaganza, I was lost. "What happened? Why does this look so much like Close Encounters of the Third Kind all of a sudden?"
I still like the overall effect of telling a ghost story in suburbia rather than in a Lovecraftian Gothic mansion. Those parts of the film really work. I am still afraid of clown dolls.
- Tron --
Remember when I wrote that Free Enterprise was the "greatest geek film ever?" No? Look at the top of the page. I was wrong. Tron is without a doubt the greatest geek film ever. I adore this story of a game designer who gets sucked into the world of computer programs. This film is so before its time, it is ridiculous. William Gibson may have invented the term "cyberpunk," but whenever I visualized the virtual reality within his books I was visualizing Tron. Where else could you see accounting programs being forced into deadly gladiatorial games? The representation of the interconnectedness of all computers was really groundbreaking. The special effects still rock. Light Cycles, anyone?
After writing this, I am going home to watch this movie. I might even put a bid on a coin op on ebay if there are any available.
- Cat People --
Believe it or not, I have never seen this. Minus 15 geek points for me. I am now adding it to my Netflix cue as I type. It stars Malcolm McDowell, which makes it all the more unforgivable that I haven't seen this film.
- The Dark Crystal --
This was the first film I have ever seen where the "innocents" freaked me out more than the villains. I still have nightmares of the milky eyed Gelfling who horrified me as at the age of eleven. This film freaked me out even more than the homicidal clown doll from Poltergeist.
- E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial --
This film made me cry every time I watched it, until 1989. Then I watched it, on VHS, with my girlfriend at the time Rachel. She laughed hysterically at some of the most emotionally powerful moments. She found them utterly ridiculous. That experience has forever tainted my viewing of this film. That and the fact that Spielberg changed the film to take place in a world where police don't have guns in the recent re-release. At least it still has a D&D reference at the beginning of the film, which truly qualifies it as a geek film. Forget that it is about an alien. Forget that it is SF, or that it has a bicycle chase scene. What makes this film a truly geek film, is the inclusion of D&D in the opening scene.
- Conan the Barbarian --
I have never been able to buy Schwarzenegger as the brooding Cimmerian, but other than that this film is a pretty good adaptation of the stories. For those who complain that Thulsa Doom isn't a Conan villain, I would remind you that he is a Kull villain. Since Conan's first story, "The Phoenix in the Sword," was a rewrite of the first Kull story "By This Axe I Rule!" one should allow some creative license in the adaptation. The film is well written, well directed, and has the ultimate score for D&D gaming sessions.
Contemplate this upon the tree of woe!
- The Road Warrior --
When George Miller took his Mad Max character and overlayed Joseph Campbell's "Heroic Journey" over the universe design, he created a post-apocalyptic masterpiece. It is true that close scrutiny of this film makes it seem absurd, but how can you apply close scrutiny to a film with a villain named "Humungous?" You can't. You have to be crazy to try. Save your scrutiny for Patrick Swayze's Steel Dawn, that deserves your disdain. The Road Warrior is a work of high art.
- The Thing --
Unlike Quentin Tarantino, where I grew up there weren't any Grindhouses. There were, however, discount after market movie theaters who didn't enforce ratings. Where Grindhouses were filled with crowds who reacted to the latest actioner or exploitation film, the discount theater showed films that had been out for a couple of months for a mere $1.50 and they let 11-year-olds walk into rated R films regardless of any adults. The floors were sticky and the theater was empty on an August afternoon when I watched a horribly scratched print of this film. It was the singularly most terrifying film I had ever seen. I became an instant John Carpenter fan and have forgiven many lesser films because of the brilliance of this one.
- Creepshow --
What's not to love about a filmic homage to EC Comics? Nothing. This movie roxxors. When I saw this film, I had read old EC Comics and some of the DC and Marvel horror comics. I had yet to see Tales from the Darkside so my only reference was the comics. I loved this film, especially the Stephen King story that reminded me of my favorite (at the time) Steve McQueen film, The Blob
- The Sword and the Sorcerer --
When I was a preteen, I used to get irritated when my friend Sean wouldn't plop this film into the VCR every time I went over to his house after school, or to spend the night. I thought that this movie, with a shooting sword, was the greatest fantasy film ever made. It had a shooting sword for goodness sake! A SHOOTING SWORD! It also starred Lee Horsley. What's not to like. I waited for years for the sequel hinted at in the closing credits.
After rewatching this recently with my wife, I now understand why Sean didn't really want to watch it everyday. The film just isn't that well made. In fact, it's kind of dull. The shooting sword still rules, but isn't quite as cool as the Glaive from Krull.
When I hear how Eragon was lame, it reminds me how desperate I was as a kid for good fantasy. Who am I kidding, I'm still waiting for the sequel.
Did I point out that the sword has THREE BLADES and they shoot! Time to add a magic item to my D&D campaign.
The article covers a couple of the "lesser" geek films of the year as well, but I'll cover those in another entry.
If you haven't seen any of the above films, immediately add them to your Netflix queue. Or buy them. Yes, buy them.