Top 10 Utopian Films

Star Trek future London

One of the niftiest things about sci-fi films are the eye-popping portraits of the future. Most recently, audiences were floored by the breathtaking futuristic cityscapes seen in Star Trek Into Darkness. Keep in mind, that for dramatic reasons, things may not be perfect in these futuristic utopias. In fact, sometimes with these paradises there are significant drawbacks about them and the cost of paradise is often steep. Still, from flying cars to robotic servants, these films best showed how humanity can create a future to strive for.

Buck Rogers in the 25th century10. Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: A utopian vision inspired by late ’70s deco! The pilot for the TV show was shown in theaters before the proper series started. Tackiness takes on a new meaning in this future society with wise-cracking robots, skin-tight outfits and cheesy sets. But thanks to unfrozen astronaut Buck Rogers (Gil Gerard), things like disco, basic military tactics and boogying down make a comeback!

9. Gattaca: Imagine a future with Gattacamodern architecture from the 1950s, turbine cars and where you get all the social and employment opportunities just for being you. Yes, you can live out your dreams…as long as you’re genetically pure. It’s a haven for the one-percenters. For the rest of us created the old fashioned way, well, we’re shit out of luck. But that doesn’t stop Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) from achieving his dreams in this tech noir thriller by passing himself off as one of the genetically pure.

I Robot8. TIE: I, Robot/Bicentennial Man: Both films dealt with the nature of evolving androids in the future. They featured sprawling and impressive skylines, servant androids, and nifty, futuristic vehicles. In lots of ways, life is the same as it is today in the films except with the technological advances. Life isn’t perfect and androids and robots must grapple with their civil rights. This is dramatically shown in I, Robot where the robots attempt a takeover. But overall, the futures in those films seem enjoyable.

Logan's Run apartment

7. Logan’s Run: More cheesy, ’70s-based, sci-fi trappings! Humanity’s remnants live in an underground city connected by a rail system, making it all look like something from Disney World’s Tomorrowland. In Logan’s (Michael York) futuristic society, life is pleasant and hedonistic with casual sex and drug use. No one has any cares except for their looks. The only drawback is that once you reach your thirtieth birthday, you’re euthanized.

6. Demolition Man: Welcome to San Angeles, a city rebuilt from Demoliton Man on patrolthe ashes of Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara. Along with clean streets and civil order, Taco Bell is the winner of the Franchise Wars and courteous behavior is strictly enforced. Also, crime is so rare that when a master criminal from our present (Wesley Snipes) is thawed out he creates chaos since cops in the future can’t cope. Enter John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone), a roguish policeman from the same time period, who is also unfrozen in order to stop him.

meet the robinsons5. Meet The Robinsons: Young inventor Lewis time travels to the year 2037, which is a time period heavily influenced by Tomorrowland. There, he meets the wacky titular family and contends with a mysterious villain from his past. Lewis also experiences a colorful world filled with curvy skyscrapers, genetically enhanced frogs, flying bubble cars, robots and even cloned dinosaurs. It’s a bit like The Jetsons, but much cooler looking.

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey: Unfortunately, most of the nifty innovations and tech showcased in that monumental 2001 part 2film weren’t available by the time the actual year of 2001 came along. That year would’ve been better if we had some of the inspiring developments depicted in Kubrick’s masterpiece like space planes, commonplace space travel, a moon base, and super-advanced AIs. On second thought, we’re probably better off without the super smart and neurotic AIs like HAL 9000.

Minority Report

3. Minority Report: Director Steven Spielberg worked with futurists to create a believable and probable future stocked with stupendous technologies and inventions. Sure we have no privacy and eroded civil rights in Washington, D.C., circa 2052 thanks to the PreCrimes police force led by Jon Anderson (Tom Cruise). But take a gander at Minority Report’s amazing depictions of the future. Personalized holograms for customers in stores, electronic papers, glass-based computers, jetpacks, and robotically controlled cars that can scale walls. It all makes that future seem bearable to live in.

Hill Valley BTTF Future

2. Back To The Future, Part II: What’s not to love about the optimistic future seen in this follow up to the first Back To The Future? Start with the cool-looking flying cars that clog skyways. You can convert your old cars to fly for just $39,999.95; it’s a steal! Next move on to dehydrators, holofilms, dust repellant paper, and hoverboards by Mattel (just avoid using them over water. All these innovations were part of a whimsical look at Hill Valley, CA, circa 2015. Even the clothing is uber cool–power Nikes with auto laces and jackets that adjust to your size! Worried about crime? No need to, with lawyers being abolished, justice is swift and efficient. Just watch out for those tranks, lobos and zipheads!

Starbase 11. Star Trek films Beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture and continuing most recently with Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek films have shown audiences pleasant and sometimes astounding images of our future. From Earth all the way to deep in the galaxy, humans have made san franciscoincredible social and technological advances. Gone are war, disease and poverty. Innovations like faster-than-light space travel, transporters, replicators and holodecks enrich humanity. The Star Trek films also displayed an Earth in the 23rd and 24th centuries that look clean and pristine. Take a look at the dazzling cityscapes of London and San Francisco in the latest Star Trek film. They set the bar for breathtaking and enviable views of the future. Of course, humans have to deal with Klingons, Borg and other alien bad guys. But with the likes of James T. Kirk (William Shatner, Chris Pine) and Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), humanity can breathe easier. 😀

Lewis T. Grove

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Comic-Con 2013 Highlights

Another Comic-Con at San Diego has come and gone, leaving many fans whetting their appetites over upcoming film releases, TV show premieres, comic books, etc. While the convention is supposed to be about comic books and related matter, the biggest news had to do with pending films and TV shows.

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Godzilla

Stealing the thunder in the early days of the convention was the immersive Godzilla Experience exhibit that gave convention goers a chance to see what the aftermath of a Godzilla rampage is like. Also, fans got a look at the new design of the famous Kaiju for next year’s Godzilla. Film director Gareth Edwards promises to deliver a true Godzilla movie unlike the abomination that came out in 1998. Reports are that the footage shown at Comic-Con allegedly captured the mood of the early Godzilla films.

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Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

This anticipated sequel to Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, 2011’s successful reboot of the Apes franchise, looks mighty interesting. A special teaser was put together for Comic-Con that showed an older and angrier Caesar (mo-capped again by Andy Serkis) in his ape camp meeting with human resistance fighters. Many were excited by the tease, which presented even more realistically rendered CG apes.

The Walking Dead

The people behind the very successful TV show The Walking Dead seem to have outdone themselves. At least, that is what it looks like with the riveting trailer for the show’s fourth season. We find Rick Grimes and his group of survivors dealing with the nitty gritty of life in a post-apocalyptic world. As usual with The Walking Dead, characters apparently die as shown in the trailer and the tension and thrills seem to be in overdrive.

Gravity

Many curious fans got a gripping look at thrilling and captivating clips from Alonso Cuarón’s Gravity movie. Featuring endangered astronauts played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the movie looks incredible. Thanks to the clips, which showcase the director’s masterful long takes, anticipation has greatly grown for Gravity. This film was delayed from last year, but based on the clips, the wait may have been worth the delay.

Almost Human

J.J. Abrams’ Lost and Fringe may no longer be on the air, but his new TV offerings may make up for that. The most promising "Almost Human" Season 1TV show seems to be Almost Human, which had its pilot screened at Comic-Con. It stars Karl Urban as a cop whose partner is an artificial being in the near future. While the premise sounds formulaic, the pilot was very well received by those who viewed it.

Marvel & DC Movies

The biggest news and reactions were generated by the Marvel and DC movie announcements and previews. Arguably, the most intense and joyous reaction was from the announcement that the next Superman movie will team him up with DC’s other iconic superhero, Batman.

mutantsNot to be outdone, Marvel previewed footage, props and concept art from an impressive lineup of films like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians Of The Galaxy. Along with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, two other Marvel films generated a lot of buzz. One was the sequel to The Avengers with the announcement that the evil android Ultron will be the villain. The other film is the eagerly awaited X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Aside from shown footage and anti-mutant posters plastered all over the place, the spectacle of the entire cast appearing to promote next year’s film was noteworthy.

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Many comic book fans lament about the way that Comic-Con lost its focus on being about comic books. But at least, the films generating the most talk out of the convention are based on comic book properties. This illustrates how the characters in those comics have evolved past their traditional trappings into something larger.

DC & Marvel Throw The Film Gauntlets

ultron supebat

It’s clear that the comic book/movie titans DC and Marvel have thrown the gauntlets at each other at Comic-Con this weekend.

Both companies attempted to one-up each other with surprise announcements regarding their film franchises.

It all started innocently enough when the famous convention opened on July 17. Marvel hawked their upcoming comic book developments (remember those?), as well as the highly anticipated Agents Of Shield TV show. DC provided news on future comic book projects and celebrated the 75th anniversary of Superman with a tribute to Action Comics #1.

worlds finestThen the first bombshell was dropped yesterday. Warner Bros. and DC announced that the sequel to the film Man Of Steel will feature none other than the Caped Crusader himself, Batman! True, it’s not the Justice League film that fans are slobbering for, but it’s the next best thing, a live-action version of World’s Finest, the comic book series that teamed up DC’s most popular heroes. Seeing them on screen together was unwittingly foreshadowed in the Will Smith movie from a few years ago I Am Legend. A careful eye will spot in the movie a film poster that blends the two iconic symbols together as was done at Comic-Con.

Some may complain that Superman should be granted another solo film to develop his world. The success of Man Of Steel warrants that idea. But the problem is that DC and Warner Bros. are now in a race against the other big kid on the block. With the announcement, DC is acknowledging that they are competing against the Marvel movie behemoth, but in a different way. Rather than rushing out with a Justice League film to compete against the next Avengers film, or carefully building up the DC movie universe with references, DC chose a compromise. A Superman/Batman film allows for a new, re-imagined Batman to be introduced, while giving justified screen time to Superman. If they’re smart they should introduce elements and references to other DC characters to nicely set up the eventual Justice League film. Superman will get a chance to have another solo movie later on. There are also percolating, unofficial rumors about a Flash movie in 2016 and finally a Justice League film in 2017. To date, those two films haven’t been confirmed by Warner Bros. or DC.

spidey electro

One would think that Marvel would try to raise the ante of that announcement. And they did. At Comic-Con, the company lauded their upcoming releases, principally, a well-received presentation of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 film. In that presentation, they had Spider-Man, the character himself, make an appearance at the official panel for next summer’s film. Meanwhile, footage from the film X-Men: Days Of Future Past was shown and it whetted many attendees’ appetites. Other showcased films included Thor: The Dark World (Tom Hiddleston appeared in character as the villainous Loki), Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the eagerly awaited Guardians Of The Galaxy.

age ultornThe big reveal came when The Avengers director himself, Joss Whedon, presented a preview trailer for the 2015 sequel. No new footage was shown, just a montage of previous Marvel movies. But the end of that montage electrified everyone when the helmet belonging to the villainous android Ultron was unveiled, along with the film’s title: The Avengers: Age Of Ultron! For non-comic book fans, Ultron is an android created by Avengers member Hank Pym that went rogue and became one of the team’s deadliest foes. He was the featured villain in this year’s comic book mini-series event Age Of Ultron. This stunned many who were expecting the big heavy to be Thanos as hinted in the end of The Avengers. Ultron’s appearance in The Avengers: Age Of Ultron also indicates that the Marvel movie universe will be expanded significantly. This also cements the fact that while DC has two titan character franchises, Marvel has shown that they have successfully created a solid film universe. These films feature many middle-ranged characters that are now well-known properties for Marvel.

Many will argue over which of the two companies will be the winner in the new comic book movie war. The clear answer is that the fans will be the victors as they finally behold their wildest dream. Now if they could just get Spider-Man or the X-Men to appear in a future Avengers film! LOL

Lewis T. Grove

Pacific Rim Rocks!

pc rim posterDirector Guilermo Del Toro hits it out of the park again with his latest, monumental film Pacific Rim. Many will probably say that this giant monster or Kaiju extravaganza isn’t anything more than a Godzilla/Transformers mash up. Pacific Rim is more than that, which is why it’s so spectacular.

Pacific Rim takes place in the near future after an interdimensional breach on the Pacific Ocean floor unleashes gigantic creatures that destroy coastal regions. Humanity fights back by building gargantuan robots called Jaegers that are operated by two pilots. After a string of victories against the Kaijus, however, the colossal creatures adapt and begin defeating the Jaegers. This was vividly shown during an early battle where a Kaiju is killed at great cost to a Jaeger’s pilots.

PACIFIC RIMWhen the film opens, humanity is on the verge of shutting down the Jaeger program, because they’re seen as unsuccessful. One former pilot, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnman) is approached by his old boss Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) to come back to the program. There are only four remaining Jaegers left, and Pentecost has a plan to use them to deliver a nuke into the interdimensional breach and sealing it.

Becket is assigned to pilot the Gipsy Danger, his old Jaeger that was badly damaged in a battle years ago that took the life of his brother and co-pilot. Pentecost’s assistant Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) wants to be Becket’s co-pilot but utilizing a Jaeger isn’t easy. The mammoth robots are so complex that two pilots need to operate them using a neural link that ensures a synchronized operation.  In other words, the pilots have to be compatible. Typically, Becket and Mako butt heads as both are recovering from painful memories. Meanwhile, Pentecost’s team learns that not only are the Kaiju attacks increasing, but there’s a reason behind their appearances, making it imperative that they seal the breach.

PACIFIC RIM

For anyone who loves or used to love those old Japanese Kaiju films that featured Godzilla, Pacific Rim is an ode to those classics. Even if you no longer watch those films, this one will reignite the passion one felt as a kid at seeing giant, misshapen monsters devastating a city. Only this time, big-budget special effects and top-notch direction enhance the experience. Guilermo Del Toro knows what works with the Kaiju films and what doesn’t. Using that knowledge he skillfully crafted this epic monster movie.

???????????It may be difficult, however, for non-Kaiju fans to appreciate the effort. At first glance, Pacific Rim may seem like a giant monster movie with robots that is made for kids. But it’s deeper than that, unlike those old films, you care about the characters. You’re entertained by them when the monsters aren’t on screen. There are also many quirky supporting characters that sometimes provide comic relief or add something important to the plot. The most memorable of them include Ron Perlman as a slick black market dealer and two nerdy and eccentric scientists played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman.

Another notable factor with Pacific Rim, is that we get to see what a world with giant monsters might be like. We are flooded with imagery and background details showing how things will be different. We see the use of thick emergency shelters, the presence of a black market for monster parts, and hints at how the economy has changed for the worse. These elements aren’t dwelled upon, but they are there for repeat viewing.

The highlight, of course, are the amazing battles between monsters and machines. One important difference between this film and the old Kaiju films is the special effects. PACIFIC RIMThey’re practically flawless and the action scenes are well-executed and clear. Pacific Rim doesn’t have the shaking camera movements seen in those dumb Transformers movies that don’t let you know what is going on. Del Toro proves that he is a master of the camera in the way he stages these shots. The result is a thrilling viewing experience.

We’ve been teased by Hollywood of the capability of putting out a big-scale, giant monster movie. That was seen with Cloverfield and to a lesser extent 1998’s Godzilla. Pacific Rim is what the latter film should’ve been and so much more.

José Soto

The Superman Movies Ranked

superman i superman returns

For decades, the Last Son of Krypton has appeared in non-comic book media like books, cartoons, serials, and TV shows. His popularity and standing grew thanks to the film Superman in 1978. As a franchise, the Superman films experienced ups and downs ranging from epic masterpieces to the type of garbage seen in Mystery Science Theater 3000. Having viewed the films recently these are my rankings for the Superman movies.

1. Superman (1978): This film has stood the test of time and become a genuine classic. There have been many superhero films that have come since this one, but it still holds up today in spite of its dated special effects and other drawbacks.

whos got youSuperman has a sense of awe and majesty in some moments, namely, the first acts in the planet Krypton and Smallville. At times some scenes in Superman’s hometown seem taken out of a Rockwell painting. It’s these quieter moments that lend an ambience to what we are watching.

Once Superman grows up and moves to Metropolis, the movie becomes a hybrid of a romance, light comedy and adventure yarn. At these points, Superman/Clark Kent encounters colorful types like his love Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and nemesis Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), who is both an amusing and devious foe.

More than an origin story about Clark Kent growing up to be Earth’s greatest superhero, Superman is a loving ode to classic Silver Age comic books. Thanks goes to director Richard Donner’s respect for the source material and Christopher Reeve’s masterful performance as Superman/Clark Kent.

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2. TIE: Superman II (1981)/Man Of Steel (2013): I couldn’t decide which of the two films is greater. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but they’re so different in style and execution. So determining which is better depends on the viewer’s taste and preference.

Superman II is very exciting and captivating with an engaging story. Kryptonian criminals come to Earth and create havoc while Superman, unaware of their activities, gives up his powers to be with Lois Lane. As fun as it is, Superman II unfortunately is littered with plot holes and conveniences.

For starters, how is it that Luthor gains entry into Superman’s Fortress of Solitude (some security!). How come Superman never learns about this? More importantly why is he so clueless about Zod and his cronies until after he renounces his powers? Why give up his powers? Just to dance in the sheets with Lois? Given the scope of his decision, it makes him seem kind of irresponsible and naive. Plus, the ending has an even bigger cop out than the first movie.

kneel before zod

Still, the performances by Reeve and Kidder are stellar whenever they’re together on screen. Terrance Stamp, Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran are formidable and vicious villains with Stamp’s Zod displaying a sense of regality and pompousness. You’re just itching for Superman and these super jerks to finally get into it during the film’s last act. The battle in Metropolis is fun and exciting, even if it lacks the scope and effects shown in Man Of Steel. However, at least Superman showed more concern for the innocent civilians caught up in the melee, unlike Man Of Steel.

man of steel and lois

Producer Christopher Nolan and director Zack Snyder reinvigorated the Superman franchise with the epic reboot Man Of Steel. It’s a no-expense-spared spectacular with jaw-dropping and exhausting battle scenes that finally showcase the scale of Superman’s powers.

Many elements about Superman and his mythos are updated and feel refreshing. Henry Cavill does a fine job playing Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent and echoes Reeve’s earnestness and humble nature. At the same time, Cavill makes the role his own as the role emphasizes Superman’s loneliness. We feel that he is an outcast who just wants to help out and find himself.

As Superman searches for his past heritage, MAN OF STEELGeneral Zod (Michael Shannon) arrives on Earth his small army of evil followers with the intent of capturing Superman and transforming the Earth into a new version of Krypton. Afterwards, Superman must not only contend with Zod and a mistrustful military, but with his dual heritage. There are many terrific quiet moments when he examines his humanity.

There are so many great things about the film but it has faults. Aside from common complaints about the music, the film needed tighter editing. It’s a long movie and it feels like one. Some fights seem to go on forever, leaving you wanting the whole thing to end already. Sometimes less is more as the saying goes. Continue reading