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Let me add that I don't think The Truman Show is sci-fi enough, but if I did it would have made the top 5 in this list.
I tried to organize the list in order of preference but it's particularly hard. The top 3 are the only ones I'm sure of for the order, the top 10 in this list would be my final top 10, but apart from that I'm not really set for the order.
The only films which would probably be in an all-time list of mine are the first two, the others I found good because they were either interesting/original, or simply fun/entertaining (which is the least I can hope for). I tried to list the movies in order of preference, but after the first ten it was difficult so don't consider it canon. The rest is more like honorable mentions. Thanks for your interest!
I've tried ordering the list in order of preference. I haven't seen all 80s sci-fi films, including the Star Trek films. I've seen the Mad Max films but it was too long ago for me to remember them correctly. I might update this list once I see those I missed, or include those that I may have forgotten.
The rather numerous negative professional reviews almost made me lose hope. Turns out they were wrong. The Hobbit is a fantastic film.
First of all, let me first say that while I enjoyed the LOTR trilogy, and admired the directorial and technical greatness of it, I'm no LOTR fanboy, and I also recognize its flaws. I'm saying this so that one understands that I'm not the type of person who will blindly speak greatly of any film of the Tolkien/Jackson series if I don't feel it deserves it.
This being said, I have difficulties understanding some of the negative professional reviews which said The Hobbit is a failed attempt, and not as good as LOTR. The artistic and directing style are exactly the same (so I won't comment on this more). I also wasn't expecting to like the 48 fps since I'm the kind of guy who squints even at high definition TVs, but surprisingly, I thought it looked great in The Hobbit, and I think 48 fps is the future. There are slow moments in The Hobbit, broken regularly by excitingly over the top action scenes. Again, just like LOTR - so I don't see why one would like the original trilogy and not The Hobbit.
The Hobbit is perhaps a little less dark in tone than LOTR, considering the source material which is more of a children's book, but it's clearly not a children's movie anyway, and displays many exciting and stressful moments. It also offers something more than the LOTR, that is five genuinely important villains right then and there. The dragon Smaug, in this first film, is like Sauron in the LOTR. A distant, mysterious figure who is the ultimate goal of the quest, whom we don't see much of yet, but we know it's going to be brutal. The "necromancer" is mostly alluded. Those who know the book will know who that is, and he'll surely be important in the sequels. Azog, the giant orc, is a main villain and is much more appealing than the Uruk-hai chief in Fellowship of the Ring, or any other orc villain in the LOTR series. The Goblin King also has a strong key role in the movie. And of course, Gollum, who's riddle scene with Bilbo is fantastic.
Martin Freeman as Bilbo is superb and there couldn't be a better choice. The rest of the cast is pitch perfect as well. While the 13 dwarfs are too many for us to get to know each and every one of them well enough by the end of this first movie, I didn't feel it was a downer. We got to know at least a third sufficiently - and I'm sure we'll get to learn about and appreciate the rest in the subsequent films - this allows us to still have characters to discover later on.
Anyway, great film. I think it's better than Fellowship, and I'll be seeing it again for sure and can't wait for the sequels.
Astérix chez les Bretons (1986)
A good adaptation with funny animation
Every Asterix full length animation film is fairly fun, but Asterix in Britain is undoubtedly one of the best, along with The Twelve Tasks of Asterix. While children will surely enjoy Asterix in Britain, it can also be enjoyed by adults.
The soundtrack is particularly good (even epic at times), and the animation is very funny. This film is a relatively faithful adaptation of the comic strip, with some pertinent additions, and the jokes are good. I saw it in French and much of the humor stems from the stereotypical speak of the Britons, caricatures of British people, so I don't really know how it would translate in English, but I'm told the translations of the comics tend to be pretty good in capturing the original humor. The authors admired the British very much and they show it here as the Britons are depicted as a brave people, and the little jokes are akin to "love taps" more than anything else, so British people shouldn't be offended by it. There are only little stabs about bad food, tea-drinking, sports-loving and nice lawns.
Anyway, it's a fun little animation which might look a little dated (it was released the year of my birth, in 1986), but fans of the Asterix comics will surely enjoy it.
Southern Comfort (1981)
Like "Deliverance" with Cajuns instead. Decent film throughout, with an ending elevating it to greatness.
As a Frenchman I've long been fascinated with Cajun culture, surviving against all odds, so when I learned "Southern Comfort" was like "Deliverance" with Cajuns I figured it had to be fun and that I should check it out. I wasn't disappointed.
The plot is pretty simple. A National Guard squad gets stranded in Cajun country swamps, and are victim to attacks from the locals who consider that it's their land, and the film predictably proceeds in having the soldiers killed one at a time while they also destroy each-other because of their increasing paranoia.
The score and cinematography are great, as is the acting. However I must say that ultimately most of the movie with the soldiers stranded in the swamps isn't as intense as it could have been. It's surely entertaining, but pretty basic, and for that only I would have given "Southern Comfort" a 7. However, the last 20 minutes of the movie are absolutely fantastic, elevating the film to something highly satisfying. I don't want to spoil anything, and anyway I probably couldn't accurately describe how superbly cut the climatic ending of "Southern Comfort" is. If most of the film is just above average, the ending makes sitting through it even more worthwhile, as it all builds up to those last scenes.
The theme of the film obviously borrows from the Vietnam war, and the film itself inspired later films. Just a little trivia for you, I actually first learned about "Southern Comfort" from reading about the film "Aliens". "Southern Comfort" producer David Giler convinced the studio to make an "Alien" sequel by making the sequel like "Southern Comfort" in space. And it's true that "Aliens" does have a similar Vietnam war theme.
Anyway, "Southern Comfort" is a good 80s film which truly did remind me of "Deliverance", so if you liked that film, you will like this one too. Recommended.
Ridley Scott's Alien is my all time favorite movie so I've been anticipating Prometheus ever since the prequel was announced. Since I couldn't resist the wait, I saw it early this morning the day of its official release in my country.
First of all, the trailers showed it, the cinematography is fantastic. Ridley Scott nailed that aspect like a genuine master. The entire movie is basically a succession of grandiose shots which surely will have other directors blush in shame. The cinematography is accompanied by great sets and fantastic special effects for which Prometheus should receive a bunch a nominations.
The acting is flawless, except perhaps for a few minor characters. Special praise goes to Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron whose characters are also extremely well written and convincing. Noomi especially deserves applause for her flawless acting. There are a good number of scenes where her character is understandably very disturbed and terrified, and Noomi's acting is so genuine I wanted to scream out "just throw her a damn Oscar already!". One refreshing aspect of her character is that, contrary to what one might expect, she's not like Ripley from Alien. Ripley was from the start a pretty strong woman, close to a tomboy. Noomi's character, Elizabeth Shaw, is much more impulsive, insecure and feminine. She grows stronger as her situation becomes desperate, but she remains endearing and delicate enough that the extremely shocking things she must endure are genuinely heartbreaking.
The plot for Prometheus is where I have more reservations. The attempt at making some characters seem like scientists, including Noomi's character, made me cringe at times. It's typical Hollywood scientists, by that I mean not very believable. How a teenager would imagine science-speak to be like. The build up for the climax was somewhat disappointing in comparison to the first two Alien films, and to me lacked a distinct atmosphere so essential for a horror film. The action and horror scenes were genuinely good and exciting, sometimes shocking, however I wasn't scared any time, but perhaps I've just grown insensitized to horror by now. I'll also add that if you thought the classic Alien life cycle (queen lays egg, which hatches facehugger, which plants embryo in host, which grows into a xenomorph) was a stretch, wait till you see what Prometheus has to offer, which I find makes little sense and I'll probably be wondering more about that than anything else. Obviously, the creatures in Prometheus are some forms of ancestral or primitive types which may evolve into what we know from the Alien franchise. Regardless, Prometheus offers some very pleasing surprises throughout, and it's great to discover this universe which will surely become a franchise. Ridley Scott wished it, and the end of the movie shamelessly confirms it, to the point that one could expect a "To be continued..." before the credits. Also many questions remain painfully unanswered, which is somewhat cheap.
Anyway, Prometheus remains an impressive watch and paves the way to what could be a grand new mythology. It doesn't match the first two Alien films in quality, and one shouldn't expect it to or he will be sorely disappointed. I will probably go see Prometheus again, because the first time was somewhat overwhelming. I wouldn't be surprised if Prometheus is the kind of film which gets better after a few viewings. I'll add that the ending of Prometheus announces an epic sequel, probably much better, so I'm pretty hopeful for one to happen.
I may sound like a total douche-bag, but how any mature adult can think of Daredevil as a good movie is beyond me. Sure, all tastes are out there. In all honesty I'm willing to understand that some specific movies that I didn't particularly think much of are loved by others. The difference is that Daredevil is in a whole different league of bad.
The main problem I have with Daredevil is the style. The cheesiness. It's like Ang Lee's Hulk, which coincidently came out the same year in 2003. These two films are to me the heirs of such cheesefests like 1997 Batman & Robin. Daredevil is an example of how not to make a superhero film, while movies like Nolan's Batman series, or Ironman, stand as opposite examples of how to go about this admittedly extremely difficult genre. Actually, I feel the Batman character is much more difficult to render on screen than Daredevil, who is more naturally cool (because less eccentric but still naturally "dark"), so kudos to Nolan and Burton for their achievements.
Another criticism for Daredevil is that it drags on too much. It takes 40 minutes into the film for Matt Murdock/Daredevil to meet Elektra, which is arguably the moment when the movie actually starts and stops feeling like an origin-story flashback. I'm not against long character development, but Daredevil's first 40 minutes of nothingness were not compelling to me. They were enough to draw my attention, not my interest.
And when the movie actually starts, 40 minutes in, Matt Murdock/Daredevil flirts with Elektra by fighting her, which is probably one of the most ridiculous moments in modern cinema. Only after that are we truly introduced to the bad guys and the cheesiness of the film skyrockets. I actually had cramps in my eye sockets for rolling my eyes so much.
Anyway, Daredevil belongs in the temple of failed superhero movies, with Batman & Robin, Ang Lee's Hulk, The Fantastic Four, and of course Daredevil's spin-off Elektra.
Un prophète (2009)
A modern classic
I read somewhere that in directing A Prophet, Jacques Audiard wanted to create an "Arab Scarface". While the premise is somewhat comparable, the rise of a small-time criminal, both films don't have much else in common. A Prophet is much more modest, or humble, more psychological, dirtier, and dare I say, better.
Jacques Audiard directed a genuine masterpiece which surely will stand the test of time. A Prophet's style is gritty and feels real, and the actors are all fantastic, especially the main character, Malik, played beautifully by Tahar Rahim. The plot is quite diverse, but I don't feel I need to delve too much into it since many here already have. Some have criticized the rather out of place supernatural element in the movie, which is hardly addressed although it inspired the title of the film. I like the fact that it stayed humble in that way, adding a touch of mystery and bizarre in an otherwise realistic movie.
If you want to see a modern serious French film, A Prophet is the one to see. Highly recommended.
A 70s film made in the mid-80s - entertaining enough
Pirates was shown on TV a few days back so I thought I'd watch it since I knew it was a Polanski film - my knowledge of it was limited to that. When watching, I figured it was a 70s film considering the style, pretty old-school and theatrical. I was later surprised to learn it was actually released in 1986. The first hour or so of the movie was very entertaining. It reminded me, in terms of style, of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", only with a less impressive soundtrack and instead of cowboys in the desert it's pirates at sea. After an hour I slowly started losing interest. The plot seemed to turn around in circles, and it literally does at the end, leaving me somewhat unsatisfied despite the better first half.
Pirates earns points for the fabulous costumes, for which it was nominated at the Oscars, and also the realistic sword fight scenes - the actors don't seem to obey to an elaborate choreography where they hit in the general direction of their opponent, like in Pirates of the Caribbean or Star Wars, but rather they aim directly at their opponents in harsh fights, and that was refreshing. The pirate Captain Red was fabulous, a typical drunkard gritty personality, however I didn't care in the slightest bit for the other characters.
An overall entertaining film and I'm glad I watched it, but to be honest I will probably forget most of it in a few months, and will not go out of my way to recommend it to anyone else.
Fun ride full of plot twists
Among the movies which are generally poorly reviewed and hated for reasons I cannot understand, Dreamcatcher immediately pops into my mind. I haven't read the book, apparently it goes much deeper, making this adaptation understandably disappointing for those who have read it, but this film is also greatly criticized by the average bloke who hasn't read King's novel. And I can't grasp why.
The movie is imaginative, humorous, gory, and entertaining to the very end thanks to a regular dose of plot twists and high originality. What's not to like? I'm the first guy to get bored at most movies. I can't bare bland action films, and often need to force myself to finish a movie. I'm also a sci-fi enthusiast, and Dreamcatcher is far from being my first movie experience in that genre. Some people find it ludicrous, or "so bad that it's funny". That's not at all how I felt watching this film (which I must have seen 3 or 4 times by now), and I was actually surprised when I found out how disliked or mocked Dreamcatcher is. It's very well filmed, the visuals and effects are good, the acting is strong, the humor and shock value are perfectly balanced, and there's nothing cliché about it. On the contrary, it's refreshingly original! If you want a bland cliché film, which is so bad that it's funny, watch Shooter (with Wahlberg), which inexplicably has a 7/10 average rating on IMDb, whereas the rare gem that is Dreamcatcher hardly has a 5.
Dreamcatcher is entertaining and fulfilling. It doesn't take itself too seriously while not being cliché teen horror film like The Faculty. Dreamcatcher provides much needed originality which I hadn't seen before. It's comparable in style to the 2006 film Slither, only it's much better. Recommended.
The Avengers (2012)
Entertaining. Should not disappoint the masses.
The Avengers is exactly what I expected. It is action packed, it understandably doesn't have much time for character development (although we do see more of Hawkeye and Black Widow than in previous Marvel installments), and the relentless action is accompanied by some fairly good jokes to ease the tension here and there - especially by Tony Stark and, surprisingly, the Hulk (they actually managed to throw in at least two genuinely funny moments around Hulk's utter brutality).
The lack of character development, especially for Thor (who does seem somewhat out of place in this film) but also Bruce Banner, is probably what hurts The Avengers the most. I didn't actually need any character development since I've seen all previous Marvel films at least twice, but it nonetheless does stand as a drawback - it feels wrong even though I was expecting it considering the number of characters already established. I can hardly imagine anyone who hasn't seen the previous films enjoying The Avengers because of that.
I usually don't care that much for relentless CGI action films, but some sequences in The Avengers were so blatantly incredible that I had to enjoy them. Notably, a sequence during the huge battle sees the camera pan from one Avenger kicking butt to the other - that was really well done and exciting. Loki was once again a brilliant villain and the perfect choice for the first Avengers film.
Overall, a very good action ride bringing our favorite superheros together. The movie doesn't try to be pretentious and goes straight to business - which is what it should do.
Decent watch but ultimately disappointing
In a dystopian future, a morally innocent couple is sentenced to decades of imprisonment in a high security nightmare-like prison, and plan to escape. The premise of Fortress is intriguing. It kind of reminds me of the prison scenes of the 1997 film Face/Off, which were incidentally among the better scenes of that film. Unfortunately, Fortress fails to deliver.
With this premise, I was expecting an elaborate escape. The kind we got used to with old classics like The Great Escape to modern series like Prison Break, only this time set in a gritty future prison where screenwriters could invent the most terrifyingly inescapable jail imaginable and the cleverest escape plans. Fortress had none of that, since the protagonists just escaped guns blazing. What's up with the yellow and red lines on the floor? I was expecting those to be major plot points... But no. No elaborate plan, no stress, the prison doesn't even seem that bad, and the build up to the escape is practically inexistent. Speaking of build ups, did anyone care for the protagonists? I certainly didn't - that's the second major flaw. I also feel the sub-plot with the wife being coerced was a drawback. I didn't care for that, and wanted a cool escape plan. That's all the film needed! On the other hand, I was entertained for 90 minutes. I wasn't bored because the film is short enough. Had they given the film 30 minutes more and a genuinely clever build up and escape, Fortress could have been much better. Disappointing.