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I've listed the composer and my favorite tracks next to each film.
There are many films that I loved (and rate highly) that aren't on this list. Why? Because my "favorite" films are the memorable ones. Films can be good without having that special charisma that makes them especially memorable. I also usually only put titles here if I've seen them multiple times.
Looking over my favorite titles and thinking about why I like them, I find that there are two important aspects to all of my favorites: a good ending, and a good soundtrack. Obviously there has to be a good story, set design, etc., but endings and soundtracks seem to be the criteria that push a film from "wow, that was good" to "new favorite film."
A visually wonderful adventure
If you are a fan of spectacle and fun science fiction, Oblivion is the movie for you. While it isn't a masterpiece of cinema, it is highly entertaining, a fun ride, and never lets the audience down.
I went into Oblivion with a relatively open mind. I had seen trailers for it months ago, but it looked like a mindless action movie/summer blockbuster, which is not my favorite genre at all. Hence I didn't know anything about it except that Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman were in it. Now that I've seen it, I can honestly tell most other movie goers that it is a wonderful ride. It has everything you could hope from an action movie: plot twists, adrenaline rushes, mystery, good acting, and just enough explosions to be awesome but not overdone.
The biggest problem with the movie is that there is a rather pointless narration for the first few minutes. Narrations are one of my biggest film pet peeves. If I wanted someone to read to me, I'd get a book on tapesurely there are a million better ways of presenting exposition in a film. In fact, most of the information in the narration is presented within the next twenty minutes, and Oblivion would perhaps gain from forcing the audience to form connections implicitly. While talking about story, it may help to point out that the plot is not the main focus of Oblivion. Unfortunately, the story seems almost incidental to the sheer spectacle. Yes there are a few plot twists, but they are mostly predictable, especially to experienced sci-fi fans.
But the sheer spectacle is certainly something that Oblivion does right. From start to finish, it is visually stunning. One gets a genuine feeling of awe when swooping over beautiful vistas, or through ruined cities. With so many beautiful shots of nature, the man-made props and sets are given a high standard, but they are equal to the task. Equally dramatic is the musical score, which conveys a sense of adventure and drama, and occasionally soars into emotional territory. Few dramatic action films manage to be pure entertainment without resorting to semi-comedic one-liners, and over the top action highlighted by overblown CGI, yet Oblivion pulls it off. It never takes itself too seriously, but also never feels forced.
While nothing extraordinary, Oblivion is a more than decent film that fully lives up to its own promise. Hardcore movie buffs may be disappointed by the lack of originality, but no one who can kick back and enjoy the ride will be disappointed.
Upside Down (2012)
Great visuals can't make up for the poor writing
Upside Down is one of those films that I would love to love, but can't. The film's premise of two parallel worlds with differing gravity was certainly enticing. I don't even care about the blatant disregard of science (how does the sun rise in this place, anyway?). It's a fairy tale with a cool setting, nothing more, and nothing less.
The movie started playing, and I immediately loved the art direction, and, for that matter, loved it throughout. The atmospheric color scales, sunsets, and beautiful sets were a joy to watch, especially for someone who goes ga-ga over impossible fantasy art (like me). Unfortunately, that is really the only area of this film that I can praise. Though the portrayal of anti-gravity is cool, it really isn't realistically done at all, even assuming the existence of "inverse matter." The film started to fall apart within the first few minutes. I laughed out loud when Sturgess made his first deliverance of "Aunt Becky" in the opening narration: it felt like a cliché fairy tale name stamped into the script in order to force that cuddly fairy tale feel. And that is how much of the rest of the film felt as well. Romance film pretending to be sci-fi? Okay. Another Romeo & Juliet remake? Fine. But at least tell the story properly. There's little excuse for making a film that races for the first few minutes, then contrives it's plot to boring degrees, and ends up forgetting to develop any characters during the last hour. And not many viewers would be disappointed if there was consistency about the fantasy elements, either.
This could've been amazing, but the film got tripped up by attempting to force both emotion and metaphors down the audiences' throats, which made the film come off as laughably unintelligent. It's really too bad, because a well-made version of this would probably end up as one of my favorite films.
Minority Report (2002)
An entertaining film with an interesting premise
Minority Report is an action movie with an above-average plot about a future in which future murders can be predicted, and the would-be-murderers are jailed, apparently without a trial, before they commit the crime.
If you were hoping for a deep interrogation of the legal system, however, you will be disappointed, because the morals of this new justice system are barely mentioned. Early on, Cruise's character, John Anderton, is predicted to kill a man, and he must run from his old partners in an Indiana Jones-style chase scene set in the future. That is really the problem with this film: interesting concepts hover on the tip of its tongue, but the movie steers towards action instead of tackling interesting ideas. Some other problems include an obvious disregard for reality, such as a Terminator-style spinning shotgun carried by Federal agents, and several incredibly silly mistakes by policemen. The film definitely falls heavier on the "fiction" half of "science fiction."
Fortunately, the plot is still very praiseworthy as it has enough plot twists to keep the audience interested. The minor characters are all well written and fun to watch, and small details such as the visual comparison between police officers and music conductors are found at every turn.
The film really shines in some of the more visual aspects. The set design is brilliant, from a creepy garden, to roller coaster freeways, to a quack doctor's insane operating room. The bleak lighting and washed out color scale fits the mood and setting perfectly.
At the end of the day, Minority Report is a solid, and highly entertaining, film that, while succeeding in many regards, does fall short of its massive potential.