There is a great deal of new content on Amazon Prime this December, and yet also some stone-cold classics. Here are our Sci-Fi picks that are well worth a watch!
Edge of Tomorrow
Love him or hate him, Tom Cruise makes some cracking cinema. A risky venture for Warner Bros, it cost approximately $125 million to make, but this risk was vindicated when the film grossed a shade over $340 million worldwide. This is in large part due to the excellent cast (Bill Paxton is particularly good in one of his last roles), believably tough aliens, and time-looping shenanigans. Essentially a science fiction Groundhog Day, and if you haven’t seen it, it is a gem of a film, and here’s your chance to rectify that oversight!
Mad Max: Fury Road
Tom Hardy is one of the foremost actors of his generation. A powerful point to back up that argument is this film, as Max (the protagonist) only speaks 52 lines throughout the entire film, (some of which are one word) and yet still makes the character three-dimensional and nuanced. Apart from that, the film is a beautiful, punk-apocalyptic romp with some of the most breath-taking action sequences and extremely catchy dialogue ever committed to celluloid. An absolute must-see for any lover of film.
A monster of a film, in every sense of the word. Director David Lynch’s rough cut was over four hours long, which was hardly surprising considering the size and scope of the original book from James Herbert, but it was hacked down to a little under three hours.
This was unheard of in 1984 when the film was released and probably had a bearing on its monstrously bad box office takings. It made a reported ten million dollar deficit over its initial run, and though it now enjoys some cult status it was perceived as a failure at the time, garnering the most negative reviews of that year. Although heroic in its attempt, the story is hideously complicated and confusing to follow.
There are some memorable performances from a truly diverse cast, from Sting to Max Von Sydow, Kyle MacLachlan and Jurgen Prochnow. One for the purists.
The third instalment of the franchise, Riddick gets back to his Pitch Black roots a little by virtue of being set on a Planet with unusual living conditions and parameters. Far better than the second, yet not quite as good as the first, this film still has much to recommend it. Excellent set-pieces and some solid new ways to kill people, if you’re a fan of the ‘space-punk’ school of sci-fi then this is definitely for you.
I do love the character of Riddick (now owned by Vin Diesel) and it seems we may well be in for a fourth chapter soon, to be titled Furia, and perhaps even a T.V series (Merc City) so plenty to look forward to from the gravel-voiced, nice-guy of film.
If you are interested in the origin of the amazingly good HBO show about sophisticated A.I ‘hosts’ that start rebelling against their programming, then this is where it all started (and let’s be honest, if you’re reading this list you probably are).
The production values are truly awful, and the acting somewhat wooden (it was 1973 after all) but it’s an intriguing story and offers some insight into the re-make. Interestingly, there was a sequel made three years later entitled ‘Future World’ that was every bit as dire.
Westworld starred Yul Brynner, an actor famous for his roles in Westerns, so it was quite a nice touch to have him as the first ‘Man in Black’ and the first ‘host’ to blow a gasket and start killing guests.
This one did really well at the box office, earning $176 million on a $30 million budget, and this despite being a high-concept sci-fi story which traditionally doesn’t do so well. It’s a time-travel shenanigans story (my favourite sci-fi concept) centring around the idea of contract killers that simply kill victims sent back to them by a crime syndicate from the future (Loopers). The catch is that your last hit is yourself, sent back to ‘close the loop’.
The ‘hero’ is a character called Joe, and things become really complicated when his older self is sent back but promptly overpowers his younger self and escapes. It’s a great film that keeps you guessing, with some sterling performances by Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the principal role.
Taken from the 1985 novel by Orson Scott Card, this one managed only a tepid reception at the turnstiles. It just scraped a profit, but that seems indicative of the film as a whole. It’s an interesting enough proposition: Super gifted kids becoming tacticians in a future war with aliens, but the realisation of the premise is a little ‘meh’, despite spending a good deal on CGI and effects. It looks good, Asa Butterfield is not bad as the protagonist (though not exactly stellar either) and the supporting cast feel like they’re phoning it in (Harrison Ford just sent a text). There are a couple of neat twists, but as so often is the case; the book was better.
Not only is this film a time-travelling ‘whodunnit’ (I like time-travel stories), it’s also a ‘howdunnit’, a ‘whydunnit’ and a who-am-I? It’s a tightly plotted and consistent piece about an army pilot (Jake Gyllenhaal) who finds himself in another man’s body (!) onboard a train (in the same style as Quantum Leap). Eight minutes later the train explodes and, instead of dying, he finds himself re-set to where he came in.
Doing well in the earnings stakes, it made a solid profit of around $115 million across its entire run, so not small beer. There is an element of the ‘Groundhog Day’ plot device, but the clever script, acting and camera work keeps the action zipping along. You may have missed this one from 2011, and if so it is well worth two hours of your life once, or eight minutes of your life fifteen times, depending on how you look at it.
As you can see, Amazon Prime has some wonderful Sci-Fi classics on this month. So if you feel the need for a break from in-your-face Christmas overload ambushing you from all sides, one of these may well be the perfect antidote.