See It Instead: Gravity edition.
Sometimes a movie comes along and makes you aware of an itch you never knew you had. Perhaps a review piqued your interest, or you’d rather stay in and pay yourself $10 for a small popcorn and watch a movie on the cheap. Perhaps you’re valiantly struggling through your queue on Netflix or Amazon Prime, and need a wise, cultured voice to direct you to where the real movie viewing gold is hiding amidst the shitty ninja movies and serial killer biopics. Well, look no further. See It Instead is here to take today’s new releases and guide you to what you should really be watching.
Docking at a space station theater near you is Alfonso Cuaron‘s latest drama, Gravity. A terrible accident results in Sandra Bullock being allowed to star in another major motion picture. That George Clooney is also attached has my testicles racing for the warm safety of my abdomen…but, Alfonso Cuaron’s last outing was Children of Men, which managed to get a gripping and coherent performance out of Clive Owen. And no carrots were jammed into any eye sockets, so win-win! Of course, his outing before Children was a Harry Potter movie, so I’m going to have to coax my testicles down with the promise of popcorn and time spent in the movie theater arcade shooting zombies. Let’s see if we can find something on a little more solid footing to watch, shall we?
The Safe Pick: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1986)
If you like to be challenged by a movie with minimalism and a slow burn tension.
It is impossible for a modern space movie to get completely clear of the shadow of Stanley Kubrick‘s masterful 2001: A Space Odyssey. You might as well try to make a Western without having seen The Good the Bad and the Ugly. Misunderstood in it’s own day, 2001 has ascended to the upper-most pantheon of critically acclaimed films, for Arthur C. Clarke‘s story of man rising from the primordial past to take his rightful (and dangerous) place among the stars, and Kubrick’s striking use of close-ups, empty space, jarring juxtapositions, and minimalist dialogue. And Hal 9000, who defined the concept of A.I. for movie goers for decades. Swelling orchestral themes, odd noises and echoes, and low key dialogue punctuate the events of the film, which can be mistaken for mundane and even dull, as they are presented in such a detached and surreal manner. If you haven’t seen Kubrick before, its hard to miss what many consider his masterpiece.
The Lighthearted Pick: Outland (1981)
If you like drama’s set in space, involving ruggedly handsome men.
Sean Connery reassures audiences that he’s more than dry martini’s and red man-kini’s. This pot boiler, Western-in-Space has Sean Connery as a space martial, dispatched to the moons of Jupiter to investigate strange deaths occurring at the mining operations which dominate Jovian commerce. Connery quickly discovers a conspiracy of illegal drugs and unsafe practices which put him at odds with the local mining magnate. Assassins are dispatched to kill Connery, who must outlast them long enough to get his message out to the authorities. Using claustrophobia and isolation much like Alien, Outland manages to make a believable sci-fi world by skipping most of the sci-fi, instead focusing on the pressures of being far from civilization. A clever move, creating tension without having to wag a rubber monster around. If you thought Connery made it to where he has based soley on bedding Russian double agents, Outland will set you straight.
The Unconventional Pick: The Fountain (2006)
If you like breathtaking visuals in a story about two people alone in the vastness of the universe.
Darren Aronosky took a bold move in 2006’s The Fountain, telling a story of undying love through a movie heavily flavored with sci-fi elements, historical period pieces, and some really really far out eastern mysticism. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz are a pair linked throughout history, most often taking the relationship of lovers. Central to the many lives of the pair is the quest for immortality, either through an ill fated expedition to Cortez’s fabled fountain of youth in Central America, through modern medicine and technology, or through rigorous meditation and the honing of spiritual powers. Not your usual romantic drama. These star crossed lovers actually do cross the stars in order to be together for all time. The visuals of this film are well worth the price of admission, and given the oddity of the story and the disjointed narrative, may be the only take away for many viewers. They are worth it, however. Strong performances by the principal actors, particularly a claw-less Jackman, help to ease the dip into the heady waters of The Fountain.