My 10 favorite sci-fi and fantasy films, 2010-2019

I tried to mash all of my favorite sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero movies into one top 10 list, but alas, it didn’t work. There were just so many great films in the past 10 years, I had to make a separate list for my 10 favorite superhero movies. I’ll post that soon. For now, here are my favorite non-superhero movies of the decade. I’m not going by Rotten Tomatoes or Oscar noms or box office numbers; these are my personal favorites.

1. “The Shape of Water” (2017) is a movie about a cleaning lady who falls in love with the creature from the black lagoon, and it won an Oscar for best picture, which would sound unbelievable if you didn’t know who made it; Guillermo del Toro is known for making films that are works of art. Like all good sci-fi, it asks the big questions. How do we treat “the Other” in our society, whether the Other is a sea creature, a mute woman, a gay man? 

2. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015). The final trilogy in the Skywalker saga recently ended, but this is where it started. The highly anticipated “Force Awakens” introduced us to new characters and reacquainted us with old favorites. You can check out the review I did with my friend and fellow blogger Lavender (nomansland.blog) here: ‘The Force’ awakens two Star Wars fans’ inner Siskel & Ebert

Interstellar_023. “Interstellar” (2014) is an epic outer space drama directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan. Matt McConaughey leads a team of astronauts who travel through a wormhole to search for a new planet after Earth’s resources have been depleted. The movie is almost three hours long, but I was so absorbed in the movie, I didn’t notice.

4. “Inception” (2010) is one of those trippy, mind-bending movies like the one I was just talking about – “Interstellar.” This one was also written and directed by Christopher Nolan, so I guess that’s no coincidence. Instead of going into space, though, the characters in this film go into people’s minds. Leonardo DiCaprio is an “extractor,” a thief who steals info by infiltrating the subconscious. He is offered the chance to have his criminal record expunged if he can do the opposite: implant an idea into a person’s subconscious. What’s real? What’s not? It can get confusing if you’re not paying attention.

5. “Hunger Games,” 2012. A friend of mine convinced me to read the books not longpora6w964o9iq before the first movie was released. I really liked the books, so I had high hopes for the film, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I contracted “Hunger Games” fever and saw it in the theater twice. The first film was the best of the bunch. Jennifer Lawrence was a perfect Katniss Everdeen.

6. “Elysium,” 2013. Matt Damon stars in Neill Blomkamp’s futuristic morality play, in which Damon’s character attempts to reach a Med-Bay on the luxury space habitat Elysium after being poisoned by radiation on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Even if Blomkamp is a bit heavy-handed with his symbolism, I love his movies. I also love Matt Damon, so this one is a win-win.

7. “Never Let Me Go” (2010). Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley star in the heartbreaking film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s heartbreaking novel in which clones are raised to have their organs harvested. Pass the tissues please.

8. “Gravity” (2013). There has been some discussion about whether this is science fiction. Wikipedia calls it a “science fiction thriller,” so I’m including it. Watching Sandra Bullock and George Clooney float around in space may sound boring, but it’s actually a suspenseful, inspiring story, and I loved it. “Gravity” was written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who also wrote another one of my favorite movies, the dystopian “Children of Men.” Cuarón is another filmmaker, like del Toro, who doesn’t just “make movies” – this film is a masterpiece.

9. “Okja” (2017). This Netflix film by Bong Joon-ho (“Parasite,” “Snowpiercer”) is one of those movies where you’re constantly thinking, “What the … ?” Bong sort of reminds me of Yorgos Lanthimos in this way. Is it weird that I still loved it? Maybe I’m biased because I’m a vegetarian; it’s about a giant, genetically engineered “super pig.” Tilda Swinton plays the eccentric CEO of a big corporation and Paul Dano plays a member of the Animal Liberation Front. Check it out, but don’t blame me if you never want to eat pork again.

Alicia-Vikander-Ex-Machina-FilmFad.com_-110. “Ex Machina” (2014). Alex Garland also did the movie “Annihilation,” but I prefer this more subtle, less creepy film. A programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) is invited to his CEO’s (Oscar Isaac) secluded home, and meets an intelligent humanoid robot (Alicia Vikander).  I’ve noticed a lot of futuristic films fall into one of two camps: One vision of the future is an AI takeover. The other suggests we are headed for the apocalypse. I’m fine with either – fictionally speaking – as long as it’s a good story. Like many robot flicks, “Ex Machina” asks the question: What makes us human?

On that note, I leave you. But I’ll be back soon with my Top 10 superhero films of the decade.

Credits: “The Shape of Water,” Fox Searchlight Pictures; “Interstellar,” Paramount Pictures; “Hunger Games,” Lionsgate Films; “Ex Machina,” A24. 

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What to watch/read: ‘Black Panther,’ ‘How To Stop Time’

I know, I know. I haven’t posted in a while. But I’m still here! And I’ve been watching a lot of sci-fi stuff that I can’t wait to share with you, so let’s get started:

First, we need to talk about “Black Panther.” If you’re wondering if this movie is worthy of the hype, the answer is yes. Yes it is.

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Girl power! Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright in “Black Panther.”

I love origin stories, and this one was no exception. It’s beautiful, for starters. The Kingdom of Wakanda blew me away, and the costumes are breathtaking. I went into this movie not knowing much about the comic so it was fun and surprising and I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen next. I’ll give you a little bit of backstory:

Black Panther, aka King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is the leader of Wakanda, an African nation which is every bit as fascinating as the superhero himself. Hundreds of years ago, Wakanda was hit by a meteorite containing vibranium, a metal which, unknown to the rest of the world, has given the Wakandan people the ability to create advanced technology, and which also affects an indigenous “heart-shaped herb,” which is ingested by the king and gives him the superhuman abilities that make him a total bad-ass.

Of course, the tech doesn’t hurt either. His little sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) is the Tony Stark-like genius behind T’Challa’s suits/gadgets. And as awesome as Black Panther is, it’s really the women I admired most in this film. I really want to tell you about them but I don’t want to give away anymore. Suffice it to say there are some interesting twists and turns, some laughs and a lot of heart. (And lots of girl power!) Just take my advice and go see it.

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Sam Rockwell in “Moon.”

The next thing I want to talk to you about is “Mute” (Netflix).  I was so excited about this, because it’s directed by Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son!), who also directed one of my favorite movies, “Moon.”

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Paul Rudd in “Mute.”

“Mute,” on the other hand, is one of those movies where you’re like WTF is happening right now and where is this even going?

Alexander Skarsgard stars as a mute bartender searching for his missing girlfriend, but Paul Rudd steals the show as an unhinged surgeon named Cactus Bill, who makes you laugh but in an awkward, uncomfortable way that makes you wonder if you should really be laughing. Rudd is good though, and you’ll probably completely forget the plot while you’re watching him.

I will confess the main reason I wanted to see this movie is because I was promised more Sam Rockwell and I would like to say I was not disappointed but I was totally disappointed; Rockwell appears in “Mute” for about three seconds.

I liked the ending of “Mute,” if that counts for anything. (Does it?)

Next up, let’s talk about “Electric Dreams.” I was even more excited about this series than I was about “Mute.” Unfortunately, I was equally disappointed.

I had high hopes because each episode is (loosely) based on a different story by Philip K. Dick, whose stories have been previously adapted to the films “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” “Total Recall,” etc. He’s been called “the father of modern science fiction,” to give you an idea of his influence.

The first “Electric Dreams” episode, “Real Life,” was just OK. It’s been done before and it’s been done better (in the aforementioned “Total Recall”). I kept thinking, I really hope the second episode is better.

It was. “Autofac” is set in a post-apocalyptic world (and you know I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic worlds), where a group of survivors are trying to figure out how to shut off a factory that keeps sending them stuff they don’t need. (It’s hard to believe this was based on a story written in 1955. Did Dick predict Amazon Prime?)

That’s all I’ve seen so far – the first two episodes. I’ll update if/when I see more.

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Juno Temple and Janelle Monae in “Electric Dreams.”

Moving on.

I recently read a novel called “How To Stop Time,” by Matt Haig. The main character, Tom Hazard, has a condition that causes his body to age much slower than the rest of us. He’s actually over 400 years old, even though he looks like he’s in his 40s.

It’s tempting to make comparisons to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, but Tom is not a vampire. He’s very human, and that is sort of the theme. What makes us human? What makes life worth living? It’s deep, but it’s also accessible and fun.

A film adaptation is in the works, with Benedict Cumberbatch starring as Tom. I loved Cumberbatch in “Doctor Strange,” and I am looking forward to seeing this story on the big screen.

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The 90th Academy Awards

As I mentioned earlier, I love Sam Rockwell, so I was very happy last night when he won a best supporting actor Oscar for his role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”! Also I love that Frances McDormand won – she’s amazing. It’s not sci-fi so I haven’t discussed “Three Billboards” on my blog, but I highly recommend it. It’s very powerful and moving.

Guillermo del Toro won best director and his film “The Shape of Water” won best picture! Congratulations, Guillermo! If you missed my review of his art exhibit at the LACMA, check it out here:

https://earthtoshawna.com/2016/08/15/new-lacma-exhibit-a-must-for-guillermo-del-toro-fans/

I loved his acceptance speech at the awards ceremony, which he ended by saying, “I want to tell you, everyone that is dreaming of a parable, of using genre and fantasy to tell the stories about the things that are real in the world today, you can do it. This is a door. Kick it open and come in.”

“Black Panther” photos, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Moon,” Sony Pictures Classics; “Mute,” Netflix; “Electric Dreams,” Sony Pictures Television; “How to Stop Time,” Viking. 

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My 5 fave sci-fi films of 2017 – and 5 I want to see in 2018

I was so looking forward to so many sci-fi movies in 2017, and what a year it has been! Here are my favorite sci-fi films of the year:

Wonder Woman

I did not have great expectations for Wonder Woman. Even though I loved Lynda Carter’s version of the Amazon princess in the 1980s TV series, I am not a huge fan of DC comics. But I was blown away. Gal Gadot was nothing short of amazing. I laughed, I cried, I watched it a dozen times. It was the perfect movie to go with the feminist rallying cry of 2017. Girl power!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Well I just said I’m not a DC fan – I’m a Marvel girl. And my favorite Marvel superheroes right now are the Guardians of the Galaxy! They’re cool, they’re funny, and they’re cute. I love Star-Lord, Rocket, Baby Groot, and new character Mantis. Add tough chick Gamora and funny-as-hell Drax and you’ve got a winning team. Even my friends who don’t usually like sci-fi love the Guardians. So what are you waiting for?

Okja

This Bong Joon-ho film was on Netflix, not in theaters, but I can’t get it out of my head. Maybe I’m biased because I’m a vegetarian, but this movie, about a huge, genetically engineered “super pig,” was one of my favorites. It also helps that I adore Paul Dano, who plays a member of the Animal Liberation Front.

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A space horse, or “fathier,” from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I’m seeing a lot of griping about the latest Star Wars episode, but I loved it – the simmering connection between Rey and Kylo, the return of Luke Skywalker, the bittersweet Carrie Fisher scenes, and all those adorable Star Wars critters! I can’t wait till it comes out on DVD so I can watch it 10 more times.

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Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones star in “The Shape of Water.”

The Shape of Water

You may remember I did a review last year of LACMA’s Guillermo del Toro exhibit – it was muy interesante. So when I heard there was a new del Toro film, I had to go see it. It didn’t disappoint. It’s sort of like a love story between a cleaning lady and the creature from the black lagoon. I know, it sounds crazy – and it is – but like most of del Toro’s films, it’s a work of art, and that in itself makes it worth watching.

The cast was superb. Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, and Richard Jenkins earned much-deserved Golden Globe nominations for their roles.

I’m also looking forward to more awesome movies in 2018. There are lots of new sci-fi movies coming – too many to list! Here are just a few that I don’t want to miss:

Annihilation, coming Feb. 23

Ever since “Ex Machina,” I’ve been looking forward to seeing whatever Alex Garland does next. Natalie Portman stars as a biologist trying to find out what happened to her husband, the sole survivor of a mysterious environmental disaster. The film is based on a book (by Jeff VanderMeer), which I have not read, so I really don’t know much about the film. Based on what I’ve seen in the trailer, it looks like it could be good. Or awful. Too soon to tell!

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Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” will be in theaters March 23.

Isle of Dogs, March 23

Is this really a sci-fi movie? It has talking dogs and it’s set in the future, so I say yes. I love Wes Anderson and I’m super excited about his new movie, a stop-motion animation film about a boy looking for his dog in a dystopian Japan.

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Tye Sheridan stars in the upcoming film “Ready Player One,” directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the novel by Ernest Cline.

Ready Player One, coming March 30

Now this one, I did read. Usually when I’ve already read the book, I get my hopes up and the movie can’t possibly live up to them, but I’m trying to keep an open mind. “Ready Player One” is about a teenager named Wade Watts who lives in a crummy future world, where most people escape their miserable lives by plugging into a virtual world, OASIS, where anything is possible. The creator of OASIS, James Halliday, has died, and whoever finds his Easter egg, in the OASIS, will inherit his fortune.  Steven Spielberg directs.

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No one can really fill Harrison Ford’s shoes – but Alden Ehrenreich is going to try!

Solo: A Star Wars Story, May 25

Can anyone really fill Harrison Ford’s shoes, when it comes to that lovable scoundrel Han Solo? Of course not. It’s a risky move, casting someone else in this role, but again, I’m keeping an open mind. Ron Howard directs, which is promising. This is a standalone film, like “Rogue One,” a film to tide us over till the main story wraps up.

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Deadpool 2, June 1

There are so many cool-looking Marvel flicks coming in 2018 – “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” and “Aquaman,” to name just a few (yes there are more). But I confess, the one I’m most looking forward to is “Deadpool 2.”  There’s a different director attached (David Leitch, “Atomic Blonde”) but I’m hoping it will be as funny as the first “Deadpool.”

Photos: “Wonder Woman,” Warner Bros. Pictures; “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; “The Shape of Water,” Fox Searchlight Pictures; “Isle of Dogs,” Fox Searchlight Pictures; “Ready Player One,” Warner Bros.

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