M.L. Miller aka the @$$hole formerly known as Ambush Bug here! Sprouting from the success of the Best of the Best in Horror Countdown that ran all last month, I thought we would Countdown the Best of the Best in Sci Fi in 2017. Since my area of expertise is horror, I have enlisted my buddy Matt Adler to come up with the Top Ten Sci Fi films of 2017. Along with Matt’s picks for the top ten, I will be adding a pick of my own that is worth noting. Many of these films are available On Demand, digital download, or on DVD/BluRay and when I can, I’ll try to link to them at the top of the reviews.
As far as how the list was compiled? Well, Matt will explain in each of the review why he thinks this film is worthy of the countdown and why it is where it is in the list. For me, I am simply going to offer lesser known suggestions that may not be blockbusters, but they pack a big sci fi punch despite all of that. Any film released after November 1st, 2016 is game for the list. Look for new countdown entries every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through November.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let us know what you think of the films, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong we are, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
#5 KONG: SKULL ISLAND #5
KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017)
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, John Gatins
Starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz, Tian Jing, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Eugene Cordero, Marc Evan Jackson, Will Brittain, Miyavi, Richard Jenkins, Allyn Rachel, Robert Taylor, James M. Connor, Thomas Middleditch, & Terry Notary as Kong!
Find out more about this film here, @KongSkullIsland, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Matt Adler
A movie like this can be very tricky to pull off. It’s got an ensemble cast of talented actors (Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, and John C. Reilly among them), and it’s trying to revive a long-dormant franchise, King Kong. The approach director Jordan Vogt-Roberts takes is essentially to throw caution to wind, and try to deliver the most over-the-top giant monster movie experience imaginable. And you know what, he succeeds.
Blending elements of classic Vietnam war movies like APOCALYPSE NOW with the traditional “misunderstood behemoth” themes of previous Kong films, KONG: SKULL ISLAND doesn’t mess around and waste our time with pretensions at character arcs or deep motivations. The human characters are here to serve the purpose of engaging with the monsters. And boy, are Kong and his fellow monsters glorious to behold. The CGI is near flawless, and one can be forgiven for gasping in awe whenever these titans fill the screen.
I appreciate that the film doesn’t try to take itself 100% seriously; it’s certainly not a farce, but there is subtle acknowledgement that hey, this is a movie about a giant ape, and the elements of humor are accordingly well-played. And as the second installment in Legendary’s MonsterVerse, it has definitely whet my appetite for the eventual Kong vs. Godzilla confrontation. I hope they can continue to walk the fine line between thriller and self-aware absurdity in future films.
THE SIMILARS (2015)
aka LOS PERECIDOS
Directed by Isaac Ezban
Written by Isaac Ezban
Starring Gustavo Sánchez Parra, Luis Alberti, Carmen Beato, Fernando Becerril, Humberto Busto, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Alberto Estrella, Pablo Guisa Koestinger, María Elena Olivares, Catalina Salas, Santiago Torres
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Eight people; a rambling homeless women, a man rushing to see his pregnant wife in the hospital, a spastic paranoid man, a pregnant woman, the ticket seller, the cleaning lady, and a mother with a very peculiar child, find themselves trapped in a bus station with a raging storm outside and no buses or taxis running anywhere. News reports on the radio state that the storm is freakishly occurring around the world and causing a worldwide panic. Outside, people are beginning to act irrationally and it seems to be seeping inside the bus station. The group think they are safe from the tempestuous happenings outside, but something truly odd and unusual is happening to them one by one, turning them against one another in a deathly manner.
The premise of THE SIMILARS is something that feels like it was ripped straight from an episode of the TWILIGHT ZONE and I can think of two episodes in particular that this film reminded me of, but telling you the names of them will reveal way too much than I want to about this absolutely riveting descent into oddity and madness. The choice to film in black and white also makes the film feel much more like a lost episode of that classic series rather than something fresh and new. Still, despite its similarity to one of my favorite TV series ever, it manages to feel both relevant and thrilling from start to finish thanks to director Isaac Ezban’s quirky yet unsettling way of filming this movie. The look of this film feels like a stage play, but much of the decisions to the simple set the actions take place in seem intentional to give the viewer a sense of unease. Diagonal squares in the ceiling and floors sandwich our actors into this space causing a sense of utter unease. Ezban’s camera swoops and twirls around this set as the action unfolds making every scene feel vibrant and tension filled.
Films like INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS are definitely going to come to mind as this film plays out. Every scene is steeped in paranoia and confusion as the madness begins to spread and those trapped in the bus station begin to form alliances and turn on one another in rapid succession. Without revealing too much, this is a film that at times feels rather ludicrous, but the performances are so good that you believe them. It makes you believe that, should the insanity that occurs in this film actually happen, you would probably react to this bizarre situation in the same way. It’s a film about lack of trust in your fellow man and how easily society can fall apart if something simply unexplainable happens.
Like TWILIGHT ZONE, THE SIMILARS is the type of science fiction that isn’t done anymore. It’s not laser swords and fantastic set pieces. It’s a sci fi that asks “What if?” and then sees how human nature reacts to the unnatural events unfolding. As a fan of TWILIGHT ZONE and old sci fi comics, I absolutely loved every tension-filled minute of this odd masterpiece of paranoia and horror. Ezban dazzled me last year with the movie ouroboros that was THE INCIDENT (reviewed here and inexplicably still not released yet). Here the writer/director proves that his first film wasn’t a fluke. Ezban is a fresh and talented new voice in cinema of the bizarre. His films seem to be both harkening back to sci fi stories of old, while reminding us why those stories were so good in the first place. All at once, THE SIMILARS is a throwback and a breath of fresh air in a genre that forgot that you don’t need a big budget to tackle big ideas.
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
Matt Adler is a writer/journalist, currently writing for AICN among other outlets. He’s been reading comics for more than 25 years, writing about them for more than 10, and spends way, way, too much time thinking about them, which means he really has no choice but to figure out how to make a living out of this stuff. He welcomes all feedback.
M.L. Miller goes by many names—Ambush Bug, Mark L. Miller, hey you jerk over there! He’s an original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
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