The Top 9 Unknown Sci-fi Films to look out for in 2009 (Blog)

Category: Gamer News | Posted by: DaisyMay
Article Date: January 11, 2009 | Publication: Iconocritic Movies | Author: Matt Peloquin
Publication/Article Link:Iconocritic Movies

I've been noticing a recent trend in this years popular genre and no I'm not talking about comic book films for once; I'm talking about the lost art of SCIENCE FICTION! I think the last truly amazing piece of science fiction I saw was Children of Men and since than all of the promising concepts that were on the horizon have been butchered by the likes of CG over substance Hollywood film makers (Jumper, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Eagle Eye, etc). Well starting next week at the Sundance film festival we'll be introduced to a few indie gems to keep our eyes on and some appear in the list below. I guess these harsh economic times have forced Hollywood to leave big budget science fiction behind for the time being which has caused our up and coming young film makers to use their dialogue and unique concepts to bring new worlds to life using creative (i.e. cheaper) filming methods. Though I wouldn't say that is a bad thing because some of our most beloved science fiction has come at a low cost and I wouldn't call Star Wars, Blade Runner, or Alien cheap by any means.

So here are my top 9 science fiction films to look out for in 2009 in honor of the sci fi film I'm looking forward to the most due to it's genre-bending nature which is of course the Burton Bekmambetov love child of 9 .


#9 - The Time Travelers Wife (2009)

Synopsis: "In The Time Traveler's Wife, Eric Bana plays Henry De Tamble, a Chicago librarian with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel involuntarily. Though he disappears often for long periods of time, he tries to build a romantic relationship with artist Clare Abshire, played by Rachel McAdams."

Why watch?: I know what you're thinking; finally a science fiction tale that I can bring my girlfriend to, right? I know how all you sci fi buffs are beating the women off with a stick like myself so this will be a great tale to ease her into sci fi slowly. The book the film is based off of was on the New York Times bestseller list and I've heard nothing but great reviews about it so I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this project. The only noticeable film credit to me for Schwentke would be Flightplan, but I was very pleasantly surprised by that film and if the man can keep my attention stuck in a plane for 90 minutes than I'm eager to see what he can do with a universe where literally any environment is possible. An exact release date hasn't been set yet, but the film is labeled as being "complete" on IMDB so it shouldn't be long into 2009 before we get to see the next great sci fi love story which I'm sure will stir up emotions I haven't felt since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.


#8 - Radio Free Albemuth (2009)

Synopsis: In this alternate history the corrupt US Present Ferris F Fremont (FFF for 666, the number of the beast) becomes chief executive in the sixties. The character is best described as an amalgam of Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon, who abrogates civil liberties and human rights through positing a conspiracy theory centered around a fictitious subversive organization known as Aramchek. In Addition to this, he is associated with a right-wing populist movement called "Friends of the American People (or FAPPERS). Ironically enough, the President's paranoia and opportunism lead to the establishment of a real resistance movement towards him. This movement is organized through radio broadcasts from an unknown alien satellite being named VALIS.

Why watch?: It's a shame that Phillip K Dick never got to see any of his stories or characters come to life on the silver screen as he died shortly before production began on Blade Runner, but he continues to remain alive in my heart and this posthumous tale of political corruption is right up my alley. As Romero is to the zombie genre Dick is to the sci fi genre and I've enjoyed many adaptations including Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Total Recall, Screamers, and even Paycheck (yea I said it). I'm sure that the film industry will continue to churn out Dick adaptations until the well has gone dry, but this latest one isn't to be forgotten so quickly. Starring Alanis Morsette in her second film appearance (following her role in Kevin Smith's Dogma) we are taken into an undercover world where corruption reigns and no one dare question the motives of the state. Dick's works so eloquently combine the use of predicted technology to point out the absurdities of the world we live in using a satirical environment where our minds are in the future, but once the film ends we immediately begin to see the staggering number of similarities in the police state we live in today. I also can't help but notice the similarities between the secret radio signal of the film known as VALIS and the modern day internet we use to share the information the main stream media doesn't want us to hear. Either way, if you're a fan of Dick, politics, or visions of the future than this film is for you.


#7 - The Box (November)

Synopsis: "Norma and Arthur Lewis, a suburban couple with a young child, receive a simple wooden box as a gift, which bears fatal and irrevocable consequences. A mysterious stranger, delivers the message that the box promises to bestow upon its owner $1 million with the press of a button. But, pressing this button will simultaneously cause the death of another human being somewhere in the world; someone they don't know. With just 24 hours to have the box in their possession, Norma and Arthur find themselves in the cross-hairs of a startling moral dilemma and must face the true nature of their humanity."

Why watch?: Hopefully, following Richard Kelly's latest debacle; Southland Tales we'll get to see the same cult film maker who we all fell in love with when we first saw Donnie Darko come through in his latest re-imagining of The Box. Taken from a short film made for the television series The Twilight Zone Kelly has expanded upon the idea and modernized the entire concept. It sounds like a great tale of greed and mercy and my only hesitation is towards the casting as it seems like the typical ensemble for some stupid Fox comedy where two women fight over getting married, but lets hope it doesn't turn out that way for everyone's sake. It looks like this years sci fi pictures may have some hope in reigniting the careers of some of the previously forgotten stars of the 90's.


#6 - Surrogates (September)

Synopsis: "In the year 2054, people are using surrogates (remote-controlled artificial bodies) to interact with each other. But someone is determined to return people to their old lives instead of living through proxies. Set in a futuristic world where humans live in isolation and interact through robots, a cop (Willis) is forced to leave his home for the first time in years in order to investigate the murders of others’ surrogates."

Why watch?: Just look at Bruce Willis in that picture above you to answer that question. The days of Willis kicking ass and taking names with witty one liners are running thin as he slips into old age (or maybe not if he follows Eastwood's career). So we should enjoy them while they last and Surrogates is definitely going to signify his return to sci fi like Live Free or Die Hard did for his return to action. Ever since Besson's The Fifth Element I've been begging for more Willis in similar roles as he's easily one of the most respected actors of my generation, but doesn't see too many sci fi scripts come across his desk. His attitude towards Hollywood and passion for the collaborative process of film is what makes even the most critically torn apart films enjoyable (check out Kevin Smith's new dvd Threevening with Kevin Smith if you're curious what I'm talking about). Hopefully Willis will be enough to carry this film because from the writers and directors credits it looks like he'll have to with such past work as Catwoman, Primeval, The Net 2.0, Them, and U-571; not the most promising of records and another example why the young film makers hold more value than the veterans. I'll keep hope for this though because the concept sounds like I Robot mixed with Minority Report and that's enough to keep me interested...throw Willis in the picture and I'm sold.


#5 - Franklyn (February)

Synopsis: "Director/screenwriter Gerald McMorrow makes his feature debut with this ambitious psychological sci-fi drama set between contemporary London and the dystopic Meanwhile City, where the separation between church and state has been obliterated to make way for a religion-dominated society. As atheist vigilante Jonathan Preest (Ryan Phillippe) prepares to seek revenge against Meanwhile City's powerful leader, privileged artist Emilia (Eva Green) finds her cynicism and depression accelerated by the difficult relationship she shares with her mother. Meanwhile, sensitive Milo (Sam Riley) attempts to recover from a recent heartache, just as deeply religious Peter (Bernard Hill) arrives in London to search for his missing son, a haunted Gulf War veteran. As the narrative shifts between the real and imaginary worlds, McMorrow explores the complex relationships between fantasy, faith, and love."

Why watch?: When I first heard of this film my mind was immediately drawn to the similarities between the mask of Franklyn and that of Rorschach from The Watchmen universe, but after getting past that and looking into the story more I became quite intrigued by the complex nature of the narrative. What seems like a mix of Dark City and V for Vendetta could turn out to be the cult sleeper hit of the year and could help launch Ryan Phillipe's career back into A list status. I'm extremely drawn to the religious story lines intertwined with a dystopian world where vigilantes serve to protect the righteous and punish the corrupt. It seems like a world which superficially seems black and white, but once you dive deeper you see that everything isn't so right or wrong, ethical or immoral, legal or illegal and that there's a gray area we all live in. This is a perfect example of a film maker working through his limitations and creating something quite special using very limited resources with a measly budget of just over 8 million USD (1 of which was donated by the UK film council) to shoot dozens of different time periods and locations. This film has the potential to be about so much more than what it seems on the outside and only a unique story teller such as new comer Gerald McMorrow has the power to give us a glimpse into the creative mind of such a fresh film maker.


#4 - Game (September)

Synopsis: A near-future action/thriller starring Gerard Butler (Kable) as the champion of an on-line game called "Slayers". Mind-control technology has taken society by storm and "Slayers" allows humans control other humans in mass-scale, multiplayer online game. With his every move tracked by millions, Kable's ultimate challenge becomes regaining his identity and launching an attack on the system that has imprisoned him.

Why watch?: From the film makers who gave us the kick in the ass the action genre needed comes Game and we can only hope that it's the kick in the ass that the sci fi genre needs as well. Written and directed by Mark Nevaldine and Brian Taylor who brought us the non stop thrill ride known as Crank comes a world where mind control allows for a more sadistic Saturday afternoon than even Michael Vick could imagine. What seems like a mix of Fight Club, Tron, and The Matrix could wow audiences and Lionsgate sure hopes so seeing as their recent bundle of bad movies has left them teetering on the edge of financial stability. This could be the film that makes or breaks Lionsgate and if anyone can make it happen it's two young film makers like Mark and Brian.



#3 - Hunter Prey (March)

Synopsis: "Hunter Prey centers around a crew of special forces commandos who must recapture an alien prisoner that has escaped after the military transport ship carrying it crashes on a desolate and hostile planet. As Collora himself explains, "there are subtle political and environmental overtones that I certainly don't hit anyone over the head with at all, but that will hopefully make you think about things like war, politics and current events, by presenting them in situations cinematically from a uniquely different perspective."

Why watch?: The first time I saw the above photo I was awe struck at the costume detail such a low budget film could have. It brought me back to the first time I saw the storm troopers and anything that can pay homage to that time in my life is a blessing to me. Sandy Collora will be a name to remember in the near future and I recognize his name from such art department film credits as Predator, Men in Black, Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Abyss. No, even though I'm quite the cinephile I don't know his name that well, but all those films listed previously should set off a light bulb in your head. Right! Stan Winston's studio worked on all those films and Collora has been an apprentice of his since he was 17 years old. With a back story like that we can be sure to expect a creative world in Hunter Prey full of the craziest costumes seen since the legend himself passed away; a personal hero of mine. The costumes will be great I'm sure, and lets just hope that Collora picked up a few tips along his special effects career running into such minds as James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas to name a few. Just another example of a young film maker with a statement to make in their budget friendly debut.


#2 - Timecrimes (February)

Synopsis: "Hector is an ordinary man who's moving to a new house with his wife. One evening, while he's looking through his binoculars, he sees a naked girl in the woods. He decides to go there just to find that same girl laying on a rock. Suddenly, a man with a pink bandage covering his face, stabs Hector in his arm with scissors. Then a chase starts, leading Hector to a time machine that brings him back nearly an hour in the past. The man in charge of the time machine explains to Hector (Hector 2) that he must not interfere with the other Hector (Hector 1) so he can go into the time machine again. Things complicate, and Hector 2 is hit by a car, injuring his face. To stop the bleeding, he covers his face with a bandage that turns into pink because of the blood. Then Hector 2 realizes he has to stab Hector 1 and chase him to the time machine in order to make things right."

Why watch?: It's nice to see another Mexican heritage director poke his head through the thick following for Cuaron and Del Toro for a change and Nacho Vigolondo has been the buzz in the West for a few months now. For once, the U.S. will be among the last of the world to finally see Timecrimes in theaters as it's having a lot of trouble picking up a distributor due to its complex story lines, but that doesn't make it any less valuable. Holding on RT with a strong 82% should tell you that it's a film to be reckoned with and a good believable time travel story is hard to come by in this day and age (the last really good one I saw was Primer and that got torn apart by the critics but I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who's into physics). I'm confident this film will show the ethical and everlasting effects of time travel like no other and in comparison to the romantic curiosity of traveling through time (as we'll see in The Time Traveler's Wife) this will depict the horrible darkness that can inadvertently follow a trip through the space time continuum.


#1 - Moon (January)

Synopsis: "Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is nearing the end of his contract with Lunar. He's been a faithful employee for 3 long years. His home has been Sarang, a moon base where he has spent his days alone, mining Helium 3. The precious gas holds the key to reversing the Earth's energy crisis. Isolated, determined and steadfast, Sam has followed the rulebook obediently and his time on the moon has been enlightening, but uneventful. The solitude has given him time to reflect on the mistakes of his past and work on his raging temper. He does his job mechanically, and spends most of his available time dreaming of his imminent return to Earth, to his wife, young daughter and an early retirement. But 2 weeks shy of his departure from Sarang, Sam starts seeing things, hearing things and feeling strange. And when a routine extraction goes horribly wrong, he discovers that Lunar have their own plans for replacing him and the new recruit is eerily familiar."

Why watch?: This film will be the quintessential film of 2009 and not only for science fiction. Not unlike Tom Hanks isolated role in Castaway or Will Smith in I Am Legend we'll be seeing the recent burst to stardom of Sam Rockwell in the most desolate of all environments...the Moon. Though some may argue with me as to why Rockwell was offered a villain role in the most highly anticipated sequel of 2010 I can say without doubt that it's due to his performance in this masterpiece. After catching Choke the other night I just don't think that a role like that would get him on any film executives or producers radar and the buzz leading up to the premiere of Moon at Sundance next week is phenomenal. So far all I've seen is pictures, but the plot sounds like the most unique concept I've ever heard of and I'm extremely anxious to see if they pulled off such an abnormal tale. Hopefully Rockwell's loveable presence will be enough to keep me indebted to his character and the script will throw enough curves to drive the suspense. I was skeptical of Castaway too and that became one of my all time favorites so if Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker can bring that great of a story to such an unfamiliar place as the Moon I'll be a very happy science fiction connoisseur. Moon is the final proof that young debut film makers can create a more enticing and unique story using off the shelf equipment and kindergarten budgets than an entire round table of Hollywood bureaucratslooking for a way to tailor the story within a demographic approved rating to their "target demographic".

Even though I'm sure that most of that list will never see the light of day I'm writing this to make these great films known and to support the younger generation of film makers who are struggling to be heard in these harsh economic times. So I plead of you as readers to seek these films out and during the course of the next year make it a point to see at least one from the above list...I guarantee that you won't be disappointed.