gattacaGattaca, directed by Andre Niccol, 1997

This is one of my favorite sci-fi films from the '90s. I revisit it every year just to remind myself that Hollywood was once capable of producing smart, elegant, and quiet sci-fi thrillers that speak to the mind and to the heart.

Gattaca is set in a futuristic world where pre-birth genetic modification and perfection is the norm. Those not lucky enough to be shaped and molded into superstars before birth live on the fringes of society and are treated like second class citizens. Ethan Hawke plays Vincent, a regular guy who poses as one of the privileged to fulfill his dream of going into space.

There's a great cautionary tale and murder mystery plot here, and the film features excellent work by Hawke, Jude Law, Ernest Borgnine, Uma Thurman and Alan Arkin. Tony Shalhoub's brief but memorable appearance as a black market identity dealer is almost good enough to recommend the film on its own. strong>

robot storiesRobot Stories, directed by Greg Pak, 2003

Director/comic book writer Greg Pak's sci-fi anthology film features four kooky stories about people living with robots. As a fan of Pak's comic book work and, of course, a lover of all things robot, I've been meaning to watch this flick for a quite a while, but I never got around to picking it up until now.

It's a mostly hit-and-miss collection with two of the more emotional shorts rising far above the two quirkier stories in between. The first story features a fledgling mother trying to bond with her temporary robot baby. This one reminded me of that creepy episode of 'The Outer Limits' with the robot boy terrorizing the old man, but with a tender twist.

One of the best stories doesn't have much of a sci-fi bent at all. It's about a distressed mother who starts rebuilding her comatose son's toy robot collection. I loved the performances and spirit of this short. I also loved the final story about a man unwilling to enter a Matrix-esque haven developed so that people's minds could live forever.

stargate atlantisStargate Atlantis: The Complete Series Collection

For my money, Stargate Atlantis is the best and most watchable series in the Stargate TV franchise. Sure, it's a pretty goofy show that steals most of its plots from other better sci-fi series and movies. But, hey, gimme a break. It's a fun show. Sometimes I just wanna slip into a couch potato coma and do nothing but watch the Atlantis team blast weird aliens and fly into cool looking space battles.

What really pulls this thing together is the cast, led by sarcastic hero Joe Flanigan as Col. Sheppard and geek-for-hire David Hewlett as know-it-all Rodney McKay. They're having a great time traveling through the Stargate, getting into trouble on strange new worlds (which all usually look like Canada forest country), and putting a spin on classic sc-fi TV tropes.
categories Features, Sci-Fi