Past Features

Turning Off The TV #19: The Island

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The film this week is: The Island.

The Island

A man goes on the run after he discovers that he is actually a “harvestable being”, and is being kept as a source of replacement parts, along with others, in a Utopian facility.

I first watched this film in Year 10 Biology at school, when we were studying cloning. Which obviously means it’s totally scientifically accurate and highly academic. Yeah. In reality it’s an action packed and explosive (well it is directed by Michael Bay…) film about two people who discover their lives are a complete lie. The utopian community they believe they live in is in fact a medical facility to house clones – clones harvested for organs when their ‘owners’ are ill. It may not be the best film out there, but it’s always been one I’ve really enjoyed. Plus it has Sean Bean!

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a similar tale to The Island – narrated by Kathy and following the lives of her and two of her friends, the teenagers discover that their ‘special school’ is in fact a home for people created purely for organ harvesting. It’s a bleak tale, and has none of the flashiness and explosions of The Island, which makes it even more heart-breaking. Although I didn’t find it as enjoyable a read as I expected, I would definitely recommend it for fans of The Island because of the very similar subject matter. It has also been adapted into a film version, with Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield.

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Although it doesn’t feature human clones in the same way as The Island, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? always reminds me of it, giving off the same sort of bleak and desolate vibe. In this world, androids have become so advanced that it is almost impossible to tell them apart from humans – one of the only ways is to submit the suspected android to something called the ‘Voight-Kampff test’, which tests empathy and reaction times. Whilst the androids may not be human beings, they are shown as being incredibly close – and are persecuted and controlled for this very reason. This book has also been adapted into a film, known as Blade Runner.

Unwind (Unwind Dystology #1) by Neal Schusterman

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Apart from the cover of Unwind by Neal Schusterman unfortunately reminding me of The Human Centipede, it sounds like an interesting premise. In this dystopia, parents have so much control over their children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen that they can choose to donate their children’s organs to those in need. This is known as unwinding, and technically keeps the child alive, making it a very extreme form of punishment for a misbehaving teenager…

Are you a fan of The Island? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any other TV shows or films you’d like me to cover?

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Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: My Favourite Sci-Fi Films

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I touched briefly on my favourite sci-fi films in my introduction post, but I’d like to go into a little more detail this time. To start with, I have to admit that apart from the occasional film, most of my science fiction film viewing has been of more recent releases. I’m more than happy to take recommendations of any classics I may have missed. You’re more than welcome to join in and I’ve added an InLinkz widget at the bottom of the post, where you can share your own favourites! Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
 
And now, in no particular order, my top ten sci-fi films, plus some honourable mentions – because I’m rubbish at deciding…

“The space vessel Nostromo and its crew receive a distress call from an alien planet. After searching for survivors, they head back home only to realize that a deadly alien life form has joined them.”

1. Alien – I would be completely amazed if any of you have never heard of this one! It’s a science fiction classic and inspired the ‘survival film’ genre. The entire film is set on the Nostromo, making the viewer feel very claustrophobic at times – especially when the alien is loose on the ship. With a whole bevy of shocks, including the infamous chest-burster scene, this is one film never to be forgotten.

“A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.”

2. Prometheus – the divisive prequel to the Alien movies, released last year, I absolutely loved this one despite its cheesiness and rather stupid characters (RUN TO THE SIDE YOU SILLY WOMAN!). The presentation of the film is brilliant – dark and mysterious, with flashes of blue and silver finishing up the colour scheme, and the original score by Marc Streitenfeld is perfect. Not to mention that Michael Fassbender does a fantastic job as David. I read in this month’s Empire magazine that there will be a Prometheus 2, so I’m pretty pumped for that!

“A paraplegic Marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home.”

3. Avatar – if you haven’t heard of James Cameron’s Avatar, then you must have been living under a rock for the past couple of years. When it was released there was a lot of fuss over it, as it was shot through motion capture for the majority, came out in 3D (first 3D film I saw in the cinema) and used many new cinematic advances. When I first saw it I completely fell in love with Pandora – anyone want to move there with me? Whilst the story is a bit hit and miss in places, I don’t care because whilst watching it I just sit there soaking in the beautiful sights and sounds (thank you Mr. James Horner for the soundtrack).

“As Earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival.”

4. War of the Worlds – yes, I actually like the 2005 adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic! I love the book, and think this puts quite a nice modern spin on it, transporting the action from London to the US (I forget where it starts but I know it ends in Boston). The utter helplessness of the human race against the tripods is both terrifying and fascinating, and the sounds that the tripods make in this film could haunt my nightmares!

“In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by transporting back Joe’s future self.”

5. Looper – two words: time travel. The explanation for time travel in this film is passed over, to make way for the consequences of altering the past, and how even small decisions can change the path you take, and somehow the explanation doesn’t really seem necessary. I thought this film was really clever, and it’s not particularly a ‘big scale’ science fiction film – as in the only futuristic technology we really see is the aspect of time travel, although telekinesis does come into it. It’s very gritty and delves more into character development than you might expect.

“A team of astronauts are sent to re-ignite the dying sun 50 years into the future.”

6. Sunshine – a highly underrated film that I absolutely love. Maybe there’s something wrong with me that I enjoy all these ‘survival’ type films so much: anywhere where small groups of people trapped in an enclosed are threatened by some sort of alien/mysterious force. There’s also a Doctor Who episode that really reminds me of this film – 42. So if you enjoyed that episode, give this wonderful film a shot!

“During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.”

7. Jurassic Park – I’m trying to work out when I first saw this film: it was released when I was three, and I think I must have been six or seven when I saw it. And ever since then, it has remained one of my favourites (one of my big ‘childhood three’ which also includes Jumanji and Mrs Doubtfire). I was one of those kids who loved dinosaurs and I collected gemstones and fossils, I even wanted to be a paleontologist for a while. I think this is what  lead me onto a love for history, and eventually archaeology, even though archaeology and paleontology are very different fields – don’t ever ask an archaeologist what dinosaurs we’ve dug up recently. Ever. There have been three films in the series so far, and they’re currently working on number four, for release in 2015. And if you haven’t read the book by Michael Crichton – do it.

“A man goes on the run after he discovers that he is actually a “harvestable being”, and is being kept as a source of replacement parts, along with others, in a utopian facility.”

8. The Island – okay, so it wasn’t received to great critical acclaim, and it’s a Michael Bay movie which means that anything that can explode explodes. And anything that can’t. Actually everything explodes. But still, I really enjoy this film and think it’s good fun, especially with Sean Bean playing the villain (of course). I first saw it in year 10 biology class, where we were studying cloning! It may not be a masterpiece but I have a soft spot for this film.

“In 1962, the United States government enlists the help of mutants with superhuman abilities to stop a malicious dictator who is determined to start World War III.”

9. X-Men: First Class – firstly, I am sorry for covering your lovely face, Mr McAvoy. This is my favourite of the X-Men films, and as I discussed yesterday I’m really excited for the sequel next year. This one focuses a lot on the relationship between Erik and Charles, so ends up being a lot more centered on character development than the previous films. It also has a pretty great 1960s themed soundtrack, and plays cleverly on real events.

 
“Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to compete.”
 
10. The Hunger Games – I sped my way through all three books in this series, was so excited for the film when it came out and was not disappointed. The source material is quite violent, and I think they did really well at portraying that without making it an 18/R-rated film. I’m excited for the second film, Catching Fire, which looks to be even darker and greatly build upon the world of Panem.
 
What do you mean I haven’t included Star Wars?? Well, I wanted to but I think I will nominate that as my favourite science fiction film series. I love them all, minus Attack of the Clones which was just boring. Yes, even The Phantom Menace – that was the first one I saw in the cinema and it brings back warm, fuzzy memories. I remember my dad borrowing the original films on VHS from one of our neighbours, then sitting me and my sisters down to watch them all when I was about seven or eight years old. 
 
Honourable mentions also go to TRON: Legacy – although I think it’s a visually stunning film with a brilliant soundtrack it does tend to drag a bit, and Blade Runner – great film, but I actually preferred the book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.
 

What are your favourite science fiction films? Do you have any recommendations for me?

 

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Sci-Fi Sounds

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In the past I’ve posted a couple of themed playlists on the blog, and shared my reading soundtrack. I thought it would be fun to do a similar thing for Sci-Fi Month, and share my favourite science fiction sounds.

The playlist is available to follow on Spotify, and the tracks are listed below.

Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

  • Life by Harry Gregson-Williams, from Prometheus– this is the song that plays when Shaw realises what she and the team have found, something every space explorer dreams of – extra-terrestrial life.
  • Pulstar by Vangelis – a lot of his music has a sci-fi vibe but I really love this one.
  • Icarus by Michael McCann, from Deus Ex: Human Revolution – a haunting theme song from a game based around a rather eerie prospect
  • I Am The Doctor by Murray Gold, from Doctor Who: Series 5 – apart from the main theme, this song really rounds up the series for me. It reminds me of all those moments where the Doctor and his companions seem truly stuck – and then the Doctor does something brilliant and saves the day.
  • Suicide Mission by Jack Wall, from Mass Effect 2 – with some definite sci-fi elements, this song brings back memories from a very emotional and tense part of the game.
  • Das Malefitz by Faunts, from Mass Effect 3 – the ending credits song for Mass Effect 3, this song encaptures the final moments of my favourite game series ever.
  • StarWaves by M83, from Oblivion – I have Sarah J. Maas to thank for this! When I met her I told her that my reading playlist is basically the same as her writing playlist (soundtracks), and she recommended this one.
  • End Theme by Vangelis, from Blade Runner – sadly this one is a cover, because the original isn’t on Spotify.
  • Prologue by John Williams, from War of the Worlds– wonderfully creepy and foreboding, and complete with Morgan Freeman reading that amazing quotation from the original H.G. Wells novel (albeit slightly updated for the modern age).
  • Across the Stars (Love Theme) by John Williams, from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – even though it’s from my least favourite Star Wars movie, the love theme of Anakin and Amidala/Padme is just wonderful.
  • Duel of the Fates by John Williams, from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – because that is one EPIC duel.
  • The Bioluminescence of the Night by James Horner, from Avatar – because I wish I lived on Pandora.
  • Derezzed by Daft Punk, from Tron: Legacy – I don’t care what people say, I kind of loved Tron: Legacy. But you know what I loved more than the film? Daft Punk’s soundtrack for it.
  • Main Title by James Horner, from Aliens – you know what’s coming… I scream at the people in that film when they decide to leave the spaceship. NO!
  • I Am Legend – Epilogue by James Newton Howard, from I Am Legend – a post-traumatic events song that gives you hope.
  • Adagio in D Minor by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, from Sunshine – this is from a rather underrated sci-fi film, and the soundtrack has just the right mix of creepy and beautiful.
  • Sector 6 by Steve Jablonsky, from The Island – if you haven’t seen The Island, then watch it. It’s about cloning, and stars Sean Bean, Ewan McGregor and Scarlet Johanssen.
  • Science is Fun by Mike Morasky, from Portal 2 – this whole soundtrack is insane, just like the game, but this song definitely has a frantic feel to it.

What do you think of my playlist? I tried to avoid main themes – what would you put in your own Sci-Fi Sounds playlist?