Friday, May 9, 2014

The best Sci-Fi movies streaming on Netflix? Close Encounters and The Fifth Element - says me.

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Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one of the greatest movies ever made.

            Yes it may be sci-fi but it’s more than that, the struggle that Roy goes through is more than just an annoying image implanted in his mind that he has to understand and then find. We watch as he struggles to keep his family together while at the same time following something that he believes is important but may cost him his family. It’s his struggle to accept that he can’t have both and we watch while he chooses one over the other.

            We never know the history of Barry (the abducted boy) and his parents; he lives with his mom, but where’s the dad? We never know the history of Roy’s family after they leave the house, were the children changed and traumatized by the breakdown of their dad, do they search for him or do they not care? These are the sort of things the movie made me think about and want to know, while at the same time – knowing full well I’d never know the answers to any of these questions – being okay with not knowing, because after all, there are bigger things going on than any of that. We’re not just discovering aliens; we’re making contact, and not a cheesy anti-climactic thing like the movie Contact, and not an action filled attack like Independence Day. No, this is contact with aliens on what one would assume is a rather realistic take on the event. Hidden from the public to the best of the government’s abilities, and all of it taken with the opinion that these guys are all right, they’re giving us back stuff we’ve lost (or had taken from us, actually), they’re singing to us, and though they may leave behind a few wrecked cars and some sunburns, all in all these aliens seem to be pretty classy guys. They wanna meet behind Devil’s Tower, hell, let’s build a giant landing strip for them (do they know what it is?), I mean, they’ll probably need it, it’s not like they’re just gonna lower themselves out of the sky in a massive spaceship that’s nearly twice the size of the mountain we’re setting up behind. It’s all good guys, all are welcome!

            It’s the little things about Close Encounters that makes me love the movie. The scene where Roy and his wife Ronnie are fighting, and the shot of the kids seeing it all, is powerful but the best is when the son starts slamming the door and yelling at his dad how he hates him, just over and over again, and the boy looks like he truly does. Richard Dreyfuss is a great actor, all of the adults are, as well as the little boy Barry, but the Neary kids who are not important to the plot are amazing! They may not be important to the story but you can just tell that time and effort has been put in to make them seem real, whether it be working on homework or just eating dinner, all of it so small but important! Movies now-a-days don’t take the time to make the background people important like they should, they may not be center to the plot but the main character who interacts with them is and us watching the movie get to know the main character – not by what we’re told about him, but what we’re shown – by how they interact with other people.

            The interaction of course is still depending on those involved, are they good actors? Is the direction they’re given any good? All of it – for the entire movie – is yes when it comes to Close Encounters. It is a bonus to those watching the movies that we are drawn close to the main characters as well as those in the background so that in the end, and we’re shown what happens to the main characters involved, we find ourselves wondering about the minor characters – but we’re not sure why. Roy Neary is lifted up into space on a space ship and at the end I found myself thinking about his kids, his wife, and not just them, all the people we’ve met throughout the movie, Barry and his mom, and everyone else – they have all become main characters, though not directly involved with the aliens – they now have lives.

            Close Encounters is one movie I wish they’d make a sequel to but have it simply be about what happened to the Neary family after their father leaves – that’s what I want to see, a family whose father went crazy and then disappeared and how it affected them all, a family drama called Close Encounters.

            Whoever my six degrees from Steven Spielberg are, please let him know I’m for hire – or let him know I’ll do it for free if he watches and reviews Wrong Cops for me.

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Then we have The Fifth Element.

            Holy crap this movie is a fun mess that kind of reminds me of the time my son ate a bunch of crayons then puked them up, a mixture of wonderment and revulsion filled my head and heart when I looked at the pile of regurgitation.

            I must admit that when I saw this movie in the theatres I loved it, it was exactly the kind of chaos that I wasn’t used to seeing from movies, the editing was fast, the story was thin and I knew it but I didn’t care because at the time I was more into how it all looked, and it all looked great – and I think it still does.

            The Fifth Element, with its special effects and set designs, were stronger than any of the acting or story going on in the movie. It’s never good to lose your characters to the scenery, but if you’re gonna lose them somewhere I guess the effects and sets are better than an aimless story. There’s really no way of saying that The Fifth Element is anything other than a special effects movie, the story ain’t really the main draw, nor the characters or even the acting (although a bad movie with Gary Oldman in it is still better than a bad movie without Gary Oldman), it’s the effects. You don’t go see a movie where Bruce Willis is the good guy with a side kick young girl and the bad guy is Gary Oldman, and wonder who’s gonna win and who’s gonna lose. No, you pretty much know full on how things are gonna play out before the movie even starts.
            Of course the movie has other strong points. The story, though flimsy, moves fast and the movie is edited in a way that (through-out all my years of watching a movie, seeing this movie for the first time was the first time I have ever taken note of how the scenes were cut together) made me appreciate the editing for the movie.

            The fighting scenes were good, though nothing exceptionally special except for the climactic fight on the cruise ship that was pretty cool and big and felt like the final loop on a rollercoaster. I watched this movie this time with my wife and kids, my wife is a huge – HUGE – Gary Oldman fan, so she’d seen the movie before, but it had been long enough that watching it again seemed appealing. After the big fight she checked out, which I couldn’t blame her, the movie went on for a bit too long, but it’s still a fun ride. My kids really liked it, they thought it was funny, and my boy, who usually needs constant action, had his attention kept by the movie and the way it moved fast and had plenty of humor and action sprinkled throughout.

            Of course Ruby Rhod steals the show anytime he’s on the screen. Seriously, what happened to Chris Tucker, that guy was hilarious! My kids loved him and when he’s introduced it’s like your suddenly starting a whole new movie – not a different movie, because the frenetic comic book feel is still there, but you’re suddenly shown a guy with so much energy that it’s contagious and you don’t feel like you’ve been watching a movie for an hour or so. Instead, you feel like you just started it. I can’t say the movie would have been helped by Ruby Rhod being introduced earlier, because I could easily see the guy becoming annoying. Still, if the movie could have managed a way to keep the energy up throughout the movie, the way it does when Chris Tucker is on the screen, it would have been amazing.

            The main thing the movie needed, a movie about love saving the world, was heart. The Fifth Element had good writing, fine acting, great effects and sets, a good idea for the story, but it just didn’t have the heart that a movie like Close Encounters had. Sure the effects of The Fifth Element were great to look at, but so were the effects in Close Encounters. The difference being that the majority of Close Encounter effects were the pay off – the alien ship was the whole thing everything in the movie was driving towards, and what did they have to do until the ship showed up? Nothing much, just tell a story is all. The Fifth Element on the other hand, is about having fun, it’s about the journey and not the destination.

            These are two sci-fi movies that could not be any further apart, but are still good in their own way, and they help show the vast openness of the sci-fi genre; a sci-fi story can be full on fun science fiction, while another sci-fi story can be a powerful and emotional drama about life. Is it the genre that opens itself up for such stories or is it the storytellers who see the potential and use it?

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