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Cross The Streams: World War Z, Doctor Who, And Blade Runner

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It’s hot, guys. Therefore, instead of sticking around trying to introduce this column like a genial professional, I’m going to stand under a cold shower while wearing ice overalls. Sorry for the visual, but this giant list of streaming releases should earn me some forgiveness.

Here’s what’s new in streaming science fiction!

The More Recent

world war zWorld War Z (Netflix Instant and Amazon Prime)
Brad Pitt, millions of CGI-enhanced zombies, and a complete disregard for Max Brooks’ novel of the same name. That, in a nutshell, is Marc Forster’s somewhat surprising blockbuster World War Z. I mean, you could also talk about all the production problems and the bloated budget, but it’s not necessary. It’s a pretty awesome action movie, though there’s not a lot going on around the action. If you really want your undead fix, you can watch the unrated version on Netflix.

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson Counts Down His Top Ten Sci-Fi Movies

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Live Long & ProsperNeil deGrasse Tyson is the closest thing modern science has to a rock star. To call him this generation’s Carl Sagan isn’t too far off. The Harvard-trained astrophysicist has a unique ability to take complex theoretical concepts and make them accessible to a wide audience, and be totally engaging at the same time. Hell, he even helped reboot Sagan’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which wraps up its 13-episode run this Sunday on various Fox channels.

Over the years, Tyson has also taken it upon himself to chime in on various movies that may not be using science in the proper way, or that have blatantly ignored the laws of physics. He absolutely eviscerated that scene J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness where the Enterprise hides underwater. So you have to assume that, given his penchant for pointing out scientific flaws in movies, he must watch a fair amount of them. Hero Complex took it upon themselves to get in touch with him and inquire about his tastes in the genre. What follows are Neil deGrasse Tyson’s top ten favorite sci-fi movies, in chronological order, with one honorable mention. You may find some of them surprising.

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Harrison Ford Officially Offered Rick Deckard Role In Blade Runner 2

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blade runnerIf you thought Star Wars: Episode VII‘s Han Solo was the only iconic character Harrison Ford would be reprising soon, you might be in for a big, aged surprise. In direct opposition to everyone saying that the esteemed actor (repli)can’t return to the Blade Runner universe as the formidable Rick Deckard, Alcon Entertainment has officially put out a public offer to Ford, saying the job is his if he’s up for it. This is truly how most jobs should get filled these days.

(Hey, Bill Nye. Want to work with Giant Freakin’ Robot?)

It would be one thing if Alcon were just testing the waters to see if Ford was interested before they went into creating Blade Runner 2, but the casting process is pretty much all that’s left for them to do before going into pre-production mode. In 2011, the studio acquired the film, TV, and ancillary rights to Ridley Scott’s classic 1982 thriller and immediately started working on a sensible follow-up with a goal of staying true to its predecessor. They signed up Blade Runner screenwriter Hampton Fancher, and eventually paired him (for some ungodly reason) with Green Lantern screenwriter Michael Green. Scott actually attached himself to direct almost as soon as the project got started. All they need now is a recognizable face or two.

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Harrison Ford Is Up For Blade Runner 2 If The Script Is Right

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BladeRunnerRidley Scott dumped Blade Runner in our laps in 1982, and the landscape of science fiction cinema has never been quite the same. You can still see the influence of the visual style and world building in movies and television today, and damn near every sci-fi film in between. Just look at Pacific Rim and Almost Human if you need examples from just the past year. In the 30 plus years that have followed the iconic release, talk of a sequel has popped up from time to time. Over the last few years there’s been a great deal of talk about Blade Runner 2, and one key piece of the puzzle, star Harrison Ford, is interested in reprising one of his most memorable roles.

During a Reddit Ask Me Anything over the weekend, Ford sounded receptive to the prospect of playing protagonist Rick Deckard, though not so gung-ho that he’ll sign on to any old movie just because it happens to be called Blade Runner 2. If this film does happen, and he does decide to take part, the project has to meet some very specific criteria.

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Blade Runner Fan Teaser And Gorgeous Custom-Made Action Figures

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It’s good to know that Philip K. Dick lived long enough to be excited about Blade Runner, even if he didn’t get to see it hit theaters. In fact, perhaps it’s better than it played out that way, since the film wasn’t well received during its initial release. But what would have been truly wonderful is if he’d survived another decade or so, long enough to see Blade Runner emerge as not just a cult classic thanks to home video, but a powerful creative benchmark whose influences have been felt in damn near every science fiction film since then. Now Blade Runner is widely regarded not only as the best film based on Dick’s work, but as one of the best science fiction films of all time. The propulsive, dialogue-free fan trailer up above highlights one reason behind its staying power: its amazing visual style.

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The Best Sci-Fi Movies Of All Time As Chosen By Scientists

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The internet loves a good list. Best of lists. Worst of lists. The top 10 lists about lists about lists. We’re not immune to the appeal: it’s an easily digestible way to examine a subject, and they can be a lot of fun to write. We’ve certainly made our share of lists here at GFR, and we cover science fiction enough that we hope we can share some insights you might not have thought of, or at least make you laugh at the occasional poop joke. Still, we may have just been outclassed in the area of science fiction-related lists, because a group of scientists and engineers have gathered together and revealed their picks for the 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time. (Of all time!)

The Best Sci-Fi Movies According To Scientists

war of the worlds poster
10. War of the Worlds (1953)

starwars
9. Star Wars (1977)

bladerunner
8. Blade Runner (1982)

jurassicpark
7. Jurassic Park (1993)

walle
6. WALL-E (2008)

fantastic-voyage
5. Fantastic Voyage (1966)

alien
4. Alien (1979)

brazil
3. Brazil (1985)

matrix
2. The Matrix (1999)

2001
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey

All in all it’s a solid line-up, with a few surprises. I wouldn’t have expected Fantastic Voyage to make the cut, but then again it’s been ages since I’ve seen it so maybe my memories of it have degraded. I do have to call shenanigans on Blade Runner being that far down the list though. In my opinion it ought to be at least neck-in-neck with Alien, and there’s no way both of those films should be below The Matrix. For that matter, WALL-E seems unnaturally high compared to Blade Runner and Star Wars. Then again, this isn’t a “most influential” list, so it’s all up for debate.

Here’s what Popular Mechanics’ brain-trust of scientific experts had to say about Blade Runner, perhaps my very favorite science fiction movie of all time:

Humanlike robots can be a good thing. But in this sci-fi classic, androids called replicants get too lifelike for comfort and are banished to space colonies. If they escape and return to Earth, special cops, or blade runners, who can tell humans from replicants, hunt them down and neutralize them. Our experts give the film high marks, in part, for its humanization of advanced robots. ‘Blade Runner has probably done more to ready the world for artificial life than [any other film],’ says Daniel Novy, a scientist at MIT’s Media Lab. ‘Inspiration is important, even at the expense of some accuracy.’

Wait a minute, Mr. Novy. Are you telling me that Blade Runner’s replicants aren’t exactly what we can expect within the next few decades? I bet you’re just pissed that Batty came up with that awesome “Tears in rain” speech and you didn’t. (No wait, that’s me that feels that way.)

And what about Fantastic Voyage, the dark horse I didn’t expect? We may not be on the verge of shrinking humans down and injecting them into our bodies, but that’s just a thematic predecessor to the idea of nanotech. Here’s Popular Mechanics again:

A miniature spacecraft and crew are injected into a comatose scientist to remove a life-threatening blood clot, so that he can survive to share vital secrets. The movie’s lavishly depicted workings of the human body garnered two Academy Awards and three additional nominations — and got James Giordano thinking about medicine at the tiniest scale. Now a professor of neuroscience at Georgetown University, Giordano examines the mechanics of the brain’s response to pain. ‘The film has been a lifelong inspiration for me to work on developing neurotechnology,’ he says. David Carroll, director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest University, says that the movie’s minuscule technology, although physically impossible, is echoed in his current work. ‘It’s exactly what we are working on: Injecting nanobots that find a cancerous tumor, tell us when they have found it, and destroy it,’ he says. Now that’s fantastic.

Another pick that seems like it should be higher on the list, here’s the entry for Ridley Scott’s classic, massively influential Alien (which thankfully hasn’t been damaged by retroactive association with Prometheus):

Sigourney Weaver proved that a woman can be a bad-ass sci-fi action hero. But our experts saw the gooey, exoskeletal villain — which uses living humans as hosts for its nasty progeny — as a pioneer of fictional biology. ‘The Alien franchise bases its xenomorph life cycle on parasitic wasps on Earth,’ says Terry Johnson, a bioengineering researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. ‘It’s a pleasure to see a film that acknowledges just how weird life can be.’

As long as nobody brings up the damned albino critter from Alien: Resurrection. Or Alien: Resurrection at all, for that matter.

You can read the rest of the list entries over at Popular Mechanics. What do you think of their picks?