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5 Crazy Sci-Fi Movies That Make A Perfect Jupiter Ascending Double Feature

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Jupiter AscendingThe Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending finally opens wide this weekend after being pushed back and delayed multiple times. It’s a movie you’re either going to love or hate—it premiered at Sundance recently and was brutalized—but either way, it’s a wingnut spectacle to behold. It’s like a pulpy, B-grade sci-fi flick from a bygone era, only with a huge budget and no restrictions, which is both an asset and a curse.

As filmmakers, the brother/sister duo wear their influences on their sleeves. There are obvious inspirations, like Star Wars, but you might references or nods any number of other, more obscure films. With that in mind, we thought we’d go ahead and make a list of some of the stranger flicks that might make a nice double feature with Jupiter Ascending, for a variety of reasons. For the most part, this is really a list of movies that, as I watched, I exclaimed loudly (at least in my own head, that would be rude to do in a theater), “hey, that’s just like movie X.”

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Scientists Reveal Their Favorite Works Of Science Fiction

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Here at GFR we cover anything that fits under the umbrella of our twin loves: science and science fiction. And just as the bleeding edge of our scientific understanding is forever pushing the boundaries of our science fiction, SF is itself inspiring fans to take transform their love of starships, robots, and the like into careers in real scientific fields. So what are some of the science fiction movies, shows, and books that real-life scientists love best? The Huffington Post recently asked a handful of scientists precisely that.

PermutationCityDr. Max Tegmark is a cosmologist and physics professor at MIT, and the scientific director of the Foundational Questions Institute, which provides grants to “catalyze, support, and disseminate research on questions at the foundations of physics and cosmology.” Tegmark cites Greg Egan’s 1994 science fiction novel Permutation City as his favorite, explaining that Egan’s “explorations of the ultimate nature of reality blew my mind and inspired my own research.”

Dr. Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, and the author of books including The Particle at the End of the Universe and From Eternity to Here. He lists another semi-obscure work you might want to add to your Kindle: Robert L. Forward’s Dragon’s Egg. Carroll says, “It’s a story about life on the surface of a neutron star, which would ordinarily be considered completely outlandish. A good reminder that ‘life’ might take on very different forms than we ordinarily imagine. Here’s the Dragon’s Egg synopsis from Amazon:

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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?

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Four Sci-Fi Movies You Might Not Remember Were Set During Christmas

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XmasElbaSince their inception, movies have loved to use holidays as a backdrop to the stories they tell. It makes sense. Celebrated by large swathes of the population, their inclusion lends an air of commonality to the proceedings, a sense that the people on screen are not so different from you the viewer. Each holiday comes with its own set of easily recognizable tropes, and many bring with them their own set of complications and problems to add layers to a narrative. How many times have we watched a family gathering set on Thanksgiving, where people not usually in the same room with one another come to blows, real or metaphorical, when forced into close proximity?

Christmas, being the biggest kid on the holiday block, has easily amassed the greatest number of holiday-themed movies, and science fiction is not immune from taking part in the cinematic festivities. In honor of December 25 rolling around once again, we decided to put together a collection of some of our favorite sc-fi you might not remember unfolded during this festive season. Did we miss any of your favorite sci-fi holiday gems?

READ ON

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