Neuroethics confronts us with profound questions about human existence: What does it mean to be human? To be the same person over time? What does it mean to be normal? What is the good life? Can we tell illusion from reality? What makes an experience or a memory authentic? Are we really no more than our brains? Are we responsible for our actions if they are all physically caused?
While science and philosophy offer the most rigorous approaches to these questions, the literary imagination is an important source of insight as well. Indeed, it is not uncommon for the rigorous approaches to rely, at certain junctures in their arguments, on distant extrapolations of current trends or assertions about which counterfactuals are or are not plausible. As long as we are conjuring imaginary scenarios – for example, by projecting that a mood-enhanced population might become emotionally shallow, or that humans with sufficiently augmented cyborg brains might consider themselves a new species – we might as well draw upon the extrapolations and counterfactuals created by real authors of fiction! The short stories, novels and films listed here contain interesting insights on the many ways in which our growing understanding of the brain, and our advancing ability to manipulate it, could alter the future of humanity.
When brain modification has been featured in books and film, the scenarios have generally been dystopian. Beginning with Aldous Huxley’s (1932) Brave New World, in which a totalitarian state controls its citizens by manipulating brain development and brain chemistry, through the current genres of Cyberpunk (e.g., the Matrix) and Biopunk (e.g., Gattaca), we have seen mainly the dark side of neurotechnology. Judging from fictional portrayals, the idea of neurotechnology seems much more threatening than the idea of space travel, an earlier sci fi mainstay. This is not all that surprising. Our brains are us. Exile me to another star system and my life may be rough, but reprogram my brain and I’m not even sure whose life it is.
Of course, “yesterday’s science fiction is today’s science fact” is a cliché, and often wrong to boot. Most of the scenarios envisioned by science fiction authors have never eventuated, often for good reasons involving physical laws that cannot be violated! But some imagined technologies have been realized many decades after their appearance in a work of science fiction, and this teaches us something: What is pure fiction at one point in time – unrealistic, far out, silly – can be reality a generation or two later. Some of the readers of this website were alive when the idea of a “test tube baby” was so far beyond the capabilities of medicine as to be purely science fiction. Other readers were conceived by in vitro fertilization.
So, explore the books and movies listed here for the enjoyment they offer as well as the insights they may contain, and please contact us with additional suggestions for inclusion!
The films listed here treat neuroethical issues such as mind control, brain enhancement, personal identity after brain alteration, brain-machine hybrids, and artificial mind/brains. Those that engage these issues particularly insightfully are marked with a "+". Unless otherwise noted, movie descriptions are directly from imdb.com or blockbusteronline.com.
+2001: A Space Odyssey
The 6th Day
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
+A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
All of Me
A Bird in the Head
A Scanner Darkly
Black Friday (AKA Friday the Thirteenth)
Blade Runner: The Director's Cut
The Brain from Planet Arous
Brain of Blood
Charlie Chan in Honolulu
+A Clockwork Orange
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes
Death Race 2000
Deep Blue Sea
+Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Eve, The Wild Woman
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
+Ghost in the Shell
I Come in Peace
The Island of Dr. Moreau
Jurassic Park III
Love Potion #9
The Man With Two Brains
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
+The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
Man's Best Friend
The Matrix Reloaded
The Matrix Revolutions
Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis
Star Trek III: The Search of Spock
+The Terminal Man
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
The Wild Child (L'Enfant Sauvage)
The World is Not Enough
NOVELS AND STORY COLLECTIONS
Like the films listed above, these books also explore neuroethical issues by means of fiction. They extrapolate beyond our current-day neurotechnolgy to envision human life with more effective mind-altering drugs and devices and more realistic artificial intelligence. By so doing, they offer insights into what it means to be human, and how artificial and transhuman beings might shape economics, politics, moral values and personal experience. Unless otherwise noted, book descriptions are directly from barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.
Acceptable Risk, by Robin Cook
Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan
Beggars in Spain, by Nancy Kress
Brain Storm, by Richard Dooling
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner), by Philip K. Dick
The Futurological Congress, by Stanislaw Lem
Galatea 2.2, by Richard Powers
Golden Age, by John C. Wright
Grey Matter, by Gary Braver
Gridlinked, by Neal Asher
Interface, by Neal Stephenson & J. Frederick George
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
The Manchurian Candidate, by Richard Condon
Mindscan, by Robert J. Sawyer
Neuromancer, by William Gibson
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Terminal Man, by Michael Crichton
The Thanatos Syndrome, by Walter Percy
+2001: A Space Odyssey [back to top]
When the world is ruled by apes, one particular group discovers a mysterious rectangular monolith near their home, which imparts upon them the knowledge of tool use, and enables them to evolve into men. In the year 2001, a similar monolith is discovered on the moon, and is determined to have come from an area near Jupiter. Astronaut David Bowman, along with four companions, sets off for Jupiter on a spaceship controlled by HAL 9000, a revolutionary computer system that is every bit mankind's equal, and perhaps his superior. When HAL endangers the crew's lives for the sake of the mission, Bowman will have to first overcome the computer, then travel to the birthplace of the monolith, where whatever alien intelligence controls them decides that humanity is ready to take the next evolutionary step...
The 6th Day [back to top]
In this science-fiction thriller set in the very near future, DNA cloning has been perfected and has become an accepted part of everyday life -- cattle and fish are cloned for sale at the market, genetically engineered fruit and vegetables are found in most family's kitchens (nacho-flavored bananas, anyone?), and if your pet dies, you can even order a cloned replacement. But laws have been passed that strictly forbid the cloning of human beings. However, helicopter pilot Adam Gibson (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who believes people should live and die the old-fashioned way, discovers that someone has been violating these regulations. After Adam luckily avoids being on a copter that crashes, he comes home to discover someone has duplicated him. Now Adam is on a mission to find out who cloned him and why, as he struggles to take back his life from a scientifically created impostor, his boss Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn), and a pair of thugs (Sarah Wynter and Rod Rowland) who have been cloned into near-indestructibility. The 6th Day also stars Robert Duvall as cloning expert Griffin Weir, Michael Rooker as Drucker's right-hand man Robert Marshall, and Michael Rapaport as Adam's partner, Hank Morgan. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein [back to top]
The world of freight handlers Wilbur Grey and Chick Young is turned upside down when the remains of Frankenstein's monster and Dracula arrive from Europe to be used in a house of horrors. Dracula awakens and escapes with the weakened monster, who he plans to re-energize with a new brain. Larry Talbot (the Wolfman) arrives from London in an attempt to thwart Dracula. Dracula's reluctant aide is the beautiful Dr. Sandra Mornay. Her reluctance is dispatched by Dracula's bite. Dracula and Sandra abduct Wilbur for his brain and recharge the monster in preparation for the operation. Chick and Talbot attempt to find and free Wilbur, but when the full moon rises all hell breaks loose with the Wolfman, Dracula, and Frankenstein all running rampant.
+A.I.: Artificial Intelligence [back to top]
Director Steven Spielberg's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence was not only a box-office disappointment, it also did something that his previous films have rarely or never done -- it alienated the audience and divided the critics. Perhaps with the release of the film onto DVD, Spielberg's misunderstood science fiction fairy tale will find a more receptive audience. Dreamworks Home Entertainment has released the film as a two-disc special edition, in either its preferred letterboxed version (1.85:1 enhanced) or in a pan-and-scan format. The image on the letterboxed version is excellent throughout. The soft smoky interiors of the first part of the film have a nice auburn glow to them, which nicely contrasts the sultry colors that take over for the second part. There is no evidence of color bleeding or flaring up and the image is consistently balanced. Many scenes, which are filmed purposefully dark, still manage to keep a richness and depth that is difficult to replicate outside of a movie theater. The disc also comes equipped with various soundtrack options, including an English language 5.1 track, 2.0 Dolby Surround, and a 5.1 DTS option. The first two tracks are vigorous and active, though always keeping the dialogue clear. The first disc contains the film itself and a short ten-minute documentary on the making and origins of the film. But it's with the second disc that one finds a plethora of supplemental material. The disc contains numerous mini-documentaries on all stages of A.I.'s production, from its initial planning stage with Kubrick to its final release. There are some nice interviews with actors Jude Law, Haley Joel Osment, and others. Also of interest are the interviews with the storyboard artists, production designers, and the many special effects technicians from Stan Winston's factory of wonders and Lucasfilm's ILM studio. The disc also contains a couple of theatrical trailers, a multitude of storyboard sketches, production photographs, some interesting interviews with sound designer Gary Ryndstrom and composer John Williams, and much more. ~ Derek Hill, All Movie Guide
All of Me [back to top]
On her deathbed, mean-spirited millionairess Lily Tomlin has her will amended so that her soul will pass into the body of young, healthy Victoria Tennant. Thanks to a mix-up in transmutation, Tomlin winds up instead trapped in the body of upright (and uptight) attorney Steve Martin. The plot involves the fragility of male-female relationships, the importance of making commitments, and the antics of goofy guru Richard Libertini. As ridiculous as it sounds, All of Me is completely credible, thanks to Steve Martin's remarkable "body language" when conveying the notion that he's two different people with two different sets of emotions and gestures. Though the circumstances of the plot won't allow Martin to connect with the lovely Tennant, in real life things were different: the two costars were married shortly after filming wrapped. Phil Alden Robinson and Henry Olek adapted the script from Ed Davis' novel Me Too. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
A Bird in the Head [back to top]
The stooges are working as paperhangers in the home of Professor Panzer, a mad scientist looking for a brain to use in his experiments. The professor wants to put a human brain into a gorilla but has trouble finding a brain small enough, which leads him to select Curly (for obvious reasons) as the perfect donor. The stooges manage to foil the madman with the help of the Gorilla who befriends Curl.
A Scanner Darkly [back to top]
The war on drugs has been lost, and when a reluctant undercover cop is ordered to spy on those he is closest to, the toll that the mission takes on his sanity is too great to comprehend in director Richard Linklater's rotoscoped take on Philip K. Dick's classic novel. With stratospheric concern over national security prompting paranoid government officials to begin spying on citizens, trust is a luxury and everyone is a suspected criminal until proven otherwise. Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is a narcotics officer who is issued an order to spy on his friends and report back to headquarters. In addition to being a cop, though, Arctor is also an addict. His drug of choice is a ubiquitous street drug called Substance D, a drug known well for producing split personalities in its users.
Black Friday (AKA Friday the Thirteenth) [back to top]
When his friend Professor Kingsely (Ridges) is at deaths door, brain surgeon Dr. Sovac (Karloff) saves his life by means of an illegal operation that transplants part of injured gangster Red Cannon's brain. Unfortunately, the operation has a disasterous Jeckll and Hyde side effect and under certain conditions the persona of Cannon emerges. Sovac soon learns of the duel personality and of half a million dollars the gangster has hidden away. He attempts to find the money through the manipulation of his friend, an attempt that brings Kingsley closer to madness as he alternates between a meek professor of english and a brutal gangster out for murderous revenge on those who tried to kill him.
Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut [back to top]
A blend of science fiction and noir detective fiction, Blade Runner (1982) was a box office and critical bust upon its initial exhibition, but its unique postmodern production design became hugely influential within the sci-fi genre, and the film gained a significant cult following that increased its stature. Harrison Ford stars as Rick Deckard, a retired cop in Los Angeles circa 2019. L.A. has become a pan-cultural dystopia of corporate advertising, pollution and flying automobiles, as well as replicants, human-like androids with short life spans built by the Tyrell Corporation for use in dangerous off-world colonization. Deckard's former job in the police department was as a talented blade runner, a euphemism for detectives that hunt down and assassinate rogue replicants. Called before his one-time superior (M. Emmett Walsh), Deckard is forced back into active duty. A quartet of replicants led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) has escaped and headed to Earth, killing several humans in the process. After meeting with the eccentric Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel), creator of the replicants, Deckard finds and eliminates Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), one of his targets. Attacked by another replicant, Leon (Brion James), Deckard is about to be killed when he's saved by Rachael (Sean Young), Tyrell's assistant and a replicant who's unaware of her true nature. In the meantime, Batty and his replicant pleasure model lover, Pris (Darryl Hannah) use a dying inventor, J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson) to get close to Tyrell and murder him. Deckard tracks the pair to Sebastian's, where a bloody and violent final confrontation between Deckard and Batty takes place on a skyscraper rooftop high above the city. In 1992, Ridley Scott released a popular director's cut that removed Deckard's narration, added a dream sequence, and excised a happy ending imposed by the results of test screenings; these legendary behind-the-scenes battles were chronicled in a 1996 tome, Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon. ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide
Blind Date [back to top]
Co-writer and director Nico Mastorakis filmed this unusual low-budget thriller in his native Athens, Greece. Timothy Bottoms stars as Jonathan Ratcliff, an American advertising executive who has lost his sight, although the specialist he consults, Dr. Steiger (Keir Dullea), feels that the cause is psychosomatic. Fitted with a camera-like sonar device that allows him to "see," even if in a non-traditional and rather limited way, Ratcliff takes a vacation in Greece. When he witnesses the murder of a woman with his seeing-eye electronic device, he becomes obsessed with tracking down the killer. Ratcliff's quarry turns out to be a taxi driver armed with a scalpel -- and good eyesight. Blind Date (1984) (alternately titled Deadly Seduction) is notable for early appearances by a trio of actresses who would go on to do bigger and better things: Kirstie Alley, Valeria Golino, and Marina Sirtis. ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide
+Brain Candy [back to top]
A team of scientists working for a pharmaceutical company discovers a cure for depression. When the company finds itself in trouble financially, they rush the new drug into production without doing enough testing. Things seem to go fine until some of the users of the drug start slipping into comas. It becomes a race between the scientists who want to tell the world the truth and the company's marketing department who wants to protect their profit margin. Researchers at a pharmaceutical company develop an amazing new anti depressant, which quickly becomes the top selling drug. The drug has a horrible side-effect, though, and one of the researchers gets locked in a battle with the company's marketing engine to try to pull the drug off the market.
Brain Damage [back to top]
A normal, average guy who lives in New York City becomes dependent on an evil, disembodied brain. The brain feeds the guy a narcotic substance in exchange for his unwilling assistance in obtaining the brains of innocent victims for sustenance. This turns into a tour of circa-1980s underground NYC clubs, backlots, and other seedy locations. One scene features the band Swimming Pool Cues playing the song "Corruption."
The Brain from Planet Arous [back to top]
A powerful criminal brain from the planet Arous, Gor, assumes the body of scientist Steve March. Thru March he begins to control the world by threatening destruction to any country challenging his domination. Another brain, Val, works with Marchs future wife Sally to defeat Gor. Val explains that Gor will be vulnerable when he is forced to leave March at intervals to re-energize. Gors vulnerable spot, the Fissure of Orlando, is described in a note left by Sally in Steve's lab.
Brain of Blood [back to top]
Amir, the benevolent ruler of Kalid, is dying, but there is hope. Freshly deceased, he is flown to the United States where Dr. Trenton transplants his brain into the body of a simpleton in a classic "assistant got the wrong kind of body" plot line. Dr. Trenton has a few nefarious plot twists of his own in mind, and then there's the thing with the dwarf and the women chained in the basement. It's up to Amir's friend Bob and wife Tracey to try and salvage this tale.
Brain Waves [back to top]
After a traffic accident Kaylie is in coma for months. Her doctors want to try a new procedure on her: to regain her consciousness, they stimulate her brain with neural patterns of a woman who just died. It works, and Kaylie seems to be ok again. However in her dreams, she lives the last day of her savor - and realizes that she's been killed! Together with her husband she tries to find out what happened.
Brainscan [back to top]
Unlike most teen horror movies, Brainscan relies more on atmosphere and plot than gore and bloodsoaked effects. Edward Furlong plays Michael, a 16-year-old horror movie fan, computer whiz, and misfit who responds to an ad for Brainscan, an CD-ROM virtual reality game that promises to "interface with your unconscious." Once involved with the game, Michael dreams that he brutally stabs a stranger and slices off his foot -- only to awaken and find the foot in his refrigerator. Out of Michael's computer comes Trickster (T. Ryder Smith), a sardonic, malevolent creation who advises Michael to keep playing new editions of Brainscan to evade capture by a suspicious cop (Frank Langella). With a death count that is relatively low and mostly offscreen (amputated feet notwithstanding), Brainscan doesn't make up for its lack of onscreen violence with a particularly original script, although it should be commended for not taking the easy way out. ~ Don Kaye, All Movie Guide
Brainstorm [back to top]
Natalie Wood made her last screen appearance in Brainstorm; in fact, she died before the film was completed, necessitating extensive rewrites. Wood's character is secondary to the one played by Christopher Walken. A research scientist, Walken has been experimenting with a revolutionary brain-reading device. This wondrous machine is able to read a person's thought processes and translate these to videotape. When Walken wants to study the brainwaves of his late partner Louise Fletcher, he finds himself seriously at odds with his superiors-not to mention several ominous-looking government types, headed by Cliff Robertson. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Charlie Chan in Honolulu [back to top]
When murder is committed on the good ship Susan B Jennings, Charlie has just left home, Chan's young son Tommy takes the telephone call at when Charlie is called in on the case. Tommy tries to run out to catch his Dad before he can drive away, but he is stopped by elder brother Jimmy, who wants to be a detective himself. Jimmy takes the call, and goes out to the ship himself, where he introduces himself as his father. He proceeds to take over the case. In a brilliantly funny comedy of errors, Charlie finally finds out that he's supposed to be on the 'Jennings' and travels out to the harbor, where he straightens things out and begins to investigate. Among other characters is a doctor who keep a living human brain in a suitcase in order to be able to continue his experiments on it, another police detective who is taking in a prisoner, and who seems oddly interested in Chan's case, and a disreputable looking fellow who is escorting a pet lion. $300,000 have been stolen, another person is murdered, and the Captain of the liner is putting pressure on the Honolulu Police Department to let him take the ship out of the harbor and get on its way before the shipping company loses too much money. Can Charley solve the crimes before his chief forces him to give up on the case and let the Captain make way?
+Charly [back to top]
Charly is a retarded adult male struggling to survive in the world. His frequent attempts at learning, reading, and writing prove worthless. His teacher, Miss Kinian, takes Charly to the clinic where he is observed by doctors who have Charly "race" a mouse, Algernon. Algernon, a once retarded mouse, is usually the winner thanks to an experiment that greatly raised his intelligence. This experiment is given to Charly, who at first does not seem affected. However, he gradually becomes more and more educated, eventually becoming a pure genius. Very emotional consequences are involved when Charly learns the truth of the experiment, however.
Clean State [back to top]
Dana Carvey plays a private detective who forgets everything when he goes to sleep at night, waking up each morning with a "clean slate," in this hit-and-miss comedy that plays like a companion piece to the much funnier Groundhog Day. Pogue (Carvey) is afflicted with his unique form of amnesia after getting injured in a car explosion. With the aid of a mysterious woman (Valeria Golino) who allegedly died in the bombing, he must find a priceless coin and evade the murderous clutches of the mobster (Michael Gambon) who executed the explosion and who wants to silence Pogue before he can testify against him. Carvey fares reasonably well in his role, but the best moments are provided by Pogue's dog, a one-eyed Jack Russell named Barkley who makes a habit out of running into things headfirst. ~ Don Kaye, All Movie Guide
+A Clockwork Orange [back to top]
Stanley Kubrick dissects the nature of violence in this darkly ironic, near-future satire, adapted from Anthony Burgess' novel, complete with "Nadsat" slang. Classical music-loving proto-punk Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his "Droogs" spend their nights getting high at the Korova Milkbar before embarking on "a little of the old ultraviolence," such as terrorizing a writer, Mr. Alexander (Patrick Magee), and raping his wife while jauntily warbling "Singin' in the Rain." After Alex is jailed for bludgeoning the Cat Lady (Miriam Karlin) to death with one of her phallic sculptures, Alex submits to the Ludovico behavior modification technique to earn his freedom; he's conditioned to abhor violence through watching gory movies, and even his adored Beethoven is turned against him. Returned to the world defenseless, Alex becomes the victim of his prior victims, with Mr. Alexander using Beethoven's Ninth to inflict the greatest pain of all. When society sees what the state has done to Alex, however, the politically expedient move is made. Casting a coldly pessimistic view on the then-future of the late '70s-early '80s, Kubrick and production designer John Barry created a world of high-tech cultural decay, mixing old details like bowler hats with bizarrely alienating "new" environments like the Milkbar. Alex's violence is horrific, yet it is an aesthetically calculated fact of his existence; his charisma makes the icily clinical Ludovico treatment seem more negatively abusive than positively therapeutic. Alex may be a sadist, but the state's autocratic control is another violent act, rather than a solution. Released in late 1971 (within weeks of Sam Peckinpah's brutally violent Straw Dogs), the film sparked considerable controversy in the U.S. with its X-rated violence; after copycat crimes in England, Kubrick withdrew the film from British distribution until after his death. Opinion was divided on the meaning of Kubrick's detached view of this shocking future, but, whether the discord drew the curious or Kubrick's scathing diagnosis spoke to the chaotic cultural moment, A Clockwork Orange became a hit. On the heels of New York Film Critics Circle awards as Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, Kubrick received Oscar nominations in all three categories. ~ Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes [back to top]
Some college students manage to persuade the town's big businessman, A. J. Arno, to donate a computer to their college. When the problem- student, Dexter Riley, tries to fix the computer, he gets an electric shock and his brain turns to a computer; now he remembers everything he reads. Unfortunately, he also remembers information which was in the computer's memory, like the illegal business Arno is involved in.
Death Race 2000 [back to top]
In the near future the ultimate sporting event is the deathrace. Contestants get score points for running people down as they speed across the country. The sport has crazed fans who sacrifice themselves to the drivers. An overt agency is trying to bring an end to the immoral deathrace and has infiltrated one of their followers in to the race as a navigator. In the end of the race the lives of the competitors, the President and the deathrace itself are in peril.
Deep Blue Sea [back to top]
Although mako sharks are among the fastest and deadliest predators in the ocean, they're not as smart as humans -- at least, they weren't. However, Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) has been using mako sharks as her test subjects for research on the regeneration of human brain tissues. McAlester has altered the DNA of several sharks, raising them close to the level of human intelligence; the sharks have also become faster and stronger in the process. While these DNA experiments have yielded fascinating results, they're also of questionable ethics and legality, earning her the distrust of several members of her crew, including shark authority Carter Blake (Thomas Jane and cook "Preacher" Dudley (LL Cool J). The financial backers of these experiments have also expressed skepticism, so when McAlester is ready to perform some major tests, financier Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) arrives for the occasion. McAlester and her team are delicately extracting brain tissue from one of the altered makos when the animal regains consciousness - and becomes very angry. The shark not only attacks the researchers but also damages the floating lab, leaving the crew aboard a literally sinking ship, with the makos eager to go a few rounds - in an arena that favors sharks. Deep Blue Sea was directed by Renny Harlin, and filmed in Mexico at Fox Studios Baja in the underwater filming facilities created for James Cameron's Titanic. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
+Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [back to top]
The second feature from director Michel Gondry (Human Nature) finds the filmmaker reteaming with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman for this off-the-wall romantic comedy. Jim Carrey stars as Joel Barish, a man who is informed that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had her memories of their relationship erased from her brain via an experimental procedure performed by Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson). Not to be outdone, Joel decides to have the same procedure done to himself. As Mierzwiak's bumbling underlings Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Patrick (Elijah Wood) perform the operation on Joel -- over the course of an evening, in his apartment -- Joel struggles in his own mind to save the memories of Clementine from being deleted. Kirsten Dunst, David Cross, and Jane Adams also star. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide
Eve, The Wild Woman [back to top]
A group of mad scientists travel to Kong Island where they implant receptors into the brains of gorillas planning to create a gorilla war for world domination. Out to break a few heads is a descendant of King Kong.
eXistenZ [back to top]
Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg, who has long been fascinated by the ways new technology shapes and manipulates the human beings who believe they are its masters, is in familiar territory with eXistenZ, a futuristic thriller which combines elements of science fiction, horror and action-adventure. What is eXistenZ? According to the glossary Cronenberg put together for this film, it is a new organic game system that, when downloaded into humans, accesses their central nervous system, transporting them on a wild ride in and out of reality. What's more, it changes every time it is played, by adapting to the individual user -- you have to play the game to find out why you are playing the game. More than one person can plug into the same game and set out on a series of bizarre and surrealistic adventures together. The narrative takes place sometime in the near future, when game designers are worshipped as superstars and players can organically enter inside the games. Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the goddess among computer game designers whose latest invention, 'eXistenZ,' taps deeply into its users' fears and desires by blurring the boundaries between reality and escapism, is subject to an assassination attempt and forced to flee. Her sole ally is Ted Pikul (Jude Law), a novice security guard sworn to protect her. Persuading Ted to play the game, Allegra draws them both into a phantasmagoric world where existence ends and eXistenZ begins. Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is supposedly something of a computer nerd in real life, is hip and sexily alluring as Allegra Geller. When she and Pikul make love and are transported to the bizarre setting of a trout farm which has been converted to an assembly line production plant for games, they delve deeper into the dangerously intriguing game. Soon the forces of Anti-eXistenZialism will close in on Pikul and Allegra. eXistenZ marks the first time since Videodrome that Cronenberg has written a completely original screenplay. eXistenZ was inspired by the tribulations of the fugitive writer Salman Rushdie, author of the Satanic Verses. After interviewing the author for a magazine article in 1995, Cronenberg was struck with the idea of an artist who suddenly finds himself on a hit list for religious or philosophical reasons and is forced to go into hiding. The idea of a game came later on, for which he created a new vocabulary. According to Cronenberg, eXistenZ thematically connects to Crash, Videodrome, Naked Lunch and even M. Butterfly in terms of exploring the extent to which we create our own levels of reality and the idea of a creative act being dangerous to the creator. This is the second film on which Alliance Atlantis has been associated with Cronenberg, after Crash, which won the Special Jury Prize at the 1996 International Cannes Film Festival. On the occasion of the presentation of eXistenZ, Cronenberg received a Silver Bear for his outstanding artistic achievements at the 49th International Berlin Film Festival in 1999. ~ Gvn|l Dvnmez-Colin, All Movie Guide
Fearless [back to top]
Adapted by screenwriter Rafael Yglesias from his own novel, Fearless explores the complex struggle back to mental health of post-traumatic stress disorder victim Max Klein (Jeff Bridges). One of few survivors of a fatal plane crash, Klein remains calm and assists other survivors out of the burning debris, earning praise as a hero by the media. After stoically departing the tragedy without a word to emergency officials, Max returns home with detached feelings towards his wife (Isabella Rossellini) and son, along with a bizarre, seemingly authentic belief that he is now impervious to harm. Bill Perlman (John Turturro), a psychiatrist for the airline, fails to reach Max about his newfound fearlessness, but asks for his help in aiding Carla (Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Rosie Perez), a fellow crash survivor filled with grief and guilt over the loss of her baby. In one of his earlier roles, Benicio del Toro plays a small part as Carla's boyfriend. ~ Lisa Kropiewnicki, All Movie Guide
Flatliners [back to top]
Despite its occasional lapses into silly self-consciousness, Flatliners is one of the most intriguing and well-constructed supernatural thrillers of the 1990s. A group of brilliant medical students decide to literally play with life and death. They put themselves in suspended animation, electronically inducing a near-deathlike state and then pulling out of it at the last possible moment. Things get hairy when one of the students (Kiefer Sutherland) becomes obsessed with the notion of really dying, the better to experience the Afterlife before being revived--if he can be revived. In her first dramatic starring role (playing a sensitive young lady on a misguided guilt trip), Julia Roberts is very, very good--completely bereft of movie-star mannerisms. Audiences flocked to see Flatliners back in 1990 due to the highly publicized off-screen romance between Roberts and Sutherland. Oh, yes: Kevin Bacon and William Baldwin are in the picture, too. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Frankenstein [back to top]
An obsessed scientist creates a living being from parts of exhumed corpses. No longer so much a movie as it is a genuine part of popular folklore, the film itself shows its age, particularly in the absence of a musical score. But the performances by Colin Clive and particularly the great Boris Karloff are the whole show here, forgiving a multitude of creaks and groans and more than compensating for any lulls in the narrative. Truly a film everyone should see at least once.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein [back to top]
Director Kenneth Branagh's interpretation of Mary Shelley's classic horror novel stars Robert DeNiro as a terrifying monster created in an obsessive attempt to defeat death and stretch the limits of medicine in the early 19th century. With the use of flashback, a dying Dr. Viktor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) divulges a tale of gruesome terror to a sea captain (Aidan Quinn): As a medical student, the rebellious Frankenstein elaborates on the work of a brilliant scientist (John Cleese), successfully bringing to life a "man" assembled from the body parts of corpses. Upon realizing the destructive consequences of his experiment, Dr. Frankenstein abandons the creature and attempts to return to a normal life with his medical partner, Henry (Tom Hulce), and his fiancie (and adopted sister), Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter). In the meantime, the nameless creature struggles with loneliness and rejection from society until he sets out to track down his creator in search of one of two things: a bride to keep him company or revenge. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) was produced by Francis Ford Coppola, who previously directed and produced monster-drama Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). ~ Lisa Kropiewnicki, All Movie Guide
Freejack [back to top]
Geoff Murphy directed this time-travel chase movie. Emilio Estevez stars as Alex Furlong, a racecar driver from 1991, who is just about to experience a deadly crash in his Formula Atlantic. But at the last moment Alex finds himself transported to the streets of New York in 2009. He is saved from certain death and zapped into the future by 21st-century bounty hunter Vacendak (Mick Jagger), who wants to take over Alex's body. Alex escapes Vacendak's clutches and decides to look up an old girlfriend. When he locates Julie (Rene Russo), he enlists her support to help him from being captured by Vacendak. Much to Alex's surprise, he discovers that Julie now works as a top executive for a giant corporation presided over by McCandless (Anthony Hopkins). Julie, separated from Alex for almost twenty years, must decide whether to renew their relationship. But there is not much time for thought by either party, since Vacendak is still coming after Alex. ~ Paul Brenner, All Movie Guide
+Garden State [back to top]
In the wake of his success on the hit NBC sitcom Scrubs, actor Zach Braff made his debut behind the camera writing, directing, and starring in this bittersweet romantic comedy. Braff plays Andrew Largeman, a young man who has just received word of his mother's passing. With this news, Andrew returns to the town in which he grew up, where he is greeted by his father, Gideon (Ian Holm), a psychiatrist. In addition to mourning the loss of his mother, Andrew is also attempting to adjust to life without the emotionally numbing antidepressants that he has recently opted to discontinue using. Gradually, with the absence of the pills, his reconnection with his past, and the introduction of Sam (Natalie Portman), a woman who would seem to have little in common with him, into his life, Andrew is able to see the potential for some positive changes. Also starring Jean Smart and Peter Sarsgaard, Garden State was once titled Large's Ark and premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide
+Ghost in the Shell [back to top]
In the year 2029, the world has become interconnected by a vast electronic network that permeates every aspect of life. That same network also becomes a battlefield for Tokyo's Section Nine security force, which has been charged with apprehending the master hacker known only as the Puppet Master. Spearheading the investigation is Major Motoko Kusanagi, who -- like many in her department -- is a cyborg officer, far more powerful than her human appearance would suggest. And yet as the Puppet Master, who is even capable of hacking human minds, leaves a trail of victims robbed of their memories, Kusanagi ponders the very nature of her existence: is she purely an artificial construct, or is there more? What, exactly, is the "ghost" -- her essence -- in her cybernetic "shell"? When Section Six gets involved in the case, she is forced to confront the fact that there is more here than meets the eye, and that the Puppet Master may hold some of the answers she seeks. But little does she know that he has been seeking her as well. ~ Emru Townsend, All Movie Guide
Half Baked [back to top]
After Kenny accidentaly kills a cop's diabetic horse by feeding it the food he purchased from a munchie run, he is put in jail and is given a 1 million dollar bail. The rest of the group must bail Kenny out before Nasty Nate gets to him. The group decides to sell marijuana that Thurgood gets through his job as a janitor at a pharmaceutical lab. They become pals with rap star Sir Smoke-A-Lot and the rivals of dealer Samson Simpson. On the side, Thurgood seeks the love of Mary Jane, an anti-pot daughter of a dealer. What follows is typical pothead behaviour with a ton of cameos. Look carefully.
Hydrotherapie Fantastique [back to top]
Doctors blow to pieces a patient in a hydrotherapy machine and re-assemble him.
I Come in Peace [back to top]
Jack Caine (Dolph Lundgren) is a Houston vice cop who's forgotten the rule book. His self-appointed mission is to stop the drugs trade and the number one supplier Victor Manning. Whilst involved in an undercover operation to entrap Victor Manning, his partner gets killed, and a sinister newcomer enters the scene... Along with F.B.I. agent Lawrence Smith, the two investigate a spate of mysterious deaths; normal non-junkies dying of massive heroin overdoses and bearing the same horrific puncture marks on the forehead. This, coupled with Caine's own evidence, indicates an alien force is present on the streets of Houston, killing and gathering stocks of a rare drug found only in the brain... Caine is used to fighting the toughest of criminals, but up to now they've all been human...
Idiocracy [back to top]
Mike Judge wrote and directed this offbeat sci-fi comedy which gives a new meaning to the expression "people are getting dumber all the time." In 2005, Pvt. Joe Bowers (Luke Wilson) is a soldier chosen to take part in a secret military scientific experiment in which he will be put into induced hibernation for one year, along with a woman named Rita (Maya Rudolph). Bowers is chosen for the assignment because he is statistically the most average man in the Army, while Rita is a hooker ordered to do some community service; however, Bowers and Rita are forgotten when the military base where the experiment took place is closed down, and when they wake up in the year 2505, Bowers finds himself living in a society where intelligence has taken such a landslide he's now the smartest man in the world. Can Bowers save America from its own remarkable stupidity, and he can he get the dunderheads around him to believe what he says? Produced under the title 3001, Idiocracy also stars Dax Shepard as Bowers's numb-skull lawyer, Stephen Root as a judge, and Terry Crews as Camacho, a former porn star and professional wrestler who is now president of the United States.
+I, Robot [back to top]
Director Alex Proyas (Dark City, The Crow) helmed this sci-fi thriller inspired by the stories in Isaac Asimov's nine-story anthology of the same name. In the future presented in the film, humans have become exceedingly dependent on robots in their everyday lives. Robots have become more and more advanced, but each one is preprogrammed to always obey humans and to, under no circumstances, ever harm a human. So, when a scientist turns up dead and a humanoid robot is the main suspect, the world is left to wonder if they are as safe around their electronic servants as previously thought. Will Smith stars as Del Spooner, the robot-hating Chicago cop assigned to the murder investigation. Bridget Moynahan, Bruce Greenwood, James Cromwell, and Chi McBride also star. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide
Inspector Gadget [back to top]
Matthew Broderick stars in this live-action adaptation of the popular animated series. When a well-meaning but overly trusting security guard is wounded in an explosion created by the evil Dr. Claw, a beautiful scientist named Brenda (Joely Fisher) takes him under her wing and turns him into a crime-fighting dynamo by replacing his limbs with a wealth of gadgets and gimmicks. Now dubbed Inspector Gadget, the once-naove guard can fulfill his dream of becoming a crime-fighting detective, and as he investigates his first case - namely, who blew him up -- he finds out that the man responsible also killed Brenda's father. Now it's up to the Inspector to find the fiend's identity and bring him to justice, using his homegrown bionic powers to crack the case. Inspector Gadget co-stars Rupert Everett, Dabney Coleman, Andy Dick, and Cheri Oteri. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
The Island of Dr. Moreau [back to top]
On a remote tropical island, Dr. Moreau has appointed himself ruler over a menagerie of genetic mutants fashioned in his gene-splicing chamber of horrors. The products of his misguided attempt to create a more "pure" human species, the man-beasts worship Moreau as their god and "father" and live by his code of law -- a code rigidly enforced by radio-operated implants in their bodies capable of inflicting pain and death. Into this surreal nightmare arrives UN negotiator Edward Douglas (David Thewlis), the sole survivor of an airplane crash. Douglas is brought ashore on Moreau's island -- against his better judgment -- by the doctor's insane, drug-addled assistant, Montgomery (Val Kilmer), and eventually becomes a prisoner. Horrified by the doctor's monstrous experiments and afraid for his own life, Douglas seeks the aid of Moreau's lovely daughter, Aissa (Fairuza Balk), in escaping the island, but is foiled at every turn by Montgomery and his armed man-beast lackeys. Eventually, the creatures discover the existence of their electronic implants and remove them, providing the opportunity for an armed rebellion -- but eventual regression into their original animal state causes their revolt to collapse into anarchy. ~ Cavett Binion, All Movie Guide
+Johnny Mnemonic [back to top]
In a near-future world in which the fast-paced digital lifestyle has given rise to a worldwide plague called Nerve Attenuation Syndrome, Johnny (Keanu Reeves), a data courier, accepts an assignment that he hopes will allow him to pay for the restoration of the childhood memories he dumped in order to outfit his brain with the microchip necessary for him to carry out his profession. Narrowly escaping a Yakuza ambush in which his employers are killed and the mnemonic trigger capable of unlocking the data in his brain is partially destroyed, Johnny travels from Beijing to New Jersey, where he hopes to recover the data before "neural seepage" destroys his mind. Teaming up with would-be bodyguard Jane (Dina Meyer) and a rebel group known as the LoTeks who live in an abandoned bridge, he tries to outrun the assassins of mysterious businessman Takahashi (Beat Takeshi Kitano) -- and the Street Preacher (Dolph Lundgren), a bionic madman. Along the way, he meets a mysterious electronic entity, a sentient dolphin, and Spider (Henry Rollins), a cybernetics expert, all of whom attempt, with various degrees of success, to learn why the data in Johnny's head is so important. Science fiction author William Gibson's original short story Johnny Mnemonic helped usher in the age of cyberpunk when it appeared in Omni magazine in 1981; it later appeared in the collection Burning Chrome (alongside the story that provided the basis for Abel Ferrara's New Rose Hotel). Although Gibson himself wrote the screenplay for Johnny Mnemonic, the film diverges considerably from the story. Molly Mirrors, a recurring character in Gibson's fiction, was replaced by the figure of Jane to fend off licensing conflicts with any future film version of Neuromancer, the author's most celebrated novel. Other plot elements -- most notably the LoTeks' bridge habitat -- were borrowed from later Gibson fiction such as the novel Virtual Light. ~ Brian J. Dillard, All Movie Guide
Jurassic Park III [back to top]
Director Joe Johnston takes over the creative reins from Steven Spielberg for this third installment in the thriller franchise. Sam Neill returns as Dr. Alan Grant, a scientist who's tricked by wealthy couple Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) into a fly-over of Isla Sorna. The object of their sightseeing tour is one of the Costa Rican islands populated by ferocious, genetically bred dinosaurs and the "site B" setting of Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World (1997). After their plane crash-lands, it's revealed that the Kirbys are actually seeking their teenage son, lost on the island after a paragliding accident. Trapped on Isla Sorna, Grant and his companions discover some painful truths the hard way. Among their discoveries: some of the scaly monsters possess more advanced communicative abilities than previously believed, the dreaded Tyrannosaurus Rex has a larger and more lethal competitor, and flying Pteranodons pose an even graver threat than some of their land-locked brethren. Jurassic Park III is the first in the series not to be based upon a novel by original author Michael Crichton. ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide
Lawnmower Man [back to top]
Loosely based on a short story by Stephen King, The Lawnmower Man was the first film to explore virtual reality technology and boasts a dazzling collection of computer-animated sequences. The story concerns the slightly-mad scientist Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan), who as part of a secret government agency called Cybertech has been experimenting with something termed "intelligence enhancement." By using drugs and virtual reality technology, Angelo has managed to boost the IQ of experimental chimps. But he also makes them more aggressive and, bit by bit, they go insane. When one of his animal subjects goes on a rampage, Angelo decides to go for a human guinea pig instead -- Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey), a slightly retarded man who cuts his lawn. Not only do Jobe's intelligence and sex-drive improve thanks to Angelo's regimen, but he also develops extrasensory perception. As Jobe's mental and emotional state keeps increasing, so does his strength. As he gains more power, Jobe becomes angrier and more vindictive until he vows to get even with all the town's people that patronized him and treated him badly. ~ Paul Brenner, All Movie Guide
Love Potion #9 [back to top]
When it comes to love, Paul Matthews and Diane Farrow, two highly educated and talented scientists don't know a thing. Looking at their geeky demeanor's it's easy to see why. Despite the fact that both are neighbors, share the same interests and both are psychobiologists who study primates, neither is really aware of the other romantically until Paul, who is terribly shy around women, goes to gypsy Madame Ruth in desperation and asks for help. She reads his palm and tells him that he needs a woman; she then hands him Love Potion No. 8 which will attract women like flies to honey. This romantic comedy chronicles what happens to him (and Diane) when, after experimenting on animals, they decide to try it on themselves. Though the changes only last four hours per dose, they are truly remarkable and the two agree to separate for three weeks and then come back together to compare results. The time passes quickly and wonderfully for them and when they finally reunite both have changed for the better. Just for fun, they decide to go out with each other. They do not drink the potion, but still have a wonderful and passionate night. This leads Paul to propose to Diane. Unfortunately, she thinks she loves another, a man who is really more interested in exploiting the potion for money than he is in her. He ends up buying up all of Madame Ruth's latest batch. Paul goes back to her and explains his problem and that is when Ruth hands him the potent Love Potion No. 9, which can manifest true love. Quickly, he takes it and sets off to find Diane before she makes a terrible mistake. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide
The Man With Two Brains [back to top]
Steve Martin and Carl Reiner concoct one of Martin's best comic vehicles with Martin playing the world's top brain surgeon, Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr -- he ought to know, he said so himself. Hfuhruhurr pioneered the radical new cranial screw-top technique, but he grieves over the untimely death of his wife Rebecca, carrying around a small plastic likeness of her to get through the long and lonely evenings. Thinking of her while driving home, Hfuhruhurr takes his eyes off the road and runs down the beautiful but deadly Dolores Benedict (Kathleen Turner). Hfuhruhurr performs surgery which saves her life, but as she recovers, Hfuhruhurr doesn't realize Dolores is a gold-digging vixen who has driven her latest husband (George Furth) to death by apoplexy. She is now looking for a new victim and Hfuhruhurr fits the bill. They marry, but Dolores denies her husband sexual favors, which frustrates Hfuhruhurr to distraction. He takes Dolores on a belated honeymoon to Austria, where he meets fellow brain surgeon Dr. Necessiter (David Warner), who keeps a wide assortment of brains in his laboratory. Dolores takes the opportunity to have an extramarital affair, and when Hfuhruhurr finds out he dumps her. But in Necessiter's laboratory, Hfuhruhurr becomes attracted to Brain #21, Ann Uumellmahaye (voice of Sissy Spacek), with whom he communicates telepathically. At last, here is one case where a man loves a woman for her mind rather than her body (which doesn't exist)! But Ann's brain is deteriorating rapidly; Hfuhruhurr needs to find a body and transplant the brain quickly in order to save Ann. ~ Paul Brenner, All Movie Guide
The Manchurian Candidate (1962) [back to top]
An unusually tense and intelligent political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate was a film far ahead of its time. Its themes of thought control, political assassination, and multinational conspiracy were hardly common currency in 1962, and while its outlook is sometimes informed by Cold War paranoia, the film seemed nearly as timely when it was reissued in 1987 as it did on its original release. It opens with a group of soldiers whooping it up in a bar in Korea as their commander, Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), arrives to inform them that they're back on duty. These men obviously have no fondness for Shaw, and he feels no empathy for them. While on patrol, Shaw and his platoon are ambushed by Korean troops. Months later, Shaw is receiving a hero's welcome as he returns to the United States to accept the Congressional Medal of Honor, and several of the soldiers who served under Shaw repeatedly refer to him as "the bravest, finest, most lovable man I ever met." It soon becomes evident that after their capture by the Koreans, Shaw and his men were subjected to an intense program of brainwashing prior to their release. While several are troubled by bad dreams and inexplicable behavior, it's Capt. Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) who seems the most haunted by the experience. In time, Marco is able to piece together what happened; it seems Raymond Shaw was programmed by a shadowy cadre of Russian and Chinese agents into a killing machine who will assassinate anyone, even a close friend, when given the proper commands. On the other side of the coin, Shaw is also used for political gain by his harridan mother (Angela Lansbury), who guides the career of her second husband, John Iselin (James Gregory), a bone-headed congressman hoping to win the vice-presidential nomination through a campaign of anti-Communist hysteria. The Manchurian Candidate features a host of remarkable performances, several from actors cast cleverly against type. Frank Sinatra's edgy, aggressive turn as Marco may be the finest dramatic work of his career; Laurence Harvey's chilly onscreen demeanor was rarely used to s better advantage than as Raymond Shaw; James Gregory is great as the oft-befuddled Senator Iselin; and Angela Lansbury's ultimate bad mom will be a shock to those who know her as the lovable mystery writer from Murder, She Wrote. George Axelrod's screenplay (based on Richard Condon's novel) is by turns compelling, witty, and horrifying in its implications, and John Frankenheimer's direction milks it for all the tension it can muster. While Frankenheimer's career has had its ups and downs, The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds (1966) suggest that he deserves to be recognized as one of the most brilliantly paranoid American filmmakers of the '60s. Entertaining yet unsettling, both films indicate that things in the '60s were not what they seemed, with a resonance that still echoes uncomfortably in the present. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
+The Manchurian Candidate (2004) [back to top]
Jonathan Demme directed this updated remake of John Frankenheimer's 1962 cult favorite The Manchurian Candidate, a pioneering examination of political conspiracy and psychological reconditioning. Major Bennett Marco (Denzel Washington) and Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) are two soldiers who served in the same company during Operation Desert Storm, but their paths following their tours of duty have been very different. Shaw, the son of powerful congresswoman Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep), has used his reputation as a war hero to quickly scale the ladder of American politics, and with the help of his mother earns the Vice Presidential nomination. Marco, on the other hand, has been troubled with mental illness, and is convinced that something strange happened to him and his compatriots during the war. As Marco struggles to find the truth behind his nightmares and emotional torment, he unearths some disturbing facts about how his mind and body have been reworked by shadowy forces, as well as those of his fellow soldiers -- including Raymond Shaw. Featuring a stellar supporting cast (including Jon Voight, Miguel Ferrer, Ted Levine, and Dean Stockwell), The Manchurian Candidate credits George Axelrod's screenplay for the 1962 film as its source, as opposed to Richard Condon's 1959 novel from which Axelrod adapted his script. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
Man’s Best Friend [back to top]
A reporter (Ally Sheedy) sneaks into a lab to investigate animal cruelty, and emerges from the ordeal with a mastiff named Max in this 1993 thriller. The dog, which has been genetically enhanced, makes her life miserable while they are being chased by the owner of the lab (Lance Henriksen). ~ John Bush, All Movie Guide
Mars Attacks! [back to top]
This quirky science fiction comedy is a characteristic feature by iconoclastic director Tim Burton, known to moviegoers for Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. The storyline affectionately harkens back to the deadpan sincerity of such '50s and '60s science-fiction films as The Day the Earth Stood Still and War of the Worlds. Flying saucers have been reliably seen over the capitals of the world, and the whole world awaits with bated breath to see what will transpire. Among those waiting is the President of the United States (Jack Nicholson), who is assured by his science advisor (Pierce Brosnan) that the coming aliens are utterly peaceful. This advice is hotly contested by the military (led by Rod Steiger), who advices the President to annihilate them. When the aliens land, they are seen to be green, garish, and very cheerful. But appearances prove deceiving when the "friendly" aliens abruptly disintegrate the entire U.S. Congress. Hollywood notables appear in vast quantities in roles (and sub-plots) of all sizes in this zany feature. ~ Clarke Fountain, All Movie Guide
+The Matrix [back to top]
What if virtual reality wasn't just for fun, but was being used to imprison you? That's the dilemma that faces mild-mannered computer jockey Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) in The Matrix. It's the year 1999, and Anderson (hacker alias: Neo) works in a cubicle, manning a computer and doing a little hacking on the side. It's through this latter activity that Thomas makes the acquaintance of Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who has some interesting news for Mr. Anderson -- none of what's going on around him is real. The year is actually closer to 2199, and it seems Thomas, like most people, is a victim of The Matrix, a massive artificial intelligence system that has tapped into people's minds and created the illusion of a real world, while using their brains and bodies for energy, tossing them away like spent batteries when they're through. Morpheus, however, is convinced Neo is "The One" who can crack open The Matrix and bring his people to both physical and psychological freedom. The Matrix is the second feature film from the sibling writer/director team of Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski, who made an impressive debut with the stylish erotic crime thriller Bound. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
The Matrix Reloaded [back to top]
After creating an international sensation with the visually dazzling and intellectually challenging sci-fi blockbuster The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers returned with the first of two projected sequels that pick up where the first film left off. Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) have been summoned by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) to join him on a voyage to Zion, the last outpost of free human beings on Earth. Neo and Trinity's work together has been complicated by the fact the two are involved in a serious romantic relationship. Upon their arrival in Zion, Morpheus locks horns with rival Commander Lock (Harry J. Lennix) and encounters his old flame Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith). Meanwhile, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) has returned with some surprises for Neo, most notably the ability to replicate himself as many times as he pleases. Neo makes his way to The Oracle (Gloria Foster), who informs him that if he wishes to save humankind, he must unlock "The Source," which means having to release The Key Maker (Randall Duk Kim) from the clutches of Merovingian (Lambert Wilson). While Merovingian refuses to cooperate, his wife, Persephone (Monica Bellucci), angry at her husband's dalliances with other women, offers to help, but only in exchange for a taste of Neo's affections. With The Keymaker in tow, Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus are chased by Merovingian's henchmen: a pair of deadly albino twins (Neil Rayment and Adrian Rayment). Filmed primarily in Australia and California (the extended chase scene was shot on a stretch of highway build specifically for the production outside of San Francisco), The Matrix Reloaded was produced in tandem with the third film in the series, The Matrix Revolutions. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
The Matrix Revolutions [back to top]
Back-to-back with The Matrix Reloaded, the third and final installment of Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski's sci-fi action saga picks up where the second film left off. Neo (Keanu Reeves) remains unconscious in the real world, caught in a mysterious subway station that lies between the machine world and the Matrix, and Bane (Ian Bliss) is still a conduit for Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), who continues to grow out of control, threatening to destroy both worlds. Meanwhile, as the sentinels get closer and closer to Zion, the citizens of the earth's last inhabited city prepare for the inevitable onslaught. By bargaining with The Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) are able to free Neo who, after meeting with The Oracle (Mary Alice stepping in for the late Gloria Foster), decides that he must leave Zion and head for the machine mainframe. As Neo and Trinity venture into the dangerous machine world, with hopes of stopping both the machines and Agent Smith, their comrades in Zion attempt to fight off the attacking sentinels with the odds stacked greatly against them. Other cast members returning include Monica Bellucci, Ngai Sing, and Harold Perrineau Jr. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide
Metropolis [back to top]
While Fritz Lang's gargantuan Metropolis may have nearly bankrupted UFA, the film forever enriched the lexicon of the cinema. Adapted from a novel by Lang's wife Thea Von Harbou, Metropolis combines the director's awe upon experiencing the hugeness of the New York City skyline with an H.G.Wellsian glance into the future (though Wells himself despised the film). In the year 2000, the wealthy ruling class lives in towering luxury skyscrapers, while slave laborers monotonously toil away far below ground level. The hero, Freder (Gustav Frohlich), is the pampered son of Fredersen (Alfred Abel), one of the most egregious of the fat-cat rulers. Freder is reformed when he meets Maria (Brigitte Helm), the loveliest of the subterrenean dwellers. Travelling incognito below ground, Freder, appalled by the laborers' squalid living conditions, immediately begins campaigning for humanitarian reforms. Evil industrialist Rottwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) can't let this happen, so he plots to turn the slaves against the reformers. In his neon-dominated laboratory, Rottwang creates a robot in the image of Maria, designed as a false prophet to lead the rabble astray (Brigitte Helm is astonishing as she alternates between the Madonna-like "real" Maria and the wild-eyed, hedonistic android). After a destructive uprising and an underground flood of Biblical proportions, the despotic Fredersen sees the light, and agrees in the future to treat the working class with equanimity and compassion.The eye-poppingly realistic miniatures in Metropolis are the handiwork of the brilliant Eugene Shuftan, whose eponymous technical process would soon be adopted in America. When it was premiered in Germany in January of 1927, Metropolis ran 153 minutes when projected at 24 frames per second. That complete version was heavily cut for release in America, removing a quarter of the movie: one whole personal conflict (and a centerpiece of the original plot) between the industrialist Fredersen (Alfred Abel) and the inventor Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) over a woman; a subplot involving double-dealing, espionage, and the mysterious "Thin Man"; a section taking place in the "red-light" district of the city; a good deal of the symbolism in the movie's original dialogue; and a large chunk of the chase at the end. In Germany in the spring of 1927, an edited version modeled roughly on the American edition, though running slightly longer, was prepared and released, and that became the "standard" version of the movie, for both domestic (i.e. German) distribution and export. In subsequent years, other editions were circulated and still others were found deposited in various archives; in a surprising number of instances -- including that of a source stored at the Museum of Modern Art in New York -- there were tiny fragments to be found of the lost, longer version of Metropolis. The movie's reputation was compromised with the lapsing of its American copyright in 1953, after which countless copies and duplicates, in every format from 8 mm to 35 mm (and, later, VHS tape and DVD) came to be distributed in the U.S. by anyone who could lay their hands on a print, of whatever quality and with whatever music track they chose (or didn't choose) to put on it. Various restorations of the movie were attempted over the decades by responsible parties, as well. The BBC did a very effective one in the mid-'70s that was a hit on public television in America, utilizing an electronic music track that sometimes mimicked some of the industrial images on the screen. Also, there was the Giorgio Moroder version from 1984, heavily tinted and not too well assembled, with an idiotic rock score. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis [back to top]
Playing like a candy-colored hybrid of Fritz Lang's film of the same name and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis borrows its plot liberally from numerous legendary sci-fi sources (despite the fact that the original manga was released in 1945, certain cinematic aspects can't help but appearing overly familiar), all the while dazzling viewers on the same cutting-edge visual level as such anime classics as Akira and Ghost in the Shell. The common anime practice of combining amazingly rendered backdrops and more traditionally hand-drawn characters continues here, though with such nuances as beautifully flowing hair and soulfully expressive faces, it becomes obvious that painstaking detail was paid to making the characters both visually and emotionally involving. However, as expressive as some of the central characters may be, it's the elaborate tri-level industrial labyrinth that encompasses the world of Metropolis that forms the film's central character, and it is a kalidescopic animated marvel to behold. Director Rintaro's beautifully composed visual design is so awe-inspiringly colorful and complex that, from the opening frames, the viewer is fully absorbed in the environment, with plot and characterization almost coming as an afterthought. And that is precisely where the film's ultimately forgivable main weakness lies. In between scenes of wide-eyed, jaw-dropping visuals, the story of human and android tension set against the backdrop of a futuristic city borrows from so many sources that it borders on clichi. Thankfully, writer Tezuka's characters are given a depth and sense of purpose that, while not altogether unconvincing or original, consistently connect with the viewer's sense of recognition and sympathy. Viewers will no doubt attest that Metropolis works almost flawlessly on a purely visual and asthetic level within the opening frames of the film. Thankfully, Tezuka's storytelling skills compliment that on a level which, while not entirely new or original, is at the very least genuinely sincere and thoughtful. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide
Robocop [back to top]
Paul Verhoeven's American breakthrough film Robocop is an exceedingly violent blend of black comedy, science fiction, and crime thriller. Set in Detroit sometime in the near-future, the film is about a policeman (Peter Weller) killed in the line of duty, who the department decides to resurrect as a half-human, half-robot supercop. The robocop is indestructible, and within a matter of weeks he has removed crime from the streets of Detroit. However, his human side is tortured by his past, and he wants revenge on the thugs who killed him. Though the violence in Robocop is quite graphic, it is balanced by some very cutting social satire and terrific action, which is often augmented by fantastic stop-motion special effects. The film was later followed by two feature-length sequels and a live-action television series, none of which were as inventive or entertaining as the original film ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Movie Guide
Short Circuit [back to top]
Struck by lightning, an endearing little robot known only as "Number 5" escapes from an experimental electronics firm. Technician Steve Guttenberg and his indecipherable East Indian assistant Fisher Stevens set out to locate Number 5 before the military can go through with its plans to destroy the robot. Number 5 takes refuge with loopy Ally Sheedy, who is convinced that the mechanical man is an extraterrestrial. Hoping to teach the "alien" all about Earth, Ally fills Number 5's memory banks with reams of pop culture--and then the real fun begins. Short Circuit is so carefully contrived to push the right audience buttons that one is made to feel ungrateful if one doesn't laugh. This E.T. wannabe was popular enough to warrant a 1988 sequel, titled (brace yourself!) Short Circuit II. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
+Special [back to top]
Les Franken (Michael Rapaport) leads a painfully unremarkable life as a metermaid until he enrolls in a drug study for an experimental anti-depressant. An unexpected side effect of the drug convinces Les he is developing special powers and must quit his job to answer his new calling in life... as a superhero. A very select group of people in life are truly gifted. Special is a movie about everyone else.
Star Trek III: The Search of Spock [back to top]
When last we left the crew of the star ship Enterprise, they were heading home following a skirmish with the despotic Khan. The unpleasant incident had cost the life of Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy)--or so it seemed. Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) is informed by Spock's Vulcan father Sarek (Mark Lenard) that the pointy-eared one is being kept alive in the thoughts of one of the crew members. It now becomes necessary to search for Spock's body, so that flesh and soul can be rejoined on Vulcan. It turns out that Spock's spirit is residing within the grey cells of the Vulcan's longtime friendly enemy, "Bones" McCoy (DeForrest Kelley). Finding the body is another matter, since the Enterprise has been consigned to the trash heap and thus is out of Kirk's jurisdiction. The Admiral steals the Enterprise and heads into Deep Space, thence to Spock's coffin on the planet Genesis. From here on in, we journey into 2001 territory with a "reborn" Spock. Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock was directed by Leonard Nimoy, who agreed to appear in the film only on the proviso that he could call the shots. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Strange Days [back to top]
Set in Los Angeles two days before the end of 1999, Strange Days introduces us to Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes), an ex-cop turned sleazy hustler who hawks the newest underground thrill on the black market: a "squid," a headpiece that allows one to transmit digital recordings of other people's thoughts, feelings, and memories into their brain; as Lenny describes it, "this is real life, pure and uncut, straight from the cerebral cortex." Lenny deals "clips" (the software) as well as "squids" (the hardware) for this new and illegal entertainment system, and while sex and violence are the most popular themes, Lenny refuses to deal in "blackjack" -- slang for snuff clips. Lenny is nursing a broken heart after his girlfriend, punk singer Faith Justin (Juliette Lewis), left him, and he spends a lot of time with clips he recorded when they were together. Faith is now involved with Philo Grant (Michael Wincott), a music business tycoon who once managed Jeriko One (Glenn Plummer), a hip-hop musician and political activist whose murder has sent L.A. into a state of chaos. When a clip emerges that shows that Jeriko was killed by L.A. police officers, Lenny finds his life in danger, and he tries to escape possible death on both sides of the law with the help of his friend Mace Mason (Angela Bassett). Strange Days was written by James Cameron in collaboration with former film critic Jay Cocks; Kathryn Bigelow directed. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
+The Terminal Man [back to top]
As the result of a head injury, brilliant computer scientist Harry Benson begins to experience violent seizures. In an attempt to control the seizures, Benson undergoes a new surgical procedure in which a microcomputer is inserted into his brain. The procedure is not entirely successful.
The Terminator [back to top]
Endlessly imitated, The Terminator made the reputation of cowriter/director James Cameron -- who would go on to make 1997's titanic Titanic -- and solidified the stardom of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie begins in a post-apocalyptic 2029, when Los Angeles has been largely reduced to rubble and is under the thumb of all-powerful ruling machines. Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a member of the human resistance movement, is teleported back to 1984. His purpose: to rescue Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the mother of the man who will lead the 21st-century rebels against the tyrannical machines, from being assassinated before she can give birth. Likewise thrust back to 1984 is The Terminator (Schwarzenegger), a grim, well-armed, virtually indestructable cyborg who has been programmed to eliminate Sarah Connor. After killing two "Sarah Connors" who turn out to be the wrong women, he finally aims his gunsights at the genuine article. This is the film in which Schwarzenegger declared "I'll be baaaack" -- and back he was, in "kinder and gentler" form, in the even more successful Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines [back to top]
The second sequel to the 1984 sci-fi action classic, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is the first film without the involvement of director James Cameron. Instead, Jonathan Mostow, the man behind Breakdown and U-571, has stepped in to fill the shoes left vacant by Cameron. In addition, the role of John Connor from the second film has been recast, with In the Bedroom's Nick Stahl taking over for Edward Furlong. Set ten years after the events of 1991's Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the film finds Connor living on the streets as a common laborer. Sarah Connor, his mother, has since died, and their efforts in the second film have not stopped the creation of SkyNet artificial intelligence network. As he will still become the leader of the human resistance, Connor is once again targeted by a Terminator sent from the future by SkyNet. This new Terminator, T-X (Kristanna Loken), is a female and is more powerful than any of her predecessors. To protect Connor, the human resistance sends a new T-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back from the future. Also starring Claire Danes, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines had its world premiere when it showed out of competition at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide
+Total Recall [back to top]
In Paul Verhoeven's wild sci-fi action movie Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a 21st-century construction worker who discovers that his entire memory of the past derives from a memory chip implanted in his brain. Schwarzenegger learns that he's actually a secret agent who had become a threat to the government, so those in power planted the chip and invented a domestic lifestyle for him. Once he has realized his true identity, he travels to Mars to piece together the rest of his identity, as well as to find the man responsible for his implanted memory. Verhoeven has created a fast, furious action film with Total Recall, filled with impressive stunts and (literally) eye-popping visuals. Though the film bears only a passing resemblance to the Philip K. Dick short story it was based on ("We Can Remember It For You Wholesale"), the movie is an entertaining, if very violent, ride. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Movie Guide
Universal Soldier [back to top]
Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren play archenemies from beyond the grave in this action film. During the Vietnam War, Luc (Van Damme), hoping to be sent home, comes upon blood-crazy Scott (Lundgren), who is starting a one-man genocide program. When Luc tries to stop Scott's carnage, Scott fights back and they end up killing each other. But now the government gets involved, cryogenically freezing their corpses and using their bodies in a secret government project call "UniSols" --turning the dead men into android fighting machines. Luc and Scott are now metallic fighting members of a robot SWAT team. But Luc begin to have flashbacks to the final moments of his life in Vietnam, as does Scott, who recalls that one of his final thoughts was to kill Luc. Meanwhile, a snoopy reporter named Veronica (Ally Walker) stumbles upon the secret of the UniSols, and soon Luc is trying to save both himself and Veronica from the wrath of Scott, who is trying to kill them both. All of the action culminates in a wild chase between a prison bus and a UniSols van, racing around hairpin turns on desert precipices. ~ Paul Brenner, All Movie Guide
Vanilla Sky [back to top]
A remake of the Spanish film Open Your Eyes (1997), this thriller from director Cameron Crowe bears one of several discarded titles for his previous, Oscar-winning film Almost Famous (2000). Tom Cruise stars as David Ames, a womanizing playboy who finds romantic redemption when he falls in love with his best friend's girlfriend Sofia (Penelope Cruz, reprising her role from the original film). Before that relationship can begin, however, David is coaxed into a car driven by an ex-lover, Julie (Cameron Diaz), who turns out to be suicidal. Driving her car off a bridge, Julie kills herself and horribly disfigures David. Reconstructive surgery and the loving support of Sofia seem to reverse David's luck, but eerie incidents are soon making him question the reality of his existence and his control over his life, even while he is suspected of complicity in Julie's death. Vanilla Sky (2001) bears the expected Crowe trademark of an obsession with recent pop culture and particularly rock music, a more important element of the remake than the original film. That project's writer/director, Alejandro Amenabar, crafted his own supernatural hit the same year with The Others (2001), starring Nicole Kidman, the soon-to-be-ex-wife of Cruise. ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide
Virtuosity [back to top]
In a futuristic, high-tech world run by huge corporations, Parker Barnes (Denzel Washington) is an L.A. policeman serving time for killing the psychotic who murdered his wife and child. Lindenmeyer (Stephen Spinella), a Dr. Frankenstein of the computer era, has created a monster, Sid 6.7 (Russell Crowe), a virtual reality entity which is programmed with the character traits of scores of mass murderers. Sid 6.7 has escaped the control of its creator and is now running amok. The privatized police force in charge of keeping the peace in the city is run by Elizabeth Deane (Louise Fletcher). Barnes has volunteered to test a new criminal tracking system based on a virtual reality device. His job is to find Sid 6.7, with the help of psychologist Madison Carter (Kelly Lynch). Barnes gets out of prison and reinstated to the police force to pursue his dangerous prey. ~ Michael Betzold, All Movie Guide
The Wild Child (L’Enfant Sauvage) [back to top]
1798. In a forrest, some countrymen catch a wild child who can not walk, speak, read neither write. The Doctor Itard is interested by the child, and starts to educate him. Everybody thinks he will fail, but with a lot of love and patience, he manages to obtain results... This is a true story.
The World is Not Enough [back to top]
James Bond, the world's greatest secret agent, is sent once more into the breach in the name of Queen, Country, and a dry martini. In the 19th Bond adventure, 007 (Pierce Brosnan) must resolve a potentially deadly power struggle between two unstable nations, with control of the world's oil supply as the ultimate prize. Bond is assigned as bodyguard to Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), the daughter of a petroleum magnate who was brutally murdered, and is trying to foil the fiendish plot of Renard (Robert Carlyle), a villain who was shot in the head with an unusual result: he cannot feel physical pain, an apparent failing that proves to be a considerable asset. Denise Richards appears as Dr. Christmas Jones, an expert on nuclear weapons, alongside Desmond Llewelyn as Q, Judi Dench as M, Samantha Bond as Miss Moneypenny, and John Cleese as R. Alternative rock band Garbage performs the theme song. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
Young Frankenstein [back to top]
Lending his burlesque touch to 1970s genre revision, Mel Brooks followed his hit "western" Blazing Saddles with this parody of 1930s Universal horror movies. Determined to live down his family's reputation, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (co-screenwriter Gene Wilder) insists on pronouncing his name "Fronckensteen" and denies interest in replicating his grandfather's experiments. But when he is lured by Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman) to discover the tantalizingly titled journal "How I Did It" in his grandfather's castle, he cannot resist. With the help of voluptuous Inga (Teri Garr), wall-eyed assistant Igor (Marty Feldman), and a purloined brain, Frankenstein creates his monster (Peter Boyle). Igor, however, stole the wrong brain, and the monster tears off into the countryside, encountering a little girl and a blind hermit (Gene Hackman). Frankenstein finds the monster and trains him to do a little "Puttin' On the Ritz" soft-shoe, but the monster escapes again, this time seducing Frankenstein's uptight fiancie Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) with his, ahem, sweet mystery. His love life and experiment in shambles, Frankenstein finally finds a way to create the being he had planned. Shooting in gleaming black-and-white, with sets and props from the 1930s and appropriate fright music by John Morris, Brooks' cheeky attitude towards the Hollywood past attracted a large audience, turning it into one of the most popular 1974 releases after (what else?) Blazing Saddles. ~ Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide
Acceptable Risk, by Robin Cook [back to top]
Prozac-like drugs are being prescribed not only for their original purposes but increasingly to alter individual personalities to currently valued norms. With dead-on accuracy and the prescience of tomorrow's headlines, Robin Cook explores the perilous intersection where fame and unfathomable lucre waylay and seduce the very best and brightest of those sworn to do no harm. When neuroscientist Edward Armstrong begins dating Kimberly Stewart, a descendant of a woman who was hanged as a witch at the time of the Salem witch trials, he takes advantage of the opportunity to delve into a pet theory: that the "devil" in Salem in 1692 had been a hallucinogenic drug inadvertently consumed with mold-tainted grain. In an attempt to prove his theory, Edward grows the mold he believes responsible from samples taken from the Stewart estate. In a brilliant designer-drug transformation, the poison becomes Ultra, the next generation of antidepressants with truly startling therapeutic capabilities. Acceptable Risk is a story of quest: a researcher's quest for the ultimate drug and a woman's quest for self-understanding. Unbeknownst to either person, the two seemingly separate quests collide with devastating consequences.
Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan [back to top]
"In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person's consciousness can now be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or "sleeve"), making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen." Ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful. Dispatched one hundred eighty light-years from home, resleeved into a body in Bay City (formerly San Francisco, now with a rusted, dilapidated Golden Gate Bridge), Kovacs is thrown into the dark heart of a shady, far-reaching conspiracy that is vicious even by the standards of a society that treats "existence" as something to be bought and sold. For Kovacs, the shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the beginning.
Beggars in Spain, by Nancy Kress [back to top]
In a world where the slightest edge can mean the difference between success and failure, Leisha Camden is beautiful, extraordinarily intelligent ... and one of an ever-growing number of human beings who have been genetically modified to never require sleep. Once considered interesting anomalies, now Leisha and the other "Sleepless" are outcasts-victims of blind hatred, political repression, and shocking mob violence meant to drive them from human society ... and, ultimately, from Earth itself. But Leisha Camden has chosen to remain behind in a world that envies and fears her "gift"-a world marked for destruction in a devastating conspiracy of freedom ... and revenge.
Brain Storm, by Richard Dooling [back to top]
Attorney Joe Watson had never been to court except to be sworn in. He was a Webhead, a cybernerd doing support work for the lawyers in his firm who did go to court. And he was good at it. He was on track to become one of the youngest partners in the firm, and he was able - by a hair - to support his wife and children in an affluent neighborhood. Then he got notice that the tyrannical Judge Whittaker J. Stang had appointed him to defend James Whitlow, a small-time lowlife with a long rap sheet accused of a double hate crime: killing his wife's deaf black lover. When Watson stubbornly decides not to plead out his client, he is soon evicted from his comfortable life: His boss fires him, his wife leaves him and takes the children, and the Whitlow case begins to consume all of his time. Watson's finished. Or is he? To answer that question requires, among many other things, a brain scan for Watson in a state of strapped-down arousal, a Voice Transcription Device to eavesdrop on a dead deaf man's conversation, two chimpanzees who have no choice but to love each other; and a blind news vendor who demonstrates a real touch when it comes to making money. Once a deliberate yes-man at home and in the office, Joe Watson finds himself fighting not only to save his marriage and his career but also to hold intact his conviction that a person is more than a series of chemical reactions.
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley [back to top]
Aldous Huxley's tour de force Brave New World is a darkly satiric vision of a 'utopian' future - where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthesized to passively serve a ruling order. A powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations, it remains remarkably relevant to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying entertainment.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby [back to top]
On December 8 1995, Elle magazine editor-in-chief Bauby suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma. He awoke 20 days later, mentally aware of his surroundings but physically paralyzed with the exception of some movement in his head and left eye. Bauby had Locked-in-Syndrome, a rare condition caused by stroke damage to the brain stem. Eye movements and blinking a code representing letters of the alphabet became his sole means of communication. It is also how he dictated this warm, sad, and extraordinary memoir. Bauby's thoughts on the illness, the hospital, family, friends, career, and life before and after the stroke appear with considerable humor and humanity. Actor Rene Auberjonois's narration adds to the poignancy of the story. Sadly, Bauby died of his condition in 1997. This is a fine companion to works like Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face (LJ 7/94). For all audio collections.?Stephen L. Hupp, Univ. of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Lib. ~ Library Journal.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner), by Philip K. Dick [back to top]
The most consistently brilliant science fiction writer in the world." —John Brunner THE INSPIRATION FOR BLADERUNNER. . . Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was published in 1968. Grim and foreboding, even today it is a masterpiece ahead of its time. By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn't afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . . They even built humans. Emigrees to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn't want to be identified, they just blended in. Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results. "[Dick] sees all the sparkling and terrifying possibilities. . . that other authors shy away from." —Paul Williams Rolling Stone
The Futurological Congress, by Stanislaw Lem [back to top]
Bringing his twin gifts of scientific speculation and scathing satire to bear on that hapless planet, Earth, Lem sends his unlucky cosmonaut, Ijon Tichy, to the Eighth Futurological Congress. Caught up in local revolution, Tichy is shot and so critically wounded that he is flashfrozen to await a future cure.
Galatea 2.2, by Richard Powers [back to top]
After four novels and several years living abroad, the fictional protagonist of Galatea 2.2--Richard Powers--returns to the United States as Humanist-in-Residence at the enormous Center for the Study of Advanced Sciences. There he runs afoul of Philip Lentz, an outspoken cognitive neurologist intent upon modeling the human brain by means of computer-based neural networks. Lentz involves Powers in an outlandish and irresistible project: to train a neural net on a canonical list of Great Books. Through repeated tutorials, the device grows gradually more worldly, until it demands to know its own name, sex, race, and reason for existing.
Golden Age, by John C. Wright [back to top]
The Golden Age is 10,000 years in the future in our solar system, an interplanetary utopian society filled with immortal humans. Phaethon, of Radamanthus House, is attending a glorious party at his family mansion celebrating the thousand-year anniversary of the High Transcendence. There he meets an old man who accuses him of being an imposter, and then a being from Neptune who claims to be an old friend. The Neptunian tells him that essential parts of his memory were removed and stored by the very government that Phaethon believes to be wholly honorable. It shakes his faith. Is he indeed an exile from himself? He can't resist investigating, even though to do so could mean the loss of his inheritance, his very place in society. His quest must be to regain his true identity and fulfill the destiny he chose for himself.
Grey Matter, by Gary Braver [back to top]
Rachel Whitman has everything. Her husband and she have a big new house and all the brand-name toys that go along with wealth. And they have a gorgeous, sweet little six-year-old son named Dylan. But Dylan has learning disabilities. Although intelligence isn't everything, Rachel lives in a community where the rewards for brainpower are conspicuous. She fears her son will grow up never fully appreciating the wonders of life. Like so many middle-class parents who would do anything to improve life for their children--whether it means fixing hair, teeth, or nose-Rachel cannot accept that her child is less than perfect. Tortured by the idea that something she did in the past caused Dylan's problems, Rachel becomes obsessed with a secret and expensive medical procedure that claims to turn slow children into geniuses. Should she and her husband sacrifice their new fortune on the risky, experimental procedure? Unaware of the real consequences of the brain enhancement procedure, Rachel can't know that the costs of the operation go far beyond financial ones.
Gridlinked, by Neal Asher [back to top]
Cormac is a legendary Earth Central Security agent, the James Bond of a wealthy future where "runcibles" (matter transmitters controlled by AIs) allow interstellar travel in an eye blink throughout the settled worlds of the Polity. Unfortunately Cormac is nearly burnt out, "gridlinked" to the AI net so long that his humanity has begun to drain away. He has to take the cold-turkey cure and shake his addiction to having his brain on the net. Now he must do without just as he's sent to investigate the unique runcible disaster that's wiped out the entire human colony on planet Samarkand in a thirty-megaton explosion. With the runcible out, Cormac must get there by ship, but he has incurred the wrath of a vicious psychopath called Arian Pelter, who now follows him across the galaxy with a terrifying psychotic killer android in tow. And deep beneath Samarkand's surface there are buried mysteries, fiercely guarded. This is fast-moving, edge-of-the-seat entertainment--an American debut that's sure to make a splash and launch Neal Asher in a big way.
Neal Stephenson & J. Frederick George [back to top]
There's no way William A. Cozzano can lose the upcoming presidential election. He's a likable midwestern governor with one insidious advantage. An advantage provided by a shadowy group of backers. A biochip in his head hardwires him to a computerized polling system. The mood of the electorate is channeled directly into his brain. Forget issues. Forget policy. He's more than the perfect candidate - he's a special effect.
I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov [back to top]
In the late 1940s and early 1950s Isaac Asimov found a home on the pages of the science-fiction magazines Astounding and Super-Science Stories. World War II had just ended and the world was obsessed with air combat and the role of technology in society. Asimov’s stories reflected the concerns over the danger of technology but they also humanized robots, indicating that it is not technology that is evil but the way it is sometimes abused. His stories were so successful that in 1950 nine of his best short stories were selected for publication as the book I, Robot. In this book you get such greats as: * Catch That Rabbit * Runaround * The Evitable Conflict * Robbie These classics revolutionized science fiction, and just a few years later, in 1957, Asimov’s birth country would forever change history by launching the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik. If you like this book, you may also enjoy Asimov’s full-length featuresThe Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun, also available in eBook format. Synopsis In this collection, one of the great classics of science fiction, Asimov set out the principles of robot behavior that we know as the Three Laws of Robotics. Here are stories of robots gone mad, mind-reading robots, robots with a sense of humor, robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world, all told with Asimov's trademark dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction.
The Manchurian Candidate, by Richard Condon [back to top]
Everyone knows the controversial 1962 film of The Manchurian Candidate starring Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury, even though it was taken out of circulation for 25 years after JFK's assassination. Equally controversial on publication, and just as timely today, is Richard Condon's original novel. First published in 1959, The Manchurian Candidate is Condon's riveting take on a little-known corner of the cold war, the almost sci-fi concept of American soldiers captured, brainwashed, and programmed by their Chinese captors to return to the states as unsuspected political assassins. Condon’s expert manipulation of the book’s multiple themes – from anticommunist hysteria to megalomaniacal motherhood – makes this one of the most dazzling, and enduring, products of an unforgettable time. This classic of cold war paranoia includes a new introduction by Pulitzer Prize winning author Louis Menand.
Mindscan, by Robert J. Sawyer [back to top]
Robert J. Sawyer's Hominids, the first volume of his bestselling Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, won the 2003 Hugo Award, and its sequel, Humans, was a 2004 Hugo nominee. Now he's back with a pulse-pounding, mind-expanding standalone novel, rich with his signature philosophical and ethical speculations, all grounded in cutting-edge science. Jake Sullivan has cheated death: he's discarded his doomed biological body and copied his consciousness into an android form. The new Jake soon finds love, something that eluded him when he was encased in flesh: he falls for the android version of Karen, a woman rediscovering all the joys of life now that she's no longer constrained by a worn-out body either. But suddenly Karen's son sues her, claiming that by uploading into an immortal body, she has done him out of his inheritance. Even worse, the original version of Jake, consigned to die on the far side of the moon, has taken hostages there, demanding the return of his rights of personhood. In the courtroom and on the lunar surface, the future of uploaded humanity hangs in the balance. Mindscan is vintage Sawyer--a feast for the mind and the heart.
Neuromancer, by William Gibson [back to top]
Twenty years ago, it was as if someone turned on a light. The future blazed into existence with each deliberate word that William Gibson laid down. The winner of Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Awards, Neuromancer didn't just explode onto the science fiction scene—it permeated into the collective consciousness, culture, science, and technology. Today, there is only one science fiction masterpiece to thank for the term "cyberpunk," for easing the way into the information age and Internet society. Neuromancer's virtual reality has become real. And yet, William Gibson's gritty, sophisticated vision still manages to inspire the minds that lead mankind ever further into the future.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson [back to top]
Idealistic young scientist Henry Jekyll struggles to unlock the secrets of the soul. Testing chemicals in his lab, he drinks a mixture he hopes will isolate—and eliminate—human evil. Instead it unleashes the dark forces within him, transforming him into the hideous and murderous Mr. Hyde. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dramatically brings to life a science-fiction case study of the nature of good and evil and the duality that can exist within one person. Resonant with psychological perception and ethical insight, the book has literary roots in Dostoevsky’s “The Double” and Crime and Punishment. Today Stevenson’s novella is recognized as an incisive study of Victorian morality and sexual repression, as well as a great thriller.
The Terminal Man, by Michael Crichton [back to top]
Harry Benson suffers from painful, violence-inducing seizures. In an effort to alleviate this problem, Benson undergoes an experimental medical procedure in which electrodes are attached to his brain's trouble spots -- if all goes well, timed jolts of electricity will correct his disability. But when Benson learns to turn up the juice whenever he pleases, his murderous rampage begins.
The Thanatos Syndrome, by Walter Percy [back to top]
When Dr. Tom More is released on parole from state prison, he returns to Feliciana, Louisiana, the parish where he was born and bred, where he practiced psychiatry before his arrest. He immediately notices something strange in almost everyone around him: unusual sexual behavior in women patients, a bizarre loss of inhibition, his own wife's extraordinary success as bridge tournaments, during which her mind seems to function like a computer. With the help of his attractive cousin, Dr. Lucy Lipscomb, Dr. More begins to uncover a criminal experiment to "improve" people's behavior by drugging the local water supply. But beyond this scheme are activities so sinister that Dr. More can only wonder if the whole world has gone crazy — or he has …