2020 Movie Watching Project: TCM “Must-See Sci-Fi”

Happy 2020! This year’s movie watching project has me over the moon, truly.

I am planning to watch all 50 movies listed in the cool book from Turner Classic Movies (TCM) called Must-See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies that Are Out of This World by Sloan De Forest (Running Press, 2018; available at Amazon.com and Shop TCM).

Here’s the list of the 50 films (plus I’m also going to watch Disney’s wild and wacky sci-fi flick The Black Hole from 1979 which is not included in the book but is a total sci-fi guilty pleasure).

* Watched in 2019
** Never seen before

  1. A Trip to the Moon (1902)
  2. Metropolis* (1927)
  3. Frankenstein (1931)
  4. Island of Lost Souls** (1932)
  5. The Invisible Man (1933)
  6. Things to Come** (1936)
  7. The Thing from Another World** (1951)
  8. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
  9. It Came from Outer Space (1953)
  10. The War of the Worlds (1953)
  11. Them! (1954)
  12. Godzilla (1954)
  13. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
  14. Forbidden Planet (1956)
  15. Invasion of the Body Snatchers* (1956)
  16. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
  17. The Fly (1958)
  18. The Blob (1958)
  19. The Time Machine (1960)
  20. La Jetée** (1962)
  21. These Are the Damned** (1962)
  22. Alphaville** (1965)
  23. Fantastic Voyage (1966)
  24. Planet of the Apes (1968)
  25. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  26. Barbarella** (1968)
  27. THX 1138 (19710
  28. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  29. Silent Running** (1972)
  30. Solaris** (1972)
  31. Sleeper (1973)
  32. The Man Who Fell to Earth** (1976)
  33. Logan’s Run (1976)
  34. Star Wars (1977)
  35. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
  36. The Black Hole (1979); not on original list—added for my own guilty viewing pleasure
  37. Alien* (1979)
  38. E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  39. Blade Runner (1982)
  40. The Brother from Another Planet** (1984)
  41. The Terminator (1984)
  42. Back to the Future (1985)
  43. Brazil** (1985)
  44. Robocop (1987)
  45. Jurassic Park (1993)
  46. The Matrix (1999)
  47. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
  48. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  49. WALL-E (2008)
  50. District 9 (2009)
  51. Arrival (2016)

I hope you’ll join me in following along or, better yet, watching some or all of these films with me! I will be keeping a log of the films on my Instagram feed (@moviespap), my Letterboxd page (stanfordclark), and will be reporting regularly here on the blog and podcast.

TCM “Essentials” Recap

I had a wonderful and enlightening time this year watching all 52 films listed in the the great book from Turner Classic Movies called The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter by Jeremy Arnold. Here are 10 standout films (although I really loved them all) as documented in my personal Instagram feed (and I hope you’ll also follow my Movies Past and Present Instagram feed, too).

10. “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930)

9. “It Happened One Night” (1934)

8. “The Thin Man” (1934)

7. “Now, Voyager” (1942)

6. “Leave Her to Heaven” (1945)

5. “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946)

4. “Seven Samurai” (1954)

3. “Roman Holiday” (1953)

2. “On the Waterfront” (1954)

1. “In the Heat of the Night” (1967)

Of course, films on the list like Casablanca, Singin’ in the Rain, Some Like It Hot, and Sunset Boulevard remain forever favorites; however, these 10 films listed really spoke to me this year.

Thanks again for following along! More movie watching projects are coming soon (like tomorrow)!

The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter is available on Amazon.com and Shop TCM.

December 19, 2019 Podcast

Welcome to this week’s podcast! And Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

New Movie Roundup

New in theaters this week:

Opening next week:

Still in theaters (and definitely worth seeing):


I recently rewatched all eight Star Wars Skywalker saga episodes. More info and rankings are here. And here’s my written review of Episode IX, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Classic Cinema Corner

2020 Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Big Screen Classic series lineup

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Listen to the podcast below or subscribe on Apple Podcasts . Have fun at the movies this week and thanks again for your support.

Review: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Note: This review is spoiler-free.

Evil Emperor Palpatine is back and our heroes embark on a big adventure to save the galaxy in Episode IX of the Star Wars Skywalker saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

The latest Star Wars film has a big task—not only is it the conclusion of this latest “sequel trilogy” of films (2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi), but it is also intended to serve as a conclusion to all eight of the episodes that preceded it. A tall order indeed.  

As you may recall, the big baddie of the both the original trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) and the prequel trilogy (Episodes I-III) is Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious (played with ghoulish delight by actor Ian McDiarmid). It turns out that Emperor Palpatine followed his own counsel that he gave to a young and conflicted Anakin Skywalker in Episode III, in that the “dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural…” (including cheating death).

©️ Lucasfilm

So, with Palpatine back in the picture, our new set of heroes—Jedi master-in-training Rey (Daisy Ridley), former stormtrooper turned Resistance fighter Finn (John Boyega), hotshot and hotheaded pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and rolling droid BB-8, joined by long-time favorite Star Wars characters Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels)—set off to find the location of the Emperor, take him out, and restore peace and order to the galaxy. On the darker side of the galaxy, the tempestuous and newly-ordained leader of the First Order Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) isn’t so happy that the Emperor is back in the picture and he sets out to find him, too.

As was explored in the last two episodes, Rey and Kylo Ren have an unique connection through the Force that continues in this story. Their relationship and their respective character arcs are probably the most interesting of the film and are definitely a representation of the key Star Wars themes of good vs. evil, light vs. dark (particularly within one’s self), and finding one’s path in the world.

©️ Lucasfilm

The film is loaded with returning characters from the Star Wars universe, including General Leia (again played by Carrie Fisher using cut footage from Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), Maz Kanata (voiced by Lupita Nyong’o), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), and beloved droid R2-D2. We also get to meet a few new characters, including First Order Allegiant General Pryde (Richard E. Grant), Resistance fighter Beaumont Kin (Dominic Monaghan), warrior Jannah (Naomi Ackie), spice runner Zorri Bliss (Keri Russell), and a cute little droid named D-O.

Overall, the film feels like an old-fashioned swashbuckling adventure, not unlike Episodes IV and VI from the original Star Wars trilogy or the classic movies and serials that inspired George Lucas in the first place. It’s a big movie and there’s a lot to digest. I can’t say that I loved every creative decision that was made; however, I was grateful that the big questions posed in the previous two sequel trilogy films were answered to my satisfaction and things eventually all come together in a Star Wars-y kind of way.

Director J.J. Abrams and his signature style are very prevalent in the film which is a good thing. The production looks fantastic and the special effects are, again, second to none. I’m sure this film is going to get heaped upon with criticism, but, truly, the creative team had an impossible task to bring a conclusion to this series, let alone satisfy the large and diverse fan base. And although I’m still not convinced that the current team at Lucasfilm ever had a solid vision or a cohesive three-film strategy about what they wanted to accomplish with this sequel trilogy, it was their task, not mine.

The ending of this film series is bittersweet. I’ve loved spending time with these characters new and old and have been entertained and inspired with the storytelling, artistry, and filmmaking for most of my life. It will be exciting to see what is ahead for new stories and adventures within the expansive Star Wars galaxy. (The Mandalorian TV series on Disney+ is a great start.) I’m full of, dare I say, hope.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association for “sci-fi violence and action.”

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

©️ Lucasfilm

2019 Re-watch of the “Star Wars” Skywalker Saga Films

In preparation for the upcoming release of Episode IX of the Star Wars Skywalker saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, I recently re-watched all eight films. Here’s my journey via my social media feeds. Enjoy.

Also of note, I watched all three prequel films on Blu-ray with the director/filmmaker commentary track, which was a godsend.

More Posters for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

This is an ongoing post with posters for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I’ll update the post as new posters are released, so keep checking back.

All images ©️ Lucasfilm and Poster Posse

🎨: Adam Stothard Illustration
🎨: Tracie Ching
🎨: Nicky Barkla
🎨: SG Posters
🎨: Chris Skinner
🎨: Turksworks
🎨: 17th and Oak

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20.

November 21, 2019 Podcast

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New in Theaters


Listen to the podcast below or subscribe to the podcast on Apple iTunes. Have fun at the movies this week and thanks again for your support.

Review: “Frozen 2”

Attention: This review is spoiler-free.

Where did Elsa get her powers from? And what were Anna and Elsa’s parents really doing when their ship went down? These pivotal questions lie at the heart of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ supremely entertaining and beautiful sequel Frozen 2.

The film basically picks up where the first film (and the myriad of Frozen-themed short films) left off. Princess Anna (again voiced by Kristen Bell) and her big sister Queen Elsa (again voiced by the dreamy Idina Menzel) are best buddies once more and are peacefully ruling the kingdom of Arendelle. Anna is still with her boyfriend Kristoff (again voiced by Jonathan Groff) and they continue to be accompanied by Kristoff’s reindeer Sven and Elsa’s magical creation Olaf the snowman (again voiced by Josh Gad).

We’re treated to a flashback when Anna and Elsa are little girls and where we learn more about their parents, King Agnarr (voiced by Alfred Molina) and Queen Iduna (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood). Their parents tell the girls a story about an Enchanted Forest and other places outside of Arendelle when some important events took place that directly affected their family.

Queen Iduna (Evan Rachel Wood) sings a lullaby to young Anna and Elsa in FROZEN 2. (©️ Disney)

Back in present day, Elsa keeps hearing voices. She is troubled to know if she should try to figure out what they are saying to her or if she should just ignore them. Elsa decides to heed the mysterious call and sets the film’s adventure into motion. With all of the gang in tow, Elsa ventures off “into the unknown” (which is also a name of one of the many terrific new songs from the film) to try to find out what these voices are attempting to tell her.

When they find the Enchanted Forest, they meet the indigenous Northuldra people who have a long history with the Arendellians and who have a tradition of caring for the environment (and maybe have a little magic to throw into the mix, too). And while the people have been going on with their lives, there is (literally) a cloud hanging over them and a major mystery that needs to be solved. Can Anna and Elsa solve the puzzle? And do the Northuldra hold any answers to the big burning questions? One thing is for sure, our heroines Anna and Elsa are both up to the task.

Honeymaren (Rachel Matthews), Ryder (Jason Ritter) and Yelana (Martha Plimpton) are all part of the Northuldra people, who might hold the answers to some important questions in FROZEN 2. (©️ Disney)

I found this film utterly delightful. The trademark high quality animation done by the masters at Walt Disney Animation Studios is again absolutely stunning and is such a pleasure to watch. Co-directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck are back along with most of the creative team from the first film and they’ve infused this film with love, craft, and care. The new songs written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the same writing team as the first Frozen film and the Broadway musical, are again catchy and wonderful and help propel the story forward.

Ultimately, Frozen 2 serves as a terrific complement to its predecessor. Questions are answered, rights are wronged (including giving Jonathan Groff a full song to sing–and it’s a doozy), and the story all comes together in a very satisfactory way (at least for this viewer). Sisterly love once more reigns supreme along with the encouragement to all to be brave, loving, and to go into our own unknowns, whatever and wherever they may be.

Frozen 2 is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association for “action/peril and some thematic elements.”

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Sisters rule in FROZEN 2. (©️ Disney)

All images ©️ Disney