My Favourite Films - Blade Runner (1982), Serenity (2005) and Hidden Figures (2016)


This is the first article in a new series that I am calling "My Favourite Films", hopefully, each week I will write a new article talking about three of my favourite films.  For the inaugural article, I have picked three films I really like, but for different reasons that I will explain later.  Many of the articles I have done here talk about superhero films, but I love movies and all types of them.  Instead of trying to make a top ten list (I tried it was too hard), I decided to just make an ongoing series where I talk about some of my favourite movies.  I get asked what my favourite film is, and my answer almost always changes mainly because there are always new films coming out.  Moods can change and with the change of moods sometimes what you like and don't like also can change.  Sometimes I want to watch a movie that is gripping intense and dark, while at other times I want something more uplifting and fun.  I recently watched the first episode of the HBO limited series Chernobyl, and after watching just one episode I was done (at least for now).  The episode was just so dark and disturbing, it was a great and gripping episode, but it left me feeling like I needed to watch something fun and light.  I will definitely go back and watch the rest of Chernobyl, but I am not sure when, and when I do, I can guarantee you I will watch a superhero film shortly after.  Great films, or at least films that reach a specific individual does so because it makes the watcher feel something.  Good or bad it does not really matter; sometimes bad films can make you laugh, and that film will end up on a guilty pleasure list just because it makes you laugh.  This series will go into each film with some light spoilers (sometimes heavy spoilers) and talk about my experiences with the film and some background on the film too.  With all the preamble out of the way, let us kick this series off.

Blade Runner (1982)

In the last ten years, the most common answer to what is my favourite film has been Blade Runner which is funny to me since I did not even like the film the first few times I watched it.  Blade Runner was directed by the great Ridley Scott, whose name will come up many more times in future articles.  My early viewings were of the original cut, but once the final cut of the film was released in 2007, I gave it another shot, and I realized the film is a masterpiece.  The original cut had a narration of the film by Harrison Ford, this was a producer/studio decision that Ford disagreed with, so he made sure his reading of the narration lines was as monotone as possible.  The film is neo-noir and is about a former policeman Deckard (Harrison Ford) who is asked to hunt down four replicants (bioengineered humans) who are on earth illegally.  The film plays around with the notion of what is human and if replicants are more human than the actual humans.  Deckard during his hunt encounters the creator of the replicants who introduces Deckard to his assistant Rachael (played by Sean Young) who is a replicant but does not know she is one.  Deckard over the course of the film falls for Rachael, and eventually eliminates two of the four.  Deckard confronts the other two and kills one but the leader of the replicant group Roy (played by Rutger Hauer) proves too much for him.  Roy has proven that he is the better "man" but saves Deckard right before he dies (replicants have a short lifespan).  Roy's speech right before his death is one the best scenes in film history.  The film also plays with the idea of whether Deckard himself is a replicant, something the amazing sequel Blade Runner 2049 (it will be on this list) picks up that thread and runs with it.  The cinematography, set design, and musical score combine to build a real-world that makes the film special for its time and even special today.  The new videogame Cyberpunk 2077 has a visual aesthetic that owes a lot to Blade Runner and there are countless films and TV shows that also borrowed some things from Blade Runner.  The movie was considered a flop, though it had stiff competition and is now considered a classic.  If Blade Runner is a film you have never seen then I implore you to watch it, look for the final cut edition.

Blade Runner is one of the most influential science fiction films, and I find it funny that there are people out there who do not like this movie.  The flying cars, replicants, setting (it's is always dark and seemingly rainy), and the score (composed by Vangelis) all combine to make the film feel special.  I might not have been able to see Blade Runner in theatres (in 1982 I was a baby) I wish I could.  Star Wars was such a phenomenon and I think Blade Runner should be considered as special as Star Wars, but it is often not given the credit it deserves.  One of the bigger changes in the final cut of the film is there is more attention paid to the possibility that Deckard himself is a replicant.  I find that choice fascinating, and the fact that Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford both feel different about the answer makes it more intriguing.  Rutger Hauer's monologue at the end of the film moves me everytime, the idea that all he has seen and done will disappear upon his death is such a sad thing to think about.  I know I have gotten more mature as a film fan because I went from being bored by Blade Runner to being enraptured by it.  This is a film that will always be in my top ten films (it might be in my top three) of all time and I hope what I wrote encourages readers to watch it.   

Serenity (2005)

The follow-up film to the TV series Firefly, Serenity is not just a great ending and follow-up to the show, but also is a great movie.  Though I will warn you, if you have never watched Firefly (please watch it is only 14 episodes) then I fear you will not fully connect to Serenity.  I am not arguing that Serenity is a great film, but I think it is great.  This blurb will likely spend as much time talking about the show as the movie, I cannot help it since they are tied together.  The show followed a group of outlaws making their way through space, the captain of the ship Mal Reynolds fought on the losing side of a civil war and now is living on the fringe of the galaxy.  The ship also has a doctor Simon who is on the run with his sister River who he freed from a government experiment and now she is a little off but also very gifted.  The ship also has Shepherd Book who has a very shady past with the government but is now trying to do some good with his life.  The second mate Zoe served with the captain during the civil war and is married to the pilot of the ship Wash who is nothing like her.  There is also a mechanic Kaylee who sports a crush on the good doctor.  There is also a mercenary Jayne who is big into fighting and has ambitions that are often limited by his stupidity.  Finally, there is a courtesan Inara (called a companion on the show) who has a flirtatious relationship with the captain, but neither has the courage to admit their feelings for each other.  The show is like a space western where the crew are pulling heists or evading the oppressive government who are after River.  The film picks up a few years after the end of the show, Inara and Book have now moved off of the ship.  The remaining crew end up finally untangling the mystery behind River's history.  The film is funny while also having some good fight scenes.  The reason the show and the film are so good is the characters are people you care about and by the end of the film you will be emotional.  

Mal is played by Nathan Fillion who has a roguish charm much like Han Solo.  It is hard not to be a fan of Mal because of his bravery and humor, he is also not perfect he can be stubborn, and his hatred of the government causes him to act rashly.  The film makes such good use of the characters with Zoe, Mal, Jayne and River getting the most attention.  The film has a fun tone throughout, but when it gets serious it makes sure those moments land as hard as they should.  The show Firefly was never able to attract audiences while it was on the air and that is why the show only got one season.  Unfortunately, the film suffers the same fate, the movie bombed, and any chance of a follow-up TV series or sequel film died too.  The film holds both a good score with critics as well as a good score with the regular movie-watching audience.  The only knock on the film is that if you have not watched the TV show then the film would not mean as much to you.  Even though the film is a sequel/follow-up to the TV show the movie does try to ease the audience into the film so that viewers who did not watch the show would not feel too lost.  I think the chemistry between the cast is great and gives the film a funny feel while also allowing you to grow attached to these misfits.  Our main character Mal is in the mould of Han Solo, a good guy that pretends to be a bad guy, he is fast-talking and likes to pretend he does not take anything seriously.  I wish this movie was more popular and talked about more, I know there are very ardent fans of the film, but it never has broken outside of fans of the show.  If you have never watched Firefly or Serenity please do yourselves a favor and watch them, you will at the very least be entertained and you may even possibly consider yourself a brown coat. 

Hidden Figures (2016)

I am a bit of a NASA nerd, and once I heard what this movie was about, I knew I had to see it.  The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae as three black women who work for NASA as calculators.  The women over the course of the film each push the race barrier as they try to move up in NASA and by the end of the film, they all have successfully accomplished their goals.  The film has a lot of great moments and is very funny while also being uplifting.  The cast is filled out by Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst and Mahershala Ali.  The film is biographical as the characters are based on real people, but there was an obvious choice to make the film fun and lively as evidenced by the bouncy score due to contributions from Pharrell Williams.  There is something so fascinating about NASA during the space race and I can never seem to see, read or hear enough about it.  A big part of my fascination is due in large part to the fact that space travel/exploration has been shelved.  There were so many technological leaps made during that era and the fact we were able to send people to space with that technology boggles my mind.  With all the growth of technology, it seems we have regressed in the area of space travel.  If you asked astronauts during the space race if they thought that over 50 years later and we have not gone back to the moon or even tried to travel to Mars.  This movie is more personal, and its main characters are the key to appreciating the film, the NASA stuff is great and feels authentic.  

The film starts as our three main characters are working in the calculations department of NASA that is made up of all black women who are segregated from the other workers.  Taraji P. Henson's character Katherine is reassigned to the space task group because of her mathematical skills.  Janelle Monae's character Mary is reassigned to the space capsule heat shield team due to her engineering skills.  Octavia Spencer's character Dorothy is the supervisor of the calculator's and is beginning to fear that her department will be shuttered when the IBM computers take over calculations.  All the women struggle with adjusting to their new situations, Mary is dealing with being told that even though she has the education background, she is still missing courses in order to be given the job of an engineer.  Katherine struggles with adjusting to a department where she is the only colored person and is constantly being challenged by her direct supervisor Jim Parsons.  Dorothy is unable to find a way to save her department and knows if she cannot do something her entire staff will be laid off.  Mary needs to take a course in night school in order to be considered for the engineer position, but the course is located in a segregated school.  Mary is forced to take her case to court, and she is successful in being given the clearance to attend the course.  Dorothy fearing for her department notices that the IBM computer are not user-friendly, and the NASA techs assigned to it have no idea what they are doing.  Dorothy reads the manual and spends time learning how to use the machines and then teaches the women in her department how to use the IBM computers too.  Dorothy saves her department as they are transferred to use IBM computers.  Katherine continues fighting her boss but eventually earns the trust and praise of Kevin Costner's character Al.  Al sees that Katherine is very gifted and does what he can to help her succeed and due to her determination, she becomes a key member of the team.  

The film's three main leads are all great and give fantastic performances.  It is a story of determination in the face of constant challenges and yet these women keep fighting.  The film also has a lot of funny moments and the pacing makes the film feel shorter than it is.  I enjoy films that make a point in emphasizing the inequality that existed at that time.  The films shows that gender and race should not matter, a good message that needs to be taken to heart.  I feel this is a great movie to show older kids who have an interest in math and or science.  The movie has a very positive message, strong historical roots while also being a space movie.  Hidden Figures is a movie due to its positive and fun feel makes it the kind of film I could watch over and over again.  If you have not seen the film, please see it.  

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