Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek II needs no futile word from me to give voice to its genius. The best of the original films by a mile and a half, Wrath of Khan was a virtual franchise unto itself. If you are unfamiliar with anything Star Trek, watch the Space Seed episode of the original series and then watch this film. After you have been immersed in its boldness, intelligence, and raw entertainment value, go back and watch J.J. Abraham's remake again. So much of what made the remake great was its borrowing from Star Trek II so it provides an interesting compendium piece.
The reason this is on my list is because lately I have taken to watching it as I drift off to sleep. Star Trek II features one of James Horner's many, if overtly similar, scores that never fails to delight me. It's like the perfect geeky lullaby and I'm usually out by the commencement of the Kobayashi Maru. What's really fun is, should my sleep prove restless, fading in and out of the film at different points. It's like watching a very strange fan edit of the film that somehow involves Kirstie Alley's hairdo leading to the discovery that Kirk has a son, or Scotty's wee bout of shore leave causing Kirk to exclaim, "Khannnnn!!!" Still a great film no matter how much you sleep through.
The Black Hole
What happened to the days when Disney used to make cool live-action adventure films? Oh right, Pirates of the Caribbean, but you know what I mean. The Black Hole is one of my absolute favorites from that era. A group of astronauts discover a ship seemingly abandoned and adrift right at the threshold of the most destructive force in the universe. I don't own this movie on anything but VHS and I still love the hell out of it. The more I watch it, the more I pine for a Blu-ray release to sharpen the slick effects, but there is something undeniably awesome about seeing this film on the same format on which I viewed it as a kid.
There are a lot of great things to love about The Black Hole; not the least of which being its cast. Anthony Perkins, Maximilian Schell, Robert Forster, Ernest Borgnine, and the voice talents of both Slim Pickens and Roddy McDowall. How can you not love that? Not to mention the fact that the film features one of the coolest theme songs ever. It was composed by none other than John "James Bond" Barry and provides the perfect balance of Sci-Fi flavor and a mysterious tinge to complement the vast unknown of an actual black hole. It also features one of the weirdest, most psychedelic endings of any film...Disney or otherwise.
Defenders of the Earth
I am cheating a bit here as Defenders of the Earth is a cartoon. But I feel it would be criminal to deny the Sci-Fi buffet that is this late 80's animated series. Imagine a world where Mandrake the Magician, Flash Gordon, and The Phantom not only occupy the same space, but join forces to...you guessed it, defend the Earth! I have to admit I didn't have the first damn clue who Mandrake was, but I am a huge fan of both Flash Gordon and The Phantom and finally we get to see them together (the sarcasm should be palpable even through cyber space). There really is no reason for these heroes to be working together other than they were the last franchises not to be roped into the Justice League or some similarly bloated unit. If comic book characters have been all but tapped, what better place to go but comic strips to fashion your own league of crime fighters?
I picked up this entire series, still shrink-wrapped, for five bucks the other day and am just a few episodes in to it. So far, it's far from stellar. The animation is substandard and, much in keeping with the 80's action cartoons, there is a slew of unnecessary children enlisted into the Defenders whose sole job it is to get into trouble. Also, why would it ever have been considered cool for a collection of superheroes to wear members only jackets with their logo on it? Not only that, but they have nonsensical alien creature sidekick who speaks in squeaks and serves absolutely no purpose. I do like the cheesy theme song with its drum machine hook and a singer who desperately wanted to be in a hair band. The show also comes replete with logo transitions that employ rocking snipets of its theme. I recognize that I would have loved this show had I seen it as a child, but not even the one-two punch of The Phantom and Flash Gordon can save this stinkfest.