LOS ANGELES — There's a little movie called "The Avengers" coming out this weekend. You might have heard something about it.
Among its impressive ensemble cast is Clark Gregg, returning from previous Marvel movies as Agent Coulson, Nick Fury's no-nonsense, right-hand man at S.H.I.E.L.D. In all his copious free time this week, Gregg was kind enough to choose his five favorite science fiction films.
Here they are in his own thoughtful words, with the last being most favorite. He's got good taste:
"Another Earth" (2001): I saw this at Sundance in 2011 and was completely mesmerized by its low-budget, idea-driven premise, which, like the best sci-fi, uses an alternative, near-future reality to provide a unique perspective on who we are now. Mike Cahill's powerful direction of a clever, haunting script by the movie's beautiful, unknown lead, Brit Marling, along with an emotional but restrained performance by William Mapother, make this a deeply resonant film about grief and redemption.
"Alien" (1979): This belongs at the top of about five different lists, including best thriller and best horror film, as well. Ridley Scott did so many things right here — from the grimy, lived-in world of the Nostromo mixed with H.R. Giger's eerily seductive design to the perfect cast and Sigourney Weaver's bad-ass performance. I also love the way Scott keeps the alien unseen for so much of the gut-churning build up, then delivers one of the most terrifying creatures ever seen on screen. I still can't watch this one after about 8 p.m.
"The Matrix" (1999): The ultimate popcorn movie. I accompanied a friend to the premiere with no idea what I was walking into and had about as much fun as I've ever had in a movie theater. Spectacular, mind-bending premise which provides the seductive setting for a story delivered with style and precision and more shell casings than all the "Rambo" movies combined. The sequels never quite lived up to this promise, but I can't hold that against this perfect piece of wired-action pie.
"2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968): Stanley Kubrick at his visionary finest. My dad took me to see this when I was about 9 and I was changed forever. Kubrick's visceral and prescient take on such themes as artificial intelligence, extraterrestrials and their role in human evolution was adapted with novelist Arthur C. Clarke from one of his short stories. From the astonishing first act at the dawn of man to the hallucinatory, largely non-verbal climax, the film takes more risks than any 10 studio films made today. I watch it over and over and always experience something different.
"Blade Runner" (1982): Holy crap, I love this movie. I've seen it countless times in all its incarnations, read Phillip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" on which it's loosely based and never flip past it on cable. I love the futuristic neo-noir tone, the moody Vangelis score and the pitch-perfect performances by the entire cast, especially Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah and, above all, the young, Brando-esque Rutger Hauer. His turn as the murderous replicant Roy Batty on a desperate, all-too-human quest to prolong his artificially shortened life in a rain-soaked, post-apocalyptic, 21st century Los Angeles always breaks my heart. There may be a few logic issues here and there, but the whole thing is so damn sexy that you don't even care.