It cannot act at all, so long as there is no threat.

Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)   What was Dr Forbin (Eric Braeden) thinking? Talk about bending over backwards to give the AI what it wants. Colossus: The Forbin Project is sufficiently compelling that you rather excuse it all the conceptual blunders and goofs that ensure there’s absolutely no way to switch the supercomputer off, or countermand it, or mitigate its leverage (“Do what I say or get nuked”). It is also, in very 1970s fashion, a starkly bleak, unforgiving affair, something that does much to ensure it still packs a punch. Skynet decides to wipe humanity out, but Colossus, much

My life has been one glorious hunt.

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)   One of those movies more famous for its influence, if you choose to see it that way, and what it represents, than its qualities in and of itself. Which is something of a pruned-back affair, at RKO’s decree, filmed on sets that would inspire the imminent King Kong – Merian C Cooper shot Kong test footage during the production – and featuring its scream queen Fay Wray and several other actors (The Most Dangerous Game cost about a third of Kong’s price tag). The essential lure and fascination is that it posits – based

You’ve got a lot to learn, jungle man.

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)   If there’s a lesson from late-70s to mid-80s Hollywood, it’s the danger of amping up fledgling “auteurs” beyond their stations, with very costly results. First there was the Oscar glory of Michael Cimino, who drove a terminal nail into New Hollywood with his The Deer Hunter follow-up Heaven’s Gate. Later, Roland Joffe would lose a bundle with the pictures he made after The Killing Fields, The Mission and Fatman and Little Boy. And then there’s the case of Hugh Hudson, an ex-adman like Sir Ridders and also (in relative

Lines of confluence, probable scales, all that shit.

Timecop (1994)   Should you be allowed to make a time-travel movie if you can’t be bothered to observe even the most basic diligence towards cause and effect – to temporal geography, if you like? It’s one thing for an accidental journey to mess up the mechanics, but when it’s in the name of a government agency, who should be au fait with such things and be taking due precautions, it just seems like laziness. Throwing Van Damme into the mix simply adds to that sense of the slipshod, meaning it’s only director Peter Hyams’ customary dependability that holds Timecop’s

Hypnotic illusions don’t tear people apart.

Forbidden Planet (1956)   Seminal sci-fi is how this is always announced: proto-Star Trek by way of the Bard. There’s certainly much to appreciate here, not least the inimitable Robby the Robot and the animated visualisation of the monster of the Id, when it eventually appears. But Forbidden Planet is also frequently languid and just that bit too relaxed, its “grownup” SF of people talking rather than scrapping to be balanced against the romance between Anne Francis and everyone’s favourite Police Squad representative, Leslie Nielsen. Given Nielsen’s rep for emphasising plankishness to humorous effect, its notable how well he does

Better move fast, kid. The end is near.

2012 (2009)   This is where the bigger-budget disaster-movie cycle reaches its zenith. Or nadir, depending on your take. After this, global destruction would largely be down to clashing superheroes. And after this, alleged 33rd-degree freemason Roland Emmerich’s star would be in the descendent, the “vanity” projects he had his eye on floundering along with the presumed safer ground of standard-issue blockbusters. 2012 might have been one such, were the example of End of Days and the Millennium taken as indicative, but it lashed together the disaster-movie formula – and the Emmerich disaster-movie formula at that – with gleefully undisguised

The Hollywood sign is gone! It’s just shredded!

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)   Eco-disaster porn! And who better to deliver it than go-to predictive-programming purveyor, alleged 33rd-degree freemason – alleged on the degree, rather than being a mason – Roland Emmerich? Not for Roland this “graduating” to serious, adult, Oscar-grab movies of the director (the berg) he’s often credited with ripping off malarkey. No, Emmerich’s quite content to wallow in his pit, the occasional “serious” conspiracy (Anonymous) or personal (the much-derided Stonewall) movie aside. The Day After Tomorrow saw him operating at the peak of his ’70s-disaster-cycle-redux powers, to the tune of half-a-billion dollars gross at the

Dr Kevorkian, I presume?

Absolute Power (1997)   Patently ridiculous presidential corruption tale, yet kind-of-irresistible, owing to its fantasy-land trappings. Entertain, if you will, the possibility of a POTUS involved in murder who doesn’t have it buried for all time by a mere handful of staff aware of what has happened – no hidden controllers or Deep State puppeteering this White House – and who can be brought down by an average-joe cat burglar. And all this made during the Clinton era! Anyone would think, for all its incrimination of the highest office in the land, it was a piece of propaganda. Whitewashing of

It is so difficult to make a neat job of killing people with whom one is not on friendly terms.

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)   Surely a contender for the best British film ever made, director Robert Hamer elicits never-better work from a fine cast – as splendidly eccentric and malleable as he is across 8 roles, Alec Guinness is perhaps the least of the 3 leads – even though it’s the deliciously barbed, witty, blackly comic screenplay that really does Kind Hearts and Coronets proud. This was the year Ealing enacted a seismic shift in the comedy landscape with the classic trio of this, Whisky Galore! and Passport to Pimlico, but there can be little doubt which of

Without me, you’d still be reading tea leaves at Lake Tahoe.

Supergirl (1984)   It was the one-two punch KOs of Supergirl and Santa Claus: The Movie that led to the Salkinds divesting themselves of Superman and which, in consequence, gave us The Quest for Peace. Both came from the director of Jaws II, perhaps not the most obvious choice to bank everything on, but then, like Richard Lester, Jeannot Swarzc doubtless came cheap and took direction himself (he’d also directed Reeve before, which might have helped with the cameo that didn’t happen). Supergirl holds an 8 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which isn’t entirely unfair, as it isn’t a