Was it seeing Avatar twice in the theater over the holidays that made me suddenly ravenous for science-fiction-action movies? I'm not sure, but there I was combing my DVD library and the Netflix catacombs looking for films to satiate my hunger.
But to which titles would I turn? Star Wars? Too easy. The Fifth Element? Too familiar—I've seen it 10-plus times. Transformers? Too easy to describe using expletives.
Without intentionally planning it, my final cut featured a futuristic/militaristic theme. The three films that made it to my plate were Soldier (1998), Universal Soldier (1992) and Starship Troopers (1997). (I tried to also snag Ray Liotta's 1994 futuristic military prisoner romp No Escape, but Netflix doesn't carry it.)
I started off with Starship Troopers. Based on the book by famed sci-fi writer Robert A. Heinlein and directed by Dutch director/producer/writer Paul Verhoeven, whose resume boasts such iconic films as Robocop, Total RecallHollow Man, Basic Instinct and Showgirls), knows how to helm a science-fiction-action movie. In fact, if I ever get invited to a Verhoeven-only film festival, I'm going.
Verhoeven's space-soldiers-fight-giant-insects-from-outer-space had everything a teenage boy was looking for when it came out: blood, guts, special effects, shoot-'em-up action, a fun-if-not-ridiculous-story, amazingly colorful sets and costuming, Denise Richards, Neil Patrick Harris, and even a small part for one of my favorite character actors of all time, Clancy Brown.
The rest of my viewing paled in comparison. Netflix referred me to Jean-Claude Van Damme's Universal Soldier after my search for Kurt Russell's all-too-similarly-named Soldier. Oddly enough, the stories are nearly as similar as the names, although each may cater to an ever so slightly different niche. Russell's film—wherein an engineered soldier (go figure) is incidentally marooned on a planet with sweet colonists who he must defend against his bigger, badder replacements—plays with emotion a bit. Van Damme's—in which a resurrected Vietnam soldier defends a reporter from his quasi-super-soldier-brothers-in-arms (led by Rocky IV's Dolph Lundgren)—is mindless action.
(By the way, the sequel, Universal Soldier: Regeneration, starring both Van Damme and Lundgren, is out in theaters now.)
Though my choices were far from Oscar-caliber (save a potential nod for "Most Awesome Film for High School Juniors, 1997"), "Science-Fiction/Action Weekend No. 1" was a great success and a wonderful escape from reality ... and anything resembling quality acting.