Speculative Film…a DVD voyage into What If.

The library has recently added several Science Fiction and Futuristic DVDs to its collection.

While these film are speculative and futuristic they offer an informative look at our concerns for the present as well as the future. Some focus on the immediate future some on the distant future, and many are concerned with interaction between humans, between humans and other “life-forms,” and between humans and machines.

Here is a list with a very brief description of each film:

AI (Artificial Intelligence) (2001)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Stars: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor


A highly advanced robotic boy longs to become “real” so that he can regain the love of his human mother – his journey is long, filled with adventure and heartbreak, and an ending that will leave you pondering the nature of humanity, machines, and love.

Automata (2014)

Director: Gabe Ibáñez
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Dylan McDermott

automata_movie image

Jacq is an insurance agent of ROC (Robotics Corporation) who investigates cases of robots violating their primary protocols against altering themselves. What he discovers has profound consequences for the future of humanity. If you enjoyed the film “Blade Runner” you will probably enjoy this film as well.

Cargo (2009)

Directors: Ivan Engler, Ralph Etter
Cast: Anna Katharina Schwabroh, Martin Rapold, Regula Grauwiller

Cargo_movie image

The year is 2267. The ecosystem of Earth has been destroyed and mankind is forced to live in orbit. The story of CARGO takes place on the derelict spaceship KASSANDRA on its 8 year journey to a remote freight-station in deep space. The young and inexperienced medical officer is the only person awake on board. The rest of the crew lies frozen in cryosleep. During her daily patrols she discovers a problem that requires her to wake up the crew. In their search for the problem the crew finds out that the ship carries something completely different than officially declared. Laura uncovers a large-scale government conspiracy concerning the current state of Earth’s ecosystem. This inconvenient truth has results that are yours to uncover when you watch this film.
This is a German film: you have the option of watching it with an English language dub or in German with English subtitles.

Europa Report (2013)

Director: Sebastián Cordero
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Michael Nyqvist, Christian Camargo


A small group of astronauts travel to the moon of Jupiter known as Europa in the spacecraft Europa One. Their assignment is to investigate the existence of life in Europa, based on the discovery of water on it. When they experience a communication breakdown, a series of problems and catastrophes reduces the crew dramatically, but in in spite of enormous difficulties the remaining crew members discover something extraordinary. They have to report their findings but the possibility of their return to earth is in question. How they manage is yours to discover.

 Ex Machina (2015)

Director: Alex Garland
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac


Caleb, a 26 year old coder at the world’s largest internet company, wins a competition to spend a week at a private mountain retreat belonging to Nathan, the reclusive CEO of the company. But when Caleb arrives at the remote location he finds that he will have to participate in a strange and fascinating experiment in which he must try to show that an artificial intelligence, housed in the body of a beautiful female android, can pass the Turing Test. The ultimate result is startling. Although this is a very futuristic film if you are a fan of Edgar Allen Poe, the conclusion may remind you (at least in spirit) of “The Cask of Amontillado.”

I Robot (2004)

Director: Alex Proyas
Cast: Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, Bruce Greenwood


Set in a future Earth (2035 A.D.) where robots are common place as assistants and workers for their human owners. This is the story of “robotophobic” Chicago Police Detective Del Spooner’s investigation into the murder of Dr. Alfred Lanning, who works at U.S. Robotics, in which a robot, “Sonny,” appears to be implicated. It seems impossible because if robots can break laws pertaining to the protection of humans, there’s nothing to stop them from taking over the world, and humans have become completely dependent on robots.


The Machine (2014)

Director: Caradog W. James
Cast: Toby Stephens, Caity Lotz, Denis Lawson

The MAchine_movieimage.jpg

A veteran AI engineer secretly hopes to develop technology to help his diseased daughter, even if it means that the funding comes from the powerful Ministry of Defense (MoD). His new partner, a young woman gifted in the field of AI, is brought on after her breakthroughs in the field of artificial intelligence show her mastery of the field to be exceedingly exceptional. But things get more and more difficult and more sinister as the Defense Ministry suspects the two researchers of becoming too independent and off track. The MoD takes over all aspects of the research and requires that the very human like android that the AI engineer has designed be programmed to follow MoD instructions and kill — with its new and nearly indestructible body it is a formidable weapon. How this story ends may send chills up your spine, but not for the reasons you may at first imagine.

Transcendence (2014)

Director: Wally Pfister
Cast: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman


Dr. Will Caster is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. Unfortunately, in their attempt to destroy Will and his work, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed. For his wife Evelyn and best friend Max Waters, both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can…but if they should help or hinder him. Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power — to what end is unknown. The only thing that is terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him. You might consider this an update – in spirit only – of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein novel.

If these whet your appetite, the library has a number of other speculative films in its collection. Here is a selection:

  • Interstellar
  • Moon
  • Gravity
  • The Last Mimzy
  • Robot and Frank
  • THX1138
  • Another Earth
  • Blade Runner
  • Contact
  • Solaris (Two versions of this one is a US film the other is a Russian film)
  • Anime films: Howel’s Moving Castle, and the Iron Giant
  • Sunshine
  • Planet of the Apes
  • Star Trek
  • Star Wars
  • Soylent Green
  • Tomorrow Land
  • Mad Max

    BobBlog“Speculative Film…” is by Bob Miller, assistant librarian at PPL: lover of film, music, fiction and non-fiction. If you have suggestions for something that should be included in a future blog post, email him at rimiller@cityofportsmouth.com.

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