Alien (1979 - DVD)
The first time I saw this movie, I confess I didn't get a lot out of it. But I've come to appreciate it a lot more when rewatching it and especially after having seen Aliens. It's a finely-crafted horror movie, gritty, dark, and even depressing sometimes, and I think what makes it work is how realistic it feels. Machinations of the future in which space travel is possible are often heavier on fantasy than sci-fi, but this movie finds the right balance, not least of which is courtesy of the down-to-earth bluecollar characters, and the claustrophobic, moody atmosphere. The alien itself (with its beautifully grotesque H.R. Giger design) is an incredibly unique movie monster and in this film it feels more like a real animal that's just doing its thing to survive (which makes it scarier in my opinion), than in some of the later films where it's just a typical B-movie killing machine.
Aliens (1986 - DVD)
By now, I have probably seen this movie more times than any other movie. If you saw any of the other Alien movies and didn't like them, I still demand that you see Aliens. It's the best of the bunch. Great characters, great story, great special effects (thank goodness this movie was made before CGI), lots of action, Sigourney Weaver is fantastic, and the Alien Queen is simply the most badass movie monster in existence. The battle against her at the end is a pure classic. I slightly prefer the theatrical release to the special edition, but both are extremely good. Like its predecessor, Alien, it deals with its subject matter in a frighteningly realistic fashion. It's easy to see why this movie influenced so many video games. It's a thrill ride from start to finish, with an ending so perfect that I wish the Aliens series could have just ended right here.
Alien 3 (1992 - DVD)
I watched the special edition because I remembered it being slightly better than the theatrical release, but if that's true, then the theatrical release must have been really bad. Aside from the obvious, often-cited problems (the setup making no sense at all), the movie is slow and boring and there is very little characterization. The beginning spends much time layering on symbolism so thick that it doesn't really work. Dr. Clemens, Dillon, and Superintendent Andrews are the only prisoners given any personality, and Clemens is killed off too early, and Andrews is annoying. When annoying people or people that you don't even know die, it can almost become comical. For instance, when Andrews is carted off by the alien just as he finishes his speech and so happens to step underneath an air vent. C'mon, even when Burke got it in Aliens, you didn't want to laugh. The weirdest thing of all is that it's obvious the whole point of this movie was to have an alien that runs like a dog, really swiftly and fast, and yet it's painfully obvious they didn't have the special effects technology to make it convincingly happen.
Charlie Wilson's War (2007 - DVD)
This is a pretty decent movie, but I have one gripe with it: If you go into it not really knowing or understanding why Russia invaded Afghanistan, it kind of makes it look like the Russians are just trying to kill everyone there for no real reason. Nowhere is it mentioned that they were siding with a particular political party there. Aside from that, I thought the movie was informative, had some great moments, and until I saw it, I never would have thought I'd find a scene of helicopters being shot down by anti-air missiles uplifting.
Dark City (1998 - DVD)
The moral of this movie is that if you're hiveminded, you can't be human. As a longtime denizen of the internet, that's a sentiment I can appreciate. This moral is told through a tale that seems frighteningly similar to Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (see below), right down to both having a city that no one can escape from, a crazy guy in a dirty apartment saying he can't remember back past a certain point no matter how hard he tries, a scene where a car stops and people get out to remark that there should be a bridge here, and (most importantly) a scene where the camera pans away from the city so you can see it detached and floating in space. One major difference in Dark City from UY2 is that when that "city in space" scene occurs in UY2, there's still quite a bit of mystery left, whereas in Dark City, the mystery is over... and then it becomes a Dragon Ball Z fight. (I'm not kidding.) It's a good movie, but not one of my top favorites.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977 - DVD)
The original space opera saga that started it all, A New Hope is still my favorite in the series because I feel it works the best as a stand-alone story. There's also nothing quite like the simple farmboy-to-hero storyline and the incredible Death Star battle in the end. I watched the Special Edition version (though I've seen the original many times), and the only problems I have with it are that dumbass Jabba scene and Greedo shooting first. If not for those issues, I'd really have no preference for which version to watch. The Special Edition is prettier, but I like the grittiness of the original, too. Other than that, what can I say that hasn't already been said?
Urusei Yatsura Movie 2: Beautiful Dreamer (1984 - DVD)
This is still one of my favorite animated movies of all time. The characters are great, the artwork is good, the story is absorbing, and the humor is well-played. (Mendou reminds me so much of my own RAU Gallery character Chance Tomasaro, it's kind of scary.) The only problem is that I think the movie works best the first time you see it when it's all new to you. It appears the studio didn't have a very large animation budget, so there are a lot of scenes where nothing is moving, or there's only minimal movement. The film uses this to some effect to heighten the mystery (long camera pans across still settings as characters talk about what's going on), but when you know what the secret is, the lack of animation will be more obvious to you. I should also mention that I've never watched the version with the original Japanese voice actors, only the English dub, but unlike many anime fans, I think the English dub for this movie is just fine. "Tanks don't go bathing, you idiot!" still cracks me up every time I hear it.
Garfield and Friends, Volume Four (1992 - DVD)
When I was a kid, I stopped watching this show after several seasons, and I don't exactly remember why. I don't know if the show got worse or if I just outgrew it, but this set, which contains parts of Seasons 5 and 6, indicates several possible reasons why. Almost all of the US Acres/Orson's Farm segments involve either Orson reading a book and having his imagination turn into reality, or some villain character stealing crops or chickens. Then you get the occasional episode that combines both. The Garfield segments are more tolerable, but are sometimes dull and seem to be repeating the same jokes they used in earlier seasons. Many of these episodes were completely new to me (I'd seen "Truckin' Odie" and the singing ants episode before, but that was about it), and yet I was still familiar with a lot of the jokes and conventions. It does have its bright spots. The "sending Nermal to Abu Dhabi" thing was old, and yet they still managed to make a pretty good set up to a punchline involving Garfield getting sent there instead. The "Snow Wade" episode was pretty funny, too, and I wondered how it was even possible they got the kissing scene past the censors. But there weren't enough moments like those and I started feeling bored with it by the end (that is, until that Garfield rap video that ended Season 5 totally creeped me out...)
Saturday Night Live: The Best of Christopher Walken (1992 - DVD)
The thing about this "best of" collection is that it's extremely hit or miss. The funny sketches are really, really funny, but the unfunny ones are almost incomprehensible. The best sketches are the cowbell sketch, the two Continental sketches (and a third one in the extras that shows how one is made), and the Trivial Psychic (which is my all-time favorite Christopher Walken SNL sketch). But the ones that aren't funny tend to be real stinkers, like that one where Cheri Oteri is acting like a white trash woman on a porch, that bizarre centaur sketch, and those god-awful sketches where Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch are "Lov-ahs", which I greatly despise. The good sketches are good enough to almost give this a recommendation, but if you do rent or buy it, you'd probably be better off skipping the ones that are bad.