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Originally published Monday, April 28, 2014 at 6:16 AM

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Otherworldly film fun at Cinerama sci-fi fest

Cinerama again hosts the Sci-Fi Film Festival, this year featuring three dozen films including “War of the Worlds,” “Dune” and “Brazil,” and guests including Jonathan Frakes, Sam Jones and Tom Skerritt.

Special to The Seattle Times


Sci-Fi Film Festival

May 1-12, Cinerama, 2100 Fourth Ave., Seattle; $9-$25 (206-448-6680 or


The science fact and fiction website recently published an amusing but insightful article identifying 10 story tropes that top editors at science-fiction publications are sick of seeing.

Among the story clichés those editors can’t stand anymore: zombies, time travel, “faux steampunk” and, strangely, mermaids.

Original thinking was not a problem for the filmmakers whose classic works are gathered in Seattle Cinerama Theater’s second Sci-Fi Film Festival, running May 1-12.

More than 60 years’ worth of visionary movies encompassing elements of hope, horror, mystery and humanity will be on hand, along with some very special guests to introduce the films and answer questions.

The extensive schedule is too long to list, but here are some noteworthy titles and events:

The festival opens May 1 with an appearance by actor Sam T. Jones, who played the titular superhero in Mike Hodges’ campy 1980 “Flash Gordon.” Jones will introduce that feature at the Cinerama.

The schedule for May 2 includes the festival’s lone screening of Francois Truffaut’s fascinating, 1966 adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” followed by John Carpenter’s terrifying, wildly imaginative 1982 remake of “The Thing.”

Audiences can trace the early adventures of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley character in Ridley Scott’s scary 1979 “Alien” and James Cameron’s thrilling follow-up, the 1986 “Aliens.” (The films screen separately on May 3.) Actor Tom Skerritt, who had a key role in Scott’s movie, will talk about his experiences making that absorbing work.

“Star Trek” is well represented with the legendary “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (May 2) and the moving “Star Trek: First Contact” (May 4). The delightful Jonathan Frakes, who directed the latter as well as starred in the film, will be on hand for a Q&A on Sunday.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who bought and renovated Seattle Cinerama Theater in the late 1990s, recently struck much-needed new prints of Byron Haskin’s still gripping, 1953 version of “The War of the Worlds” and Stanley Kubrick’s miraculous “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968).

The festival is providing rare opportunities to see both: “War” on May 7 and “2001” on May 9 and 10. Both presentations of Kubrick’s masterpiece include a major bonus: appearances by Douglas Trumbull, the special-effects genius, technical innovator and occasional director.

Trumbull essentially anchors the festival’s closing weekend with May 9 appearances at his 1983 “Brainstorm” (often cited as the late Natalie Wood’s final movie) followed by “2001,” on which he collaborated closely with Kubrick to create an immersive, big-screen experience.

May 10 brings Trumbull back to discuss working with Steven Spielberg on the 1977 “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and another showing of “2001.” May 11 delivers a major Trumbull event: the world premiere of his new short, “UFOTOG,” shot in the director’s new process combining 3D and 120 frames per second.

Other good things: Rudolph Maté’s 1951 “When Worlds Collide” (May 4); the 1959, original (and best) version of “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (May 5); Roger Vadim’s and Jane Fonda’s nutty, sexy 1968 “Barbarella” (May 6); and David Cronenberg’s unsettling tragedy from 1986, “The Fly”).

Check for complete listings.

Tom Keogh:

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