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Archive for the ‘Science Fiction and Space Shit’ Category

The Witch: Subversion

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

I watched THE WITCH: SUBVERSION after I heard a few good things and read that it’s from the guy who wrote the incredibly upsetting but badass I SAW THE DEVIL. For this one Park Hoon-jung is also the director, as he’s done with several other films I haven’t seen, including the gangster movie NEW WORLD (2013).

I wish I could tell you this was a crass DTV sequel to THE VVITCH. I did initially assume it would be horror, then I heard it was action, but it turns out to be something harder to categorize. Some melodrama, some sci-fi, some carnage. It seems closest to a Y.A. type movie – teen melodrama X-MEN – except, like so many of the other South Korean movies I’ve seen, it gets horrifically violent at times. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Bride

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

August 16, 1985

Two John Candy movies in a row, and now all the sudden we’re back to weird science? THE BRIDE asks the question “What if WEIRD SCIENCE happened not in the modern day with teenagers, but with adults a long time ago, and instead of Gary the main guy’s name is Frankenstein?” Or “What if FRANKENWEENIE was a Franken-adult-human-lady?” Or I guess if you want to be a wet blanket you could call it a riff on BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. But it’s totally different. The hair is not even the same, to name only one example.

Director Franc Roddam had done QUADROPHENIA (1979) and THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE (1983) and was attempting his first big mainstream movie. According to his refreshingly frank DVD commentary track, he had Sting (who had been in his first film) originally slated to play the small part of Josef, but “we said to ourselves this could be a great movie for young people” if they had it star this huge rock star, with his first solo album coming out in June, alongside Jennifer Beals, the hot newcomer fresh off the massive success of FLASHDANCE. So they gave the Josef role to some schmuck named “Carrie Elways” or some shit and Sting played Baron Charles Frankenstein opposite Beals as the titular Bride. But it’s only modernized in some of its themes, while being fairly classical in form and content. It’s not rock ’n roll or flashdancy at all. So I’m not sure the young people much noticed. (read the rest of this shit…)

My Science Project

Monday, August 10th, 2020

August 9, 1985

The thrilling conclusion to the teen science comedy trilogy of August 2-9, 1985 is the one I knew even less about than REAL GENIUS. I can say that because all I knew was the picture of aliens I saw in the one page article in my trusty July, 1985 Cinefantastique, but I forgot it said that scene was cut. So I had negative knowledge of what the movie was about.

Like REAL GENIUS, it has a cold open in a military facility to establish what the kids will be dealing with. But this scene is in 1957 when President Eisenhower (Robert Beer, who also played him THE RIGHT STUFF) is dragged out of bed to be shown the UFO the boys captured. He tells them to get rid of it. Cut to 1985.

From that point on it’s closer to WEIRD SCIENCE than REAL GENIUS, because it’s another one about high school kids accidentally unleashing sci-fi craziness in their small town (in Arizona, I think). A major difference from the other two is that the main character, Michael Harlan (John Stockwell, CHRISTINE) is by no means nerdy. I don’t think he’s a popular kid either, he’s just a broody, gruff, kind of dim but basically nice dude who’s not really interested in anything but working on cars. His favorite singer is Bruce Springsteen, he drives a 1968 Pontiac GTO with a huge blower, and when science fiction causes it to break down outside of town he refuses to walk home because he thinks someone will see him and question his mechanic skills. (read the rest of this shit…)

Weird Science

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

August 2, 1985

I’m no expert on the films of John Hughes, but I’ve seen enough to know WEIRD SCIENCE (which he wrote and directed) is pretty different from the other ones. It’s still a teen movie, like he was known for at the time, but it’s his only foray into science fiction unless you count his screenplay for JUST VISITING (the 2001 flop remake of LES VISITEURS) for involving time travel.

It feels a little off to call WEIRD SCIENCE sci-fi though. It’s more like computer magical realism, I think. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Much like EXPLORERS, we have two oft-bullied nerds, the main character Gary (Anthony Michael Hall, following SIX PACK, VACATION, SIXTEEN CANDLES and THE BREAKFAST CLUB) and computer genius best friend Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith, HOW TO BE A PERFECT PERSON IN JUST THREE DAYS, DANIEL, THE WILD LIFE). Going by the actors’ ages, Gary and Wyatt are about 2 or 3 years too old to be Explorers or Goonies. So they’re different in that they do not dream of adventure; they are entirely consumed by horniness. And the girls they like to stare at in school ignore them, so Gary’s big idea is to make a woman. He’s inspired by seeing BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN on TV (colorized! what the fuck!?) and figures his smart friend should be able to do something like that with his fancy computer machine. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sleight

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

SLEIGHT is a 2016 film from director J.D. Dillard, who later did that fun woman-trapped-on-an-island-with-a-monster movie SWEETHEART. It’s produced by Blumhouse Tilt and the prestigious WWE Studios, who I still contend should only make movies starring wrestlers, but I forgive them in this case. The Undertaker would’ve been weird in this part.

Instead, Jacob Latimore (DETROIT) plays Bo, a young man living in L.A. He’s some kind of budding engineering genius and he got a great scholarship, but he had to ditch out on it because his parents died and he was the only one left to take care of his kid sister Tina (Storm Reid, THE INVISIBLE MAN). He has a cool neighbor, Georgi (Sasheer Zamata, formerly of Saturday Night Live), who looks after Tina for him sometimes, but otherwise he’s on his own.

Like SWEETHEART, it trusts us to have the patience to watch what he does for a while instead of giving us all the information up front. We see that he works as a street magician – a really good one. He does David Blaine style card tricks that blow the minds of the various young people he approaches on Hollywood streets. And he has a few weirder tricks where he seems to make objects move – like, causing someone’s ring to float and spin above his hand, moving his other hand around it to show that there are no strings involved. He does that one for Holly (Seychelle Gabriel, THE LAST AIRBENDER, BLOOD FEST) who is clearly into him, and maybe would be giving him the same look if the trick wasn’t so astounding. He gets her number and starts having awkward dates with her. (read the rest of this shit…)

Space Truckers

Monday, July 20th, 2020

When Stuart Gordon died at the end of March I decided it was finally time to watch SPACE TRUCKERS, a movie I had been meaning to see for literally 23 years. You know how it is. You get busy sometimes.

Obviously I dig Gordon as a Master of Horror, director of RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND, as one should. And in recent years I’ve really come to love THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM and CASTLE FREAK. But I also think he’s under-appreciated for his sci-fi movies ROBOT JOX and FORTRESS. And ever since I first saw ALIEN I’ve loved those stories that are about space but the heroes are just working class people doing their job, not some royalty or chosen one or member of any federation or academy. As the title makes clear, this is about characters like that. Truckers. In space. (read the rest of this shit…)

Explorers

Monday, July 13th, 2020

July 12, 1985

Director Joe Dante came up in the world of Roger Corman – first cutting trailers, then directing PIRANHA – before his success with THE HOWLING (1981) brought him to the attention of Steven Spielberg, who produced TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983) and GREMLINS (1984). So it’s notable that Dante’s Summer of ’85 entry EXPLORERS is another that (like D.A.R.Y.L. or especially COCOON) seems like it wouldn’t have existed without the influence of Spielberg’s films.

In an interview with Podcasting Them Softly, screenwriter Eric Luke confirms, “The thing that sold it, that Paramount thought, let’s make this was like the one sentence concept, because E.T. had just come out and been the biggest hit ever, so my answer to that was three boys build their own space ship and go into space and it all works, it’s not just a fantasy, there’s some scientific underpinning.”

(read the rest of this shit…)

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

I am a devotee of MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME. Obviously I love the whole series, some of them even more than this one, but there are many special qualities particular to this installment. I wrote about the movie in 2007 and I think that review does the job of describing many of the reasons it’s great. But I really felt like I needed to revisit it both in the context of the Summer of 1985 movie season, and as a movie to watch in 2020, so that’s what I’ll do in this supplemental review.

July 10, 1985

Like all of George Miller’s work, THUNDERDOME boldly stands out from other films of its era. Though RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II was the action movie causing the biggest stir at the time, it didn’t have anything approaching the inventiveness or filmmaking prowess of the Thunderdome duel or the train-track chase. And yet I don’t even think of THUNDERDOME primarily for it’s action – it’s more like a fantasy film – and in a season that includes RETURN TO OZ and WARRIORS OF THE WIND, it still might be the most imaginative movie of the summer, the most detailed fictional world, the most evocative mythmaking.

It’s very much an Australian production, and a continuation of Miller’s previous films. The stunt coordinator is the legendary Australian stuntman Grant Page, who we also know from his parts in THE MAN FROM HONG KONG, DEATH CHEATERS, STUNT ROCK and ROAD GAMES. Cinematographer Dean Semler, co-writer Terry Hayes, art director Graham “Grace” Walker (now production designer) and costume designer Norma Moriceau, among others, returned from THE ROAD WARRIOR. But in the four years between MAXes, Miller had some dalliances with Hollywood, and THUNDERDOME does seem aware of its place in a blockbuster landscape largely shaped by fellow TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE segment director Steven Spielberg and friends. According to the Mad Max wiki, “on one wall [of the Bartertown set], there’s a picture of a Gremlin. Not far away, the feed and grain store has a few words painted over its front entrance – ‘Proprietor: E.T. Spielberg’.” (read the rest of this shit…)

The Last Starfighter

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

THE LAST STARFIGHTER is not a summer of 1985 release – it came out in July of ’84 – but I remember seeing it as a drive-in double feature with BACK TO THE FUTURE. I’m not sure, but I think the location of this viewing must’ve been Sno-King Drive-In Theatre, which it seems closed down a year later, its final double-bill consisting of HOWARD THE DUCK and BACK TO THE FUTURE. Same print, I bet. Anyway, I got nostalgic and decided this would make a good follow-up to yesterday’s review.

This is the sci-fi movie directed by HALLOWEEN (and also HALLOWEEN)’s The Shape himself, Nick Castle, starring HALLOWEEN II’s Lance Guest and HALLOWEEN III’s Dan O’Herlihy. Guest plays Alex Rogan, a broody teenager who lives in a trailer park and is very good at an arcade video game called Starfighter, which they have outside in the park. I don’t know if they put a tarp over it if the weather gets bad or what. That never comes up.

If you hear he lives in a trailer park you could reasonably assume there would be some kind of class themes in this story, but there’s really not. There’s no clash with the rich kids, and the park, called Starlite Starbrite, is far from a hellhole. In fact it’s a delightful place full of nice, quirky people who form a huge crowd and applaud for Alex when he beats the high score on the game. That he wants to get out of there is underlined by decorating his room with posters of Hawaii and Paris (along with the expected toy space ships and mobile of the solar system). Making it seem like a pretty cool place to live is a weird choice, but I like weird choices. (read the rest of this shit…)

Back to the Future

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

July 3, 1985

There was only one movie in 1985 that was bigger than RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, at least box office-wise, and it was considerably bigger. It would inspire two sequels, a cartoon and a movie ride at Universal Studios, though you could argue that its cultural impact was smaller than RAMBO’s merely because it couldn’t really be copied as much. How would you imitate something as high concept and specific as BACK TO THE FUTURE?

Its success surely comes from a combination of factors – the zippy direction of Robert Zemeckis, the unusual squeaky-voiced-nerd-who-carries-himself-as-a-rock-star appeal of Michael J. Fox (after MIDNIGHT MADNESS and CLASS OF 1984), the heart-pumping score by Alan Silvestri, the comic support of Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson and Lea Thompson – but all of that hangs on the ingenious premise: kid gets sent back in time to his parents’ high school days and endangers his own existence when his mom gets eyes for him instead of his dad. (read the rest of this shit…)