So once again we have survived.

Archive for the ‘Science Fiction and Space Shit’ Category

Arrival

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

tn_arrivalARRIVAL is a new one in that category of serious smart sci-fi where huge momentous things happen between the human race and alien life and/or outer space, yet it’s really about something very intimate and human (see also INTERSTELLAR, CONTACT, THE FOUNTAIN, GRAVITY). In this case it’s about twelve giant alien objects (they look like smooth flat stones you would find on a beach, balanced on the side) that come down and float in various locations around the world, yet also it’s about love and family and tragedy.

Director Denis Villeneuve (PRISONERS, SICARIO, ENEMY) is no chump, so the unfolding of the historic first contact is a powerful oh shit sequence. Perpetually calm language professor Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams, CRUEL INTENTIONS 2) ignores the commotion of students gathering around a TV, then the miniscule attendance of her lecture, but when everyone’s phones keep ringing the information finally gets to them. Sorry to interrupt – it’s just that the world has completely changed forever. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Cosmic Slop

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

tn_cosmicslopA year before TALES FROM THE HOOD was a black Tales From the Crypt, the Hudlin brothers’ HBO TV movie COSMIC SLOP was “a multi-cultural Twilight Zone.” Even if the VHS cover didn’t have a Chicago Tribune quote calling it that, you’d get the idea from the intro, when a trail of terrible 2D computer animated objects (basketball, rolling pin, chair, bust of Beethoven, electric guitar, bra, asterisk) float in under George Clinton’s familiar “free your mind and your ass will follow” narration and a re-recording of the 1973 Funkadelic song that the title comes from.

It’s even lower budget than TALES and much cheesier, with crude, video toaster style digital effects. It’s clearly a pilot for a show they decided not to make, but it’s another admirable attempt to bring a different perspective to the tradition of short genre stories that explore social issues.

Clinton’s disembodied head floats in, on fire, a blinking animatronic third eye on his forehead, and morphs between different hairstyles as he cryptically Rod Serlings a trio of stories with his cryptic afro-futurist catch phrases. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Thing (1982)

Monday, October 31st, 2016

tn_thething“I don’t know what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off whatever it is.”

In snow, no one can hear you scream. ‘Cause it’s cold. They stayed inside.

John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982) – not to be confused with Christian Nyby’s THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) or Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s THE THING (2011) – is straight up one of the best horror films achieved by mankind so far. It’s relatable but extraordinary, simple but original, blunt but ambiguous. It has quite possibly the most brilliant creature effects ever devised, or at least the only monster arguably weird enough to top ALIEN in the “well, shit, I never even thought of seeing anything like that!” department.

The Thing crash landed on earth some 100,000 years ago, and has only recently been unfrozen to raise a ruckus. A pessimist would say (as Wilford Brimley’s Blair does in the movie) that this is the type of shenanigans that could end the human race in a couple of years. An optimist would say hey, let’s just be thankful the flying saucer didn’t land properly in the first place, we got an extra 100,000 years out of that. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Mind’s Eye

Friday, October 14th, 2016

tn_mindseyeThe cover of THE MIND’S EYE quotes a Film School Rejects review saying “The best SCANNERS sequel we never got.” And it really does seem like a SCANNERS sequel, but with the raw feel of a modern low-budget American indie instead of the cheesy ’90s Canadian b-movie style of the official SCANNERS sequels. This actually takes place in 1990, the year before Christian Duguay made SCANNERS II: THE NEW ORDER. So chronologically it’s actually the first SCANNERS sequel.

1990 is also the year that THE MIND’S EYE: A COMPUTER ANIMATION ODYSSEY came out, beginning the popular series of early computer animation clips set to Thomas Dolby and Jan Hammer music. It is not made clear in the movie if the telekinetic powers are supposed to be caused by watching THE MIND’S EYE tapes, but obviously I’m going to assume they are. That was how I got mine. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Lifeforce

Monday, September 19th, 2016

tn_lifeforceLIFEFORCE is a crazy fuckin movie, my third or fourth favorite from director Tobe Hooper. Three years after POLTERGEIST and one before THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 he made this distinctly weird but effective sci-fi horror film, his first of three Golan and Globus productions.

Based on a 1976 novel called Space Vampires by Colin Wilson, it is about exactly that. Astronauts on a British space shuttle mission to study Halley’s Comet find themselves landing on a weird flower-shaped object and discovering hundreds (maybe thousands) of dessicated corpses of giant space bats. But also they find three naked humanoids hibernating in glass cases, much like the underwear girls behind the front desk at the Standard Hotel.

Most people, including myself, sometimes refer to this as NAKED SPACE VAMPIRES. But another good title would be DON’T BRING SHIT BACK FROM SPACE. But this is a momentous discovery, so understandably the astronauts want to get some samples, including all three of the humanoids. And I don’t want to give anything away so I will just say it is possible that they will come to Earth and scientists will have many great breakthroughs from studying them and there will be numerous benefits for mankind. That is one possibility. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Spontaneous Combustion

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

tn_spontaneouscombustionThis afternoon I’m going to see LIFEFORCE in 70mm. I’ll let you know how that goes at a later date. But while I do that please enjoy this review of a later Tobe Hooper movie with fewer naked space vampires in it. Or at least enjoy it to the extent that you could enjoy any review of this particular movie.

SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION is a 1990 Tobe Hooper movie that I remembered being basically unwatchable back in the VHS era. But I was stupid back then. Who knows? Sometimes you gotta re-evaluate your opinions.

And man, I was totally wrong, because I actually did watch this one. Technically speaking it was watchable. Otherwise my impression was pretty accurate.

One thing I had no memory of: the first 20 minutes take place in the 1950s. A young couple, Brian (Brian Bremer, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 5) and Peggy Bell (Stacy Edwards, THE BLING RING [Sofia Coppola version]), who could almost be the parents from BACK TO THE FUTURE, have volunteered for an experiment where they will try to survive a nuclear blast protected by a bunker and a radiation immunization. (TIP: Do not fucking take that gig, I don’t care if you’re trying to fund EL MARIACHI!) After surviving the test they’re lionized as American heroes in a news reel, declared radiation free and “the world’s first nuclear family.” (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Firestarter Rekindled

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

tn_firestarter2aka FIRESTARTER 2: REKINDLED

After watching FIRESTARTER for the first time since the ’80s I sorta remembered there being some kind of a FIRESTARTER 2 made during this century. I am a completist by nature (see my week of CARRIE movies for evidence) and I thought that might be good for a laugh, so I settled in to watch it real quick. Imagine my surprise when, early in the movie, I checked the running time and saw that it was 2 hours and 48 minutes! What I thought was just a DTV sequel was actually a Sci-Fi Channel mini-series (this is in the old, spelling accurate days before SyFy).

I guess technically this is a sequel to the book, not to the movie, because they have flashbacks to scenes from the movie and they’re reshot with Skye McCole Bartusiak (24) as Charlie, Aaron Radl as her dad and Karrie Combs (BRIDE OF KILLER NERD) as her mom. But mainly we have Charlie played by Marguerite Moreau (the MIGHTY DUCKS trilogy, FREE WILLY 2, WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER). She’s all grown up and keeps a fire extinguisher under her bed for those nights when bad dreams set her bed ablaze. Living under a fake identity, she works at the Millington College academic archive, where she’s trying to uncover information about her dead parents and the experiment that started her firestarting. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Firestarter

Monday, September 12th, 2016

tn_firestarterFIRESTARTER is a classic tale of ’80s style supernatural paranoia. An innocent father and daughter are on the run from menacing agents of a secret government entity nicknamed “The Shop.” A university experiment with hallucinogens in the ’70s gave dad (David Keith, WHITE OF THE EYE) and now-deceased mom (Heather Locklear, MONEY TALKS) psychic powers, which have passed on to daughter Charlie (Drew Barrymore in her next movie after E.T.). She can sense things, sometimes move things, but her trademark is fire. When she gets angry at people things get hot. Mom and dad had been trying to teach her to keep it under control, with mixed success. You really gotta recognize what a difficult parenting challenge this would be even if The Man wasn’t out to get them.

So now it’s Take Your Daughter On the Lam Day. They’re hitchhiking, scrounging up change, using Jedi mind tricks. She’s already used to lying to people and using fake names. It reminds me of Starman (TV show), or The Golden Years, like this a Stephen King creation and also using The Shop as the antagonists. Through no fault of their own this family are considered dangerous, and the government wants to either use them as weapons or kill them. Neither seems appealing to them.

This kill-them-for-safety-purposes policy is obviously fascist and heartless, but it’s based in a reasonable fear that if this little girl can blow up cars with her mind what will she be able to do if she grows up? And will she do it? (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

tn_startrek4summer2016originsIn case you don’t know, I am not nor have I ever been a member of the Trekko community. I am at best a casual enjoyer. Just so you know who you’re dealing with here before reading this review I will make two potentially disqualifying confessions:

1. I have watched WRATH OF KHAN a few times over the years and it’s always pretty good but I honestly have no clue why everyone I know considers it one of the great movies.

2. The first J.J. Abrams STAR TREK is the Star Trek I enjoyed the most.

But you know, I’ve seen good episodes of various shows and I respect the philosophy of it, the emphasis on ideas, the respect for knowledge and wisdom, and the colorful style of the original show. I wish I could appreciate it more, but maybe I’m just a philistine.

With this in mind I had to go to the experts to ask which STAR TREK picture I should watch for the Summer of ’16 Origins series, and I was prescribed STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (1986). I was under the impression that “the one with the whales” was the one everybody made fun of, but Wikipedia says it was well received, and according to my friends who grew up on it it’s the one they watch the most. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Criminal

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

tn_criminalCRIMINAL is way too generic a title for this distinctive Kevin Costner action thriller, another enjoyable under-the-radar, higher-minded-than-advertised b-movie to put on the shelf next to 3 DAYS TO KILL. Costner would be the criminal of the title, a gruff, uneducated death row inmate with the strong action movie name of Jericho Stewart. He’s said to have some kind of condition that leaves him no capacity for empathy, like that creepy kid in MALEVOLENCE and BEREAVEMENT, so he experiences what the internet calls “the feels” for the first time when he’s the subject of an experimental surgery that implants another man’s memories into his brain.

I couldn’t help but think of FACE/OFF. Not that it has any of John Woo’s heightened filmatism or outlandish action – the tone, grounded world and love of intelligence agency war rooms are closer to a BOURNE movie – but that’s the only other movie I can think of that uses a sci-fi gimmick in a non-futuristic world and then puts an emphasis on exploring its emotional consequences.

The story starts with Bill Pope, not the cinematographer of THE MATRIX, but a CIA agent on the run in London, played by an uncredited Ryan Reynolds (BLADE TRINITY). He’s in the middle of a mission gone south – something about Spanish anarchists and a hacker and a buy, and people chasing him around town trying to trap him. When he ends up dead, CIA director Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman sporting another action movie name that’s not messing around) is desperate to find out what Pope was working on, because he was the only one getting close to a hacker (blackhat?) who may be able to remotely control military weapons. So Wells – actually, can I call him Quaker? – Quaker turns to this guy Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones, UNDER SIEGE) who has been developing this memory-implanting theory for years. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.