“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Archive for the ‘Science Fiction and Space Shit’ Category

Happy Death Day 2U

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

HAPPY DEATH DAY was a well-executed take on a fun premise: a slasher GROUNDHOG DAY where mean sorority girl Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe, LA LA LAND) has to keep reliving her birthday until she figures out who the fuck keeps stabbing. As she investigates everybody around her she starts to understand their lives better and be nicer to them. Except the one who killed her, who she kicks out a window. I wished it had been Rated-R to take gory advantage of the “heroine dies repeatedly” gimmick, but they made it work, largely because Tree is such a compelling character. Like Bill Murray in that other time loop movie she gets to be a fun asshole, which is so rare for a female lead.

In the sequel we get to see a little bit of the creepy baby mask, but the mystery of who’s stalking her is pretty much irrelevant. Sure, they revisit it in alternate timelines where it’s different people behind the mask, but there’s not as much suspense to be wrung out of it, so it shifts a little away from the horror comedy and more into sci-fi comedy, again made fun by the character of Tree and the performance of Rothe. If anything she’s even a little better in this one. (read the rest of this shit…)

Alita: Battle Angel

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Man, we’ve been hearing about James Cameron doing this manga/anime adaptation since 2005, well before AVATAR. We’re talking Obama’s first year as a United States Senator, Christian Bale’s first year as a Batman, three live action Spider-man actors ago, before the Marvel Cinematic Universe even started, when Chris Evans was still The Human Torch, George Lucas was still making Star Wars movies, Saddam Hussein was still alive, the word “sexting” was just invented, Youtube was just starting, and Twitter didn’t exist yet. A long time ago.

So I can’t say I was thrilled when, after that decade plus of hopes, Cameron announced “Just kidding, Robert Rodriguez is gonna direct it.” Fresh off of SIN CITY 2. But also I wasn’t stupid enough to scoff at it. Cameron co-wrote and produced the thing. The only other time he did that was STRANGE DAYS, and that turned out pretty good. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bumblebee

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Weird, but true: turns out you can make a TRANSFORMERS movie that’s sweet and funny, with sensible, reasonably concise storytelling that never feels like it’s whacking you in the face with a frying pan, and has characters you can care about. Even a human female one! All you gotta do is get the director of KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS and a script by Christina Hodson (SHUT IN, BIRDS OF PREY).

Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg are both listed as executive producers, but BUMBLEBEE definitely feels more like the latter, taking heaps of inspiration from E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL but none that I noticed from ARMAGEDDON. Set in 1987, it does work as a prequel to Bay’s TRANSFORMERS (2007), telling the story of a soldier robot who flees the war on his home planet of Cybertron to hide out in California disguised as a car and wait for the others while evading the secret government agency Sector 7 and two evil Decepticon robots voiced by Angela Bassett (STRANGE DAYS) and Justin Theroux (MIAMI VICE).

But that’s all going on in the midst of a teen movie centering on Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld, 3 DAYS TO KILL), who has just turned 18 and has been going through some shit ever since her dad (Tim Martin Gleason) died suddenly an unspecified few years ago. She resents that her mom (Pamela Adlon, THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE) has a dorky new husband (Stephen Schneider, 2012: SUPERNOVA), she fights with her little brother Otis (Jason Drucker, BARELY LETHAL) and gets into it with mean girls like Tina (Gracie Dzienny) and hunky asshole Tripp Summers (Ricardo Hoyos, Degrassi: The Next Generation) who embarrass her while she’s working at Hot Dog on a Stick. Not necessarily unrelated, her favorite band is The Smiths. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Brain

Monday, December 24th, 2018

A Very Tape Raider Christmas

THE BRAIN is a 1988 sci-fi horror movie that takes place around Christmas time. That’s not an important part of the plot, but there are Christmas decorations at the beginning, “Jingle Bells” plays (and then ominously slows down) on a car radio, a pot of poinsettias gets shot by police during a chase scene, I noticed a sign in the school for a dance or something with the theme “Cosmic Christmas,” and there’s some snow on the ground. Also the movie itself is kind of a Christmas gift to me because it’s pretty good and its weird vibe and gooey special effects warmed my heart like I imagine a yule log would if I had ever experienced a yule log in person.

First and most important order of business is to assure you that the title and cover art are not misleading. Though it was made during the height of slasher sequels and shows a strong A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET influence, it is indeed a movie about, as the hero calls it, “that brain monster thing that’s killing everyone.” And they show it right at the beginning – a big slimy pulsating brain with a tentacle/spine hanging out like a tail, hooked up to some machines in a lab at the Psychological Research Institute (PRI). I think it was wise to establish that we’re dealing with arguably a goofy ’50s drive-in movie throwback before the first big scare sequence and not after. Pull that Band-Aid right off. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Predator

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

I didn’t get to see THE PREDATOR until after the world had already estimated its coordinates somewhere in the hostile territory between disappointment and disaster. Maybe that prepared me for the sloppy last stretch (it seems like some connective tissue must’ve been lost in editing or reshoots) and a thudding comedy riff or two involving a character with Tourette’s. And I guess a couple subpar quasi-science discussions, sometimes involving “the spectrum.” Also, is it just me or are these people weirdly unsurprised to see aliens?

But everything else in the movie tears its gear off and covers itself in mud to prove it’s a true warrior of entertainment. This is a funnier Predator movie, one full of joyful, gory mayhem, clever dialogue and inventive action beats. Let me give you an example from the opening. Decorated army sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook, JANE GOT A GUN) witnesses the crash of a Predator ship and pulls an extra-terrestrial helmet and gauntlet out of the wreckage before catching a glimpse of the camouflaged alien pilot (6’9 1/2″ parkour artist Brian A. Prince) stringing up another soldier. Panicked, McKenna accidentally fires the wrist weapon, slicing his friend’s corpse in half and dumping intestines and blood onto the cloaked Predator, revealing its location and appearance.

I mean, you love that, right? I love that. We all, in my opinion, love that. That’s what movies are for right there. (read the rest of this shit…)

Notes on E.T. after seeing it in 70mm

Friday, September 14th, 2018

We all live on the planet Earth, we all know Steven Spielberg’s E.T. – THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL is a great fucking movie. I don’t have to tell you that. I was gonna point you to what I wrote about it in 2002 in case I did, but it turns out that was mostly a collection of jokes about walkie talkies and the dog shitting all over the place if he had run all the way into the space ship. So maybe try googling “is e.t. good” or something. I don’t know. You can figure it out.

Like anybody I’ve loved that pudgy little rascal since he first introduced himself to us in 1982, but I’ve managed to be pretty disciplined about waiting years between viewings so I don’t wear it out. I think last time was when it came out on Blu-Ray (six years ago), with at most one DVD viewing between that and when the special edition played in theaters (sixteen years ago).

But on Tuesday I saw it in the 70mm Film Festival that the Cinerama has here in Seattle every year, and I wanted to share a few new thoughts. (read the rest of this shit…)

Disturbing Behavior

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

July 24th, 1998

is when SAVING PRIVATE RYAN came out. I wrote about that a while back. Here’s a review of a different movie that came out that day.

I don’t consider DISTURBING BEHAVIOR a very good movie, and I’m not aware of anybody it’s meaningful to, but in a certain way it’s a decent time capsule of where we were at in 1998. The gloomy drizzle and ferries made me wonder if fictional Cradle Bay, filmed in Vancouver, B.C., was meant to evoke Washington state. It would be fitting, because it sort of plays like the disaffection of the so-called grunge scene trickling out in late ’90s teen sci-fi, like chemicals that were spilled into a sewer, overflowed into the Sound, made their way into the plants growing along the shore and were eaten and shat out by animals.

Steve (James Marsden, ACCIDENTAL LOVE) is the new kid in school, moved into town eight months after the trauma of his brother (Ethan Embry from CAN’T HARDLY WAIT)’s suicide. In the cafeteria, stoner outcast Gavin (Nick Stahl, MIRRORS 2) appoints himself rope-show-er and gives him an elaborate take on that time honored teen movie trope, the explanation of all the school’s cliques. Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg (BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, CON AIR, ARMAGEDDON, HIGHWAY, PAIN & GAIN) seems to be going for a cross between Shakespeare and Daniel Waters, in my opinion missing the mark on both. He uses a structured format where Gavin lists the awkwardly named groups (“Blue Ribbons,” “Micro Geeks”), describes them, says their “drug of choice,” and then his spaced out sidekick U.V. (Chad Donella, FINAL DESTINATION, TAKEN 3) makes a rhyme about what kind freak they are: “freaks who fix leaks,” “freaks who squeak,” “freaks in sneaks.”

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Meg

Monday, August 27th, 2018

When elite underwater rescue guy Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham, GHOSTS OF MARS) tries to save his friends from a damaged nuclear submarine, he makes a controversial decision to shut a door and leave behind some of the crew, saving eleven others from an explosion. His career and life are ruined by that hard choice. And also because he believes the sub was attacked by a monster and everybody thinks he’s nuts.

Years later he lives in Disgraced Hero Exile in Thailand, drinking all day in his Thai farmer hat, running a small fishing boat. It’s clear that he’s a sweetheart when some little kids wave at him on his motorcycle and he makes a funny face for them. I liked this little touch, though it kind of undercuts the later badass juxtaposition of his friendship with a little girl named Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai).

Of course he’s resistant at first when his old buddy Mac (Cliff Curtis, DEEP RISING, WHALE RIDER, THE POOL, RIVER QUEEN, THE FOUNTAIN… he does alot of water related movies, is my point) shows up to recruit him for another rescue. This time it’s people working for a high tech underwater lab who lost radio contact. And one of them is his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee, THE LOVED ONES). In a refreshing swerve from standard action movie protocol, he just likes and respects her, and is not trying to win her back. He does get to tell her “I told you so,” of course, when they all see that giant monster that they spent years telling him he didn’t really see. (read the rest of this shit…)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Monday, August 6th, 2018

This is weird, there’s a JURASSIC PARK sequel that came out 2 1/2 months ago and I didn’t get around to seeing it until this weekend, when it’s down to two showings a day. I think I saw all the other ones opening day or weekend. But maybe it was a smart move on this one because it benefits from the lowered expectations of everyone telling me it was trash.

In JURASSIC WORLD, you remember, they reopened the dinosaur park and the dinosaurs reattacked the new park and there was a new guy named Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, WEINERS) who was real macho and always trying to show off the size of his forearms. And he trains raptors and has a contentious bickery love with an uptight lady who works at the park named Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard, TERMINATOR SALVATION).

In FALLEN KINGDOM, the dinos are still loose on abandoned Isla Nubar, where a volcano is about to erupt. Claire is now a dinosaur rights activist trying to convince the government to act to save these endangered dinosaurs. She’s contacted by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall, GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS), who runs the estate of John Hammond’s dying partner Lockwood (James Cromwell, SPECIES II; also played Howard’s father in SPIDER-MAN 3) and wants to fund the rescue mission. But he especially wants to find Blue, the most intelligent raptor, and knows that Owen is the only person who could track her. (read the rest of this shit…)

Small Soldiers

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

July 10, 1998

SMALL SOLDIERS is an effects-driven, Spielberg-produced, released-on-July-10th sci-fi movie. But it’s about killer toys (or at least potentially killer toys?) and the hero is a kid and it’s not a CHILD’S PLAY movie (it’s rated PG-13) so I’m not sure it was really seen as a movie for adults. To me and surely many others who saw it the exciting thing was that it was directed by Joe Dante, who hadn’t had a film since MATINEE five years earlier. And with him and Spielberg doing a movie about a young man fighting out of control small things raising a ruckus in a small town, obviously everybody had visions of Gremlins chomping on their heads.

Alan (Gregory Smith, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN) is a maybe 14 year old kid who works at his dad (Kevin Dunn, MARKED FOR DEATH, also in GODZILLA, ALMOST HEROES and SNAKE EYES that summer)’s toy store, one of those ones that only sells wooden blocks and airplanes and shit, nothing based on cartoons or movies (so there’s not an anti-GODZILLA in-joke here). His dad actually has a specific “no war toys” policy. But one day his friend the delivery driver (Dick Miller, of course) has another store’s shipment of new high tech talking action figures called the Commando Elite. Alan thinks they would sell better than Lincoln Logs or whatever and convinces him to let him take a set. (read the rest of this shit…)