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Archive for the ‘Science Fiction and Space Shit’ Category

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…)

Fast Color

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

FAST COLOR is a really well made little movie I watched on Hulu. I didn’t really know what it was about, but remembered that when it came out last year there were people lamenting that it didn’t get enough attention. They called it a super hero origin story and felt that should’ve made it more marketable.

That description isn’t totally inaccurate, but sells it a little short, I think. It’s about a woman with some telekinetic type powers, but she doesn’t wear a costume, fight crime, fight super villains, or use her powers for heroism at all. She even explicitly says “We’re not super heroes,” and doesn’t seem to later change her mind about that. The story reminds me much more of FIRESTARTER than any comic book movie. Regular person made into a fugitive by being born with unusual gifts, running through small towns to avoid being a guinea pig for some secret government project. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cocoon

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

June 21, 1985

COCOON is directed by Ron Howard (his followup to SPLASH) and produced by Richard D. Zanuck (SUGARLAND EXPRESS, JAWS), but I bet some people assumed Spielberg had something to do with it. It opens with an Elliott-like little boy (D.A.R.Y.L. himself, Barrett Oliver) who’s up past his bedtime sneaking a look at the moon through his telescope. And then there’s a spaceship (designed by Ralph McQuarrie, like the one in  E.T.) flying down over some dolphins in a scene lit much like the opening attack in JAWS. The story involves a close encounter of the third kind with friendly e.t. the extra-terrestrials, so lots of people stare up in awe at glowing alien and spaceship effects by Industrial Light and Magic. And hey, the main characters are the elderly residents of a retirement community who find a magical way to recapture their youth, much like Spielberg’s “Kick the Can” segment of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE!

Best pal retirees Ben (Wilford Brimley, whose other 1984 releases were MURDER IN SPACE, REMO WILLIAMS and EWOKS: THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR) and Art (Don Ameche, who starred in THE THREE MUSKETEERS and THE STORY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL when Brimley was five years old) are residents of the Sunny Shores Villa in St. Petersberg, Florida. They’re kind of the cool rebels of the place, because while many of their peers are sitting around playing cards and shuffleboard they’re strutting out in their beach clothes that look like pajamas, squeezing through a broken gate to trespass in somebody else’s indoor swimming pool. Sneaking around like a bunch of goonies. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Stuff

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

June 14, 1985

“Are you eatin it? Or is it eatin you?”

I have a hard time putting my finger on the exact tone of THE STUFF. Its entire subject and premise clearly satirize consumerism, fads and greedy corporations making money from unhealthy products. The opening scene is laugh out loud funny, and definitely a parody of THE BLOB. The score by Anthony Guefen (DEADLY EYES) is often comically overblown for the scenes it accompanies, and sounds like library music. The characters often say and do odd things in the manner of accidentally funny low budget movies, but we know from his other work that writer/director Larry Cohen knows what he’s doing. Still, it doesn’t come across to me like a spoof, like it’s deadpan in order to be funnier. It seems more like yeah, we know this is a goofy idea, but we’re treating it seriously, just go with it.

I don’t feel like I quite understand its intentions. But that’s okay. Whatever they were going for, they came up with something unique.

“The Stuff” is the name a marketing firm comes up with for a white foam that an old man finds bubbling out of the ground. People like to joke about the guy in THE BLOB poking the meteorite with a stick, but this guy goes swiftly from “what is this weird substance?” to “hmm, let me taste it.” And it’s so delicious it just turns into snack time for him. (read the rest of this shit…)

D.A.R.Y.L.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

June 14, 1985

Like THE GOONIES, D.A.R.Y.L. is a family-friendly movie that opens with a high speed car chase (stunt coordinator: John Moio, who then did THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2). But the Spielberg movie that scene reminds me of most is A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. A scientist (stuntman Richard Hammatt, WILLOW, BATMAN, NIGHTBREED) is driving through winding roads, pursued by a helicopter, with unnaturally calm ten year old boy Daryl (Barret Oliver, KID #2, UNCOMMON VALOR) in the back seat. We know because we know what movie we’re watching that Daryl is a robot, and much like the mom in A.I., Dr. Mulligan sees no way to protect his robot boy except to drop him off in the woods and hope he can make it on his own. (But I think Mom survives – the doctor drives his car off a cliff. R.I.P.)

At various points in the movie Oliver’s performance will remind me of Haley Joel Osment’s in A.I., but it’s a very different approach to the story. Rather than a dark fairy tale journey through a fantastical future world, this is what happens to a character like that trying to pass for human in a normal ‘80s suburb.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Warriors of the Wind

Monday, June 15th, 2020

June 13, 1985 (?)

On June 13, 1985 (or possibly some other day – more on that later) a strange post-apocalyptic animated fantasy arrived in American theaters. It told the story of “a spirited princess named Zandra,” who flies around on gliders and airships and saves her kingdom, The Valley of the Wind, from “forces of evil” including but not limited to giant bugs called Gorgons who come from The Toxic Jungle.

People may not have known it was a Japanese film, released there in 1984, now shortened by nearly 25 minutes and dubbed into English, with the names of some characters and creatures changed. Today we know it in its original form and title – NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND, the second feature film by the globally revered writer/director Hayao Miyazaki (MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, PRINCESS MONONOKE, SPIRITED AWAY). But back then it was some mysterious thing called WARRIORS OF THE WIND. (read the rest of this shit…)

Blood Machines

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

BLOOD MACHINES is a very strange, kinda psychedelic retro-sci-fi thing that’s new on Shudder. I thought it was gonna be a movie but they list it as season 1, which almost scared me off. Turns out it’s only three episodes of around 20 minutes each, so it’s less of a time commitment than a movie.

If I had to describe it with a formula of existing movies I would say it’s DARK STAR meets MANDY with the TRON: LEGACY soundtrack. It drops you into a world straight out of Heavy Metal magazine (but with a score by French “synthwave” dude Carpenter Brut, not Sammy Hagar and shit) where an A.I.-controlled warship called the Mima crashes on a barren planet. A ship crewed by two men – arrogant captain Vascan (Anders Heinrichsen, “Police Officer,” VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS) and friendly old mechanic Lago (Christian Erickson, HITMAN) – shot it down, but when they try to salvage it they’re blocked by the all-female inhabitants of the planet, who see it as an injured being they must help. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hotel Artemis

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Two years ago there were two intriguing looking movies about hotels from pretty good writer/directors named Drew. I didn’t get around to seeing either, and they seemed to have unusual premises that were hard to explain in the trailers, so I have always been confused about what they were about and which one was which. When I saw HOTEL ARTEMIS was on Amazon Prime and clicked on it I had my fingers crossed that it was the one with Dave Bautista. And it was.

It takes place over one Wednesday night in L.A., summer of 2028, in what I gotta say are bad times at the Hotel Artemis. There are huge riots in the streets, which a crew of robbers in very stylish skeleton masks are trying to use to cover their getaway, but they get spotted by cops. Sherman (Sterling K. Brown, THE RHYTHM SECTION), his younger brother Lev (Brian Tyree Henry, WIDOWS) and a guy named Buke (Kenneth Choi, TIMECOP 2: THE BERLIN DECISION, STREET KINGS, Judge Ito to Brown’s Christopher Darden in The People vs. O.J. Simpson) manage to get away, but with injuries, so there’s only one place they can go. (See the title of the movie for specifics.) (read the rest of this shit…)

The Omega Man

Monday, April 13th, 2020

THE OMEGA MAN has been a favorite of mine since I first saw it on cable as a teenager. I would later read the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (love it) and see the first adapation LAST MAN ON EARTH (pretty good) and third one I AM LEGEND (in some ways the best adaptation, despite its flaws). The story of all these versions is of a scientist (usually named Robert Neville) who is immune to a plague that wipes out most of the population and turns the rest into vampires/ghouls/mutants.

So during daylight he’s alone in the city, at night he hides in his well-stocked home, holding off the attacking hordes, as he searches for a cure. It’s the holing up, of course, that kept coming to my mind a few weeks into Washington state’s shelter-in-place order for the Covid-19 pandemic (if I read that sentence six months ago I would’ve thought it was a reference to some sci-fi movie). I’ve mostly been looking for escapist entertainment – I’m definitely not planning on watching CONTAGION again, as seems to be popular – but I’m doing okay with genre movies that have parallels to the situation. So I watched THE OMEGA MAN again. (read the rest of this shit…)