So once again we have survived.

Archive for the ‘Science Fiction and Space Shit’ Category

Alien Nation

Monday, January 9th, 2017

A premise like ALIEN NATION’s is as rare a mineral as unobtainium. It alchemically melds two seemingly unmixable genres (’80s cop thriller and sci-fi alien movie) in a way that organically lends itself to social commentary within pop entertainment. I wouldn’t say ALIEN NATION succeeds wildly in those goals, but it gets the job done and just the conception of it is so beautiful it can get away with coasting.

At its heart it’s a standard-issue interracial buddy cop movie. Like Dirty Harry and a million other movie cops, Detective Matthew Sykes (James Caan)’s partner dies, and he tries to solve the case with a new partner who happens to be from a different culture, and has a very different personality and approach to law enforcement. Like Tyne Daly in THE ENFORCER, Detective Francisco (Mandy Patinkin, DICK TRACY) is part of an advancement program to promote diversity, and is receiving rejection and resentment from the usual self-centered-backwards-afraid-of-change-knuckledragging-anti-progress assholes. Sykes isn’t any more enlightened than his bros, but he knows Francisco is on a case that might be related to the guys who killed his partner.

So Sykes says culturally insensitive things, insults his partner, makes a fool of himself, but starts to learn, they get to know each other, they bond with each other, he changes his perspective, starts to stand up against racism from the other cops, all while they go after the killers.

But Francisco is different from other cops who are different, because he’s not just a different race or gender from Sykes, he’s from a different planet. He’s a Newcomer, an alien. Three years ago they arrived in “an intergalactic slave ship,” but they’re genetically engineered to be highly intelligent and adaptable, so they’ve already integrated into human society much more than the ones in DISTRICT 9 did. They have large, bald heads with distinctive spots on their skin, but they’re humanoid so they just wear suits and ties and sunglasses and shit like anybody else, and they take on human names and jobs and try to fit in like any immigrant in America. (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.

Rogue One

Monday, December 19th, 2016

a.k.a. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

ROGUE ONE is the new Star Wars picture, but not episode VIII, but also not new exactly because it’s what happens before part IV, which is the first one. I look forward to explaining that to the first casual viewer I meet who thinks this little British heroine is the same one from THE FORCE AWAKENS.

She’s a new character though, Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones from THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. She’s supposed to be some kind of criminal or something who’s snatched from a prison transport by the budding Rebel Alliance because they’re looking for her father (Mads Mikkelsen, VALHALLA RISING), a scientist who was abducted by the Empire when she was young and is helping them build a spherical planet-destroying space weapon (see also episodes IV, VI and VII). So like most STAR WARS leads she’s an orphan, then she was raised by a legendary guerrilla named Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker, BLOODSPORT) although the raising happens offscreen. (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.

Mindwarp

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

tn_mindwarpFangoria Magazine is important to me. I’ve been reading it since some time in the ’80s. It covered not only all the great horror movies that have come out during all those years, but also the less great ones. I like that you could read detailed coverage of, like, DOLLY DEAREST or some shit when it came out. I have boxes of old issues and sometimes I’ll remember to go back and see their interviews about, say, HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE, or something and find more details than I could find browsing the internet. It’s great.

Back when people read magazines and loved horror movies enough to read about how they were made, Fangoria had enough money to try crossing over and making some movies of their own, including MINDWARP. To be honest I  don’t remember ever hearing of it until I came across it recently on a nice Twilight Time blu-ray. I remember Fangoria Films as a distributor of low budget movies (don’t think I ever watched any of them) but I didn’t realize that before that they had tried to finance one movie per year, starting with this in 1990 (not released until ’92 though), followed by CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT (vampire movie from HELLRAISER II director Tony Randel) and SEVERED TIES (horror comedy with Oliver Reed, Elke Sommer and Garrett Morris in the cast). (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.

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.