Of our original trio, Han Solo has died in part 7, Leia now leads the resistance with second-in-command Laura Dern and Han-like hotshot flyboy Poe (Oscar Isaac), and Luke is secluded on an island refusing to help would-be protege Rey (Daisy Ridley) because he lost control of his last protege Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). John Boyega (Attack the Block) apparently had a larger role jumpstarting the narrative in part 7 – here he’s paired with engineer/love interest Rose (Kelly Tran) trying to help the rickety remains of the resistance escape from Kylo and howling ham sandwich Domhnall Gleeson in their attack fleet. Benicio Del Toro is a smooth traitor to both sides, there are computer-animated characters who don’t quite work, appearances by Yoda, Chewbacca and the robots. I appreciated Rian Johnson’s commitment to filming it all in well-designed visual frames, and this would probably rival the Guardians of the Galaxy movies in rewatchability, but that doesn’t make me happy that Rian is committed to a decade of Star Wars instead of original stories.
Finally, Live-action Teen Cartoon Miike gets mixed-up with Bloody Horror Miike. Starts off in a Battle Royale classroom, a fake-looking CG toy playing a game of freeze-or-die with the terrified suit-wearing students, until sole survivor Shun (Sôta Fukushi of Blade of the Immortal) pushes the button on its back. He meets up with the survivors from other classes for the next challenge, basketball vs. a giant cat in the gym, where we meet ruthless brown-haired Amaya (The Great Yokai War star Ryûnosuke Kamiki), then Shun is paired with his ex Takase for a round-robin guessing game, then she’s killed in the next round, in which a truth-obsessed polar bear gets them to turn on each other. Finally a rooftop-sunset game of kick-the-can pits Shun against the transparently evil Amaya. All this is taking place inside a giant alien cube hovering over major cities, which has kidnapped and murdered all the country’s children in order to teach a valuable lesson spoken by a wise old dude at the very end, which I spaced out and didn’t pay attention to.
In memory of two recently-departed horror directors, who made some of the best horror films in history, I caught up with two of their worst pictures…
To begin with, a bullshit voiceover lets us know that this spaceship, created with colored lights and 1980’s computer graphics, has some inexplicable gravity technology – just trust us, we’re on a spaceship but there’s gravity. I don’t recall Star Trek worrying themselves with explaining the ship’s artificial gravity, except when it broke in the sixth movie.
Discovering nude-vampire crystals inside the space anus:
Fallada, looking like an apocalyptic preacher:
“I almost have the feeling I’ve been here before” as they fly into a giant vaginal-looking tunnel. Astronauts discover nude, crystal-encased space vampires and bring them home via a badly failed first mission plus a second rescue mission. The sole survivor of the first mission is Steve Railsback (later of Scissors and Alligator II: The Mutation), who couldn’t help but sexually harass the female alien (Mathilda May, later of some Chabrol and Demy films) and becomes psychically connected to her. Railsback works with Peter Firth (Tess, Equus) and alien-invaded doctor Patrick Stewart to track down the vampire girl, while dapper white-haired Professor Fallada (Frank Finlay, one of Richard Lester’s Musketeers) and barely-competent Dr. Bukovsky (Michael Gothard, Oliver Reed’s executor in The Devils) try to contain the evil – and fail utterly, as most of London falls to the vampire-zombie plague.
Patrick Stewart Replica:
Return of the Living Dead Zombie Phantom Alien Vampires:
More perverted and apocalyptic than most 1980’s horror movies, at least. The movie’s pretty okay, but the concept is cool as hell, so it’s got my respect. Tobe’s follow-up to Poltergeist, produced by Cannon Films, cowritten by Dan O’Bannon, who made Return of the Living Dead the same year, which ties into our next filmmaker…
A John Carter-like attempt to film an influential comic which many sci-fi movies (including Besson’s own Fifth Element) have been ripping off for decades. I’ll bet this was better in 3D. The movie seems to want to be in VR, having Valerian put on special glasses when he wants to see into other dimensions (recalling Freddy’s Dead).
The Pearls, a peaceful race of white Na’vi, live on Shell Beach with their pets who can shit dark matter, until their planet is destroyed as collateral damage in a space war led by Commander Clive Owen. Survivors have invaded the International Space Station (now a massive free-floating city of a thousand alien races) and learned all the alien techs to built themselves a supership Shell Beach simulator. Commander Clive sees all this as a threat, and sends soldiers to stop them, or something.
But first, Major Tom Valerian (Dane DeHaan: Lawless, A Cure for Wellness) is sexually harassing his coworker Laureline (Cara Delevingne: London Fields, Paper Towns). According to my Alamo Drafthouse waiter, their relationship made some kind of sense in the original comics, but human behavior isn’t Besson’s strong suit, so he’s botched it. These two are sent to interrupt a trade between Pearls and a Hutt unmistakably voiced by John Goodman, and during their escape a bulletproof rhinobeast wipes out their team.
Valerian’s boss, the General, looks like a Weasley but is actually Sam Spruell of Snow White and the Huntsman… then there are a series of higher-ups played by Rutger Hauer and Herbie Hancock who we barely see. Our team is eventually separated, and Laureline goes underwater with a beardy submariner named Bob (Alain Chabat of The Science of Sleep) while Valerian gets help from a shapeshifting Rihanna (after murdering her pimp Ethan Hawke), who does a dance which will be my most-watched scene on netflix once it comes out.
Some effects shots are very cartoony, not fooling anyone, and the action choreography is quite bad when viewed the day after Atomic Blonde. The very long info-dump ending is bad, the plot is mostly bad, the teaching Valerian about the meaning of love is bad, so I spaced out in the last half hour and tried to figure who Dane DeHaan reminds me of – is it Nicolas Cage? He’s fine, don’t get me wrong – all the acting and filmmaking is generally spot-on, just in service of a poor script. There is one great bit in the ending: Laureline is left alone with Commander Clive and just keeps punching him.
I was so disappointed… instead of the tough, capable Weaver or Rapace, we get a bunch of panicky crew members who make very bad decisions, leading to all of their deaths and leaving evil android David in charge of thousands of frozen would-be colonists. These people have no capacity for fighting, thinking clearly in an emergency situation, or prioritizing… and for some reason everyone in the crew is a married couple, so when their partner dies they become useless. More importantly, it’s no fun watching them walk into traps that we Alien-movie vets easily see coming and just die unceremoniously. Each movie brought something new to the table until this one, which only rehashes things we’ve seen before.
But then I was pondering on the way home – maybe this bunch of useless, easily dispatched characters was assembled on purpose. David says something about humans being a failed species on the evidence that they need a space colonization program in the first place, that it’s worth letting them die, and he’s going to make sure it happens. Maybe this is the opinion of Ridley and the umpteen writers, and they prove their point by having humanity’s most vital mission entrusted to these bozos. The Alien series stories always featured individuals fiercely triumphing over adversity, over external forces and internal human greed, and now Ridley has given his corporate lords another space-massacre movie to sell, but he no longer sees a society worth saving.
Captain Billy Crudup is a Christian, which is mentioned every time he’s on screen to diminished effect from the Prometheus origin-story wonderings. He lasts a good while, is finally replaced by the Carey Mulligan-looking Katherine Waterston (Queen of Earth, Inherent Vice) down on the planet and Cowboy Danny McBride (of mostly James Franco movies) in the ship. The star, of course, is Michael Fassbender as both drama queen David and buttoned-up Walter. They are identical-ish, and in the finale they switch places and you totally can’t tell except that you’ve been expecting it the entire movie, then you know they’ve switched places and you’re waiting for the rest of the characters to discover it and it’s exasperating, then finally it’s too late and you think “good, to hell with humanity.”
Ehrlich called it “majestically shot” and Matt Lynch said “gorgeous,” hmmm, maybe I was sitting too close? Also, come to think of it, David also genocides an entire planet of those bald guys from Prometheus, so maybe it’s less anti-humanity than anti-life.
Saw this right after rewatching Kubo and the Two Strings over Thanksgiving, noticed how they both refer to a person’s life “story,” then realized this was based on a book called Story of Your Life. So the two movies go together nicely is what I’m saying.
Amy Adams is a linguist and Jeremy Renner a physicist who are recruited by Forest Whitaker to communicate with the aliens whose giant ships have appeared across the planet. We see Adams do lots of linguistics but don’t see Renner doing any physics, and I think Adams’ final language-comprehension-enabled time-reading abilities break some movie paradox laws (she can learn from her future self), but the whole thing is so beautifully done I could care less. Also interesting that the emotional resonance of world peace is much less than the story of Adams’ own doomed marriage and child.
Dennis Villeneuve makes beautiful images, perhaps tending to exploit shallow focus a little TOO much, but in doing so he uses it in unexpected ways, sometimes throwing the whole subject of the shot into an artful blur.
Damn this movie being great, because now I have to care about Villeneuve’s Blade Runner sequel. An Advanced Movie, it relies on our knowledge of flashback rules in order to trick us by breaking them. Waited in my seat until the music credit came up. I liked the Jóhann Jóhannsson score but I guess I really noticed the bookending Max Richter piece. This was the academy’s exact justification for excluding Jóhannsson from award consideration, somewhat unfairly.
Wasn’t planning it this way, but I guess my viewing of Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers, and last year’s SHOCKtober screening of the 1956 original (and I suppose The Invasion) were all prelude to this wonderful Alamo screening of the best Body Snatchers movie. It loses the 1950’s prudishness, ramps up the energy and paranoia (and humor, when Jeff Goldblum is onscreen) and lands on an even bleaker ending than the original tried to imply. It could almost be a sequel instead of a remake – the 1956 ends (not counting the dumb framing story) with Kevin McCarthy screaming on the highway, unheeded, and early in this version McCarthy appears on a city street yelling “We’re in danger – you’re next!” just before getting killed.
“A disquieting paranoid thriller informed by the conspiracy theories of the period and the jaded cynicism that followed the death of the counterculture movement,” per Adam Cook.
Donald Sutherland is our new McCarthy, a San Francisco health department investigator and the boss of Elizabeth (Brooke Adams: The Dead Zone, Shock Waves). Donald likes Liz but she’s married to Art Hindle (lead dude in The Brood), who is the first to be invaded – not counting their psychiatrist guru friend Leonard Nimoy, who was probably a pod from the start. While uncovering the plot and figuring out what to do about it, they huddle with friends Goldblum and his wife Nancy (Veronica Cartwright, in The Birds as a teen, later Alien and Witches of Eastwick).
The Shaun of the Dead trick of pretending to be a zombie and walking among the others seems to work, until Donald and Liz get shocked by something and scream. Donald spotted a pod next to a homeless dude (and his dog) and kicked it – a few scenes later the dog is walking around with the dude’s face. As in the original, Liz is only left alone for a few minutes when she falls asleep and gets replaced, melting in Donald’s hands as her pod version rises up, telling him to join them.
Screenplay by W.D. Richter, later director of Buckaroo Banzai with Goldblum. Fun angles and shadowplay, and perfectly balanced tone of terror and action – no wonder a couple movies later Kaufman’s The Right Stuff got eight oscar nominations. Sutherland was later in the quite bad Puppet Masters, in which Earth is invaded by mind-controlling alien parasites, and McCarthy would reprise his role yet again in Looney Tunes: Back in Action.
Visually, the movies couldn’t differ more. Siegel’s unadorned black-and-white has yielded to Kaufman’s lyrical color, tilts, handheld shots, and high key lighting. Michael Chapman’s photography is both lustrous and penumbral, with deep shadows and crowded, mobile frames. Annexing the genre’s salient mood of engulfing dread, he has made the new Body Snatchers a film noir in color.
Sometimes the Mets make it to the postseason, threatening the amount of free time I have to devote to SHOCKtober movies. Tonight is the National League Wild Card game, Syndergaard pitching for the Mets against the mighty Bumgarner for the Giants. I shall attempt to multitask, following Gameday on the laptop while watching the last ten minutes of bad horror movies on streaming sites.
It is tempting to just pick any old crappy horror film and watch the last ten minutes of it. There are so many! There is a cyberbullying horror called #HORROR, and movies with every generic title you could ask for: Slasher, Creep, Circle, Hush, The Presence, The Chosen, Visions, Dark Skies, The Unborn, Rebirth, etc. However, The Last Ten Minutes wasn’t supposed to be a time-wasting review of the latest straight-to-video garbage, but a time-saver – watching only the endings of movies I’ve been tempted to watch in their entirety. Because I really do watch bad horrors sometimes (recently: The Editor, The Guest, Willow Creek, We Are What We Are, Lesson of Evil), so trying to ignore the generic nonsense tonight and stick with stuff I have some reason to wanna see.
Knock Knock (2015, Eli Roth)
I never liked Eli Roth’s signature Hostel movies, but he’s one of the major names in modern horror so I at least follow his career. This looks like a Funny Games scenario (“it was just a game,” they even say) with a married guy (Keanu Reeve, also in The Neon Demon and The Bad Batch so he may turn up again this SHOCKtober) and two interloping hot foreign girls (incl. Roth’s Green Inferno star). Clumsy-ass Keanu gets captured and buried to his neck. Anyway the girls leave him buried there watching the sex tape they made on his cellphone and they wander away to the same closing song as Fight Club. Eh, seems pretty tame by Roth standards. No excitement in the first inning either.
The Invasion (2007, Oliver Hirschbiegel)
Since I’ve watched two Body Snatchers movies and am hoping to watch a third soon, here’s the remake I never cared about. Seems like Daniel Craig is already a pod person and Nicole Kidman has a gun, but she lets him unlock a door to unleash the others, then the director uses video-game POV while she shoots them all. Car crash and she’s swarmed by pod people. Argh, Brandon Crawford took nine pitches to strike out. Why did Nicole Kidman agree to do this movie… because Cruise did War of the Worlds? Bottom of the second, her car is on fire, then I think she accidentally knocks out her son with a fire extinguisher but the editing sucks so I can’t tell. Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operation, then a montage tells us the world was saved. “For better or worse, we’re human again,” and Kidman’s not so sure it’s a good thing. Two Mets strike out, also not good. PG-13 adaptation (humans are infected, not actually killed and replaced, so Craig is cured in the end) by David Kajganich (A Bigger Splash). This was director Hirschbiegel’s follow-up to Downfall, and he hasn’t been heard from since.
Cloverfield (2008, Matt Reeves)
A tiny monster! Godzilla ’98-style – I was not expecting that. Another helicopter, huh? Whew, the camerawork looks even worse than expected. Top of the third went fast. Why are these party teens being rescued from the city instead of anyone else? It’s like watching a monster movie with a drunk friend screaming commentary in your ear. Chopper crash… “initiating hammer down,” says the radio. Rabbit ears? Hammer down. The teens survive the crash and keep filming until the monster arrives and eats them. Hey, our first hit, go Rivera. An actor (Brooklynite Michael Stahl-David) is visible on camera for once, then he and his girl get blown up. Glad I watched the sequel and skipped this one, though I’ll bet it was fun in a crowded theater opening night. Written by Drew “Cabin in the Woods” Goddard, produced by JJ “Trek Wars” Abrams and directed by Matt “Planet of the Apes” Reeves.
Candyman 3: Day of the Dead (1999, Turi Meyer)
Had to check and make sure I’ve seen part two, which I don’t remember at all. Caroline (Baywatch‘s Donna D’Errico) is staring at bee-covered retro painting of Tony Todd, while her boy David (original Nightmare on Elm Street actor Jsu Garcia) hangs from meat hooks nearby. Candyman totally appears without anyone saying his name in a mirror. And we walked the D-Span with no outs? Candyman is promising that their legends will live forever, but I don’t know if anyone’s even aware that there was a third Candyman movie, so maybe not. Tony opens his shirt and says “behold” and the filmmakers apparently think the human body is a giant ribcage with one big pulsating organ just behind it. Haaha, D-Span caught stealing as Caroline slashes the painting from behind a video layer effect of angry bees, then Candyman literally explodes, a hilarious ending to the trilogy. Giants lost a challenge, and what, another walk? Multiple false endings in the movie, lame. Same goes for the inning, which Mike “Hunter” Pence finally ends by striking out. The cowriters also worked on Leprechaun 2 and a Carrot Top movie.
Intruder (1989, Scott Spiegel)
This movie recently played the Alamo, who advertised the Sam Raimi/Bruce Campbell connection, but it seems mostly valuable for the historical footage of late-1980’s grocery packaging. Supermarket at night, a killer busts through the Frosted Flakes after Jennifer. It’s a bloody murder movie, but there’s some humor in the music cues as a delivery boy is slaughtered, and when the killer puppeteers a severed head. Who is the unshaven hero who comes to her rescue at the end? Actually it looks pretty fun and well filmed as far as slasher movies go. Only minor excitement in the fourth. Amazon worked well for the first four movies, but Hulu’s user interface is ill-suited to The Last Ten Minutes project, so now it’s off to Netflix.
Bleed (2016, Tripp Rhame)
Okay, I feel bad about not watching this one in its entirety. I waited years for it to come out (used to be called The Circle) and my former coworkers made it, but time is precious so let’s just watch the end and see. Cross-cut between gravedigging and a girl coughing up dirt, that’s interesting. I think she is Chelsey Crisp of Chicken Suit. Her brother Eric (Riley Smith, substitute Dennis Quaid in the Frequency TV series) shows up in the haunted/abandoned warehouse then is killed by an angry mob, and a homeless beardy dude speaks wisdom then vanishes into smoke. There’s some gruesome shit in here, a welcome change from the previous PG-13 fare, too bad it’s stuck in the generically-titled netflix horror bin. Not even close to any score in the game yet, and only 51 pitches from Bumgarner in the 5th… wait, runner on second… wait, a different runner on second… okay, nevermind. Credits say “featuring David Yow”?? Cheers to Tripp and Nate and Kevin Hamm.
Hellions (2015, Bruce McDonald)
I love the postseason stats reset, everyone with a 0 ERA and .000 batting average. This is immediately better than the last few movies, visually and musically, but it’s definitely the night for pretty girls getting chased by faceless hordes. The girl gives herself an abortion (or c-section, hard to tell in this lighting) by scythe while a pumpkin patch bursts into digital flames. D-Span is the first person to reach base twice, and this time he’s not caught stealing. Hospital epilogue nightmare! Dead-baby hospital epilogue, then alive-baby second hospital epilogue. Top of the sixth went quickly. Bruce is the great director of Pontypool and The Tracey Fragments and Roadkill, but this movie got pretty bad reviews.
Baskin (2015, Can Evrenol)
Freaky guy with a knife, and they just walked Cabrera with one out, and someone’s throat is getting slashed. Tribal-looking, long hair and dirt in low light. I think Arda and Remzi are cops. Dude retrieves a key from throat of his dying partner, Saw-style, then stabs the weirdo baddie with it before beating him to death with a wooden bench. This doesn’t look great, but the baddie is excellent looking (apparently a deformity, not makeup, but still excellent). Nice, the sole survivor is run over by approaching police van. Turkish movie. Someone’s gonna have to score a run if this game is gonna end. Third walk of the night – that’d do it, too. Whew, got out of that one.
The Uninvited (2009, Guard Bros.)
A remake of A Tale of Two Sisters, so after hitting play I was reading what I wrote about the original movie and accidentally heard this version’s opening line: “I love you… and I have a condom.” Skip to the last ten minutes and there is blood everywhere. In flashback, the twins blow up their house, one of them dies and hello Addison Reed. Did the original end with the surviving twin in an asylum? Crazy sister Emily Browning will appear in the American Gods series, ghost sister Arielle Kebbel was in The Grudge remake-sequel, David Strathairn and Elizabeth Banks slumming as dad and stepmom.
Dream House (2011, Jim Sheridan)
“Jack, you killed them.” Argh, bases loaded with two outs and Mike “Hunter” Pence is up. I think it’s all flashback exposition right now and haaa, struck him out. Hello, Rachel Weisz. Another gas can, house set on fire – isn’t this the third fire tonight? Daniel Craig wakes up, saves Naomi Watts from the flames then goes back for Rachel’s ghost. Whoever Ty Kelly is, he’s on first. Daniel Craig, whose character everyone calls Peter but IMDB says his name is Will, is later revealed to have a bestselling book called Dream House – spooky, right? Netflix says if I liked that, which I did not, I’ll enjoy Master of None, as we strand Kelly on second base. Jim Sheridan used to make best-picture nominees starring Daniel Day-Lewis.
Stonehearst Asylum (2014, Brad Anderson)
Oh good, another fire. I get that we automatically pitch Familia because it’s the ninth in a high-stakes game, but there’s still no score and this might go all night, so why not just leave Reed in? I suppose because he loaded the bases during Dream House. Looks like Ben Kingsley is a wicked man experiencing war flashbacks from when he’d execute hospitalized soldiers. Kate Beckinsale and Jim Sturgess are arguing over which one of them is sane. Now here’s Angry Brendan Gleeson and Catatonic Michael Caine – things are looking up. Identity theft in the late 1800’s, and Familia walks Joe Panik, dammit. This was based (loosely, I’m guessing) on Poe. Anderson made The Machinist and two good Masters of Horror episodes, and this looked alright.
The Fog (2005, Rupert Wainwright)
What better way to ruin a night than with a John Carpenter remake by someone named Rupert? “This town was built on nothing but lies… and now they’ve come for their revenge.” The fog bringeth translucent skeletons with surprisingly loud footsteps to murder the movie’s generic actors using cheap effects. Ghost army sets an old man on fire, not nice. Giants home run, not nice either. Ew, corpse kissing. One out in the bottom of ninth but Bumgarner has thrown 108 pitches and he’s not superman – we can do this. Maggie Grace (of Taken) ascends to the ghost dimension after making out with the rotting corpse. “Something did come back… sooner or later, everything does.” I hope that includes the Mets, and does not include Rupert. Better luck next year, Mets.
Fun, twisty thriller. I probably never want to watch it again, and I probably still don’t want to watch the shaky-cam action prequel, but I didn’t regret renting this.
Mary E. Winstead (Ramona Flowers, the girl with hair like this) is in a car crash and wakes up chained to John Goodman’s basement. But wait, Goodman is a nice guy who rescued her on his way to his massive emergency shelter and outside the world has gone to hell. But wait, she hears a car overhead and there’s a person outside and Goodman denies this is possible. But wait, that outside person is crazy and wounded and is trying to get into the shelter, proving Goodman’s point. Goodman’s neighbor John Gallagher (Short Term 12) is also in the bunker and says Goodman’s on the level and John isn’t a creepy sex fiend and he talks like a normal sad guy about his daughter. But wait, Gallagher says the girl in the photo isn’t Goodman’s daughter. But wait, Mary suspects Goodman is the one who caused her car crash in the first place. But wait, before she confronts him about this, Goodman sheepishly admits that he crashed into her in his haste to get to the shelter.
All this back-and-forth is resolved in the best possible way: Goodman is right about the extinction-level event outside AND he’s dangerously crazy, so Mary has to fight her way out of the bunker then fight Cloverfield aliens, which I assumed would be more Godzilla-like, not floating spaceships with Hellraiser tentacles.
Obvs produced by JJ Abrams, but directed by Trachtenberg, whose previous film was a fan-film short for the video game Portal (he was also key grip on Phantasm OblIVion). Written by a Narnia editor, a G.I. Joe associate producer and Whiplash director Damien Chazelle. That is a fucked-up lineage but man the actors are so good in this.
What if you got trapped in an elevator with your abusive ex-boyfriend and you’re a hemophiliac and OMG your ex-boyfriend is a vampire! Come on.