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.

D. Cairns:

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.

Film Quarterly:

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.

M. D’Angelo:

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.

We’re dumped into the middle of a complex situation in a mechanized future city, where teenage kids are piloting giant robots to fend off invading aliens, or “angels,” then as the show settles into a groove of one angel per episode (each requiring either skill, strategy, or brute force/rage to defeat) it gradually fills in the details – some of them, anyway. Plenty of questions remain: why teenagers? Where do the alien-angels come from, and how are they connected to the apparently partly-biological robots (or “evas”)? Who’s the shadowy organization that runs the shadowy organization that runs the eva program and where did they get their plans and prophecies from? Why do the main characters have a pet penguin? And why is every single character in this show extremely neurotic?

I get that we’re in Japan, so of course there are teenagers piloting giant robots and of course there’s an out-of-place, comic-relief pet penguin. These traditions endure from Voltron to Macross/Robotech to Gundam to American movies like Robot Jox and Pacific Rim. I just played a 2015 Japanese video game in which cool dudes and underdressed sexy ladies pilot giant robots to kill marauding aliens, accompanied by a comic-relief talking potato, so it’s still going strong.

Our heroes:

Things get dark quickly:

The show is obsessed with numbering things (the third child, unit 04, seventh construction phase of tokyo-3, twelfth angel, second branch, code 707), feeling at times like the script was written in Excel. Set in the futuristic time of 2015-2016.

Seele or Nerv or something:

Our tormented lead character is Shinji. He lives with Misato, a hard-drinkin’ penguin-owner who runs mission control along with ex-rival Ritsuko and ex-flame Kaji, or actually I’m not sure what any of their jobs are because I watched the show slowly and missed or forgot some details. Also living with them is super-cocky pilot Asuka, whose whole world falls apart if she can’t be the best at everything. And living on her own is the quiet, often-injured Rei. Everyone has major, major parental and/or love-life issues, the worst of which is that Shinji’s dad Ikari runs the shadowy Eva organization Nerv but has never once spoken to his son with affection, and has a weird offscreen relationship with Rei, who he might be cloning.

Rei-clones:

Ikari-hand:

Then in the final episodes, instead of polishing off the story it dives into the tortured minds of the lead characters for an experimental-film psychoanalysis session. “This is the me that exists in your mind.” Shinji meets the perfect friend who turns out to be the final angel and must be killed by Shinji’s own hands. Asuka’s and Shinji’s moms die repeatedly in flashback. Ikari talks to an eyeball in his disfigured hand. Rei keeps being resurrected. Even the penguin is sent to live with someone else. Finally, Shinji reaches self-acceptance. “It’s okay for me to be here.” I found parts of the final episodes whiny and repetitive, but over the next few days warmed up to the idea of the whole series having been a prolonged Shinji therapy session.


The End of Evangelion (1997)

Then, the movie remakes those last two episodes the way the fans preferred: with mad apocalypse instead of therapy. There are still sexual and parental hangups, petty grievances, inter-agency power struggles, and everyone’s still super lonely and unhappy, but now there’s more sci-fi storyline to go with it. Nine new winged evas are unleashed along with military forces upon our Tokyo base, decimating it. Asuka goes on the biggest homicidal rampage of all time, taking down all the new evas, then Shinji has the biggest crippling self-doubt paralysis of all time, then every other character in the entire series is killed, then Rei becomes a planet-sized god, rapturing and absorbing the souls of all humanity. Unfortunately, the underground control panel nerds stay alive until the very end so they can keep spouting nonsense:

“Ikari has installed a Type 666 firewall on the MAGI’s external feed circuits.”

“Psychograph signal down!”

and my favorite,

“Pilot response approaching infinite zero!”

Said to be one of the best anime series ever… after this and Paranoia Agent I wonder what I should try next. Apparently Death & Rebirth is a skippable movie, condensed from the series and End of Evangelion movie, and there’s a trilogy of remake movies from 2007-2012 from the original creative team, which might be good, but I’ll hold off watching those since Wikipedia says there’s a part four coming. Writer/director Hideaki Anno apparently created the series (particularly the finale) in response to his own battle with depression. He started out as an animator on Nausicaa, also made Cutie Honey (which I enjoyed), some other kid/teen animated shows, and I guess he’s making the next Godzilla movie. Codirector Kazuya Tsurumaki directed the weirdo series FLCL.

After Take Shelter, I’ll definitely sign up for another Jeff Nichols/Michael Shannon drama about impending doom. This one is maybe more ambitious, definitely more confusingly plotted, and has less well-defined characters and relationships. Shannon and childhood friend Joel Edgerton have kidnapped Shannon’s magic son Alton from a doomsday cult and with help from Shannon’s (ex-?)wife Kirsten Dunst and federal agent Adam Driver they take Alton to fulfill his destiny by ascending to Tomorrowland.

Pretty sure this was meant to evoke the string of psychic-child adventure stories in the late 1970’s: Firestarter (the novel, if not the film) and The Fury. In fact I was so busy trying to remember how Firestarter ends that I may have missed some details about the doomsday cult and why exactly they wanted Alton – or maybe they weren’t even sure of that themselves. If not an instant classic, at least a cool-looking, mysterious movie, full of great acting and shocking moments (I leapt when satellite parts rained down on the gas station). I always appreciate sci-fi stories that show glimpses of larger worlds and deeper mysteries than the film has the time or inclination to explain.

This counted as the kickoff to Cannes Month, since Nichols’ previous movie Mud played Cannes, and his second film of 2016 Loving is about to premiere there. Although I would’ve watched it anyway.

M. D’Angelo:

For some reason, the emotional core of this film seems to have gone missing — I can see where it’s supposed to reside, but the love Alton’s parents feel for him is oddly abstract, perhaps because E.T. seems more human than he does.

I. Vishvenetsky:

The bad guys trace [our heroes’ car] through an insurance bill left on a kitchen counter, because even Midnight Special’s sense of conspiracy is grounded in the commonplace. The only explicitly poetic line the movie allows itself is spoken by the cult’s neckless goon, played by character actor Bill Camp. Sitting in his truck, he says, “I was an electrician, certified in two states. What do I know of these things?” This is the most the viewer will ever learn about him. Midnight Special defines characters through what they can’t understand, contrasting fear of the unknown with faith in it, and flipping the supernatural into a metaphor for the everyday.

From J. Romney’s review intro:

Cinema has rarely felt so much like a son et lumière as it did in a brief period in the early ’80s, when suddenly shafts of light came shooting out of movie images, as if the screen had been slashed. It became a defining image of Steven Spielberg’s films — Close Encounters, E.T., and Poltergeist too, if you want to count that as one of his … In their purest and most glaring form, those shafts of light had something of the quality of angelic revelation about them. Certainly, you suspected that cinematographers such as Vilmos Zsigmond and Allen Daviau had taken a close look at certain academic religious paintings of the 19th century, or perhaps at Renaissance church sculpture, with their sheaves of marble emulating beams from the divine. At any rate, it came as a shock to get the impression from these films — and with such eye-searing intensity — that cinema was a matter of light streaming directly out of the screen, rather than just bounced off it. The motif was a powerful way of restoring, if not a holy, at least an authentically otherworldly dimension to cinema.

According to legend, two guys wrote and directed a found-footage horror movie in 1999 that went viral and grossed a zillion dollars… and the two guys were never heard from again. The studio botched a sequel the following year, and the market flooded with more found-footage horrors and Scream-influenced self-conscious horrors and combinations thereof.

But wait, Myrick surfaced in 2007 with a couple generic looking horrors, and Sanchez did likewise with Altered, which I belatedly discovered after enjoying his bicyclist-helmet-cam V/H/S/2 segment. Sure, this is a movie where a bunch of violent rural drunks capture an alien who then escapes and torments them, and one guy is over-secretive and has explanations that never properly make sense, and the alien looks like a green-rubber reptilian thing, but it’s kind of a good movie. The action is confusingly shot, but most of the movie is banter between frightened dudes, which Sanchez and cast are quite good at orchestrating.

L-R: Wyatt, Otis, Duke, Cody

Drunkenly hunting aliens: bulky Duke (Brad Henke of Palahniuk adaptation Choke), beardy Otis (original Blair Witch kid Michael C. Williams) and wild-eyed loose-cannon Cody (Paul McCarthy of Stuck, not this one, and Keyhole, not that one). They bring their captive to the hideout shack of their formerly-alien-abducted friend Wyatt (Adam Kaufman of alien-abduction miniseries Taken) while his girlfriend (Catherine Mangan of Monster) is over, and much backstory is gradually revealed while they argue, lose the alien, tie and tape up the girlfriend (who was only in the movie because somebody belatedly realized before filming that there were no women anywhere) and finally get hunted by their former captive while trying to act like nothing’s up when sheriff James Gammon (Paps in Cabin Boy, the coach in Major League) comes to visit. The alien kills the sheriff, pulls Otis’s guts out (the one scene I’m sure I’ll remember), and finally Wyatt is forced to use his Scanners powers to subdue it.

Woman:

Wyatt vs. Alien scan-off:

Sanchez and cowriter Jamie Nash have a new bigfoot movie called Exists. Cinematographer Steve Yedlin did all the Rian Johnson movies including Looper and possibly an upcoming Star Wars.