“Your daughter’s screaming. The house is burning.”

This movie has been back in the national consciousness, for reasons similar to The Manchurian Candidate, and I had great fun rewatching Cronenberg’s The Fly last SHOCKtober, so let’s keep it going. Starts out shaky, asking us to accept the weird, nervy Christopher Walken as a wholesome young teacher named Johnny taking his sweetheart to the fair. After a car crash and five-year coma, Johnny wakes up to an upturned life and inexplicable psychic powers which make him an outcast – this is a more suitable Walken role, and he’s perfect in it.

Brooke Adams (of the good 1978 Body Snatchers) was his sweetie, now married to another man with a kid, and Tom Skerritt is the local sheriff who resorts to asking the psychic Walken for help catching the Castle Rock Killer (the Stephen King connected universe wasn’t as annoying 35 years ago), who turns out to be Tom’s own deputy. Walken meets politician Martin Sheen through a rich dad who hires him for private lessons, and having seen the future of the country under Sheen’s evil reign, Walken takes drastic action, surviving just long enough to see that he’s fixed the future.

It’s presumed that the accident/coma gives Walken his powers, but the movie pointedly shows him having one of his headaches that accompany psychic episodes before the crash happens, so I dunno. This came out just eight months after Videodrome, which it’s probably time to watch again soon.

Nobody wanted to pick between the Rohmer and the Pasolini, so I brought out the dark-horse Disney flick as a sorry compromise. I heard it might actually be great, but it was… okay. Had to get used to the digital animals looking so cartoony in motion, though their speech and mouth movements were the most realistic I’ve seen since Whiskers, The Kitten Who Can Name Fruit. Admittedly this was probably better in theaters in 3D, but we watched in HD on our big screen with the volume up, so I feel like if there’s real magic, we would’ve felt it. Anyway it was fun.

Songs worked better in context of the cartoon, and were pried into this version, making it feel like it’s referencing the original – so not only a remake for new audiences, but one that wants you to have watched the original. Between that and the cartoony animals wanting so badly to be real, it’s a conflicted movie – one of Disney’s “live action” remakes without much live action (the kid was okay).

Usually I don’t notice celebrity voice casting so much, but it’s hard to miss Christopher Walken (King Louie) and Bill Murray (Baloo). Katy recognized Idris Elba (evil tiger), Scarlett Johansson (evil snake), and Ben Kingsley (fatherly panther Bagheera). Apologies to Garry Shandling and Giancarlo Esposito and Lupita Nyong’o, I guess, for blending in and not sounding distractingly like stunt celeb casting.

Ignatiy V.:

Its jungle is a complete simulacrum: Everything from the birds to the leaves is artificial, which means that nothing can ever stand out as unreal. The ironic exception is Sethi’s manic Mowgli, mugging on partial sets against blue screen; in a digital world realized by a dream team of effects studios, the one real thing seems fake.

Never before realized that Baloo is a sloth bear.

The best Christmas movie we could find on netflix at the time. Katy had never seen this, did not know the joys of a flipper-fisted Danny DeVito and leather-suited Michelle Pfeiffer and fright-wigged Christopher Walken and Burton’s light-and-shadows pop-color photography and Elfman’s huge soaring music all stealing Micheal Keaton’s own superhero film out from under him. Batman has an undeveloped love interest in Pfeiffer, some last-minute heroism (diverting DeVito’s city-destroying rocket penguins into the zoo), obligatory Batman/Bruce identity crisis, but no major personality or emotion or story developments. And that’s fine with me – Batman movies could’ve gone on forever like this.

Totally missed noticing Paul Reubens as Penguin’s father, damn. Doug Jones (Abe Sapien in Hellboy) played a clown, and Jan Hooks (just-deceased SNL actress) Penguin’s mayoral campaign handler. Happy to see Michael “Tanner ’88” Murphy as the mayor and the great Vincent Schiavelli as Penguin’s monkey man.

Also watched the first 15 minutes of the first Burton Batman movie. Forgot that Jack Palance plays the crime boss who sends Nicholson into the Joker-backstory factory. Billy Dee Williams plays Harvey Dent, who does not get two-faced in this one.

I’ve read a couple of great articles about The Clock – never thought I’d have a chance to see it, but we were in Minneapolis while it ran at the Walker, so we watched almost two hours of it, which seems like a lot but is only seven percent of the total. And we could’ve easily kept watching (yes, Katy liked it too) – it’s not only a great conceptual achievement, it’s also very entertaining and ingeniously edited. To my great pleasure, as much care was given to the sound mixing as the picture, so audio will overlap in interesting ways. And the picture isn’t as clock-obsessed as I’d assumed. Clocks aren’t always onscreen, sometimes in just one fragment of a scene, or sometimes not at all, instead with characters speaking (usually in English) about the time or its passing (Nick of Time with Johnny Depp and Chris Walken got some repeat play), and clever connective shots will be used to fit scenes with similar times together. Plenty of humor – we got a confused phone conversation between two different movies, and Karl Malden in Baby Doll honking his horn to annoy characters of a whole different era.

Oh look, netflix streaming has a whole bunch of James Bond movies. I never watched them consistently, saw a couple all the way through and a bunch more in fragments on cable. So this is an attempt to figure out which Bond is which, and which movies were halfway decent.

Thunderball (1965)
Sean Connery is not-so-excitingly rescued by a helicopter, yells some exposition that I didn’t quite catch. Underwater harpoon battle! Black team vs. orange team, heavy casualties. Everyone except Bond is wearing pants. The movie harpoons a shark, booo. I hope the movie ate that shark. Bond catches up with grey-haired eyepatched Largo (Adolfo Celi of Diabolik and The Phantom of Liberty) aboard the Disco Volante – aha – slaps him around while the boat accelerates to Benny Hill speed. He escapes with a girl named Domino (Claudine Auger of A Bay of Blood), who also has no pants. They ditch the Peter Lorre-like fellow who helped rescue her, and escape into a bluescreen sky. Director Terence Young’s third Bond movie – he’d later make Wait Until Dark.

You Only Live Twice (1967)
Connery fails to escape Donald “Dr. Evil” Pleasence by shooting a guy with his cigarette. Lots of men (ninjas, according to IMDB) fight in different-colored outfits. Bond knocks an unpunchable tough guy into a pirahna pool and pushes the button that makes a spacecraft on TV blow up. Pleasence blows the whole base, but every single person escapes anyway, and the same planes drop the same lifeboats as in the last movie. Bond ends up in one with a girl named Kissy (Mie Hama of What’s Up Tiger Lily).

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Jill St. John (of Tashlin & Lewis flick Who’s Minding The Store?) is making a mockery of clothing in her purple/red flag swimsuit. Connery does acrobatics in a suit, while helicopters explode into optical stills. Baddy Blofeld (Charles Gray of the Rocky Horror movies) enters a toy submarine held by a Bond-controlled crane. Connery gleefully wrecking-balls the toy into the control tower until the whole derrick explodes. Nice finale featuring one waiter on fire and another exploding mid-air.

Live and Let Die (1973)
Heroin dealer Yaphet Kotto (of Bone, Alien and the show Homicide) has stolen Roger Moore’s inflation gun, shows off all his silly bad-guy toys (a monorail, waterproof heroin canisters) then threatens Bond and Jane “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” Seymour with death by shark. Every movie so far has featured watery deaths. In the most WTF moment of any movie so far, Bond shoves a compressed-air pellet into Yaphet’s head, turning him into a balloon. The last-minute assassination-attempt is back, and Moore tosses a metal-claw-handed Julius Harris (of Black Caesar) out his train window.

The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
The great Christopher Lee (year after The Wicker Man) is TMWTGG, but Moore shoots him dead before he’s got any lines – shame. Nice scene, all rotating mirrors and neon triangles. Criminals used to put such style into their lairs. Britt Ekland (also of Wicker Man) tosses a guy into subzero liquid (another watery death), then triggers self-destruct with her ass, the least competent of any bond girl so far. He and the girl sail away in an ancient Chinese ship, pausing to dispose of an angry Hervé Villechaize (soon after Greaser’s Palace). These last three were directed by Guy Hamilton, who’d go on to make Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
A boat is blowing up – more water, and oh look, more sharks. Moore is aboard the evil aquatic base, shoots boring Curd Jurgens (star of both a Blue Angel remake and a Threepenny Opera remake), sics Jaws on a shark (a funny joke in the mid-1970’s) and escapes with lovely enemy spy Barbara Bach – codename Triple X, another joke. It all seems rather inert, the least-exciting Bond finale I’ve seen despite Jaws and explosions.

Moonraker (1979)
Oh god, laser gun battles. Moore ejects Michael Lonsdale (!) into space then watches some Star Wars models out the window. Jaws is in love with a girl with pigtails and it’s sweet. He even gets dialogue, helps Bond and Lois Chiles (of Broadcast News) into a shuttle where they play high-stakes space invaders then celebrate with zero-G sex. These last two and You Only Live Twice were directed by Lewis Gilbert, who helmed some thrillers in the 50’s and more recently an Aidan Quinn ghost story.

For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Moore is in a decidedly low-tech mountain hideout, with a full team for once. Punch-out in a church, people thrown through stained glass windows, and another one of those tough guys who just smiles when Bond punches him in the gut. It’s all for some Texas Instruments-looking device which Bond hurls off a cliff so the Russians won’t get it. Not nearly as exciting as the others, with an unsexy PG version of the gag ending from the last few, then a dubbed macaw to close it out. John Glen, editor of the last couple Bond films, is promoted to director and takes the series through License to Kill.

Octopussy (1983)
Hooray for gypsies, acrobats, dancers and sad clowns. This makes up for the drab brownness of the last movie. The title character (Maud Adams, returning from Golden Gun) has a gun and Bond is nowhere to be found. Oh here he is, in a hot air balloon of course. Some Goldeneye-(the video game)-style first-person machine-gunning. Bond on horseback chases down the Afghani/Indian villains’ plane and just rides around on top of it. Louis Jordan (star of Letter from an Unknown Woman) flies his plane into a cliff after Bond and the girl jump to safety. They’ve toned down the sexy ending even further – this is getting out of hand.

Never Say Never Again (1983)
Weird, a non-canonical Bond film from a rival studio, a remake of Thunderball from the director of The Empire Strikes Back featuring the return of Sean Connery. Never having cared about the 007 series, this is not something I ever suspected existed. Connery has a jetpack! He and partner Bernie Casey (of Cleopatra Jones and The Man Who Fell To Earth) scuba into a paper-mache fortress where Max von Sydow reigns, a less-iconic Largo. Bond, as in the original, can be easily recognized as the one without pants. An underwater battle ensues, with worse lighting, much less harpooning, and slightly more Kim Basinger than before. In the would-be sexy postscript scene, Bond dumps Rowan Atkinson into a swimming pool – so, less Benny Hill, more Mr. Bean.

A View to a Kill (1985)
Opens with a disclaimer about baddie Chris Walken’s character name “Zorin” – I wonder what prompted that. Anyway, very excited to see Grace Jones with new wave hair helping out Roger Moore. She explodes while a slick blonde Walken watches from above, as does the proper blonde love interest (Tanya Roberts of The Beastmaster and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Bond dangles from a zeppelin line as Walken tries to shake him loose in the city, accompanied by corny dialogue. Punch-out atop the Golden Gate bridge features lots of bluescreen backdrops, Chris Walken with an axe, and an angry old man with a cartoon stick of dynamite. Postscript involves a camera-equipped robot, chuckling Russians and somehow an even less sexy finale than the Rowan Atkinson one. Come on now, 1980’s.

The Living Daylights (1987)
Roger has been retired to a closet at MGM, and was never heard from again. Tim Dalton is flying a plane around with Maryam d’Abo (of Shootfighter), blowing up a bridge while Arabs wage war below. Hmm, they drive out of a crashing plane in a jeep. Warfare afficionado MITCHELL is blasting away at Bond – thought I remembered him as a good guy in the later ones. Mitchell is dead, so never mind. Ash liked all the whistling in this one.

The Addiction (1995)

A black and white (but mostly black) arthouse vampire movie. Being a big fan of talky French cinema and a moderate fan of avant-garde, non-narrative films, I always hesitate to use the word “pretentious,” but it kind of seemed pretentious. Maybe I’m just afraid of philosophy, and since the lead character is getting her PhD in philosophy, there was lots of Sartre and Heidegger and the like.

With Edie Falco, who I didn’t recognize with long hair:

It’s full of great ideas, though, and maybe it’s because I was weak and sick while watching, but I found it moving by the end. College student Lili Taylor (in that brief period between Short Cuts and I Shot Andy Warhol when she seemed like a movie star) is bitten in an alley then left alone. She get no underground vampire dance clubs or Lost Boys camraderie – she has to figure it out on her own. Clever metaphors to STD’s and drug use abound (she steals blood from homeless dudes using a syringe, ugh) along with the pondering about the nature of being. She does briefly (oh! too briefly) get a mentor in the form of Christopher Walken, second-billed for his three minutes of screen time.

With the teacher she’s about the seduce and then bite:

Lili graually infects classmates and professors, then holds a graduation party that turns into a bloodfeast. I think she dies from taking sacrament soon after, but she’s in the hospital all torn up so maybe she was dying anyway. Movie was “presented” by hip-hop/comedy producer Russell Simmons for some reason and written by Nicholas St. John, who wrote most of Ferrara’s previous movies but not Bad Lieutenant, his previous killer combo of horror and catholicism.

With some girl she just bit:


Body Snatchers (1993)

Watched this on a whim since it was on netflix streaming, not expecting much from Ferrara’s studio horror remake (the movie he forgot about when criticizing Werner Herzog for remaking Bad Lieutenant), but it was great – excellently creepy and so stylishly shot – one of the few times throwing a big-budget thriller remake at an artistic filmmaker has paid off (sorry, The Departed). Paid off for me anyway – if IMDB is to be believed, it was a royal bomb in theaters. In competition at Cannes though, beaten unfairly by The Piano (and fairly by Farewell My Concubine). Third of four Body Snatchers movies. I knew about the Kevin McCarthy and the Nicole Kidman, but not about the one with Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy.

All Things Horror points out: “Sure, it’s not perfect. There’s a bit of annoying narration that seems completely unnecessary, some unfortunate blue screen, a goofy big explosion-filled ending,” all valid points. I’d like to add that the scene where suspicious doctor Forest Whitaker is driven to suicide by approaching aliens was pretty over the top, and if I didn’t already know Whitaker is a great actor, I would not have guessed it from this scene.

Awesome move setting the story on an army base, a location where everybody is trained to act like a pod person anyhow. R. Lee Ermey is looking good with his little mustache as the local general. Young Marti (Gabrielle Anwar of Flying Virus and iMurders) reluctantly moves onto the base with her boring dad (he’s so boring) Terry Kinney (founding member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater), evil stepmother Meg Tilly (Psycho II) and observant little stepbrother. Marti immediately stars hanging out with a couple bad influences: hot, emotionless chopper pilot Tim (Billy Wirth of The Lost Boys) and general’s daughter Jen (Christine Elise of Child’s Play 2). Once the snatching starts, Tim’s post-traumatic stress disorder proves extremely useful in blending in with the aliens. Particularly creepy was the wide-mouthed pointing scream the baddies used as an alarm once the base had been mostly snatched.

Soon after that starts, Marti’s dad goes in search of help. And suddenly Guy Pearce is on an airplane? Then some Lebanese guys welcome Don Cheadle to Toronto?? Oh man, netflix has started playing the movie Traitor instead, probably to make a funny movie-snatchers joke. It’s hilarious, but I had to go rent a proper DVD of Body Snatchers and watch the last half hour a few nights later.

Writing assistance by both Stuart Gordon and Larry Cohen – along with Ferrara that’s an entire unholy trinity of 80’s cult filmmakers. No wonder I liked it.