Cool enough sci-fi/horror, but I can’t wait to watch the sequels to figure out how/why they built a franchise around the title scientist, a grumpy, arrogant guy who is poor at damage control. He sent three astronauts into space with nobody’s approval because he doesn’t enjoy paperwork or oversight. Two come back liquified, and the third is mute and insane, with mighty morphing abilities.

Nice landing:

Dr. Quatermass (QUAY-tur-mass: Brian Donlevy, Preston Sturges’s McGinty, also in Curse of the Fly) is soon joined by another terrible character, Police Inspector Lomax (Jack Warner of The Ladykillers) investigating the disturbance and deaths, who describes himself as a “plain simple bible man” with “a routine mind,” not a phrase that goes well with the melting spaceman mystery. Meanwhile things get weirder with the surviving astronaut Carroon (Richard Wordsworth, great-great-grandson of the poet), who’s admitted to the hospital where he smashes a cactus and his hand absorbs it, becoming a giant cactus hand, with which he kills and liquifies hospital people. Carroon’s wife Judith (Margia Dean, small roles in the first couple Sam Fuller movies) decides to free her husband from the hospital with help from a doomed private investigator, setting Cactus-Carroon loose on the city.

Carroon smash cactus with man-arm:

Carroon smash chemist with cactus-arm:

Finally the team follows the trail of smashed and dessicated bodies, none of which are blamed on Quatermass for conducting his space experiments irresponsibly, and discovers that Carroon has transmogrified into a giant octopus, which is something they know how to set on fire, thus ending the madness. It’s explained that an intelligent energy-based life form invaded them in space, a possible influence on Interstellar.

Helpless burning octo-carroon caught on TV camera:

Based on a TV miniseries from a couple years prior. Val Guest made over 20 movies in the 1950’s, and is not Val Lewton, producer of The Seventh Victim and I Walked With a Zombie, though I get them confused. Produced by Hammer Films a couple years before Curse of Frankenstein kicked off their monster-movie era.

Every year a new Jessica Chastain movie where Matt Damon’s left all alone on a planet. A Ridley Scott movie with screenplay by Drew Goddard, I was expecting the light tone, the relentless science (this movie loves science), the upbeat ending, the highly convincing Martian landscapes, but I wish the visuals were half as impressive as those in Prometheus. Maybe I needed to watch the 3D version.

Wounded Damon is left on planet by Chastain and Michael Peña and crew, NASA head Jeff Daniels argues with project head Chiwetel Ejiofor and something head Sean Bean on what to do, with further ground help from Kristen Wiig and Donald Glover and Eddy Ko.

I completely enjoyed this at the time, so not sure if it’s the movie’s fault or some other reason that I turned on it a few days later, deciding it was formulaic entertainment and that all movies look the same and I need to start watching new kinds of things before I start boring myself. I’m looking at showtimes for Crimson Peak and Bridge of Spies and Coming Home and Truth and Sicario and Beasts of No Nation and thinking “ugh, how awful” and pondering going on an avant-garde spree (or at least a Nagisa Oshima spree) instead. It’s probably just a phase. In the meantime, The Martian is my Birdman of the year: convincing in a theater, troubling immediately afterward.

After this and Like Someone In Love and Zero Theorem and Maps to the Stars, I feel like I’m watching a marathon of poorly-reviewed latest films by current (and former) favorite directors. Might as well follow these up with Burying the Ex, Amelia, Mood Indigo, Twixt, Sin City 2, Noah, Tomorrowland, Big Eyes, Queen of the Desert, Knight of Cups, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, Blackhat, Restless, The Hobbit, The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, Oz the Great and Powerful, Tusk, Tricked, and everything Kiyoshi Kurosawa has made since Tokyo Sonata… then get totally depressed and stop watching movies forever.

I paused after the first few minutes to grab some food, wrote myself a note that the movie would have to try hard to overcome such a boring narrated backstory introduction. And it does try hard, with visuals and action scenes as crazed as the Wachowskis could muster, but it’s also absolutely overstuffed with British-accented galactic royalty speaking endlessly about a plot nobody could care less about, and line readings ranging from stilted to flamboyantly awful (it’s funny that Eddie Redmayne won an oscar for portraying Stephen Hawking the same year he deserves some sort of worst-performance award for this). The self-seriousness and plot overload was a letdown after the campy fun of Speed Racer a month earlier, but at least the action scenes were fun.

What’s happening: Mila Kunis has a shitty job, a selfish family, and is the reincarnation of the galactic queen, whose three kids are fighting over her destiny. There’s evil Eddie, and two others who act nicer but are basically also evil: Douglas Booth (Noah) and Tuppence Middleton (the DJ in Sense8). Ronin Wolfman Tater Channing tenaciously protects her (at one point holding onto the outside of an interstellar-travelling spaceship, which outdoes that stunt in the new Mission Impossible). Sean Bean helps Tater. Doona Bae and some others are crop-circle-creating bounty-hunters.

Matt Singer: “It’s hard to believe that a movie that contains this much exposition could also be this confusing, but it does and it is. Something went horribly wrong here.” And on our heroine, who is constantly being rescued: “Imagine a Matrix where Neo was repeatedly told he was destined for great things and then never learned kung fu or fought Agent Smith, and you begin to see the primary problem.”

Gugu Mbatha-Raw with giant mouse ears:

Probably my favorite Christopher Nolan movie. I have no urge to revisit Memento anytime soon, so I guess The Prestige would be my second favorite – I think that makes me a weird Nolan fan, since most are bonkers for Inception and the Batman movies. Anyway this was a very personal but still very epic time/space/dimension-travelling movie about keeping families together and saving all of humanity, a way-too-ambitious premise that was actually pulled off.

Pilot-turned-farmer Matthew McConaughey leaves his kids with Grandpa Lithgow since Matt’s the only maverick who can pilot NASA’s secret spaceship (hey you can’t make a movie this ambitious without leaning on a few time-saving cliches) through a wormhole to find a habitable planet, alongside Anne Hathaway (daughter of NASA head Michael Caine), David Gyasi (Cloud Atlas), Wes Bentley and two awesome robots. First landing is on the giant-waves planet, where Bentley dies, then on to the frozen-wasteland planet where crazy Matt Damon kills Gyasi, then into a black hole where McConaughey sends interdimensional coded messages to his daughter (who grew up to be Jessica Chastain, dating former scientist Topher Grace and fighting with stubborn older brother Casey Affleck), then is picked up, still the same age as when he left, by the human-exodus spaceship containing his dying, elderly daughter (now Ellen Burstyn).

I would’ve liked to see the 70mm super-imax version, but settled for at least going to the dumb local theater and not waiting for blu-ray.

Heard this three-hour Russian movie fourteen years in the making was something incredible, and oh boy is it ever. Loooong roving black-and-white takes (with beyond-Russian Ark choreography), torrential rainfall, everything bleak and ugly but masterfully shot. Sounds like Bela Tarr, but it doesn’t feel like Bela Tarr. Tarr ultimately focuses on individuals, and this one seems more concerned with lovely filth.

There is a story, or a premise at least, but if you miss the first five minutes you’d be forgiven for never figuring that out. Don Rumata is from present-day Earth, one of a team of scientists sent to “another planet, about 800 years behind,” on which the Rennaisance never happened because dumb thugs murdered all the educated and artistic types. The intro is the last time any of this is mentioned – the rest follows Rumata as he wanders the horrors of this place, through filth and hunger and murder. There are other characters, and a bit of a plot – a Wikipedia summary of the source novel reveals that many of its characters and events were adapted in the film, but weren’t explained. I’m not an avid reader of Russian lit so probably won’t pick up the novel, but I’m excited to see there’s a 1990 film version which may be more comprehensible.

Story aside, this is both a slog of a plotless beast and a technical and tactile marvel. It seems postsynched since we only hear certain sounds among all the chaos, but if so it’s done quite well. Also: a hedgehog and much bird tossing (including owls).

C. Marsh:

Hard to Be a God, by design, is not a dynamic film. Its consistency is intended to be exhausting. Over time, like Rumata, we’d rather be anywhere else. .. German seems less interested in the science-fiction dimension of the source material than in the central idea it poses: the Renaissance was a fluke. Cruelty and brutality are the default modes of existence.

I’m happy that Marsh mentions Monty Python and the Holy Grail in his review, since it was on my mind as well.

Intriguing Russian and German titles mentioned in Olaf Möller’s Cinema Scope article:
Khrustalyov, My Car! (1988)
Workers’ Settlement (1965)
My Friend Ivan Lapshin (1982)
Es ist nicht leicht, ein Gott zu sein (1990)
Days of Eclipse (1988)
The Fall of Otrar (1991)
Until the End of the World (1991, the 5-hour version)
The Ugly Swans (2006)
Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel (1979)
Lenin’s Guard (1965)

March 2077: I’ll be on an airplane, so I grab the dumbest-looking movie I can find at work to watch through a dramamine haze. A Tom Cruise actioner from last year that I already have no recollection of: that’ll do nicely. I’m playing a feature-length game of “spot the reference,” as it seems to have been concocted from scraps of sci-fi thrillers past. It’s all a bit silly, but undeniably strong-looking, and its sleek production design (and the face of To The Wonder’s Olga Kurylenko) lingered in my mind afterwards.

Cruise plays a Wall-E type named Jack Reacher, left behind to clean up earth after everyone else has moved into space. But he’s also a Moon type, since it turns out Cruise is thousands of clones of himself (maybe that’s more Galactica), and it turns out humanity survives underground and the “people” in space are evil aliens (who blew up the moon in an obvious Mr. Show reference) using fake video images of Melissa Leo to interact with their clone slaves. But Cruise is not a slave, likes to read classic literature and builds a rustic nature shack and nurtures a potted plant and watches Hello Dolly on a creaky old tube TV. No he doesn’t, but it’s funny how the human stuff Cruise salvages for his shack is already old now – classic rock LPs and antique-looking refrigerators.

Clone Cruise has a Clone Wife (Andrea Riseborough of Happy-Go-Lucky) but dreams of Olga, and when she crash-lands after being in orbit for however-many years, they team up with the undergrounders (led by Morgan Freeman) to nuke the mothership, threatened by spherical alien drones with great bassy doom-growl voices (clearly the presence of flying death orbs in a film called OblIVion is a shout to the fourth Phantasm movie).

“Copy 4-0-9, tasking 1-8-5 to grid 2-2.” The movie likes saying numbers aloud, and its mix of all-knowing and easily-fooled technology is nearly plot-hole-worthy – for instance, after Cruise goes for a walk the robots can track his DNA from the air at speed, a light-up trail tracing his exact path, but they always take ten seconds of him yelling his name at them before they stop threatening him with guns. And the planet seems to be all mapped into robot-patrolled grids within alien-drawn neighborhoods, each manned by a Tom Cruise, but his entire Walden shack goes unnoticed for years, and when he follows a homing beacon all the way from base, he doesn’t even know what kind of structure the signal is coming from until he walks right up to it. So they’ve gotten both better and worse than google maps. But I like the all-white Apple-like alien tech with its triangular motif, and the effects are cool and the M83 music pretty great.

We have the technology. The time is now. Science can wait no longer. Children are our future. America can, should, must and WILL blow up the moon! And we’ll be doing it during a full moon, so we make sure we get it all.

That Firefly movie exploring the secret origins of super-weapon-girl River who’s being hunted by sword-toting government agent Chiwetel Ejiofor, and the secret origins of the Reavers. Hmmm, Rivers and Reavers.

Some main characters from the show (which I still haven’t watched all the way through) are killed. Sweet long traveling shot at the start shows off the entire ship and all the main characters.

Where’d they all go? Mal (Nathan Fillion) stars on Castle, River (Summer Glau) was on The Cape and Sarah Connor Chronicles, her brother Simon (Sean Maher) is in Much Ado, Jayne (Adam Baldwin) was on Chuck, Zoe (Gina Torres) is on Suits, pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk) did Dollhouse, played King Candy and is on Suburgatory, Kaylee (Jewel Staite) was on a Stargate series and The Killing, love interest Inara (Morena Baccarin) starred on Homeland and V, Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) was in Lakeview Terrace and one-man-NSA Mr. Universe (David Krumholtz) stars on Numb3rs.

Also watched Cabin in the Woods for a third time with dad – and this is a couple weeks after Katy and I saw Much Ado About Nothing, so it’s been a very Whedon month.

A frustrating movie, because even while watching the two-hour theatrical version opening week, we knew that Ridley Scott has been talking up his extended director’s cut for blu-ray. But Ridley learned nothing from the Lord of the Rings model, cutting out really important stuff instead of fun but unnecessary scenes of hobbits singing, leaving the two-hour version full of plot holes, confusing explanations and out-of-character behavior. At least that’s what I generously assume to be the case, that the movie made perfect sense before the cuts, because otherwise how would a mega-expensive-looking star-studded major film arrive in theaters full of massive story problems that nobody noticed?

I admit the story problems and look forward to watching Ridley’s second (and third, and fourth) edit on my little laptop screen. But I still loved the theatrical version, unlike every single person I’ve heard mention it, because it’s simply the most amazing looking and sounding movie I’ve seen in theaters for a year or more. The picture (2D) is clear, with seamless effects, and I must’ve lucked out and got the only screen in Atlanta with properly calibrated surround sound. I’ve thought I was past the point of being impressed by massive explosions and outer-space action scenes, but I guess everyone else (looking at you, Michael Bay) has just been doing ’em wrong.

Two archaeologists (Noomi Rapace of the Swedish Dragon Tattoo trilogy and Logan Marshall-Green of Devil) discover star maps in prehistoric cave paintings, so a mega-rich old man (played by Guy Pearce in distracting old-age makeup) sends a space exhibition led by a sleek, evil Charlize Theron to check it out. Logan is given black-oil sickness by android Michael Fassbender, impregnates Noomi with an alien. Also on board are pilot Idris Elba, punk miner Sean Harris (Ian Curtis in 24 Hour Party People) and other guys who will be killed in interesting ways.

There’s some religious mumbo, with secret (but easily predicted) stowaway Pearce wanting to confront our creators, the giant, pale muscular men, and ask why they created us. But I could’ve sworn the scientists said at least twice that they’re an “exact genetic match” with us – so they didn’t create us, they are us. Right? And if I got this straight, the planet to which the map led the Earth explorers isn’t the home planet of any race, but an outpost where they were creating biological alien weapons. And when the one living pale guy awakens from cryo-sleep, he sets to destroying Earth, as if that was his plan all along. Anyway, lot of questions, but ultimately I enjoyed the spectacle and think the movie is interesting enough to find the unanswered questions tantalizing, looking forward to sequels or deleted scenes, not blowing off the movie as badly written.

dissenting opinion from R. Brody in the New Yorker:

Scott is the perfect former TV commercial director: he doesn’t invent images but decorates them and lights them to set a consistent mood, which he then maintains, without surprises. He tells you what to feel, or not even—he tells you to admire his ability to get you to feel one thing, whether it’s worth feeling or, in this case, not. As in a TV commercial, the amount of money spent on production design is a part of the movie’s import; the sets and the effects might as well have their price tags dangling from them … he took the same laborious pompier style as fell flat in Robin Hood and attempted to justify it with a ponderous subject. The movie lacks any joyful sense of discovery, such as emerges (intermittently) through the vainglorious bombast of Alien.

But then instead Brody praises the “exuberance” and lack of self-important seriousness of Benjamin Buttons. If he had more fun at The Ben Buttons than at Prometheus, we can learn nothing from each other.

June 2015:
Now that I’ve watched this again on 2D blu-ray, I don’t mind the plot problems as much – in fact, Lindelof convincingly explains in the commentary that character motivations are purposely unknowable – and the visuals hold up beautifully (though scenes like the spaceship crash don’t have the power they held in theaters). The writer commentary implies that it’s all overlit because of demands from the 3D process, but a sci-fi horror flick with great lighting and strong color is a nice change of pace.

The deleted scenes actually weren’t so interesting, especially after playing half the writers’ commentary, but the blu extra called The Weyland Files was nice – strange character bits, training and prep for the mission, research, unexplained anthropological stuff, an infomercial for android David, and a Ted Talk by Guy Pearce without his age makeup.