A young hot blank dude (Nightmare Detective Ryuhei Matsuda) is found wandering with amnesia and returned to his wife Narumi (Masami Nagasawa of Kore-eda’s Our Little Sister). Blank teen boy Amano (also the name of my favorite sandwich place) recruits dickhead reporter Sakurai (Sion Sono’s Fuck Bomber) to help him locate a blank girl (Yuri Tsunematsu, also in Wife of a Spy) at the center of a recent crime.

Blank Nightmare Detective backed by choir:

But the blank trio are really aliens, learning about human concepts on their way to build a device from scavenged parts that will invite global destruction. The boy and girl finally meet, ruining a cop’s sense of self over wacky comedy-suspense music. The reporter is surveilled by Ministry of Health officers in an unmarked van. Gunfights and CG explosions ensue, and none of it’s very good, ruining my plans to follow this with the miniseries spinoff Foreboding.

Reporter, blank girl, and blank boy with machine gun:

In the back of my mind I figured I’ve seen this years ago and just forgotten most of it, but nope, I couldn’t have forgotten this – a jaw-dropping sci-fi story (with funky music). Humans are pests and pets, the planet controlled by blue gill-eared giants. A highly-placed alien child calls his pet human Terr, which grows up and starts playing pranks and spying, eventually defecting to lead the tiny human revolution. Truce is called after the humans build miniature rockets, travel to the Wild Planet and laser down the alien sex statues.

Michael Brooke for Criterion:

Over four decades after its May 1973 premiere, it remains more or less unique. Its peculiar universe, designed by Roland Topor and realized by a team of Czechoslovak animators in Prague, is instantly recognizable from virtually any freeze-frame, and the film as a whole is so rich, strange, and sui generis that nothing has emerged since to retrospectively blunt its impact … [Topor] cofounded the Panic Movement with Fernando Arrabal and Alejandro Jodorowsky, named after the god Pan and intended to make surrealism as shocking as it had been in the 1920s, before its imagery and ideas were co-opted and diluted by the mainstream … he wrote the 1964 source novel for Roman Polanski’s disquietingly paranoid The Tenant (1976), appeared in Dušan Makavejev’s Sweet Movie (1974) and Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979, as the lunatic Renfield).


Les Temps Morts (1965)

I’ve seen Laloux’s earlier Monkey Teeth short, but this is when he teamed up with Topor. A grim little anthropological study of man’s propensity for murder. I think their sensibility worked better when applied to a fictional scenario – and the animation is in very rough form here, illustrations cross-faded in sequence, drawings shuffling Gilliam-style, but mostly the camera panning around stills. Some sharp stills, though – if you cut the live-action atrocity footage it’d make a good picture-book of horrors.


Les Escargots (1966)

A different kind of apocalyptic movie, this one really takes a turn. Farmer realizes his crops will only grow if he cries on them, so he walks around the field holding cut onions, reading sad books, and wearing an ass-kicking machine. The giant plants attract snails, which also grow giant, slide over to the nearest major city and utterly destroy it. Little Shop of Horrors may have been an influence.

Totally Sci-Fi Adventures of the Moonrise Kingdom Kids. Refreshingly different little movie – okay, the showy long takes aren’t so different anymore, but twenty minutes in I was thinking “this isn’t how an indie film is supposed to be made,” and it ends up stealing as much from Pontypool as Super 8.

Everett is obsessed with a pulsing sound that interrupts his broadcast, investigates with help of Faye on the phones. They interview some locals, build up a Soviet conspiracy, finally put the pieces together in time to get abducted by aliens.

Having the film title appear in a 1950’s TV is cute, but using the same TV effect for scene transitions is maybe too cute – although the lead guy is a radio broadcaster, the lead girl has a shift as a phone operator, so it fits with the communication media theme. Really good string music. Star Sierra McCormick was in last year’s VFW, and Jake Horowitz in Julie Taymor’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (and they’re remaking Castle Freak?).

I hadn’t seen this since opening weekend, almost thirty years ago. I don’t recall it being good, and it has a poor reputation, but now I’m a seasoned auteurist cinephile with the keen ability to recognize David Fincher’s brilliant work within this studio disaster… oh ha, no I’m not, if anything the flaws were more apparent than ever.

Great opening, showing brief flashes of alien chaos aboard the ship full of sleeping soldiers, intercut with the quiet opening titles. The escape ship from part 2 crash lands on a prison mining planet, where Ripley washes up onshore burned and maggoty while the other cast is killed off via text on a computer screen. I try not to knock myself out keeping track of characters and personalities in these movies until half of them have died off – it was pretty doable in the last movie, gonna be harder here with this bunch of shaved-head barcoded space monkeys. Let’s start with Roc, the only actor I recognize (besides Pete Postlethwaite in a minor role), a sort of unionist preacher who doesn’t want women on his planet.

Ripley and Roc:

In this case I got what I deserved by watching the extended cut – it’s baggy and talky. So much of the movie is people floridly trying to avoid telling each other important things. Charles Dance (of Space Truckers, appropriately) is the soft-voiced medical officer. One of the other officials and also the scar-eyed psycho who teams up with the aliens against humanity are played by Withnail & I actors – lots of British accents in space jail. I forgot the scene where Ripley med-scans herself, proof that there were no new ideas in the prequels.

Spoiler alert:

It’s almost a really well-made movie, full of no-name actors who turned out to be really good at their roles, but it’s got some fundamental problems that good acting couldn’t overcome. It opens by squandering the goodwill of the second movie by killing off Newt and the others… it’s no fun for long stretches, and the last half hour is all aliens running full-tilt down long corridors, which is a visual effect they couldn’t manage. They followed up a great James Cameron movie with a film whose climax involves liquid metal… and the studio couldn’t pull off the effects… the year after Cameron’s Terminator 2 came out. They must have been so embarrassed.

Hundreds of years in the future, video cameras will look like this again:

In these uncertain times, sometimes I wanna watch some action movies I remember from cable TV. Rewatched the first movie (and Prometheus) five years ago, so it’s time to move this nostalgia trip along. It’s fine that the theatrical version still exists, for historical reference, but the auto-guns are neato, and more Aliens is a good thing, so I’m sticking with the extended cut.

da whole crew:

After drifting in cryo for fifty-some years, Ripley has outlived her daughter, as well as all the colonist families on the planet where she landed last movie. The company thinks she’s lying about the aliens, fires her, then wants to send her back as an advisor, along with droid Lance Henriksen (she doesn’t trust those things anymore, after last time) and a short-haired lieutenant who says he can guarantee her safety (didn’t catch his name, I think he died immediately).

Lots of science-nonsense and military-nonsense in the dialogue for the first hour, but the 80’s movie version of future-tech (which is supposed to be fifty-some years more advanced than the 70’s movie’s version of future-tech) feels so convincing that you have to keep reminding yourself that none of this stuff exists. They discover lone survivor Newt, lose some guys, bossman Paul Reiser starts to undermine their mission, calling the aliens “an important species” and saying “there’s a dollar amount attached.” By now, Lincoln NE’s own Michael Biehn (also of Terminator and Abyss) has taken charge of the soldiers, and seems competent. But it’s Weaver who takes the movie to new levels of badassery – I forgot the scene at the end where she duct tapes a machine gun to a flamethrower.

A cute blue psychokinetic alien child crash-lands on the farm, and Shaun and the sheep have to avoid the farmer and his dog and a government alien detection agency to send the little fella home. Movie is fully charming, and just an explosion of bright colors – I watched on the plane where everyone around me was watching dirty, dull-looking movies like Joker and Tolkien on their 4-bit seatback screens, and felt that my movie’s color on the laptop seemed radioactive by comparison. The only note I took at the time was “argh, pop songs.”

Lavinia is introduced by the lake, doing a wiccan ritual to cure her mom of cancer and get herself out of this town, when a wandering hydrologist interrupts – it’s convenient that a hydrologist is on-site exactly when an alien color-force lands via meteor and gets into the locals via the well water. Lavinia’s cancerous mom is Joely Richardson (of a movie-royalty family, previously of Drowning by Numbers and the Ken Russell Lady Chatterley), her dad is Nic Cage (toned down from Mandy, and better), doing his damnedest to inform America that alpacas are the animal of the future (they are!).

Lavinia and little brother Jack-Jack:

Cage vs. The Color (Purple):

Soon the mutations begin. Mom reabsorbs Jack, stoner brother Benny and his buddy Tommy Chong see otherworldy visions, the alpacas fuse into a many-headed blob, and Cage takes care of business with a shotgun. I think Lavinia helps bring about the apocalypse! Stanley is beloved for some 1990’s cult films… good music by the composer from Hereditary… shot by a music video vet (Grinderman’s “Heathen Child”). The first major Lovecraft feature since Beyond Re-Animator and Dagon in the early 2000’s (RIP Stuart Gordon).

Hydrologist, Benny, Tommy:

Hi, mom:

A mutating fiction containing documentary-like scenes – unlike his other films, which sometimes have people playing versions of themselves but would never be confused for docs – the fictional part being written by the doc participants as the movie goes along. There is a teacher named Dogfahr, a crippled alien boy, and lots of transformations.

The woman who gives the film its title:

The last major work I’d never seen by A.W., unless anyone wants to argue for The Adventures of Iron Pussy. It’s unique, but not one of my faves. Why do the closing credits appear 10 minutes before the end of the movie, then just shots of young kids playing? “The woman turned into a tiger”, a precursor to Tropical Malady?

Dennis Lim for Criterion:

Mysterious Object at Noon revels in the myriad ways a story can be transmitted. A performance troupe acts out its segment in a traditional song-and-dance routine. A pair of deaf girls use sign language. Sometimes we watch and listen to the narrators as they concoct new installments; sometimes we see their fabulations dramatized, occasionally with voice-over or intertitles to move things along. The scenario grows at once darker and more absurd as it progresses, its lurid developments living up to the film’s pulpy Thai title, Dogfahr in the Devil’s Hand.

It’s a good thing Criterion is releasing the slow-moving serious-art early Dumont films on blu-ray, because I need to catch up, and this also gives me auteurist justification for absolutely loving this goony miniseries where aliens visit the town of Lil Quinquin and start duplicating the residents. The twitchy racist cop is given more screen time than ever, but I’m into it this time. Random resident Mr. Leleu gets copied, then Coincoin’s brother Dany, his ex-girl Eve, D’nis, then the captain himself. The Captain and Carpentier find out about the clones, are on the case, guns drawn, with the kids at their side, and then instead of solving the alien mystery, the “Cause I Knew” girl returns as a zombie and the series ends with a full-cast singalong.