Watched because I thought this might illuminate Ferrari, but it would’ve paired better with Oppenheimer – long entertaining stories about historical situations where Americans lived in makeshift communities in the desert trying to achieve great feats. It’s a bunch of tough guys and their suffering wives until Harry Shearer and Jeff Goldblum show up as a comic team – the addition of humor and absurdity helps immensely. Good work by Jordan Belson on the space visuals.

I wonder if this winning best picture led directly to Top Gun:

Oppenheimer needed them:

My first time rewatching since becoming a Paul WS Anderson convert from the Resident Evil series and Monster Hunter. Funny to learn that the studio cut a half-hour of footage, then tried to restore it for the DVD release but couldn’t find it. Also very nice to see Sam Neill going mad in space so soon after I rewatched In the Mouth of Madness.

Before the hellship Solaris-es Neill into blinding himself and murdering the crew, he was the ship’s designer, brought along on a rescue mission by Captain Laurence Fishburne. Their fellow astronauts have all done other sci-fi/horror work: Quinlan in the Joe Dante segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie, Richardson as the mom of Color Out of Space, Jones in the bad 2014 Godzilla, Noseworthy in Bruce Willis virtual thriller Surrogates, Pertwee in Doomsday and Dog Soldiers, and Isaacs in A Cure for Wellness and Don’t.

Fortress (1992)

A couple of movies I haven’t seen in many years… Fortress being the only Gordon film I saw in theaters, before I knew him as the Re-Animator guy. It sets up a decently convincing sci-fi dystopia, but no actors are “good” in this, not even Jeffrey Combs. Anyway it’s not taking itself too seriously so why should we?

The gang:

That 70s Dad runs a private prison where even an “unauthorized thought process” will get your guts electroshocked (“intestinated”) – after RoboCop, Kurtwood Smith was typecast as an evil boss in cyborg dystopias. Ex-soldier Christopher Lambert and his illegally pregnant hotwife arrive as prisoners, and while T7D macks on the wife (Loryn Locklin of Wes Craven’s Night Visions), Lambert teams up with his cellmates to escape – including timid nerd Combs, Lincoln Kilpatrick of The Omega Man, and Clifton Collins Jr. of Guillermo Del Toro’s Robot Jox remake Pacific Rim. Lambert has to fight a giant psycho (Vernon Wells of Mad Max 2 and some Joe Dante films)… Combs is killed while installing a virus into the mainframe by typing “install virus.exe” or something, which reminds me, isn’t there a new version of Blackhat coming out?

Unauthorized thought process:


Space Truckers (1996)

An even sillier movie – I don’t think sci-fi action plays to Gordon’s strengths – but Dennis Hopper is a huge upgrade over Lambert, bringing the charm he omitted from Witch Hunt. He’s a Millennium Falcon/Firefly-style independent space trucker, beefing with George Wendt over shipment prices, then accidentally gets involved in a plot to take over the world.

Our heroes in a porta-potty:

Hopper and hired hand Stephen Dorff take a load of killer robots, then get stuck in space while lusting after the same girl (Hopper’s Witch Hunt costar Debi Mazar), then attacked by their own murderbot cargo. Nice cynical ending, the guy plotting a hostile planetary takeover (Shane Rimmer, best known from Thunderbirds) is now President of Earth – the super-soldiers were just a backup plan should he not get elected. But his plan to eliminate witnesses backfires, and our guys flee after blowing up the president. I’d take a sequel, but this straight-to-video widescreen movie was never gonna get one.

Space pirates:

Kind of a fully mad Solaris meets The New World, written by someone in love with death monologues. Astounding costume design, though after a while you realize all the locations are the same couple beaches and caves, and that the director’s opening statement about this movie being canceled during production wasn’t bullshit.

First-person camera from astronauts’ shoulder-mounted webcams, and people being really intense about philosophy. A long, delirious dying rant isn’t intense enough for Zulawski, who jumpcuts the speech, cutting out pauses and gaps between words. The astronauts find a new planet, their kids beget more kids and invent religion, then Astronaut Jesus Marek arrives from their home planet and shakes things up. In the meantime, humanity has become enslaved by the psychic sherm creatures. Marek tries talking with the sherms, whines about the earth woman who left him, then he finally falls for a girl on this planet and stops whining as much.

Not looking up all these characters and actors (or even recounting the rest of the plot), but I assume some of these people are returning from The Devil, just from their ranting endurance. Feels at times like a massive Dune-scale epic, then you realize you’ve spent the last half hour watching people in cool costumes rant on the seashore.

Never model yourself after Jesus, or you know what might happen:

Inspired by Montage of Heck, they wanted to make a musical but found a poet as their subject. Virginia Tech mass-shooting was cut from the film because test audiences thought it gave our complicated figure too much of a movie-triumph moment. Opens more spacey and abstract (the people in front of us, terrified of abstraction, fled before the movie even started) before settling into a portrait of the late-career artist, recently reconciled with her son and getting to know her granddaughter. Poetry spoken in context with her life story and media appearances worked great, much better than the written samples I read on my phone to prep for the movie. Katy thinks it didn’t get inside Nikki, that it’s all public image. The filmmakers signal that we’re not gonna get some late-life emotional breakdown by including TWO instances when Nikki refuses to answer Q&A queries about painful moments in her past. Michèle has previously made a couple of Haitian/Dominican docs, Joe has made a Giancarlo Esposito drama, and most recently they made “a magical realist, immersive, episodic virtual reality experience” about American racism.

Bald guy in outer space uses two Nintendo Power Gloves to make a robot unlock the hellbox (which opens via 1990’s computer graphics, not the best idea). Space soldiers come running in to stop him: we got the tough one, the smart one, the Black Guy Who Will Die First, and various others. But first, the movie wants to get very plotty, as Bald Guy narrates the hellbox backstory to explain his current actions.

France’s Greatest Magician and his murderous toadie Adam Scott commission the box from a toymaker, then summon Angelique, a sexy lady demon who must do their bidding for a century.

Toymaker in happier days:

In present-ish day she breaks free, kills Adam Scott and summons a Hell Priest to harmlessly kidnap(!) the toymaker’s descendant’s family, demanding something or other, I dunno, I started looking up the actors’ resumés at this point. The Polish Brothers are chatting about transsexual desire before getting cenobitten. Good use is made of the Hellbox Building that ends part 3.

Back in Space, the toymaker’s even-more-distant descendant has summoned hell into space, and the Black guy (of Warlock: The Armageddon) is killed immediately. Pat Skipper of one of the Halloween remakes gets beheaded through a mirror. Some dude gets absorbed by the Twins, in an effect unfortunately reminiscent of the Bradley/Pinhead morphing from the last movie. It is fun that the flesh-obsessed Pinhead gets tricked by a hologram while the toymaker wanders away in the middle of a villain spiel, then is supposedly obliterated when the spaceship folds into a cosmic hellbox. None of the subsequent sequels are set after the year 2127, so we can assume this worked.

An ambitious attempt, conceived by Barker and Atkins to expand and complete the series, but the overall effect of the acting/dialogue/lighting has more of a high-end Puppet Master feel, which is certainly not what you want. Adding insult, the following year would bring Event Horizon, a much improved space-hell movie. It’s playing the Plaza this week, and Hellraiser 4 isn’t playing anywhere.

The studio was being sold to Disney at the time, and the Halloween 6 team was brought in to re-edit, cutting out chunks of backstory including “Aristocratic Cenobites wearing white powdered wigs,” hence the director disowning the picture. I checked out the workprint version on Internet Archive looking for 1790’s aristocrat cenobites – no dice, but I did get to hear Valentina Vargas’s Angelique voice undubbed.

Vargas is from Fuller’s Street of No Return, the magician an alien in Ed Wood, and all three toymakers are Bruce Ramsay, costar of Malcolm McDowell in Island of the Dead. 1990’s Toymaker’s wife is Charlotte Chatton, who went straight from this to Titanic, and their kid would play Danny Torrance in The Shining remake the next year. Bald Guy’s interviewer was Emilio’s girl in Judgment Night. Before Smithee took over, the director was Kevin Yagher, who did makeup on all three Bill and Ted movies.

Workprint disappointment:

Linklater very suddenly diving into his decadent old-man era, sitting on the porch and proclaiming “when I was growing up, things were like this and that, we used to do the following activities, let me list every TV show we ever watched.” I’d think it a low-effort tossed-off nostalgia fest for the streaming circuit, but the work involved in making an animated feature rules out that theory.

The boys are misjudged as hardworking and brilliant and sent to space, where they cause some deaths and hop a wormhole into the future. Buncha plotty stuff about an astronaut-turned-congresswoman trying to murder them, the (w)hole point of the movie being to get them into situations where somebody nearby says “hole.” It’s no Matrix 4 or Bill & Ted 3, just minor brand extension / light entertainment.

Something to space-out to on the plane, one of those very silly sci-fi movies from the 60’s that gradually becomes a Godzilla knock-off. Movieishness is high, reasonable human behavior low, with some really cool miniatures, but the zero-gravity effect of “dangling stuff on strings” is lame. A mission to Mars (to discover why all other missions to Mars have disappeared) is led by Captain Sano with White Biologist Lisa. They stop for a shower on the moon base, where radio operator Michiko is jealous of the white girl, leaving behind their doctor who wasn’t feeling well, and picking up the whiny, dubbed, panic-prone Dr. Stein. Their ship loses power after they collect a Luminous Object near Mars, and they get a tow home. Of course the object grows into a giant monster that threatens Tokyo, but at least the massive-scale destruction and countless deaths resolve the astronaut love triangle. The cast is mostly nobodies, but the comic relief guy was in an Imamura film, and the guy in charge of ground control is Eiji Okada, star of Hiroshima Mon Amour and Woman in the Dunes.

Fun-loving crew:

The X has a name: Guilala

The flying saucer is a Monty Python fan: