Archive for July, 2016

ST2 - 1

by Robert Hornak

In the wake of yet another new film (released in July) and much scuttlebutt regarding a new TV show reboot, this movie remains the cleanest, clearest reiteration of the ethos of the original show to date. Creator Gene Roddenberry himself may have wanted the show and films to reflect the more sober traits of his original conception – de facto egalitarianism, benevolent imperialism, the headiness of exploration itself, as exemplified in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and the Next Generation series (1987-1994, plus films) and other recombinations of the franchise through the decades, but what he got, and what fans carry deep in their hearts for the entire Star Trek universe, is much closer to what’s captured in the energy, interpersonal dynamics, and downright fun of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

ST2 - 2


When the movie was first released, it was without its numerical signifier. The fact makes me think the animating principle behind its making wasn’t too far from the reboot mentality we see so rampant now, including with its own namesake. So divergent is the second film from the first in terms of tone, look, and character, you can practically hear the movie saying “scratch that, how bout this.” But the way the movie was cooked up doesn’t sound like a formula for greatness – in fact, it smells a lot like low self-esteem. Hire a guy, director Nicholas Meyer (a relative newbie, versus the venerable old-school hero-hire of The Motion Picture‘s Robert Wise), who had no previous love for the TV show, marry him to a budget that was a fraction of its predecessor’s, then cobble bits and pieces from five different commissioned scripts into a makeshift spine for a story – an estranged son here, a world-building bomb there, the death of a friend somewhere in the mix. Sounds like a recipe for something lumpy and slapdash. (more…)


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(76) Paprika


Bob Clark

Satoshi Kon’s last film might just be a masterpiece, and that only makes it all the more depressing that he passed away with that as his final effort. When the animator and cartoonist passed away of sudden pancreatic cancer in 2010, he left behind a body of work that remains both impressive and startlingly mature, yet also curiously unfinished. It seemed as though among all the great modern anime directors, Kon might’ve been the one to really bring the medium into the forefront of world cinema and out of the fenced in territory of otaku fandom and family-friendly fare. Checkerphil and I discuss the film, Kon’s career and dreams in general, while I offer some thoughts on our continuing national nightmare in the form of the Presidential election.


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killer klows 1

by Sam Juliano

It’s time to take a ride on the nightmare merry-go-round
You’ll be dead on arrival from the likes of the killer klowns
…from outer space                 -The Dickies

Cult cinema has no discernible boundaries, and is primarily defined by the implications of its title.  The films within this classification are far from uniform by way of quality or genre, and neither are they confined by reputation or the temper of the original reviews.  Movies develop a cult following over time as a result of its adherent engaging in repeat viewings, quoting dialogue and even in some fortuidous circumstances the opportunity to engage in audience parroting of dialogue at events or festivals hosted by characters dressed in flayboyant garb. The term itself originated in the 70’s, labeled to provide some description for underground films and those gaining added exposuse on the midnight circuit.  Cult films can be controversial, appeal to specific subcultures or pure camp and for many provide hours of guilty pleasure.  Films like Plan Nine from Outer Space, She-Demons and The Attack of the Crab Monsters have often been framed as movies “so bad that they are good”, and many of their more enterprising adherents have gleefully taken in repeated viewings while under the influence.

In 1988 the three Chiodo brothers disavowed the slasher trend by paying homage to the alien invasion movies of the 50’s in creating Killer Klowns from Outer Space, a most curious hybrid purportedly shot in Santa Cruz to allow for an East coast suburban look- that can fit comfortably as science fiction, horror or comedy, but unfailingly overlaps just when things appear they may be staying the course.  Of course any movie with such a cheesy title invariably brings groans from those just discovering it, even taking into account the amusing coordination of the letter ‘k.’  The film’s premise borrows from 1958’s The Blob, (teenagers as the central protagonists, who are unable to convince adults of the threat until it is too late) which was coincidentally given an inferior remake in the year Killer Klowns released, though the matter of these anything-but-benign aliens desiring humans for sustenance may best be remembered from a classic 1962 Twilight Zone episode titled “To Serve Man.”  The same theme was explored in  a satirical 1980 horror film Motel Hell, which featured a deranged farmer and his sister fattening up unsuspecting victims of staged car accidents so they can be processed into breakfast meats.   The script the Chiodos have written never vacates its satirical underpinnings, but the real menace of these garishly-clad space buffoons infiltrates the most unlikely scenarios:  Ball pits, puppet shows, animal balloons, candy valentines, pies-in-the-face would all seem to be innocuous enough, but each enactment of their amusement properties bring lethal results .  Even popcorn via clown head transformation can bring about your demise, and cotton candy is the source material of alien mummification.  To be sure these clowns can’t hold a candle to the spike-toothed Pennywise in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s It in menacing countenance, but their behavior is far off the beaten track without an ounce of mitigating philanthropic intent.  Grand Guignol makes a jolting entrance when a juvenile clown literally “knocks the block” off a vicious motorcyclist who spitefully mangled his bicycle after the youngster hinted at a more restrained behavior.  But Marla Frazee’s warm and affable picture book The Farmer and the Clown this is not, and even the kiddies have adapted the murderous ways of their parents. (more…)

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by Christianne Benedict

Gravity (2013, directed by Alfonso Cuarón) is a technical marvel and one of the most viscerally terrifying films I’ve ever seen. It’s the very definition of a “ride” movie. Show this on the huge screen at Epcot center while shaking the audience with rumble seats and it wouldn’t be out of place. This isn’t a criticism, and if I seem ungrateful going forward for focusing on what the film lacks, I’m not, really, because for what it is,Gravity is absolutely splendid.

The film this most reminds me of is The Impossible. Like that film, the seeming miracle of what it puts on screen frequently overrides other critical concerns. Film craft is underrated in critical discourse, sometimes. Does a Fabergé egg need to say something beyond the exquisite craft of its making? I say no. A narrative film, though, makes promises, and like The Impossible, this film has dramatic deficiencies. Cuarón is smart to keep things simple, but it makes for a film that’s ultimately shallow, however broad the net of its craft may be cast.

The story is simple: a trio of astronauts are spacewalking during a mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope when the Russians destroy one of their own spy satellites with a missile. The resulting debris cloud proves catastrophic to everything else in orbit, including the Endeavor, our heroes’ shuttle. Dr. Sharrif is killed instantly, but Commander Matt Kowalski is spared. He’s in a jet pack prototype, so he has propulsion even though he’s not tethered to the ship. Dr. Ryan Stone is not so lucky. She is whipped around the debris by the robot arm and eventually thrown clear of the wreck into space, untethered to everything. This is Stone’s first flight, and she’s understandably terrified by her predicament, but she manages to get her bearings so Kowalski can retrieve her. Unfortunately, when they return to the Endeavor, it’s a ghost ship. Everyone is dead. Their next option is the International Space Station, where there is a Soyuz escape capsule. The ISS, too, is abandoned, and the Soyuz is useless for reentry, having deployed its chute in the rain of debris. It’s still possible to fly the Soyuz elsewhere, though, and there is one last option in reach: a Chinese station also has a Soyuz. But the debris cloud is coming around again. Fast…. (more…)

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(L-R)  Hugh Jackman, Andy Serkis

by Allan Fish

(USA 2006 131m) DVD1/2

Are you watching closely?

p  Christopher Nolan, Aaron Ryder, Emma Thomas  d  Christopher Nolan  w  Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan  novel  Christopher Priest  ph  Wally Pfister ed  Lee Smith  m  David Julyan  art  Nathan Crowley  cos  Joan Bergin

Christian Bale (Alfred Borden), Hugh Jackman (Robert Angier/Gerald Root), Michael Caine (John Cutter), Scarlett Johansson (Olivia Wenscombe), Rebecca Hall (Sarah), Piper Perabo (Julia McCullough), David Bowie (Nikola Tesla), Andy Serkis (Alley), Samantha Mahurin (Jess), Roger Rees (Owens), Ricky Jay (Milton),

Christopher Nolan’s fifth film was met with muted applause on its release in 2006.  Many critics were impressed by it, yet at the same time maddened by it.  Others didn’t rate it at all and couldn’t take it seriously.  The reasons for ironically slighting this sleight of cinematic hand were numerous, but mostly centred around several factors, the biggest being the release earlier that year of similar magic trick The Illusionist – backed up by the fact that in the UK the earlier film came out afterwards, and received the fate Nolan’s film had received in the US.  That other film was a fine film in its own right, but once the trick is unravelled, there’s not much else to it, while it’s never explained how its protagonist managed to make himself incorporeal.  There is nothing in Nolan’s film that isn’t explained, and yet for all that, it remains enigmatic, multi-textured and involving no matter how many times you see it.  This is not merely a case of pulling the rug out from under the audience, but convincing them that the rug was never there in the first place.

Set around the turn of the century, Robert Angier and Alfred Borden are two rival up and coming magicians working the theatres of London.  Their semi-friendship is blown asunder when Angier’s beloved Julia is drowned on stage in an accident which might have been caused by Borden.  Blaming him for her death, Angier swears to make him pay, and their professional rivalry reaches new levels when Borden introduces his long cherished new trick, The Transported Man, onto the London stage, and leaves Angier obsessed with how he did it. (more…)

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Bob Clark


“Ghost in the Shell” is one of the premier anime films of the world, not only because it’s one of the most influential and popular, but because it’s one of the few outside of “Akira” and a handful of Miyazaki movies that most self-respecting art-house patrons are liable to admit to seeing. I personally don’t rate it either as the best work of its director, Mamoru Oshii, or even the best work of the GITS franchise, which has spawned several fantastic animated works for television and OVA alongside Oshii’s films, but the original 1996 movie has a power that can’t be denied, even as it’s dissected. That’s what Checkerphil and I set out to do on CinemaVille again, with a supplemental essay on Wim Wender’s “Until the End of the World” as an aside.


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Screen cap from 1962 Kon Ichikawa masterpiece “The Outcast”


by Sam Juliano

Last week’s family tragedy has not abated and won’t for a long time for members of my family and myself, but I have found at least one way to cope – to immerse myself in long-elusive works of the cinema.  The past several weeks my friend and long time site colleague Allan Fish and I have engaged in some fantastic film discussions/back and forth commentary everyday via FB message on the major parcel of harder-to-find cinematic gems, many of them Japanese, but a good number European as well sent to me a few weeks back.  Over the years Allan and I have shared our revelations and opinions on many films he has recommended, and the past weeks have seen that practice gloriously accelerated.  I received Allan’s latest parcel two weeks ago and have attacked it with singularity of purpose, reporting back to the sender all times during day and night to report my final rating and numerous other observations during various pauses while watching.  It has been quite an experience (and as always from Allan an education) and will continue well into the future.  Over the past seven days that have followed our tragedy I have watched twenty (20) feature length films from the “stacked deck” and have come away infinitely richer is expanding my cinematic boundaries.  I greatly lament that many of these films have not yet received legitimate DVD/blu ray releases, though in large measure the copies Allan has sent on have been superlative in quality.  One of the 20 was actually from an Eclipse set I acquired this week at Barnes & Noble as part of the July 50% off sale.  But the other 19 were sent on from Allan.

The Science Fiction countdown has been moving forward most impressively, especially in terms of the extraordinary scholarship being penned by the writers on board.  Comments and page views as well have been uniformly excellent.  Lucille, the three boys and I saw the new film in the Star Trel franchise Saturday afternoon.  I had mixed feelings on it, enjoying some aspects of the character interactions, but growing weary of the bombastic fireworks display of endless pyrotechnics.  For the record I am a lifelong passionate Trekkie. (more…)

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wenders 1

wenders 2

Note:  A few captures are provided for this unreviewed title in the countdown.  Though such an instance will occur hardly at all during this project, this unfortunately is one time it has happened.  I am not myself a big Wenders fan (my colleague Allan isn’t really one either) but I respect him and know there are some big time fans out there for his work.  Obviously, some liked this film strongly as evidenced by its finish at Number 81.

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by Anuk Bavkist

The very first words heard in On the Silver Globe come from none other than the film’s director, narrating over his own opening footage to help guild his viewers through the ruins of a film that was never meant to see light of day:

“You will see a film made ten years ago; a shred of a film; a two-and-a-half-hour story, one-fifth of which is missing. That one-fifth dating back to 1977 when the film was annihilated, will never be recreated. In place of the missing scenes you will hear a voice which will briefly explain what was to be. We are bringing On the Silver Globe to an end in the year 1987.”

Partially adapted from The Lunar Trilogy /Trylogia Księżycowa (1901-11) written by his great uncle Jerzy Żuławski, Andrzej Żuławski’s science fiction epic is a handful. Divided in two acts, the first of which chronicles last surviving astronauts (2 men and 1 woman) whose spaceship crash on an “Earth-like” planet. Their story, captured by one of the survivors and presented as a video diary and filmed like highly stylized found footage, recalls a kind of perverse retelling of Adam and Eve as two of the astronauts continuously mate and give birth to the planet’s first society. Due to constant inbreeding and the fact that the “Earth-like” planet’s maturation rate is double that of normal human rate, the society grows, evolving into a primitive culture that worship fire and mythologize stories of Earth. Years pass and the last living of the three astronaut sends out his video diary to earth, prompting the arrival of a new astronaut, Marek, to the planet years later. The second act follows that same society, who are now under attack by telekinetic bird-like mutants known as Shern, as they lean on Marek to fulfill a religious prophecy. (more…)

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it! 1

by Sam Juliano

Another word for Mars is death.            

Edward Cahn’s It! The Terror from Beyond Space remains a prime example of a modestly budgeted 50’s science fiction film that was gloriously resurrected on television after a theatrical run fueled by the drive-ins.  In the New York City market it remained a staple on WPIX’s Chiller Theater, where it was rightly perceived as a horror/sci-fi hybrid, and aimed squarely at the baby bommer generation.  The original title, The Vampire from Beyond Space is a better appraisal of the movie’s central conflict, which is variation of sorts on another 1958 genre classic The Blob, but the film is now mainly celebrated as the inspiration for Alien,  a mighty acknowledgement, especially for a standard programmer in an era inundated with this brand.  Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires (inexplicably missing from this countdown) even with the decisive lean towards horror, is another film with striking similarities to It!)  The future as depicted in the film is scarely fifteen years away -1973- which is only four years after man first stepped foot on the moon.  But the Jerome Bixby (Twilight Zone’s “It’s A Good Life”; Star Trek’s “Mirror, Mirror”) penned script relied on what appeared to be rapidly advancing technology, bolstered in part by the success of Sputnik the previous year, and the Cold War space competition that could very well see the U.S. negotiated not one but two missions back-to-back amidst the tensions associated with trying to exceed the other.

The rubber-clad terror that has invariably reduced the Martian physiology to that of the title protagonist showcased in Creature from the Black Lagoon is a reptilian monster with a singular aim of killing all who come in its path.  There is nothing remotely sophisticated in both the plot and the character motivations exhibited in It! The Terror from Beyond Space, neither does the story arc veer into unexpected directions.  Yet, there can be no question that once the suspense begins to build, it has the macabre allure of something like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, where the question isn’t “if” but “how” and “when.” (more…)

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