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.
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…)
Read Full Post »
Posted in Uncategorized on July 30, 2016|
1 Comment »
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.
Read Full Post »
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…)
Read Full Post »
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…)
Read Full Post »
Posted in Uncategorized on July 26, 2016|
3 Comments »
“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.
Read Full Post »
Posted in Uncategorized on July 25, 2016|
16 Comments »
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…)
Read Full Post »