Archive for August, 2016


Alan Clarke’s PRNDA’S FEN is one of the greatest works ever to come out of the UK


by Sam Juliano

Metropolitan area temperatures have risen to unbearable heights over the past week, with Sunday’s heat hovering around 100 degrees fahrenheit.  Hard to believe it, but August is now half spent, and all the various September beginnings are just two weeks away.  USA sports fans have been treated to some wildly successful performances by the nation’s athletes, but the UK, in third place across the board has also done superlatively well.  The British show was hardly unexpected though.

The science fiction countdown is moving along quite impressively, especially the writing of the essays which has been uniformly first rate.  The same can be said for the podcasts, which have been articulately negotiated and authoratively crafted.  We are nearly at the halfway point of this once daunting enterprise.

For the second week in a row I did not visit movie theaters even once, mainly because of the torrid pace I have sustained in keeping up my ongoing discussions with Allan Fish.  I have broken a personal record on the actual number of films seen in a single week, but the accomplishment is more of an admission of temporary insanity than it is of a boastful reference point.  Here is the proof for commitment, thirty (30) films seen.  A few were shorts, but vast majority feature length including one at four hours. (more…)

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iron giant

by Brandie Ashe

When Brad Bird first pitched the idea of adapting Ted Hughes’ 1968 science-fiction children’s novel The Iron Man to Warner Bros., he reportedly did so by posing a simple yet effective question: “What if a gun had a soul?” It’s that intriguing, yet not altogether subtle theme that winds throughout Bird’s 1999 film version of the story, retitled The Iron Giant for its cinematic release.

In developing the story for the big screen, Bird and screenwriter Tim McCanlies excised a large part of Hughes’ novel (essentially eliminating the entire final section, in which the Iron Man battles an intergalactic space dragon) and moved the action from England to the pictaresque, appropriately-named Rockwell, a seaport town in Maine that serves as a perfect microcosm of small-town America in 1957. The resulting film focuses less on outside conflict and more on the loving relationship that develops between Hogarth Hughes (Eli Mariental) and the Iron Giant (Vin Diesel) as Hogarth attempts to protect his new friend from a suspicious government agent, Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald).

The Iron Giant is steeped in the paranoia of its Cold War-era setting, and its depiction of the time period is rather on-point. From the spot-on parody of that Cold War classroom staple, Duck and Cover (the ridiculousness of the concept of a school desk protecting someone from a nuclear blast is pointed out by several characters), to the fear-driven Mansley’s incredibly stupid and short-sighted call for a nuclear strike on the robot–and the very town in which he himself is standing–Giant captures the almost irrational terror of the unknown that resulted from the nuclear arms race between the United States and the USSR.   (more…)

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by Stephen Mullen

Things to Come, released in 1936, a collaboration between H. G. Wells, Alexander Korda, William Cameron Menzies, and a host of illustrious others, is a bit of an odd duck. Gorgeous looking, with stunning imagery (pre-apocalyptic, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic and utopian), even more stunning montage sequences, fantastic music, and – well, a star-studded cast, doing what they can – and preachy, static, abstract, with characters designed to Make Points, all of it Deadly in Earnest and political – all at once. It’s a case of too many cooks – creating a wild pot luck of – metaphors…

Try again:


The best way to look at it is to realize that it is an advertisement. Propaganda. An advertisement for Wells’ book (The Shape of Things to Come), though probably more for Wells’ ideas, his political schemes. The concept of the book is that it is a transcription of a history book from 2105 or 6 that an otherwise very clever man attached to the League of Nations has dreamed of reading over the past few years, writing down as much as he remembers in the morning. He told HG Wells about it, then died, in 1930 – Wells got the notes together and made them into a book, and when the events of 1930-33, described in the dream book, all proved true, Wells decided to publish it (in 1933 or so). The film, then, is an adaptation of this book – given some cinematic touches (it is a book of history, dry, rather impersonal history at that), like characters and drama – but not a lot. The characters are types, put in typical situations, where they make speeches to one another….

But as an advertisement, for the book, and the ideas, the style is perfectly natural. Like ads and propaganda, it may have characters and stories, but they are distinctly abstract – types, there to state the ideas they are advertising, directly and explicitly. “15 minutes can save you 15% on car insurance;” “we don’t approve of independent sovereign states.” These people and stories, most of the time, are completely swallowed in the technical displays around them. The technical displays of Things to Come certainly swallow its characters. It is monumental and grand, and dominated by its montage sequences – spectacular montage sequences, brilliantly stitched together series’ of beautifully staged and shot images, tightly edited to the music. They are dazzling: the opening Christmas/War montage – the sequence of the start of the war – the bombing of Everytown – a couple sequences showing the long progress of the war – and an orgy of machine porn (I mean, what else are you going to call it?) showing the building of the new, underground, utopian Everytown. (more…)

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When George Lucas made the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, he had to contend with the undue hype placed upon it by nostalgia-addled fans who wouldn’t accept anything that didn’t show up in their rose-colored glasses. Now, nostalgia has all but become its own cottage industry, with television series like Stranger Things and Mr. Robot making use of that instinctual pull towards the past to both win praise and deconstruct their subject matter. Today on CinemaVille I tackle the questions of both Lucas’ final Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith, and my own little nostalgic favorite, The Legend of Billie Jean.



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fah 9

By Dean Treadway

NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, and of notable irony, I have yet to read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Even though I own a first edition of it (and many other sci-fi/horror books), I mostly read non-fiction, preferring to get my fiction from movies.

It’s been at least a decade since I last viewed Francois Truffaut’s first English-language film (it’s also his first shot in color, a feature decided on by the producers and one that continually disturbed Truffaut, who preferred black-and-white; he needn’t have worried). I can still recall, at 13, first seeing Fahrenheit 451 at the Silver Screen Theater in Atlanta on a drizzly Sunday afternoon. It’s a perfect movie for a rainy day–quiet and grim, with jolting pops of primary color against the grays in nearly every shot (though the dour Oskar Werner, as its lead, seems to drain the color from many frames). The first half-hour is almost without dialogue; most of the spoken words up to that point come from the striking credits sequence, one of the best ever filmed, with neon-colored zoom-ins to rooftop TV antennas playing as an announcer reads the credits (I remember loving this as a kid—a movie about a world without reading, with credits that didn’t require reading! Brilliant!). Shattering the silence is Bernard Herrmann’s needling, string-heavy score, heavily laden with xylophones and glockenspiels. It was the book’s author, Ray Bradbury, who suggested Truffaut pursue Herrmann as composer since, as he noted, Truffaut had of course been a famously published Hitchcock acolyte. The suggestion was exemplary, much better than some hokey electronic score, however one is surprised to learn that Truffaut hadn’t come to this conclusion himself.

fah 1

A few times over the past decades, I remember telling a few film lovers how much I admired Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451, only to have the opposition defame my assessment. I was always confused by this, because my first viewing of the film was so memorable, probably due to the fact I’d seen very little Truffaut up to that point, and the New Wave signatures—the pump-ins, the occasional slow-motion, the graphically stunning irises—shook my world. But, seeing it now, I think I understand where they were coming from. Fahrenheit 451, in my advanced age, strikes me as an overly-simplified telling of this tale, first written in 1953 as a reaction against McCarthy-era devaluing of intellectual ideals. As presented in the film, the story is one of personal awakening by its main character, Montag. In this strange vision of a future that is decidedly non-futuristic (I guess the film’s clearly low-budget got in the way of depicting an outlook more technologically far along than this, though I kind of like the mixture of the old and new worlds), Werner plays a fireman—that is, a man that starts fires rather than extinguishes them (“We burn books to ashes, and then we burn the ashes”)—who becomes increasingly dissatisfied with his home and work life. Each day, he is sent out on book-burning missions that have begun to eat into his soul, with his commander (a jangly Cyril Cusack, in a role originally intended for Lawrence Olivier) and chief rival Fabian (haughty Anton Diffring) continually looking over his shoulder as if they know something is up with him. He returns home to Linda, his beautiful but vapid wife (Julie Christie) who can only tear herself away from her flat-screen TV (a bit of prognostication the film gets right) long enough to down sedatives from her blue bottle (amphetamines are in the red one). (more…)

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by Ed Howard

The Thing From Another World is one of the great classics of sci-fi horror, a taut minimalist study of a group of military men and scientists under pressure, hemmed in by an extraterrestrial monstrosity that crash-landed at a remote research station near the north pole. The film was produced by Howard Hawks, and though ostensibly the first directorial feature of editor Christian Nyby, it’s well-known that Hawks was on the set giving, at the very least, comprehensive advice, and most likely taking over the directing chair for himself. Certainly, though the science fiction premise is unlike anything else in Hawks’ filmography, the film bears the director’s aesthetic signature and deals with some of his typical concerns. Indeed, the alien monster appears only sporadically, in brief flashes, mostly obscured by darkness. The film’s emphasis is not on its horror elements but on the dynamics within the tight-knit professional groups doing hard, dangerous work in the midst of this snowbound wasteland.

Among these men is Air Force Captain Patrick Hendry (Kenneth Tobey), who fulfills the role of the romantic hero even though, like Hawks’ Air Force before it, this is a film where individual characters matter far less than the group as a whole. The research station is populated mostly with minor, little-known actors (Dewey Martin, James R. Young, Robert Nichols, etc.), including several recurring Hawks bit players, which only enhances the impression that the individual personalities of these men are not meant to stand out. They exist only as a part of the group and, symbolically, as members of the human race. Hendry and his crew of military men are summoned to a research station near the north pole after a mysterious aircraft crashes with a tremendous impact some fifty miles away from the station. The crash immediately begins triggering strange phenomena: communications are disrupted and measuring instruments go haywire, while Geiger counters pick up traces of radiation from the vicinity of the crash. Hendry’s men are summoned by the brilliant scientist Dr. Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite) to help investigate the crash site and determine what happened. Of course, the crashed aircraft is no ordinary plane but a flying saucer, and though the military accidentally destroy it while trying to free it from the ice that hardened around it, they do recover the frozen body of one of the craft’s inhabitants, a massive alien trapped in a block of ice. (more…)

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EoE (1)

Joel Bocko

“The End of Evangelion” is an unusual spin-off of a TV series (only “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” might be more unusual). It both concludes and subverts the series, veering way into experimental territory while still wrapping up the narrative which the show “Neon Genesis Evangelion” began. I’ve covered the film in almost every form imaginable – reviews, written conversations, visual tributes, and video essays – so I decided to take a new appraoch this time. With Bob Clark’s permission, I stepped in as a guest host on the CinemaVille podcast and together we analyze the film, exploring its connections not just to the series but to the Czech play R.U.R., and Dante’s Divine Comedy. There’s a lot to dig into here, some grab some popcorn and get ready to start tumbling down, tumbling down, tumbling down…


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paris nous


Capture from Rivette masterpiece “La Religieuse” (1966)

by Sam Juliano

Vacation time has finally arrived, but my family and I are still unsure about the upcoming plans.  (my summer school class concluded on Friday). Before you know it September and the beginning of the new school year will be upon us and with it all the autumnal launches that signal the start of all the new seasons connected to the arts, sports and politics.  The Olympics ate now in full swing, and it is always fun to spend some time following the various events and standings.  The science-fiction countdown continues to move forward with some fabulous essays and comment sections.

Though we enjoyed some family gatherings, Lucille and I did not manage any movie theater engagements.  My time was largely spent on marathon viewings of classic films in conjunction with ongoing and follow-up discussions with Allan Fish.  Again I took in an un Godly number of films the past week and have documented them below.  This was one of the most glorious weeks in film viewing by way of spectacular qulaity I have ever experienced in any capacity.  I saw twenty (20) films including one at four hours: (more…)

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dark city 1


by Allan Fish

Which way to Shell Beach?

p Andrew Mason d Alex Proyas w Alex Proyas, Lem Dobbs, David S.Goyer ph
Dariusz Wolski ed Dov Hoenig m Trevor Jones art Patrick Tatopoulos, George
Rufus Sewell (John Murdoch), Kiefer Sutherland (Dr Daniel Schreber), William
Hurt (Inspector Frank Bumstead), Jennifer Connelly (Emma Murdoch), Ian
Richardson (Mr Book), Richard O’Brien (Mr Hand), Melissa George (May), Colin
Friels (Det.Eddie Walenski), Bruce Spence (Mr Wall), John Bluthal (Uncle Karl),

Quite possibly the most left field entry in this selection, and certainly the most
left field of modern times, Alex Proyas’ cult sci -fi opus is one of those films you
just love or loathe. Indeed, the same could be true of many a cult sci -fi film of the
1990s, and there were many of them. Each of us has our favourite – Gattaca for
some, Cube for others, The Fifth Element for the adolescents among us and The
Matrix for a good many more. Yet, whereas the Wachowski brothers’ hit now
looks to have increasingly less to it than meets the eye, Dark City, now restored
and reedited for the 10th anniversary release, is a film I can put on any time, and
appreciate on numerous levels, while still being critical of some of its detail and
narrative construction. The most important aspect of understanding the film and
its ambitions ironically comes during the closing credits where the dedication
reads “in memory of Dennis Potter, with gratitude and admiration.” Those who
have been baffled by the great TV writer’s work, especially the valedictory Cold
Lazarus, will know where I’m coming from. (more…)

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68. Moon (2009)

moon 1

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