In Wrecked, we have Adrian Brody as the unfortunate survivor of a car accident. He wakes up after said accident to find the car in the woods at the bottom of a tall cliff, his two companions dead, and his leg stuck under the dashboard.
Alive but alone and with no way to get out of the car, or to signal anyone, we watch the progression of his suffering until after some hallucinatory moments, the memory of the events leading up to the crash slowly and painfully start returning to him.
I don’t know if i liked it or not, but it sure kept my attention. In fact, I think I did like it. It was an interesting, odd and engrossing film… though I have a hard time imagining someone deciding to give it a theatrical run.
Also we finally got around to viewing Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, an engaging story of an Australian who finds himself in his forties, overweight and in overly-medicated ill-health. All of which leads him to decide to go on a 60 day juice fast… In the USA, of course, spending the first half in new york and the second half driving around the country with his juicing supplies in the back of his SUV, offering juice, and his story, to any who will listen. Along the way we get to watch his health improve dramatically and we encounter a couple of people who take his message seriously and begin juice fasts themselves. There is one particularly relevant moment when he talks to a man who speaks unconcernedly about how old he may end up getting (55, 65 if he’s lucky), while sitting at a table with his own father and his young son. It is an entertaining film reminding us, yet again, that diet is the key to health and the fresh foods and whole grains lead to good health, and that animal products and processed foods lead to bad health. There is also good follow up in the movie of the stories of some of the people who are involved in this juice-fast thing.
Then we also watched Forks Over Knives, which is a similar topic and spirit, but a much different movie. In Forks Over Knives, we follow two scientists who, in the 50’s and 60’s started studying nutrition in a highly scientific way. Using the results from many exhaustive tests and case subjects, they also come to the conclusion that most of our most dangerous health ailments: heart disease, cancer, diabetes… Can be prevented by eating whole food, plant-based diets. At this point, I assume that everyone knows this though. Movie after movie, study after study. But, you know… It is hard to get the inclination to eat that way when most aspects of our society are designed to get you to eat, well, the other way.
On my commute home yesterday, I received a text stating that last night would be family movie night. Family movie night means a couple of things around these parts… It means a quick drive down to the Star Theater to pick up a large tub of “movie” popcorn and a pack of Twizzlers, and it also means that we will be (most likely) scrounging Netflix for whichever kid movie my daughter wants to watch. The selection this time was unexpected for multiple reasons… Gumby 1 (aka, Gumby: The Movie). Firstly, I had no idea that there was any such thing as a Gumby movie. Secondly, once I learned of it I assumed that it would be just another big Hollywood pilfering and altering of our cultural icons. Boy… Was I wrong.
Gumby 1 is most certainly the real thing. A low-budget genuine claymation film about Gumby and Pokey made by the guy who actually invented Gumby. And, for that, it is just great!
It seems that not all is well in clayland! Gumby has a band, The Clayboys, and the amount of time that he spends with them is making poor old Pokey feel down in the dumps. But who cares about that because then two exciting things happen! An agent discovers the band and wants them to film a video, and the band decides to have a benefit concert to help some farmers who are facing repossession! All of this goodness is spoiled, ala Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, by the Blockheads who decide to kidnap the band (including the manager and their mascot dog) and replace them with robots!!!
Well, you’ll have to watch it to find out what happens, but there is lots of driving in and out of books and just great old school claymation. Strangely, there is a lot of music in it which has a surprisingly hard rock feel to it. Hmmm… Who’d of thunk that’s what Gumby was into. And there are also plenty of positive thoughts and reflective statements to give the kids that sort of good moral development that they are craving.
After this movie and the family going off to bed, I followed it up with Spiderhole. A British horror film about four young folks who set of to find a house to take over with Squatters rights (gah, can people really still do that?). They find a good house but, of course, contrary to appearances, the house that they break into isn’t as abandoned as it appears. And, you are expecting, they become the prey of some ruthless and mysterious figure! Bad things happen to these kids, in reasonably grisly ways that are nicely done. Not too corny nor overbearing. And they do a good job of keeping the antagonist somewhat unknown and maintaining a good maze-like feel to the set. Not in the really dumb way made popular by Saw, but it a reasonable way… Sometimes it reminded me a bit of the original Texas Chainsaw house… But with a richer color palette. All in all, I thought it was pretty good, enough to keep me interested and not so underdone that I would be embarrassed and bored by watching it.
Westworld, the vacation of a lifetime! Yes, welcome to Delos where you can choose between Westworld (the wild west), MedievalWorld (13th c. Europe) or Romanworld… What do you really need to clear your head from the mundanity of regular life? A Roman orgy? Wild west shoot out? Jousting and feasting? All as real as real life, but with no dangers! Kill without worrying about being killed, yes for only $1000 per day ($4,851 adjusted), you too can have the vacation of a lifetime… Just hope that nothing goes wrong!
Well, when James Brolin goes on a wild west vacation with his pal (and Delos newbie) Richard Benjamin, they are ready for some good old drinking, robo-whoring, gunfighting and general wild west fun. Soon after they arrive they start to get a taste of the old west, with a tough gunslinger insulting Benjamin in the saloon. After killing this rude interloper, they continue to go about their free-for-all Wild West life! Oddly enough though, that gunfighter returns and they have to take him out again.
It seems like as bad sign, as Delos is supposed to have a strong feeling of reality, when the gunslinger returns yet again, still intent of getting rid of them… But this is the first of many signs that something is going awry at Delos.
Westworld is one of my favorites from my youth. A commentary on the shallow state of human desires and also a warning against the impending pervasive reliance on technology, Westworld covers its entertainment bases by having scenes of decadence in three enticing milieus, in case the market might not have been interested in only one of these historical genres. And their is plenty of TV-style violence to keep any fan awake
Well it was one of those good nights when I appreciate Netflix Streaming. Friday I watched two entertaining films in a row!
First up was Valhalla Rising, a dark grim Viking film. A silent one-eyed man is a captive of a clan, he manages to escape and kill most of them then heads off across the beautiful, yet forbidding, Scottish landscape. He ends up joining up with a young boy who starts following him and encounters a group of heretics (or whatever you call Viking-folk who have converted to Christianity) who are headed to the holy land to help protect the land of their lord and savior. As one-eye doesn’t speak we are left a bit high and dry about his motives but he comes along anyway.
They sail off in their little book for a trip pretty much bereft of any fun what-so-ever. These Christians have no faith in one-eye and tension, conflict and lengthy moments of stoic standing and staring are the order of the day as they end up sailing to an unknown land and proceed to fall apart. It come with that richly-washed, drab-color palette that one can expect these days… but I actually found in fairly nice to watch. I liked the colors and the landscape and I like just about anything that shows a vikingish side (non-lighthearted, at least), and I appreciated the grim seriousness of it. Even if, at times, it felt too grim and serious to really have much depth of character or storyline.
Also, I watched Monsters, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Featuring really great aliens (they light up and have lots of tentacles!) who came to earth a number of years back and who have since been corralled into a large and heavily defended area comprising the borderlands of the USA and Mexico. Into this area (called the Infected Zone) come two Americans (a photographer and his bosses daughter) who get to the port at the Mexico side, hoping to get her on a ferry back to the USA. Trouble is, they get there the day before the port shuts down for six months. To top that off, the photographer goes off on a big drunk, which ends up meaning that she can’t take the ferry.
With no other options at hand, they set off by land and riverboat through the infected Zone. Now, for a low budget film, this could turn out pretty crappy. But not in Monsters! It is not crappy at all! Not only are the characters, and actors pretty good (most of the movie involves them, rather than any sci-fi or alien scenes) but the scenery and the alien-occupied backdrop are just really well done. I thought that it came across with a very genuine feeling. It was suspenseful without being overbearing and completely involving, both in terms of the character arcs and the Alien storyline. In the end, it is an engaging adventure that leaves you with some questions about the nature of “human versus visiting alien” relationships.
So to take a break from my recent bout of “low-budget sci-fi film” love, I must say something about Stranded. After a quiet 2001ish start (though blatantly low budget), the first manned ship to visit Mars ends up crashing there! And since their orbiter doesn’t have a second lander, it may as well just turn tail and head back to Earth. Everyone seems really bummed by all of that except for one guy who is just excited to have made it… Which would be my take on the situation if I got to go on the first manned mission to another world!
Trying to piece things together, and realizing that their supplies won’t last even near long enough to make the 2+ years it would take for a rescue attempt to arrive, three of them head out to investigate a strange radar image a few hours walk away. Which is unfortunate, as the scenes of the surface of Mars are probably the low point of this movie, with hardly any attempt made to make it appear that they might be on an different world. But wait! That’s not the only bad part. They talk as they wander about and, while I thought the script was okay at first, just marred by bad readings, as the movie wore on I lost faith in the script also… Though it still wasn’t as bad as the readings. Maria Lidon (also the director?) and Danal Aser deliver every one of their respective lines terribly, without the slightest level of convincingness. That coupled with how cheaply this movie seems to have been made, causes me to wonder about the rest of the cast. What are: Vincent Gallo, Maria de Medeiros and Joaquim de Almeifa doing here? Three actors who, while maybe not great, are certainly of a higher caliber and reputation than the rest. I can’t imagine why they are in this unless it was as a favor for a friend or something.
Lidon also delivers some narration that, while unnecessary as narration usually is, is also painfully delivered. All in all, Stranded is generally boring, badly acted, with terrible effects and “sets” and a story that might have had some potential, but it ends up being not all that. The movie does finally start to try to get interesting and pick up steam about an hour in, but at that point, I didn’t really care.
Sitting down with a bunch of the guys (and some other guys) i watched Contagion. Now normally I would preface that by saying that I don’t normally watch that kind of movie but, lately, with that Insideous and Paranormal Activity 3, that no longer seems to be the case.
Anyway, Contagion actually isn’t bad. Yes, it is stuffed to the gills with Hollywooders (Matt Damon, G Paltrow, Larry Fishburne, Jude Law (ok, I sort of take that back about Jude Law), and has yet another version of the “watch the plague spread across the world! Will they stop it!?” storyline, I still liked it. It starts off quick, it is a bit dark and graphic for Hollywood and they focus more on accurate desriptions of the technical side of things.
Basically, Matt Damon is the husband of a women who carries back a new virus from a business trip to Hong Kong. The CDC (represented by Fishburne (or Furious Styles as I still think of him)) try to chase down a cure in time.
The first half is pretty good, but the second part bogs down a bit and ends with an anti-climactic ending and an unneeded bit of backstory (at the start ofthe movie, they clearly state “Day 2”.
Also, the soundtracka is pretty lame. But, if you like these kind of Hollywood movies, this is better than most and lacks the ridiculous and irritatating melodrama of, say, Outbreak.
Rad! That is what I have to say about Apollo 18. The story of Apollo 18, the (secret) final manned moon landing in 1974. Culled from 84 hours of NASA/DOD footage featuring: interviews with the astronauts, cabin film from the orbiter and lander and film made on the surface. Odd how many cameras they had for this trip… Anyway, three astronauts on what would seem like a routine moon landing, except they have been instructed to lie about their activities… To not tell anyone that they are going to the moon.
Once there, they go about the regular business of driving their moon buggy, putting up the American flag, collecting samples, setting up transmitters and being filmed by the cameras. They even have a special transmitter that seems to be causing a lot of interference.
When finding an usual sample against a background of interference, there seems to be something in the proverbial air… Yes something indistinct is out there, doing something. And it makes me nervous.
As their orbiters, um, orbit takes it around the back side of the moon, the two astronauts on the lander get their first, of many, tastes of being on their own up there. Which, in this case, is not a good feeling… Because, while they may be all on their own, it becomes obvious that they are not alone.
Apollo 18 is a great film! One of those low budget movies that doesn’t feel low budget. Scary, tense and engaging. A sci-fi film, a historical drama, a horror movie, a political thriller and a mystery all rolled into one. Are they in danger from Russia, the USA, aliens, each other, their minds, equipment malfunction, all of the above? Well, regardless of which it is, danger there is…
I would like to watch it paired with Moon. Not because they are similar genres but because they are both movies that show you that it doesn’t take money to make a really superior film and they are also both superb, well made and tense films about betrayal, abandonment and a person trying to survive against the odds in the hostile environment of both politics and the surface of the moon.
Yes, sadly it is catch-up time again.
Some of the movies I have to mention I don’t remember anything about. Which is lame, as that was the whole point to this blog anyway. Oh well, life is busy… Family, work, commute, Runescape… So little time left.
So in no order at all, here are some of the movies of the last year or so that I can both recall, and have not the inclination to write up anything on…
Shaun of the Dead. Yes, well, focusing on the genuinely humorous aspects of the walking dead, this movie reminds us that zombie movies aren’t always dumb and boring. Pegg and Frost’s antics as they try to deal with their personal lives, the zombies and trying to spend some quality time at the Winchester make for many good scenes. Shaun of the Dead is one of my favorite movies of the last decade or so and very re-watchable with great action, a terribly clever and funny script and also just a great zombie flick. Though the record throwing scene in the backyard is my favorite, this movie is filled with great scenes! Also, everyone in this plays delightfully as it features some great actors… Simon Pegg (of course), the always impressive Bill Nighy in a really great role as Pegg’s step-father and, even our faves, Lucy Davis and Martin Freeman from The Office show up.
Sadly, I don’t remember The Diving Bell and the Butterfly well at all. I remember thinking that it was quite good, fascinating and engaging. But I don’t remember much else… The true story of an Elle editor who is suddenly stricken with an ailment that leaves him mentally sound but physically unable to move beyond blinking. He writes a book via his therapist through a laborious method of spelling words out by blinking and her transcribing what he has spelled. The movie covers the experience of writing that book, the experiences of his mind in this state, and also remembrances of his earlier, more mobile, life. The wherewithal that he showed in continuing on with what he wanted to do in the light of his condition is impressive… And his imaginations and flashbacks offer a fascinating look at his life and thoughts.
Layer Cake. I really enjoyed this… Yet another great British crime film! Daniel Craig is quite successful in the cocaine business. So successful, in fact, that he in planning to retire. Of course, success in this business generally means that you are providing your bosses with some success also, something that they make not smile upon losing. His boss gives his some final tasks. Final tasks that look to possibly become his truly final tasks. Craig’s situation starts to go downhill as he gets tangled in this mess of intrigue, with many layers of deceit going on here involving all sorts of trouble: ecstasy, cocaine, Serbian drug dealers, hired thugs and plenty of back-stabbing.
9/11. This was fascinating. A September 11th documentary that did not set out to be any such thing. When (in real life!) a couple of French documentary filmmakers happened to be cover an FDNY station when the planes hit. The movie, which I was seeing for the first time, was an unparalleled depiction of the reality of being on the ground in Manhattan during the incident, and what is what like to the Fire Department. The footage is like nothing I have ever seen before. And the exposure to people suffering through it, while they were actually doing it and trying to figure out what was going on is very tragic and moving. Fascinating, horrifying, essential viewing for anyone with any interest at all in the 9/11 attacks.
Grey Gardens. Well, I’ve seen this too many times to really comment on it. A documentary about two narcissistic women, a mother and daughter, who were once young and well-to-do (related to Jackie Onassis), but by the time this was made, were living off pet food in a dilapidated mansion. Featuring, primarily, the women, the filmmakers and the young neighbor who does odd jobs for them. The film is an unsettling precursor to real life psychological dramas such as Hoarders or Intervention, but the issues being guilt, bitterness, hostility, paranoia and egos so unabashedly huge that their troubling relationship with each other and the world has no need of stacking up junk or substance abuse to be apparent.
The War of the Worlds wasn’t as great as I remember it from youth, Still a great movie visually with the neat-o alien ships and there mass destruction of everything. But it was boring in parts and carried a distinct christian overtone that I don’t really recall.
Supposedly, we Watched The Godfather 1 and 2. I have no recollection of doing this recently, in the last couples of years. But it is quite possible. And I can safely say that they remain two of the best films ever made. Though they are both unquestionably great, I do prefer part 2, mainly for the 1950’s in Tahoe stuff.
Punch-Drunk Love This was pretty funny. While a comedic role with outbursts of anger seems a bit short in its potential, it works well here and Punch-Drunk Love becomes both a funny and a thoughtful film.
Once. Again, I hardly remember this. I recall that is was pleasant enough and I enjoyed the Dublin backdrop.
Bright Star. A movie about Keats. I don’t remember anything at all about it.
The Straight Story. I don’t really recall this. I don’t think I was that moved by it though.
Recently, I watched Alien 3 again. Not only do I like this movie for its own merits (though, admittedly, I like the directors cut version better than the theatrical release). But, regardless, it is a great film. Coming off the all guns blazing action film that was Cameron’s Aliens, Alien 3 brings us back to the dark monster movie feel of the first movie, but with a darker setting. David Fincher, in directing his first feature film, keeps the story looking as grim as it is, with Ripley’s pals from the previous film all dead at the start, and a rather grim ending. Sadly, even with the grimness of the ending, they still throw a bit of the dumb Hollywood in it, with one of those scenes that almost spoils the whole movie for me (as with the terrible climax of Aliens). but I will forgive it that, as the movie is just plain great.
In Alien 3, the ship carrying the three and a half survivors from Aliens crashes on a sparsely populated prison planet, inhabited by a small body of prisoners who have taken refuge in religion and a handful of staff to watch over them. One of the key aspects to their religion (well, and their whole situation) is the absence of women… So having Ripley fall out of the sky starts some problems. But, even worse, it turns out that something more problematical fell out of the sky with her. Watching the prisoner get taken out one-by-one in the dark tunnels of the prison does certainly bring back memories of Alien, as does their weaponless attempts to stop the damn thing and, most of all, the creature being back to a hunter in the shadows, rather than the mob in the hallways of Aliens returns the series to its Horror roots.
And then, to continue on with this great documentary. The Alien Saga is the story of the Alien franchise, from its earliest origins, through the (ugh) fourth movie. They have interviews with the key actors, with O’bannon, and, yes, even with the great Giger himself. The movie is fascinating, and the earlier part of it was especially nice and it continually reminded me of one of my favorite topics; the disappearance of the of the physical craft of filmmaking in the 1980’s. Watching them building and using these giant crazy sets for Alien was inspiring and quite impressive. The movie is entrancing and a must-see for anyone who is a fan of any aspect of Alien or Sci-fi movies or just hand’s-on filmmaking in general. Though I would not recommended it to anyone who has not seen the films, but plans on doing so, as they outline the plots pretty thoroughly.
And, finally, Dark Star! Always a nice and easy viewing experience. The school-project-turned first feature film for both John Carpenter and Dan O’bannon, this great little film is the story of a crew out on a mission to destroying worlds that are in the way of the path of an interstellar freeway. A dinky cast covers the four surviving crew members, their deceased commander and the guy at mission control as they annoy each other across the galaxy. In the end, they have a 2011esque situation, in which they have to deal with convincing an intelligent bomb to not blow up right outside the bomb bay, but the whole of the movie is a smart and witty, dorky and dumb affair that is quite entertaining to watch, and not at all annoying.
Ah yes, Mad Max. One of those “Who’s the best James Bond?” moments for me that sum up a key difference between youth and adulthood. When I was a teenager (at which point I saw each Bond movie generally once or twice a year) Roger Moore was my favorite Bond. With The Spy Who Loved Me being my favorite movie (and the one I saw the most at, I believe, 13 times in the theater)… Alas, as I grew up, I realized that Sean Connery had been the true master of the role and it was only my youthful naïveté that led me to think otherwise… And that Moore wasn’t even competition. I suppose that I was too young to understand at subtlety and was quite unfamiliar with real class.
Also around that same period Road Warrior came out. Now, while I was never fool enough to consider Beyond Thunderdome to be even passably watchable, when I was a teenager I did prefer the silly characters and the cartoonish and rambunctious action of Road Warrior over the subtlety, characters and dramatic story contained within Mad Max. Oh, boy… Was I foolish!
Mad Max is one of the great films of our time. A no-holds barred action flick, which, while cheaply made, also turned out very cool and with a deep emotional story. Mad Max is the story of a good man who does his job well and what happens to him and his ethics when tragedy is intentionally delivered unto him. Mel Gibson is Max Rockatansky, an Interceptor with the Main Force Patrol, the police department that is attempting to keep the peace (or at least, clean up the mess) in this vaguely post-apocalyptic remains of Australian civilization. While there is still some semblance of civilization around, the fringes of it are populated with roving gangs of ruthless criminals who make foul merry with any civilians that they encounter.
When the movie starts, a villain named Nightrider is tearing across the countryside, quoting AC/DC and goading on the Bronze (what the baddies call the MFP) who are pursuing him. That is, at least, until the baddest Bronze of all, Max, comes after him in his Interceptor. Keep in mind that this is filmdom’s coolest policeman ever, driving down the bad guys in the coolest car to ever grace the big screen.
While the MFP are pretty tough fellows, Max, Goose, Fifi and the rest seem to be losing the battle for stability against Tuecutter, The Nightrider and their brazen band of losers. After The Nightrider’s crazed chase is finally ended, his pals come seeking vengeance against the Bronze. Max starts to come apart while society is coming apart around him and after trying experiences with a corrupt and troublesome legal system, Max begins his blind drive towards complete vengeance against those who have wronged him and is driven to vigilantism, as he is not a guy to lie down when people come after him and his… So vengeance begets vengeance and a film legend is born.
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