Monday, March 27, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Starship Troopers (1997)

A few thoughts: Paul Verhouven, after the critical and financial flop that was Showgirls, shifted gears from the erotic back into his wheelhouse: action with a brain. Though some people will blindly call this movie propoganda, those are the same people I would call "idiots" as they've missed the entire point in the movie. This is an incredible satire and one of the most intelligently constructed action films of the 1990s, right alongside Total Recall. I love how Verhouven builds his worlds through the use of media within the film's universe. In this case, he does it through propoganda pro-war footage, which shapes the mindset of the characters. It's these kind of clever details that make this movie warrant multiple viewings. The action set pieces are great, and while there is an overuse of CG, the effects found here hold up surprisingly well even 20 years later. The acting is bad, but that's almost on purpose here. This is a movie with few faults, most of them functioning equally as well as strengths.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Quatermass And The Pit (1967)

A few thoughts: As the fan of Hammer and sci-fi that I am, this movie sounded like a match made in Heaven just for me. And while I did enjoy it and found the premise clever and interesting enough to keep my attention, I wasn't as invested in this one as I thought I might be. This is an incredibly '60s film filled with all the slick set designs and technology found in classic Star Trek and Bond movies. The acting is passable and the pacing is solid (with a few sluggish and hokey moments), but it's in the end of the movie that the film really establishes itself as something uniquely special. This movie goes totally bonkers in the last 20 minutes or so, and in the best sort of way. Though it doesn't stand up too well against some of the better science fiction shows and movies of the time, it would ultimately be incredibly unfair to pit (PUN!!!) this one up against titans like Star Trek, so make sure to go in with your expectations tempered, fully aware of the clunkiness of the script and outlandish nature of the film's finale.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Turbo Kid (2015)

A few thoughts: The first time I watched this movie, I really liked it. The second time, I kind of loved it. As you've probably noticed by the kind of movies I generally talk about, I have a deep love of '80s cinema. That, to me, was the decade that brought about some of the best genre films and shaped the future of the industry (for better or worse). So when I watch a new movie that doesn't just pay tribute to the '80s (which is pretty easy to do, really) but rather create its own environment and atmosphere that holds up as its own distinct vision and design, I get pretty excited. The chemistry between the two leads are the emotional core of the movie, and honestly it actually works here pretty well and much better than anticipated. I cared about what was going on, and wanted to see them get out alive. Michael Ironside gets to show everyone up as the main villain and he does an excellent job at being sinister -- as always. It's a bloody fun movie and I don't just mean that in the British sense.

Monday, March 20, 2017

200 Items Or Less: From Beyond (1986)

A few thoughts: The '80s marked the pinnacle of body horror and one of the central figures in this movement was Stuart Gordon, who directed this as well as Re-Animator. While I definitely prefer the latter and find it much more fun to watch, this is a movie that is very easy to love if you're fond of practical effects, makeup, and prosthetics. One of the other great things about this movie is its pacing, which never comes to a crawl and manages to keep things interesting throughout its entirety. The lighting and set design is fantastic, adding to the dark and weird atmosphere that makes this movie so special. Jeffrey Coombs and Ken Foree are memorable, as always, though they have both been better a couple of other times before. As far as horror actors go, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better on-screen pairing outside of the Universal classics and Hammer's earlier efforts. While I can't say I love it, this is a solid movie and one of the better Lovecraftian films.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

200 Items Or Less: First Blood (1982)

A few thoughts: As far as action stars go, few rank quite as high as Stallone. And of all his action roles, Rambo is his greatest character (no, I'm not counting Rocky). As the series progressed, the body count flew up higher and higher, but it's with this first movie that Rambo left the strongest impression, capturing the emotional side of a badass highly trained killer. This is one of the rare films of the '80s that succeeds both as an action movie and as an effective drama, giving Stallone more than enough material in both categories. The set pieces are stripped down (for the most part) and allow for creative battles, slowly escalating to all-out war. While I generally gravitate towards the ridiculous in regards to '80s action, the restraint found in this movie is both admirable and wholly successful in creating a realistic atmosphere out of something that might have otherwise been overblown action-porn. The cast is great, the writing is great, and the series this movie spawned was...well, never boring.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

A few thoughts: 1957 was a pretty crazy year for horror (and sci-fi), varying from the birth of Hammer's gothic horror to the introduction of teen exploitation, as well as featuring several examples of corny alien invasions and giant monster pictures. A bit of everything, really. That being said, possibly the most interesting of all was this existential horror adventure. This is an impressive movie, from its scope to the execution of visually interesting and tricky effects. At its core, this is among the most terrifying movies of the 1950s, in spite of being pulled off in an adventurous way that is oddly misleading but ultimately effective. This is a very emotional movie that handles it's subject in a serious manner, never allowing itself to fall victim to its own inherent goofiness. Much like the greatest science fiction, this is a story that makes you think and sticks with you long after it's over. It makes household objects into the setting for an adventure and manages to be fun, haunting, and exhilarating at every turn.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Candyman (1992)

A few thoughts: Considered the first (or at least among the first) horror movies centered on an urban legend, Candyman is a fantasy slasher of the post-Elm Street era that I feel gains much more praise than it deserves due to a general lack of strong horror films of its time and the small changes it brought forth within the genre. While the setup is interesting and well-built as a thriller, the eventual payoff leaves you feeling slightly underwhelmed, never fully meeting its horrific potential. Virginia Madsen is solid in the lead, but it's Tony Todd's performance as the titular villain that steals the show here, with his otherworldly deep voice and presence adding a great deal to the myth and danger of his character. In a lot of ways, this movie feels like it could have been an Elm Street movie with a few rewrites, but I still prefer Freddy even if he isn't as creepy. This is a pretty solid movie, but as I said before I don't see it as the highlight of '90s horror that many have deemed it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Tremors (1990)

A few thoughts: The modern monster movie is largely made up of big CG effects and very little character development. Tremors, while not as distinctly "modern" as something like Pacific Rim or Legendary's Godzilla from a few years back, marks one of the last examples of more classic creature features before the modern age of CG and relentless action without consequence or ingenuity. And after watching this again more recently I can say with some certainty that the effects, writing, and structure of this movie are far greater than what comes out today. With its use of miniatures, models and other practical effects, this is one that still stands as an effective and ingenius film. While some of the acting is lacking (I consider this one of Kevin Bacon's weakest performances), the characters feel genuine and keep the story light and intense. It's just a really well-balanced movie, and a reminder of the ingenuity required of filmmakers in the 20th century.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Hellraiser (1987)

A few thoughts: I first watched this one about 6-7 years ago and didn't like it. I probably just didn't appreciate practical effects as much back then as I do now because the past several times I've watch this I've been amazed at how well so many of these effects hold up. This movie is bloody, grotesque, and at times difficult to watch with how totally disgusting some of the body horror in it is, which makes me like it even more. Because I'm a sicko. You add in the creepiness of the set design, an eerie score, fantastic lighting, and the introduction of one of the greatest horror icons of all-time, and you've got yourself one fantastic horror movie. Easily among my favorites of the '80s, maybe even all-time. It has its flaws, but they're minor enough that I'm willing to overlook them due to the effectiveness of everything surrounding them. This movie is just really creepy and impressive to watch. And it apparently only cost roughly $1 million to make, which is ludicrously cheap all things considered.

Friday, March 10, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Flash Gordon (1980)

A few thoughts: From the wrong perspective, this movie could be seen a something of a disaster. The acting is mostly awful, the writing isn't much better, and certain special effects sequences wouldn't be out of place in a movie over a decade older than this, but with all of its quirks and poor execution there is a charm to this movie that can't be matched by most special effects extravaganzas that are perhaps pulled off "better" than this. The characters are memorable, the sets look pretty awesome, and even in its failures you can tell there was actual effort to make something great here. Even when it falls short it winds up at worst laughable, and when it succeeds it's pretty fun and exciting. This is an excellent movie to watch with friends who want to enjoy themselves but not have to force themselves to sit through something as drainingly inept as The Room or Troll 2. It's just good enough to be fun, and bad enough to be even better. Also, it has Max Von Sydow hamming it up -- which is awesome.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Thing From Another World (1951)

A few thoughts: The first evil alien invader movie of the 1950s (at least that I'm aware of), and what a great start for a decade filled with them. Notable for its overlapping Howard Hawks-ian dialogue, and for the fact that when the characters in the movie are in a cold room, you can actually see their breath. It's little touches like this that make all the difference, not to mention the fact that this is already one of the most important sci-fi movies of the 1950s. The characters are well written - they mostly behave like believable people, and the way they interact feels very natural - which makes the danger they're in all the more effective. This isn't a simple giant monster eating tons of people movie, as most of the action takes place off-screen, and the "thing" looks mostly human. Definitely different from the 1981 remake, which is possibly even better in its own way, but that doesn't take away from how great this one is.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

200 Items Or Less: It Came from Outer Space (1953)

A few thoughts: As a fan of movies about aliens invading a small town, killing and eating the townsfolk, and being defeated in the end by unlikely heroes, it should come as no surprise that this was a very fun watch for me. It's actually much more intelligent than what I described and manages to stand out from the crowd in an era riddled with these clich├ęd b-movies. I loved the creature design (what little you see of them), and I found the second act twist a very likely change of pace, adding much more depth and personality to the creatures. This isn't as generic as the name might imply. The effects are wonderfully dated, but it never takes away from the enjoyment factor -- honestly, I think it only enhances it. I think in the end, this isn't a sci-fi/horror movie that stands as particularly get within either genre, but more as a solid blend of both, and a pretty insightful look at hysteria and fear of the unknown. It hits all the right notes and definitely stands the test of time.

Monday, March 6, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Forbidden Planet (1956)

A few thoughts: While I know a lot of people throw out hyperbole like it's going out of style (please let it go out of style...), I feel it's worth noting that this is quite possibly the greatest science fiction film ever made. From the intricate sets, badass robot design, ahead-of-its-time special effects, great character development, and sheer inventiveness in its scope and ideas, there is so much to love about this movie it's hard to compress it to under 200 words. One of the first movies to be set almost entirely on a different planet, this movie handled weirdly complex ideas and pulled them off so successfully it managed to leave strong enough of an impact on Gene Roddenberry to be a key inspiration for Star Trek -- which itself is among the most substantial science fiction works of the 21st century. There's plenty of humor to be found here, tons of great visuals to keep your eyes busy, and a strong plot that keeps your mind active throughout. It's a complete, geniusely crafted film that's among my absolute favorite movies of the 1950s -- maybe even of all time.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Reefer Madness (1936)

A few thoughts: When it comes to pure, unadulterated propoganda, few movies are as infamously misinformed and wildly entertaining as Reefer Madness, an anti-marihuana PSA that recently celebrated its 80th anniversary. From the very beginning, you're treated with one of the greatest opening text crawls of all time, and while it does slow down with the laughs, the absurdity on display never fully lets up. Attempting to blend documentary elements with an actual narrative, this "gritty expose" runs at a tight 60-70 minutes, every moment filled with hilariously bad acting, writing, and direction all of which tring to shock you into fearing this drug menace that's sweeping the nation. And no, you don't have to be high or do drugs at all to find this movie funny -- I personally have no interest in this monstrous drug demon. But if you can't at least let out an occasional chuckle at the insanity and ineptitude of this movie, I feel bad for you. Classic garbage.

Friday, March 3, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Cemetery Man (1994)

A few thoughts: Italian horror has never really been my strong suit, but I can generally appreciate certain elements of this type of film. While this movie doesn't have the incredible dynamic visuals of one of Bava's efforts or the particularly memorable music of an Argento film, this movie has one element that is generally sorely lacking in a majority of Italian horror movies: a good sense of humor. Based on the works of the creator of Dylan Dog (this is similar, but not quite the same), there's a very sick sense of humor and personality brought to this movie thanks mostly to Rupert Everett, who is the kind of actor who always brings a smarmy charm to his roles and can make anything watchable. Luckily the material here is interesting and the visuals are pretty neat (if a little grubby), so it doesn't all fall on his shoulders to carry the movie. It isn't the greatest horror comedy around, but it's funny, tense, and looks good while doing it. An upper echelon zombie movie.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

A few thoughts: I'd always considered this one of Wes Anderson's better movies until rewatching it just a few days ago, but now I can say it's definitely among the bottom two or three as it lacks much of the humor and absurd quirks that define many of his other more inspired efforts. That being said, this is still a very good movie that's charming, funny, and filled with more melancholy than a majority of his other movies (The Life Aquatic being the big exception here). The main cast of Wilson, Brody and Schwartzman play off each other perfectly, convincingly handling the difficult task of playing believable brothers, which is a rare thing for movies to capture. The Indian setting was beautiful and a perfect match for Wes' yellowed palette, helping to make this one of his most visually lovely films -- which is itself a remarkable feat. I still really this movie in spite of its relative lack of humor, but I don't love it now nearly as much as I used to.