Random Film of the Week: The Navy vs. The Night Monsters (1966)

tnvtnm

“You’re gonna stay in this picture and LIKE it, Mister!”

the navy vs the night monsters-MPFrom looking at this list in comparison with these much longer ones, it seems to me that in the 1960’s, science fiction flicks exclusively made in the US were in a bit of a rut. You can also see from those longer lists that horror films have fared far better and you can probably name quite a few memorable fright films from the era off the top of your head from Carnival of Souls, Night of the Living Dead, A few Herschel Gordon Lewis flicks, Rosemary’s Baby and many (many) more. Let’s just say that truncated list in the last sentence was about 20 or so films before common sense made me edit it down.

The reason I’m focusing on US-made films is simple. As other countries were just more prolific and innovative in their sci-fi films and during this time, the US seemed not to know what to do well despite kicking off and ending the decade with some pretty solid films (1960’s The Time Machine and 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey). Which brings us to one of the less stellar efforts of the decade, 1966’s The Navy vs The Night Monsters. The film looks and feels as if it was made a decade earlier and interestingly enough, the best thing about it is the actress playing the requisite eye candy, Mamie Van Doren. “Best” meaning she plays her role as straight as can be does it without chewing the scenery or mugging it up for zero laughs like some of the guys here do. Stripped of its silly jokes, it might have been a decent “B” flick, but hey – some things just won’t die a natural death.

Continue reading

Random Film of the Week: Brainstorm (1983)

brainstorm_03

What you really want to see when the nurses come for you…

brainstorm_MP1A few years back, The second thing I thought of when Facebook snapped up “virtual reality” headset maker Oculus was this flawed but still incredible 1983 sci-fi film directed by Douglas Trumbull. Unfortunately, Brainstorm slipped into theaters under the dark cloud of Natalie Wood’s mysterious off-set death as a work that some at the time debated should have been scrapped entirely. At the time, I liked Trumbull’s technical mastery more than the cast’s straightforward performances. Upon seeing the film again recently, I liked it more, but I also think it’s one of the few films where a modern remake would fix a few things such as sofa-sized and room-sized computers and those super-bulky tapes and that huge headset helmet prototype. Then again, that old tech is kind of what makes the film so effective, as it sure looks like all that wiring and doodads do something.

Despite some workman-like performances from its cast, Trumbull’s direction and his blending standard 35mm camerawork and outstanding widescreen shots of real life vistas and indoor locales plus assorted visual effects that predated IMAX in its use of dynamic screen ratio changes. The often stunning widescreen sequences were shot in Super Panavision 70 with an aspect ratio of 2.2:1 are the real stars here. Still, there’s an air of gloom that hangs over the entire film thanks to one character’s on-screen fate that makes you wish the thought-capturing device in the film actually existed, but had a ‘rewind life’ function added. As dry as the pedestrian plot is, the imagery is at times, some breathtaking stuff that mixes in mundane to high flying activities as the assorted fantasy to nightmare sequences play out.

(thanks, BreadCrustCouncil!)

Continue reading

Random Film of the Week: ALIEN³

(Thanks, THX1968!)

 

Alien 3_bI think it was sometime in mid-to late 1991 when I first saw the teaser trailer to ALIEN³ and had my eyeballs pop right out of my head followed by my jaw hitting the floor way too hard in the theater I saw it in. Ladies and gentlemen, do you know how hard it is to clean sticky goo off your eyeballs after they’ve rolled underneath a movie theater seat? Trust me, it ain’t easy. That and yuck-o, stale popcorn and half an old hot dog have the tendency to rather easily get into a fallen jaw if you let it sit down there for more than a minute flapping away in shock mode. Hey, I was busy trying to find my darn eyeballs, thank you much.

Needless to say, I was kind of shocked by this news that we’d get a third film in the franchise and it was coming in under a year. I wasn’t sure I liked the “On Earth, Everyone Can Hear You Scream” tagline at all and yes indeed, I thought bringing that cranky xenomorph to Earth was a bad (not a bad-ass) idea for a few key reasons. Although at that point, I was kind of screaming myself.

It seems 20th Century Fox may have agreed (or at least was pulling a fast one on us because they didn’t really have an idea about the film they were planning to make), as a few months later, this was the follow up trailer:

 

(Thanks, Media Graveyard!)

 

After gathering up my eyeballs and jaw again and handing a few people in the theater their eyeballs that rolled under and around my seat (which was quite interesting as I had to wait until the guy who picked up one of my eyeballs by mistake returned it or today I’d be the Jane Seymour version of myself or something like that), I took time to take in the trailer. Bald Ripley. Bald bad men, some bald men screaming and running, NO weapons at all and a reused music cue from the previous film had me both puzzled and really curious as to how the helllllll Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley character was going to get out of this new mess. That said, the art direction and sets looked solid and that finale bit with the Alien getting too close to Ripley had me intrigued as hell, as did my wondering who the heck was this David Fincher guy directing the film.

There were other trailers and eventually TV spots that arrived before and after the film was released, but I was sold before that point to the point that even if I didn’t like the final product, I had the feeling it would be really interesting and maybe even impressive.  Let’s just say I kind of got my money’s worth more on the visual side of things and a temporary gumball substitute for an eye after I picked up the first round object that I could touch after they popped out again.

Continue reading

Random Film Of The Week: Predator 2

predator_2_ver1As sequels go, Predator 2 shouldn’t even work as well as it does. But here it is in all its Hollywood circa 1990 R-rated violent glory, still making me laugh both with and at it. Granted, you need a particular sense of humor to appreciate the film as a whole, as trying to pick it apart into chunks of good and bad ends up wrecking the work put into making it completely bonkers yet a total blast to sit down with for a spell.

As Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t available for this sequel thanks to disagreements over his fee (something a little film called Terminator 2: Judgment Day would take care of forever), the film dropped his Dutch character and moves the setting ten years ahead to a sweaty 1997 Los Angeles where a heat wave and gang warfare lure in a new Predator for some urban hunting action. Inspired casting abounds here, with Danny Glover leading the way as Lieutenant Michael Harrigan, a not quite by the book cop who, like others in these sorts of action flicks, has unconventionally heroic means of getting the job done. Reuben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso and Bill Paxton also play cops working with Harrigan as Jamaican and Colombian drug gangs blast each other as well as anyone that happens to get between them.

(Thanks, Forever Horror!) 

When the bulk of the Colombian gang is wiped out in what looks like a ritualistic sacrifice, Harrigan and his team immediately suspect the Jamaicans. But the loss of one of his team reveals there’s a third party at work here and Harrigan sets out to get to the bottom of things and possibly get some revenge in the process. Little does he realize that the bottom of things is very literally under the steaming streets in the form of a trophy packed alien ship. Continue reading

Guardians of the Galaxy Headed to Home Video in November and December. Talk About a Holiday “Surprise”!

I wish I were more of a betting man, as I predicted well before it was released Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy would be out for the holidays (as in Christmas) and yep, it’s making it out earlier than that as in before Thanksgiving on Digital 3D and HD Digital (November 18) and before Christmas on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand (December 9!). This new normal of movies shooting out on disc and legal download so soon after being released still drives me somewhat batty, as it’s almost not worth going to the movies because I prefer to see films in the comfort of my own home without worrying about nasty theater situations, screaming kids and now, Ebola (heh, I had to get that in because every news channel is screaming mad cow over this latest fear). Yaaaaaaah!

Er, anyway… I finally saw GotG in a pretty decent theater and a few kinks aside, in my opinion it’s one of the better recent Marvel Studios movies. Granted, I prefer the stuffier more noble Star-Lord from his second Marvel Preview appearance (issue 11 with that wonderful Byrne/Austin artwork), but the kids like that newer snarkier model just fine and Chris Pratt did a stellar job as the character. Well, this one goes on the gift to me list at some point. Damn list is getting longer by the second, but I need to stock up on entertainment for the Ebola-free bunker, right?

Guardians of the Galaxy Clip Joint: What You See Isn’t Even Close To What You’ll Get…

So, some early reviews are in and all are stating this is not only one of the best movies this summer, but quite possibly the best Marvel movie to date. I figured all of those end credits scenes were adding up to something and from what I’ve read (and heard from someone who was at a screening), fans will be knocked off their feet a few times and then some.

One thing I figured that would work from the start with these films was having different directors with different styles working on different franchises similar to how different writers and artists work on the different comics. While there’s a certain uniformity to elements of the look and continuity across each of the films since the first Iron Man, it’s been fun to watch most of these movies and see how a particular director’s vision works within the (Disney) Marvel Universe.

James Gunn seemed like the oddest choice to direct GotG at first, but his own offbeat sense of humor and musical tastes have spilled over into the film and works well to the point where he’s probably going to be the go-to guy for the next film with this team… Continue reading

Guardians of the Galaxy Featurette 2/TV Spot 5: Settling In For The Long Haul (And Reliable Predictability)…

 
I’d say right about now that Guardians of the Galaxy will indeed be comfortably predictable on a few fronts. I usually go in to these movies with zero expectations, but I suppose I have to accept the fact that Marvel wants fans to know they’re getting the full meal deal here: LOADS of in-jokes, some serious stuff in between the jokes, plenty of last-minute escapes and plot twist or four and some fun use of music if you happen to be well-aged and savvy about such things or just happen to “get” the musical stuff the film drops into your ears when it does.

 
And yes, you HAVE to stick around until the credits roll because there’s going to be a surprise reveal that ties into previous and upcoming Marvel movies that some fans will be wanting to drop that ticket and merchandise money on. All that is a given at this point because messing with the formula (as formulaic and formic as it can be) is a recipe for confusion among some folks. But it’s something that works well for what it’s worth, so I’m not complaining much (if at all)…

Guardians of the Galaxy TV Spot 1: Call In The Criminals!

 
And so it begins, the deluge of TV spots for this most eagerly awaited of all the recent Marvel movies. If this one fails to do well (although all signs point to it doing very well indeed), there goes the sort of “indie” pillar Marvel was looking for in getting more than just superhero fans to embrace their new and improved lineup of upcoming film, TV and online projects. My money’s on this being a surprise hit, but in looking over the other properties, there are a few weak links that aren’t assured to be major hits thanks to a few things such as digital distribution not being something everyone wants or can access when they want where they want when it comes to getting those new shows. Granted, the success of other shows being binge-watched by too many people is a huge draw for anyone who wants to produce content that they feel will be snapped up by the eager masses who want it. On the other hand, alienating that part of the audience that’s not willing or able to buy in is never a good thing as no one likes to be told “You can’t have it!” when they indeed, WANT it. But I’m getting ahead of myself here (as always)…

Alien Abduction: (So Far) This One’s Not For The Birds…

AlienAbduction_1sheet 

(thanks, Joblomovienetwork!) 
Hmmm. Usually, these modern sci-fi/horror flicks don’t phase me one bit because it’s all the same thing they try for and often fail at miserably on a few fronts. I do like what I see here so far from Alien Abduction, although I may be the only one who finds films about alien abductions pretty dull in general (sorry, Barney and Betty Hill!). That said, this is one to watch for me when it suddenly pops up on cable a few months from now. The sci-fi/horror genre certainly needs a good kick to the pants, so here’s to hoping this one delivers the goods and then some…

Transformers: Age of Extinction Trailer: Bay of Picks of the Litter? We’ll See…

 
While I’ve seen the three previous films and way too many of the cartoons to count, I’m not a huge fan of the Transformers movies and their CG overkill, nor do I revere those old animated series as some sort of overall canonical tome that cannot be tampered with. That said, it looks as if this one’s going to be more “serious” than previous installments,, but then again you can’t tell by a two and a half minute plus trailer how the quality of the final flick will be. Mr. Bay seems to have spent that studio money up but good here and based on the usual polarized response this teaser has gotten, I’d say this will make a Megatron full of money (ah ha ha… Hey, pure corn is my specialty, folks!). Then again, if this is the last of the series (and to quote the late Godfather of Soul, James Brown: “Please, Please, Please!”*), it’s certainly going out with a bang. We’ll see on June 27th what’s what, I suppose. Check that: YOU’LL see before I will, as I’ve sat out the last two films until they popped up on cable.

*Yeah, I do KNOW that classic song is about JB wanting someone to NOT leave him, but for this franchise, that cape has come out too many times and it’s done every encore it can think of…