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September 1, 2019

A Binge too Far #6: Psycho Cop duo (1989 – 1993)

Robert R. Shafer as Psycho Cop (1989).
It was inevitable that after the indie success of Maniac Cop (1988) rip-offs and imitations would flood the market, and so it happened. But whereas that slasher classic was the work of masters and/or talented people in front and behind the camera, such as Tom Atkins and Bruce Campbell, and William Lusting and Larry Cohen, the Psycho Cop duo (1989 – 1993) almost seems like the work of amateurs.
Psycho Cop (1989) poster.

Psycho Cop (1989)

Six vacationing college students (that as is so often the case in 1980s slashers, appear to be much too old to still be in school, yet all of them are so dumb that I guess they could probably still be students after missing an exam too many) are terrorized by a – you guessed it – psycho cop (Robert R. Shafer, in an unintentionally comedic performance), who is offing them one by one for no other reason than him probably being a Satanist (we see him messing around with a pentagram or two).

Writer/director Wallace Potts (he had previously helmed a couple of adult films) is offering some of the silliest dialogues you’ll ever get to hear, and the experience of watching the film is actually torturous, as at even 87 minutes, it feels much longer. However, for reasons I cannot determine, the end result actually resembles a real movie of sorts, which wasn’t the case with most of the similar straight-to-video product from the era. If there is one winning element here is the soundtrack by Alex Parker and Keyth Pisani, which is above average for this kind of thing.

Psycho Cop 2 (1993) poster.
Psycho Cop 2 (1993)

Improving upon the original, this sequel is about a bunch of yuppies that organize an afterhours party with alcohol, drugs, and strippers (Julie Strain is involved, and introduced as Penthouse Pet of the Year), that will become damned by the stalking of the titular man of law (returning Robert R. Shafer, unintentionally funny as always). Whereas the original was tame (and you didn’t actually know why the psycho cop would kill the main cast since they didn’t really offend his typical-for-1980s conservative sensibilities) this one is full of sex and nudity, which is something that gives some sort of motive to film’s villain (you know, the whole sex and death angle that is prevalent in many low budget horror movies from that era). However director Adam Rifkin (credited here as Rif Coogan) doesn’t offer much more other than a rebellious finale that is both fitting and empowering.

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August 1, 2019

Static Age #5

The Day of the Triffids (1981) frame from the credit sequence.
As the present column is still in its infancy, moderations are still happening in order to make it as enjoyable as possible, and you will now notice that the film and book sections have gone, and we’ll be focusing on television exclusively. Have fun!

The Day of the Triffids (1981) DVD.
The spotlight of this Static Age’s goes to The Day of the Triffids (1981), directed by Ken Hannam and produced by David Maloney for BBC, which is considered somewhat of a classic of its kind (i.e. 1980s U.K. event television), but I found it to be quite amateurish. However, it is only 6 episodes long (25 minutes each), so it never becomes too tiresome.

I also caught up with the following recent shows…

SyFy’s 4th season of Channel Zero (2016 – 2018) is called The Dream Door and it is about a young couple whose crisis may be going through an emotional crisis (mainly due to the woman’s anxiety attacks and other such psychological issues), but the sex is still good, and they happen to move to a house that the guy inherited from his parents, which is the same that he grew up at. What’s weird though is that soon a strange door appears at their basement that wasn’t there before. It takes them some time to open it and they’ll wish they never had. Terror and fear in this creepy fuck written by Nick Antosca and directed by E.L. Katz, which is easily the best season of the series so far. Featuring a hideous clown that is as good with acrobatics as he is with murdering and that may or may not be real, along with the acting services of terror film legend Barbara Crampton, this is one that should not be missed.

Black Mirror - Season 4
Creator Charlie Brooker’s masterful 4th season of Black Mirror (2011 – present) proves once again that what we have here is the Twilight Zone for the millennial generation. ‘USS Callister’ is about Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons) who by using D.N.A. sample drags his colleagues to a digital world where he’s the boss and bully. ‘Arkangel’, directed by Jodie Foster, is about the titular company that is implanting chips to our kids’ heads in order for our god-like presence to control them at all times. ‘Crocodile’ is about Mia Nolan (the gorgeous Andrea Riseborough) who commits a series of murders out of necessity, but the emerging surveillance technology may be on her tail. ‘Hang the DJ’ is basically a love story set in the world of a match-making program; it is a favorite episode amongst fans, but I found it boring. ‘Metalhead’ is about a robot dog that hunts a woman. ‘Black Museum’ is an anthology episode and it works surprisingly well.

Creator Jonathan E. Steinberg’s 2nd season of Human Target (2010 – 2011) explores further adventures of bodyguard-for-hire Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) and his sidekicks, and is even more formulaic than its sophomore outing, albeit a bit more watchable due to that factor, featuring several action stunts (including fights, explosions, and shootouts) as well the mandatory attractive women that is the staple in such supposedly ‘cool’ fare. The ‘Dead Head’ episode employs Motorhead’s famous ‘Ace of Spades’ tune. ‘The Other Side of the Mall’ episode employs Joey Ramone’s ‘What a Wonderful World’ cover. The overall excellent ‘Kill Bob’ episode employs The Prodigy’s ‘Breathe’.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina - Season 1
While watching the 1st season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018 – present) I had constant debates with my wife on whether the series are pro-Satan (my opinion) or feminist (her opinion), but now that I write those lines I think that we might be both very right. Based upon the famous Archie comics, this is about the titular teenage semi-witch (Kiernan Shipka), who finds herself involved in all sorts of Gothic adventures that are reminiscent of the best works of Tim Burton (yeah, those from the 1990s). The soundtrack is amazing too, and includes classics such as Blondie’s ‘Atomic’, The Ronette’s ‘Be My Baby’, and Velvet Underground’s ‘Venus in Furs’.

Masters of Science Fiction - Season 1
The 1st (and sole) season of Masters of Science Fiction (2007) is hosted by Professor Stephen Hawking and consists of 6 anthology episodes. ‘A Clean Escape’ is based upon a short story by John Kessel (adapted for the screen by Sam Egan and directed by Mark Rydell, and it is set in a post-apocalypse world while it focuses in the weird relationship between a psychiatrist (Judy Davis) and her patient (Sam Waterston). ‘The Awakening’ is about an alien invasion and it is featuring Terry O’Quinn and William B. Davis. ‘Jerry was a Man’ is based upon a short story by Robert A. Heinlein (adapted for the screen by Michael Tolkin, who also directed) and is about a trial that will determine whether a robot with human D.N.A. is a person or a thing; Malcolm McDowell plays the robot’s creator. ‘Little Brother’ is about a Kafka-like trial set in outer space; starring John Hurt. ‘Watchbird’ is set in a futuristic world in which drones that resemble small spaceships prevent killings with their laser guns. ‘The Discarded’ is based upon a short story by Harlan Ellison (adapted for the screen by him and John Olson, and directed by Jonathan Frakes) and it is about alien misfits; starring John Hurt.

Blade: The Series - Season 1
Created by David S. Goyer, the 1st (and sole) season of Blade: The Series (2006) is about the titular Marvel semi-vampire (played by rapper Sticky Fingaz) that hunts bad vampires, and it consists of 12 episodes, the first of which is of feature length. The series are nowhere near as good as the feature that inspired them, but still very enjoyable viewing fare. The final battle is quite epic too. Bear in mind though that the show is particularly gory and is also featuring the occasional glimpse of a boob, so you may not want your kids to see it.

Also created by David S. Goyer (and Daniel Cerone), the 1st (and sole) season of Constantine (2014 – 2015) is about the adventures of the titular British antihero-like exorcist (Matt Ryan) who has to face a variety of demons. I didn’t like the feature film that spawned these series, so I don’t know why I signed up for this, but I quite liked it (the special effects in particular, are amazing) and it is even somewhat scary at places (it mostly resembles a modern horror film, rather than a superhero one, despite it being a DC Comics production). It’s fun seeing all these church lunatics going berserk with devil possessions and all. Renowned director Neil Marshall directs two episodes.

Shootouts and car crashes are aplenty in the 1st season of Taken (2017 – 2018), an actioner created by Luc Besson and Alexander Cary, based upon the same-titled hit film from 2008. The story here concerns ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills (Clive Standen) whose sister is killed and he is now out for revenge. In the meanwhile he will undertake several other cases, ranging from Islamic terrorism suspects to convicted serial killers. It is overall much better than I was expecting it to be.

Jessica Jones - Season 3
The ultra-gorgeous and as powerful titular hero (Krysten Ritter) of Jessica Jones (2015 – 2019) returns in the series’ 3rd and final season, in which she will search for Trish Walker (Rachel Taylor) who has gone missing, amidst a perfect neo-noir backdrop. Once she is found (in the second episode, or so), it becomes apparent that all she really want despite her lousy job as a television saleswoman, is to re-connect with her sister, and in order to do that she will go as far as to become a super-hero of sorts herself. The problem really arises when the mighty duo will have to team against demented serial killer Gregory Sallinger (an excellent Jeremy Bobb). This is Marvel’s best series so far, and it is a pity it got cancelled.

The 2nd season of Westworld (2016 – present) takes us back to the titular western movie-like amusement park in which human visitors have fun at the expense of human-like robots. This season starts from where the previous one left, namely the rebellion of the robots, and how the humans try via the aid of armed soldiers to restore the supposed order. Nowhere near as entertaining as the first season, this is one of those shows that are intelligent enough to make you think about big questions in regard to life and control, but it just not too much fun as a sci-fi vehicle. Being as philosophical as these series are, expectedly they offer more questions than answers. The movies were very exciting, this show not so much. J.J. Abrams is one of the executive producers and the cast is stellar (Jeffrey Wright and Ed Harris return and they are particularly outstanding).


Stranger Things - Season 3
It is impossible to say anything about creators Duffer brothers’ 3rd season of Stranger Things (2016 – present) without revealing any spoilers, so since I am convinced that pretty much everybody will sooner or later catch up with Netflix’s best show yet, I will say nothing about its plot. Set in the mid-1980s and with cultural references to boot (from awesome music to amazing toys and from ancient household devises to obsolete cars) this a retro movie fan’s wet dream, although it also comes with several cool monsters (the CGI are much better this time around), essentially creating an unmatched entertainment event. Event series such as these should be better with each season and this one achieves just that by being the best one yet. And yes, Winona Ryder is still the most attractive woman in the universe. Highly recommended.

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July 1, 2019

A Binge too Far #5: The Beastmaster trilogy (1982 – 1996)

Dar (Marc Singer) and a tiger, in a frame from The Beastmaster (1982)
I sincerely don’t like the ‘sword and sandal’ genre, but since I was in the mood of catching up with it a little bit, I thought I’d give a shot at some classics; thereby I present you my views on The Beastmaster trilogy (1982 – 1996).
The Beastmaster (1982) poster

The Beastmaster (1982)

A king’s son, Dar (TV actor Marc Singer), is hunted by baddie priest Maax [Rip Torn, later in Men in Black (1997)] and has to flee away from his father’s kingdom and live with another family. When his father is murdered by savages, the male lead will discover that he communicates with animals so well that he can use them to ploy his revenge; therefore the title.

Shot in deserted valleys just outside California (doubling for epic locations from another time) by renowned cinematographer John Alcott [A Clockwork Orange (1971)], this looks way better than it has any right to (the budget was a mere $9 million). Its PG rating and humor reveal that it is indeed entertainment for the whole family (I mean, how could it not be with all those adorable cute animals leading the thing?), but the occasional boob glimpse (Tanya Roberts is here) makes this one for the whore family as well.

Written by Don Coscarelli (who also directed) and Paul Pepperman (based upon Andre Norton’s novel, albeit sans credit), this was a big box-office success (it grossed $14.1 million) and became a TV favorite as well, therefore a franchise was born.

Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal...
Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991)

The protagonist’s evil half-brother Arklon (Wings Hauser, no introduction needed) and his ally (and equally evil) witch Lyranna [Sarah Douglas from Superman (1978)] travel into the future (via a time portal) and arrive in present day Los Angeles in particular where they plot to purchase a neutron bomb. Dar (a now aged Marc Singer, looking ridiculous in hero attire) and his animal friends must stop them.

The Back to the Future trilogy (1985 – 1990) was a big thing back then, and this is the approach employed here by the story (it was written by Jim Wynorski and R.J. Robertson and it was turned into the screenplay by that same duo and Sylvio Tabet, Ken Hauser, and Doug Miles) and the promotional materials (I mean, check out the font and colors of the film’s title). This approach is nothing unusual in the world of exploitation cinema, and the faults of this particular entry is its running time, which although it is a bit shorter than the first film, it is still much too long for its own good.

This is probably because by that stage, the straight-to-video guys took over, and other than the aforementioned people involved with the script (a few of them need to introduction), you should note that this was shot by Rohn Schmidt [The Terror Within (1989)], edited by Adam Bernardi [Ghoulies Go to College (1990)], directed by Sylvio Tabet (the franchise’s producer; Jim Wynorski was originally slated to directed, but plans changed at the last moment, leading to a court battle), and  stars Robert Z’Dar [Maniac Cop (1988)], proving that things could indeed get cheaper. In an amazing meta moment, a theater marquee is advertising the current film! Made on a $6 million budget, it grossed less than $1 million, becoming essentially a flop.
Beastmaster III: The Eye of...

Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus (1996)

Baddie Lord Agon [David Warner from John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (1994)] kidnaps King Tal [Casper Van Dien from Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999)], and now it is up to the poor guy’s brother and titular hero Dar (Marc Singer, looking surprisingly in good form) and his friend Seth (Tony Todd, looking much too elegant to be here) to save the day. Will they make it against the titular monster (Michael Deak, a monster never looked that much like a guy-in-a-suit since the glorious 1950s)?

By 1996 the straight-to-television had taken over, as this was directed by Gabrielle Beaumont (a craftsman that has worked exclusively for the small screen), and it comes complete with sill sound effects and laughable sets; hell, even the soundtrack by Jan Hammer is outrageously bad. And, I didn’t get the bromance finale at all, were the two male leads supposed to be gay? Thankfully, it is much shorter than the previous two entries.

Conclusion


Consisting of a good film and two monster dogs, Beastmaster is a classic franchise of its kind, so if you are a fan of the genre you should definitely check it out, although you probably already have. In 1999 the Beastmaster was turned into a TV series that lasted for 3 seasons, but this is a story that I will not be telling.

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June 1, 2019

Static Age #4

Jack Torrance (Steve Weber) in a frame from Mick Garris' The Shining (1997)
As nowadays I resort more and more to streaming rather than physical media, I decided to accompany the text mostly with relevant art and posters, rather than DVD and BD box-art, and I hope you enjoy!

The Shining (1997) DVD box art.
This Static Age’s spotlight goes to The Shining (1997) which is about recovering alcoholic writer Jack Torrance (Steven Weber) who moves temporarily with his wife (Rebecca De Mornay) and son (Wil Horneff) to an abandoned hotel in order to find inspiration for his next novel. However, what he finds is his personal demons that drive him mad as he becomes more and more dangerous for himself and his family. Based upon Stephen King’s legendary same-titled novel, this consists of 3 feature length episodes that were directed by his go-to guy Mick Garris, and they may be much more faithful to the source material than you-know which classic, but they’re not anywhere near as exciting.

I also caught up with the following recent shows…

Created and written by Nick Antosca, and based upon the ‘Search and Rescue’ story by Kerry Hammond, the 3nd season of Channel Zero (2016 – present) is about young woman Alice Woods (Olivia Luccardi) who just moved into a small American town in which people disappear during a series of happenings that may all be due to the superficial presence of some mysterious staircases. Starring Rutger Hauer, and featuring Riz Ortolani’s theme song from Cannibal Holocaust (1980), SyFy’s original terror series are offering one more winner season.

Black Mirror - Season 3
The 3rd season of Black Mirror (2011 – present) anthological series is offering three more horror stories/episodes inspired by the dangers of technology. The first episode, ‘Nosedive’ is about a gorgeous woman (Bryce Dallas Howard) who wants to increase her social media rating and popularity and in order to achieve that she is forcing herself into a fake world of likability and pretensions, so terrifying in fact, that it may ultimately destroy her, in what has to be one of the series’ most intimidating stories, due to the fact that we’re not actually too far away from becoming the world it depicts. ‘Playtest’ is about American traveller Cooper Redfield (Wyatt Russell), who ends up penniless in England, where he takes a job as a game tester, only to find out that his worse fears will come to life and then some. ‘Shut Up and Dance’ is about several seemingly random people that get cyber-bullied into a scheme during which they would have to complete several tasks (as ordered by an unknown messenger on their mobile phones) if they want their secrets to remain secret. ‘San Junipero’ is an interracial lesbian love story, and I can only wish it would have been better, because as it is, it is the weakest entry in this season. ‘Men Against Fire’ is about soldiers fighting against some creatures called roaches (resembling a cross between vampires and zombies) and it is as awesome as it sounds. ‘Hated in the Nation’ is a feature-length masterpiece about an online game the hashtag of which allows you to vote for the public figure you would like to see dying next, and afterwards it employs technologically enhanced bees to do the dirty work.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 5
The 5th season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013 – present) kicks-off with a double episode in which the titular heroes find themselves entrapped in a spaceship in outer space, and from then on a variety of adventures ensue, in what has to be the darker season of the series so far and for that we should be thankful. Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) is a nerdy doll, as always. Plus, the season finale is so spectacular that would be worthy enough of a Marvel movie.

Powerless - Season 1
Created by Ben Queen, the 1st season of DC’s Powerless (2017) is set in a world where superheroes and super-criminals leave a lot of collateral damage behind them, and a company on the verge of bankruptcy is offering protection and prevention solutions, when young and ambitious Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) is hired in a top managerial position with dreams of changing the viability of the company, the behavior of the stuff, and maybe the world itself. This satire of superhero movies comes at the right time as the market is literally saturated by them (even if the only real competitors are the Marvel and DC properties), but its low budget, short running time, awful CGI, caricature characters (the stupid boss, the moody secretary, the funny black guy, the funny Indian guy, etc.), and standard jokes doomed it into failure, and it was canceled after this, its initial season. This is a throwback to awful 1990s television and we didn’t really need one. Adam West makes a very welcome cameo though.

Human Target - Season 1
Created by Jonathan E. Steinberg, the 1st season of DC’s Human Target (2010 – 2011) is about undercover bodyguard Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), who is assigned undercover to the most dangerous cases, involving breathtaking stunts. This is an all-around enjoyable action show that never fails to captivate its audience. McG was an executive producer. The show’s finale (an origin story of sorts, really) included a guest appearance by Armand Assante, but many other episodes benefit from guest appearances as well, by stars such as Lennie James, Mitch Pileggi, and William B. Davis.

The Day of the Triffids - Season 1
Based upon the same-titled Sci-Fi book, The Day of the Triffids (2009), directed by Nick Copus, is about a planetary event that blinds most of the Earth’s population, while in the meantime, the large and dangerous titular carnivorous plants escape from their facilities and prey among the human living. Radio producer/journalist Jo Playton (Joely Richardson) and Dr. Bill Masen (Dougray Scott) come to the rescue, but will they make it in this post-apocalyptic world? This television event (two feature length episodes) may be a bit rough around the edges (for example the CGI are really poor), but it is still captivating entertainment for fans of fantastic cinema. Although not exactly a masterful update, it thankfully comes with some clever casting choices (Brian Cox and Jason Priestley, for example).

But I also caught up with a few mainstream films as well…

Glass (2019) bored me to tears, and although it is not the only M. Night Shyamalan film that did so, it was the first Blumhouse Productions fare to achieve that, and I just hope the two don’t work together again. Sure, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis deliver winner performances, but right now they are both at their top of the game and they do this sort of thing in pretty much every film with which they are involved, so this cannot be enough of a reason for you to watch this. As far as superhero movies go, this is pretentious and formulaic, and you should pass.

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Blumhouse Production’s Happy Death Day 2U (2019), directed by Christopher Landon, returns to the original’s formula (albeit, a very original one at that), as we once again see the university’s promiscuous girl (the absolutely gorgeous Jessica Rothe) and her scientist nerd friends, trapped in another time loop, in which they will die several times, until the figure out a way to escape death once and for all. Combining comedy, commercial cinematography, and all around Americanisms, this is a joy to watch, as it is both quite unique within the slasher genre, and entertaining too.

Marvel’s Captain Marvel (2019) directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, is about the titular superhero (the gorgeous Brie Larson), who as she finds her own powers has to fight her ex-trainer and super-villain Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and a horde of evil green aliens that resemble Nosferatu the vampire. Set for the most part in the 1990s, this is full of fun references to that decade, both technological (I really didn’t miss the computers of that era) and cultural (I really missed Garbage and Nine Inch Nails). The film’s build-up is very slow and boring, but the ending is quite satisfying. Oh, and Samuel L. Jackson is in it for a lot of its running time, instead of doing just his usual cameo.

Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976)
And when I get bored by the mainstream stuff I catch up with (on those rare occasions that I do catch up with them, that is), I quickly resort back to exploitation favorites, and this time my relief was found in writer/director Jimmy Wang Yu’s unsurpassable Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976), a masterwork of martial arts, featuring a flying guillotine master against an one-armed boxer! This is grindhouse gold, and you should watch it immediately, in the unlikely case that you have not already done so.

And finally, I enriched my bookshelf with the following books…

Roberto Curti’s Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker (2017, McFarland) is an excellent and lengthy study of the Italian genre film maestro’s life and career, taking us from film to film and featuring critical analysis as well as interview excerpts from interviews with several of the master’s collaborators. Although I am not a big fan of Freda’s work (I only enjoy an occasional title of his, or two), Curti’s book is the definite authority on the subject, it leaves no stone unturned, and as such it should not be missed.


Roberto Curti’s Mavericks of Italian Cinema: Eight Unorthodox Filmmakers, 1940s – 2000s (2018, McFarland), is featuring eight essays on as many obscure filmmakers, including Pier Carpi, Alberto Cavallone, Riccardo Ghione, Giulio Questi, Brunello Rondi, Paolo Spinola, Augusto Tretti, and Nello Vegezzi. Packed with information, but also maintaining an entertaining narrative throughout, this is the acclaimed author’s best work to date, and will remain so until he tops it with his next volume.

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May 12, 2019

Phoenix Fan Fusion features Jeff Goldblum!


Phoenix Fan Fusion brings one of film's biggest names to Arizona this year. Jeff Goldblum's genre film resume is strong dating back to the 1980s with The Fly, Earth Girls are Easy, Jurassic Park, and more. He is most recently remembered for his fantastic role in Thor: Ragnarok.

If you can't make it Saturday, the con will also feature amazing guests such as Doctor Who's John Barrowman and Catherine Tate who also have memorable roles in Arrow and The Office, respectively. Huge stars such as Paul Reubens, Elijah Wood, and Billy Dee Williams will also be in attendance.

As it has in past years, the con will have plenty for fans to enjoy. Panels run nonstop, even after the exhibitor floor closes. Gaming events run throughout the show as well. There is plenty for every fan to see at the show. See you there!

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May 1, 2019

A Binge too Far #4: The Day the Earth Stood Still duo (1951 – 2008)

Gort (Lock Martin) in a frame from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
For reasons I cannot explain, and although I am a big Sci-Fi fan, I had neglected to see The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and its same-titled 2008 remake. I just corrected this wrong, and although not much has been left to say about the duo that hasn’t already been said, here’s my brief notes.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Set during the Cold War era, a few years after the end of WWII (World War II), this is about a spaceship that lands on our planet Earth, bringing the alien visitor Klaatu [Michael Rennie from The Lost World (1960)] along with his goon robot Gort (Lock Martin). When the duo’s messages of peace don’t work to the ever war-inducing earthlings, Klaatu will try to infiltrate our planet’s population by befriending a young boy, Bobby Benson [Billy Gray from Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949)].

Based on the ‘Farewell to the Master’ story by Harry Bates, the screenplay by Edmund H. North [Patton (1970)] may be a bit too neoliberal for its own good (even though neoliberalism probably wasn’t a thing back then), what with the celebration of police via a supposed peaceful message, but that was Cold War-era America and those messages were the standard. On the other hand, Robert Wise’s [West Side Story (1961)] direction is top-notch, and he truly delivers a masterful work of science fiction. The soundtrack by Bernard Herrmann (no introduction needed) is probably the most iconic in the history of the genre.

Produced by Julian Blaustein [Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)] for 20th Century Fox on less than 1$ million, it went on to gross $1.85 million, it is now considered a classic of its genre and cinema in general, and should not be missed by anyone.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

When an alien spaceship lands in New York City, a bunch of scientists is gathered by the military, among them the female lead Dr. Helen Benson (the always drop-dead gorgeous Jennifer Connelly). The alien that comes out of the spaceship, Klaatu (Keanu Reeves, no introduction needed) comes in peace, but the ever trigger-happy U.S. military forces gun him down, prompting his gigantic robot to take action. Once Klaatu is captured by the U.S. government, he is subjected to some awful interrogation methods, and upon arranging his escape, he will try a different approach in order to deliver his message of peace.

Not so much a remake, but rather a re-imagination of the original, director Scott Derrickson’s [The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)] film is much more spectacular (what with the expensive CGI and multiple shootouts and explosions, etc.) but lacks in depth. The soundtrack by Tyler Bates is a winner though, even if not as iconic as the original film’s one. Produced by Paul Harris Boardman, Gregory Goodman, and Erwin Stoff, for 20th Century Fox, on a whopping $80 million budget, this went on to gross $233.1 million, essentially becoming a big blockbuster.

Conclusion


Whereas the 1951 film is a subtle classic of its genre (and an occasionally moody and quiet piece at that too), the 2008 remake is a bombastic multi-million dollar spectacle. They are both nowhere near my list of my all-time favorite Sci-Fi films from the past or the recent times, but they are still very enjoyable popcorn movies that you should catch up with, in the unlikely case that you haven’t already done so.

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April 1, 2019

Static Age #3

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Static Age’s third installment! You have asked me how I decide what shows go to the spotlight and which ones do not. For a TV series to go to the Static Age’s spotlight, it must have aired before the current millennium (i.e. pre-2000) and all of its seasons are reviewed. And the recent shows’ division is all about what I consider to be the golden age of television (i.e. post-2000) while only one season at the time is reviewed. The golden rule though is that all shows capsule-reviewed in Static Age are of first-watch variety only. No re-watching business here. Makes sense?

The Langoliers (2005) DVD box art.
This Static Age’s spotlight goes to The Langoliers (2005), a two feature-length (90 minutes each) episodes television special, in which all passengers of an aircraft disappear, apart from a few that get stranded in a seemingly abandoned airport full of mysteries. Based upon a novel by Stephen King (as was so often with those TV horror specials back then) by Tom Holland (who also directed, and for whom no introduction is needed), this scared the bejesus of many kids who caught it when it was first aired in the mid-1990s, but it hasn’t dated too well, and its special effects are unable to elevate above the SyFy-level bar. Still, it is genuinely creepy at times, so you might want to check it out if you like this sort of thing.

I also caught up with the following recent shows…

The 1st season of The Returned (2015) created by Carlton Cuse kicks off with a road accident involving a school-bus full of children that of course die. A few years later, and while their parents and the community mourn, the kids keep on showing up alive and well. More of a drama rather than a full-on horror series (the returning kids are not quite your usual undead), this is the U.S. remake of the same titled French series that I previously covered in this very column. It is suffering from a very slow tempo and an unnecessarily moody atmosphere, but a serial killer targeting members of the community livens things up a bit. It was cancelled after this initial season. The French version had a better cast.

In the 4th season of Peaky Blinders (2013 – present) the same-named Birmingham gang led by Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) is now broken apart and has left its criminal past behind. That is until a revenge from the past will come knocking on their door and will find them against the Sicilian mafia of Italy and New York.

Wolf Creek - Season 2 BD box art.
A group of tourists go on a tour of Australia, when their bus is hijacked by local serial killer Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) in the highly entertaining and quite addictive 2nd season of Wolf Creek (2016 – present), which is easily the best series to ever come from Down Under by keeping things local but also bearing a universal horror sensibility. It is also of great help that pretty much all characters are well-developed and sympathetic, so you actually get to care about them. Finally, the last couple of episodes feel entirely different from the rest of the series, mainly due to the change of settings.

In the 2nd season of creator Aaron Martin’s Slasher (2016 – present) a bunch of reckless teenagers end up killing a girl and hiding her body in the woods. Five years later they return to the scene of the crime in order to hide evidence, but somebody seems to know their secret, whilst offing people left, right, and center. A thousand times better than the first season, this is entertaining as hell. The editing goes back and forth in time, but the information given is really simple to process, so this doesn’t become distracting. All episodes directed by Felipe Rodriguez.

Channel Zero - Season 2 DVD box art.
Executive produced by Max Landis and with supervising producer Don Mancini onboard, the 2nd season of Channel Zero (2016 – present) is about a group of college students that enter the no-end house, in which six rooms cruelly await with bad intentions for their fate. Creepy as usual, and featuring an array of impressive one-shots, this one should not be missed.

The 2nd season of Black Mirror (2011 – present) is strong, stressful, and horrific in its exploration of the dangers of the new technology-depended world. It continues its anthology format and it is offering 4 episodes/stories. ‘Be Right Back’ is one of the best episodes and it is about a gorgeous young woman, Martha (Hayley Atwell) who just lost her boyfriend, Ash (Domhnall Gleeson), and tries to cure her mourning by signing up to an application that gathers data from the deceased’s online presence over the years and creates a bot that mimics him. ‘White Bear’ is a really terrifying episode about which one can’t say too much without spoiling it, so I’ll leave it for you to see it. ‘The Waldo Moment’ is a masterpiece of an episode, featuring the titular cartoon character which frighteningly becomes a huge political phenomenon and a multimedia franchise. The season finale, ‘White Christmas’ is somewhat of an anthology piece, and its format doesn’t work, nor does its lengthy running time, and it is a big contender for being the series’ worst episode yet.

Doctor Who - Season 2 BD box art.
The 2nd season of Doctor Who (2005 – present) sees the increasingly gorgeous Billie Piper returning in the role of Rose Tyler, whilst the role of the titular alien hero is now played by David Tennant who is the best of the recent Doctors, and one of the best in general too. The duo will embark to several adventures that range from plain fantasy to escapist horror, all in good British manner.

The 1st season of DC’s Birds of Prey (2002 – 2003) is set in a futuristic Gotham (yes, more futuristic than usual), when Batman has hung his cape, and his work is now continued by the titular superheroes, namely Black Canary (Lori Loughlin), Oracle (Dina Meyer), and The Huntress (Ashley Scott, always happy to show us her sexy belly). Developed by Laeta Kalogridis (her debut, before undertaking several more successful mainstream projects), this is as boring as they come, and it was cancelled after this initial season. The season finale is spectacular, and the employment of Tatu’s ‘All the Things See Said’ works miracles, but it’s still too little, too late.

But I also caught up with some mainstream films as well…

Aquaman (2018) R1 BD box art.
Each time I convince myself to check out the new multi-million dollar extravaganza, I realize why I try to avoid those in general. This time I was bored by DC’s Aquaman (2018) directed by James Wan, which is so bad that the less said about it the better.

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Russian cop Ivan Danko who finds himself in Chicago, on the trail of a Georgian criminal (Ed O’Ross), in director Walter Hill’s Red Heat (1988), which comes with breathtaking action (shootouts, fistfights, car crashes, and whatnot), exceptional one-liners (Danko is particularly funny when he explains that Russians deal stress with vodka), and overall 1980s action awesomeness.

Set in 1987, director Travis Knight’s Bumblebee (2018) is about the titular robot that lands in California and finds solace at the company of troubled teenager Charlie (the gorgeous Hailee Steinfeld), until their peace is disturbed by the arrival of a duo of evil robots. This was unexpectedly fun (if I dare to say so, even more than the other Transformers flicks), what with the 1980s hard rock nostalgia and VHS tapes, but I’ll probably forget all about it by the time this article is published.

Bumblebee (2018) R1 BD box art.
The Banks family is about to get evicted when Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) comes to the rescue in Rob Marshall’s Mary Poppins Returns (2018) which is this year’s ultimate feel-good movie. There is singing and dancing of course, but it’s all about the costumes here. You will be amazed.

Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt (2019) is about Motley Crue, a band whose music made them famous, and whose life made them infamous. Based upon the band’s same-titled collected autobiography, this may be era specific (from their rise on Sunset Strip, to the world takeover, to breaking up and reuniting for the first time), but the filmmakers couldn’t have done things differently, unless they wanted their film to be ten hours long. Yes, Motley Crue’s antics were many, and the film manages to navigate us through the most important ones. But aside the endless partying and groupies galore (a series of gags result in many laughs and a good time overall), this biopic is full of rich character development, about a gang (yes, they mostly resemble a gang, rather than a band) that took it to the top. And for us, the fans of their songs and their legacy, this is an invaluable film for which we are thankful. Well done!

And finally I enriched my bookshelf with the following additions…

20 years in the making, John Szpunar’s Blood Sucking Freak: The Life and Films of the Incredible Joel M. Reed (2018, Headpress) is about the legendary exploitation filmmaker. By combining interviews with him and several people that have worked with him, or were just casual New York characters, the book becomes an excellent oral history of a time gone by and greatly missed. Aside from the several amazing stories that we get to read about, the author also sat down with his subject and watched all of his films, providing commentary for each one of them. The filmmaker comes across as a dirty old man, and I am saying this in the best possible way, as this is the sort of characters we missed from New York’s 42nd Street heyday. Be warned though, that this is not a book for someone to be induced to exploitation film history, as the author is targeting mostly people in the know, and wastes no time for needless introductions for several genre film legends. Do yourself a favor, and buy this immediately.

Roberto Curti’s Tonino Valerii: The Films (2016, McFarland), is about the films the eponymous auteur has made during his career that spanned 40 years but was never prolific, opting for quality rather than quantity, a rare feat back in the day in Italy’s genre celluloid landscape. Valerii is better known for his western masterpieces (at least among those of us whose knowledge of the genre goes beyond the two Sergios), but he also tried his hand on other genres, including a very successful stint at a giallo. The book is well-structured, and takes us through a film-by-film journey, in which no stone is left unturned, as the author analyzes and gets to speak with the filmmaker. What’s more, the book also includes a thoughtful afterword by Ernesto Gastaldi, and about a dozen more interviews with people that have worked with Valerii, including Bud Spencer and Franco Nero. All in all, another excellent addition to Curti’s bibliography, and a treasure for genre movie fans and scholars alike.


Part autobiography and part history of pornography, Robert Rosen’s Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography (2010, Headpress) takes through the author’s real-life journey into the magical world of smut as he writes about pretty much everything from the rise of the phone sex lines to the Traci Lords scandal and a lot of other things. The author used to edit several porn magazines and therefore has seen a lot and is much too happy to share them in this book. At 214 pages is a short and easy read, but I could only wish that the text was accompanied by pictures.

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