Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Night Gallery

I'd heard about it for years..
Rod Serling's The Night Gallery...

Picked up Season 2 the other day and dove right in. Wow, what a cool show...

It opens with the ever charming and somewhat creepy, Mr. Serling inviting us into the Night Gallery - a museum of pictures that tell 1000 stories. Love it.

I Love UNIVERSAL, and professionally - if I ever do make real films in the real world, I've got to work for Universal.
I suppose I'll always be obsessed with this period - My first ten years on earth are the seventies, and peripherally I was soaking up a fair bit. I only had one Kolchak night but it stayed with me 'til I found it all again recently.

Carl Kolchak is up there with Swamp Thing for this kid, but that's for another post, and God love Universal for all of the horror under their umbrella...

But back to the NG..
It's the format that gets me - it's loose feels organic - that freedom that only occurred in the late '60's/early '70's - The freedom of a visionary, and of experimentation...
This is what the 1970's is for me.

Then there's the quality of it - great actors on good sets - not the same cheapy feel of so many anthology shows...

It's the work of an Auteur ...and that, again is what the 70's is all about.

Going to watch plenty then return...
...and chat details. Go watch The Night Gallery - Trust me.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The T E R M I N A T O R

It's Father's Day today, and more than any other film, this is the one that makes me think of my Dad.

Why, Arthur(as if anyone cares)?

Because I watched it with him first. Simple.
Had never seen it before and do believe Dad suggested it when it debuted on TV late one friday night. We'd often end up quietly "watching"* a movie together in those days ...pre-girlfriends and booze, but post-toys(mostly).

*Watching - I don't think my Father knew how The Terminator, First Blood, or Jaws actually end..
I was his second favorite movie-watching-companion - the first being a good nap.

The Film:
Terminator is up on Artie's ol' shortlist of SUPER*WATCHED*FILMS.
And having mulled on why I like this specific movie so much, I've come to an interesting point with it.

I think it's an expanded CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER...
James Cameron's interpretation of Harlan Ellison's work, or rather the heart of it.
"You're crazy" I can hear my half dozen followers saying...

Hear me out: Are they both not stories of people from different time periods falling in love, not being able to be together, and doing the "right" thing in a somewhat sad nihilistic ending?
No coincidence that Ellison is mentioned in the Terminator credits - But it's not so much the mechanized antagonists Cameron borrowed, as the tone ...I truly believe the place both stories came from is one in the same.
Ellison claims his story "Soldier" was the inspiration, but that concept seems more to have informed T2. Some claim "Demon with a Glass Hand" but I suspect it's City on the Edge of Forever that was actually Cameron's biggest influence, along with a perhaps subconscious desire to tell an Ellison-esque tale. Who could blame him? Ellison is apparently an asshole, but a brilliant one, with an extraordinary grasp of truly human storytelling. Undeniable.

"That's a good question, Mr.Spock - how much Ellison is in The Terminator?"
They say a film is only as good as it's villain - well, this one is named for the bad guy, and quite the bad guy he is. Schwarzenegger's weird intensity and extremely limited dialogue make every second of screentime count - he's fantastic, and it'll always be my favorite Arnie role. He has a physical impatience built into the efficiency of the character that seems to disappear in the sequels. It's his coolest performance - he "feels" unstoppable ..inhuman ...frightening, and that cyborg chase scene - I was mad at my father for falling asleep before that sequence - I was 14 ..maybe 15, and it scared me shitless.

And then there's that "classic" phrase... you know the one.
Who hasn't said those three words? Only Mr. Burns' "Exxxxcellent" might be better known in pop-language, but who can really say?

...and what a way to get that audience association - This robot is has been built by someone specifically to kill you, and you are noone special..
..Or are you? Maybe your the future president, or maybe his mother - endless possibilities, and very clever storytelling, especially in the paradoxical "Father" equation of the film. Is fatherhood and it's importance not a central theme here? Is Skynet not the child of a "father-based society" having outgrown it's own father? ...not unlike Roy Batty in Blade Runner.

Opening this apocalyptic tale far in the future, then telling it one single night in our time - ONE NIGHT - that's the whole film.. Brilliant.

The Terminator is one of the purest narratives I've ever seen. From first frame to last, it never stops moving - I love that.
Shot in 1984, I'm still hard pressed to find films now that move the camera nearly as much. I don't think Spielberg used a dolly once in Indy 4. Facts being facts, James Cameron was a genius at this point, and only Aliens could challenge Terminator for the best thing he's ever done ...and being a sequel I guess it really can't. Ha haa..

For what it is, it's perfect.
Rare thing...

...I'll be back.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

the summer of SUPER 8...

I thought I was going to see a Steven Spielberg film by J.J. Abrams.

It is a movie for us(my generation) ..and about us.
Set in the summer of 1979, Super 8 offers a sci-fi mystery, with a heartfelt human story, as it follows a group of teenagers who set out to make a super 8 horror film in their Ohio steel-mill town.

More than a sense of wonderment in the viewer is the sense of it in the film - letting us watch us is essentially what I got out of Super 8. It just took a bit to figure it out..
It really is "wonderment" up on that screen, and the true love for Steven Spielberg's early work - that "feeling" that was pervasive through his films and so many he produced. Fact is, there's far more respect for SS's early career than in than in his own recent Indy 4. It's a love affair with small people sharing big adventures whilst surrounded by dubious adults.
Watching these kids, it's hard not to feel young again.

It's not perfect. I think I was hoping for a more intriguing story, and at moments it feels like E.T. mashed in with The Thing ...but boy, if your going to slam a couple films together to make a 70's/80's homage ...why not go with the best eh?

Super 8 is a very personal film for something so pedigreed, if you will.
Sooo I'm going to go AGAIN today ...and let it sink in a little more.

I think I kinda liked it actually...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

X-MEN - First Class

"First Class" is right...
This is a great film, and a perfect start to the whole X-men experience, if you're not already a fan.

After being floored by Kick-Ass, I was soo glad to hear Mathew Vaughn was on the next X-opus ...very well directed. I love it when you can feel the reverence a director has for the material - why do a film if you don't?

...and it features the BEST CAMEO EVER!!! I won't ruin it, but trust me ...this one moment is a fanboy dream, and a great laugh. Brilliant scene.

*January Jones is almost hot enough to excuse her lack of talent, but not quite..

Loved Xavier, Magneto, and Shaw equally but the friendship between Charles and Erik is the lynchpin and perfectly done. The ending is sad, hopeful then awesome. Some beautiful design too - just a blast to look at. I'm a sucker for that period's Kennedy's the 60's...

X-Men: First Class works as a fun period piece, a really good comic book movie, and a dramatic story ...I really do hope this becomes the next X-trilogy.
Upon my 2nd viewing, I liked Michael Fassbinder even more..
MAGNETO is brilliant.

Very Cool flic.
..and I'm First in line for whatever Mathew Vaughn does.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Franchise: FAIL !!!

Alright, I finally watched Beneath the Planet of the Apes last night...
..and for the moment I have a new "least favorite sequel of all time".

WOW, I hated this movie sooo much...
It has prompted a little dash o' writing on franchise failures:

1) Beneath the Planet of the Apes - Absolute 100% shit. Atrocious. It is literally the antithesis of the first film. Hopeless - mean - confusing. Sparking only 100 ridiculous questions: Why the rubber masks ...where did they get them? etc etc.....and is this the single most nihilistic sci-fi ending of all time? It makes an Alien ending look like The Princess Bride...
It's true - the whole film is BENEATH The Planet of the Apes.

2) T4 or Terminator Salvation - Holeee smokes, I hated this one more than any other sequel ever, and I'm sure it'll reclaim top spot after my super-contempt for Beneath cools down.
Why was MEGATRON in this film? Why would SKYNET have 6 foot doorways ...or even fucking doors at all? I wanted a monster computer and I got Helena Bonham Carter looking as confused as I was.
Ooooh, I fucking hate T4... Fact is, the Terminator franchise is one of my personal favorites and McG's utter destruction of that storyline actually offended me. Only one other theatre experience was as rage-inducing...

3) ...and that was A Nightmare on Elm Street(2010). I honestly don't think Samuel Bayer should work in the Film Industry. He's both talentless and stupid ...ugh, that reboot/remake pissed me off. Just junk from beginning to end ...lousy scares ...lousy super-forgettable Nancy ...lousy digital look, and the twist, something about monkeys and typewriters...
And don't even get me started on what they did to Freddy. Ugh.
A pathetic attempt at a horror film. Embarrassing.

4) Highlander II: The Quickening - The original TERRIBLE sequel. This movie is a lot like Planet of the Apes II(Beneath) in that the filmmakers not only seem as though they aren't fans of the original so much as contemptuous of it.
Roger Ebert: ..gave the film a score of 0.5 star (out of four), saying: "Highlander II: The Quickening is the most hilariously incomprehensible movie I've seen in many a long day—a movie almost awesome in its badness. Wherever science fiction fans gather, in decades and generations to come, this film will be remembered in hushed tones as one of the immortal low points of the genre."
Ha ha haa's sooo true.
My nerd buddies and I deconstructed H2 for years ...The PLANET ZEIST?!?! - What the fuck is anyone in this film even talking about? Super-garbage.

Oh, Ironside ...what are you up to?

5) Batman & Robin - For money, expectation, talent-involved, and strength of the franchise itself ...this may technically be the WORST FILM EVER MADE.
Two hours and five minutes without a worthwhile shot, scene or line of dialogue. This is the epitome of "High End Crap" ...just a completely hollow experience.

In an interview with Barbara Walters, Clooney claims he played Batman gay ...not that there's anything wrong with that...

Eight years before we'd see another Batman movie.

6) Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 - wow.
I remain convinced that noone involved with this "film" saw The Blair Witch Project.

7) Matrix Reloaded - I took this quote from EW: "Revolution is actually worse. But the second Matrix feels more egregious because of the sheer nosedive from the original. Sci-fi droolers had four whole years of pent-up expectations and time wasted dissecting the first chapter's metaphysical riddles. And after all that waiting, what did they get? A laughable techno rave in Zion with a lot of slo-mo sweat and revelers in hemp clothing. It's like a Lenny Kravitz video directed by Bob Guccione."
Yup, hated this while watching, and that's rare. Shite.

8) Ghostbusters II - GB2 is the most "sequelly" feeling movie I've ever seen, and one of the good reasons people don't like sequels very much. It sucks. It has that tired end-of-the-80's vibe an over processed song just tastes bland. I really dislike GB2.
Every moment seems "written" and forced. NO good dialogue ...just efficient and expository, and even the cast feels tired.
And like Die Hard 3 I can't stand it when the romance of the first film is undermined for drama in a lesser film. Why don't Dana and Venkman have a baby? Lame lame lame movie.

9) Spider-Man 3 - Holy Moley, this movie sucks balls.
One bad decision after another ...and only a hair's breath from being as bad as Schumacher's hundred and twenty million dollar homosexual love letter to 60's Batman.
The two originless villains look cool once in a while, which technically makes it better than Batman 4, but it's a terrible film and again ...really "sequelly" feel to it.
"WTF??" pretty much sums up Spidey 3...