Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Science Fiction Films of 1971

Science fiction films finally made it big in the 1950s but weren't that popular in the 1960s. They started to creep back in the early 1970s with several successful dystopian movies and 1971 has multiple big examples.

The most significant sci-fi movie of the year was definitely dystopian but didn't feel much like other films in the genre, and that's Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

Kubrick is considered by many to be the best director of all-time, making classics such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Full Metal Jacket, and Dr. Strangelove.

This was an adaptation of a well-received novel by English author Anthony Burgess written in 1962. The book is excellent and Kubrick's movie is pretty faithful to it, especially compared to some of his other literary translations, such as The Shining, which Stephen King, the author of the source material, wasn't a fan of.

A Clockwork Orange has been discussed to death so I won't spend too much time gushing over it but suffice to say, it's an absolute masterclass in cinematography, editing, and acting.

It qualifies as science fiction in my mind as it's set in the future, but it forgoes most of the tropes most commonly associated with SF such as aliens or time travel.

It doesn't show or focus much on advanced technology and someone is even shown using a typewriter. There are some tiny futuristic cassette tapes, but they're not fundamentally different from what was available at the time.

However, society is definitely different from the 1970s, especially in terms of fashion, interior design and the slang argot called Nadsat created specifically for the book and utilized heavily in the film.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The History of Video Game Movies (Part 4: 2010-2014)

Part 1: (1990-1999)
Part 2: (2000-2004)
Part 3: (2005-2009)

There were a couple of big successful films based on video games in the early 2000s, but in the latter half of the decade, they were basically all failures critically and mostly bombs commercially as well.

Unfortunately, in the 2010s this trend continued as the big-budget video game movies all got poor reviews.

The first one of the decade was Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, released in the United States on May 28, 2010.

The Prince of Persia games were platformers that started coming out in 1989 and they've appeared on dozens of consoles and handhelds since.

Disney produced and distributed the movie version, along with Jerry Bruckheimer, who has produced countless huge hits, like Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Armageddon.

They chose Mike Newell as director, who had a pretty varied resume with films including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Donnie Brasco, and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

The music was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, who wrote the scores for Gone Baby Gone, Kingdom of Heaven and Shrek. However, I know him more for his amazing work composing the music for the Metal Gear games, doing every main entry from Sons of Liberty to The Phantom Pain.

The production budget was around $200 million and it grossed over $336 million worldwide. This isn't a terrible figure, but definitely underwhelming. Disney was hoping to make this a franchise, but it didn't make nearly enough money to justify sequels.

Prince of Persia was mediocre at best. It's not appalling, just bland and boring. The time travel scenes are kind of cool visually, but those are the only memorable parts of the movie.

The critics seem to agree with me as the film's Rotten Tomatoes rating is only 36%, which is sadly relatively high for a video game movie.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Black Christmas (1974): Mini-Review

Black Christmas definitely deserves its reputation as one of the best horror of films of the 1970s, as well as being an early and very influential example of a slasher movie. It's more subtle and understated than a lot of its followers, though.

The plot involves a bunch of sorority girls getting threatening and sexual phone calls, which are effectively weird and disturbing.

It's hard to explain without spoilers but eventually there's a reveal that serves as an example of an extremely famous and common horror film trope/cliche. This is surely one of, if not the earliest, uses of this now incredibly cliche plot point, and I always find it interesting to see one the first uses of any well-known film trope. I'm sure anyone who has seen the film would know what I'm referring to.

This is also one of the first big examples of a horror film titled and based around a specific holiday or day, like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine, and countless others.

The villain in Black Christmas is great and one of the creepiest slasher bad guys in film history. There's even an abortion subplot, which is pretty daring for it' time.

The ending is fantastic too and features a very eerie final shot. Overall, the cast is pretty good, and there are a few familiar faces you might recognize, like Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in the Superman series. There's also Keir Dullea, who was the main character in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and John Saxon from Enter the Dragon, Dario Argento's Tenebrae, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

I highly recommend watching this to anyone who has even a passing interest horror, and it's a must watch as soon as possible if you're a slasher or 70s horror fan.

Black Christmas was remade in 2006, but I haven't seen that version yet.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cujo (1983): Mini-Review

Cujo is okay, but inconsistent and overall nothing special. This first part of the movie before the crazy rabid dog stuff starts happening is pretty boring and I wasn't particularly interested in the characters' affairs and personal drama. I was pretty much just waiting for Cujo to start attacking people.

Once he does, the film definitely starts improving. It does a reasonable job of getting across a tense atmosphere and Cujo is effectively intimidating and scary. It just takes way too long in getting there.
They did a good job of making up the dog so he looks rabid, although he looks pretty cute without the makeup.

I understand they couldn't just have a whole movie of a woman and her child fighting off a dog, but there wasn't enough meat to the story to be compelling. I haven't read the book, but I'm sure the affair plotline was significant as I've heard the movie was relatively faithful. So maybe this just wasn't enough of a story for a feature film and would have worked better as a short or a TV episode or something like that.

Also, don't expect any gore, the horror is more psychological, which isn't at all a bad thing.
I'd recommend this if you've already seen a decent amount of 80s horror and just haven't gotten around to this yet.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) [Mini-Review]

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is infamous for its (in retrospect) baffling decision to not feature Michael Myers or even be set in the same universe as the original two films. In fact, Halloween is a fictional film in Season of the Witch's universe.

Producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill wanted to turn the Halloween brand into an anthology of unrelated installments that all took place on or around the holiday. Apparently, they were hesitant to work on an another one in the series, and this was the only way they'd do it. This may have worked better had they not have already made Halloween II, thus firmly associating the name with the character of Myers, as well as actors like Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance.

Fans were disappointed that there was no Michael, and reviews were negative. It took six years for the franchise to come back with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. They made sure to put him in the title to make sure audiences knew they wouldn't be disappointed again.

I wasn't alive at the time, so I knew before I watched it that it was an oddball in the series and that Myers would come back for more movies. If you just think of it as its own thing, it's not that bad, but certainly not that great either.

Not only does Season of the Witch have a new continuity, it also represents a genre shift for the franchise as while it is a horror, it's also science fiction.

Stars Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin give passable performances, but I can't get over how creepy the age difference between them is, and their relationship feels very forced and sudden. She basically throws herself at him without having shown any previous signs of chemistry or attraction.

One of the positives of the film is that John Carpenter did do the soundtrack, which is always a good thing and sets the atmosphere. Unfortunately, a really annoying jingle also plays throughout that will undoubtedly be stuck in your head for days.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Curse of Chucky (2013) [Mini-Review]

Curse of Chucky is a surprisingly solid sequel. Most horror franchises run out of steam by the sixth installment by this is much better than Halloween 6 or A Nightmare on Elm Street 6, for example.
The fourth and fifth Chucky movies brought the series more towards horror-comedy, but this went back to the roots of the franchise and is a relatively serious horror film. It was also the first one to be direct-to-video and the first to be shot digitally.
Despite being less comedic, it doesn't take itself too seriously and manages to strike an appropriate tone.

Bride and Seed of Chucky introduced a family for the title character, but Curse goes back to having him as the only talking doll.
It was directed by Don Mancini, who created Chucky, has written all the films, and directed Seed of Chucky.

Brad Dourif returns as the voice of Chucky and even appears in the flesh for the first time in the series since the original Child's Play. It's pretty cool to see him, but it looks a little odd as they try to recreate his look from the time period.
Brad's daughter, Fiona Dourif plays the lead role. This may seem like nepotism that could hurt the quality of the film, but these movies don't require Oscar-level acting and she had already appeared on shows like Deadwood and Law and Order: SVU. She even had a small part in P.T. Anderson's The Master.

She actually does a pretty good job, considering she was relatively inexperienced at the time and the film largely centers around her character.
This was described early on in development as a reboot or a remake and it seems like it could be at first, but by the end, it's clear that it takes place in the same continuity as the previous installments and there are plenty of neat homages and references to the other Chucky movies.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Seed of Chucky (2004): Mini-Review

The fifth installment of the Chucky franchise is a decent entry but doesn't really stay true to the roots of the series. The 4th film started the slide into comedy, but this one, directed by Don Mancini, goes all the way.

Jennifer Tilly joined the franchise in the fourth movie as well, and she stars in this one. She is great as always and it definitely one of the highlights of the series in my book.

Brad Dourif also returns as the voice of Chucky and is fantastic as always.

For some reason, a lot of horror franchises in this era had films starring rappers. Halloween H20 had LL Cool J, Halloween: Resurrection had Busta Rhymes, and Seed of Chucky has Redman.

There is a significant subplot involving Redman playing himself and directing a movie that Jennifer Tilly, also as herself, is trying to get a role in. It's pretty funny that the role is for the Virgin Mary.

Tilly playing herself adds a bit of a meta quality and a convenient way for her to still appear in the flesh despite the events of the previous film. John Waters also appears in a small role and it's always entertaining seeing him, but it did feel a bit random.

The film centers around Chucky and Tiffany's child named Glen, while also going by Glenda at times in a fun reference to the classic B-movie Glen or Glenda. The character is pretty goofy and I'm not sure how I feel about his design.

Also, there's a lame bit about Britney Spears that feels out of place and seemed just to be an attempt at referencing someone in pop culture.

Seed of Chucky only has a 32 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but this isn't surprising as somewhat silly horror films like these usually don't get great reviews. The IMDB rating is a bit better at 4.9 out of 10.

Overall the film is entertaining and has quite a few funny moments. If you liked the previous films in the series, you'd probably enjoy this one. Just keep in mind it's much more like the 4th than the original trilogy.