Saturday, June 12, 2021

Junesploitation 2021 Day 12: Sci-Fi!


  1. Stuart Gordon's SPACE TRUCKERS (1996, Amazon Prime) for the first time.

    When I finished watching this $25 million mid-90's blue collar space comedy I freaking hated it. Didn't laugh once, didn't like anyone except for Captain Macanudo (because Charles Dance rules) and all I could see were the wires holding the principals in the air to simulate zero gravity. But a funny thing happened all day Friday: I couldn't get "Space Truckers" off my mind. Stuart Gordon (R.I.P.) is no dummy, and even his trashier low-budget efforts ("Trolls," "Castle Freak," "Dagon") have quality bubbling beneath their cheap exteriors. I forced myself to rewatch "Space Truckers" right before writing/posting this review. I still don't like it or care much for its leads, but now it's a fascinating case of appreciating the filmmakers' using their huge-for-'96 budget to make their world of blue collar workers hauling cargo to and from Earth look cheap and gaudy on purpose. From the endless billboards on the space highway (which they thankfully don't overdo) to the practical-but toy-like design of the space ships, "Space Truckers" feels like what "Ghostbusters" would have been like if cooler studio heads and Ivan Reitman hadn't reign in Dan's worst tendencies.

    Denis Hopper, Debi Mazzar and Stephen Dorff (the last two in their skives for most of the running time) are kind-of bland as the truckers trying to make a quick buck by hauling unknown cargo to Earth. George Wendt and Barbara Crampton make an impression despite their limited screen time, but whenever Charles Dance is on-screen trying to please Mazar's Cindy I'm on board. Can't believe the MPAA let Gordon get away with a 'PG-13' rating for Macanudo's 'stimulating my member' pump jokes and neutered exploding/melting space gun action, but maybe the were in on the joke. Bottom line for "Space Truckers" is that someone financed Gordon's unfiltered vision, and what it lacks in laughs (very few to none for a so-called comedy, IMO) it compensates for in the sheer chutzpah of being made to look cheap on purpose. And hey, at least the Japanese design-influenced robots that feel like "Aliens" move and explode cooler than their surroundings. 3.25 ROTATING SPACE CAFETERIAS (out of 5).

  2. René Laloux's FANTASTIC PLANET (1973, HBO Max -French version-) for the first time.

    Five years in the making and assembled by Czechoslovakian animators at the behest of French filmmakers, this 72 min. feature (the first animated film to receive a 'PG' rating upon its US release) feels like either a "Twilight Zone" premise on serious drugs or the predecessor of MTV's "Liquid Television." Like Irwin Allen's "Land of the Giants" but good, human beings (aka Oms) are the insect-like subjects that the Draags (animal-like race of meditating beings) seek to either contain as pets for their small children or eradicate from their parks and abandoned buildings. A young boy whose mom is smothered to death by Draag children grows up to be Terr, the learning-all-about-Draag-culture pet young Tiwa allows to grow up sharing her education. Terr eventually becomes part of the Om/human resistance that seeks to escape the Draag's planet and find a peaceful home.

    If you've seen/read "Battlefield Earth" the premise of a perceived-to-be-dumb human animal outsmarting his alien captors will be old hat. The visual poetry and compelling animated narrative (neither the Draags or Oms are completely evil or good; both factions have their common sense and/or charlatan types) feels like a 1970's illustrated rock'n' roll concept album come to life, a strong early step toward animated features aimed at grown-ups being considered artistic. HBO Max is streaming the French version of "Fantastic Planet" (same as the one on Criterion Collection). While I'm curious to rewatch this in English (with Barry Bostwick narrating) the original French track actually helps one immense into the surreal beauty of this far-out science fiction fantasy. 4 ANATOMICALLY CORRECT HEADLESS ROCK STATUES (out of 5).

  3. WING COMMANDER (1999, YouTube) for the first time.

    Boy, does this movie need an HD remaster. The free-with-ads transfer on YouTube shows every last spec of dust in the print and every soft rendering resolution in the CG models. But no remaster is coming or likely because this 22-year-old adaptation of the popular videogame series (produced and directed by franchise creator Chris Roberts) is best known for being the '99 theatrical feature many people bought tickets to see "Episode I: The Phantom Menace's" theatrical trailer and then walking out afterward. And as far as sci-fi movie stories or characterizations, those that skipped seeing "Wing Commander" didn't miss anything special. It's as basic and cliché a space story as "Star Wars," but with zero surprises or unique twists to decades-old tropes. Underpowered-but-resourceful human good guys versus well-armed alien bad guys (the one-dimensional Kilrathi race of walking felines) trying to tilt the unsurmountable odds to their favor. YAAAAAAWWWWNN!

    The movie's single saving grace is that its $30 million budget allowed for some very good actors to put effort into the trite material. Freddie Prinze Jr. is a little too wide-eyed as the rookie pilot that suffers racist attitudes from the crew because he's a 'pilgrim' (aka 21st century space explorers), but in the end he's the Luke Skywalker-type savior. Matthew Lillard dials down the "Scream" and "Hackers" shtick and actually emotes, David Suchet ("Poirot") does his best Jean-Luc Piccard imitation, Tchéky Karyo ("The Core") and Jürgen Prochnow ("The Keep") constantly growl at one another, Saffron Burrows tries and fails to pull a 'Starbuck' tough chick thing (but thanks for trying), David Warner ("Titanic") remains stoic as supreme commander, etc. I am not suggesting "Wing Commander" is worth the two hours of your life you'll never get back if you see it. But if you're going to watch it, having this stellar a cast breathing life into such one-dimensional nonsense will make it easier to swallow. 2.5 MARK HAMILL COMPUTER VOICE-OVERS (out of 5).

  4. Drake Doremus' EQUALS (2015, Showtime) for the first time.

    In a clean but sterile, functional but joyless future dystopian society emotions are repressed amongst the working class. Fear of Switched On Syndrome (having feelings or emotions deemed primitive and undesirable) labeling someone a diagnosed Stage 1-4 sufferer forces those that can't hide and repress emotions to consider escaping into the savage peninsulas... or end their suffering by killing themselves. But among the sea of white people wearing white clothes/shoes (though there are a handful of token minority extras in the background if you care to look for them) graphic artist Silas (Nicholas Hoult, young Hank McCoy/Beast in the latter "X-Men" movies) sees glimmers of repressed emotion in idea writer Nia ("Underwater's" Kristen Stewart). With the promise of a miracle drug "just around the corner" that will eliminate all emotions and desires, Silas and Nia struggle to keep their feelings secret from their co-workers... and each other.

    Produced by Ridley Scott, "Equals" is basically youthful "Gattaca" redux but with a hint of a potential "Logan's Run"-type escape to freedom toward the end. Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver have small supporting roles as veteran emotion hiders that take pity on the young couple's plight. The credits put her and Nicholas Hault in equal footing, but Kristen Stewart's performance is the highlight of the movie. Even though this is technically Silas' story and Hoult makes an appealing lead, the camera loves Kristen's face and makes erotic even the simple gesture of near-miss hand touching. Great movie, and even better for those of us that started liking Stewart's work after the "Twilight" series ended. 4.5 ATMOS BUIILDINGS (out of 5).

  5. The Blood of Heroes (1989 - David Webb)
    In a post-apocalyptic future, teams travel from place to place to play and fight in a game called Jugger, mostly for food, pleasures and honor. The goal of the game is to put a dog's head on a spike. The title of this one is really bland, and it's one of the rare occasions, where the German version simply is better: The Jugger - Battle of the Best (translated). Leave away the tagline and simply call it The Jugger.
    At first, I couldn't understand why this movie has a cult following and a sport which is based on this, but it won me with its second part and the general world building, which looks like it takes place in some parts of the Mad Max world (which is fitting since it has been filmed in Australia).

    3 out of 4 chain swinging D'Onofrios!

  6. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978, dir. Philip Kaufman)

    Though I have watched the original film and Abel Ferrara’s 1990s remake, there was a lot in the 1978 version that caught me by surprise. This is by far the best adaptation of the story. The sense of dread as the main characters seek to escape San Francisco is skillfully built up and becomes frightening at certain moments. The practical effects and make-up for the pod people are outstanding. I admit to being a little grossed out by it. Perhaps most importantly, the cast does a great job selling the "reality" of the the fantastical story. It is a terrific cast (Sutherland, Nimoy, Goldblum) too. Definitely a highlight of this Junesploitation.

    1. You forgot Robert Duvall dressed as a priest on a children's swing set at the start, just because. :-D

  7. The Wandering Earth (2019, dir. Frant Gwo)

    This was a real ride. Very much blockbuster entertainment.

    1. Did you like it? It wasn't really for me...

    2. Me too, Derk. Saw it in theaters when it came out. Great premise and decent SFX budget, but felt like something got lost in translation. ☹

    3. I mean overall, yes. I dug it more for the setting and general premise. I admit, the characters are hardly compelling, but they serve their purpose.

  8. Legion of Iron (1990, directed by Yakov Bentsvi)

    High school football star Billy Hamilton and his cheerleader girlfriend Allison are kidnapped in the middle of a date and taken to an underground base that houses a fight club somewhere beneath Las Vegas because that's the world of this movie and I love it.

    They're now part of the Legion of Iron, a place where men become gladiators and women become playthings and man, 1990 wasn't that long ago for a movie like this to be made. It's like someone read all the Gor books and said, "The movies weren't disquieting enough and I'm going to be the maniac that changes that," and made this.

    As our heroes watch the first gladiator fight, things get unsetting in a hurry, as the leader of all this, Diana (Erika Nann, who was in Animal Instincts and Night Rhythms before appearing in the video game Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots proving that Hideo Kojima loves direct to video 80s and 90s movies as much as all of us) forces them to watch a battle to the death between Mad Dog and Rex (Stefanos Miltsakakis, Frankenstein's Monster in Waxwork II, in addition to being a frequent JCVD fight partner). As Rex is the winner, he's allowed to forcibly take Allison while Diana makes her man watch.

    Billy is in similar danger, because the guards think this is the Roman empire and keep trying to take him themselves when Diana isn't tying him up and forcibly engaging him in martial congress. So our hero now has a reason to kill Rex and needs a mentor, who he finds in ex-pro football player Lyle Wagner. Enter a series of montages, in which our boy learns how to become a man or least fight in American Gladiator-like challenges to the death. Lyle is also pretty much Yoda, as he utters things like, "Haven't you heard? Superman's black, freakface!" and "The worst thing that can happen is death."

    At some point, Billy and Allison try to escape, which ends with everyone in the cast beating Billy down with sticks and when that isn't good enough, Diana repeatedly makes Allison brutalize her boyfriend before allowing all of the gladiators to have their way with her. This makes Billy even more determined to kill Rex, which he does, showing up in a silver sparkly glitter costume that has amazing shoulder pads. His contest with the big bad is pretty much our hero repeatedly striking the much larger man in the testicle again and again. I mean, when you're working a body part, work the body part, even if it is the ball bag.

    The entire time this battle was happening, Lyle was making machine guns in the orgy bed chamber. This allows our heroes to have a massive uprising while battling the Chinese version of the Legion of Iron, which posits that there are small gladiator sex cults all over the world. After an insane battle that involves people getting machine-gunned in the nuts, throwing stars and nearly everyone dying, Billy and Allison get away, but not before being attacked by Diana flying the kind of plane John Denver died in.

    Seriously, Diana is the heroine of this movie for me. She escaped a life as a showgirl and dancing in Vegas to lead an army of maniacs under the earth and continues said empire by kidnapping high school football stars. In the scene where she ties up Billy and tries to explain the fact that people are all commodities, he spits in her face and instead of being a shrinking violet, she says, "Go ahead and spit on me, if it turns you on." Then she explains the difference between love and hate when giving him an old fashioned. She should have been the main character of like ten more movies.

  9. The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021) - 9/10 Tuxedo Pugs

    In this Terminator ripoff, a lady cyborg goes in a killing spree, and only Gregory Hines can stop her. Hines is really miscast in this. His character is supposed to be the ultimate hardass, but Hines is just too loveable of a guy to pull that off. Better is Dutch actress Renee Soutendijk in a dual role as the cyborg and the doctor who created her. The final few minutes are an exciting standoff in the subway, but there’s a lot of tedious wheel-spinning before we get there.

    30 days of Chinese fantasy movies, day 12
    During the war, the masked Bladesman was the dark hero of the night, etc. Years later, a small town is struck with a series of poisonings, and the local doctor must suit up, revealing that he is the long-lost Bladesman. (Wasn’t this the same premise of Iron Monkey?) The Bladesman is a cool character in the Batman/Zorro style, but most of the movie is the goofy humor. It takes place in the old-timey days, but the dialogue has tons of modern-day references (assuming the subtitles are accurate) which I guess is supposed to be funny. It’s a shrug of a movie.

  11. The Amazing Transparent Man (1960, dir. Edgar G. Ulmer)

    A brilliant scientist with an invisibility ray, a ruthless villain and a small-time bank robber, a lot of doors opening by themselves and objects hanging in midair by a wire. Running time: 57 minutes. That's it, that's the whole review.

    Screamers (1995, dir. Christian Duguay)

    Two warring factions of humans on a distant planet are hunted by "screamers", learning machines created by one side that have evolved beyond their original programming. A dystopian sci-fi war movie that turns into an unimaginative paranoia thriller towards the end.

    It's nasty, grimy and bleak, but in that low-budget Outer Limits kind of way. Of the two films Dan O'Bannon adapted from Philip K. Dick's work, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this is the lesser one (the other being Total Recall).

    The Finnish title translates as Sirius 6B - Planet of Doom.

  12. Terminator Genisys (2015, dir. Alan Taylor)

    "It's not a traditional remake, nor is it a continuation or a sequel, nor is it exactly a reboot. In a sense, it's a reimagining" -- A Skydance executive said.

    Outside of Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney, the above quote is the biggest problem with this movie. It is written from a corporate standpoint to include iconography to sell tickets but not exactly be an interesting story. Exhausting and boring, only exists as a revenue stream on a balance sheet.

  13. Forbidden World (1982)

    Is it a blatant “Alien” ripoff? Absolutely. Are the sets made out of styrofoam takeout containers? Yes. Does it kickass in spite of it all? It does. Fun cinematography, weird editing, good lines, rousing score, and some genuinely solid performances put this one in the upper percentile of Corman sci-fi for me. First time watch and very fun.

  14. Journey To The Center Of The Earth (1959)

    After watching 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954) as my very first movie of 2021, I've been meaning to go back and watch this one, which I'd seen a few times as a kid. It was quite entertaining, although it didn't catch my nostalgia as much as 20,000 Leagues did. I'm pretty sure lizards WERE hurt in the the making of this.

    A couple months ago I had watched the Brendan Fraser version, so it was nice to compare the 2. I liked the modern one at the time, and after re-watching the original, I feel like they did a good job of capturing the adventurous spirit of the original.

  15. Jiu Jitsu (2020)

    I’m pretty sure that was exactly what I wanted it to be. The premise finds aliens coming to earth every 6 years (sure, why not) to take on elite fighters for….uh, reasons, I guess. Honestly, I don’t care. What I do care about is that there’s a ton of energetic and well-staged action, inventive camera work, and a colorful and fun cast.

    The lead is Alain Moussi, a solid fighter and fairly decent (if not terribly charismatic) leading man, and he’s ably supported by Frank Grillo (I wish he had a little more to do but alas), Juju Chang, Rick Yune, and most importantly Tony Jaa and Nicolas Cage. Jaa does what he does best, namely wreaking holy havoc with his knees and elbows, and Cage gets to have a ton of fun and even fight a little (though to be fair it’s his stunt double who gets most of the credit for that part). I had lots of fun with this and I’m positive it’ll be going into my regular “I need a fun action movie” rotation.

  16. Alien Resurrection (1997)

    This is a goopy movie. Lots of ooze and practical Aliens that aren't being hidden in the darkness. The late nineties were just peak animatronic before they tossed it all away in favour of CGI. It kind of loses steam a bit in the 2nd half, but then has a crazy ending. I had forgotten that Brad Dourif was in this (I had only seen it once before), and I think he might just be good in everything! I was also happy to recently see him pop up in Star Trek Voyager for a few episodes.

  17. Battle Beyond the Stars (1980, dir. Jimmy T. Murakami)

    Roger Corman’s infamous Star Wars rip-off, I came in knowing only about James Cameron’s big break on this production and the James Horner score (really punching above its weight class). There are elements that I am really impressed by, moments where the score, the matte paintings and the art direction fool me into believing this isn’t just a B-movie. But by the end of the film I see the cramped sets and the recycled effects shots and am reminded I’m watching a Corman film.

    I didn’t expect this to be a Seven Samurai homage (as opposed to Star Wars’ Hidden Fortress homage), but the inclusion of Robert Vaughn makes me think it might be cribbing more from Magnificent Seven instead. The script was penned by John Sayles (!), but there wasn’t much that elevated this over the usual goofy, embarrassing scifi tropes. A recommended watch if you’re a B-movie scifi completionist, but otherwise don’t bother.

    Bonus ‘sploitation points for John Saxon’s over-the-top villain Sador who looks kind of like Aladdin Sane’s evil twin.

  18. Rollerball (1975)

    First Time Viewing. When this thing started, with the scenic design, and the introduction of the game, and the classical music, and the motorcycles, and the "Ladies and Gentlemen, our Corporate Anthem," I thought "this is going to be the greatest Junesploitation movie of all time!" But, by the time it ended, I was, like, "Is this really just a movie about trying to get an athlete to retire?" Why is the corporation "scared" of James Caan? What did they think he was going to do, exactly? Is he costing them too much money against the salary cap? Are they trying to lose a bunch of games so they can move the team to Florida? Are they just trying to find more playing time for Walsh and Ohtani? What exactly is happening here?

  19. WORLD WITHOUT END (1956)

    Planet of the Apes before Planet of the Apes, except minus the apes. When a spacecraft on a reconnaissance mission to Mars mysteriously reaches super high speeds, the astronauts, in their lingo, “break the time barrier.” They land back on Earth hundreds of years into future, encountering brutal cavemen and an advanced but dying civilization underground. Is there a future for mankind in this uncertain future? Filmed in beautiful Cinemascope with a high-minded script very reminiscent of the original Star Trek series, World Without End is a thoughtful and entertaining 80 minutes. There are fights with the cavemen, romances with the beautiful ladies underground, and political intrigue to keep the viewer amused. A superior B-movie from a strong era of B-movies.

    1. I was very happy to watch a movie in CinemaScope today as well. I have no idea what the technology behind it was, but those were the "old" movies of my youth, the movies my parents had maybe seen when they were young and introduced to us.

    2. Cinemascope was the first wide-screen format and was used extensively in the 1950s. The Baby Boom generation certainly would have grown up watching the films using it.

      It is funny how the concept of "old" in the realm of movies changes. The 1980s movies I grew up with still seem fresh, but I know that four decades have gone by since some of them were made. I have never had a prejudice against films made before my lifetime, but it does seem that is a common attitude. I guess it always has been that way, though.

  20. Unbelievable!!!!! (2020, dir. Steven L. Fawcette)

    I was suckered in by the cast, check this out Star Trek fans:

    Nichelle Nichols
    Robert Picardo
    Marina Sirtis
    Garrett Wang
    Armin Shimerman
    Michael Dorn
    Dominic Keating
    Anthony Montgomery
    John Billingsley
    Connor Trinneer
    Linda Park
    Tim Russ
    Nana Visitor
    Walter Koenig

    oh, and Snoop Dogg. This movie is an embarrassment, and it was sad that these former Trek cast members were exploited in something so juvenile and haphazard. It's basically a home-movie, dumb jokes and stupid skits strung together to form a lame story about alien plants taking over the earth. Avoid at all costs.

    1. You had me with that cast list. Unfortunate that it's not good.

  21. Scanners (1981)

    Filling in another blind spot with this one. Ultimately, I liked it and it has some interesting ideas but there are a couple things about it that I have to note. First, the famous head exploding scene happens, like, right away. I guess the idea is "look how powerful this is--you should be scared!" but nothing ever comes close to it again. The second thing is that, due to the nature of scanning, it's a lot of looking intensely at people. It doesn't not work, but I could see how people wouldn't be on board for it. Ultimately, I'm glad I went with it for my sci-fi pick--great movie!

  22. Night of the Comet (1984)

    So this finally concludes my quest to catch up with the line-up of F This Movie Fest 5, and it only took me 5 years to do it! Slow but persistent is my motto. Catherine Mary Stewart was the breakout star of last year's Junesploitation for me (on the strength of Last Starfighter and Weekend at Bernie's), so I was super excited to see her in a proper starring role this time around. Throw in the fact that Night of the Comet is routinely cited as a major source of inspiration for Buffy, a character I'm quite a fan of (and holy shit, the dog's name here is Buffy!), and the ground was laid for what was easily one of my most eagerly anticipated viewings this month. And I'm happy to announce... I liked it a lot, although it was very different from what I expected.

    This movie's got the strangest tone, or rather, it's got all the tones, all at once. It's a bit of a zombie movie, but there's very little zombie killing action. It's a bit post-apocalyptic, but quite laid back about it. It's not really a horror movie because the ostensible villains (both the zombies and the scientists) aren't particularly threatening. It's too wistful to be a wacky comedy, but too playful to be a heavy sci-fi meditation on the human condition. It exists somewhere in between, and this grey tonal area is what I often find most appealing. Ultimately, with the throughline of resolute teenagers making the best of a hopeless situation, the movie comes across as a celebration of life and youth in a world that's gone to shit, and in this respect it reminded me of last year's Spontaneous (a movie I also loved). I'm sure after I see it again (hopefully soon) I'll have a better grasp on it, but I can already see it's got the potential to become a top-tier personal favorite.

  23. Steel Dawn(1987) Dir: Lance Hool

    Ok so the opening scene is promising with Swayze demonstrating the power of the head stand when guys in gas mask start emerging from beneath the sand. Swayze quickly dispatches the sand people with his sword and his patented Dance-Fu™. Seriously Swayze likes twirling. Jump twirls, spinning kicks and 360 degree sword swipes abound in this movie.

    Swayze is a dark and quiet former peacekeeper wandering the wasteland. Not by choice. His name is Nomad I mean his options were limited. It was this or Marvell Villian. Could be worse though. Two guesses where his sister Chasity ended up working.

    After returning to civilization his mentor(American Ninja's John Fujioka) is killed by a guy in a vintage Richie Sambora wig. So Swayze departs across the desert to chase the killers. Then he stops at a moisture farm to help a widow, her son Jux(Brett Hool, Director's son) and a red faced, very uncormfortable looking Brion James(seriously get this man some spf40 and a fan y'all). Swayze and the Widow(Lisa Neimi) have great chemistry. Crazy right? The kid isn't annoying which helps. Swayze even takes the time to teach him the power of a headstand which of course helps secure their bond.

    Yeah its a pretty much post-apocalyptical 'Shane' with swords. So if its 'Shane' we need a Ryker. Ryker played by Anthony Zerb(the Omega Man) of course ends up hiring the mentors murderer to help take over the widow's water farm. Rival gang does the usual flex moves bad guys do when dealing with a farm owning widow. ​This all leads to the final showdown ​where Swayze dispatches Richie Sambora and a majority of the bad guys and our Ryker proxy.

    Then he leaves the widow and the farm. Again "cuz nomad". Also the widow has a bunch of plans about creating a new society with her water reserves and that sounds like a lot of work. Better to stick to the lonesome wanderer thing. And as he is walking away yes the kid does chase after him.

    The movie was sorry to say, pretty bland. Everything in it was fine. There was nothing offensively bad nothing exciting either. the worst of it all is the fight scenes are really forgettable. I was not too much of a fan of this one. There's a reason no Swayze fans have ever said "oh you liked that you should watch Steel Dawn!"*

    Its on TUBI


  24. Prometheus (2012)

    I loved this movie when I rented it on DVD in 2012-13 not knowing it had anything to do with Alien. I loved it just as much today (and wish I had seen it in the theatre). One of the best looking Sci-Fi movies ever. It's weird that it became the focus of ire of every Youtube blogger nit-picker "Alien canon" expert. Jesus, enjoy what's playing right in front of you instead of focusing on how it fits into an imaginary universe that doesn't even exist. (Sorry, rant). R. Scott just has such talent with the visual touches; one of my favourite directors. I expect this one will gradually be reappraised more favourably over the years.

    I've listened to Patrick and JB's podcast on it several times. They enjoyed it less than me (which is fine), but they did have a lot of positive things so say about it as well, especially how gorgeous it looks.

    1. I'm with you on this one. I also really like the movie for what it is and to this day can't understand why it inspired such a harsh backlash.

  25. Split Second (1992)

    A movie that’s spoiled in the opening credits

  26. Outland

    more space westerns please!

  27. Genocide (1968)
    Directed by Kazui Nihonmatsu

    Opening shot is an atomic explosion, which is never a bad start.

    A Bug hitting the outside window of a bomber plane (?!) causes one of the crew (an Afro-American soldier) to have an episode of severe PTSD. While the pilots are distracted by the crewman, a huge swarm of insects attack the plane, which crashes along with it’s h-bomb on a remote island. Turns out radiation has been causing insects to mutate, become more aggressive and their venom causes madness and death. The movie is pretty silly, and pulls some weird stuff, like “let’s blame the black guy”, and gets really cartoonish.

    There’s a Caucasian woman on the island, paying locals to collect insects, tempting otherwise virtuous Japanese men into cheating on their wives or committing crimes. Turns out she was interned at Auschwitz, and it turned her into a sociopath (BTW, not a typical response). Turns out she’s also a communist agent researching the mutant bugs. This little gem makes sitting through this worth it:

    “I don’t care whether I live in a free society…or a communist one…I just want to breed vast numbers of insects that drive people mad…and scatter them all over the world.”

    About 61 minutes in, the only person who knows what’s going on, an entomologist deliberately infects himself with the venom (not sure how advisable this plan was), and there’s a great one minute sequence of psychedelic imagery, as he speaks with the voice of the insects:

    “The Earth doesn’t belong to human beings alone. We don’t care if mankind destroys itself with nuclear weapons, but we refuse to let you take us with you. Destroy the human race! Genocide. Exterminate all humans!”
    Can I get that on a t-shirt?

    Has some funny moments, not sure they were on purpose. This was a clock watcher, and I kept saying “I can’t believe this thing has another 45 minutes,” and then it would surprise me. Totally bleak apocalyptic ending. Pretty crazy.

    1. This one got turned into an episode of "Cinematic Titanic" (the 'yan' to Rifftrax's 'Ying') renamed "War of the Insects." It airs on ShoutTV! regularly, or you can rent it on Apple TV for four bucks. :-)

    2. Weirdly Criterion Channel had a washed-out low- contrast transfer of it. Even the subtitles were a little pixilated. Had this a couple times on the service, always with genre films. I would totally rewatch particular scenes of this with a better transfer.

  28. Dollman, dir Albert Pyun, 1991

    Just a ton of fun! I love how Pyun takes Charles Band's love of miniature maniacs to a whole new level. It's kinda glorious.

  29. Alien: Covenant (2017)

    Decided to keep riding the Alien train. I had already re-watched this one last SMM, so I decided to watch with the Blank Check commentary. What a dark ending, (spoilers) with the evil robot essentially winning.

    Even though it was fairly obvious in hindsight, I didn't see the "twist" at all when I first watched and it was quite a surprise. I tend to not think ahead much when watching movies, and even forget stuff that I had seen in trailers (big surprise in Thor: Ragnarok when Hulk showed up, even though I knew beforehand). I guess I just get immersed. My son is the opposite (he takes after his mum apparently), and is always trying to predict what will happen later on.

    In the commentary they were talking about how difficult it must have been to shoot the many scenes with double Fassbenders, which I appreciated this time around.

  30. The One, dir James Wong, 2001

    I didn't realise Inwas entering such a wig heavy movie. Jason Statham with his Bruce Willis Die Hard hair piece will haunt my dreams. But The One is a dopey fun movie. And the fight scene between Jet Li and Jet Li is awesome.

  31. BATTLE FOR THE LOST PLANET (1986, dir. Brett Piper)

    I don't know. I guess it's sci-fi. We had it on our shelf from Vinegar Syndrome and this was an excuse to watch it. I liked the fake Stallone guy.

  32. WEIRD SCIENCE (1985, dir. John Hughes)

    First time watch! This was an extremely fun time. It has Judie Aronson from AMERICAN NINJA which automatically makes it great. Bonus points for a Steve James cameo!

    Put this with FRIGHT NIGHT and BETTER OFF DEAD for the ultimate 1985 teen triple-feature.

  33. Runaway (1984, dir. Michael Crichton)

    I didn't think Gene Simmons playing a crazy violent mean mugging villain would be by far my favorite part of this but here we are

  34. Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)

    I'm glad that Sci-Fi day was today when I could just dedicate the whole day to movies. I'll be lucky to be able to keep up for the rest of the month, but I made the best of today.

    I grew up loving Star Wars, and didn't watch these Star Trek movies at all. But they occurred concurrently and a lot of the model and special effects are similar, even thought the vibe is completely different. I've sure come to appreciate them in later years though.

    Funnily enough, I actually knew what this one was about long before I saw it a few years ago, because I had picked up a graphic novel adaptation as a kid (probably at a garage sale or something, because I wasn't into comics).

  35. Pandorum (2009)

    After waking up on a spaceship with no memories, Corporal Bower needs to figure out what's going on...and what's going on is not good...

    I had seen this one before, but literally could not remember how it ended, so it was basically like watching it for the first time. I liked it, the story is pretty tight. The sets are cool. A good time.

  36. 12 Monkeys (1995, dir. Terry Gilliam)

    Abrasive, yet expertly crafted -- I understand why it is pinnacle of sci-fi noir

  37. Lifeforce (1985) - What I'm coming to love about Tobe Hooper films is that they're never quite what I expect. When this started I assumed it was going to be sexy Alien with vampires. Instead, it's a stunning mix of 50s-era sci fi and gothic Hammer horror that goes absolutely nuts in the third act. I loved every minute.

  38. Wall-E (2008)

    Wanted something a little fun and laid-back to watch with the gf, plus despite liking this a lot when seeing it in the theater I hadn't revisited it since then. It holds up and I might like it even more now!

  39. Galaxy of Terror (Bruce D. Clark, 1981)
    I had no idea this movie served as an influence for Event Horizon and had a very "Leo di Caprio pointing at the screen meme" moment halfway through

  40. Event Horizon

    Id been meaning to revisit this one for the last year as it keeps showing up on 'best of' lists that circle around cult, horror, and sci fi. Welp, i did, and its AMAZING. im not sure if its a 'sploitation' contender as its big budget but hezues marimba if you havent seen it..see it. Early on it feels like its gonna be yet another attempt to capture the lighting in the bottle that is the original Alien...but it quickly devolves into a haunted house story where the house is a spaceship and the ghost is...well im not really sure...but b@tshit craziness ensues. Also we get ammmmmazing stuff from Fishburne AND Neil.

    Honorable Mention: havent watched yet but will do so in the next day or so...Saturn 3. Another Sci Fi Horror movie that never quite lives up to what i want it to...too feels like a few tweaks here and there and it could have been a classic.