Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Junesploitation 2023 Day 21: Aliens!




    This and "Assault on Precinct 13" are getting a week-long run at AMA, and I decided to give Carpenter's debut feature (half a student film, half a Robert A. Harris "Equinox"-style additional complementary shoot) a 35mm watch even though it's streaming on every platform known to man (TUBI, Pluto, Crackle, etc.). BIG MISTAKE! Despite having fellow filmmaker Dan O'Bannon ("Alien," "Return of the Living Dead") in a prominent on-screen role and a typical John Carpenter score (synth tunes galore) with a few interesting detours (that 'Benson Arizona' country song) this movie sucks. Nothing interesting happens, and what does happen takes forever to happen and is done by uninteresting dudes who make me hate life (and paying $12 for the privilege of watching them). The lo-fi charm of a production with limited resources only takes me to the opening credits and the asteroid belt storm, but after that the space walk? The alien that's a painted beach ball with claws (which gave me "Christine"-backwards-upside-down-in-a-tank vibes)? GTFOH! 1.25 SELF-ARMING BOMB #20's (out of 5). Sorry John, still love you! :'(


    Just returned from last night's sold-out screening. I don't know why I'm still giving this attempt to resurrect the "Alien" franchise a chance to win me over when I've seen it enough times to know it's a deeply-flawed-at-best, too-many-cooks-in-the-production-committee (Damon Lindeloff in his early post-"Lost" pretentiousness peak) epic misfire. Is it me or are the only real aliens in the film (the one at the start and the one near the end) far less evil and dicks that most of the humans? But even with a AAA cast (Fassbender, Theron, Elba, Wong, Pearce, Rapace, etc.) saddled with a muddled and pretentious narrative that makes most of them look/act like idiots, what got me to Brooklyn was a chance to rewatch it on film since its 70mm debut 11 years ago. And OMG, "Prometheus" could be on an EP-recorded VHS and still look gorgeous. Seen on a big screen in pristine 35mm with an appreciative crowd I got my money's worth in the eye-candy department. Shame except for David being a methodical and calculating mofo (Michael Fassbender for the win) there are still too many morons running around doing stupid shit for me to care where this ranks in the "Alien" franchise (hint: near the bottom). 2 IDIOTS POKING GOOEY BLACK SPACE SNAKES (out of 5).

    Steve McQueen's 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013, AMAZON PRIME)

    I've had this running in the background while typing the above reviews because, coming from just watching "Prometheus," I really wanted more of Michael Fassbender in his prime. Jesus Christ, it hurts to watch this and knowing this was us up until just a few decades ago. If aliens came down to Earth during the time this movie took place and were just exposed to the way Edwin Epps treats his slaves (not that Benedict Cumberbatch was that much better to poor Solomon Northup despite never hitting him) they'd be so right to wipe our species off the face of the planet. And poor Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o), what ever became of her? :'( I hate that Brad Pitt plays a literal white savior to our hero, but (a) producer's prerogative and (b) it's a reflection of the kindness of strangers helping overcome the darkness that once got a hold of our nation. "Schindler's List"-level masterpiece. 5 BARS OF UNUSED BORROWED SOAP (out of 5).

  2. I mistakenly thought it was Aliens! day yesterday and watched Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, dir. Don Siegel). What a great movie! I had seen the '78 remake which is often brought up as an example of "a remake that's better than the original", and while I don't necessarily disagree, this original one is really good too! I was expecting it to be slower paced, but it really rips through and comes in at 80 minutes.

    The ending was different, but supposedly that was a studio mandated decision (and everyone lived happily ever after). Despite all the seemingly obvious allegories in the movie (the pod people representing McCarthyism and/or Communism), apparently the director said he just wanted to make an exciting sci-fi movie. The author of the book it's based on expressed the same motivation.

    1. This morning I watched The X Files (1998, dir. Rob Bowman). I really loved the TV show but haven't seen it since the '90s, and had never seen the movie. This watching experience was a wonderful nostalgia filled dunk into the past. I thought it was quite good. The teaming of Muller and Scully is just perfect, a sex-thirsty man ready to believe anything paired with a gorgeous sceptic. It was always their pairing that made the TV series crackle, and they're both great here as well. Looking forward to listening to the podcast.

  3. Revisiting 1995's Biohazard: The Alien Force. A movie produced by Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski, but somehow not written by either. I remember it being squishy, dumb fun.

  4. The Sheriff and the Satellite Kid (1979)

    Shot in Newnan, GA* — look for a scene outside Stone Mountain — Uno sceriffo extraterrestre… poco extra e molto terrestre (An extraterrestrial sheriff… a little extraterrestrial and very terrestrial) is exactly what I want out of the movies that I watch. I got more enjoyment out of this film than probably anything new that I will watch this year. What can I say? Movies where Bud Spencer punches people and Oliver Onions are on the soundtrack are my true joy in life.

    Directed by Michele Lupo (The Weekend Murders, Arizona Colt) and written by Marcello Fondato (Blood and Black Lace) and Francesco Scardamaglia (Kill Them All and Come Back Alone), this starts as the town sees a UFO touch down, which means that everyone loses their mind. Everyone but Sheriff Hall (Spencer), who doesn’t believe in aliens. So let crooks like Brennan (boxing champ Joe Bugner) use aliens to try and break the law. The big burly Sheriff will keep things normal.

    Until later that night, when he gets the call to save a lost kid at Six Flags Over Georgia. He easily finds him but also finds another who calls himself H7-25. He’s played by Cary Guffey, who was Barry, the little boy in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And this is also why I love Italian cinema, because they put him on the poster and can make it seem like this movie is connected in some way to that blockbuster.

    H7-25 convinces Hall that he’s an alien by healing his deputy’s rheumatism, repeatedly saving him with his alien weapon and even blasting him with enough bio-magnetic energy that he can catch gigantic fish and speak with horses. He returns the friendship by teaching H7-25 the wonders of baked beans. Yes, it really is a Bud Spencer movie.

    At the same time, Air Force man Briggs (Raimund Harmstorf) is trying to take in H7-25 for dissection. Even Brennan ends up helping the sheriff and the alien escape. By the end, the alien child likes Earth so much that he decides to stay for a little longer, which would be the sequel, Everything Happens to Me, which is a lot like Stranger Things and was made 36 years before it.

    *Georgia is also the home of so many wonderful Italian movies. The Last Shark, The Visitor, Cannibal Apocalypse, City of the Living Dead and Madhouse.

  5. Not of This Earth (1957, dir. Roger Corman)

    An alien (who looks just like a human except for his white eyes) is on Earth to collect blood for his dying race. He hypnotizes a doctor and hires his nurse to help him, but the nurse's suspicions are raised, as are those of her boyfriend, a police officer.

    Roger Corman always had a knack for stretching a budget. Here he hires proficient actors, rents a couple of nice locations, has one simple camera trick, a small creature puppet on a string and a pair of white contact lenses for special effects, has company man Ronald Stein write and record a solid score in a day (probably), and uses voiceover to simulate telepathy. All of that combines into what is just enough to be a functional sci-fi thriller. Not a masterpiece, not a turkey. A Roger Corman film.

    Favorite performance: Dick Miller as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman.

    Not of This Earth (1988, dir. Jim Wynorski)

    An alien (who looks just like a human except for his glowing eyes) is on Earth to collect blood for his dying race. He hypnotizes a doctor and hires his nurse to help him, but the nurse's suspicions are raised, as are those of her boyfriend, a police officer.

    It's definitely an 80's film through and through. While the Corman-directed original was simple and understated, the Corman-produced remake adds plenty of visual effects, goofy comedy, gratuitous nudity, a former porn star in the cast, a punk gang, a cheery synth score, and an offhand mention of the AIDS epidemic. The movie's set in the 80's, but most of the script is still word for word the same as the 50's original, which creates an odd disconnect. In the original the actors played their roles straight, here they're hamming it up and mugging to the camera like they're in a bad sketch show.

    Oh, and did I mention there's reused footage from other (presumably Corman-produced) movies? The opening titles are played over footage of spaceships and alien creatures not seen in the rest of the movie, and there's a scene with a knife-wielding killer clearly shot on different film stock and clumsily tied into the rest of the story. That's Roger Corman for ya!

    Favorite performance: Traci Lords as the nurse.

    Not of This Earth (1995, dir. Terence H. Winkless)

    An alien (who looks just like a human except for his sparkling eyes) is on Earth to collect blood for his dying race. He hypnotizes a doctor and hires his nurse to help him, but the nurse's suspicions are raised, as are those of her boyfriend, a police officer.

    Another remake of Corman's 1957 sci-fi. While the story's pretty much exactly the same as the previous versions, at least they updated the dialogue from the 50's lingo, plus Michael York gives the alien some character and emotion, whereas Paul Birch and Arthur Roberts played him totally stone-faced. They also added a little more backstory and a slimy tentacle creature. The tone is pitched somewhere in between the previous versions, not as jokey as the 80's remake but having more fun than the original.

    Favorite performance: Michael York as the alien (runner-up: Richard Belzer as his servant).

  6. Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994, dir. Kenshô Yamashita, Takao Okawara, Kazuki Ômori)

    It's funny how the mind works. I did a full series watch over a decade ago and remember this being one of the weaker entries. Upon re-watch, nope. This movie rules. Yes the stuff with the cutesy offspring of Godzilla is disastrous, but otherwise this movie delivers on the monster action much more than most entries in the series. The practical special effects are jaw-dropping; truly spectacular work. Plus SpaceGodzilla just looks damn cool. Highly recommended.

    1. I've been going through Godzilla movies in order, and my main problem with SpaceGodzilla was that it was too similar to the previous movie, MechaGodzilla II. Maybe I would've liked it more if I hadn't watched them so close together. I agree the SpaceGodzilla design is awesome though.

  7. The Faculty (1998)

    First time viewing. I found this on a list of "alien" movies and I wasn't convinced I had the right movie until pretty far along into the running time. It's an extremely 1990's MTV-type movie. It mainly made me think that high school is an awful place and drugs are the only solution (specifically, dirty street drugs created by Josh Hartnett and his ridiculous haircut). The fact that water has regenerative properties for the aliens here made me wonder if M. Night Shyamalan saw this and decided to go the opposite way in "Signs" a few years later.

  8. New-to-me: ALIENOID (2022)
    In ancient times, warrior-monks search for a magic dagger. In the present, aliens are living among us, waging a secret war and maybe plotting an invasion. This is a lot of movie. It's almost too much to take in with all time travel, space travel, robots, gunfights, martial arts, laser beams, magic spells, tentacles (lots of tentacles) and more. But it's also humorous and tongue-in-cheek, giving the whole thing a breezy tone. It reminded me a little of the recent D&D movie. Plus, two characters are the "Sorcerers of Twin Peaks," therefore this is now official canon to the David Lynch series.

    Old fave: HOWARD THE DUCK (1985)
    Nobody, and I mean nobody, was more excited than me to see HOWARD THE DUCK in the summer of '85. I mean, George Lucas making a movie based on a Marvel comic? How could it fail? Rewatching the movie this morning and... I don't know. It's stupid and often tasteless, and it lacks the cool weirdness of those original Steve Gerber comics. But, at the risk of being controversial, it's also kind of fun. There's a certain unknowable alchemy at work among the rocking '80s effects, the hackneyed jokes, and the music video vibe. The phrase "so bad it's good" is frowned upon these days, but I daresay it applies to dear old Howard.

    1. I got the 4k disc for Howard the Duck recently. I always kinda liked the movie, and it didn't change in 4k. It's everything you said. It's goofy weird fun and i have fun watching it. And the theme song slaps

    dir. Tobe Hooper

    Wonderfully whimsical production design!
    Lorraine Newman rules!
    Louise Fletcher rules! FROGS!
    James Karen rules!

    I really wish I had watched this in a movie theater when I was 12. Maybe then I wouldn’t have minded the terrible wooden acting of Hunter Carson and his real life mother Karen Black.
    What was that ending?

    “Great Scott! Hasn’t anybody got a penny?”

  10. SHEBORG (2016, d. Daniel Armstrong)
    First-time watch on Wild Eye BluRay, 6/10.
    An alien SheBorg crashes near a place where chemicals are tested on puppies. Punky locals run afoul of the hive-mind the alien is creating when they try to bust up the testing facility. Cool costumes & gloopy gore are, in my opinion, at odds with self-important sarcasm & self-satisfied "this-is-funny" humor. SHEBORG has bits of BAD TASTE energy but gets lost in its own sauce a bit. These Aussies seem to be having lots of fun making it, so I'm clearly the grump.
    Not recommended for folks upset by phone-licking or plaid tights.

  11. Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)

    A ditzy, recently heartbroken Geena Davis has a close encounter with three very hairy and very horny aliens (Jeff Goldblum, Damon Wayans & Jim Carrey, fully in his element with all the wacky physical comedy) who crash land in her swimming pool. She does what any reasonable person would do: takes them to a salon, shaves them from head to toe, gives them a makeover, and then they all go party in a hot L.A. disco, where the interplanetary visitors start to learn just how easy girls on Earth actually are.

    I respect how the movie goes all in on its silly premise to deliver a sunny, breezy, shamelessly fun sci-fi sex romp, nothing more and nothing less. The chemistry between Davis and Goldblum is once again off the charts, there are some cool setpieces like Julie Brown's musical numbers, Wayans' dance battle in the club, and Davis' horror-flavored nightmare sequence. And as a cherry on the top, The B-52's are blasting on the soundtrack. It's boring to say they don't make them like they used to, but man, they really don't.

  12. ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011, d. Joe Cornish)
    Rewatch on Sony BluRay, still 9/10.
    An out-of-town friend informed me that he & his wife were coming to see a preview screening & that I should sign up for passes as well. It was this movie & boy was I happy. It still holds up (this is probably my third viewing)! Bottom-level teen gangsters beat up an alien after mugging their neighbor, only to have bigger, nastier aliens show up.
    Among other great things about Cornish's flick, it's rated R & only 88 minutes long.

    1. I'm surprised he wasn't able to get more projects off the ground after this. The only other movie he made, The Kid Who Would Be King, is a great family fantasy movie. But that's been all in a dozen years. Apparently they're going to make a sequel to Attack the Block. I guess that's the only way to get a movie made these days.

  13. Alien Apocalypse - 2005, dir. Josh Becker

    I watched this in prep for a different podcast and realized about 30min in that this was not at all the movie I thought it was (‘Alien Trespass’), but was in fact a movie I had seen one high school night in a fog of ditch weed and Totino’s pizza. An astronaut (Bruce Campbell in perfect cocky asshole form) crash lands on earth decades after his mission, discovering the world (or at least “Portland” by way of Bulgaria) has been conquered by insectoids who’ve enslaved humans to harvest wood for them to eat. Campbell leads a rebellion of dubbed lunkheads in terrible fake wigs against the (turns out) super easy to kill alien invaders.

    Director Josh Becker is one of Campbell and Sam Raimi’s buds from back when, having worked with both of them since the short film days. He also worked in the ‘Xena’/Hercules’/‘Jack of All Trades’ universe (hence the Renée O’Connor casting), which means he had a good deal of experience with run-and-gun, low budget TV productions. When I say this movie looks cheap and shitty, I cannot stress enough how many Halloween store wigs and glued-on beards are in this movie. It’s incredibly embarrassing, but to everyone’s credit, there is a strain of self-aware humor running through the movie to ensure the audience that they too know exactly how shitty the production looks. Campbell cresting a hill to discover the barren CGI ruins of Portland and then matter-of-fact stating, “Huh, looks a bit different” is the right kind of chuckle I need to bat down my incredulity at how terrible the effect is.

    That humor is mostly fun. You know what’s not fun? Bruce randomly dropping the F-slur like a CHUD fifth grader playing ‘Call of Duty’. A non-sequitur rape scene that’s played as the setup for a libertarian spew about “justice”. It’s all weird and makes me wonder whether norms have really changed that much since 2005 or if Becker and Tapert literally just dusted off the script and started shooting without at least re-reading it for the first time since they were 19 year olds. Just stick with the rampant alien bug dismemberment if you want to push the envelope of what a SyFy Channel movie of the week can get away with. Campbell’s Sears portrait studio superimposed face getting gacked with alien guts while the narrator stoically recalls his epic deeds is easily the funniest moment of the movie. Sad to say, but I definitely cannot recommend this movie, even in the corny, handmade Raimi/Campbell sense (instead watch Becker’s ‘Lunatics: A Love Story’ for that vibe).

  14. Pitch Black (2000)

    I thought I'd seen this, and I'd definitely seen bits and pieces, but apparently never the whole movie. The light-averse monsters coming out for an eclipse is an interesting premise, and Vin Diesel definitely pops, but I thought the character personalities and motivations were a little too vague, which in turn made me less invested in their fates as things started going sideways. I liked the first half better than the second.

  15. EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)
    dir. Doug Liman

    This, is my favorite Emily Blunt movie and my favorite Tom Cruise movie.

    Mixing Groundhog Day with an alien invasion war movie is like a Recces Peanut Butter Cup: two great tastes that taste great together.

    I love how bad ass, sexy, and smart Emily Blunt is and I love that she’s named Rita, like Andi McDowell in GhD.

    I love the Stripes vibe you get from J-Squad.
    Bill Paxton is perfection and I love that he gets to say “judgement day.”

    I love the Cary Grant/Katherine Hepburn energy Cruise and Blunt evoke while dancing down the halls and into the general’s office.
    Even her last line is perfect because it is something different from her first one.

    I love that Cruise gets to run, gets to ride a motorcycle, and gets to flash that million dollar smile at the close.

    “Cage, let’s go.”
    “Rita, let me just—“
    “What are we doing?”
    “Please. Don’t shoot him again. Okay? Just…”

    1. I LOVE this movie! And I agree with all of your points. Paxton in particular does such an amazing job with a small role that easily could have been obnoxious after a while, but he sells that speech every single time.

  16. PREDATOR 2 (1990)
    dir. Stephen Hopkins

    Danny Glover should have been a leading action star.

    We should have had 7 years of an hourlong TV prequel series because Glover, Ruben Blades and Maria Conchita Alonso had FANTASTIC chemistry.

    Bill Paxton is perfection, again.
    Gary Busey brings the douche Feds flavor.
    Underutilized Adam Baldwin and Robert Davi.
    And who (beside old people like me) remembers Morton Downey Jr.?

    The ending has too much slo-mo and the CGI is kinda cheesy but the Xenomorph skull and flintlock pistol were mind blowing at the time.

    “That’s right lieutenant. Other-world life forms.”
    “A fucking alien!
    Iwo Jima. Cambodia. Beruit.
    Drawn by heat and conflict.
    He’s on safari.
    The lions. The tigers. The bears.
    Oh my!”

  17. SIGNS (2002)
    This is probably my third viewing, and the time I've liked the movie the most. It hits much differently with me now that I'm older and have unfortunately experienced more trauma and grief myself. I think it still has some big problems but, 21 years on now, it's aging remarkably well.

    1. Watching that with my 14-year-old daughter was one of my favorite movie watching experiences because she was totally hooked and jumped at all the right places. Of course, now she doesn’t want to watch any other M. Night movies so…

  18. ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011, dir. Joe Cornish)

    After considering numerous options for this day (there are so many alien films out there), I decided to go with a more recent release. The idea behind the film was the main draw. There are not many alien invasion movies that take place in troubled urban neighborhoods. Attack The Block really entertained me, and it succeeded in balancing the action with the social themes frequently found in films with these settings. Though I did not always understand the slang, and the CGI is not the best I have seen, there was more to enjoy than critique. John Boyega gave a strong portrayal in the lead role of Moses.

  19. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

    Very fun twist on the normal, giant army of humans vs giant army of aliens.

    Bill Cage is just a marketing guy for the army, but somehow, he ends up on the battlefield (the lesson here is if you dont want to fight, dont get in the army at all). And then he ends up dead after 5 minutes. But heres the twist ! Hes in a time loop !!!

    Thats all Ill say about that, but also Emily Blunt being very authoritative is in this movie, so if thats your thing, watch it now.