Sunday, December 28, 2014

Finally, refusing to ever watch E.T. again pays off!


EARTH TO ECHO

An effervescently sweet little piece of boilerplate, and only mildly underminedsurprisinglyby its found-footage conceit.

2014
Directed by Dave Green
Written by Henry Gayden and Andrew Panay
With Teo Halm (Alex), Reese Hartwig (Munch), Ella Wahlestedt (Emma), and Astro (Tuck) (and are you kidding me)

Spoiler alert: mild

Saturday, December 27, 2014

What Schrodinger's cat usually does in his box

COHERENCE

I don't know if anyone ever really asked why Twilight Zone episodes were customarily only 25 minutes long, but if they did, they have a definitive answer now.  And, as a bonus, their answer is really, really fucking ugly!

2013 (them)/2014 (us)
Directed by James Ward Byrkit
Written by Alex Manugian and James Ward Byrkit
With Emily Baldoni (Em), Maury Sterling (Kevin), Nicholas Brendon (Mike), Elizabeth Gracen (Beth), Alex Manugian (Amir), Lauren Maher (Laurie), Hugo Armstrong (Hugh), and Lorene Scafaria (Lee)

Spoiler: moderate (severe, however, if you've seen +1... so, yeah, probably just "moderate")

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The perfect system


TRON: LEGACY

And for Boxing Day, a present to myself.

2010
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
Written by Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal, and probably your mom, given the story fragments evident in the final motion picture, but let's say "a lot of people who deserve varying degrees of praise and scorn"
With Jeff Bridges (Kevin Flynn), Garrett Hedlund (Sam Flynn), Olivia Wilde (Quorra), Michael Sheen (Castor), Bruce Boxleitner (Alan Bradley), Anis Cheurfa (Rinzler), and Jeff Bridges/John Reardon (Clu)

Spoiler alert: high

Having myself a patriotic little Christmas


THE INTERVIEW

I liked the part with the imperial overreach.  Meanwhile, James Franco reinforces his reputation as (perhaps) the best performer of comic ejaculation pantomime to have ever lived.

2014
Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Written by Dan Sterling, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg
With James Franco (Dave Skylark), Seth Rogen (Aaron Rapoport), Randall Park (Kim Jong-un), Diana Bang (Sook), and Lizzy Caplan (Lacey)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Signal to noise


THE SIGNAL

It's so much easier to enjoy a bad movie when watching it is not also watching a great movie die in its place.

2014
Directed by William Eubanks
Written by William Frigerio, Carlyle Eubanks, and William Eubanks
With Brenton Thwaites (Nic), Beau Knapp (Jonah), Olivia Cooke (Haley), and Laurence Fishburne (Damon)

Spoiler alert: moderate

The nerds of Albion, part I: A brief history of how two people had sex, at least three times


THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

For a movie with a title like that, you'd think it'd be willing to explain itself, at least occasionally.

2014
Directed by James Marsh
Written by Anthony McKarten (based on the book by Jane Wilde Hawking)
With Eddie Redmayne (Stephen Hawking) and Felicity Jones (Jane Wilde Hawking) 

Spoiler: moderate, I guess, but if ever a spoiler warning was inapplicable...

Monday, December 22, 2014

It's one of the more dangerous games, anyway


13 SINS

Sometimes a premise is all you need: given a week, the title, and a suitably gnarly sense of humor, you might write nearly the exact same film that David Birke and Daniel Stamm didand it would probably still be pretty darned good.

2014
Directed by Daniel Stamm
Written by David Birke and Daniel Stamm (based on the movie 13: Game of Death by Chookiat Sakveerakul and Eakasit Thairatana)

Spoiler alert: mild

Monday, December 15, 2014

18 Years a Slave


THE BABADOOK

And, representing the case for infanticide, The Babadook.

2014
Written and directed by Jennifer Kent
With Essie Davis (Amelia), Noah Wiseman (Samuel), Daniel Henshall (Robbie), Hayley McElhinney (Claire), and Tim Purcell (The Babadook, dook, dook)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Love is a stupid hat


NINOTCHKA

The corruption of purity by capitalism's false promises has never seemed so sweet as in Lubitsch's fantastic dialectical romcom.

1939
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Written by Billy Wilder, Walter Reisch, Charles Brackett, and Ernst Lubitsch (based on the story by Melchior Lengyel)
With Greta Garbo (Nina "Ninotchka" Ivanovna Yakushova), Melvyn Douglas (Leon, Comte d'Algout), Ina Claire (Duchess Swana), Sig Ruman (Iranoff), Felix Bressart (Buljanoff), Alexander Granach (Kopalski), and Bela Lugosi (Rakonin)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Catching up with the (super) classics of horror, part III: We're having an adventure, just like the Goonies!


THE DESCENT

2005 (The United Tyranny)/2006 (Freedomland)
Written and directed by Neil Marshall
With Shauna Macdonald (Sarah), Natalie Mendoza (Juno), Alex Reid (Beth), Saskia Mulder (Rebecca), Myanna Buring (Sam), and Nora-Jane Noone (Holly)

We've all missed movies that we should've seen.  Here are three of mine, that might surprise you.

Spoiler alert: high

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Catching up with the (super) classics of horror, part II: Video nasty


THE RING

2002
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Written by Ehren Kruger (based on the novel by Koji Suzuki and the screenplay by Hiroshi Takahashi)
With Naomi Watts (Rachel), David Dorfman (Aidan), Martin Henderson (Noah), and Daveigh Chase (Samara)

We've all missed movies that we should've seen.  Here are three of mine, that might surprise you.

Spoiler alert: high

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Catching up with the (super) classics of horror, part I: I barely know her geist


POLTERGEIST

1982
Directed by somebody! maybe it was you!
Written by Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, and Mark Victor
With Craig T. Nelson (Steve Freeling), JoBeth Williams (Diane Freeling), Oliver Robins (Robbie Freeling), Heather O'Rourke (Carol Anne Freeling), Beatrice Straight (Dr. Lesh), and Zelda Rubinstein (Tangina)

We've all missed movies that we should've seen.  Here are three of mine, that might surprise you.

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I'm unexpectedly virtuous


BIRDMAN

Birdman is very close to the best movie of the year, and it is almost without a doubt the hardest.

2014
Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Written by Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
With Michael Keaton (Riggan Thomson), Edward Norton (Mike Shiner), Naomi Watts (Lesley), Zach Galifianakis (Jake), Andrea Riseborough (Laura), Amy Ryan (Sylvia), and Emma Stone (Sam)

Spoiler alert: mild

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

She blinded me with science (science!)


OCULUS

2014's leading horror film may also be its best exploration of obsession and revenge.

2013 (them)/2014 (us)
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Written by Jeff Howard and Mike Flanagan (based on the short screenplay by Jeff Seidman and Mike Flanagan)
With Karen Gillan (Kaylie Russell), Brenton Thwaites (Tim Russell), Katee Sackhoff (Marie Russell), Rory Cochrane (Alan Russell), Annalise Basso (Young Kaylie), and Garrett Ryan (Young Tim)

THE QUIET ONES

A genre exercise that can't even manage to be interesting on the level of formula.

2014
Directed by John Pogue
Written by Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, and John Pogue (based on the screenplay [presumably regular-sized] by Tom de Ville)
With Jared Harris (Prof. John Coupland), Olivia Cooke (Jane Harper), Sam Clafin (Brian McNeil), Erin Richards (Kriss Dalton), and Rory Fleck-Byrne (Harry Abrams)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dispassionately and exactingly ranking the films of Christopher Nolan by their utilitarian value, nos. 3-1


The Internet asks, "Is Christopher Nolan the greatest director alive?"  And the answer is, "No, of course he's not.  Are you high?"  But if the question were, instead, "Is Chris Nolan the most consistently excellent director working today?", there are nine films to consider, and the answer might be quite different.  (Okay, the point is, I marathoned his movies, and now you're just going to have to deal with it.)

Spoiler alert: well, I don't spoil Interstellar, anyway

Dispassionately and exactingly ranking the films of Christopher Nolan by their utilitarian value, nos. 6-4


The Internet asks, "Is Christopher Nolan the greatest director alive?"  And the answer is, "No, of course he's not.  Are you high?"  But if the question were, instead, "Is Chris Nolan the most consistently excellent director working today?", there are nine films to consider, and the answer might be quite different.  (Okay, the point is, I marathoned his movies, and now you're just going to have to deal with it.)

Spoiler alert: well, I don't spoil Interstellar, anyway (certainly at no more than a moderate level)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dispassionately and exactingly ranking the films of Christopher Nolan by their utilitarian value, nos. 9-7


The Internet asks, "Is Christopher Nolan the greatest director alive?"  And the answer is, "No, of course he's not.  Are you high?"  But if the question were, instead, "Is Chris Nolan the most consistently excellent director working today?", there are nine films to consider, and the answer might be quite different.  (Okay, the point is, I marathoned his movies, and now you're just going to have to deal with it.)

Spoiler alert: well, I don't spoil Interstellar, anyway

Monday, November 10, 2014

We are of Bajor


INTERSTELLAR

Interstellar is at war with itself, and from its first moments it embraces a three hour-long contest between opposites.  It is astonishing visuals against lazy ones; a clutter of ideas against empty-headed disinterest; and a real attempt to explore humanity's place in the cosmos against emotions delivered with all the nuance of a slap from an iron glove.

2014
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan (based on the poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into the Night" by Dylan Thomas)
With Matthew McConaughey (Cooper), Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain (Murph), Michael Caine (Prof. Brand), Anne Hathaway (Dr. Amelia Brand), and Bill Irwin (TARS)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Abre las ventanas


OPEN WINDOWS

Something new is also something stupidand is maybe something great, but it's really hard to tell. 

2014 Espana/Estados Unidos
Escrita y dirigida por Nacho Vigalondo
Con Elijah Wood (Nick Chambers), Sasha Grey (Jill Goddard), y Neil Maskell (Chord)

¡La alerta del spoiler!: moderado

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I spit on your grave, and the wind blew it back in my face


BLUE RUIN

Sometimes a low key offers high returns.

2014
Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier
With Macon Blair (Dwight)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Attack of the Eye Creature


NIGHTCRAWLER

A horrifying portrait of successand that is, every syllable, an intentional double entendre.

2014
Written and directed by Dan Gilroy
With Jake Gyllenhaal (Louis Bloom), Rene Russo (Nina Romina), Riz Ahmed (Rick), and Bill Paxton (Joe Loder)

Spoiler alert: mild

Spurious (Yellow)


ENEMY

In the face of Denis Villeneuve's new piece of artcrap, Prisoners suddenly looks far less insipid.

2014
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Written by Javier Guillon (based on the novel The Double by Jose Saragamo)
With Jake Gyllenaal (Adam), Jake Gyllenhaal (Anthony), Melanie Laurent (Mary), Sarah Gadon (Helen), and Isabella Rossellini (Mother)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Census Bloodbath: Lighting out for the Territory


THE BURNING

In the spirit of October masquerade fun, now comes the crossover between this here webzone and Brennan Klein's Popcorn Culture, just about the best blog you could ever read, and even better if you're a horror aficionado!  From now till Halloween the early morning of November 2 (oops), I'll be wearing the mask of someone who actually knows shit about the slasher genre, while Brennan will (far more ably) review some spooky 1950s science fiction!  Join us!  Or I'll be forced to use even more exclamation points!

Directed by Tony Maylam
Written by Peter Lawrence, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, and Tony Maylam
With Brian Matthews (Todd), Leah Ayres (Michelle), Brian Backer (Alfred), Larry Joshua (Glazer), Ned Eisenberg (Eddy), Fisher Stevens (Woodstock), Jason Alexander (!) (Dave), Carrick Glenn (Sally), Carolyn Houlihan (Karen), and Lou David (Cropsy)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Census Bloodbath: Harry Lime buys a chainsaw


PIECES
Mil gritos tiene la noche (A Thousand Terrors Has the Night)

In the spirit of October masquerade fun, now comes the crossover between this here webzone and Brennan Klein's Popcorn Culture, just about the best blog you could ever read, and even better if you're a horror aficionado!  From now till Halloween, I'll be wearing the mask of someone who actually knows shit about the slasher genre, while Brennan will (far more ably) review some spooky 1950s science fiction!  Join us!  Or I'll be forced to use even more exclamation points!

1982 Espana/1983 USA
Directed by Juan Piquer Simon
Written by Dick Randall, Joe D'Amato (as John Shadow), and Juan Piquer Simon
With Ian Sera (Kendall), Linda Day George (Officer Mary Riggs), Christopher George (Lt. Bracken), Frank Brana (Sgt. Holden), Paul Smith (Willard), William Taylor (Prof. Brown), and Edmund Purdom (the Dean)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Census Bloodbath: The Ballad of Harry Warden


MY BLOODY VALENTINE

In the spirit of October masquerade fun, now comes the crossover between this here webzone and Brennan Klein's Popcorn Culture, just about the best blog you could ever read, and even better if you're a horror aficionado!  From now till Halloween, I'll be wearing the mask of someone who actually knows shit about the slasher genre, while Brennan will (far more ably) review some spooky 1950s science fiction!  Join us!  Or I'll be forced to use even more exclamation points!

1981
Directed by John Mihalka
Written by Stephen Miller and John Beaird
With Paul Kelman (T.J. Hanniger), Lori Hallier (Sarah), Neil Affleck (Axel), Keith Knight (Hollis), and Peter Cowper (Harry Warden)

Spoiler alert: severe

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Norman and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day


FURY

Fury is orchestrated misery.

2014
Written and directed by David Ayer
With Brad Pitt (Sgt. Don Collier), Logan Lerman (Norman Ellison), Shia LeBourg (Boyd Swan), Michael Pena (Trini Garcia), and John Bernthal (Grady Travis)

Spoiler alert: mild

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Monsters Mashed: I thought what I'd do is I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes


THE MAN WHO LAUGHS

A muddle raised up as an all-time great because of the power of one simple image.  I'm here to tell you it was not enough then and it was not enough now.  This is not a good movie, damn it, though it easily could have been and that's even worse.

1928
Directed by Paul Leni
Written by J. Grubb Alexander, Walter Anthony, May McLean, Marion Ward, and Charles E. Whittaker (based on the novel by Victor Hugo)
With Conrad Veidt (Baron Gwynplaine Clancharlie), Mary Philbin (Dea), Brandon Hurst (Barkilphedro), Olga Baclanova (Duchess Josiana), Cesare Gravina (Ursus), and Josephine Cowell (Queen Anne Stuart)

The Monsters Mashed series intends to be a look back at the horror cinema of the Before Times.

Spoiler alert: severe

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Monsters Mashed: 10 IF cat THEN canary 20 IF canary GOTO 10


THE CAT AND THE CANARY

Garbage in, garbage out.

1927
Directed by Paul Leni
Written by Robert F. Hill, Alfred A. Cohen, and Walter Anthony (based on the play by John Willard)
With Laura La Plante (Annabelle West), Creighton Hale (Paul Jones), Gertrude Astor (Cecily), Flora Finch (Susan), Arthur Edmund Caruwe (Harry), and Martha Mattox (Mammy Pleasant)

The Monsters Mashed series intends to be a look back at the horror cinema of the Before Times.

Spoiler alert: moderate

Now, this is bat country


DRACULA UNTOLD

It's certainly better than Dracula, told by Tod Browning.  But that's not saying awfully much.

2014
Directed by Gary Shore
Written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (based on characters created by world historical forces and also Bram Stoker)
With Luke Evans (Prince Vlad III Dracula), Sarah Gadon (Princess Mirena Dracula), Art Parkinson (Ingeras Dracula), Dominic Cooper (Sultan Mehmed II Osmanli), and Charles Dance (the Master Vampire)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Wait... are racism, sexism, and slavery bad?


BELLE

Why, yesit turns out racism, sexism, and slavery are bad.  A+ one million for Belle.

2013 (the few)/2014 (the many)
Directed by Amma Asante
Written by Misan Sagay
With Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsey), Tom Wilkinson (Lord Mansfield), Emily Watson (Lady Mansfield), Penelope Wilton (Lady Mary Murray), Sarah Gadon (Elizabeth Murray), Sam Reid (John Davinier), and Matthew Goode (in the movie for like three minutes, which is kind of bullshit)

Spoiler alert: severe, though it is also sort of N/A

Sunday, October 5, 2014

In space, no one can hear you psychologically fracture


SPACE STATION 76

Are you ready for some wacky fun times in the stupid future our parents imagined?  It's got smoking!  And Valium!  And just look at that silly poster!  Ha ha!

2014
Directed by Jack Plotnick
Written by Jennifer Elise Cox, Kali Rocha, Michael Stoyanov, Sam Pancake (apparently), and Jack Plotnick
With Patrick Wilson (Capt. Glenn), Liv Tyler (Jessica), Marisa Coughlan (Misty), Matt Bomer (Ted), Jerry O'Connell (Steve), Kali Rocha (Donna), and Kylie Rogers (Sunshine)

Spoiler alert: mild

Dial M for Marriage


GONE GIRL

Or Dial M for Misogyny, if you'd prefer, because I certainly wouldn't argue with you.  But, bent toward satire, it's such fun misogyny.  Gone Girl can be all things to all people, if you let it: it can be the dark comedy with macabre laughs, or the psychological melodrama with teeth, or, maybe best of all, the kind of gnarly, plot-mechanical thriller Hollywood hardly ever makes since Brian De Palma stopped being good at his job.  Often it is all of these things at once, and it is one of 2014's best.

2014
Directed by David Fincher
Written by Gillian Flynn (based on the novel by Alfred Hitchcock)
With Rosamund Pike (Amy Dunne), Ben Affleck (Nick Dunne), Carrie Coon (Margo Dunne), Neil Patrick Harris (Desi Collings), and Tyler Perry (a reference joke so dated it's very mildly funny again)

Spoiler alert: mild

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Cardboard Science: There seems to be a wind blowing in these willows


THE MAZE

A soggy mush of a tale, that erupts into a climax so balls-out bonkers that I almost recommend itbut instead I recommend watching the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes and ignoring the middle 40.  I assure you that you will be in no manner lost, because that would require SOMETHING TO HAVE HAPPENED.

1953
Production designed and directed by William Cameron Menzies
Written by Daniel B. Ullman (based on the novel by Maurice Sandoz)
With Veronica Hurst (Kitty Murray), Katherine Emery (Edith Murray), Richard Carlson (Gerald MacTeam), Michael Pate (William), and Stanley Fraser (Robert)

Spoiler alert: it would've been moderate, but it was just too hard, if not too pointless, to talk about The Maze without talking about its ending, so after the grade, a SPOILER SECTION begins

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Just who was asking for a grim and gritty reboot of Dr. Phibes?


THE EQUALIZER

Someone certainly forgot to equalize the damn tone.

2014
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Written by Richard Wenk (based on the TV show by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim)
With Denzel Washington (Robert), Marton Csokas (Teddy, nee Nikolai), and Chloe Grace Moretz (Teri, nee Alina)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, September 29, 2014

Atlanta's still there, should we try again?


GONE WITH THE WIND

The prettiest two weeks I ever spent trapped and hungry in a theater.

1939
Directed by Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Sam Wood, and to, some extent or another, William Cameron Menzies
Written by Sidney Howard et al (based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell)
With Vivien Leigh (Scarlett Butler, aka Scarlett Kennedy, aka Scarlett Hamilton, nee Scarlett O'Hara), Clark Gable (Rhett Butler), Olivia De Havilland (Melanie Hamilton), Leslie Howard (Ashley Wilkes), Hattie McDaniel (Mammy), and some kind of racist cartoon named "Butterfly McQueen" (Prissy)

Spoiler alert: I don't give a damn (ha ha)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Midsummer Night's Sexless Comedy


MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT

The pledge, the turn, the prestige... and 17 more interminable minutes.

2014
Written and directed by Woody Allen
With Colin Firth (Stanley Crawford), Emma Stone (Sophie Baker), and Simon McBurney (Howard Burkan)

Spoiler alert: I should have a level between "moderate" and "high" but I don't

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Monsters Mashed: Feast your eyes, glut your soul!


THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

Universal's super-classic scare that started them all.

1925/1929
Directed by Rupert Julian, Lon Chaney, Ernst Laemmle, and Edward Sedgwick
Written by Walter Anthony, Elliot Clawson, Bernard McConville, Frank McCormack, Tom Reed, Raymond Schrock, Richard Wallace, and Jasper Spearing (based on the celebrated novel by Gaston Leroux)
With Lon Chaney (The Phantom), Mary Philbin (Christine Daae), Norman Kerry (Vicomte Raoul de Chagny), and Arthur Edward Caruwe (Ledoux)

The Monsters Mashed series intends to be a look back at the horror cinema of the Before Times.

Spoiler alert: severe

Sunday, September 21, 2014

We've been eating Gamera, part VIII: This is not a film


GAMERA: SUPER MONSTER

This is what studios dream of when they're dead.

1980
Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Written by Nisan Takahashi
With Mach Fumiake (Kilara), Yoko Komatsu (Mitan), Yaeko Kojima (Marsha), Keiko Kudo (Giruge), Koichi Maeda (Keiichi), Teruo Aragaki (Gamera), Umenosuke Izumi (Gamera), and Toru Kawai (Gamera)

This series of reviews would not have been possible without the in-depth interview conducted by David Milner with Noriaki Yuasa, from which I have gleaned a great deal of welcome historical insight into Mr. Yuasa, Nisan Takahashi, Daiei, and Gamera's Showa Era movies.  It's a sad, mean thing to finally credit Mr. Milner's fantastic kaiju scholarship here, at the end of that era, rather than when I should've, which is ages ago.

Spoiler alert: seriously, the hell with it

Cardboard Science: Attack of the tiny temps!


DR. CYCLOPS

Dr. Cyclops is one of those old, old, old sci-fi spectacles, and much of the joy it offers is inextricably bound up in its very vintage.  But even though it may be undermined at every last turn by a score that can't stay put, actors who might be reading their lines phonetically, and a distressing lack of gusto in its pursuit of its classical references, this rear-projectionfest may be more resonant today than it ever was in 1940.

1940
Directed Ernest P. Schoedsack
Written by Tom Kilpatrick
With Albert Dekker (Dr. Alexander Thorkel), Charles Halton (Dr. Bulfinch), Thomas Coley (Dr. Bill Stockton), Janice Logan (Dr. Mary Robinson), Victor Kilian (Steve Baker), and Frank Yaconelli (Pedro)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cardboard Science: Bitten by a fossil


MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS

Cardboard Science's salute to Jack Arnold comes to a strong finish, with this near-classic moral fable of a man's bestial transformation.  Monster on the Campus questions science's responsibility for the horrors it can sometimes unleash, and just like any good 1950s creature feature, it does so in a format that involves several really cool murders.

1958
Directed by Jack Arnold
Written by David Duncan
With Arthur Franz (Prof. Donald Blake), Joanna Moore (Madeline Howard), Alexander Lockwood (Prof. Gilbert Howard), Whit Bissell (Dr. Oliver Cole), Troy Donahue (Jimmy Flanders), and Nancy Walters (Sylvia Lockwood)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cardboard Science: The secret history of Boomers


THE SPACE CHILDREN

Minor Jack Arnold, and take that with as much or as little irony as you require.  I'd prefer that you took it with none.  (But, yes, it does suck.)

1958
Directed by Jack Arnold
Written by Bernard Schoenfield and Tom Filer
With Michel Ray (Bud Brewster), Adam Williams (Dave Brewster), Peggy Webber (Anne Brewster), Johnny Crawford (Ken Brewster), Sandy Descher (Eadie Johnson), Johnny Washbrook (Tim Gamble), Russell Johnson (Joe Gamble), Raymond Bailey (Dr. Wahrman) (get it? I guess?)

Spoiler alert: high

Sunday, September 14, 2014

S2m0ne


THE CONGRESS

A Niccolesque hybrid of live action and animation that is also a hybrid of excellence and crap, and I'm always very confused about how to grade these.

2013 (them)/2014 (us)
Written and directed by Ari Folman (based on the novel The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem)
With Robin Wright (herself), Harvey Keitel (Al), Jon Hamm (Dylan Truliner), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Aaron Wright), Danny Huston (Jeff Green), Sami Gayle (Sarah Wright) and Paul Giamatti (Dr. Baker)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cardboard Science: There is no zero


THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN

The single best science fiction film of the 1950s may even be the single best film of the 1950s, period, and one of the most emotionally resonant motion pictures in the medium's history.  Plus: the return of Tamara the Tarantula, because that's the kind of thing you'd expect in a movie billed as the "best" anything.

1957
Directed by Jack Arnold
Written by Richard Matheson and Richard Allan Simmons (based on the novel The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson)
With Grant Williams (Scott Carey), Randy Stuart (Louise Carey), Paul Langton (Charlie Carey), April Kent (Clarice), Orangey (Butch), and Tamara (an extremely large black widow)

Spoiler alert: high

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cardboard Science: Still fearing the spider


TARANTULA

GODDAM SPIDER

1955
Directed by Jack Arnold

Written by Martin Berkeley, Robert M. Fresco, and Jack Arnold
With John Agar (Dr. Matt Hastings), Mara Corday (Stephanie "Steve" Clayton), Leo Carroll (Prof. Gerald Deemer), Nestor Paiva (Sheriff Jack Andrews), and Tamara (herself)

Spoiler alert: severe

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cardboard Science: I may be the dumbest man to ever walk the Earth


THIS ISLAND EARTH

In the aggregate, the science fiction mediocrity for all time.

1955
Directed by Joseph Newman (and, maybe, possibly, sort of... Jack Arnold)
Written by Franklin Coen and Edward G. O'Callaghan (based on the story "The Alien Machine" by Raymond F. Jones)
With Jeff Morrow (Exeter), Rex Reason (Dr. Cal Meachum), Faith Domergue (Dr. Ruth Adams), Russell Johnson (Dr. Steve Carlson), Robert Nichols (Joe Wilson), Lance Fuller (Brack), Douglas Spencer (the Monitor), Orangey (Neutron), and Regis Parton (the Mu-tant)

Spoiler alert: high

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Like some kind of pale rider, I guess


NO NAME ON THE BULLET

We've seen his great science fiction; we've seen his great satirical thriller; now comes, at the end of the decade of his most abundant success, Jack Arnold's great philosophical Western.

1959
Directed by Jack Arnold
Written by Gene L. Coon and Howard Amacker
With Audie Murphy (John Gant), Charles Drake (Dr. Luke Canfield), Joan Evans (Anne Benson), Willis Bouchey (Sheriff Buck Hastings), and Edgar Stehli (Judge Benson)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Cardboard Science: A film by Gabriela Cowperthwaite


REVENGE OF THE CREATURE

What if... King Kong were six foot even, and he had to return to the water every three minutes to breathe? Why, it would be just terrible.

1955
Directed by Jack Arnold
Written by Martin Berkeley and William Alland
With John Agar (Prof. Clete Ferguson), Lori Nelson (Helen Dobson), Nestor Paiva (Lucas), Tom Hennessey (the Gill-Man on land), and Ricou Browning (the Gill-Man underwater)

Spoiler alert: high

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cardboard Science: The horror... the Universal Horror...


THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON

Errand boys for museum directors sent to collect a fossil go upriver in search of the discovery of the century, and they find it.  Then it tries to molest the errand girl that's also come along, becausewell, because it is, after all, Universal Horror, so he's got to, whether this makes sense or not.  But you don't need me to tell you that everything else Creature offers ranges from the good to the legitimately great.

1954
Directed by Jack Arnold
Written by Arthur Ross, Harry Essex, Maurice Zimm, and William Alland
Black Lagoon West: Richard Carlson (Dr. David Reed), Julie Adams (Kay Lawrence), Richard Denning (Mark Williams), Nestor Paiva (Capt. Lucas), Whit Bissell (Dr. Edwin Thompson), and Ben Chapman (The Gill-Man)
Black Lagoon East: Stanley Crew (Dr. David Reed), Ginger Stanley (Kay Lawrence), Jack Bentz (Mark Williams), and Ricou Browning (The Gill-Man)

Spoiler alert: severe

(Both this review and the previous in this series are indebted to historian Tom Weaver, whose film commentaries are a treasure trove of meticulous and firsthand research.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cardboard Science: No, Ray, I fear the spider because I do understand it


IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE

An interstellar incident with both sides to blame, but seen through self-loathing eyes; an allegory for overcoming intolerance, marketed largely upon its horror elements.  Like capitalism, it continues to fail to collapse under its own internal contradictions; unlike capitalism, it is pretty darned good.  Happy Labor Day!

1953
Directed by Jack Arnold
Written by Ray Bradbury and Harry Essex
With Richard Carlson (John Putnam), Barbara Rush (Ellen Fields), Charles Drake (Sheriff Matt Warren), Joe Sawyer (Frank), Russell Johnson (George), and Kathleen Hughes (June)

Spoiler alert: high

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The stars are out tonight


ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE

The film that teaches that suicide is never an option, at least not if you're married to Tilda Swintonso, obviously, something we already knew.  Nonetheless, it's rather enjoyable.

2013 (them)/2014 (us)
Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch
With Tilda Swinton (Eve), Tom Hiddleston (Adam), Mia Wasikowska (Ava), and John Hurt (Kit)

Spoiler alert: mild