Thursday, December 31, 2015

John Carpenter, part XXIII: Xenogenesis


In which we undertake a reappraisal of one of John Carpenter's lesser-regarded works.

Directed by John Carpenter
Written by David Himmelstein, Steven Siebert, and Larry Sulkis (based on the book The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham and the screenplay by Stirling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla, and Ronald Kinnoch)
With Christopher Reeve (Dr. Alan Chaffee), Kirstie Alley (Dr. Susan Verner), Linda Kozlowski (Melanie Roberts), Michael Pare (Frank McGowan), Karen Kahn (Barbara Chaffee), Mark Hamill (Rev. George), Thomas Dekker (David McGowan), and Lindsey Haun (Mara Chaffee)

Spoiler alert: high

Monday, December 28, 2015

Have you been a good boy or girl this year, and would you be mad if I told you that it matters a lot less than you think?


Happy holidays, Judeo-Christians!  This was supposed to go up Christmas Day, but you know how it is.  Well, if you're from the "Judeo" part of that association, you don't, and this one's more for you, anyhow.

Directed by Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, and Simon Wells
Written by Philip LaZebnik and Nicholas Meyer
With Val Kilmer (Moses), Michelle Pfeiffer (Tziporrah), Sandra Bullock (Miriam), Jeff Goldblum (Aaron), Danny Glover (Jethro), Patrick Stewart (Pharaoh Seti I), Ralph Fiennes (Pharaoh Rameses II), and Val Kilmer (YHWH)

Spoiler alert: he lets his people go

It will obsess you, but believe me, it will be a mediocre obsession


Todd Haynes returns to the 1950s.  I wish he hadn't.

Directed by Todd Haynes
Written by Phyllis Nagy (based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith)
With Cate Blanchett (Carol Aird), Rooney Mara (Therese Belivet), Kyle Chandler (Harge Aird), and Sarah Paulson (Abby Gerhard)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Buckle that swash, part VII: Fairbanks' new groove


After a break, somewhat justified by a hard-to-get-ahold-of DVD, we at last return to the ongoing adventures of Douglas Fairbanks.  Would that the film itself were especially good.

Directed by F. Richard Jones
Written by Lotta Woods, Dr. Arthur Woods, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
With Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (The Gaucho), Lupe Velez (The Mountain Girl), Eve Southern (The Girl of the Shrine), Nigel de Brulier (The Padre), Gustav von Seyffertitz (Ruiz, the Usurper), Michael Vavitch (The Usurper's First Liutenant), Charles Stevens (The Gaucho's First Lieutenant), Albert MacQuarrie (The Victim of the Black Doom), and Mary Pickford (Saint Mary)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, December 20, 2015

You probably didn't recognize me because of the red arm


If history's taught us anything, it's that it takes years for us to be able tell whether a new Star Wars movie is any good.  So, in this spirit of deep ambivalence, I offer a mostly negative review, then give it a positive score.

Directed by J.J. Abrams
Written by Michael Arndt, Lawrence Kasdan, and J.J. Abrams
With Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Carrie Fisher (Gen. Leia Organa), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Domnhall Gleeson (Gen. Nux), and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren)

Spoiler alert: moderate, high, severe? you've seen it already anyway, so you be the judge

Thursday, December 17, 2015

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Star Wars comes out—so let's go ahead and get this done today


Hey, on the plus side, at least a house full of people didn't have to die to inspire this version.

Directed by Justin Kurzel
Written by Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, and Todd Louiso (based on the play by William Shakespeare)
With Michael Fassbender (Macbeth), Marion Cotillard (Lady Macbeth), Paddy Considine (Banquo), David Thewliss (King Duncan), Jack Reynor (Prince Malcolm), and Sean Harris (Macduff)

Spoiler alert: get real

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Kids these days—back then, we had to scrounge up and down the hellscape, just for a single tree star!


Note: I have used hedging language in the closing paragraph of this review because I have not seen either Cars film.  But whether The Good Dinosaur sucks worse is moot, given that it manages to suck on its own just fine.

Directed by Peter Sohn
Written by Meg LaFauve, Bob Petersen, Erik Benson, Kelsey Mann, and Peter Sohn
With Raymond Achoa (Arlo), Jack Bright (Spot), Jeffrey Wright (Poppa), Frances Macdormand (Momma), Marcus Scribner (Buck), Maleah Nippy-Padilla (Libby), Anna Paquin (Ramsey), A.J. Buckley (Nash), and Sam Elliott (Butch), and Steve Zahn (Thunderclap)

Spoiler alert: moderate

Sunday, December 13, 2015

John Carpenter, part XXII: The man of Truth has learnt that Illusion is the only reality


The greatest cosmic horror on film is also the greatest achievement of its director's career.

Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Michael De Luca
With Sam Neill (John Trent), Julie Carmen (Linda Styles), Charlton Heston (Jackson Harglow), David Warner (Dr. Wrenn), and Jurgen Prochnow (Sutter Cane)

Spoiler alert: high

Monday, December 7, 2015

Party on, dudes



Directed by Peter Hewitt
Written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon
With Keanu Reeves (Ted "Theodore" Logan/Evil Ted), Alex Winter (Bill S. Preston, Esq./Evil Bill/Granny S. Preston, Esq.), William Sadler (Death), Ed Gale/Arturo Gil/Tom Alland/Neil Ross (Station), Annette Azcuy (Princess Elizabeth), Sarah Trigger (Princess Joanna), J. Patrick McNamara (Mr. Preston), Hal Landon Jr. (Capt. Logan), Amy Stoch (Missy Logan), Pam Grier (Mrs. Wardroe), Jim Martin (Sir James Martin), George Carlin (Rufus), and Joss Ackland (De Nomolos)

Spoiler alert: high, though once again the Bill and Ted franchise really is a snake eating its own tail

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Be excellent to each other


A gloriously dumb comedy with heart to spare and smarter sci-fi underpinnings than it really ought to have, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure shall always remain one of the enduring classics of its era, even when the future the Stallyns promised us seems farther away than ever.

Directed by Stephen Herek
Written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon
With Alex Winter (Bill S. Preston, Esq.), Keanu Reeves (Ted "Theodore" Logan), Terry Camelleri (Napoleon Bonaparte), Dan Shor (Billy the Kid), Tony Steedman (Socrates), Rod Loomis (Sigmund Freud), Al Leong (Genghis Khan), Jane Wiedlin (Jeanne d'Arc), Robert Barron (Abraham Lincoln), Clifford David (Beethoven), Hal Landon Jr. (Capt. Logan), J. Patrick McNamara (Mr. Preston), Amy Stoch (Missy Preston), and George Carlin (Rufus)

Spoiler alert: delightfully auto-spoiling, really, but "high"

Thursday, December 3, 2015

John Carpenter, part XXI: Do you like EC Comics? Well, I know someone who does


Hey, it's not like Tales From the Crypt was all that great, either.

Directed by John Carpenter ("The Gas Station," "Hair"), Tobe Hooper ("The Eye"), and Larry Sulkis (something, apparently)
Written by Billy Brown and Dan Angel
"The Gas Station": Alex Datcher (Anne) and Robert Carradine (Bill)
"Hair": Stacey Keach (Richard Coberts), Sheena Easton (Megan), and David Warner (Dr. Lock)
"The Eye": Mark Hamill (Brent Matthews), Twiggy (Cathy Matthews), and John Agar (Dr. Lang)
...along with your host, John Carpenter (The Coroner)

Spoiler alert: mild

John Carpenter, part XX: Give me back my molecules!


Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a film that only rarely rises above the simple playing-out of its premise—but, in doing just that, still offers a great deal to enjoy.

Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Robert Collector, Dana Olsen, and William Goldman (based on the novel by H.F. Saint)
With Chevy Chase (Nick Halloway), Daryl Hannah (Alice Monroe), Michael McKean (George Talbot), and Sam Neill (David Jenkins)

Spoiler alert: moderate