Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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


Someone certainly forgot to equalize the damn tone.

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?


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

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


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

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!


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

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


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

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 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.

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


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.

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


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.)

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



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 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.

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



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


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

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


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.

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


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.

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...


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.

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


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!

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