Posts Tagged ‘Sci-Fi

19
Jan
12

Interstella 5555

There are times when I desperately miss MTV’s Liquid Television, an off-putting showcase of animation bizarre, gross or just plain experimental. A lot of the shorts were dialogue-free, or nearly, relying in true MTV style on the kineticism of the visuals to carry the film. There isn’t really anything like it anymore, although Daft Punk’s Interstella 5555 comes pretty close.

Written by Daft Punk and Cédric Hervet and animated by Toei under the direction of Kazuhisa Takenochi, I5555 is anachronistic as all hell, a slice of early 80s anime that somehow fell through time and space to crash into DP’s Discovery. The story is… well, pretty thin (alien musicians are kidnapped by an Earth cult as part of a plot to conquer the universe utilizing the power of 5,555 gold records?), but so what? The movie reeks of wish-fulfillment, a chance for the band to work with an animator that they loved, and that kind of obsessive labor of love is the pure beating heart of cult.

I’m still waiting on that Jem movie, though!

05
Aug
09

moon

rockwell-moon-1

Here is another quickie review today. I was a latecomer to Moon because I suspected it was going to be one of those anxiety-filled, Kafka-esque sci-fi movies that make me even more nervous than I am on my own and I was right to a certain extent. It is definitely very tense for most of the film. Yet, somehow it was tense in a way that didn’t wear on the psyche and it was very absorbing to watch.

There are some interesting plot twists along the way (that I won’t ruin for once) which wake the audience up a little bit and there are a couple scenes out on the moonscape which actually does a lot to relieve the audience’s claustrophobia. I also think there’s something about the muted vacuum of the space station setting which oddly mellows the emotions in this movie out, which is kind of the opposite of a few other sci-fi movies I can think of. Generally, there are definitely echoes of some of these other films, Dark Star, Solaris (the American remake version, as opposed to Tarkovsky’s heavier endeavor), and even the other recent, fabulously executed sci-fi movie, Sunshine. But the charm of the movie isn’t really so much from it being particularly groundbreaking or even all that philosophically deep.

Mainly the movie’s charisma is thanks to Sam Rockwell’s amazing, bravura performance and a carefully written script. So much of the believability and pathos of the film rests squarely on Rockwell’s shoulders and I thought he did a spectacular job during what must have been a lot of green screen time. It’s a little indie gem that’s worth checking out even if you aren’t particularly big on the genre. I can at least say that I felt like it was worth addling my nerves a bit to see it.

09
Oct
08

THEM!

This weekend I saw the movie THEM! for the first time. Many reviewers have commented that this is the best of the 50’s era creature features, which could very well be true. The premise is that nuclear tests in the New Mexico desert have caused tiny regular ass ants to genetically mutant into giant super freaky ants. Terror ensues. For as hokey a concept as that may sound, the film does a great job of creating some genuinely creepy moments. The director, Gordon Douglas, was well aware of one of the cardinal rules of any good horror movie: what you cannot see is often much more frightening than what you can. For the first half hour of the film we see only the haunting after-effects of the creatures: a little girl wandering the desert who refuses to speak, a devastated empty store, a dead body. The only clue to the identity of the culprits is the eerie, cicada-like noise they make.

The other thing that makes this an entertaining movie is the charismatic acting of Edmund Gwenn as Dr. Medford. I wasn’t sure who he was while I was watching it, but turns out he won an Oscar for his role as Kris Kringle himself in Miracle on 34th St. and he worked a ton back in the day as a character actor.  As the scientist advising the military personnel in their attempts to contain THEM!, he projects the same sort of charm and wisdom that makes him so lovable in his more famous role. He adds a lot to the movie, making the outlandish creatures seem more believable and keeping the audience engaged.

Lastly, because I am a nerd I also like how I learned a lot of stuff about ants I didn’t know before from the movie. Apparently, ants breathe through their sides. If that isn’t terrifying, I don’t know what is.

–Vicky Vengeance

02
Oct
08

Videodrome

WHAT: Videodrome
WHO: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Deborah Harry, d. David Cronenberg
WHEN: 28 September 2008
WHICH: DJ Lamont Cranston

Review

Man, is TV producer Max Renn having a weird time. His head of piracy has tapped into a Malaysian feed of a half hour of torture and murder called Videodrome and Max can’t tear his eyes off of it. It’s the new thing, just what he’s been looking for, the perfect addition to Channel 87’s roster of “softcore pornography and hardcore violence,” but the more he learns about Videodrome the stranger things get. His masochistic girlfriend runs off to audition for the show and never comes back; she shows up on a tape of the show and swallows him through the TV screen. He wakes up to find the director he sent to investigate the show dead and tied up in his bed. He tracks down the creator of the show and he’s dead, his brain blown apart by an enormous brain tumor, but immortalized on thousands of hours of prerecorded videotape watched over by his creepy, creepy daughter. The show’s producers contact him and try to record his hallucinations, then decide they’d rather use him as a video-programmed assassin. He grows an enormous video slot in his stomach that really looks a LOT like a vagina. THEN things start to get weird.

There are a lot of similarities here with Cronenberg’s other films, especially Naked Lunch. James Woods and Peter Weller might be the same character, baffled and frustrated by their decaying and fragmentary perception of the world; both Max Renn and Bill Lee are forced into subversive, destructive roles by conspiracies that may or may not exist, and both eventually break away through their own destruction. The same body horror fills both films, Naked Lunch‘s sphincter-beetles prefigured by Videodrome‘s enormous VCR vagina. Videodrome oozes style and weird cult cachet – which is great – but it’s kind of unsatisfying in a way that, say, Naked Lunch isn’t. Naked Lunch keeps up a jittery feeling of unreality all the way to the end by always suggesting an outside viewpoint, but Videodrome doesn’t. Once the movie commits to Max’s version of reality – once the paranoia becomes justified and factual and Max’s hallucinations become more and more the dominant viewpoint – a lot of the ambiguity and interest leaks away, or anyway I got less interested. I liked the paranoia, the sense that there was no way of knowing what was true and what wasn’t, and once that took off it was all giant vaginas and bloody death.

Which, you know, is cool and all, it just wasn’t as cool.

–DJ Lamont Cranston