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Great Scenes – DEAD & BURIED

With Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus scheduled to land June 8, 2012, we thought we’d throw some logs onto the hype bonfire with some Alien-related film coverage leading up to the return of what shall hitherto be known as “THE FRANCHISE” (all apologies to ex-Houston Rocket point guard Steve Francis). So what does 1981’s Dead & Buried, directed by Gary Sherman, a Twilight Zone-y piece of unassuming pulp have to do with the upcoming sci-fi (fingers crossed) opus? Only that it was scripted by the team that brought you the first Alien (1979) – Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett! Check out the opening scene in this crazy creepy movie – in which a photographer finds a half-clad Lisa Blount innocently loitering on a picturesque beach. But be forewarned: there’s nudity. And a twist that’ll make you feel even ickier than the soft-porn lead-up!

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April 25, 2012   1 Comment

Great Scenes – RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD

Of all the zombie movies not written by George Romero, The Return of the Living Dead (1985) is one of the best, perhaps because – unlike many other “zombies-for-zombies’-sake” type movies, this one’s actually about something: stupid people, making stupid decisions, culminating in one of the finest endings ever, and certainly one of the more sardonic takes on the end of the world ever put to film. For that you can thank sci-fi superscribe Dan O’Bannon (writer of Alien, Lifeforce, Total Recall and Dark Star) in his directorial debut. But of course you’re not going to watch the movie just for the fantastic writing and biting social commentary – which brings us to the eye-candy. Enter “Mudman,” one of the greatest zombies to ever grace the screen. Enjoy! [admin. note: the scene has been modified – removing scream queen Linnea Quigley‘s full frontal nudity]

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October 27, 2011   3 Comments

Imaginative Sci-Fi – DARK STAR

DARK STAR is a classic sci-fi comedy with a fun low-budget sensibility.

In 1974 John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon made the cult classic Dark Star – essentially Waiting for Godot in space – predating Star Wars by 3 years and introducing many of the plot elements that O’Bannon would later employ to serious effect when writing Ridley Scott‘s Alien. Ostensibly the story of a spaceship crew on a 20 year mission to blow up ‘unstable’ planets for a mining company while a creepy computer named ‘Mother’ watches them, Dark Star is essentially a slice of metaphysical Absurdism, and a portrait of boredom in space. The crew members (one of whom, Pinback, is portrayed by O’Bannon himself) fill their time with pointless distractions – such as building musical instruments, playing practical jokes, dealing with ridiculous malfunction after ridiculous malfunction, and of course, slowly losing their minds. This was John Carpenter’s student film, later padded with more footage by legendary producer Jack H. Harris, with whom Carpenter did not get along (an on-screen monitor famously reads “Fuck You Harris” as retaliation for the producer’s demands). As far as DIY inventiveness goes, Dark Star can’t be beaten – never has more been done with less: beach balls with goofy reptilian feet double as aliens, minute-long takes of static matte paintings dominate entire scenes, and many subplots involve men either staring into space or sitting frozen in suspended animation. And though casual fans will probably tire of the film’s pace, Dark Star is required viewing for serious fans of science fiction, as well as anyone interested in making low-budget films. Like a fever-dream mash-up of 2001, Solaris, and a host of other films, this movie’s influence can be felt in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels, the classic BBC comedy series Red Dwarf, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and almost everything else that followed it. Anyone curious to see the seeds that would later grow into the Alien series – and into John Carpenter’s amazing body of work – should definitely seek it out.

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May 23, 2011   2 Comments

Fantastic Horror Flick – ATTACK THE BLOCK

ATTACK THE BLOCK is part of my 2011 SXSW film festival coverage – the best part!

Wow. Take Goonies‘ ensemble of child warriors, Gremlins‘ furry pandemic, Lamberto Bava‘s Demons-esque trapped-in-a-building-dread, the visual inventiveness of Evil Dead II, the “no one is safe” siege-like sensation of Attack on Precinct 13, and bits of flavoring from countless other 80’s goodness, then pop ‘em in a blender and layer the entire thing with some genuinely clever and assured screenwriting, and you get this fantastic film, which came out of nowhere for me – and by the looks of the twitter feed after the SXSW premiere, for hundreds of others like me. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there hasn’t been a film this fun and fearless since Peter Jackson‘s early years. Which isn’t surprising, given writer/director Joe Cornish‘s similar background with the Feebles-esque Adam and Joe Show (check out the puppet homage, target=”_blank”>Saving Private Lion). The story of a group of underdog hoodlums who get a chance to make good when aliens land in their low-income housing complex, Attack the Block (2011) is a force of cinematic nature, a rip-roaring yarn delivering incredible spectacle while anchored in a good ol’ fashioned tale of redemption, revolving around lead hooligan Moses (fantastic newcomer John Boyega), a precocious gang-banger whom we first meet mugging a kind nurse (Jodie Whittaker)- hardly the endearing scene most filmmakers use to introduce their protagonists. The fact that Cornish takes risks is refreshing, and the added bonus that every one of them proves rewarding is endlessly endearing. You can feel the love in every nuance and frame – as the kids gear up for war against the inky aliens you get Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-like poses, and if you grew up in the 80’s you’ll no doubt feel a sweeping nostalgia for the get-in, get-out, “screw the ratings” bravado which Cornish and his co-horts (including Edgar Wright and Nick Frost of Shaun of the Dead fame) share with genre greats Joe Dante, George Romero, Cheech and Chong and Dan O’Bannon. There’s plenty of comedy, frights, clever twists and subversive characters, as well as some incredibly memorable sci-fi visuals (the creatures climbing the building stands out for me), but overall it’s the sense of infectious fun which makes it a winner- Like Sam Raimi’s recent Drag Me to Hell, this is a movie that resurrects one’s hope in the future of genre filmmaking. If there’s a drawback I can think of it’s that from hereon out Cornish will never be able to fly under my radar like he did on Attack the Block – which is fine by me. And given that Cornish (alongside Wright and producer Jim Wilson) gregariously entertained audience questions until 3 am at the Alamo showing I attended, it seems the film’s imminent success couldn’t be happening to a nicer guy.

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March 24, 2011   No Comments

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