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31 Days Of Space: The Spooky Frontier – Goku, Body Snatcher From Hell

space the spooky frontierA passenger plane is flying when they get a warning that there’s a bomb on board. A frantic search clears everyone expect one man. The man pulls a gun and hijacks the plane. Just then over the radio the pilots are informed of a spaceship being chased by Japanese and American pilots. Something flashes past the plane and the pilots lose control and an engine bursts into flames. The plane crashes onto an island.

The surviors include the co-pilot Sugisaka (Teruo Yoshida), a stewardess named Kazumi (Tomomi Satô), a senator, an American divorcee, an arms dealer and his wife, a scientist, a psychiatrist, the kid who called in the bomb threat and the hijacker. The hijacker takes Kazumi hostage and leaves the plane. They run into the jungle where they find an alien spaceship. The hijacker enters the ship where a blob-like substance enters his forehead splitting it open. Kazumi passes out. Sugisaka finds Kazumi and brings her back to the ship. The psychiatrist hypnotizes her so they can find out what’s happened. The teenager later pushes the psychiatrist over a cliff. The hijacker catches the psychiatrist and then drains him of his blood.
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31 Days Of Space: The Spooky Frontier – It! The Terror From Beyond Space

space the spooky frontierThe year is 1973. Earth has just sent the first astronauts to Mars but something has gone wrong. A ship has been dispatched to rescue the lone survivor of a crew of nine.

Col. Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson) claims that an alien creature murder all of his crew and he alone has survived. Nobody believes his story and instead think that Carruthers murdered his crew. He’s being brought back to be court-martialed. But something has gotten onto the ship as it returns to Earth. Something big that likes to hide in the air shafts and murder the crew for their blood!
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31 Days Of Space: The Spooky Frontier – Pitch Black

space the spooky frontierIn depths of space, a passenger ship is hit with debris, slamming through the hull, killing several sleeping passengers and damaging the ship causing it to crash. Pilot Carolyn Fry (Radha Mitchell) is awakened from cryo-sleep to the disaster and along with her co-pilot tries to save the ship. She jettisons off all the cargo sections but it’s not enough. She decides to lose the passenger section which is carrying 40 some people. The co-pilot tries to stop her but it doesn’t matter. The ship crashes on a planet far from civilization.

Only 11 people survive the crash. The co-pilot is impaled and dies a slow painful death. It seems the morphine has gone missing. The survivors include Abu “Imam” al-Walid (Keith David) and three young men he is escorting to a religious pilgrimage, antiques dealer Paris P. Ogilvie (Lewis Fitz-Gerald), stowaway teenager Jack (Rhianna Griffith), settlers John ‘Zeke’ Ezekiel (John Moore) and his partner Sharon ‘Shazza’ Montgomery (Claudia Black). Then there’s William J. Jones (Cole Hauser) and his prisoner, the notorious Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel). Riddick has had his eyes “shined” so he can see in the dark. As a result he has to wear goggles in the light. The planet that they have crashed landed on is a barren desert like planet. It has three suns and there never seems to be anything but daylight.
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31 Days Of Space: The Spooky Frontier – The Earth Dies Screaming

space the spooky frontierAnother October is upon us and that means it’s time for another 31 Days of Horror. From the many Earthly invasions to the old just traveling in the vast emptiness of the galaxy and finding unspeakable horror at every turn this year’s horror theme is Space: The Spooky Frontier. I will be covering everything from classics of the genre to some good ol’ B-movies and a few you never ever heard of. To start things off is the 1964 British horror, The Earth Dies Screaming.
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Sunday Matinee: The Return Of Godzilla

sunday-matineeGodzilla has returned to the big screens this year after an almost 10 year break. The last time he took a break that long was back in the late 1970s/1980s. When he finally returned to the big screen in 1984 Toho had updated the suit with a new robotic head. When the movie was released in North America was titled Godzilla 1985 and was edited with new footage of Raymond Burr.

A volcano erupts on an island and a fishing boat is caught in the current forcing the ship near the island where the vessel witnesses a large creature emerging from the volcano. The ship is found days later with all the crew dead but one. The survivor looks a pictures and realizes that he saw Godzilla. A Soviet sub sinks and the Soviets blame the Americans. Japan announces to the world that it was Godzilla. Meanwhile Godzilla attacks a nuclear plant and feeds on the energy.
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Sunday Matinee: Field Of Dreams

sunday-matineeCanadian author W.P. Kinsella passed away on September 16. I’m not a big baseball fan but my friend is and he loved Kinsella’s stories because a lot of them focused on baseball. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe was adapted into the 1989 movie Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner.

Costner stars as Ray Kinsella a farmer in Iowa who while walking through his corn field hears a voice whisper “If you build it, he will come.” He hears it a few more times before he has a vision about a baseball field. He tears up his corn field and builds a baseball field and waits. His brother-in-law thinks he’s crazy but eventually Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the Chicago White Sox players who was part of the 1919 Black Sox Scandal where the players initially lost the World Series, appears in the field. Joe at first can only be seen by Costner. Joe asks if he can bring other players and soon the rest of the White Sox involved in the scandal show up to play.
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TIFF ’16 – Day 9: Trespass Against Us, The Belko Experiment, Little Wing, The Net

Trespass Against Us
Trespass Against Us

Trespass Against Us (UK, 2015): I would normally praise an A-lister for going back to his native land to do a cheaper movie, but Michael Fassbender is rather miscast in this mildly compelling drama. Fassbender is Chad, the second in command of a band of outlaws living in the forest. Chad is good at what he does and is one hell of getaway driver. He is also a family man and has slightly more common sense than his fellow thieves.

When it becomes clear his son is likely to end up as one of the inept criminals that surround him, Chad begins to consider the possibility of jumping ship. The only obstacle is his father (Brendan Gleeson), a powerful figure that keeps Chad under his thumb using putdowns and guilt-tripping.

It just takes one look at Fassbender to realize he is no shrinking violet, a detail that makes his character hard to swallow. He is not the only problem: Trespass Against Us often feels aimless, the premise is stretched over ninety minutes for no apparent reason. While we care about the outcome, the film could have use a rewrite and a less-chiseled star. Three planets. Continue reading “TIFF ’16 – Day 9: Trespass Against Us, The Belko Experiment, Little Wing, The Net”

TIFF ’16 – Day 8: The Girl with All the Gifts, Ma’ Rosa

The Girl with All the Gifts
The Girl with All the Gifts

The Girl with All the Gifts (UK, 2016): Between The Walking Dead and all the low-rent undead flicks, it’s hard to give a fresh twist to the zombie subgenre. The Girl with All the Gifts does its darndest to achieve it, but the surplus of ideas ends up hurting the outcome.

The film opens intriguingly enough. A group of inoffensive-looking children are treated like Hannibal Lecter by an overzealous military unit. One of the kids is the dependably polite Melanie (newcomer Sennia Nanua), who hangs pictures of a cat on her wall when no one is looking. Slowly we come to realize the children are partially zombified, but retain a semblance of humanity.

The matter of the kids’ right to be treated as people is one of the many issues the movie hints at, but doesn’t develop (likely, the novel that inspired the film is more thorough). One element I haven’t seen in other zombie movies is the suggestion that mankind is screwed anyway and we should just let it happen. Continue reading “TIFF ’16 – Day 8: The Girl with All the Gifts, Ma’ Rosa”

TIFF ’16 – Day 7: Christine, Sand Storm

Rebecca Hall in Christine.
Rebecca Hall in Christine.

Christine (USA, 2016): In 1974, Sarasota news reporter Christine Chubbuck responded to management pressures for more exciting stories by blowing her brains off on live TV. Since there is no mystery about her fate, this biopic focuses on the many factors that led her to take such drastic decision.

As depicted in the film, Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall, Vicki Christina Barcelona) was the smartest reporter in the room, with hopes to go to a bigger market. Christine was also struggling with depression, infertility and an unrequited crush on the news anchor (Michael C. Hall, Dexter).

The film is broad but successful at exploring all the elements involved in Chubbuck’s suicide. But the movie’s biggest asset is a powerhouse performance by Rebecca Hall, who builds a sympathetic character without betraying the integrity of the person who inspired it. If Christine wasn’t an indie struggling with distribution, I would call Hall a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination. Three planets. Continue reading “TIFF ’16 – Day 7: Christine, Sand Storm”

TIFF ’16 – Day 6: Deepwater Horizon, Mean Dreams, Manchester by the Sea, The Salesman

Deepwater Horizon
Deepwater Horizon

Deepwater Horizon (USA, 2016): Given director Peter Berg’s previous output (the disreputable Lone Survivor), I was honestly expecting this movie would be on British Petroleum’s side. Thankfully, Deepwater Horizon sticks to the official story and slaps some action scenes for good measure.

Berg’s go-to leading man, Mark Wahlberg, is Mike Williams, the second in command at the ill-fated oil platform. Because of greed inspired BP directives, a number of security checks are bypassed, so when they finally agree to a checkup, all hell breaks loose.

Even though Berg goes way over the top with the jargon, the filmmaker does a good job explaining the events that lead to the oil spilling (the environmental catastrophe that ensued is only mentioned in passing). But for all the didactic exposition and superb execution of complex action sequences, the characters are one-trait ponies. Kate Hudson is in this movie solely to pace around the house and look worried (and gorgeous). Two and a half planets. Continue reading “TIFF ’16 – Day 6: Deepwater Horizon, Mean Dreams, Manchester by the Sea, The Salesman”