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“It’s destroying everything.”
“It’s not destroying. It’s making something new.”

It’s not an easy thing for a movie to get under my skin. As someone who cut his teeth on horror and sci-fi movies and general weird fiction at a young age, I might be what you would consider a bit jaded when it comes to these kind of movies. So, when something comes along that can really get under my skin while at the same time gets my brain going, we’ve got something special, I would say.

I was looking forward to watching Annihilation since reading the premise on Den Of Geek last year. Apparently, this was a movie that was in danger of being dumbed down by executive suits. But the director and the producer stuck to their guns, and Annihilation was released as it was…to theaters in the US and China, and Netflix everywhere else. Which seems like an insult, like the studio was trying to make the movie fail. Regardless, as an Americanite, I saw Annihilation on the big screen. And I assure you, this is worthy of the big screen, not shuffled off onto Netflix.

Spoilers ahead, everyone. Really, stop reading this and watch the movie and come back. You won’t regret it.

Still here? Well, you’ve been duly noted, then…

So, a meteorite hits a lighthouse on the Florida coast, and immediately a translucent alien soap bubble begins to slowly grow and engulf the surrounding area. Being dubbed the “shimmer”, the military and scientists send in a variety of things to study it…only whatever — and whoever — they send in never comes back. Except for one guy, who had been missing for a year. His wife, a biologist and ex-military herself, is still holding on to hope that he comes back…and he does! With no memory of where he was, or how he got back to their house, while acting strangely detached and odd. Soon after he arrives, he and the wife are taken by the military to the base set up at the outside perimeter of the slowly advancing shimmer. With her husband in a coma, the wife volunteers to join a team to go into the Shimmer and try to get to the lighthouse at the center and figure out not only what’s going on inside the Shimmer, but what may have happened to the previous team that never came back. Mostly. Anyway, as soon as they all go in, the weirdness happens, as they immediately lose three days they can’t remember. They notice the fauna and the wildlife seem to be mutating, as the Shimmer works more like a prism, refracting not only light, but also the basic DNA structure of everything within the expanding structure. Which makes for not only unique beauty, but also some very disturbing nightmare fuel. Soon, the paranoia starts to take hold, and the team begin dying one by one, until the biologist wife and the psychiatrist leader of the team remain…maybe. Do they make it to the lighthouse? Well, yes…but that’s all I’m gonna say, because YOU NEED TO WATCH THIS MOVIE.

Seriously, Annihilation is a fantastic movie that needs to be watched. That description up there? No justice to what actually goes on in the flick. This is one of those rare instances where the mix of heady hard science fiction and Lovecraftian nightmare fuel works at a level that I haven’t experienced in a long while. It’s taken me this long to figure out just how I was going to write this review without not only spoiling things, but just keeping things from spiraling into a multi-page thesis type article. I’ve been chewing on this for just over a week since seeing this, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be thinking about it long after I post this.

The disappointing thing is, I understand that Annihilation is probably going to not do as well as I want this to. Mainly because it’s not the entertaining comic book stuff that’s been the usual fare. It’s not Star Wars. It’s not a Marvel superhero movie. It’s a slow-burning, heady science fiction movie that’s more than the sum of its parts. If you love movies like Arrival, 2001: A Space Odessey, Event Horizon and Ex Machina, then do yourself a favor and go watch Annihilation while you can, in the theaters. Very much recommended.



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black pantherMarvel Studios

“If you say one more word, I’ll feed you to my children! I’m kidding, we’re vegitarians.”

It’s been ten years since Marvel Studios kicked off their own private Cinematic Universe with Iron Man. Hard to believe we’ve come this far, with far more hits than misses under their belt. And here we are, finally with a proper introduction to the Black Panther.

It probably goes without saying (but I’mma say it anyway) that my familiarity with the Black Panther is rudimentary at best — a superhero king of Wakanda, a small reclusive east African country which is deceptively more advanced than advertised, due to being situated on the only deposit of Vibranium in the world. Of course, this knowledge of the comic character was gleaned more from the various Marvel encyclopedias and comic book online resources than having actually collected the comic books themselves. But, that goes for most of the Marvel character movies, really.

With the Black Panther, I’ve learned my lesson with the other Marvel movies I initially passed on watching in the theater due to my stupid notion that, since I didn’t care about the comic books themselves, I wouldn’t really like the movies, and went to see this in the theaters with the Exalted Geeks on opening weekend, and let the movie speak for itself, to entertain or not, all on its own merits. And once again, Black Panther proved to be not only entertaining, but manages to be more than the sum of its parts.

The story of Black Panther takes place immediately after the events in Captain America: Civil War; T’Challa is heading back to Wakanda to attend his coronation as king and officially take up the mantle of the Black Panther. His first act as king is recovering a bit of stolen Vibranium from the same black market arms dealer that was disarmed (literally) in Age Of Ultron. They capture the arms dealer, but then he’s broken out of custody by a mysterious missionary with a Wakandan ring. The mystery of this particular individual vexes T’Challa, until the mystery guy shows up explaining that he’s the son of the previous king’s brother who was slain in the movie’s opening flashback. He goes by the name of Killmonger now, and he’s now here to challenge T’Challa for the throne. And things go well…for Killmonger, who tosses T’Challa over the edge of a deep chasm, and immediately implements some changes in the way things go in Wakanda. Namely, by supplying Vibranium technology to other countries, and taking over the world. You know, the usual supervillain stuff. Oh, and he also has the special plants that provide the Black Panther powers destroyed. Because…I don’t know, he was planning on living forever, I guess? But, fortunately, one of the plants is secretly saved by T’Challa’s remaining family, and is taken to an independent tribe where — surprise! — T’Challa is not dead, but is in a coma! Yeah, kinda saw that one coming, really. So then, he gets better, thanks to that plant, and it’s off to liberate Wakanda from Killmonger with an EPIC BATTLE SEQUENCE! Then there’s the mid-credits and end-credits scenes, then you can go use the potty and go home.

I’m starting to sound like the proverbial broken record with these things, but I’ll repeat it anyway: despite not having much interest in the comic books this movie was built from, Black Panther proved to be far more interesting and entertaining than it should have been. There are several very compelling characters in this movie, not just the title character, which lends to a depth in the story beyond the standard good guy vs. bad guy formula. Of course,this is a Marvel movie, and not just a character piece, and the action scenes more than provide the adequate adrenaline fix. Just the casino scene alone is worth the price of the admission, but then the ending battle will leave you needing a cigarette, even if you’ve never smoked in your life. I have to say that, as far as favorite characters go, the two that I loved were the returning Ulysses Klaue, who pretty much stole every scene he was in with his manic glee, and Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, who also steals the scenes she’s in with her snarky wit and intelligence, and while not only is the movie’s Q-like inventor of all the gadgets, but proves she can kick butt along with the best of them.

With Black Panther, we have a movie that left me with my jaw gaping open on more than one occasion. The visuals are gorgeous, the characters have depth beyond archetypes, and the action will leave you breathless. Is Black Panther the best Marvel movie of the bunch? Eh, I still contend that Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 is still the best, but Black Panther cuts a very, very close second. Highly recommended to watch while it’s still in the theaters.


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cloverfield paradoxNetflix

“What are you talking about, arm?”

For the past couple of years, we’ve been teased the third entry in the unorthodox yet rather interesting Cloverfield movie series. I’ve known that the movie was originally titled The God Particle, and was reworked by J. J. Abrams into an up-to-now unnamed Cloverfield sequel. I was rather excited for it. Also, we were supposed to get it last year in the theaters. But, due to continual tweaking, the movie’s release was delayed more than once, until finally word came that Paramount was going to drop this off with Netflix, to be released on the streaming site. Not that was a bad sign as to the quality of the movie was going to be; but the┬ádelays and then the studio not seeming to want anything to do with it…well, I was starting to have doubts that this was going to be worth my time.

Finally, the new Cloverfield movie was released. On Netflix, immediately after the Superb Owl*, now with an actual official title: The Cloverfield Paradox. Since I don’t have a Netflix subscription, it took me a few days longer to get to watch The Cloverfield Paradox, so I got to take in the waves of negative reviews that this movie got in the meantime. Lovely. So at this point, this was either the worst movie ever made, or perhaps we just live in a time where everyone wants to hate everything now. Fortunately, masses of negative reviews have never stopped me before (sometimes, they even enhance my desire to watch something), and I finally got a chance to take in the third entry in the Cloverfield series.

Here there be spoilers beyond, be ye warned. Yar.

So, what The Cloverfield Paradox is about, we’re given a glimpse of a future where our fossil fuels have all but dried up, and humanity is facing an energy crisis complete with massive gas shortages and regular blackouts to conserve what little energy we have left. In an effort to create a cleaner, more sustainable energy source for all, the world space agencies prepare the testing of what is known as the Shepherd, kind of a particle accelerator aboard the orbiting Cloverfield Station, that is supposed to do just that. Though, frankly, I don’t know exactly how that works, but what do I know of science, really? Anyway, after two years of attempts, they finally manage to get it to work…which results in a massive surge that, when the smoke clears, leaves the scientists on board to realize that, somehow, they’ve misplaced the Earth. That’s never good. Also, a critical component in making eveything work properly is also missing. And there’s a mysterious woman who appears in the wall of the station, that no one has seen before, but she insists on being a crew member. And it just gets weirder from their, folks, as crew members begin to go a bit on the insane side of things, objects that have gone missing begin to be found in the oddest of places, and it seems the ship may be trying to kill them. Or eat them, at least with one guy. Then they find the Earth on the other side of the Sun, and realize soon thereafter that they’re all in a parallel universe, where Germany is once again up to their old warmongering tricks, and that universe’s Cloverfield Station crashed into the ocean and killed everyone except that lady that appeared on what I’m going to call the Cloverfield Prime station for clarification purposes. Stupid string theory. Anyway, after some near misses with death, they manage to hatch a plan to get back to their Prime Universe, but then Alternate Universe lady sabotages things for her own plans, but then she’s thwarted, and Prime Cloverfield Station makes it back to their universe, where they fire up the Shepherd and the two surviving scientists hop a pod and head back to Earth…only things there haven’t really been the same since they first disappeared. The end.

As far as the movie goes, I enjoyed The Cloverfield Paradox. In this instance, I think Paramount was right in letting Netflix handle the distribution, as this doesn’t feel quite as fully baked as the first two movies were, and had I saw this in the theater, I would have probably been a bit more persnickity about it. As a movie itself, The Cloverfield Paradox goes down the same path as movies like Event Horizon, Life and Sunshine have done before, while you can tell the bits that tie things into the Cloverfield movie universe were kind of shoehorned in haphazardly. As it stands, The Cloverfield Paradox feels like a rather elaborate and high-budget pilot for a sci-fi anthology television show, rather than a fully formed Cloverfield movie. Which is to say, it isn’t bad, but it’s definitely not up to par with the other two. If you have Netflix, it’s very much worth the watch. If you don’t, The Cloverfield Paradox won’t be the movie that will convince you to sign up for Netflix. But, if you have a friend with Netflix, it’s worth checking out.

[*= basically, my way of avoiding lawsuits with the NFL for usage of a copyrighted phrase]

Movie Review: STARGATE

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“I don’t want to die. And your men don’t want to die, and these people certainly don’t want to die. It’s a shame you’re in such a hurry to.”

It was a fall afternoon on a Sunday in 1994. I was attending college in Wayne, Nebraska; some of my friends and I attended a service at one of the megachurches in Souix City, then took in a showing of the newly released sci-fi flick Stargate. I had no idea what that movie was; at the time, I was blissfully ignorant of most genre movies being released at the time. This was also before I knew who Roland Emmerich was. All I remember was someone in the group saying, “Let’s go see Stargate,” and I was just along for the ride. Fortunately, it was a pretty fun ride.

After a flashback to an archeological dig in Giza, Egypt in 1928, we meet one Dr. Daniel Jackson in the current day, trying (and failing miserably) to convince his collegues of his theory that the Ancient Egyptian culture was influenced by aliens. He’s offered a gig to decipher some strange–one would say “alien”–hieroglyphics on the item that was found at the aforementioned Giza dig. Turns out, those weren’t hieroglyphs at all, but constellations, and putting those bits into the ginormous stone circle activates a wormhole. And since we’re a curious lot, Dr. Jackson joins a team of military soldiers lead by Colonel Jack O’Neil into the wormhole to see what’s on the other side. And what’s on the other side is a planet on the farthest side of the known galaxy. A desert planet, to be exact; one that has a pyramid-like structure, as well as locals that appear to have bearly entered the Bronze Age. Also, they see a necklace of the Eye of Ra that Dr. Jackson is wearing, and begin to worship the off-world newcomers. Turns out, the locals speak a variation of Ancient Egyptian, so Dr. Jackson is able to communicate with them. Seems that this alien culture has close ties to how Earth’s Egyptian culture arose. Namely, an alien going by the name of Ra possessing an Earthling and setting himself up as a god. But then, the Earthlings revolted and Ra escaped and set up shop on this planet, where reading and writing is outlawed. And wouldn’t you know it? During all this exposition, Ra’s ship arrives, and the god is none too pleased at this turn of events. And with Colonel O’Neil being a bit on the suicidal side of things due to the tragic death of his son prior to this movie, he brought along a nuclear warhead to detonate in the event of a hostile alien situation to protect Earth from invasion. And Ra and his minions are as hostile as they come. Wackiness and an alien uprising ensues.

There’s really not much more I can say at this point, other than Stargate remains one of those sci-fi classics that I never really tire of watching. I’ve seen this many times, owned the movie at one point (which got lost in the shuffle of life some time ago, unfortunately, and I haven’t had an opportunity to replace it), and its legacy still reverberates in pop culture today. And yes, Stargate is another one of those big budget B-Movie flicks that I recommend whole-heartedly.

Movie Review: INNERSPACE

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innerspaceWarner Bros.

“You’ve got a big future in retail food marketing, and I’d hate to see you blow it now by going psycho on us.”

Ah, Joe Dante. His movies factor into my Nostalgia Databank quite often. Gremlins, Explorers, and of course, Innerspace, a kind of Fantastic Voyage by way of a Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis comedy.

It was the summer of 1987. The parental units decided to take my sister and me to the drive-in theater just outside of Fremont, Nebraska for a special fireworks display and a showing of the recently released Innerspace. So, my first viewing of this movie was by way of an American movie experience that was in the later death throes at the time. It was quite the experience, mainly because I was fending off mosquitoes more often than paying attention to the movie. But, I ended up watching Innerspace a few more times on video rentals and one time on Cinemax.

In Innerspace, a Navy Lieutenant named Tuck volunteers for a top-secret experiment that involves being put inside a submarine pod and miniaturized, with the express purpose of being injected into a rabbit. Because SCIENCE! But, because this is the 80s, the lab is set upon by a rival organization before the injection could happen, and during a chase, the itty-bitty Tuck is injected inside a grocery store clerk. The clerk…well, he’s a bit of a hypochondriac. Okay, okay…a whole lot of a hypocondriac. Anyway, after doing soe science-y stuff, Tuck manages to see and communicate with his unsuspecting host, with all the wackiness that would ensue with this kind of thing. So now, Tuck only has a few hours of oxygen left, and he needs to get out of the clerk and get re-embiggened. But, the bad guys have the computer chips necessary to do that, and so Jack gets the clerk to enlist the help of his estranged girlfriend to go after what they need. Will they be able to extract Tuck in time, before he becomes a permanent fixture inside his hapless host?

What can I say, really, other than Innerspace is another one of those fun family oriented science fiction flicks from the era that more or less defined modern whimsical fantastic storytelling. Sure, the story is pretty derivative from Fantastic Voyage, and it’s a predictable plot, but it’s nevertheless a fun ride throughout. The dynamic between Dennis Quaid and Martin Short as Tuck and Jack the clerk respectively is inspired. And just for pointless geek moments, this movie features a pre-Star Trek Voyager Robert Picardo as a bad guy named “The Cowboy”. It seems Picardo features in more than a couple of Dante movies in the 1980s. Anyway, it’s another fun 80s sci-fi flick that is worth the watch some rainy Saturday afternoon.


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Movie Review ADDAMS FAMILY VALUESParamount Pictures

“You have enslaved him. You have placed Fester under some strange sexual spell. I respect that. But please, may we see him?”

Two years after the first live action Addams Family music delighted my sensibilities, here came a sequel that, somehow, turned out to be just as good as — if not better than — the first movie. The entire cast is back, and everything builds on the wackiness of the first.

We begin the movie immediately with the birth of the newest Addams addition — little Pubert. As such, Gomez and Morticia hire a nanny to take care of the baby. Uncle Fester finds himself smitten with her, while the other children — Wednesday and Pugsley — are less than thrilled with the new additions. Unbeknownst to everyone, the nanny is a serial killer named the Black Widow, whose MO is marrying wealthy bachelors and then killing them to get their fortune. And she has her eye on bagging Uncle Fester. To get the suspicious kids out of the way, she sends them to summer camp, where things go exactly as you would expect for them. Meanwhile, Uncle Fester and the Nanny get hitched, and she then tries to kill him, and things go exactly as you would expect with that. Pubert catches a nasty case of The Normals, and the newly minted Mrs. Addams takes the entire family hostage in frustration. Then things get weird.

Originally watching Addams Family Values in the theater back when this was first released was great. I immediately wanted to own it on video, despite it being a new release at the time. The movie somehow not only duplicated the extremely funny type of whimsical morbid humor that I loved about the first Addams Family movie, but upped it. I especially love the summer camp parts, with Wednesday’s interaction with the normal kids and counselors. To this day, I still sing the “Eat Me” song around Thanksgiving.

Overall, the entirety of Addams Family Values is great. Darkly funny, highly quotable, getting something new out of it every time I watch it…seriously, why am I still writing this review? I am going to watch this movie again. Highly recommended.

Movie Review: JOE Vs. The VOLCANO

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joe vs the volcanoWarner Bros.

“Do you want to marry him?”
“Do you want to marry her?”
“Good. You’re married.”

The year was 1990, t’was the later spring time, and I was a 16-year-old buck with my first car and freedom and a bit of disposable income, so one Saturday afternoon I decide to catch a flick at the movie theater in town. “Town” being 20-25 minutes away by car. 15 minutes by foot. Yep, I just made an obscure M*A*S*H reference. Because that’s how I roll.

Anyway, the movie that I was fated to watch that afternoon was Joe Vs The Volcano. I remember choosing it because it starred Tom Hanks. At this point in his career, Hanks was famous, but he had yet to hit the uber-famous icon status that he would in the 1990s and beyond. Personally, I loved him in Big, so I caught Joe Vs. The Volcano on that strength alone. Also, the TV spots made it look like a wacky comedy. Only, Joe Vs. The Volcano wasn’t a wacky comedy, so much as it turned out to be an offbeat romantic comedy.

One more thing before I continue: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m fairly certain this is the first on-screen team up between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Anyhoo…

Hanks plays the titular Joe, a desk jockey working a dead end and thankless job, until one day his doctor diagnoses him with a “brain cloud”, an incurable condition that will kill Joe within five or six months. Give or take a plot convenience. This gives him the motivation to quit his job and live the rest of his remaining time to his fullest. Soon thereafter, he’s approached by a wealthy industrialist with a proposition to have Joe sacrifice himself into a volcano to appease the natives of the Pacific island of said volcano, so he can mine a McGuffin mineral that is only found on that island, all within 20 days. Take as long as you need to let that process, there. Figuring he has nothing to lose, Joe agrees to this, and takes off on the wackiest boat ride of his life to the island. Along the way, he meets up with the daughter of the wealthy industrialist (well, one of ’em, anyway), gets caught in a storm and adrift on his floating luggage in the ocean (not the last time Tom Hanks was going to find himself adrift on the ocean in a movie), then serendipity! finds himself adrift-ed onto the very island he was supposed to be on, where the natives are lead by Abe Vigoda, who marries the two before they jump into the volcano together…only to have the volcano immediately belch them back out and destroy the island anyway. Which is fine, because it seems the doctor gave Joe a fake diagnosis in the first place, because the wealthy industrialist paid him to get a willing sacrifice. So, um…the end, I guess.

I have to admit that I wasn’t very much enamored with Joe Vs. The Volcano when I first watched it at the theater back in the day. I recall being a bit bored at points, but it was quirky enough to keep my interest. Even now, with me having developed a better appreciation for what it is as an offbeat dark comedy. To this day, my favorite part of the movie was where Abe Vigoda marries Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s characters by going “Do you want to marry him? Do you want to marry her? Good, you’re married. I’m going now.” Regardless, Joe Vs. The Volcano isn’t very high ranking in my Nostalgia Memory Banks. But, it’s more entertaining than the sum of its parts. Worth a look-see some time.

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