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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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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: SLITHER

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slitherUniversal Pictures

“Where is the Mr. Pibb? I told your secretary to pack Mr. Pibb. It’s the only Coke I like.”

Back in 2006, one of the greatest sci-fi horror comedy movies was released. That movie, in case you missed the titled heading, was Slither, the directorial debut of James Gunn, the man who would go on to make an obscure Marvel comic into the best movie of Marvel’s cinematic existence.

So then, one evening outside a small South Carolina town, a meteorite crashes. Inside this meteorite is a sentient extraterrestrial parasite that immediately makes the local used car dealer its new home. Soon, the car dealer starts to mutate, growing tentacles and getting all weird and gross. Basically, second puberty. Then the local pets start disappearing, and a local woman is then infected with hundreds of the parasite offspring. Soon, the entire town is being threatened with these creepy crawly spawn of Cthulhu, and it’s up to the town’s long-suffering Sheriff and a handful of survivors to defeat this intergalactic horror.

Apparently, there was some controversy when Slither was released due to an alleged similarity to the 1986 movie Night Of The Creeps. I haven’t seen that movie yet (it is in my Watch Cue, though, rest assured), so I’m not able to point out any similarities. But, if it’s as much fun as Slither was, I may be moving Night Of The Creeps up the cue.

What makes Slither one of my favorite B-Movie sci-fi horror flicks of the past couple of decades is the snappy script, and the performances from the actors, especially Nathan Fillion and Michael Rooker. Gads, I would watch anything either one of those two are in. Also, legendary voice actor Frank Welker handled the alien slug sounds. The effects are great, and you can tell that Gunn spent some time in the Troma camp of movie making, with the whole tongue-in-cheek humor mixed in with the horror. Say what you will, but I consider Slither to be one of the best not-really-guilty pleasure B-Movies out there. Check this one out some time.

Movie Review: STARMAN

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starmanColumbia Pictures Corporation

“I watched you very carefully. Red light stop, green light go, yellow light go very fast.”

My first exposure to the films of John Carpenter was by way of the 1984 science fiction movie Starman. I watched it one Saturday afternoon while still a guest at the psychiatric ward during the summer of 1986. And would you believe it was on the CED format? How obscure is that? Also, I don’t recommend that video playback to watch movies on. If you want a good retro video disc system, stick with LaserDisc. But, I digress.

While mostly known for his horror and science fiction flicks that lean towards horror, Starman was a bit of a departure from his standard fare, in that the alien in question is not trying to destroy humans. In fact, you might say that Starman is a sci-fi romance. And this was my first taste of John Carpenter. Talk about easing into things.

So then, after intercepting the Voyager 2 space probe, aliens decide to take us up on our offer of visiting Earth, due to the invitation that was contained on that gold record we put inside the probe. But, instead of a warm, peaceful greeting, the scout ship sent is shot down by the U. S. Military, causing it to crash land in Wisconsin on a farm of a recently widowed woman. The alien entity–mainly a floating orb of light–decides it’s a great idea to clone himself a body to look like said widow’s dead husband. The widow disagrees, and while the alien just wants to get to the rendezvous point where his mothership is set to pick him up, she’s understandably upset and doesn’t want to give him a lift. Also, the rendezvous point is at the Marringer Crater in Arizona, so that’s kind of a factor there, too. She warms up a bit after he explains that, if he doesn’t make it to the location in three days, he will die (and also after resurrecting a dead deer, all the feels there). So, it’s road trip time! With the authorities in hot pursuit, will they be able to make it to the crater in time to get the alien doppelganger aboard and homeward bound in time? And will there be enough of an opening to allow at least a short-lived television series based on the movie?

Back when I first watched Starman, I found myself a bit bored at times, with my attention span wandering and not paying very close attention. I was also 12 years old at the time. Watching it now, Starman is a rather decent movie for what it is, which is a science fiction romance / road trip adventure that has some good performances from Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen as the leads.

Overall, I have to admit that Starman remains a bit of an odd entry in John Carpenter’s filmography. I don’t know if there was an attempt to tap into the more family friendly alien thing that ET popularized a couple of years prior. Regardless, Starman is a decent sci-fi flick; it does drag a bit at times, and the ending is a bit more heartwarming than I care for. But, for a weekend afternoon flick, it’s perfect for a rental.

Movie Review: TERMINATOR 3: Rise Of The Machines

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t3Warner Bros. Pictures

“I feel the weight of the world bearing down on me. A future I don’t want. So I keep running as fast as I can…anywhere. Nowhere.”

And now, here we are, over a decade since the last Terminator movie, and we’re treated to the second sequel in the Terminator franchise. Was Rise Of The Machines really necessary? I really don’t think so…but again, I’m getting ahead of myself, here.

So, then, the big machine apocalypse that was scheduled originally for 1997 wa a no-show thanks to the events of T2: Judgment Day. John Connor has become a vagrant, staying under the grid and generally running from an unseen future he doesn’t want to be a part of. Also, sometime between 1997 and now, he got some plastic surgery done, as he looks nothing like he did in T2. Anyway, due to a plot device deployed into the space/time continuum (the “Timey-Whimey” Effect), it seems that Skynet and Judgment Day weren’t wiped out of existence at all, but merely postponed to 2004. How is that scientifically possible, you ask? Silly human, trying to employ logic to the plot. You’ll just sprain something doing that, it’s best not to think too hard about it. So this time around, Skynet sends back a shiny new T-X model Terminator, one that takes the liquid morphine awesomeness of the T-1000, and joins it up with working mechanics so that it can form working weapons beyond just stabby-stabby things. Also, it can inject nanobots and reprogram other machines, like the Borg…only not the Borg. So, the T-X is sent back and, unable to locate the whereabouts of John Connor, begins to kill the future members of the Human Resistance. Meanwhile, John Connor is caught stealing drugs from a veterinary clinic by someone from his past, and then both are visited by a very familiar looking cyborg sent from the future to protect both Connor and the vet who, it turns out, is the future Mrs. Connor…and it was she who sent back the T-850 model with Ah-nuld’s face. Also, in a mind-blowing coincidence, it happens to be the father of the future Mrs. Connor that has built the current iteration of Skynet and is planning on activating the system. So then it’s a race to get to the facility to stop Skynet from going online and kicking off Judgment Day 2.0. Do they make it in time to stop the machine apocalypse from happening? Does the movie’s subtitle tell you anything?

Despite my initial thoughts on why this movie really was unnecessary, I still saw it the weekend it came out. Certainly, it wasn’t of the same caliber of the first two movies, but it had its moments, really. You could tell that James Cameron was not involved with this one, with the way it was executed. The levity that made T2 a great ride was attempted, but somehow came short; although I get the feeling there was some tongue-in-cheek referencing of the scenes from T2, like say how the T-850 got his clothes after showing up from the future. I have to say that I did laugh at the star-shaped sunglasses. The best moments, as always, were the knock-down, drag-out brawls between the two Terminators. That’s par for the course, now. Overall, thought, the story is underwhelming, a bit of a retread from the past story, and is really more of an amusing distraction rather than a mind-blowing sci-fi action flick.

Overall, Terminator 3 isn’t bad, it’s just kind of lackluster. Worth a rental, really.

Movie Review: TERMINATOR 2

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“I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle.”

You may recall from my recent review of The Terminator that I didn’t get around to watching that movie until after having watched the sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. No reason, other than when the original Terminator came out I was 11 and couldn’t see it due to age and proximity to the closest movie theater (among other reasons), whereas when T2 came out, I was on the cusp of my senior year in high school, had my own means of transportation and disposable income. And due to the T2 teaser at the beginning of another movie I watched previous that summer, I was intrigued to watch a sequel to a movie I’ve never heard of up to that time. I really have no problem watching franchises out of sequence like this. My mind can usually fill in the blanks fairly well. I really had no idea what I was in for, but I was going to enjoy this, I somehow knew.

And, I wasn’t wrong.

It’s 1995, and John Connor — the future leader of the human resistance against the robot apocalypse — is living with a foster family in Los Angeles. His mother, Sarah Connor, is currently a guest at a mental institution after a failed attempt at bombing a computer factor to prevent the rise of Skynet and the extinction of humankind that’s scheduled for 1997. 1995 John Connor is kind of a punk, which is to be expected when your formative years was spent learning survival skills and military training. One afternoon, while spending som ill-gotten gains at the local video arcade, he finds himself pursued by a cop…who turns out to be a shiny new model of Terminator from the FUTURE! (TM), the T-1000. Before he could be terminated, though, John is saved by familiar-looking T-800 model that was reprogrammed by future John and sent back to protect him in the past. Wacky. So, after evading the annoyingly persistent T-1000, they break Sarah Connor out of the mental institution, and head out to evade the new terminator and try to infiltrate Cyberdyne and nip Skynet in the bud to prevent Judgment Day from happening. Big freakin’ explosions, time travel paradox headaches and robot-boy emotional bonding ensue.

I remember sitting there, inside the Cinema 3 theater, unable to look away from the sci-fi action flick that was unfolding in front of me. Terminator 2 was such a fantastic movie going experience like I hadn’t experienced before, I went on to drag my sister to a showing later that week. Just the liquid metal Terminator effects were worth the price, but then this movie had everything my then-17 year old self didn’t know it craved: killbots, big ‘splosions, a lean and mean Linda Hamilton kicking butt, Guns N’ Roses in the soundtrack…yeah, I’m kind of bummed to not be able to just pop this in right now and watch it. Bit busy at the moment, here.

Anyway, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a sci-fi action classic. Right up there with the first couple Alien movies, as well as the original Predator movie. Very much recommended watching, this.

Movie Review: The TERMINATOR

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“The machines rose from the ashes of the nuclear fire. Their war to exterminate mankind had raged for decades, but the final battle would not be fought in the future. It would be fought here, in our present. Tonight…”

And thus begins the first in what would become an icon in science fiction movie franchises. What started off as a literal fever dream and made by a studio that thought it would flop right out of the box office turned out to be another bone-fide blockbuster in a year that also featured the release of Ghostbusters, the first Nightmare On Elm Street, and Gremlins. Among others.

And I never watched The Terminator until after watching the sequel. Even then it was on a VHS mix tape featuring three movies my Aunt taped off for me and my sister from HBO.

So, in The Terminator, a killbot from the FUTURE! (TM) is sent back in time to 1984 Los Angeles with one mission programmed into his literal chrome dome: Find and kill Sarah Connor. And, because apparently all directory information databases were lost after the robot apocalypse (and also .JPEG files), the Terminator goes about his mission by looking up all the Sarah Connors in the LA phone book. Meanwhile, the future mother of the leader of the human resistance is blissfully unaware of any danger, and goes about her life and stuff. To help protect Miss Connor from death at the hands of the T-800 is one Kyle Reese, also from the FUTURE! (TM). After a near-miss at a night club, they’re on the run while the Terminator is in close pursuit. Will Sarah Connor survive? Will the Terminator succeed in its mission? Does the fact that there are four sequels and a short-lived television series tell you anything?

So, yeah. The Terminator is a classic sci-fi action flick for good reason. The story is pretty straight-forward (save for the standard logic paradoxes the time travel aspect brings up), the action is great, and the effects still hold up pretty good after all these years. Yeah, there’s a scene in the motel room where it’s quite obvious that it’s a model of Arnold Schwartzenegger’s head, but let’s remember he’s playing a cyborg. That doesn’t take me out of the movie very much, that. Also, the actors were rather good in their roles, the big breakout of course, being Ah-nuld as the T-800 sent back to terminate Sarah Connor. Having watched T2 before watching this one, I have to admit that I was a bit unprepared for the polar opposite that Sarah Connor was in this movie, compared to the badass she would develop into in the sequel. But, narratively, that made sense.

So, do I recommend watching the original Terminator? Yep yep yep. As a matter of fact, this one and the first sequel are all you really need. But, getting ahead of myself again. Check this one out immediately if you haven’t already.

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