Evil Brain from Outer Space (1964)

Evil Brain from Outer Space (1964)

directors  Koreyoshi Akasaka, Akira Mitsuwa
viewed: 12/13/2017

Evil Brain from Outer Space is my type of pop surrealism, like someone slipped some acid in your cheap hot sake.

It’s like an old fashioned serial meets 1950’s Superman TV show, madein Japan, of course, with bananas hackneyed dubbing, writing, and voice acting.

“I was trying to bring the brain here to you , Dr. Sakurai . Because it’s imperative that it be destroyed. To do so won’t be easy. Its indestructible.”

Okay, making fun of the dialog or voiceover is like shooting fish in a barrel. That said, I’m not sure the American soundtrack could be improved upon. It’s pure silly awesome genius.

This film, as it is, is an edited fabrication for American audiences of a couple of Super Giant movies from late 1950’s Japan.  Really, it’s one of a set, including Atomic Rulers of the World, Attack from Space and Invaders from Space, all adapted from the film series featuring Japan’s first cinematic superhero.

The action is almost non-stop and trying to transcribe the plot seems near impossible. It’s best taken as is, a straight-up late-night (or anytime) hallucination of cosmic weirdness and hilarious wonder, and 1950’s parkour, by which I mean lots of jumping and editing for action fights and leaps and flying by the seat of your tights (attached to a visible cable). Also, some really cute kids are in it, though they turn into other cute kids partway through (I think.)

That’s the point: don’t think. Just enjoy.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) movie poster

director  Taika Waititi
viewed: 11/26/2017 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA

I’m with the consensus on this one. My kids are too.

Thor: Ragnarok is fun, funny entertainment. Total props to Taika Waititi for this one.

I’ve always liked Cate Blanchett, but goth Cate Blanchett! What you do to me!

Galaxina (1980)

Galaxina (1980) movie poster

director William Sachs
viewed: 11/22/2017

Opening with a Star Wars scroll, followed by a Star Trek log entry voiceover, 1980’s Galaxina riffs on existing science fiction tropes. Not exactly parody, it is comedy, comedy painfully executed. Comedy as deft as a rotted corpse.

“In space, nobody can hear your siren.”

Sloppy and dull with occasional bursts of charm, namely in the cantina-like whorehouse and the cantina-like human restaurant.

So short on ideas they even crib alternate color scheming planet right out of Al Adamson.

I do wonder if Mel Brooks ever saw Galaxina.

Great poster though.

Not the greatest legacy for poor Dorothy Stratton, murdered by her pathetic, cruel husband.

Space Amoeba (1970)

Space Amoeba (1970) movie poster

director  Ishirō Honda
viewed: 11/19/2017

Space Amoeba! Space Amoeba! Space Amoeba!

Okay, so the Space Amoeba aren’t really the true focus of this movie. Heck, they don’t even make it to the movie poster. That’s because they are animated fuzzy clouds that take over a satellite and come to Earth and take over some critters, make them huge, and plan to take over the planet.

This is kaiju right off the sushi menu, with a giant cuttlefish, a crab-cum-prawn, and most wonderfully, though all too short on screentime, a fancy snapping turtle with an extendo-neck.

It’s from director Ishirō Honda, so you know it’s legit. It’s actually a lot more fun and entertaining than some more well-known kaijus of the time.

Interestingly, the plot revolves around a plan to put up a big luxury resort on a heretofore unspoiled paradise. Is it social commentary that the amoebae from space want to take over Earth? Despoil our world from us? Lessons learned?

“Thanks to their superstitions we can fish where we want to!”

The Man with Two Brains (1982)

The Man with Two Brains (1982) movie poster

director  Carl Reiner
viewed: 11/10/2017

“Into the mud, scum queen!”

While these days Steve Martin prefers his banjo to comedy, it’s worth recalling that at one point in time (mid-1970’s-early 1980’s), he was one of the funniest people in the world. Some of his best stuff was for TV specials and his own comedy records, but when he first started venturing into movies, he made a series of really interesting features.

Arguably, The Man with Two Brains may be his funniest. It’s co-written by Martin and director Carl Reiner (and George Gipe), and it’s a madcap romp through 1950’s science fiction with a dash of film noir thrown in.

Not only is Martin at the top of his game, the outrageously gorgeous Kathleen Turner is at the peak of hers, with her low sexy voice turned up to 11 and set for comedy.

Frankly, the direction and editing are kind of a hack, but when you’ve got gag after gag flying at you at such incessant speed that you hardly have time for an extra “Hfuhruhurr” much less an “Uumellmahaye”.

It’s not perfect by any means, but it is thoroughly hilarious.

Swamp Thing (1982)

Swamp Thing (1982) movie poster

director Wes Craven
viewed: 11/05/2017

His ass is grass. Or moss. Or slime. Or something. But he’s pretty cool. He’s the Swamp Thing, straight outta 1982 from horror great Wes Craven, no less.

For 1982, Swamp Thing is solid comic book entertainment. Keep in mind, this is before the modern superhero era, even before Swamp Thing got Alan Moore-ed. He always had some legitimate cool from the pencil and ink of legend Bernie Wrightson (RIP).

But it’s also got its limitations, also very 1982 and budget-related. If they could have afforded Rick Baker, they might have gotten a less rubbery-looking Swamp Thing and with a bit more of a budget maybe a little more interesting action throughout.

But it does have Adrienne Barbeau and that final monster showdown with more practical effects and designs that raise it out of the muck and makes for good times.

Would be a good double feature with 1982’s Creepshow.

The Night the World Exploded (1957)

The Night the World Exploded (1957) movie poster

director Fred F. Sears
viewed: 11/01/2017

One of the first ever natural disaster movies (please check me on this), The Night the World Exploded shows that it’s not nice to trick Mother Nature.

“It’s almost as if the earth were striking back at us for the way we’ve robbed her of her natural resources. Not very scientific, is it?” This line is spoken by “Hutch”, played by Kathryn Grant, not only the sole woman in science, but virtually the sole woman in the movie.

Made by producer Sam Katzman and director Fred F. Sears as second feature with their astoundingly hilarious The Giant Claw (1957), The Night the World Exploded is by contrast a more earnest horror film. Human activity has brought about a new very unstable element higher into the planet’s crust, causing massive earthquakes.

Hopeful science, like cloud-seeding, saves the day. The element is neutralized in water, so busting dams and flooding places, causing rain somehow solves everything. I say it’s hopeful because humans are able to clean up their messes. An unlikely scenario in which we currently reside.

Soylent Green (1973)

Soylent Green (1973) movie poster

director Richard Fleischer
viewed: 10/30/2017

I don’t know how I got to live this long without having ever seen Soylent Green, but of course, I know the punchline.

Soylent Green seems the last of Charlton Heston’s run of science fiction movies that started with Planet of the Apes (1968). He’s 50 years old here but presumably supposed to be younger than that, the classic middle-aged Hollywood action hero.

As speculative futurism, aspects of Soylent Green are resonant, while other aspects are nigh hilarious. It’s 2022 and the “greenhouse effect” has burned down most of what we consider “nature”, trees, food crops, animal life. And the city is overrun with homeless while the super-rich live lives in gilded cages, still enjoying the rare treats that were once daily norms, like celery.

It’s a future deprived of technology, which makes sense if society and environment crashed when it did (probably the early 1970’s). When people riot, they get scooped up in earth-moving equipment and piled into garbage trucks. Yet, there is still a beleaguered police force investigating homicides, though the cops barely make enough to eat.

Oh, and women are furniture. At least they hit futuristic endemic sexism on the head.

And the reveal that isn’t a reveal at the end of the film. I have to really think if everyone is so starved and society so bankrupt, would cannibalism even be remotely outre? I mean if you can’t get your protein anywhere else… What is it they eat instead? What is the social infrastructure that they’re trying to hold together?

Heston is such a brutish ham but Edward G Robinson is great.

Disturbing Behavior (1998)

Disturbing Behavior (1998) movie poster

director David Nutter
viewed: 10/18/2017

Disturbing Behavior is one of a few Nineties’ big studio teen horror films that were almost great. Studio’s wanted semi-edgy stuff, but couldn’t produce something as original, pulpy, surprising or fun as Indie horror productions of the prior decades were.

It’s possible this film could have been better. Apparently director David Nutter (who had worked on The X-Files) had the film chopped down to its 83 minutes and a certain amount of its potential removed.

It’s horror/sci-fi as social critique. Small town kids are turning into perfect preppy angels with robotic speed and mannerisms and apparently it’s the adults who are implanting devices in their brains to “fix” them. They also indoctrinate them with something akin to Fox News as was done to Alex in A Clockwork Orange.

The cast is quite solid, with James Marsden, Katie Holmes, William Saddler, Steve Railsback, and stand-out Nick Stahl. It’s all pretty primal Nineties, from the styles to the soundtrack.

Disturbing Behavior is a quick-paced and amusingly satirical but not as clever or biting as it would like to have been. But still quite enjoyable.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Blade Runner 2049 (2017) movie poster

director Denis Villeneuve
viewed: 10/09/2017 at AMC Metreon 16, SF, CA

The film nerd world is seeing its deepest desires brought to light. A new Star Wars trilogy? Ridley Scott returning to Alien? A new Blade Runner movie?

As we have come to learn, you need to be careful what you wish for.

Unlike the others, commercial success has not overwhelmed Blade Runner 2049 yet. So we may not be awash in the franchise-ization of the beloved 1982 film. Which may well turn out to be a good thing.

First and foremost, it’s overlong, by a long shot. Its 163 minutes move slowly, steadily, intentionally. But in the end, it drags, perhaps where it most certainly shouldn’t.

Yes, it’s gorgeous. Villeneuve and Roger Deakins along with some very pretty production design absolutely craft a film worth looking at.

But what’s with all the giant naked ladies in advertising and ruined statuary? Issues of the film’s representations of women aside, I’ve cultivated a theory. When watching Alien Covenant earlier this year I began to wonder if Ridley Scott’s Alien movies and his Blade Runner movies were meant to exist in the same universe and timeline. And whether or not that is true, the statuary of Prometheus (2012) featured giant sized men. Is this somehow a feminine counterpart? Sure, this is Villeneuve’s film, but Scott is still executive producer.

I watched this with my son, who managed to sleep through the original when I showed it to him. So, he was a little confused about the story, but he wound up really liking the movie.

Still several days out I’ve not really come to a full conclusion. It’s a gorgeous spectacle, though a slow-moving performance. Still contemplating its meanings and ideas.