Spontaneous Combustion (1990)

Spontaneous Combustion (1990) movie poster

director Tobe Hooper
viewed: 09/15/2018

America’s first nuclear family, as the test subjects are called, gives birth to a latent mutant son, some 35 years after their own demise by the titular occurence. Tobe Hooper’s ambitious but not ambitiously budgeted or perhaps able 1990 sci-fi/horror thriller, Spontaneous Combustion, seems kind of personal given the age of the protagonist Sam (Brad Dourif), and his own personal situation in the Nuclear Age.

It’s truly a mixed bag of a film, with so much focus on the set up, that the contemporary story dangles more loosely in time and import. The movie’s unevenness spans production quality, direction and even FX.  The FX, gleefully CGI-free vary from weak to pretty cool, and maybe that’s the whole film’s trouble.

Why is it that Dourif only stumbles on his abilities at age 35. Is the trigger his learning of his hidden parentage? Of the cabal around him to hide his origins?

While you might wish for more, it’s still a pretty interesting little picture.

Species II (1998)

Species II (1998) movie poster

director Peter Medak
viewed: 09/14/2018

Species II tries to make things interesting by flipping the gender of the “specie” humanoid sex alien in question. This also flips a significant element of the original: keeping Natasha Henstridge locked up and clad throughout the bulk of the film.

That said, Species II is pretty big on sex and gore for 1998. The latter of which features a good mixture of digital and practical effects, meaning lots of the practical and a modicum of the less pleasing digital.

Peter Medak delivers what is pretty heartily a B-movie, not exactly Medak’s wheelhouse, but a reasonable journeyman effort. Though not so hot with the occasional slo-mo.

What was with all the product placement and branding (Sprint, Pepsi) on the rocket at the beginning?

Liquid Sky (1982)

Liquid Sky (1982) movie poster

director  Slava Tsukerman
viewed: 09/07/2018

I hadn’t seen Liquid Sky in over 30 years. I caught it more than once as a midnight movie in the early-to-mid Eighties. And the vinyl soundtrack passed from friend to friend through high school.

Aesthetically, it’s like Blade Runner on good drugs and a low budget.

Heroin, orgasms, euphoria as energy, art, pretension, performance, aliens, NYC, sexuality, plurality, and the colors…oh, the colors. Opiate molecules,  receptors in the brain. Hallucinatory.

New York City, but from above.

“This fucking city is really something.”

And Anne Carlisle. Writer-director-composer Slava Tsukerman’s brilliant casting of Carlisle playing both Jimmy and Margaret (though also sort of confusing) is a total stand-out. And that soundtrack, dissonant bleeps and bloops and her rhythm box.

Idiosyncratic genius.

Extra Terrestrial Visitors (1983)

Extra Terrestrial Visitors (1983) movie poster

director Juan Piquer Simón
viewed: 09/03/2018

Were there any half-decent E.T. knockoffs or were they all nutso psychotronic garbage? When I’d thought Mac and Me had to be the all-time E.T. knock-off, little did I know of Nukie.  Dig thine eyes on Extra Terrestrial Visitors (1983). Behold! Compare and contrast as you will, I dare you to say which one of these films is more bizarre and atrocious.

Extra Terrestrial Visitors was initially an Alien knock-off, but then E.T. happened and movie magic delivered ETV, an early 80s Eurovision mashup masterpiece of crapitude and mindfuckery.

“What a fuck up this back to nature crap is!”

I watched this not as the MST3K version which brought this movie notoriety. Perhaps more the shame to me.

Endgame (1983)

Endgame (1983) movie poster

director Joe D’Amato
viewed: 08/31/2018

Parts Road Warrior part The 10th Victim and maybe original Judge Dredd  or X-men comics, Endgame mashes up and masticates post-apocalyptic ideas and spews them readily all over the place.

A punk gloom looms over post-WWIII wherever we are, ruthlessly guarded by Security Services (SS) gas-masked militia, killing the mutated and the impoverished and shilling “health” supplements.

For my money, Endgame is much more imaginative and eclectic than other Italian Mad Max knock-offs. Still,  it’s 3 star movie with higher ideas and aspirations pumped through the pulpy action, deadly karate chops and all.

Though it’s a different subgenre indeed, Endgame might be a good double feature with Fulci’s Conquest.

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983)

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983) movie poster

director Lamont Johnson
viewed: 07/30/2018

I’ve got a soft spot for Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, and I think it still merits its place.

Sure, it’s another Star Wars knock-off, and some of the effects look worse than their Roger Corman brethren. But it’s got Molly Ringwald in possibly the best Molly Ringwald role (and movie) of all time.

“I’m not a scab girl and I’m not out of my diapers!”

Executive produced by Ivan Reitman, Spacehunter is pretty fun early 80s sci-fi in 3D and primed for a PG audience. It’s also got Ernie Hudson and Michael Ironside. Oh yeah, and the “spacehunter,” Peter Strauss.

I hold no illusions over the greatness (or lack thereof) of Spacehunter, but for some reason I just have always enjoyed it.

Imitation Girl (2017)

 Imitation Girl (2017) movie poster

director Natasha Kermani
viewed: 07/27/2018

The always appealing Lauren Ashley Carter stars in Imitation Girl as NYC-based porn actress and as the alien who takes on her image on arrival on Earth somewhere in the Southwest.

Natasha Kermani’s debut feature is ambitious and sincere, though not as strong as it would like to be.

Vaguely in the mold of say, Brother from Another Planet or maybe Under the Skin, this low budget science fiction takes on the experiential discoveries of intelligent alien life come to Earth and learning about the world. Kermani plays with the doppelganger motif, contrasting disillusioned New Yorker Julianna with her wide-eyed and fascinated double.

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) movie poster

director Russell Mulcahy
viewed: 06/12/2018

Ranked among worst films of all time, Highlander II: The Quickening has been long calling me for a re-watch. I saw it circa the time it first hit video and recalled it being bad, but epic-bad?  

More aptly it might rank as one of the weirdest sequels of all time, taking such liberty with its original concept. Because Highlander II is downright Baroque in its expanding Highlander universe, something that apparently sent its fan culture into paroxysms, and general audiences wondering what the fuck was going on.

One parallel between the films is the opening sequence in a major public arena, packed with people, watching a dramatic event. In the first film, it’s a wrestling match at Madison Square Garden, and here, it’s an opera house, viewing Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. And maybe here is the clue: wrestling suggested mano-y-mano fighting, and Wagner’s opera suggests heightened epic. 

Of course, this heightened epic is a kitchen sink of ideas and story tropes, including this shield that protects the Earth from the depleted ozone layer, the immortals are aliens from another dimension? and time?

Interestingly, Highlander II is rather trailblazing in 90’s design and aesthetics. In many ways, the film’s design looks like much science fiction/superhero films that would follow it.

It’s a red hot mess for sure. It takes Highlander‘s innate silliness to operatic levels. But it’s still pretty fun.

It’s funny to me that despite this film, the franchise begat two more films with Christopher Lambert, cartoon shows, the TV show, and an eventual canon well beyond me. This was as far as I ever got with the franchise. I’ll probably keep it that way.

 

Highlander (1986)

Highlander (1986) movie poster

director Russell Mulcahy
viewed: 06/11/2018

I recall seeing Highlander in the theater back in ’86. I don’t recollect what I knew about it beforehand, but I believe I liked it and may have gone back to see it again. 

That said, I hadn’t seen it in decades. I’d totally forgotten the Queen music.

Much like I thought back in the day, Highlander is absurd but absurdly entertaining, with some top notch cinematography to boot.  The story, much like Highlander itself, came out of left field. This whole concept of immortal (except in cases of decapitation) warriors was wildly inventive, if also super silly.

The cast is fun, if bizarrely representing countries and cultures native to the actors.

I actually think the opening ½ hour is really strange and surprising. The narrative strategy doesn’t tell you much of why some guy at a wrestling match suddenly goes down to a parking garage to pull a sword and battle some other dude. Just when you think there doesn’t need to be exposition, you get it in the middle in which the it comes gets hammy and silly.

I’d argue that silliness is a big part of its charm.

Starcrash (1978)

Starcrash (1978) movie poster

director Luigi Cozzi
viewed: 06/08/2018

The universe of Starcrash is pretty. So colorful.

“I’d say red hot potatoes for small time smugglers on the run like us.”

Starcrash is red hot potatoes for bad movie lovers on the tube like us. For all the reasons that everyone has ever cited…and there are so very many: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro’s outfits, some of the worst stop-motion animation I can recall having seen (though a nice homage to Jason and the Argonauts nonetheless), the nearly perfectly derivative score, and of course David Hasselhoff’s hair.

And the universe is so pretty.