Colossal (2016)

colossal-monster-headscratch

Where’s the Kaboom? There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering Kaboom!

Some genre mash-ups seem effortless. Space is an environment perfectly unsuitable to human life and probably full of things that want to eat, brainwash or melt us, hence the ease of sci-fi/horror. A world steeped in testosterone, where every problem can be solved by the conscientious application of automatic weapons is inherently ridiculous, making action/comedy a no-brainer. A dramedy about a person dealing with addiction and failure is, surprisingly, not an apparently natural complement to an effects-heavy, destruction laden kaiju flick. Colossal is one of the most original films to come along in a while, at least partially because it has some of the trappings of a science fiction movie without really being sci-fi. The giant monster stuff is symbolic and mostly background to the real drama, though still contains roughly as much kaiju action as 2014’s Godzilla. Continue reading “Colossal (2016)”

Aliens (1986)

Holidays are one of the best reasons to watch movies, among the literally trillions of other reasons to watch movies. Christmas offers a cornucopia of choice, from timeless classics like It’s A Wonderful Life, to adopted festive films like The Wizard of Oz and Jurassic Park, to the best and least-festive Xmas flick of them all: Gremlins. Other occasions do not offer so many options. For my money, Mother’s Day offers only one serious option, one of the greatest sequels ever made, James Cameron’s Aliens. If Alien turned Ellen Ripley into a hero, Aliens is where she ascends to the status of true badass, one of the Holy Trinity of amazing sci-fi movie heroines alongside Sarah Conner and Leia Organa. Aliens expands upon the original concept into a very different kind of film, and confidently ticks every box on the ideal sequel checklist. Continue reading “Aliens (1986)”

Dundead 2017 Day Three

Dundead 2017

Written with the insightful input of fellow Dundead 2017 survivor, Claire Grey.

If Salem’s Lot suffered from a glaring lack of Stephen King’s influence, Firestarter contains a veritable smorgasbord. King is fond of writing supernaturally-gifted children, particularly when they wreak terrible vengeance upon those foolish enough to anger someone with magical powers. 9-year-old Charlie McGee (Drew Barrymore) follows in the fine tradition of Carrie White as a girl who can cause incredible destruction with a mere thought, though she is considerably more innocent and less bitter in spite of her tragic past. After the murder of her mother, she and her father Andy (David Keith) are pursued and eventually captured by a shady government organisation controlled by Martin Sheen’s Captain Hollister, who hopes to turn the little girl into a living weapon. Continue reading “Dundead 2017 Day Three”

Dundead 2017 Day Two

Dundead 2017

Written with the insightful input of fellow Dundead 2017 survivor, Claire Grey.

Egomaniac, of all of the new films screening at Dundead 2017, was the one that I was anticipating most eagerly. Horror and comedy make very comfortable bedfellows, perhaps because both rely upon some kind of transgression to elicit an emotional response from their audience, whether terrified screams or gales of laughter. Both genres catch us in a visceral way and, in the case of horror, sometimes sufficient brutality can be so absurd as to be paradoxically hilarious. A quote, from Mel Brooks’ The 2,000 Year Old Man, illustrates this perfectly: “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” Egomaniac takes a recognisable situation for many creative types and ratchets it up to a ridiculous extreme. When horror filmmaker Catherine (Nic Lamont) attempts to get her pet project, a romantic comedy set during a zombie apocalypse, off the ground, the incredible condescension and asinine meddling she encounters drive her to full-blown psychosis. She murders every one of her collaborators and films her sanguine breakdown as her latest masterpiece.  Continue reading “Dundead 2017 Day Two”

Dundead 2017 Day One

Dundead 2017

After a creditable slightly-above-average placing in the annual Dundead Film Quiz (team name: The Dank Tower), the festival began in earnest with Sean Byrne’s The Devil’s Candy, a tale of family strife, satanic possession, and sick guitar riffs. Strange things begin to happen when the Hellmans, dad Jesse (Ethan Embry), mum Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco), move into their new dream home. Jesse, an artist, is beset by an irresistible urge to paint grotesque images, and his obsession starts to take a dire effect on the family. When the house’s previous occupant Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince), a strangely innocent man tortured by sinister, whispering voices, begins to take a special interest in Zooey, the rifts in the family threaten to become truly lethal.  Continue reading “Dundead 2017 Day One”

Sequence Day Three – Supergirl (1984) & Hardware (1990)

Over the weekend of 7-9 April, 2017, in collaboration with the Comic Studies department at the University of Dundee, overseen by the world’s only Professor of Comics Dr. Chris Murray, and the city’s very own festival of geekdom Dee Con, Dundee Contemporary Arts is running Sequence, a series of films inspired by comic books and animation. 

Supergirl holds the distinction of being the first American superhero feature to star a female protagonist, an achievement that becomes all the more important given the fact that movies about female superheroes can easily be counted on less than two hands. After the mediocre-to-awful Superman III, the intent was to spin off from the franchise, elevating the largely unknown Helen Slater, in the same way as Christopher Reeve was, in the role of an iconic DC character. Given the obvious lack of a Supergirl II, this was ultimately unsuccessful, and the quality of the movie must take its share of the blame for this. Feeling as though several scripts were thrown together without regard for consistency, pacing or basic coherence, Supergirl shows only moments of greatness in a broadly dull and oddly small story.

Continue reading “Sequence Day Three – Supergirl (1984) & Hardware (1990)”

Sequence Day One – Heavy Metal (1981)

Over the weekend of 7-9 April, 2017, in collaboration with the Comic Studies department at the University of Dundee, overseen by the world’s only Professor of Comics Dr. Chris Murray, and the city’s very own festival of geekdom Dee Con, Dundee Contemporary Arts is running Sequence, a series of films inspired by comic books and animation. 

The first film of the mini-festival was Heavy Metal, the cult 1981 adaptation based upon the magazine of the same name, which was itself based on a French-language publication called Métal hurlant. The movie is an anthology of various versions of stories which appeared in the comic book, written by various science fiction and fantasy authors, most notably Dan O’Bannon, screenwriter of AlienDark StarLifeforce and Total Recall. It covers a broad and ecletic mix of tones, styles and settings, blending grimy sci-fi, Howard-esque fantasy, and gratuitous sex and violence. All of this is set to a fantastic soundtrack of (unsurprisingly) heavy metal tracks and a dramatic orchestral score.

Continue reading “Sequence Day One – Heavy Metal (1981)”

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

King Kong deserves respect as one of the great fables to come from cinema, as well as for its pioneering special effects. The story of man’s hubris in bringing an incredible force of nature into the heart of the human world and suffering the terrible consequences for their lack of respect is a great parable, simple enough to explain to a child and yet layered with nuance. The story is one of personal arrogance, of racism, of colonialism, even of a kind of early environmentalism. Kong: Skull Island is the latest in nearly a century of re-releases, remakes and rip-offs, and is notable at least for its departure from the original. While it is not the most revolutionary version – which remains Kong’s Japanese excursion, during which he gets caught up in an illicit mining scheme and battles a robot doppelganger in downtown Tokyo – it shifts the focus in an interesting direction. And for left bereft of giant monsters causing ridiculous mayhem, this change is most welcome.

Continue reading “Kong: Skull Island (2017)”