Posts Tagged ‘Alien’

Dean Koontz’s Phantoms

Posted 21 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead

Dean Koontz’s Phantoms, USA, 1998

Directed by Joe Chappelle

Phantoms is a by-the-numbers bad horror movie with a compelling performance by Liev Schreiber. At the suggestion of a couple of fictional gentlemen by the names of Jay and Robert, as well as one close, non-fictional friend (hint: we co-wrote this movie together, but he did not act in this one) who recently reminded me of their recommendation, I decided to finally check out “Affleck [being] the bomb in Phantoms.” I can only assume all three parties were being highly sarcastic; after all, one of them was played by Kevin Smith, a longtime friend of Mr. Affleck, but not necessarily someone known for his unadulterated sincerity, Jersey Girl (2004) and the jail cell speech in the third act of Clerks II (2006) excluded.

Dean Koontz’s Phantoms is awful, in that special way in which films like Lawrence Kasdan’s 2003 Stephen King adaptation Dreamcatcher are awful. Author and screenwriter Dean Koontz is often considered the poor man’s King (Koontz fans, please note: I have not actually read any of his books, I am merely recording the popular consensus as I understand it), so it is fitting that Phantoms should have so much in common with that unintentionally hilarious travesty of cinema. Unfortunately, Phantoms lacks the over-the-top craziness of Kasdan’s film, and is therefore substantially less entertaining, albeit mercifully shorter. This is not to say there is no unintentional comedy to be found, as there certainly is, but overall the film is more of a by-the-numbers bad horror movie that lacks the overreaching ambition of the amazingly insane Dreamcatcher. It also borrows heavily from far better films such as Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and John Carpenter’s The Thing, which only serves to remind the viewer how truly low-rent this already mediocre film is in comparison to those classics. Read More

John Carpenter’s The Thing

Posted 07 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

John Carpenter’s The Thing, USA, 1982

Directed by John Carpenter

John Carpenter's The Thing is perhaps the scariest film of the 1980s. Continuing with my Month Of Halloween Movies (MOHM? Think of it more as a modified yoga chant and less as me crying out for my Mommy), it’s time now to revisit one of my perennial favorites, one that first traumatized me as an impressionable seven-or-eight-year-old when I saw it on a dubbed VHS tape, which is probably the best way to be introduced to any horror film from the 1970s or ’80s. John Carpenter’s vastly different, and I would argue superior, updating of the Howard Hawks produced, Christian Nyby directed classic The Thing from Another World (1951) is undoubtedly one of the nastiest, darkest horror films ever to make it to mainstream movie screens, a spiritual descendant of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and a predecessor of David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986). Don’t get me wrong – the original is absolutely one of the very best of the 1950s UFO-paranoia movies, with only Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) really equaling or exceeding it. It’s just that Carpenter’s relentlessly dark vision and the supremely grotesque special effects created by Rob Bottin easily trump even the best of the ’50s for sheer terror and awesomeness. Also, Kurt Russell’s iconic turn as the anti-hero of the story, R.J. MacReady, is one of the quintessential performances of ’80s machismo. Let’s look at the three main things that make this movie so great, beginning with Russell. Read More

Deep Blue Sea – A Gruesome Death Delivery System

Posted 03 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Deep Blue Sea, USA / Australia, 1999

Directed by Renny Harlin

Deep Blue Sea is little more than a delivery system for gruesome death scenes, but at that it succeeds tremendously. I traditionally spend the entire month of October watching as many “scary movies” as possible, whether they be truly frightening psychological thrillers, big campy monster movies or anything with a flair for the occult. You know, Halloween-type movies. With that tradition firmly in place this year (since, unlike this time last year, I have what can be called a permanent address), I’ve decided to devote this month to actually writing about some of these films, whether new discoveries or old favorites I’ve decided to revisit, perhaps for the sake of finally writing about them. I will not, of course, cover every single movie I watch, but rest assured that for the rest of this month, you will see no reviews of stark, sober dramas or films with undeniably redeeming social value. It’s all chills, thrills, blood, guts and campy dark humor from here on out. My first entry is really more of an action movie, truth be told, but it does feature giant, super-intelligent sharks eating people, so I think it fits right in.

This is what could be called a guilty pleasure movie, from a director who knows how to make them. While he is not consistently as much fun as my personal favorite guilty pleasure director, Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Patriot, 2012), who seems to be intent on destroying the world in nearly every film he makes, Harlin has managed to crank out at least a few enjoyable entertainments, such as Cliffhanger (1993) and The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996). His 1999 film Deep Blue Sea, like the slasher movies it emulates by way of films like Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and John McTiernan’s Predator (1987), is less a compelling narrative than it is a sort of delivery system for gruesome death scenes. And that’s fine; when a film realizes its goal, however high or low that goal may be, it succeeds. It is in that spirit, then, that I present my loose, irreverent, spoiler-heavy review, in which we shall look at this film in the way it seems to demand: by examining its death scenes. Read More

The Legacy of Silent Film

Posted 04 Apr 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Most Confusing Films of All time, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

A Trip To The Moon is one of the best of the very early silent films.

Perhaps one of the main reasons that so many of us, myself included, fail to “get” certain films, or certain aspects of film as a whole, is that we have not spent sufficient time studying the beginnings of the art form. We have not looked to the past. This, then, is a look at the first few decades of the cinematic arts, and the influence of these early films on what we see onscreen today.

When Louis and Auguste Lumiere first showed their short film The Arrival of a Train in 1895, they certainly had no inkling that, almost 100 years later, it would be the film-within-a-film in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Nor could Carl Theodor Dreyer have suspected that his 1928 feature The Passion of Joan of Arc would one day be the major inspiration for Mel Gibson’s hugely successful The Passion of the Christ (2004). But no matter where these and other early filmmakers envisioned the medium in 100 years, or whether they even believed it would last that long, the films we see today are undeniably the legacy of these pioneers of a nascent art form. Read More