Here’s some of the stuff I watched in the last couple of months, in alphabetical order. Enjoy!
The Beastmaster (1982)
written by Don Coscarelli and Paul Pepperman
based on the novel The Beast Master by Andre Norton
directed by Don Coscarelli
The low-budget sword-and-sorcery cult classic The Beastmaster falls squarely in the so-bad-it’s-good category (the poster above is way better). The screenplay is ridiculous, the acting hilarious, and the special effects… well, no point going there. Even the score by Lee Holdridge is a ripoff of Stu Phillips’ main theme for the TV series Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979). And yet, it coasts along on silly charm and a couple of cool ideas – the bird-like creatures who use their huge wings to dissolve prey; a ring with an eye that allows witches to spy on their enemies – that help you ignore all the laughable battles, uproarious line readings, and the fact that, despite her skimpy attire, Tanya Roberts’ ample breasts somehow manage to stay put. Game of Thrones (2011-2019) this isn’t.
ドロステのはてで僕ら (Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes – 2020)
written by Makoto Ueda
directed by Junta Yamaguchi
It’s nearly impossible to describe ドロステのはてで僕ら (English title: Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes), a sci-fi head-scratcher about a café owner who discovers the TV in his shop allows him to see two minutes into the past while the monitor in his apartment allows him to see two minutes into the future. If it sounds bonkers, it’s because it is. The film was recorded in long takes that make it seem as if it’s just one continuous shot, and it’s a blast trying to figure out not only what the hell is going on, but also how the cast and crew could ever get the timing right. Bloated single-take extravaganzas such as 1917 (2019) tend to leave me cold, but Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes doesn’t overstay its welcome with its fun blend of comedy and surrealism.
Crimes of the Future (2022)
written and directed by David Cronenberg
In the last couple of decades, horror filmmaker David Cronenberg has successfully tackled other genres, such as action thriller (2005’s A History of Violence), crime (2007’s Eastern Promises), and historical drama (2011’s A Dangerous Method). Crimes of the Future is a return to his sci-fi/horror roots, with a somewhat obtuse journey into a dystopian tomorrow in which evolution has made humans impervious to pain and surgery has become pleasurable. In the middle of it all, a performance artist (Viggo Mortensen, working with Cronenberg for the fourth time) gets entangled in a conspiracy involving a plastic-eating species and the anti-evolutionist government unit that seeks to keep it a secret. It’s transgressive as usual, but oddly detached, lacking the visceral thrills or emotional gut punch of Cronenberg’s best work. Still, at 80, he remains in a class by himself.
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
written by Richard Tuggle
based on the book Escape from Alcatraz by J. Campbell Bruce
directed by Don Siegel
Escape from Alcatraz reunited director Don Siegel and actor Clint Eastwood after four previous collaborations, including the still-impressive Dirty Harry in 1971. Their egos got the best of them during the production of this crime actioner – the two would never work together again – but you wouldn’t know it from watching this adaptation of J. Campbell Bruce’s non-fiction book about the 1962 escape from Alcatraz prison. Eastwood commands the screen as ringleader Frank Morris, Siegel builds the tension slowly, and Jerry Fielding’s anxious and atonal score counts the seconds to the final breakout. It’s not Le Trou (1960), but it’s a solid flick all the same.
Galaxy Quest (1999)
written by David Howard and Robert Gordon
from a story by David Howard
directed by Dean Parisot
For some reason, I had never seen Galaxy Quest, a comedy about a bunch of has-been actors who used to star in an 80s sci-fi series and now spend their days making appearances at fan conventions. Well, I finally got around to it and was surprised to find out that this parody of Star Trek (1966-1969) is not only a spoof of that classic show but a charming homage, as the characters go on their own interstellar adventure to help a group of defenseless aliens. The cast – which includes Tim Allen as the Kirk-ish Commander Taggart and Alan Rickman as the Spock-ish Dr. Lazarus – is clearly having a good time, the special effects are well done, and there’s even a nice shout-out to nerds everywhere. By Grabthar’s hammer, skip Star Trek Beyond and join the fun.
Silver Bullet (1985)
written by Stephen King
based on his novel Cycle of the Werewolf
directed by Dan Attias
The first half of this werewolf-on-the-loose horror flick is pretty awful, with cardboard characters, illogical moments, and scenes that feel accidentally campy (Roger Ebert thought this was on purpose, but I highly doubt it). Still, I find the second half of Silver Bullet quite enjoyable, as paraplegic teenager Marty (Corey Haim) and his sister Jane (Megan Follows) convince their alcoholic uncle Red (Gary Busey, never better) to help them destroy the creature. Silver Bullet is not a great Stephen King adaptation, even if King himself wrote it for the screen. Still, it sits comfortably next to other above-average efforts such as Firestarter (1984) and Pet Sematary (1989). Besides, Busey utters one of the best lines (ad-libbed?) ever heard in the history of cinema: “Holy jumped-up bald-headed Jesus palomino!” I have no clue what it means… but it’s awesome.
Carlos I. Cuevas
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