Today I Watched...

From 2001 to Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Today I Watched...

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:37 am

I thought it might be interesting to have a thread for general movies - not upcoming releases or anything, but whatever you've watched recently that you might want to recommend or anti-recommend, or just spout about. Love it, hate it, I want to hear about it! Avoid spoilers if you like, don't if you like, I don't mind. I'll be posting older films here, at least sometimes, and it seems silly to me to avoid spoilering a film that's been around since before most of our members were born, so I'll mostly do spoilers only on newer stuff, if then.

So. Today I watched "Robinson Crusoe On Mars".

A 50s B movie, I remember seeing this as a kid and I was fascinated by it. It's a weird but (to me) fascinating blend of hardish science fiction, intriguing adventure, and cliche storytelling. It's one of those films where the title says it all - it literally is the Robinson Crusoe story transplanted directly to Mars. We open with a Mars ship flown by Captain Dan McReady (Adam West - Batman!) and his second in command, Chris Draper (Paul Mantee), in orbit. Forced to dodge a meteor, they crashland on the surface. Batman is killed, and Draper is left alone.

We see him struggling to survive. The Mars of the film isn't all that far off from the actual one - an endless desert. But it is more hospitable - there are plants to be found for food, there's water, there's even a type of rock that emits air when heated. There's fun to be had watching Draper discover all this with the help of his pet monkey - they flew monkeys into space like twice in the early days of the US space program, literally just to see if a living thing could survive up there. There was worry that your heart wouldn't beat in zero gee or something, so wise to try it out. But the image of chimp astronauts was so striking that many, many sci fi movies felt compelled to have a Space monkey in them. Which is a weird little quirk of 50s and 60s sci-fi.

There are no exterior sets here - they filmed in real wasteland, with replacement skies to give it an alien feel. It gives the movie a grandeur that it never could have achieved on a sound stage.

Image

Image

The role of the pirates is filled by an alien species that show up. Their spaceships might look a little familiar to you :

Image

Yep, War of the Worlds tripods with the head ripped off and a paint job! These aliens are never seen up close, but their ships are eerie and menacing. They move fast, and with no need to accelerate - they go from rapid motion to dead stop, or vice versa, in a fraction of a second. All the while making a strange, threatening sound. And the firepower they display is impressive in scale. One of the few alien threats from that era of moviemaking where you can't see us beating them if they showed up even today.

With the aliens of course comes a Man Friday, in the form of an escaped slave of the aliens. He and Draper get on after they earn the other's trust. A threat is established in the form of the metal bracelets Friday wears, which allow the alien slavers to track him. Periodically, they show up and blast the area around in hopes of finishing him off. Whilst powerful, they are fortunately not all that accurate!

The most frustrating thing about the film is how little you get beyond that. What's with the alien slavers? We don't know. Are they a threat to Earth? We don't know. Draper doesn't even really seem to think about things like that, his concerns are almost entirely in the moment. Hell, they could even follow him back home or intercept him on the way, but he doesn't for one second consider that.

It's also a little dated in terms of the relationship between Friday and Draper. Draper assumes that he's Friday's boss, and that Friday will comport to his life - Friday will learn his language, follow his rules, etc. And of course Friday is not only fine with that, but he will go out of his way to sacrifice his own comfort and safety to help Draper out. It's not explicitly "because Draper's the white guy", or even "because Draper's the American", but it can feel a bit like that.

But overall I really like this movie. It's uncomplicated, but with interesting slices of a larger story that leave me wanting more. Alas, there never was a sequel.
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Re: Today I Watched...

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sun Jan 05, 2020 1:08 am

Today I Watched...

Leaving DC

Whilst I don't generally like streaming services, I've been subscribed to Amazon Prime for a couple of months (comes down to got subscribed accidentally, kept it for a bit so my dad could watch some football, will probably cancel it now). I've taken the opportunity to watch some of their cheap B movies.

Leaving DC is a found footage style movie. Some hate those, I rather like them (depends on how well they're done, of course). Leaving DC is a pretty decent one... mostly. It's clearly one man's labour of love, as it is written, directed by, and stars one guy - Josh Criss. And indeed, there are only two other actors in the whole film, and their combined screen time amounts to a handful of minutes. Criss plays Mark Klein, a guy who is literally leaving Washington DC to live in a remote house in the woods, miles from anywhere - because nothing bad could possibly come from that.

One of the issues with found footage is "why do they keep filming?" In this case the answer is that Klein is a member of a support group for people with OCD. Now that he's so far away he won't be attending much, so he's making a video diary to post on their BookofFaces so he can keep in touch online. It works well enough as a driving force, especially since he's clearly just a bit obsessive about it, because you know, OCD.

So the first weirdness is that he finds a small animal skull nailed to a tree on his property, which is a bit disconcerting but no biggie. Then he sleeps with a window open and hears a shrieking noise in the night. He figures it's likely an animal, but decides to leave a sound recorder outside his window overnight to try and capture the sound. He doesn't - but what he does capture is a strange knocking sound.

A fair sized chunk of the film is then him listening to each night's recording and hearing stranger sounds. He hears what sounds like a voice, then a flute playing, etc. Always at the exact same time. This again plays into the "why does he keep recording" thing - we don't see much of these things happening, but rather him recording himself as he checks it out the next day. So he actually does put the camera down quite a lot.

Things begin to escalate, and Klein tries everything he can think of to work out what's happening - he buys a trail camera to see if anything's out there in the night, he contacts paranormal forums, and most disturbingly... he buys a gun. It starts to become clear that he's not coping well with his inability to get anywhere in his investigations. He mentions stopping his medications, he's drinking more, he's lashing out at people passive aggressively. When a woman from his support group comes to visit he slips into some "nice guy" behaviour.

This is one of the main things I appreciated about the film - Klein is a flawed guy, but the flaws are not gaping holes in his character, he's not going mad or screaming in rage or anything like that, he's just frustrated and pissed off because he set out on this adventure and now it seems like pretty much everything is twisting against him in small but irritating ways, and because nothing he tries helps him to find a solution or even to understand the problem.

I won't spoil the ending section, but it's the one part of the film that I found disappointing. I've seen reviewers say that it comes across like Criss just ran out of time or money. I don't know if he did, but I do know that the ending isn't really satisfying. In The Blair Witch Project we don't get a real explanation but we do get a resolution that ties into the story at least, with the "standing in the corner" having been set up before. Here, the film really does feel like he just decided he had to stop making it and shot the minimum to do that.

Overall I liked this movie. You have to be a fan of low budget stuff for it, but if you're okay with that it's pretty good until the last ten minutes or so.

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Re: Today I Watched...

Postby T'Pau » Sun Jan 05, 2020 9:22 pm

Today I watched 'Red'. Still a guilty pleasure film for me, as all the fancy actors seemed to be having such fun being killers.

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Re: Today I Watched...

Postby AlexMcpherson79 » Sun Jan 05, 2020 10:50 pm

Yeah loved that, shame that the sequel was rubbish.
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Re: Today I Watched...

Postby Graham Kennedy » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:15 pm

Today I Watched... "The Beyond".



The story is basically that one end of a wormhole appears in Earth orbit. Shortly afterwards, large floating spheres appear all around the world. A cyber-enhanced astronaut is sent through the wormhole in hopes of finding an explanation.

Spoiler:


The worst thing about this is that it's shot entirely in documentary style - and mostly not in a fly-on-the-wall, camera there as it happened way. There's some of that, sure, but at least half the film is the characters in interviews talking about what happened. It feels endless, it drags the pace of the movie to a snail-crawl, and it's just a really hard film to become involved with.

The effects are sometimes very good - the guy who made the film is an effects guy, I believe - but I guess his budget showed, because a lot of the time when we do see events, what we're shown is footage that's of low quality, poorly focused, etc. Maybe an artistic choice, but it felt like somebody who didn't have the budget to do it properly and hid that behind these effects.

All in all, not a good film. I almost turned it off a couple of times, but persevered. Do not recommend.
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Re: Today I Watched...

Postby T'Pau » Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:07 pm

The Rundown, with Dwayne Johnson, Christopher Walken, Seann William Scott, and Rosario Dawson..directed by Peter Berg (2003)

"A tough aspiring chef is hired to bring home a mobster's son from the Amazon but becomes involved in the fight against an oppressive town operator and the search for a legendary treasure."

Great cast, terrible writing, supposed to be Brazil yet looks suspiciously like Hawaii. Think Indiana Jones 1 meets Midnight Run, only less funny and really less everything else.

Two words: Woof Woof!
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Re: Today I Watched...

Postby T'Pau » Thu Jan 09, 2020 7:03 pm

The Last Stand, with Arnold Schwartzenegger (2013)

The leader of a drug cartel busts out of a courthouse and speeds to the Mexican border, where the only thing in his path is a sheriff and his inexperienced staff.

Arnie poking fun at his age, as an old lawman, makes this film quite enjoyable. Had seen it before and was happy to watch again.
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Re: Today I Watched...

Postby Graham Kennedy » Thu Jan 09, 2020 10:43 pm

T'Pau wrote:The Last Stand, with Arnold Schwartzenegger (2013)

The leader of a drug cartel busts out of a courthouse and speeds to the Mexican border, where the only thing in his path is a sheriff and his inexperienced staff.

Arnie poking fun at his age, as an old lawman, makes this film quite enjoyable. Had seen it before and was happy to watch again.

I liked that one. I thought it was really the only film Arnie has done where he's putted off the "old but still fairly badass" thing he's tried a few times.
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Re: Today I Watched...

Postby Graham Kennedy » Thu Jan 09, 2020 10:55 pm

Today I Watched... Skinwalkers

Set on the infamous "Skinwalker ranch", a paranormal investigation team is called in when the farmer who lives there has his son vanish in a flash of light.

It's a found footage movie, but I quite like those so I was up for this. But it's actually pretty bad, even by B movie standards. The main issue I have with the film is that it wants to be too many things. Whilst the team are there, they encounter :

Mysterious shadowy (alien?) things outside the house.
Glowing lights flying around.
A giant wolf.
Caves under the ranch with cave paintings and a skeleton in it.
A 'ghost' of the kid that keeps running around.
Animal mutilations.
Some sort of invisible presence.
A carrie-style little girl that kills people with her mind.
Unmarked (government?) vehicles that keep watching them.
A shadowy conspiracy from the past.
A UFO.
A grey alien.
Alien abductions.

Literally all of this just kind of shows up randomly throughout the film. There's no rhyme or reason to it, no one thing that makes sense of any of it. Is the giant wolf a pet of the aliens? Is the kid a ghost, or are the aliens doing time travel stuff? Why is the little girl exploding people's heads? Why is the giant wolf bullet proof? It's like the producers just came up with a list of every paranormal thing they could think of and just said "fuck it, let's put them ALL in! More is better!"

Overall, just not a very involving film. Which is a shame, because there's potential here. But pick a weirdness and stick to it, guys.
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Re: Today I Watched...

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sat Jan 11, 2020 11:50 pm

Today I watched... Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope"

Two young men, Brandon and Phillip, strangle their former classmate David. They've nothing against the poor chap; they're just convinced that the world contains those who are superior, and therefore above concepts of morality, and those who are not. They class themselves in the former category, of course, and David in the latter. It's therefore their right to murder him. More, Brandon regards the murder as an artistic act, and intends to get the maximum enjoyment out of it. To this end he's invited various friends - including David's parents - to a dinner party at the apartment, where David's body is lying in a wooden trunk in plain view.

Brandon is having a whale of a time with this, though Phillip is struggling with guilt and increasing paranoia. Also in attendance is their old teacher, Rupert, who first introduced the boys to ideas of superiority.

As the party progresses the tension ratchets up, with the tissue of lies surrounding David's absence slowly starting to come apart. As one might expect from Hitchcock, the suspense is masterfully handled. There's much fun to be had watching the boys squirm as Rupert becomes increasingly suspicious of them.

One issue I have with the film is the ending, when all is revealed. Rupert makes an outraged speech, decrying the very notion that his ideas could be used to justify murder. But earlier in the film there's a scene where the man literally proposes that some people should have a kind of hunting pass to murder others - "only in season, mind! I wouldn't want chaos!" Now to be fair, this is presented more as a cruel brand of humour than an actual belief, though when he's accused of joking he claims to be completely serious. But at the end he never says that he was joking, there no moment of "I made an ironic joke to highlight the absurdity of such a belief, and you took me seriously!" moment. Rather, he just flatly claims that no reasonable person could possibly have understood his views to be an endorsement of murder.

It's also interesting for a film made in the 50s that there are subtle implications that the two boys are gay. Young men, living together, no mention of girlfriends or fiancés or anything similar. At one point when they're starting to crack, their housekeeper sarcastically notes that "They must have gotten out of the wrong side of the bed this morning!" The bed, not their beds. It doesn't go further than that, but it's an interesting subtext from a time when any gay character is practically guaranteed to be morally deficient.

The film is also notable for being shot in exceptionally long takes, 10 minutes or more at a time. This was done genuinely, and was a good deal of work for the crew - so much so that at one point James Stewart bitterly complained that the cameras and their rehearsals were more important than the actors and theirs! What cuts there are are also often hidden carefully, so the film practically looks like a single take. As such, it plays out more or less in real time.

Also notable is the backdrop of the city outside the apartment's large windows. A painting of New York, the lighting on it gradually changes from day to night over the film. Clouds move periodically. Lights come on in the buildings, and signs light up. Although it never for a moment looks anything other than a painting, it really is something of a technical marvel for the time.

Rope is referred to as a "forgotten film", rarely mentioned in comparison to the likes of Vertigo, Rear Window, Psycho, The Birds. But whilst I would agree that it's not a classic, I found it thoroughly entertaining and well worth a watch.
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Re: Today I Watched...

Postby Graham Kennedy » Wed Jan 15, 2020 2:00 am

Today I watched... "Extraterrestrial"



A sci-fi/horror movie by "The Vicious Brothers", aka Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, the men who brought you Grave Encounters, if you know that one.

Premise is simple - four teens head out to a cabin owned by one of them (or rather, her parents) for a weekend of fun and frolics. We already know wacky shenanigans are going on thanks to a small teaser with a girl running for her life only to be reeled in like a bass on a good fishing day, and a cop played by Gil Bellows who has some history with this stuff. One of the group is there to propose to another, which she rejects. Ahhh, young love. The party is then interrupted when a god-damned UFO crash-lands nearby! Better yet, there's footprints leading away from it. Best of all, the footprints lead towards their cabin...

The Vicious boys have very obviously set out to make "the ultimate UFO B movie" here, and damn if they haven't done a pretty good job of it. There's aliens, who are skinny and grey with giant black almond eyes. There's UFOs, there's abduction via tractor beam, there's animal mutilations, mind control, you name it. There's even - wait for it - Michael Fricken Ironside as a wacky neighbour who's high on government conspiracy theories and a giant barn full of weed. And man, this is some Peak Ironside stuff right here.

I won't pretend it's a great film, or an especially deep one, but it doesn't pretend to be or try to be. It wants to be fun, and fun is exactly what it is. I enjoy the hell out of it, and wish there were twenty more like it!
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Re: Today I Watched...

Postby McAvoy » Thu Jan 16, 2020 3:16 am

I watched Sunshine.

Basically somehow the Sun in the near future is dying and putting out less causing Earth to freeze.

Starts off with the second ship loaded with Earth's remaining resources to restart the Sun. Starts off pretty much like would think of a near future Earth spaceship.

They eventually find the first one which was lost years ago.

Basically the gist of the movie if you stare at the Sun in all of its glory so up close you go insane.

I do like some of the real world science involved. Like the ships have giant umbrella heat shields, looks like they are miles wide.

Overall not a bad movie.
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Re: Today I Watched...

Postby AlexMcpherson79 » Thu Jan 16, 2020 3:57 am

Sunshine... watched that in the cinema when it came out. I... was not mentally prepared for what kind of movie it was. I just knew it was set in space and had chris evans in it, who was also in the second Fantastic Four movie that came out same year. It also had Wong, who played Wong in Doctor Strange and the Avengers Infinity War and Endgame... (Does that mean he was playing himself?), Sunshine being the first time I saw him in anything.

Also, Michelle Yeoh - Miss Wai Lin from a Brosnan James Bond film and Yu Shu Lien from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Badass. I mean Hidden Dragon. a film I didn't even get to watch when I got it on DVD because my sister stepped on the dvd case, breaking the disc inside. :(...

Odd, the Icarus computer voice was by the girl who was Chantho in the Doctor Who Season 3 episode 'Utopia' (The masters' human disguises' assisant in the episode where Captain Jack Harkness returned to the TARDIS)
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Re: Today I Watched...

Postby McAvoy » Thu Jan 16, 2020 5:18 am

AlexMcpherson79 wrote:Sunshine... watched that in the cinema when it came out. I... was not mentally prepared for what kind of movie it was. I just knew it was set in space and had chris evans in it, who was also in the second Fantastic Four movie that came out same year. It also had Wong, who played Wong in Doctor Strange and the Avengers Infinity War and Endgame... (Does that mean he was playing himself?), Sunshine being the first time I saw him in anything.

Also, Michelle Yeoh - Miss Wai Lin from a Brosnan James Bond film and Yu Shu Lien from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Badass. I mean Hidden Dragon. a film I didn't even get to watch when I got it on DVD because my sister stepped on the dvd case, breaking the disc inside. :(...

Odd, the Icarus computer voice was by the girl who was Chantho in the Doctor Who Season 3 episode 'Utopia' (The masters' human disguises' assisant in the episode where Captain Jack Harkness returned to the TARDIS)


I wasnt prepared either. I honestly thought it would be a movie about future astronauts having issues with their ship the closer they got to the Sun. Or aliens.
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Re: Today I Watched...

Postby AlexMcpherson79 » Sat Jan 18, 2020 7:51 pm

Today I watched Rise of Skywalker.

... enjoyed it.

How, I don't know.
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