Monday, April 23, 2018

ISLAND OF THE BLIND DEAD - Fan Film!



This plays like a trailer for the never produced fifth Blind Dead film. It gets the visual look of the 1970's right and all it's missing is the iconic music. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Happy Earth Day from The Smog Monster!



Saturday, April 21, 2018

THE WILD BUNCH (1969) Poster Art














Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Decemberists on YouTube







Caught these folks again the other night and - as always - had a great time. They played tunes from across their career but leaned heavily on the new, very strong album. The only song I was unfamiliar with was the Lin-Manuel Miranda penned Ben Franklin's Song which was cut from Hamilton. He thought it was the perfect track for The Decemebrists - and he was right! 

WARNING! 
Many F-Bombs are dropped in Ben Franklin's Song. If you know Ben's life that won't be much of a surprise. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

What I Watched in March


ANNIHILATION (2018) is an amazing breathe of fresh air in these days of tent-pole science fiction films. Operating at the opposite stylistic end of most modern cinema SF that vies for mass attention every year this film is a calmly, deliberately told tale of mysterious alien contact. Telling the frighteningly plausible tale of a slowly expanding extraterrestrial effect that may destroy the North American continent and the world, we accompany a team into the influenced area. Once inside people are subject to odd mental and physical consequence of the alien power spreading across the land as thy push toward the coast to reach the original point of contact. Along the way they discover strangely altered animals, dangerous plant life and the remnants of earlier teams. Each of these encounters makes them doubt their ability to carry on, doubt themselves and wonder if the possible answer waiting for them might be beyond their capacity to understand.

Adapted from a novel by Jeff VanderMeer by director Alex Garland (EX MACHINA) the film channels Tarkovsky's classics SOLARIS (1972) and STALKER (1979) but finds a new way to get to the same questions. This tale's answers are surprising as well with the main character's motivations twisting in an interesting direction by the third act. This is not a perfect film but it is thoughtful, intelligent speculative fiction that stands well beside ARRIVAL (2016) proving that cerebral science fiction filmmaking isn't dead yet, even if it only shows its head on rare occasions.


At the other end of current cinema science fiction we have a film that is built around giant robots beating the crap out of each other.

PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING (2018) should not have been as enjoyable as it turned out to be. As a sequel it should be a weaker version of the original movie running the surviving characters through their paces while introducing some cardboard new faces to take the place of the hearty souls that perished in the last story. So, how did this movie manage to surprise me? It refuses to copy and paste the first film. Yes, it brings the next generation of Jeager controllers on board giving us the fresh, young faces to pilot the robots but it makes a couple of sharp turns with the new characters. The story has advanced ten years so the holdovers are the same but different. In fact, some of the changes to them are both logical and horrible turning the third act of this story in an interesting direction. I won't spoil things but I was impressed with how this continuation grows the storyline in smart ways giving the Pacific Rim title an even more understood importance. And they did it all without subverting the victory of the first movie! I love it.

What anyone would fear from a film of this type is that it will descend to the crap level of the useless Transformers franchise where nothing matters except spectacle and explosions. But, if anything, this movie made the returning characters richer and the new people are well drawn and easily relatable. This bodes well for any future sequels and i hope we get them.

THE LIST 

ANNIHILATION (2018) - 8 
IT CAME FROM ANOTHER WORLD! (2007) - 6
NAKED...YOU DIE (1969) - 7 (rewatch)
CAVE WOMEN ON MARS (2008)- 5
MY FORBIDDEN PAST (1951) - 7 (New Orleans drama with Mitchum)
DARK HARVEST (1992) - 2 (shot on video mess)
THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR (2017) - 4 (no budget fantasy tries hard)
THE SAGA OF HEMP BROWN (1958) - 6 (standard western made good by cast)
DIMENSION 5 (1966) - 3 (terrible, cheap SF spy tale)
THE MYSTERIOUS MAGICIAN (1964) - 7 (a.k.a. DER HEXER - fun krimi)
THE SCARLET CLAW (1944) - 7 (rewatch) (creepy Sherlock tale)
LIFE (2017) - 7 (good ALIEN clone)
DAUGHTER OF DRACULA (1972) -6 (Jess Franco vampire film)
NIGHT SCHOOL (1981) - 6 (not bad slasher)
CRY WOLF (1947) - 7 (Flynn & Stanwyck in mystery melodrama)
ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO (1967) - 7 (solid western with Peppard and Dean Martin)
ISLAND CLAWS (1980)- 5 (well done but let down by FX) 
THE NICE GUYS (2015) - 8  (rewatch)
PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING (2018) - 8



Friday, April 13, 2018

ALIEN (1979) Poster Art



















Decades later this film continues to inspire artists. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blake's 7 on YouTube!


2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the underrated, underappreciated British television show Blake's 7.  It ran for four years from 1978 to 1981 and over the course of its 52 episodes it broke new ground for science fiction TV in many ways. It told a continuing story of a group of rebels working against an oppressive, authoritarian Federation of planets. Each new season saw a rotating cast of central characters with a few core people remaining for the whole run. New cast members were necessary because one way this show separated itself from more conventional SF TV of the period was that no character was safe. People died unexpectedly as part of the dystopian narrative and by the third season even Blake himself was lost and presumed killed!

Sadly, this excellent series is not well known in the United States as it was only broadcast briefly in the early 1980's and only in a few cities. It's deadly serious tone combined with the typical British SF  television low budget look made it a difficult sell here, I suppose. But it is exactly that tone and look that attracted me initially as I was already used to the feel of Doctor Who of the period. It was the smart scripts and sharp dialog that kept me coming back for more. I would eventually spend lots of time over the years digging through magazines and books trying to learn more about the show. It was years before I was able to see all the episodes and by then I could quote some scenes perfectly.

But I know I'm part of a small cult on this one. Just not enough people know of the show and I fear that far too many others would not have the ability to forgive it for the problems that it's low budget necessitated. The leap required for the willing suspension of disbelief might be impossible for those that didn't catch the show in a less CGI-filled time. Oh, well.

If you're interested enough to see what all the fuss was once about the entire series seems to be available on YouTube. Below are the first three episodes that set the story in place and introduces the first central cast. My hope is to find another fan of the series and do a 40th Anniversary podcast about Blake and his band of rebels and miscreants. Fingers crossed!