Sunday, December 30, 2012

1982 Retrospective Replay

Today's episode of Sounds of Cinema was a repeat of the 1982 retrospective, which looked back at the science fiction, fantasy, and horror pictures of that year including Blade Runner, Star Trek II, and E.T. You can find more additional information about genre films of 1982 in this blog post.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Apocalypse Cinema

You may have heard of the superstitions regarding an apocalypse, set for December 21, 2012, based on the ancient Mayan calendar. If you are spending your last days on earth watching movies, here are a few suggestions:

12 Monkeys
Whatever Bruce Willis’ limitations as an actor, he consistently picks very good projects. 12 Monkeys is a complex but fascinating story about a man sent back through time to stop a biological weapon from bringing about the end of civilization.

The Animatrix
In between the game-changing and well-received The Matrix and its misunderstood and underappreciated sequels, the Wachowski’s produced a series of animated shorts expanding the world of the franchise. Of these, the most interesting was the two-part “The Second Renaissance” which told the backstory.

Apocalypse Now
Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic is not about the end of the world but it is about revelation, one of the alternate definitions of “apocalypse,” as an American soldier travels into the war and into the darkest parts of the human heart.

Yes, it is stupid, but Armageddon is also undeniably entertaining. The film has earned a reputation for its sloppy science, hammy performances, and self-conscious sentimentality but in those regards it is no worse than most Hollywood blockbusters. It also has a sense of humor, something many of Michael Bay’s other films lack.
Trailer #1
Armageddon —

Beneath the Planet of the Apes
The second chapter of the original Planet of the Apes series is its darkest installment and includes a race of mutant humans that worship a giant nuclear bomb.

Children of Men
In the near future, human beings have lost the ability to procreate. When a pregnant woman is discovered, a reluctant hero must escort her to a safe haven. This is a beautiful and smart film that was underappreciated when it was released in 2006.

Dawn of the Dead
The renewed interest in zombie films and apocalypse cinema seems tied together and they share a common root in George A. Romero’s 1978 film.

Deep Impact
Released the same year as Armageddon, this was a much more thoughtful film about various groups of people coping with Earth’s impending collision with a comet.

End of Days
Arnold Schwarzenegger fights off the Devil on New Year’s Eve 1999. The film was supposed to revive Schwarzenegger’s career after a string of underperforming movies and a bout with heart surgery but it came in below expectations. Nevertheless, End of Days is a silly but fun action picture.

I am Legend
Based on Richard Matheson’s novel of the same name, this is actually the third film adaption of the story. 1964’s The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price and 1971’s The Omega Man with Charlton Heston preceded the 2007 Will Smith version.

In the Mouth of Madness
One of John Carpenter’s underrated projects, this film follows a private investigator searching for a bestselling horror novelist who has gone missing and discovers that writer’s fictional world may be real.

Last Night
On the eve of the apocalypse, various people prepare for the end of the world. This is a small but beautiful film about people struggling with the finite quality of life.

This 2011 film is among Lars von Trier’s most depressing films but it is also one of his best. A mysterious planet is about to collide with the earth and a depressive woman finds her despair vindicated.

The Mist
Film adaptations of Stephen King’s stories run the gamut from great to god-awful. The Mist is one of the better pictures although the ending is very divisive.

On the Beach
In this Cold War movie the Earth’s northern hemisphere has been destroyed by nuclear war.  Gregory Peck, Fred Astair, and Ava Gardner star.

The Road
The adaption of the Cormac McCarthy’s novel is a stark movie about a father and son traveling through the world after an unspecified cataclysm.

The Road Warrior
The sequel to Mad Max is one of the most influential action films of all time, as it is imitated in movies like Waterworld, The Book of Eli, and The Fast and the Furious.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
This 2012 film is really a midlife crisis story set against the end of the world. It’s a little thin on plot but it has a wicked sense of humor and impressive performances by actors Steve Carell and Keira Knightley.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Killer Santas and Other Holiday Horrors

Just in time for the Christmas season, Anchor Bay has released Silent Night, a remake of 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night. The original film, about an ax murderer in a Santa suit, was one of the most notorious slasher pictures of the 1980s. But it was neither the first nor the last film to mix murder with holiday cheer. Here are a few films for Christmas curmudgeons:

Black Christmas (1974)
Black Christmas was one of the earliest slasher movies. Directed by Bob Clark, who would go on to make A Christmas Story and Porky’s, the film is about members of a sorority who are terrorized by a psychopath. Black Christmas was remade in 2006.

Christmas Evil (aka You Better Watch Out) (1980)
A man who is obsessed with Santa Claus loses his grip on reality and goes on a killing spree. John Waters called it the greatest Christmas movie ever made.

Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)
Most Killer Santa flicks are distasteful but Don't Open Till Christmas is nastier than usual. This British based movie upends some of the usual slasher cliches as the killer targets men dressed as Santa Claus. The film also features a cameo by former Bond-girl Caroline Munro as herself.

Gremlins (1984)
Produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Joe Dante, Gremlins was one of the films that prompted the MPAA to create the PG-13 classification after parents expressed outrage over the scariness of the PG-rated film. Although it is a nicer film than others in this post, Gremlins is intense and has a wicked sense of humor.

Jack Frost (1997)
Not to be confused with the 1998 family picture starring Michael Keaton or the 1965 Russian fantasy film lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000, 1997’s Jack Frost is a horror movie about a serial killer reincarnated as a snowman.

Santa’s Slay (2005)
Another Killer Santa movie, although one that is more fun than most. This film supposes that Santa is actually a demon who lost a bet with an angel and has been punished with centuries of bringing happiness to the world, When the terms of the bet expire Santa makes up for lost time with a Christmas rampage. Former professional wrestler Bill Goldberg plays the lead.

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)
A reworking of the premise of The Haunting and similar haunted house pictures, the lead character inherits a property that was a mental institution.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
The seminal Christmas horror film, Silent Night, Deadly Night caused a sensation when TV spots aired on daytime television, prompting conservative parent groups to protest the film. Distributor Tristar buckled to pressure and yanked the ads and later the film, although not until after it premiered in theaters and made its money back. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert used their syndicated television show to protest the film.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987)
The sequel to Silent Night, Deadly Night is almost as notorious as the original because it is such an effortlessly made film. The picture follows the exploits of the original killer’s younger brother and about half of the sequel is made of flashbacks to the original film. Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 has become an object of cult affection because of the infamous “garbage day” scene.

Tales from the Crypt: “And All Through the House”
This episode of HBO’s horror anthology was another entry in the Killer Santa subgenre and was directed by Robert Zemeckis.