Sunday, April 3, 2016

What I Watched - March 20-26 2016


Deathsport (1978) DVD
- A very loose "sequel" to Roger Corman's cult hit Death Race 2000, this stars David Carradine, although he doesn't reprise his Frankenstein role. Instead he's a cyborg warrior who rides a suped-up motorcycle (a "destructocycle"!) around the wasteland and battles bad guys. This is essentially Robin Hood if you trade the bow and arrow for a two-wheeler, with the always-menacing Richard Lynch playing our Sheriff of Nottingham-type baddie. Maid Marion is ex-Playmate Claudia Jennings, who naturally spends most of the movie in the buff.
Sadly this lacks the intended humour of Death Race 2000, although it's so bad that it elicits a few laughs, mainly around the action and the inane dialogue that Jennings and Carradine swap back and forth. The action consists mainly of motorcycle stunts, feeling very much like that other futuristic turkey, 1982's Megaforce. Definitely another one that bad cinema junkies will enjoy.

Congo (1995) VHS
- I hadn't seen this movie since it was first released on home video, but remembered quite liking it and my girlfriend had never seen it. Based on a novel by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) this tells the story of a group of explorers who venture into a jungle where ancient killer gorillas are on the loose. Pretty straight forward, although there's a "talking" gorilla that adds a bizarre, family-friendly angle to things. As a result this feels like a weird hybrid between a kid's jungle adventure movie and something more adult-oriented like Jurassic Park or King Kong.
What makes this watchable is the cheese factor. On top of the "talking" gorilla stuff, Tim Curry hams it up with an awful Romanian accent, Joe Pantoliano shows up for a humorous cameo, the science involved makes no sense, and the killer gorillas aren't very convincing. Oh, and Bruce Campbell has a very small role, although he plays it fairly straight.

The X-Files season 10 (2015) AVI
- I was a bonafide X-Files fanboy back in the day. The show kind of jumped the shark towards the end, with all of the alien conspiracy plotlines. I enjoyed it most when it was just Mulder and Scully travelling somewhere to investigate and finding some new form of creature or other unexplainable phenomenon. When they announced a new season I was a bit sceptical that it would just be more of the alien bullshit, but I was still pretty excited to see Fox and Dana back in action.
While there is a fair amount of alien conspiracy stuff in season 10, I was happy to see that there's also some "creature of the week" episodes amongst the 6-episode revival. Even the alien stuff wasn't overbearing, so I enjoyed this new season a lot. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson feel so natural back in their career-defining roles and I was happy to see other series regulars like Mitch Pileggi (Skinner) and William B Davis (Smoking Man) show up for cameos.
My favourite episode was the comedic Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster, featuring my fellow countryman Rhys Darby. Darby's comedy is very hit and miss for me, but this was extremely well written and funny throughout.
I'm looking forward to a season 11 if it happens, although it did kind of feel like the introduction of two young pseudo-Mulder/Scully type agents (played by Lauren Ambrose and Robbie Amell) was maybe setting the way for them to eventually take over the show?

Nothing Lasts Forever (1984) AVI
- This is a bizarre lost film, which has never had any kind of home video release. It was directed by Saturday Night Live writer Tom Schiller and because of this has a few SNL alumni (most notably Dan Akroyd and Bill Murray) show up in supporting roles. The lead is Zach Galligan, a couple of years before he would hit the big time with Gremlins (this movie was filmed in 1982 but shelved for two years, and then barely shown anywhere).
In terms of plot this one's a weird one, set in some weird future or alternative totalitarian world where you have to go through customs to enter Manhattan and pass a test if you want to become an artist. There's a bus that flies to the moon for shopping, some bizarre avant garde artists and more. It's definitely one of those movies where you have to throw logic out the window and enjoy the ride. A ride made quite enjoyable by the cinematography. Most of the film is shot in black and white, with the futuristic city resembling something out of 1927's Metropolis. Dream sequences and the finale happen in colour, a change that is quite startling. In fact, the word "dream" is probably the best way to describe this movie - it feels like one big dream.

The Witch (2015) AVI
- The uber-creepy trailer to this horror flick had me drawn in from the start. While the movie itself didn't prove to be quite as good, it's still a nice little tale of witchcraft, religion and family dynamics in the early days of American settlement. A puritan family is banished to the wilderness for an indiscretion, and soon finds that the forest bordering their new, isolated farm is harbouring something evil. 
I appreciate that this isn't your typical modern horror movie, so bypasses inane jump scares to take things slowly, building up the suspense and using light and shadow to create an ominous atmosphere. Some people might find this boring, but fans of more subtle horror should enjoy it. Add in a couple of creepy kids and an even creepier goat and you've got a successfully chilling flick. It's not perfect -  things fall down during a "possession" scene - but is one of the better horror movies to be released in the last couple of years. Recommended.

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