Tag Archives: sci-fi

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983) – Mini Retro Review

Space Hunter is one of my personal favorites. Directed by Lamont Johnson, this eclectic blend of various ideas and tropes from sci-fi and fantasy runs on pure cheese and asks no forgiveness. The story line is simple – three beautiful women crash on planet covered in radiation, blight and horny mutants. Space Hunter takes a contract to go rescue the damsels in distress, hopefully before they mussy up their dinnerware.

The film doesn’t take itself too seriously and should come as little surprise. Lindholm other credits for writing include Stripes, Meatballs and Heavy Metal. Peter Strauss take the lead role, teaming up with a pre-John Hughes Molly Ringwald and a hasn’t aged a day Ernie Hudson. The big bad is played perfectly by Michael Ironside, not a surprise.

The movie has cool monsters to include flying wasteland raiders, Amazons and water serpents, greasy mutated fat guys, and little bomb tossing kids that look straight out of The Brood. My main criticism is that the film is pretty misogynistic by today’s standards, treating the females characters as either sexual playthings or poor little girl sidekick. Originally released in 3D, the film came out 1 week before Return of the Jedi. Bad idea.

Space Hunter is a fun film that is worth seeing if you have a fetish for 80s sci-fi or wish Doc Brown’s Delorean was a real thing.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988) – Trailer

“Killer Klowns from outer space…holy shit.”

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Yes, I’m in a clown frenzy today. I’m fully fixated on the horrible rubber nose circus monsters. They’ve been around forever and many a film maker has taken a crack at clowning around the horror genre.

The best of the best of the best be the fabulous Killer Klowns from Outer Space. A elegant movie, from a more civilized decade. Plus, movie trailers from back in the day had so much more heart (and a lot less plot reveal).

Horror Movie Survival Tip #9

Listen to the goddamned Harbinger

The majority of us do not walk through life expecting to be accosted by the forces of evil, but a little common sense goes a long way in life. So if you’re trapped in a situation reminiscent of a horror film – possibly in the middle of nowhere or somewhere with an elevated creep factor – it behooves you to pay attention. Most of the time people in horror movies are their own worst enemy, and let’s face it, if they weren’t most horror movies would be over before they began, but it still doesn’t change the fact that people are really tone deaf to warnings that might save their lives.

When an eerie old codger advises you not to proceed down that dusty mountain road, or a lawman iterates how bad things best be left alone, or the creepy innkeeper tells you a story that freaks you the fuck out, my advice… turn around and go back home. The Harbinger is there for a reason and unless you’re trapped in a Scooby-Doo cartoon you should fuckin listen to them.

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974 (Nubbins Sawyer – The Hitchhiker)

So you’re out for a cross country excursion with your friends and decide to pick-up a hitchhiker. Okay, we’ve all been there, I mean the 1960s just ended and we are all trying to regain the peace love vibe. The problem is, when your hitchhiker begins to rant and rave, burn pictures with gunpowder, then cut himself up, you might want to go a little further than just boot his ass out of the van. The safety in numbers thing is an illusion so continuing on your trip in the direction the hitchhiker was going might not be the best course of action.

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Bloody Girl – The Hitchhiker)

Okay, this one is just common sense. You pick up a dazed and bloody girl who is rambling incoherently about danger and what do you do? You continue on your way, in the direction from whence the girl came. If that’s not enough the girl pulls a gun out of her woman’s purse and offs herself right in the van. What in the world compels you at that point to continue toward the town in which she came?

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28 Days Later (Scientist in opening scene)

If you’re going to break into an animal research facility there are a couple of cardinal rules you need to follow. 1) Know WTF is being used on the animals. 2) When a scientist at the facility tells you they are contagious and must not be released… listen to them! They ought to know, they’re the ones conducting the horrible semi-unethical science shit.

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28 Weeks Later (Wayward Boy in opening scene)

This one’s a little bit more difficult because, let’s face it, adults don’t listen to kids, That said, if you’re living in the zombie (rage zombie) apocalypse then you need to take all the sage advice and intel you can get. This one literally screams complacency and utter lack of situational awareness. When a young kid comes banging on the door of your (terribly) fortified and hidden refuge claiming ‘loads’ of infected are following him you might want to not wait till they begin breaking through the windows before taking some action.

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Sinister (Sheriff)

Sometimes the warning is more for the audience’s benefit than the characters. When a law enforcement official warns off our hero/heroine/sidekick/protag in the first few minutes of the story we all know things will not bode well, especially since the main character’s almost certain to stay the course of investigating the horrible monster/mystery/murder… etc.

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American Werewolf in London (Slaughtered Lamb Bartender)

This one is a bit problematic because as strangers in a foreign can be susceptible to extreme skepticism of local superstitions. Sitting in a secluded Scottish pub while the patrons insist you get the hell out doesn’t seem like the most enjoyable situation, but when the nice old lady working the bar says unequivocally and with genuine menace in her voice “You just can’t let them go!” You might want to ask “Why?”

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The Boogens (Greenwalt – The Old Man)

Working in a mine has got to be nerve racking. Reopening an abandoned mine has got to be even worse. Closed spaces. Old timbers. Unknown dangers around every turn. Just thinking about it makes me queasy. So when crosses and signs start popping up around your work sight trying warn you off you shouldn’t dismiss them as the work of vandals, especially when your employees stop coming to work and/or reporting from the road.

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Jurassic Park (Dr. Ian Malcolm)

Possibly the most classic and overt example of the harbinger is Dr. Malcom. Literally every single warning and horrible prediction he makes comes true at some point in the film. Of course we all know his warning will be dismissed, but that makes it so much more enjoyable when they do. Every. Single. Time. Hey, you can’t say he was vague.

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Harbinger Down (The Crab Boat)

A cute little play on the trope, here the warning is literally stencilled on the side of the boat. I just wish the movie had been better.

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Cabin in the Woods (Mordecai – The Harbinger)

This one’s included mainly because it’s a complete parody of the harbinger trope. It’s brilliant and hilarious.

So in closing, if you see something or hear something then…

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The Monster That Challenged the World (1957) – Blu-ray Review

Several of the black-and-white Big Critter films of the 1950s have received recent blu-ray releases that may or may not be a marked improvement on the original print but certainly cost more than a standard DVD release. Titles include, but are not limited to, It! The Terror from Beyond Space, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Them!, and this particular little gem starring a beefy former western star, Tim Holt, along with veteran actors Audrey Dalton and Hans Conried (of the Fractured Flickers segment of Rocky and Bullwinkle TV series).

Rather than true horror, this film should be classified as science fiction since it deals with the tried-and-true 50s theme of genetic mutation from radioactive material. In this case, the beastie(s) in question are mutated molluscs living in the Salton Sea. Although the title is more than a little hyperbolic (original title, The Kraken, was shelved), the storyline offers the possibility of a wide-spread infestation of the monsters through prolific egg-laying coupled with the inability of human ingenuity to come up with a way to contain them.

The movie benefits from a number of positive aspects. The screenplay is written by David Duncan, who went on to write scripts for big-budget productions such as The Time Machine (1960), Fantastic Voyage (1966), and many TV series. The actors take their roles quite seriously and professionally. The location filming at Catalina Island, the Salton Sea, and other California sites features crisp, clear cinematography. And the special effects are practical, including a life-sized monster that towers over its human prey.
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The quality of this first blu-ray release is not much better than other standard DVD recordings, if at all. Feature-wise, the disk is almost bare-bones, but does contain an informative commentary track by genre film historian, Tom Weaver. The age of the film (and others) does nothing to reduce the price point. It’s ultimately up to the viewer/collector to determine if this purchase is necessary. But the movie itself is worth collecting in any format. It’s one of the best of its kind.

Freaks of Nature – (Official Red Band Trailer)

If you haven’t seen the trailer for Freaks of Nature then you’re in for a treat. There is no way to know how good this will be but it sure looks like a lot of fun. Release date is October 30th in select theaters.

Synopsis: In the town of Dillford, humans, vampires and zombies were all living in peace… until the alien apocalypse arrived. Now three teenagers – one human, one vampire, and one zombie – have to team up to figure out how to get rid of the visitors.

 

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Horror Survival Tip #27

Fire Is A Weapon But Fire Is Not Your Friend

Fire is often touted as a potent weapon against all manner of evil. Seen as a cleansing agent, fire has been used in attempts to vanquish the big bad in more movies than I can count. Many of these movies show fire being used successfully. The villain goes down in flames – so to speak – the survivors go home, everyone’s happy again. Yay.

Not so fast. Kill It With Fire often doesn’t work, or shouldn’t work. Fire is a dangerous element. So dangerous in fact our societies have an entire branch of civil servants dedicated to the eradication of fire. We teach fire prevention, keep fire extinguishers in our homes, and tell our children to never play with fire.

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So why is fire considered such a powerful weapon?

Lies. Lies told by movies. You have to admit, and I will as well, that fire looks cool. Explosions look cool. Volatile gases mixing with oxygen is cool. There is also an entire encyclopedia of cultural, mythic and biblical reasons everyone loves fire but I’m not opening that can of worms.

What’s the Reality? 

Reality is that fire won’t do the job against a serial killer, xenomorph, zombie horde, shark, or any number of deadly movie monsters. Allow me to explain.
  • Guy is burned to death in his boiler room. BURNED TO DEATH. What happens? He comes back more powerful than they could have possibly imagined.
  • Nancy pulls him out of the dream and sets him on fire a second time. What happens? He follows her up the stairs then goes and kills her mother, THEN goes off to make six more movies. Seriously who are we kidding.

Freddy vs. Jason

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  • After watching Jason kill his friend the drunk party guy throws a pitcher of high proof alcohol on Jason lights him up using a tiki torch. What happens? Not only does it not slow Jason down, it makes him more fearsome. The partygoers see a flaming Jason (eh..a Jason on fire) and lose their shit, scattering into the corn field. What’s more, when the beer keg cools him off his hockey mask isn’t even singed.

Alien/Aliens

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  • Captain Dallas takes a flame thrower into the access tunnels to flush out the alien. What Happens? Dallas dies pretty damn quick. The Alien clearly doesn’t give a crap about his makeshift flamethrower.

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  • Colonial Marines carry flamethrowers with them when they enter the hive in Aliens. Furthermore, the flame unit is the only one they are allowed to use. What happens? All but three marines die and that’s only due to three soldiers disobeying orders and using their guns anyway. To make matters worse, when Ripley the badass hero flames the eggs in the queens chamber she clearly feels compelled to use nearly an entire magazine of pulse rifle ammo just to be sure the eggs are dead.
  • One of the helpless victims in a last ditch effort to fend off attack sets the shark on fire. Not a great plan given shes in a boat…on the ocean, but she gets points for being bold. What happens? The shark ends up with a nasty burn scar on the right side of it’s head but is otherwise uneffected. It goes on to kill a bunch of teenagers and scare the shit out of the rest.
  • At the end of the movie Dr. Loomis detonates a room full of explosive gas in an attempt to kill Michael Myers once and for all. What happens? Well Loomis and Myers certainly go out with a boom. As if to emphasize just how unnatural the Shape is, Lori sees him coming walking out of the room completely engulfed in flames. He stumbles, falls and dies. Or so we think he dies… Halloween 4 happens and it turns out not only did the fire NOT kill Michael Myers, it didn’t even kill Dr. Loomis! Hell, he looks pretty good for a guy engulfed in a fireball.
  • Before you start screaming about how fire is the only thing that can kill The Thing let me point something out to you. Fire really doesn’t work consistently at all, throughout the entire movie. The slit-head corpse they bring back from the Norwegian Camp along with the burned dogs are the specimens Blair uses to determine their is still cellular activity. They burn Bennings, Palmer, Norris, and Windows. What happens? All of the burning seems to work until it quickly becomes apparent the situation is so hopeless. We never really know if fire is the end-all-be-all weapon against The Thing because no matter how many Things they burn more Things keep appearing. Furthermore, exploding and burning are two different things. Palmer and Blair both explode, we have no way of knowing if all those little pieces of them actually died. The only fire related death in the entire movie that we know for a fact works is Fuchs – and he most likely burned himself!

Salem’s Lot (1979)

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  • Ben Mears and Mark Petrie set fire to the Marsten house at the end of the movie in an attempt to cleans the town of the vampire horde. What happens? The wind catches the fire and sweeps over the town driving all the vampires from their hiding places. How is that a good thing? Now the vamps are homeless, pissed off and hungry. Mears and Petrie really didn’t think it through and as a result not only are they being hunted but a lot of people in their wake probably got butchered and turned who might not have otherwise.

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

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  • The military blast a hole in the beast’s throat releasing a prehistoric virus that kills a whole bunch of additional people. Next they plan to set the beast on fire. What happens? Fortunately they are smart enough to realize setting fire to the beast could release the contagion worldwide (awesome science) and instead use isotopes. Moral of the story – fire would have made shit worse.

Zombies

Zombies get their own section for a couple reasons.

First, the term zombie is used very loosely today. I’m not going to be picky here, I’m just throwing them all together.  Dead, slightly dead, brain dead, undead, and dead-alive. Rage zombies aren’t really zombies but since they act and hunt like zombies it’s easier to lump them into the group as well.

Second, with such a broad group containing so many sub-classifications the examples begin to pile up quickly and I want to make it clear that use of fire against this group of monsters generally has the same effect on all of them. Or in this particular case the results could be explosive.

 

The Walking Dead

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  • There are a whole bunch of examples but let’s just go with the opening episode to season 5. Carol blows up the fuel tank as part of her master plan to free the group from Terminus, in the process setting numerous walkers on fire. What happens? The walkers don’t die. They walk right into the compound and start eating/attacking the living. Lighting zombies on fire while they are still mobile only makes them more dangerous, not to mention smell worse.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

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  • While trying to start the emergency generator in the parking garage the group is attacked by ‘fast-moving’ dead zombies. After getting boxed into the cage around the fuel station they decide to spray gas on the zombies and light them on fire. What happens? Well, the movie cheats is what happens. It works for narrative purposes but they never actually show the zombies burn long enough to stop being a threat. The fact they are fast moving zombies means they should be 10x more dangerous once set ablaze. This is an example of the divine hand of editing, otherwise the movie would have been a helluva lot shorter. A drop-kick might have been more effective. 

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  • In 28 Days Later Jim is pursued by a group of infected, Selena and Mark use molotovs to light them on fire. What happens? The infected don’t even slow down. They continue to pursue Jim until Selena and Mark blow the entire petrol station to hell. Considering the infected aren’t truly dead the fire probably would have worked, and much more quickly than if they were dead, but not until after they caught Jim. What’s worse than being attacked and infected? Being attacked by infected and set on fire all at once!

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  • In 28 Weeks Later the U.S military calls in the Air Cav to firebomb the secure zone of downtown London. What happens? They light London up like a Christmas tree and still fail to contain the damn infection. Seriously, it’s their first decision and it fails. We’re not even talking about undead zombies who could mill around for god knows how long while burning. The infected are still alive which means they would succumb to fire damage much more quickly, but once again fire fails and the world goes to hell.

Conclusion

Unless you’re a pyro or have absolutely no alternative, fire isn’t a great option when fighting the big bad. It’s a tempting option due to it’s area of effect, especially when it’s weaponized in the form of a molotov, napalm, or flame thrower. Unfortunately it’s just too unreliable in most situations and too difficult to control. Lighting the bad guy ablaze you’re just as likely to set fire to other people, items or locations you never intended.

Special note for zombie hordes – during a zombie attack fire is incredibly destructive. Once on fire the horde is likely to spread said fire to anything and everything in the area. This is how you end up with scenes in movies like this one:

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Infini (2015) – Raw Review

Infini Is The Best Sci-Fi Horror Film Since Event Horizon.

 

We all know Science Fiction is just as cool as Horror but suffers from the long founded belief that the science part needs to make sense, be smart, and not take too many liberties with science in general.

 

I disagree. A good movie is a good movie regardless of what genre it’s tackling, and what makes a movie good you ask? Well of course I’m going to tell you.

 

  • Good Writing.
  • Good Acting.
  • Interesting (not necessarily original) concept.
  • Worldbuilding.
  • Invoking a Sense of Wonder.
  • Good Directing.  

 

Infini came as a complete surprise because it hits the mark in everyone of the categories. Whats even more surprising is the movie was written and directed by a relatively new filmmaker named Shane Abbess out of Australia. If this is the caliber of movie he’s going to provide everytime then he’s won over a fan for life.

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Infini takes place in the 23rd century, or thereabouts, and follows a search and rescue team who are sent to investigate a disturbance (that’s putting it mildly) at a mining colony on the further edge of the galaxy. The disturbance being a biological outbreak of some kind. Body horror in space never gets old.

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The movie begins like gangbusters, setting tension right from the get-go and not letting up on the gas for quite sometime. If you enjoy movies that throw you right into the world and let you try and figure out what’s going on you’ll enjoy this one. It’s not until the midway point that the movie slows down and begins it’s close examination of what exactly is going on and why.

 

The writing in this film is super tight, crafted with the right amount of detail and a cadence that makes everyone of the characters feel natural. Abbess writes much like Aaron Sorkin, with a rhythm and feel for words. Of course great writing means little if the acting isn’t up to snuff, but in this case it’s excellent. The troupe of actors, each with their own style and personalities, handle the material deftly and never once did it feel like any of them were trying to fit into the scenes.

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On to the concept! It’s very cool. Humans can travel across the galaxy via what’s called Slipstreaming – being digitized and sent via data packets. It’s dangerous therefore highly controversial, but useful due to the timelines involved. Relativity can be a bitch. Ever see Interstellar.  

 

Hardcore fans will probably rip the science part…well..apart but as a layman I found it worked. Science Fiction can get bogged down in tropes, and doubly so in trying to explain all the little super-science nuance and rules for how futuristic technology work. Infini does it right by not trying to justify itself. The movie establishes the rules and moves on. A few times, when necessary to the story, a rule is explained in detail or another aspect of travel is revealed but it’s always to advance the story, never to try and cheat the story.

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Abbess also adds a nice touch by way of the environment. The mining colony isn’t just there for looks. The environment is extremely hostile and Abbess never takes it for granted ensuring it plays a huge role throughout the story.

 

One area I can see the film catching some flak – the midway point onward. The speed of the movie slows down and the tone moves more from an action vibe to a more metaphysical thriller. That’s not to say the movie gets any less bloody, gory or violent. Hell no, it keep right on with the dark tone.

 

The ending I found fascinating. It’s probably going to be a divisive topic for the viewers but it works if you take the entirety of the film into account. It also has a beautifully done finale that slow boils the tension to critical levels without a lot of over the top set pieces or action sequences.
Infini is a fantastic addition to the sci-fi horror genre and Shane Abbess is going to be a writer/director to keep an eye on.

These Final Hours (2014) – Raw Review

Audiences across the world never seem the slake their thirst for the apocalypse. Movie after movie after movie are made depicting the end of the world, or nearly on the brink. You’d think given the abundance of world ending tales of woe we (the audience) would become hardened to its tropes, accustomed to the standard conventions of finite time on Earth, that filmmakers would give up on trying to create a new feeling or impression of the end.

 

They don’t. They don’t because zombies and vampires and supernatural calamities are an entertaining way to visit terrible ends to our species, without the underlying reality of possibility. We love our apocalyptic tales dressed up in monsters and otherworldly themes that stand no chance of happening in the real. When we do get a tale of the end that tries to stay grounded it’s usually tempered with hope and light. A little cream added to cut down the bitterness of our beverage. Something to take the edge off. Dull the blade so to speak.

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Not in this review. These Final Hours is a razor sharp depiction of life at the end. A beautiful and smartly rendered snapshot of how people might react in the face of complete destruction and devastation. A film that shows the hidden nature of humanity. Exposes the fragility of societal bonds. Shows just how quickly the social contract becomes null and void in the face of extinction. Makes you ask the question – If the world were coming to end, what would my priorities be?

 

The story follows a young man (Nathan Phillips) as those around prepare for an Extinction Level Event to reach Australia. In his quest for a friend’s end of the world party (so he can drug out and enjoy his final hours) he is set on a road of redemption after saving the life of a little girl (Angourie Rice) who has become separated from her father.

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These Final Hours is a tour de force. Writer/director Zak Hilditch does a masterful job depicting Perth during the final twelve hours of it’s existence, creating a landscape that is all at once eerie, haunting, deadly, and fascinating. So many filmmakers are tempted to dilute the atmosphere with endless carnage and action; over the top spectacle from beginning to end, as if to constantly remind the audience that things are horrible. That hell on Earth has come.

 

Hilditch does it right. Relying mostly on subtle set pieces depicting people at their best and worst. Images of what people have left behind. Messages written on sidewalks, cars and garage doors. The occasional remains of those who’ve either succumb to violence or their own self inflicted fate. The subtle environment makes all the more effective those moments when brutality and insanity take center stage for necessity of a scene. The entire landscape is so masterfully staged I found myself wanting to walk among the streets as a ghost, observing, glimpsing the most realistic depiction of the apocalypse I’ve ever seen on screen.

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Adding to the canvas are the performances of an amazing cast of characters living out their time in Hilditch’s tragedy. Nathan Phillips is simply amazing. Playing James, a man who’s never really grown up or taken responsibility for himself. A character who isn’t a hero, isn’t an anti-hero, but just a normal man. Scared, lonely, unsure of himself from beginning to end. His uneasiness and uncertainty is so believable in the context of this film that you feel everything he feels as he’s torn between doing the right thing and doing nothing. After all, if the world is ending why does the right thing matter?

 

Balancing out Phillips performance is Angourie Rice, playing Rose the little girl whose fate is altered by a chance encounter. Seeing the end of the world through the eyes of child, she provides a counterbalance in perspective that is powerful, emotional, and devastating.

 

These Final Hours pulls no punches. It’s an end of the world story from beginning to end. It doesn’t cheat. It shows the best of people in the worst of times and it does it extremely well. With grace, beauty and brutality.
This is now my favorite movie in it’s genre and the best Australian film I’ve seen to date. I truly hope those filmmakers from down under keep at it because they are blowing Hollywood out of the water.

Remaking ‘The Blob’ Isn’t The Worst Idea

So they are remaking The Blob…Again…

This isn’t the worst idea to come out of Hollywood considering they are remake happy most of the time. Hell even Rob Zombie was working on a remake up until a few years ago.
What’s nice is The Blob lends itself well the periodic updates and it’s been nearly 30 years since the Chuck Russell update, which I’ve said before is one of the best movie remakes of all time.
The big question now is just how well Simon West will pull off and update to a classic monster movie. He’s known for making fun, action packed movies that are usually somewhere between O..K.. and BlahTo compound concern, it’s not clear who penned the current iteration of the screenplay, and that lack of information probably means a lot of hands have had at the script. Adding Samuel Jackson to the cast is a step in the right direction but even the best actor can struggle if the direction, screenplay and editing aren’t up to snuff.
In the end it really doesn’t matter. The 1958 version will forever be a classic. The 1988 version still holds up as a strong and action infused update. The 2016 version will probably be fun if nothing else, and what can you expect from a movie titled THE BLOB!