This past weekend was just chock full of magical, whimsical women breaking studious, guarded men out of their cocoons. No, not SEX TAPE — I have no idea about how that plot plays out and, besides, that’s not genre. But otherwise, for all their divergent approaches to the material, both I ORIGINS and MOOD INDIGO incorporate the same base theme. After that, of course, anything goes: I ORIGINS continues director Mike Cahill’s ongoing exploration of humanity’s interconnectedness through the tale of a dedicated, eye-obsessed scientist (Mike Cahill) having his adherence to objective reasoning challenged by the mystical outlook of an exotic model (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) with equally exotic eyeballs; while MOOD INDIGO lets director Michel Gondry explore the artificiality of certain, idealized brands of French romance through the story of how the wacky life of an eccentric inventor (Romain Duris) is overthrown when the health of his wife (Audrey Tatou) is threatened.
Another way to distinguish these films: They aren’t equally successful in their goals. To find out how they fare, click on the player to hear my review for Jim Freund’s HOUR OF THE WOLF.
A new dawn is rising on the Planet of the Apes franchise. Humanity is decimated but not quite extinct. Caeser the intelligent ape presides over his tribe near San Francisco. Can ape and man live in peaceful co-existence? Find out in the Cinefantastique Spotlight Podcast, Volume 5, Number 26, as Lawrence French and Steve Biodrowski discuss DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.
Demons are trying to break on through into our world – and they enjoy The Doors! Listen in as Cinefantastique podcasters Lawrence French and Steve Biodrowski explore the horrors of DELIVER US FROM EVIL, an interesting amalgam of THE EXORCIST and SEVEN, from the team behind THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE. Eric Bana stars as a cop pursuing criminals whose evil deeds may be inspired by hellish forces, in a tale loosely inspired by the real-life account, Beware the Night, by former officer Ralph Sarchie.
Even in the anything-to-get-your-adrenaline-pumping world of Hong Kong cinema, RIGOR MORTIS stands out. The story of a famous actor, Chin Siu-Ho (played by actual famous actor Chin Siu-Ho — your heard us), who has to contend with a seedy apartment building whose walls reverberate with echoes of his most famous film, the hopping vampire horror-comedy MR. VAMPIRE — including mysterious spirits, a mystical warrior-cum-resterateur (played by MR. VAMPIRE cast-mate Anthony “Friend” Chan), and, yes, a hopping vampire — the film plays as both a tribute to, and a dark and dizzyingly intense reimagining of, a beloved sub-genre. Director Juno Mak makes his feature film debut with this visually stunning, shockingly violent, and at times surprisingly moving, effort, and we were eager to discuss the roots of the project in the legendary MR. VAMPIRE franchise, and the challenges of creating this effects-laden feast. Click on the player to hear the show.
At long last, Dossier Fantastique re-opens, offering need-to-known data regarding the latest in horror, fantasy, and science fiction cinema and television. Dan Persons makes his long-awaited return, riding the rails with SNOWPIERCER, the metaphoric science fiction film from Bong-Joon Ho (THE HOST). Lawrence French receives THE SIGNAL, an indie sci-fi flick. And Steve Biodrowski unearths Dan Curtis’ DRACULA from its new Blu-ray casket.
Also this week: commentary on SALEM and PENNY DREADFUL; a long overdue obituary for artist H.R. Giger (ALIEN); and an after-credits discussion of SANTO VS. LAS MUJERAS VAMPIRO.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with employing the time-space continuum for the pure fun of the concept. EDGE OF TOMORROW makes good sport of it, coming up with a pretty keen action film and allowing Tom Cruise to play comedy beats better than he did in KNIGHT AND DAY. But, given the mind-bending possibilities inherent in the genre, it seems almost a crime not delve for deeper meanings than just “craven coward becomes kick-ass action hero.” GROUNDHOG DAY did it. So did TIMECRIMES. So did FUTURAMA (numerous times).
And now, so does COHERENCE. The tale of a Los Angeles dinner party that goes all kinds of wrong when a comet begins warping the dimensions, the film — directed by James Ward Byrkit, the man who helped create the freaky “family” film RANGO, and starring BUFFY’s Nicholas Brendon, Emily Baldoni and Maury Sterling, among others — manages to be as much a commentary on relationships and the fragility of the social contract as it is an sf mindfreak. I delve into the film in my review for HOUR OF THE WOLF, and, as bonus, also take a look at the latest episode of the fan-produced STAR TREK CONTINUES and IDW’s first Star Trek: New Visions photo-novella, both of which, in another example of the crossing of the timelines, deal with the aftermath of the Enterprise crew’s visit to the mirror universe in “Mirror, Mirror.” Weeeeeeeird. Click on the player to hear the segment, or right-click the title below to download.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 is soaring at the box office, but does the DreamWorks Animation sequel fly as high as its predecessor? Lawrence French and Steve Biodrowski think not, and you can find out why by listening to the Cinefantastique Spotlight Podcast Volume 5, Number 23.
No one went to see it, but EDGE OF TOMORROW is one of the most clever and interesting science fiction films of the summer, outdistancing the more successful X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. In Cinefantastique’s Spotlight Podcast Number 5, Volume 2, Lawrence French and Steve Biodrowski explore the virtues of the worthy effort, which has become a critical darling in spite of audience indifference.
I’m at the point where I can pretty much take or leave 3D. As a techie, I want to embrace any technology that’ll expand the cinemagoing experience, but even I have to concede that most of the time 3D is employed as little more than an add-on, just a way to charge extra for stuff that’d be the same with or without depth (visual, that is. We’ll save a discussion of dramatic depth for another day).
Which is why I’m usually jazzed to check out the latest release from DreamWorks Animation. More often than not, those folk go the extra distance with 3D, using it to enhance both the visual canvas and the dramatic impact of their films. That was definitely the case with the original HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, the 2010 fantasy adventure where the third dimension became an active player in an already entertaining and visually stunning film.
So, yeah, there I was at my local multiplex, shelling out the extra bucks for my 3D experience with the new HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2. Did this new adventure — in which the young, Viking dragon-rider Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) faces down a powerful warlord (Djimon Hounsou) and has a family reunion with his long-lost mother (Cate Blanchett) — pay back my investment? In a way, yes; in a way… welllll… Check out my HOUR OF THE WOLF review for the details. Click on the player to listen.
Well, this is a ticklish situation. I went into EDGE OF TOMORROW a little nervous, knowing this much about it: that Tom Cruise played a soldier who, by some trick of the time-space continuum, was reliving over and over his death during a disastrous attack on an alien invasion force. Sounded intriguing, no question. But it also smacked, in general conception if not plot specifics, uncomfortably of last year’s OBLIVION, where Tom Cruise played a survivor of an alien invasion who was also confronted with the mystery behind his own existence. What was doubly dismaying was that I could conceive of a possible explanation for EDGE’s protagonist that would parallel a major revelation in OBLIVION. If that was the case, it’d be game over for me. I liked OBLIVION just fine, but there was no need to revisit it.
A lot of people may have been thinking the same way — not too long before EDGE’s release, the good folks over at Warner Bros. altered their ad campaign, filling in a bit more about what Cruise’s character was going through. That put me more at ease, but I was still concerned that, like Cruise’s soldier, we’d be reliving the same day over again.
Here’s the good news: EDGE OF TOMORROW is not OBLIVION redux. But here’s the conundrum: As a result, the pendulum may have swung too far in the opposite direction. I explore the problem in my latest review for Jim Freund’s HOUR OF THE WOLF. Click on the player to hear the segment.