Dossier Fantastique Volume 5, Number 17.2 opens to reveal capsule comments for IN YOUR EYES and DEADBEAT. The former is a Direct-to-Video film written and produced by Joss Whedon, about a man and a woman on opposite sides of the country who share a psychic link; the latter is a new Hulu original television series, about a sorry excuse for a human being who “helps ghosts” but “can’t help himself.” After that, the Cinefantastique Podcasting crew of Lawrence French, Dan Persons, and Steve Biodrowski delve into the details of this week’s home video release, for Tuesday, April 30 – including THE LEGEND OF HERCULES, DEVIL’S DUE, and several collectors sets of GAMERA titles. Finally, there is a 50th anniversary look back at DEVIL DOLL, a 1964 black-and-white British thriller the mixes the old ventriloquist dummy scenario with elements of Svengali.
Dedicated Dossier Fanatics are advised to continue listening in after the closing credits for meandering comments on everything from TORCHWOOD to THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES to Tashen Books’ “The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey” to TOKAIDO YOTSUYA KAIDAN (GHOST STORY OF YOTSUYA) – a colorful 1959 Japanese classic, rarely seen in the U.S. until it became available on Hulu plus.
A professor and his students perform experiments on a young subject, trying to prove that the paranormal experiences she claims to undergo are actually psychologically motivated. But the more they delve into the case, the more it seems that what’s going on is driven by powers not even the subconscious mind could imagine. What could these strange forces be? Sorry, can’t tell you, even if I wanted to — I unfortunately wasn’t able to see THE QUIET ONES, the newest entry out of the revived Hammer Studios, starring Jared Harris as the morally compromised scientist and Olivia Cooke as his unfortunate subject. But Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski and Lawrence French got a look, and in this episode they’re able to clue me in on how effectively director John Pogue manages the scary stuff, whether the payoff is commensurate with build-up, and how this latest entry slots into the legacy of the legendary British horror house. Click on the player to hear the show.
This week, the Dossier Fantastique Podcast opens to reveal the disappointing details regarding A HAUNTED HOUSE 2, the sequel-spoof of everything from PARANORMAL ACTIVITY to SINISTER, starring Marlon Wayans. Also under the microscope is THE BAMBOO SAUCER, a Cold War relic that recently made its Blu-ray debut. For those disappointed with TRANSCENDENCE, the Cinefantastique Podcasting Crew (consisting of Lawrence French, Dan Persons, and Steve Biodrowski) introduce a new segment titled “What You Should Be Watching” – in this case, COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT, the 1970 classic about a super-computer that takes control of the world’s nuclear arsenal. Podcast 5:16.2 winds up with a 50th anniversary look back at the German vampire flick CAVE OF THE LIVING DEAD (also known as NIGHT OF THE VAMPIRES and THE GIRL WITH THE GREEN EYES).
Hard-core fans are welcome to hang out after the credits to listen in on subsequent conversation regarding PARTICLE FEVER; critical interpretations of KING KONG (1933) as emblematic of fears of miscegenation; and the wisdom of dismissing the original 1954 version of GODZILLA for being too serious to be enjoyed as escapist science fiction.
It’s some kind of irony that the experience of watching a film called TRANSCENDENCE is far from transcendent. Not that director Wally Pfister doesn’t try: The story of a scientist working in A.I. research (Johnny Depp) who has his own consciousness transferred to the Web is lushly mounted (as befits a big-studio production from the man who previously served as Christopher Nolan’s director of photography), reliant on an atypically grounded mise en scene that emphasizes the love story between Depp’s scientist and his colleague wife (Rebecca Hall), and chock full of actors who can deliver skilled performances (joining Depp and Hall are Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Kate Mara and Paul Bettany). Unfortunately, it’s that restraint, along with poor plotting (Really? We’re supposed to empathize with anti-technology terrorists whom we’ve previously seen murdering a roomful of innocent people with poisoned cake? Really?), that leaves the film as a promise unfulfilled.
The Cinefantastique Online team of Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons get together to weigh what went right and what wrong with this ambitious attempt at dramatic science fiction. Click on the player to hear the show.
This week, the Dossier Fantastique Podcast is overflowing with data on recent horror, fantasy, and science fiction films. Steve Biodrowski reviews recent threatrical releases RIO 2 (a computer-animated 3D comedy from the makers of ICE AGE) and JINN (a new fantasy-horror film in limited release). In a new segment titled “What You Should Be Watching,” Lawrence French explains why you should check out ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE and avoid UNDER THE SKIN. Dan Persons explains the cult pleasures, such as they are, of Troma’s direct-to-video release RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH VOLUME 1. And Steve Biodrowski wraps up with a review of LIZZIE BORDEN TOOK AN AX, starring Christina Ricci, the Lifetime telefilm based on the real-life horror story, which is now available on DVD. Plus, the usual look at what’s new on home video.
How frustrating is it when a film has all the stuff it needs — promising premise, good production values, decent cast, director who can twist filmic reality in imaginative ways — and just… doesn’t … grab… you? Pretty damn frustrating, it turns out. OCULUS tells the tale of an orphaned brother and sister who reunite as adults to destroy the mirror that turned their father into a homicidal maniac, yet despite casting DOCTOR WHO’s Karen Gillan in the lead, finding unique ways of styling flashback sequences so that past impinges on present and vice versa, and stuffing its scenario full of such spooky stuff as hostile, spectral presences, mind-bending hallucinations, and a guest walk-on by the Weeping Angels, the whole winds up decidedly less than the sum of its parts.
The Cinefantastique Online team of Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons get together to express their fascination about a film that has so much and falls so short, and to try to figure out what prevents this latest Blumhouse (or as it’s now being called, BH Productions) release from rising to its potential. Click on the player to hear the show.
Dossier Fantastique is overflowing with data this week, offering capsule reviews of new horror, fantasy, and science fiction films in theatres and on home video:
Lawrence French enlightens us to the joys of Jim Jarmusch’s indie vampire flick ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, with Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton, which will hit theatres this Friday after a year on the festival circuit.
Steve Biodrowski endures the “wonders” of the over-rated UNDER THE SKIN, starring Scarlett Johansson, which opened on Friday, April 4.
Dan Persons recounts the direct-to-video virtues of OUTPOST: RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ (a.k.a. OUTPOST 3: RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ), which hit store shelves a few weeks ago.
Also reviewed: AFFLICTED and ALIEN ADBUCTION, two films that made their theatrical debut on Friday while simultaneously becoming available via Video on Demand services, such as Amazon.com. And you get the usual run-down of what’s opening on home video on Tuesday, April 8.
And so commences the Marvel Onslaught of 2014. Four movies, three studios, and more opportunities for the true believers to nudge each other knowingly when Stan Lee makes his expected cameos, even though your great-great-grandmother could probably recognize him by now. That said, there are far worse ways to kick off this flood than CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, a well-mounted, surprisingly well-acted (hey, you’ve got Sam Jackson and Robert Redford in there), and all-around entertaining actioner that finds the stalwart Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) facing a test to his WWII-bred notions of right and wrong as he finds himself suddenly at cross-purposes to his masters at S.H.I.E.L.D and confronting a formidable assassin called the Winter Soldier.
The Cinefantastique Spotlight crew of Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons are no little grateful that THE WINTER SOLDIER goes down as easy as it does, but are in accord that there were ways it could have been much better. We compare notes in this latest episode — click on the player to hear the show.
This week, the Dossier Fantastique Podcast is joined by special guest John W. Morehead of TheoFantastique, for a look at what’s new in theatres and on home video in the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Dan Persons opens LOCKER 13, a new low-budget anthology horror film in limited theatrical release and on Video on Demand. Steve Biodrowski talks ABOUT TIME, the time-travel romance comedy from writer-director Richard Curtis, now available on DVD and Blu-ray. Morehead and Lawrence French take a 50th anniversary tour of the end of the world as we know it, courtesy of THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964), starring Vincent Price as the sole survivor of a plague of vampires. And don’t forget to stick around for a post-credits autopsy of the Season 4 finale of THE WALKING DEAD.
Sooner or later, it had to happen. Three months into 2014, we finally move beyond the execrable and the mediocre, to something imaginative, exciting, and just flat-out worthy of praise. NOAH allows director Darren Arnofosky to apply his characteristically iconoclastic vision to the classic Bible tale, transforming the historic setting into a fantastic world where fallen angels walk the earth in the form of lumbering rock monsters, technology has advanced enough for bear traps and projectile weapons, and the humble, pious man charged with ferrying the world’s beasts and birds safely through the watery manifestation of the Lord’s wrath becomes, courtesy of Russell Crowe’s performance and Aranofsky’s incisive read of the material, a conflicted hero tasked with determining how much of God’s judgement the Creator expects him to fulfill by his own hand.
Theofantastique.com’s John W. Morehead joins Spotlight regulars Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French and Dan Persons as they discuss Aranofsky’s visionary approach to the story, explore what the film has to say about the nature and demands of faith, and look into the political controversies the film has stirred up. Click on the player to hear the show.