I guess I get to say I called this one. Well, kind of anyway.

It turns out that not only are they going to remake Barbarella  and Plan 9 from Outer Space, but there are possible plans underway to remake one of the movies on my poll in the last post. Believe it or not, J. Michael Straczynski has been publicly talking about redoing Forbidden Planet. However, according to Filmstaker.co.uk, he says that what he is planning isn’t truly a remake, and it won’t even involve the same plot or the same look as the original. The site also hints at the possibility of producer Joel Silver being involved somehow.

The trouble is that if screenwriter claims that what he’s working on is no remake nor  re imagining, what the hell is it? No one seems to know, and many seem to have become rather cynical about it. To be fair, many remakes of classic sci-fi movies don’t really turn out so great. Steven Spielberg’s version of War of the Worlds (2005) comes to mind. There is a certain point where a filmmaker takes a little too much creative licence sometimes.

In any case, the amount of science fiction remakes is becoming quite large. Lets take a look…

  • War of the Worlds (2005)
  • Forbidden Planet (1954 )
  • Lost in Space (1998 )
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008 )
  • Barbarella (2009)
  • Plan 9 (2009)
  • Godzilla (1998 )
  • the original version of Star Trek (2009)
  • King Kong (2005)

Now, of course, this list is not in any particular order. They also are not all coming from the 50’s.  Nonetheless, it seems pretty clear that as time goes on, the more of a trend this becomes. All of these remakes have been done in the last decade, so clearly these things do have a following of some sort. The obvious explanation is that Hollywood figured post 9/11 America would eat up re-interpretations of these movies the same way Cold War era America indulged in the originals. While this is certainly true to a certain extent, it still leaves one wondering why it is so necessary to alter so much of the original movies’ plots.

Ghosts of Sci-fi past

December 7, 2008

So why am I on this kick about old 50’s monster flicks?

Well, because for some reason filmmakers feel the need to revive all of these old dinosaurs. They even decided to redo some of the cheesier ones. For instance, director Robert Rodriguez is in the process of filming Barbarella, with Rosie McGowan as the seductive spacewoman. The original Barbarella (1968) was an erotic science fiction-comedy which starred Jane Fonda, and wasn’t only cheesy but featured infamously suggestive content. It generally had that corny Flash Gordon look and its thematic elements, but with sexuality injected into the mix. At one point, there’s is even a strange torture senario invovlving a device that causes its victim to experience sexual pleasure so intense it is practically fatal.  While this film may have a special niche in the cinematic world, it seems rather random to do a remake of it. Yet, they even got the original’s producer, Dino De Laurentiis, to produce the remake as well. The writers of Casino Royale (2006) are also invovled in this new sci-fi flick.

But it gets even weirder than Barbarella. If you’ll remember, it wasn’t too long ago that I reviewed one of the 50’s most laughable science fiction films; Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959). Well, rumor has it someone intends to do a remake of that, too. John Johnson and Darkstone Productions not only plan to recreate the film in honor of Bela Lugosi and Ed Wood, they want to make a serious horror movie out of it. According to the film’s website (that’s right, its far along enough they already have a web site for it) the movie will be released on the 9th of September next year, titled simply as Plan 9.

http://www.plan9movie.com/

But not all of the coming sci-fi remakes are based on silly movies. After all, in just five days we will get to see the remake of one of the 50’s greatest alien hits, the Day the Earth Stood Still. While they changed the form that the ship comes in, they have otherwise seemingly remained faithful to the original. This film truly did have a fairly intelligent subtext to it, and the remake will retain that. They even kept the original look for the giant robot, and it doesn’t look absolutely ridiculous in the trailer. I would have never thought that would be possible. Apparently, they decided to go with Keanu Reeves hoping his experience playing Neo from the Matrix (1999). The choice might be a little obvious and cliche, but at least there’s a good chance it’ll work.

This isn’t the first time that one of the more serious classic sci-fi movies have been remade. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) was remade on several occasions, the latest being the Invasion in (2007).If the Day the Earth Stood Still is successful, it will bring a great deal of dignity to a genre that had none for a good long while. Unfortunately, that dignity may soon dissapear the following year. It will be interesting to see what happens.

"Can you prove it DIDN'T happen?"

"Can you prove it DIDN'T happen?"

If you’ll remember, for Thanksgiving I reviewed a venerable ‘turkey’- Attack of the 50ft. Woman (1958). Even the title alone suggests that the film was awefully cheesy, and it truly was. Still, it was not quite as bad as it could have been. However, it did spur my curiousity of the fabled ‘worst movie of all time’…

Plan 9 From Outer Space is one of many B-movies directed by Ed Wood. This strange crossdresser is still the object of many a film snob’s bittersweet fascination. After all, he was considered to be the worst film director ever. But it isn’t that simple. They aren’t just bad, they are delightfully bad. We say that about many of today’s B-movies, but this fellow made their production almost  as an artform. If Ed Wood was the master of terribly cheesy movies, this was his masterpiece. 

Plan 9 From Outer Space  is about a detachment of spacemen who are at odds with Earth’s many governments. They resent that man develops weapons of mass destruction so quickly, and that the world’s governments keep the existance of aliens from the public eye, so they take drastic actions. Apparently, many of their plans failed, but the latest scheme is re-awakening the dead. The spectacle is such that the American public must come to terms with the existance of aliens. This new undead army would also be the weapon with which the spacemen would crush mankind in an effort save the universe. Meanwhile, a series of policemen, an airplane pilot, and a military officer have witnessed the strange operations the spacemen carry out. They eventually band together, to stop the vile interplanetary menace.

Somehow the idea of extraterrestials resorting to re-animation and necromancy in order to get attention and conquer Earth doesn’t make sense. With such technology as the  ‘electro-gun’, it seems like the spacemen should be able to take over Earth with their own high tech weaponry. Zombies seem like a pretty poor way to conduct a planetary conquest. What makes even less sense is that they started making their slow zombie hoard in California, but they want their army to march on the capital. Why would they start on the wrong side of the continent? Why do they only manage to make three? Even the alien’s reasons for doing this aren’t all that great. Humans are too warlike and irresponsible, so spacemen react by using new and dangerous technology to destroy them?

The dialogue suffers from horrible writing even more than the plot does. The things the characters say are absolutely ludicrous. Often they are incredibly redundant, and just about all of the dialogue is incredibly cheesy. Even parodies of these movies aren’t as cheesy as the dialogue in Plan 9 From Outer Space. On a positive note, this makes the film very quotable.

Here are some examples of really stupid dialogue:

 “Inspector Clay is dead, murdered…and someone is responsible!”

“We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events like these will affect you in the future.”

“Why is it so important for you to make contact with the governments of Earth?”

-“Because all of you Earth men are idiots!”

“You just hold on, buster.”

While this may very well be some of the most ridiculous stuff I’ve ever heard in a movie, it makes for a really good laugh. Somehow, I can’t help but think that was what Wood was going for anyhow. I understand he was quite aware of how poor the quality of his horror flicks were.

Perhaps what some of the most distracting and poorly done aspects of this movie are the set design and production screw-ups. My favorites are the cockpit scenes and the graveyard scenes. The cockpit doesn’t even remotely look like an airplane. The joysticks are made out of cardboard, and I believe you can see a large boom mike shadow on the wall, dead center. The graveyard is pretty much the same. Cardboard crypt, cardboard gravestones. At one point when the actors are diving from swooping saucers, someone manages to knock over a gravestone. he doesn’t even notice he did it either.

This is film could be important because it shows filmmakers all of the things not to do. The low production values are so bad, that they are incredibly hilarious. However, there really isn’t anything in this film someone today couldn’t do with a home movie. While bits and pieces may be entertaining, viewers will likely grow tired of the movie within a short period of time. After a while, the goofs just get old. Furthermore, the nature of this film is almost exploitive. Bela Lugosi died long before this movie was ever finished. By that time, he had started working with Wood, but they had only a few minutes of footage of Lugosi. At one point, Wood’s wife got her chiropractor to act in Lugosi’s place when neccessary, even though he looked and sounded completely different from Lugosi. Is it really ethical to use someone’s image this way when they died only recently? In any case, this movie may be good for a laugh if you like Mystery Science Theater 3000. This is the one old bad movie they didn’t show. For anyone else, this is a fairly poor choice with so much else out there.

2.7 out of 10

Since I wrote before about the new Star Trek, I thought I’d post this new video. Right now, this thing has become all the rage on YouTube and many, many people have posted about it on their blogs.

I believe that the message here is simple…give us geeks enough time and footage to screw around with, and eventually we’ll give you something truly hilarious.

50ftwoman

In celebration of Thanksgiving, I decided that I would leave my readers with a turkey. Gobble gobble!

 Attack of the 50 ft. Woman has maintained a reputation and a cult following for being a particularly ridiculous movie. Make no mistake, this movie truly is silly. The 1950’s were pretty much a golden age for science fiction movies, especially ones that featured some kind of monster. In fact, during this time the giant monster trend was in full swing. Godzilla came out in 1956, and before that were several other classic massive monster hits. Most movies from this era had a theme going on that reflected a real world fear held by society. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (also 1956) embodied the fear of communism coming to the United States. Godzilla was a representation of the terror of nuclear warfare. Attack of the 50 ft. Woman symbolizes…the threat of powerful, liberated women. Of course, you can only find such silly things in America.

Attack of the 50 ft. Woman is about a millionaire woman (Allison Hayes) married to a cheating scoundrel (William Hudson) who desperately wants to murder her so he can get at her money and run off with a slutty blonde. He sees an oppurtunity to get rid of her when she shows signs of insanity and drunkeness. She claims she encountered a giant and his space vessel. No one believes her, although the police play along out of a weird sense of respect. Best not to upset the highest paying taxpayer. After some time, contact with the alien has exposed her to some strange form of radiation, which causes her to grow. At this point, she decides she has had enough of being taken for a fool. The story is about as short and sweet as it sounds. The entire movie is barely over an hour in length.

While the premise is pretty hokey, the plot and its delivery are actually much better than you might think. During the 50’s, these monster movies weren’t exactly intended to be A list masterpieces. The acting and writing in this one are pretty good, comparatively speaking. Many of the characters are not purely good or evil. Some are, but it isn’t as overdone in many modern monster movies. The only man with a heart of gold is the butler, and he makes a pretty inept kight in shining armor.

That being said, there are plot holes so large an oversized Allison Hayes could fit through them. No bystanders ever see the giant alien, even when it moves in populated areas. The sheriff in town hates wasting taxpayer money, but he still lets his sidekick dink around when he should be on duty. Hayes wears the most desirable diamond in the world around her neck, even though anyone could snatch it off her neck. These might seem like trivial gripes, but when you put them altogether they are very noticable. Of course, its things like that that make this a B movie.

50’s monster movies might be notorious for poorly concieved monsters and plastic and rubber costumes, but the effects in this movie are pretty bad-even for the time. This was released just one year after the Amazing Collosal Man. The visual effects in that film were pretty good at the time, and created an acceptable image of a rampaging giant. The supposed giants in Attack of the 50 ft. Woman look more like large ghosts. They are almost transparent. While todays special effects surpass the technology of the 50’s by leaps and bounds, there really is no reason for me to be able to see through someone that is supposed to be a massive powerhouse.

Make no mistake, this movie is most definitely a turkey. It was always pretty much meant to be. However, it is a turkey that at least tries to be serious with at least some success. The characters have some personality to them.  While this movie is something to laugh at with a friend, it still at least has a semblance of quality. In the end, I suppose this as being a turkey…with some extra flavor to it.

5.0 out of 10

Well, Watchmen’s competition released its new exciting trailer attached with the Bond flick this month. This is the latest big production by producer/director J.J. Abrams, creator of Cloverfield (2008) and the television series Fringe and Lost. He has had a very successful career in science fiction programs, despite most of his material being somewhat experimental. Most of his work invovles a strange slant on a traditional sci-fi archetype. For example, Cloverfield is like a giant monster movie, but through BlairwitchoVison.

Well, the unusual quirk Star Trek  is that it is a prequel. Apparently, Star Trek is following the same path as Star Wars. The dynamic style gives the Star Trek universe a visual quality the low budget series could not achieve. This film is fairly distinct from its predecessors.

However, unlike Star Wars, this installment of Gene Roddenberry’s classic franchise maintains at least some of the original designs from the 1960’s television series. The ships and outfits are exactly like the uniforms Spock and Captain Kirk wore in the original series. The ships have a modern twist to them, and the Vulcan civilization seems to be heavily influenced by Peter Jackson’s interpretation of the elves in Lord of the Rings. Clearly, Abrams and company are trying to bring the innovation and beauty of the 21st century epic film genre to one of the oldest franchises in television history. From the trailer, it looks like they have the visuals down. Luckily, even the young actors are acceptable as youthful incarnations of Spock and Kirk.

My fear is that Star Trek will invovle so many starship battles that it will look like Star Wars with Star Trek ships. Granted, the filmmakers have finally figured out that by tilting the camera they can make the battles more intense, and clearly there was a huge budget for special effects. I just hope it won’t be excessive.

My hope is that this film will breathe new life into Gene Roddenberry’s outdated creation, and show us why so many people still keep up these silly conventions.  As someone who never got into the Trekkie stuff, I’ve always felt that there was just too much to digest. There are literally decades of characters and plots. Star Trek never seemed to cater to anyone other than the hardcore crowd. Some time ago, that trend changed. They started doing a spinoff prequel series, and now there is a prequel movie that will reach a wider audience, and it features the original characters.  

I would suggest anyone remotely interested in the franchise check out this movie. If you are going to test the waters, start from the beginning and you might as well see it on a really big screen.

“Quantum Solace” (2008)

November 24, 2008

Something was certainly shaken, but I'm not talking about the martinis.

 

I remember the time when I, like many others, eagerly awaited the opening of Casino Royale. Not only was there a new Bond to carry on the 007 legacy, but the entire franchise was moving in a new, more realistic direction. It was very successful, too. It may have been a change of pace, but it brought a great deal of seriousness to the James Bond characters while retaining the intense action sequences. While the new Bond was alien to us, it was clear that in time he would grow into the smirking British spy we have all come to know and love.

Quantum of Solace (2008) was supposed to be the bridge between Bond the heart broken and Bond the badass.  I excitedly awaited this movie just as I did when Casino Royale came out, even though I saw it a week after its initial release. Unfortunately, the twenty-second entry in the 007 franchise was not what I thought it would be.

The plot is pretty similar to the classic Bond movies. MI-6 finds out that the villians are part of a huge global secret organization, and they don’t know much about them other than the organization is evil. Bond is constantly chastized for being too reckless (and rightly so), but nonetheless goes in to check things out.  If anything, he is still eager to get revenge for the murder of Vespa, his lover from Casino Royale. Of course, he picks up one or two other chicks along the way, one of them being another spy. Throughout the movie M is constantly panicing from her little safe haven, falling easily for the villians’ misinformation. After confronting a series of loathsome baddies, Bond is able to find out more about the organization and comes closer to finding Vespa’s killer. The extra element of revenge gives the plot a little more dimension, especially since Bond is still a bit young and inexperienced.

While the storyline might be normal for a Bond flick, the cinematography and editing are very different from the traditional 007 movies. This is particularly true for the action sequences. Director Marc Forster and his production team went with the dirty, intense cinetographic style as the Bourne franchise. Although this look might be getting popular with action films, it usually doesn’t work, and Quantum of Solace features several chase scenes that can be more disorienting than entertaining. Many shots throughout the film are so quick and sloppy that it hurts the film more than helps, which is sad because some of the visuals are truly creative and interesting. Most people would rather see a Bond film for the action and excitement, and unfortunately they are going to be disappointed. The action itself is often lame and nonsensical, even for a Bond movie. We’ve seen far better boat chases in many other Bond flicks, all of them with proper composition. Sure, these movies often are cheesy and over the top, but why is a villian taking refuge in a hotel with exploding walls, and why the Hell is it in the middle of a desert?

Once again, Daniel Craig pulls off the intense and convincing performance we saw in Casino Royale. Pyshically, he is also the most impressive actor to ever play Bond. Craig performs many of his own stunts. Towards the end, he injured his hand during a fight scene. You don’t get many actors that are that hardcore.

However, the things the spy does in this film are very erratic, even for a reckless 007. He acts more like a murderous thug than a spy. Everytime he encounters a suspicious character he instinctively kills them, without bothering to investigate. he a special agent, or an assasin? He was never this inept at spywork, even when he started out in Casino Royale. I’m guessing that these rampages are the result of Bond’s thirst for revenge, but he seems awfully cool and detacted for that to be the case. The concept might be there, but the execution is off. Meanwhile, M is on the other end of the spectrum, and never seems to calm down. Bond’s CIA friend, felix, simply drinks himself silly. My, what a cheery little group of people! For once I’m starting to miss the charming campiness of Thunderball (1965).

Yet, this flick isn’t all doom and gloom. While Bond might be a little crazy, he still manages to seduce beautiful women and pull off an amusing pun every once in a while. Everyone’s favorite swanky Brit undergoes a great deal of character growth, and eventually evovles into the womanizing do-gooder we recognize, but up until then he is an entirely different creature. The film was always supposed to be dark, but there is so much anxiety built up in this film that it becomes too dark and nihilistic. The negativity is obvious, but the character development is not.

5.0 out of 10