Phantasm

While spying on his older brother at a friend's funeral, Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) notices strange things happening at Morningside Cemetery. He witnesses a Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) picking up a full coffin and placing it back into his hearse. Unable to convince his brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) and the local ice cream man Reg (Reggie Bannister) about what he saw, he heads out to do a little investigating on his own.

But beware, because around every corner flying spheres, fingers that turn into killer insects, and midget monks are waiting  for our three heroes as they try to figure out what the Tall Man is up to. He ain't a simple a necrophiliac, but rather a calm, cool, and calculating "grave robber from another world".  His calling is much higher, for he is replenishing the workforce of his desolate world. Not only are you brought back to life, then crushed down to three feet, pumped full of some yellow fluid, and dressed to look like a "Jawa", but worst of all... you become a slave on some hot ass planet without any vacation time. I say cremate me.  But wait! Was it all a dream???? That is a question that every viewer of "Phantasm" has to answer. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Phantasm

 
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1979

Don Coscarelli did an excellent job with "Phantasm". His well-crafted cuts in specific tension- filled  scenes helped to heighten the emotion of fear and pending doom in the film.  It was only his third film and he was 23 years old when he made it. It amazes me how someone so young could make a masterpiece such as this film. But a lot of the classics were made by young directors such as "Evil Dead", "Night of the Living Dead", "Halloween", "Dead Alive" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" just name a few. I guess these young directors are more willing to take chances and do not get as bogged down by the games that Hollywood plays. 

 

The Thing

Antarctica Winter 1982. As these haunting words cascade across the opening scene, the viewer is left wondering if this chilling netherworld is in fact our own. Seeming like the distant landscape of some lost alien world, the stage is set for a battle against  the ultimate in alien terror.

Alone and cutoff from the rest of the world , the lives of the 12 member team at the United States National Science Institute Station 4 are abruptly interrupted by a barrage of gunfire. The serenity of this frozen utopia is dashed by what appears to be a couple of cabin-crazed Norwegians bent on destroying a lone wolf dog.  Unfortunately,  no answers are found, because the Norwegians accidentally blow up their own helicopter and are shot dead by Garry (Donald Moffat), the station commander. All that is left is the dog who quickly makes friends with Clark (Richard Masur), the animal handler, but things are not what they seem.

Confused by these events, ex-Army helicopter pilot Macready (Kurt Russell) and Dr. Cooper (Richard A. Dysart), decided to head out and check on the camp of their recent visitors.  With a storm beginnings to close in, Macready and Cooper find the Norwegian camp devastated by fire and everything apparently dead. They gather some notes, video tapes, and remains to take back with them.  As the night temperature begins to fall, an unwelcome guest finally reveals itself, as The Thing and the team begin their struggle for survival.

After another expedition to the Norwegian camp, they determine that the enemy they now fight is not of this world.  Having been frozen for 100,000 years in the ice, this shape-shifting alien has the ability to assume the identify of any living thing it comes in contact with and now 12 men stand in it's way.  Reading like Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians", paranoia rips through the station as each man begins to question the actions of his comrades.  Who is human and who is The Thing??  Macready quickly tries to assume control of this hostile environment and comes up with a test to determine if someone is The Thing, but time is running out on mankind. 

The Thing

 
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1982

An all-time classic mixture of elements from both sci-fi and horror genre. "The Thing" was masterfully directed by John Carpenter and exquisitely brought to life by Rob Bottin and his crack effects team. This is by far my favorite John Carpenter film and a must see for any fan.

                                                            

 

 

Predator

We begin in Central America in the turbulent 1980's. A team of six private commandos, led by ex-special forces major Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) lands at a small coastal army outpost. Their mission is to rescue a cabinet minister and his aide from guerillas, who captured the two when their chopper went down on the wrong side of a hostile border. Accompanying Dutch will be his regular team of men - Poncho (Richard Chaves), Billy (Sonny Landham), Hawkins (Shane Black), Blain (Jesse "The Body" Ventura) and Mac (Bill Duke) and his old comrade turned CIA-operative Dillon (Carl Weathers). Shortly after helicopters drop them into unfriendly territory, the team makes an unsettling discovery - they weren't the first soldiers sent in there. A group of skinned Green Berets is found hanging from a tree. There's evidence of a massive firefight, but no tracks except theirs. Not to be dismayed, the men head on.

The guerilla camp is found and dispatched with the kind of extremely graphic ease you'd associate any Schwarzenegger movie with. However, they are too late to save the hostages, although Dillon manages to capture female commando Anna (Elpidia Carrillo). Now it's time to head back to the friendly border to be picked up by chopper. Something else, though, thinks differently. A creature not of this world is in the jungles, hunting for sport. It  got the Green Berets, now it's the team's turn. Anna elaborates: "When I was little," she says. "...We found a man...he looked like...like he was butchered. The old women in the village crossed themselves, and whispered crazy things and strange things. The Diablo Casadore Hombres.  Only in the hottest years this happens. And this year, it grows hot. We began finding our men. We found them sometimes without their skin, and sometimes much, much worse." What is the Diablo Casadore Hombres? The most fearsome opponent these men will ever encounter - if  they survive. Soon, with his troops killed, and Anna sent ahead for the chopper, Dutch is left alone to battle this inhuman, alien predator.

Predator

 

1987

Most remembered for it's macho performances, great action and excellent makeup (portrayed by Kevin Peter Hall in the monster costume), "Predator" holds up well after over a decade, despite it's aged story. This was a period where the United States was very heavily involved militarily in Central America, with arms support in places like Nicaragua and El Salvador, culminating in an invasion of Panama in 1989. However, action and gory violence are universal enough themes. The movie is as much a roller-coaster ride today as it was in 1987, and part of John McTiernan's trilogy of excellent action thrillers - the other two being "Die Hard" and "The Hunt for Red October". All three could be rented for a nice night of thrills, chills and spectacular kills. Guest Contributor....Jeremy Lunt.

 

They Live!!!

Drifter Nada (Roddy Piper) is out of work, out of luck, and out of home. Arriving in Los Angeles, he is quickly taken in by a kind of "group home" for street people, if such a term can be applied, and even gets a job as a construction worker, meeting Frank (Keith David), an unemployed steelworker with a family. However, strange things are evident from the start. As they watch TV at night, a hacker with a strange message about things taking control, the death of consciousness and the loss of the middle class comes on in the middle of a legit broadcast.  Even stranger, the pirate broadcasts seem to be coming from the church across the street! Nada takes a look inside, and finds that the parishioners exist only as tape recordings to allay suspicion, that the hacker is one of the church workers, and they've got a hidden room full of strange  boxes - kooky!

Things go to hell pretty quickly - the police raid the church and the surrounding lots, beating up all the street people and generally being pests. Nada manages to escape, and the next morning finds a box full of sunglasses in an alley by the church with the rest of the trash - he saw similar lenses in the church. Putting them on, he is shocked to see that normally crass signs are much more sinister - revealing subliminal slogans that the average person can't see. Even worse, he can now see something even stranger - some people don't look...well, normal. They are almost robotic. Taking the glasses off, they look normal. With the glasses on they look like shit. What is going on? As it turns out, Earth has been infiltrated by aliens. They are actually the ultimate capitalists - to them the planet is part of the galactic Third World, another planet that hasn't got its act together. They are playing on the greed of the citizens of this rock, gradually infiltrating it and exploiting
its resources. But what can Nada do about it? After a major struggle, he gets Frank to put the glasses on, and the two join forces with a human resistance movement to try and stop the invaders. But can the aliens be stopped, or will everybody be killed, infiltrated or, even worse, be capitalized? The final few seconds of the film are hilarious.

They Live!!!

 

1988

Although John Carpenter has never had the flair for social commentary as other directors, even within the horror genre, he proved himself able to handle more complex messages than previously with "They Live". Only watching it now does it become apparent how much more recent movies like "Independence Day", "The Matrix" and others borrowed from it. All good movies to be sure, but the copycat notion will stain eventually. Of course, one of the more daring things about "They Live" was its strict, anti-capitalist message. And it was all made during the Reagan era! Since science fiction films (and this is what this is, with more than passing overtones of horror) tend to be quite liberal, it's no surprise that "They Live" makes an impact. Maybe we should all think about it next time the paychecks come in...Guest Contributor....Jeremy Lunt.

 

Men in Black

James Edwards (Will Smith), a young, energetic NYPD officer, is about to learn about other forms of life on planet earth. After chasing down a suspect, he is astounded when the man escapes through a series of superhuman acrobatics, only to take a dive off a roof to his death, blinking with two sets of eyelids and telling James that his world is about to end. Enter Kay (Tommy Lee Jones), a mysterious man in black who carries around a stick-like device that can erase any human memory with a flash. Kay leads the young man to a pawnshop in order to identify a strange gun that the offender had carried, where it is revealed that the owner is an extraterrestrial who is selling high-tech intergalactic weapons to aliens on the planet earth. James can't believe what he sees, but fortunately, he is not about to remember it - Kay sees to that with his flash stick.

Nevertheless, the mysterious man senses something in James, and invites him to his headquarters for a job interview, a drab public building revealed to be a modern, sleek facility on the inside. Over the objections of his supervisor, Zed (Rip Torn), Kay offers him the job and gives an explanation: in the 1950's, the government started their organization to make contact with alien life. In the early 1960's, the aliens came. Refugees, beings without planets, they were granted permission to stay on earth. Their group became known as MiB (Men in Black),  with the purpose of licensing and monitoring alien visitors. Around 1500 aliens currently live on earth, and like the average population, most of them are law-abiding. Only the Men in Black know of their presence, and they're going to keep it that way to prevent mass panic.  If James should decide to join, he will sever all human contact. He'll be essentially non-existent, except to his fellow agents. After a night of thought, James agrees, and he is turned into a MiB agent. Fingerprints are erased, his identity is stripped, and he is given the standard MiB apparel - a black suit. "You'll conform to the identity we give you.  Eat where we tell you. Live where we tell you," Zed tells him. "From now on, you'll have no identifying marks of any kind. You will not stand out in any way. Your entire image is crafted to leave no lasting memory with anyone you encounter. You are a rumor, recognizable only as deja vu, and dismissed just as quickly. You don't exist, you were never even born.  Anonymity is your name. Silence, your native tongue. You are no longer part of the system. You are above the system. Over it. Beyond it. We're them. We're they. We are the Men in  Black."

Most of the aliens on earth are decent beings, but occasionally, they get a bad bunch. That seems to have happened now. After an Arquillian prince is murdered by a malicious insect creature posing in the body of a farmer, his race blames the MiBs and offers an ultimatum - DELIVER THE GALAXY. If not, earth will be destroyed! But what are they talking about? Will earth become just another dead planet? What follows is a melee of action, technology and plenty of icky, humorous alien creatures.

Men in Black

 

1997

CGI and other forms of modern special effects seem to be like antibiotics - both are remarkable gifts, and both are subject to irresponsible excess and abuse. "Men in Black" however, proves that it all depends on the execution. Unlike other *ahem* disasters ("Godzilla" 1998), the creations (the animatronics were by Rick Baker, of "An American Werewolf in London") of the film are humorous, funny and quirky, often all at the same time. Barry Sonnenfeld shows great insight into the humorous nature of a movie like this, and it's a pity he hasn't found more cinematic fulfillment lately (he is also the man behind this summer's disappointing "Wild Wild West", also with Will Smith). Stealing the show however, are the charismatic leads of Smith and Jones. Tommy Lee is cool in a restrained, square way. Smith is the necessary hipster of the film, although his true talents are demonstrated in the music video that appears at the end of the tape. That little extra is just one more reason to see the great "Men in Black". Guest Contributor....Jeremy Lunt.

 

 

Matrix

Neo (Keannu Reeves), a computer hacker seemingly lost in the dark underworld of the net, is looking for meaning in his less than ordinary life.  Out of the shadows, he is sought out by the mysterious and prophetic, Morpheus  (Lawerence Fishbourne), who explains to him that the world as he knows it is nothing more than a dream. He goes on to tell of a time when advancement in AI (artificial intelligence) leads to a war between man and machine.   After suffering a grueling defeat, humans were enslaved to be used as a form of energy for their new masters with the MATRIX serving as an illusion of  the truth. 

Now that Morpheus has opened the door, Neo must decide if he will walk through it. Only after being freed from his prison-like cocoon and brought into the real world is the truth finally revealed.  Skeptical at first,  Neo continues to struggles as Morpheus begins to train his mind, body, and soul for what lies ahead.  All the while, they are constantly being persuade by "Agents", simian programs who have infiltrated the MATRIX. When a trader attempts to deliver the rebels into the hand of these "Agents", Neo must decide if he is ready to accept his destiny as the "chosen one".  

The Matrix

 

1999

This is easily the best film of 1999. An action-packed special effects extravaganza written and directed by the Wachowski brother (Andy and Larry), who are best known for the 1996 film "Bound". Highly influenced by the Asian cinema, "The Matrix" doesn't only deliver superior action sequences, but a well throughout and interesting storyline. The cast is solid especially Lawrence Fishbourne who stars in two of the film covered on this page.  Even Keanu Reeve again succeeds (due to limited dialog) much as he did with the 1997 hit "The Devil's Advocate".  Two sequels are in the works which could be both a good and bad thing. The Wachowski brothers did an excellent job in developing a enthralling  mythos for this magical world of the future and if done right, a trilogy could succeed, but done wrong, it could be disastrous. 

 

Reviews to be added in the Future: "War of the Worlds", 'The Blob", "Plan Nine From Outer Space", "Planet of the Apes", "Invasion of the Body Snatcher (1978)"," Alien", "Bladerunner", "Aliens", "Stargate", "Event Horizon", and "Starship Troopers". 

 


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