Watchin’ Stuff #29

The movie of the week this time around (because I’ve suddenly decided that’s going to be thing) goes enthusiastically to AnnihilationAnnihilation is a pretty surreal sci-fi adventure, that also contains a surprisingly healthy dose of horror. The plot and visual effects are extremely out there and there are a lot of things that aren’t directly explained, many of which can be figured out if you’re paying attention, but some are just left entirely ambiguous and open to interpretation. It’s one of those movies that requires paying close attention to the details and some exercising of your imagination, which is apparently not for everyone, but we quite enjoyed it.

My only regret is that this story is based on the first book of a trilogy, and you can tell that there’s much more to this story than we get to see in the movie version, but given its poor sales, it seems extremely unlikely that we’ll ever get the other two parts in movie form. Guess I’ll have to pick up these books someday then, because I really want to see where this fascinating concept goes from here.

This is one I’ve seen many times already. The Thirteenth Floor was a movie about virtual reality that came out in 1999 and so seemed to go largely unnoticed while the flashier action-packed The Matrix had just released at around the same time. It takes a much more understated approach to the issue and never digs too deep into the moral implications that it occasionally brings up, but overall it’s a solidly entertaining film that does a pretty impressive job of portraying the story it sets out to, despite having around 1/4 the budget of The Matrix. 

Another one that I’ve seen many times, Freejack is probably one of my guiltiest pleasures. It’s got a great core concept, where rich people in a dystopian future steal healthy young people from the past, moments before they die, so they can transfer their minds into them. Unfortunately, this early 90’s portrayal of the wild future world of 2009 is clearly much more ambitious than its budget actually allowed for and it results in a really ridiculous looking future world.

For me, it makes up for it all with sheer dumb charisma though. A time-kidnapped Emilio Estevez plays the part of a cocky and reckless 90’s action hero perfectly, delivering piles of so-bad-they’re-good one-liners, and having a surprisingly compelling rivalry with the head of the bounty hunters who are chasing him throughout the movie, who is played by Mick Jagger, of all people. I don’t know, it’s just one of those special 90’s movies where the cast, action scenes, dialogue, and music all come together in just the right way to make it extremely likable, despite how ridiculous it all is. I’ve loved it since I saw it in theaters as a kid and never stopped.

One more that I’ve seen a lot before, the movie version of Fist of the North Star (not to be confused with that dumpster fire of a live action version). If I remember correctly, this was the first anime I ever saw (so long ago that we didn’t even know the word anime yet, it was…Japanimation. Yes, really.) and its impressive animation quality and unbelievable hyper-violence got me interested in the genre in a serious way at the time.

Looking back on it now it’s more than a little bit cheesy and ridiculous, but the colorfully memorable characters and action scenes still make it a worthwhile experience.

We watched this back in 2007 or so when it first came out and was super hyped at the time for some reason, and I didn’t remember liking it at all, but after liking Plaza’s Veronica so much I decided to give this series another chance. Nope. Still incredibly boring and unpleasant. It’s just another generic found-footage movie where almost nothing happens except for a decent scene in the last few minutes (which they gave away in the trailers of the Americanized version, Quarantine). A lot of people standing around talking and getting into hysterics about the mysterious situation they’re all in and a camera that is so fucking shaky, even for a found-footage movie, that I actually started getting motion sickness, which I don’t think I’ve ever gotten from a movie before. Oh well.

D.A.R.Y.L. was one of those 80’s movies that everyone probably saw or at least remembers from back in the day, but no one has really mentioned since then. I can see why. It’s not a bad movie, but it never really does anything that reaches above average. It’s an incredibly 80’s story of a robot kid that meets a family and learns to be sort-of-human, which was probably pretty ahead of its time for 1985, but it never seems to be able to quite balance its two halves of “family movie” and “dramatic thriller”. Most of the time the family movie part seems to win and the dramatic thriller parts are just too tame and forgettable, which end up kind of dragging the whole thing down a bit. Again, not enough to make it outright bad, but enough to justify this never popping up on any lists of essential 80’s sci-fi movies. Not good for much except scratching a nostalgic itch.

This was a weird one. An incredibly cheap and trashy comedy, Deathrow Gameshow is about a game show where death row inmates try to win their freedom and die in humiliating ways if they should fail, which is a concept that seems better suited to being a short skit on a comedy show than a full movie. Funny thing though, I found myself kind of liking it anyway. It’s hard to explain. It’s all so very low budget and dumb, but I didn’t want to turn it off, and I even found myself laughing many times.

Another giallo by Lamberto BavaDelirium goes for a more sleazy approach, offering more scenes of gratuitous nudity than scenes of violence. The few times people were killed, Bava took a very strange direction though, having things shift to the killer’s point of view, which involved the appearance of strange colors and their victims’ faces suddenly transforming into those of strange creatures. I guess this is what things are supposed to look like if you’re a crazy serial killer, though the movie never actually explains any of this. Very weird movie. Not my favorite from Bava, but it was sure a unique and memorable one.

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