Sci-Fi

Cloverfield (2008) - Matt Reeves

79/100

A unique look at the Giant Monster genre from Bad Robot!

Director: Matt Reeves

Producers: J. J. Abrams and Bryan Burk

Writer: Drew Goddard

Starring: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David and Mike Vogel

Studios: Bad Robot Productions and Paramount Pictures

Release date: January 18, 2008

Country: United States

Budget: $25 million

Box Office: $170.8 million

Cloverfield is a 2008 giant monster movie from Bad Robot, the production company responsible for Lost, Star Trek and Alias. The viral marketing campaign that launched ahead of this movie was tremendous! It had fans actively search the internet for clues like articles, videos, blogs, etc. that created amazing hype. I have to admit that I had gotten swept up in it too. I was a big fan of Lost and loved drawing comparisons and relations between these universes. I still do.

The film is presented in a found footage format, much like The Blair Witch Project from 1999. The characters are all young adults living in New York City. Rob and his friends Hud, Marlena and Lily are all fighting for survival as their home city is being ripped apart by monsters.

Cloverfield is a tremendous effort. The shaky camera is a definite negative but I found it practical and forgivable. However, I remember some stories of moviegoers passing out or leaving to vomit from motion sickness. If you have a sensitive tummy, I would suggest giving Cloverfield a pass, or maybe just take a Dramamine. This is the greatest American kaiju film to date.

The acting is typical of a film like this. Not terrible, but no one is fishing for an Oscar here. We are treated to TJ Miller’s breakout performance as himself. Jessica Lucas was alright, but Lizzy Caplan and lead, Michael Stahl-David, were the best of the film. Lizzy was great as Marlena. I really enjoyed the dynamic between her character and Hud, TJ Miller. They all did a great job, but Michael Stahl-David carried this whole film on his back. As our lead, Rob spends the most time as the focus of the film. Stahl-David does a great job of blending into the universe and becoming a great character.

The movie is terrifying and depressing. The Cloverfield Monster is huge and wreaks some awesome havoc to New York. The destruction scenes were subtle and masterfully done. The head of the Statue of Liberty in the street is such an iconic image. The little monsters were vicious and they had that nasty bite that killed you in a pretty grotesque way. The ending was full of dread. Do yourself a favor and stay through the credits. Listen to the quiet voices. This is more than just a movie.

Forbidden Planet (1956) - Fred M. Wilcox

GOOD OLD SCI-FI 68/100

Director: Fred M. Wilcox (as Fred McLeod Wilcox)
Writers: Cyril Hume (screen play), Irving Block (based on a story by)
Stars: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen
Genres: Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi | Thriller
Certificate: G
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: 22 August 1956
Production Co: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Budget: $1,900,000 (estimated)
Gross USA: $3,000,000
Trivia: The critical success of this film convinced many in the film industry that well-funded science-fiction projects could be successful. Film historian Ben Mankiewicz has claimed that this film's success made future big-budget science-fiction films possible.

100_4237.jpg

Forbidden Planet is an American science fiction film from 1956. It was helmed by Lassie Come Home director, Fred Wilcox, and produced by MGM studios. This is a classic flick. Presented with a truly beautiful picture. A product of being filmed in Cinemascope and Eastmancolor from Kodak. Forbidden Planet is a scifi retelling of William Shakespeare's classic tale, The Tempest. It's extremely cheesy and has some very questionable acting. Except for lead actors Leslie Nielsen and Walter Pidgeon. They are both great.

A rescue mission from Earth is sent to Altair IV after command loses transmission with the colony living there. Led by Commander John J. Adams, the rescue team’s spaceship sets down on the mystery planet against the warnings from Doctor Morbius, a strange man hailing the ship from the planet. The crew finds out that Morbius is one of the few inhabitants left alive, along with his daughter and their servant robot, Robbie. The other people living on the planet have been killed by a mysterious force and Morbius fears that the same may happen to the rescue team. He encourages the crew to leave with his daughter before something bad happens, but it's soon too late.

Again, the film looks amazing. I watched this in HD on FilmStruck, and it looked great. Full color. Vibrant and interesting. We can credit the amazing set design and art to Cedric Gibbons and Arthur Lonergan working in the MGM lot. It’s a trip when you realize that the entire film was made indoors. Creative shots and a lot of huge matte paintings that make the settings look so believable. There is even some great animation provided by Joshua Meador from Walt Disney Studios. I loved the art direction and effects. Not the best, but tremendous for the time. There is a well made scene that shows an invisible monster walking on steel stairs and the filmmakers added in some bending steel. It looked great.

Aside from the bigger named actors like Leslie Nielsen or Anne Francis, the acting tends to be pretty bad. But it’s not bad enough to hinder the entertainment. The acting feels more television quality, probably since most of the props and some actors turn up in the Twilight Zone a few years later. There is an aire of cheapness that hangs about the movie. Unfortunately, that’s just something that drive-in monster movies from the fifties had to deal with. The technology for science-fiction movies wouldn’t catch up until at least the seventies.

Forbidden Planet is an amazing feat of filmmaking in the mid-fifties. The effects are top quality and the filmmaking is good. It’s a movie that should be studied by film aficionados all over the world. I simply cannot recommend it enough. Some people might find the slower pace annoying or boring, but I can almost guarantee you will find something else to like about it. I had some pretty low expectations before watching this movie. I thought it would of looked a lot worse than it did. But I came away happy and fully entertained.

Total Recall (1990) - Paul Verhoeven

AWESOME SCI-FI ACTION FILM 98/100

Director: 
Paul Verhoeven  

BASED ON: 
"We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick

WRITERS:
Ronald ShusetT, 
Dan O'Bannon,
Jon Povill and
Gary GoldmaN

Stars:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside

Rating: R

Country:
USA

Language:
English

Release Date:
1 June 1990

Total-Recall-movie-poster.jpg

Total Recall is a tremendous science-fiction action film from 1990. It had been Directed by Paul Verhoeven who had helmed Robocop the prior year. And produced by Carolco Pictures and Tri-Star. Arnold Schwarzenegger is our lead actor supported by Michael Ironside, Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin. The story is based on a Philip K. Dick short story called "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" and the screenplay was handled by Gary Goldman, Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. Kind of an all-star affair for 1990. This movie was a staple of my childhood, and the reason for my love of cheesy Arnold Schwarzenegger flicks. I had rented this several times from Blockbuster or Hollywood Video and also viewed is uncountable times on television. Hell, it still runs on AMC and Syfy to this day! No matter how you cut it Total Recall, is an important movie that can never be replicated.  

Douglas Quaid is a mild-mannered construction worker living on earth in 2089. He has a beautiful wife, a good job, but yearns for the stars. Something inside of Doug wants to get away. He wants to go to Mars, much to the behest of his wife and friends. Doug goes to Recall, a service that can implant a memory into your brain. A virtual vacation. However, during the operation, something is ticked and happy ol’ Douglas Quaid becomes the ruthless, cunning and deadly Hauser. A hired agent from Mars that has been suppressed with mental blocks. Now awakened to the false reality around him, and being pursued by people trying to kill him, Hauser must return to Mars to find out who wants him dead! 

The screenplay for the film was picked up by Dino De Laurentiis and shopped around Hollywood in the early eighties. De Laurentiis had tried to get the film off the ground seeking either Richard Dreyfuss or Patrick Swayze in the lead role. That would have been bad. He had gotten David Cronenberg attached to direct, but Cronenberg was hard about having William Hurt as the lead. Things just couldn’t come together and the screenplay had floundered in development hell. In 1989, the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group had folded leaving the script out in the wild. It was picked up by Carolco Pictures and the rest is history. 

Total Recall is the best science-fiction movie of all time. The acting, music, effects and writing are running on all cylinders. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the perfect fit for this role, and this was a big hit for him. The Quaid character is very complex, something that doesn’t become clear until his trip to Recall. The soundtrack was masterfully composed/conducted by a legendary musician, Jerry Goldsmith. It sets every scene with an epic beat that makes this movie a blockbuster. The main theme is unforgettable. Much better than many scores today. The special effects were handled by effects master, Rob Bottin. Bottin is famous for his tremendous work on movies like The Thing, The Howling, Robocop and Legend. He doesn’t shy away from gore and turns out some creative scenes. I would never expect less.

I really love this movie. I have seen it countless times and still love watching it frequently today. It’s the perfect film to come out of the late-eighties, early nineties time period. Arnold is a badass here. If you aren’t familiar with his work in action films, then I plead that you watch this movie along with classics like The Running Man, Predator and Conan the Barbarian. That man was entertainment in the eighties. Total Recall hits on every level and is now tame enough for early teens to enjoy. I highly recommend it. Five stars.