Monday, 29 June 2009

Fantastique


Got #1 of first English version of the long-running L'Ecran Fantastique... www.ecranfantastique.net, which offers a choice of Terminators or Transformers cover.

It's a large format (nearly 9x12 inches) and 100 pages, with guest columnists (like Jon Gulager), previews of Emmerich's 2012, and Argento's Giallo, coverage of My Bloody Valentine 3D, plus DVDs, cult stuff and other fanzine-stye features.

A breakthrough in publishing history, or just a replacement for Starburst and Shivers in the crowded media-zine marketplace?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

BS #11


My 'Blood Spectrum' column for the June-July issue of Black Static magazine (T3A Press) has review coverage of Demons, Baba Yaga, Cold Prey + Cold Prey 2, Thirst, Shuttle, Zombie Virus On Mulberry Street, Jack Ketchum's The Lost, I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer, Amusement, Haunted Airman, Dark Floors, Boston Strangler: Untold Story, Laid To Rest, Grudge 3, Machine Girl, Raising Jeffrey Dahmer, and The Unborn. It's a batch of blu-ray and DVD releases that reflect current trends in screen horror. There's a few really good films, some rather mediocre stuff, but far too much that's blatantly derivative, uninteresting, or just boring.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Black Hole


I watched 30-year-old sci-fi, The Black Hole, directed by Gary Nelson as the first PG-rated Disney movie. Compared, overall, to the calibre of creative filmmaking on 1979’s genre milestones, Alien, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (still my favourite 'Trek film), this once-intriguing picture seems much worse (than remembered) with each re-viewing.

Despite a notable Hollywood cast, including Anthony Perkins as the star-struck scientist, Robert Forster’s unflappable spacer, and Ernest Borgnine’s treacherous newshound reporter, it appears - in retrospect - this film was as jinxed as the plotline’s mission of exploration. Pulp sci-fi clich├ęs abound: from Joseph Bottoms’ hotshot pilot yahoo, to the duelling sentries, and anthropomorphic Disneyfied droid Vincent (voiced by Roddy McDowell). Overshadowing the straightforward heroes is the mysterious, twisted genius Dr Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell, channelling Captain Nemo), whose dream of journeying through a black hole is the point of this adventure.

There are incidental pleasures... the apparently derelict starship ‘Cygnus’ - which unexpectedly lights up (“like a Christmas tree”), vast architecture of the doomed ship (later echoed in Event Horizon), the gaudily unscientific depiction of a black hole as a swirling vortex, and the luscious Yvette Mimieux (Weena in the original Time Machine, 1960) wrapped in foil.

Ultimately, what kills the genre appeal of this film is its blatant cribbing from the unsubtle imagery of Star Wars. It seems very likely that this project was intended to be a serious and quite brooding space drama (clearly, its allegorical setup, and transcendental ending, were influenced by the profundities of Kubrick’s 2001, and Tarkovsky’s Solaris), but - with its team of meddling writers - nearly all the genuine science fiction was deleted to be replaced by the ‘fun’ and familiar tropes of space fantasy. The proverbial ‘bad robots’ here, once acceptable sci-fi kitsch, now seem irredeemably a lethal curse on this film’s otherwise interesting design elements.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

VideoVista


This month's VideoVista webzine includes (as usual) a mixed batch of genre/ non-genre films, both old and new... Including differently styled Norwegian horrors Cold Prey and Cold Prey 2, with the demented fun of Machine Girl from Japan for contrast. (I'm looking forward to seeing Tokyo Gore Police.)

With recent wartime heroines of Female Agents and Black Book, followed by adventuresome 'biopic' stories about male resistance-fighters in Defiance and Max Manus, it's curious to note the apparently-nostalgic thinking behind this current mini-cycle of WWII films. I'm not sure that Valkyrie fits into this subgenre, at all, but it's worth a mention, if only as yet another movie where Tom Cruise hides behind facial disfigurement (or a mask). What's up with this man? Not happy with his looks? Is he fixated on getting ugly for his movies?