The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: ‘Damnation Alley’

Jack Smight‘s 1977 feature, Damnation Alley is a movie I recall l fondly from when I was growing up.  It’s (very) loosely based upon a novel by Roger Zelazny, and while it’s an entertaining movie, it’s not a particularly good one.

I while I don’t know how the movie was filmed, it feels epic and looks massive (which had a lot to do with the excellent score by Jerry Goldsmith which managed to be bold and at the same time minimal enough that it didn’t take over).

Events take place after a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.  You’re never told who started the conflict or why, though like W.O.P.R. said, “The only way to win is not to play.”

Unfortunaely for these guys, War Games came out in 1983, so they erred on the side of mutually assured destruction.  The United States is devastated and most of the land reduced to desert, while the sky is irradiated and angry with aurora borealis.

Though on what I assume is the last remaining military installation everything life goes on.  Maj. Eugene Denton (George Peppard) is in command, and is military through and through, while Tanner (Jan-Michael Vincent) and Keegan (Paul Winfield) don’t see the point of playing soldier any longer, so the former spends his time riding about the desert on his motorcycle, dodging giant scorpions (because radiation does nothing else if not create giant versions of things) while the latter  works on a mural.

Continue reading

The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: ‘The Stuff’

Let’s be clear:  Larry Cohen‘s The Stuff isn’t anyone would call a good movie, but it is a damn interesting one.  What it has going for it is a timely premise (the idea of consumerism run rampant combined with corporate and government malfeasance) and some very interesting special effects.

The movie plays like a twisted version of Dan Siegel’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (speaking of which, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is one of the few films that has benefitted from multiple remakes; The Invasion, notwithstanding) but with a more culinary bent in that a white substance is found bubbling from the earth, that happens to be edible.  This mysterious foodstuff, marketed as The Stuff, takes the country by storm, making some people very rich.

But there’s a problem.  The company selling it has co-opted the some scientists in the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration), so that no one quite knows what’s in The Stuff, which is a very bad thing because The Stuff is alive.  It’s similar to yogurt, except with a will, and a drive all its own.

In other words, when you eat it, it eats you.

The Stuff Pic

Are you eating The Stuff, or is it eating you?

A possible angle for a reboot could take would make the stuff called ‘The Stuff’ a genetically modified organism (GMO), as opposed to a naturally-occuring one, giving new meaning to the phrase “smart food.”

What needs to remain is the practical nature of the special effects.  There’s something significantly creepy about the mouth of a animatronic head opening wider than humanly possible, as opposed the way such things are typically done with CGI, which more often than not look like a video game (See: I Am Legend).

Since the movie falls apart somewhere around the midway point,  when Paul Sorvino turns up as a disgraced military commander–curiously similar to quite a few Right wing radio hosts–I would chuck that entire subplot and instead concentrate on how futile it it would first seem for people who haven’t been co-opted.

That way, the entire film would focus on the efforts of a disgraced FBI agent working against the odds to unmask the horror of The Stuff.

Betrayal! Thy Name Is Krieger!

Considering how ISIS (the International Secret Intelligence Service)–not the terrorist organization currently in vogue–seemingly did everything they could undermine their own efforts, they hardly needed help from outside.

Or inside, for that matter.

That being said, I feel reasonably certain that there there was someone within ISIS doing just that.  Perhaps they were too caught up in their struggle with ODIN (the Organization of Democratic Intelligence Networks) and various flavors of international terrorists/arms dealers to notice what was going on right under their noses.

And the name of their Manchurian Candidate?  Doctor KriegerDr. Krieger!  A man so stupid–or was his ignorance a deliberate ruse to lull his fellow agents into a sense of false complacency?–that he regularly operated on people, yet couldn’t name any of the bones of the human body!

And while ISIS imploded at the end of the fourth season, but Krieger’s antics sped it along the way.

As proof I offer Conway Stern (Coby Bell), who worked for ISIS before it was discovered that he was attempting to steal the plans for a device known as a ‘whisper drive,’ which could render submarines undetectable.  Due to the Truckasaurs-like strength of Agent Lana Kane (Aisha Taylor), Conway lost his hand as well as the drive, though he was still able to escape.

Conway.gif

Yikes!

If you’ve followed Archer you’re probably aware that Krieger (Lucky Yates) was probably a clone of Hitler, which if you’ve seen The Boys From Brazil you’d know that Hitler clones are usually up to no good.

Conway 2

The most blatant example of Krieger’s perfidy?  There are quite a few, but the one that sticks in my craw is from the third episode of the first season, Diversity Hire, when ISIS hired Conway Stern, an African-American Jew (“A diversity double-whammy!“) mainly because Archer (accidentally) outed all the other agents of color, resulting in their deaths.

Conway 3Could Dr. Krieger have betrayed ISIS because of some deep-seated hatred of everything they stood for (I honestly have no idea what that is) or is the truth more mundane, and Krieger was just an monumental asshole?

I think the latter.

‘The Equalizer’ – Trailer Two

The Equalizer is going to be a monster, despite the R-rating.  Denzel Washington is as reliable as it gets, as far as consistently entertaining actors go.  I also like how the characters that he tends to play don’t overcompensate in terms of their physicality, by which I mean you can see from the trailer that Washington is a tad paunchy, yet he’ll still believably kick you ass.

That it’s being directed by Antoine Fuqua pretty much ensures that it’s an event.

Besides, I can only see Guardians of the Galaxy so many times…

‘Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You’ Review

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You

Significantly Less Innovative Than Boyhood, But In Its Way A Better Movie

I watched Roberto Faenza‘s Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You a few days ago, and was reminded of another movie that revolved around a young person growing up, Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood.

Though the thing is, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You was a much more interesting film–and most importantly, more watchable–despite being not as innovative (considering that Boyhood took 12 years to make, few films are going to compare when it comes to that score).

My primary issue with Boyhood was that there was little in the way of drama about the central character, though perhaps I should rephrase that:  All the drama was literally around him.  His mother had things happening to her, his father (and her ex-husband) as well.

Mason (Ellar Coltrane), not so much.

But Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You (possibly one of the worse movie titles ever) is different.  The movie revolves around a young person,  James Sveck (Toby Regbo) who’s entire family is remarkably dysfunctional, self-involved or just plain weird and he’s doing what he can to just keep remain afloat.

Another similarity to Boyhood is that James is also a child of divorce, though unlike Mason, he reacts and is effected by everything that goes on around him (a tendency that decreased as Mason grew older).

He’s a clever, and strong-willed individual, but he’s also young and hasn’t quite defined who he is or what’s he about quite yet.

He needs help, but doesn’t know how to ask for it.  You won’t necessarily like everything James does–because he’s a bit of a dick at times–but that has a lot to do with the fact that he’s an engaging character, unlike Mason, who was a bit of a tabula rasa.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You is currently on Netflix.

‘Tusk’ Trailer

Tusk comes courtesy of Kevin Smith, a director that I find more interesting as a media personality than as a director.  The last film of his I saw, Red State, I recall being disappointed over because it advertised itself as one thing–a horror film–when it was actually quite another–essentially a thriller about religious zealots.

His most recent effort appears to be vaguely similar to Stephen King’s Misery, in that someone (Justin Long) is held captive by a nutcase, though in this case it seems that the protagonist is less interested in breaking bones than changing the very form of his captive.

Into a walrus, by surgical means, if the trailer is at all accurate.

Looks like fun.

‘Hot Tub Time Machine 2′ Red Band Trailer

You don’t watch a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine expecting any sort of high-brow humor–and if you did it’s all on you because there wasn’t any be found–but what you did get was three actors thrown in the pretty bizarre situation, and their idiosyncratic ways of coping and adapting.

When you think about it, it could actually be the Citizen Kane of hot tub time machine movies.

The first time around apparently appealed to more people than just me, because Lou (Rob Corddry), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Jacob (Clark Duke, which can’t be the name he was born with) are back in Hot Tub Time Machine 2.

This time around it seems that the guys have, predictably, fraked up the future.  This really bothers someone (whom I am willing to bet is either Nick or Jacob), who then attempts to kill Lou.  Nick and Jacob get Lou back into the time machine, and attempt to stop the would-be killer.

It goes without saying that they bring their own special brand of incompetence to the proceedings.