Sci-Fi Film Review: 2019: After The Fall of New York (dir by Sergio Martino)


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Where is this woman can make babies!?”

— Big Ape (George Eastman), asking the question that everyone’s wondering in

2019: After The Fall Of New York (1983)

“Giara, if love had any meaning in the world, you would be the one I love.”

Parsifal (Michael Sopkiw) in 2019: After The Fall of New York (1983)

New York City was a frequent location for Italian exploitation films and why not?  Seeing as how most of the Italian exploitation films of the 70s and 80s were specifically designed to pass for an American product (with the actors and directors often credited under Americanized pseudonyms), it would only make sense to use America’s best-known city.  Interestingly enough, these films rarely portrayed New York as being a very pleasant place.  There was always either a mob war or a zombie invasion or police corruption or a madman with a knife to deal with.  This portrayal of New York as Hell-on-Earth reached its logical conclusion with Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper but even films less extreme than Fulci’s still presented New York as representing every negative thing that has ever been thought about Americans.

After the international success of the first two Mad Max films and John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, there was a handful of Italian films that were meant to portray what life would be like in New York after a nuclear apocalypse.  (In most cases, life would not be pleasant.)  Of the films that made up this odd, yet undeniably energetic genre, 1983’s 2019: After The Fall of New York is one of the best.

Every post-apocalyptic film opened with the task of explaining who went to war with who.  In this case, the war was started 19 years earlier by the European-Asian Alliance.  After reducing America to atomic rubble, the Euracs (as they’re called) set up their headquarters in New York.  When 2019: After the Fall of New York opens, the few radiation-scarred survivors have been reduced to living in the sewers and eating rats.  The Eurac army rides through the streets atop white horses, capturing survivors and subjecting them to terrible medical experiments.  Consider this: 2019: After The Fall of New York was an Italian-made film about evil Europeans (including, presumably, soldiers recruited from Italy) invading America.  If you ever had any doubt about how determined the Italian film industry was to appeal to American audiences, 2019: After The Fall of New York should erase them.

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Despite losing the war, there is still an American government.  The President of the Pan-American Confederacy (played by Edmund Purdom, who regularly showed in strange movies like this one and Don’t Open Til Christmas) is determined to savage what he can of American society before relocating to either Alaska or the moon.  Just in case you had any doubt that this movie was made a long time ago, the supporters of the Pan-American Confederacy are called the Confederates.  And they’re the heroes of the film…

It turns out that there is only one fertile woman left on Earth.  And the Confederate President is determined to take her to the moon to harvest her eggs and use in vitro fertilization to restart the human race.  However, she is currently in a state of hibernation in New York (which, we are told, protects her from the radiation.  That doesn’t really sound quite right but we’ll just go with it).  President Purdom wants her rescued before the Euracs track her down!

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Meanwhile, Parsifal (Michael Sopkiw) is in Nevada, where he makes his living by winning violent car races.  After his latest race, he is rewarded with a sex slave but, because he’s a good guy, he lets the slave go free.  (Before leaving, the slave does tell Parsifal about the existence of cyborgs, which is information that comes in useful later on.)  No sooner has Parsifal done his good dead then he’s grabbed by some Confederate soldiers and taken to see President Purdom.  Purdom doesn’t quite say, “I heard you were dead,” but he might as well.

Working with the one-eyed Ratchet (Roman Geer) and a bitter former academic named Bronx (Vincent Scalondro), Parsifal enters New York and tries to find the woman while staying on step ahead of the Eurac commander (Serge Feuillard).  Along the way, Parsifal gains allies like a little person named Shorty (Louis Ecclesia), a kickass warrior named Giara (Valentine Monnier), and former circus performer turned gang leader, Big Ape (George Eastman).

George Fucking Eastman

That’s right, George Eastman is in this movie.  If you know the least bit about Italian exploitation cinema, you will not be surprised when George Eastman shows up.  You also won’t be disappointed.  Eastman (whose real name is Luigi Montefiori) was a regular presence in everything from Spaghetti Westerns to grisly thrillers like Anthropophagus to flamboyant gialli like Delirium to post-apocalyptic thrillers like Raiders of Atlantis and this one.  As always, Eastman is a lot of fun to watch in the role of Big Ape.  Nobody played hulking menace with quite the flair of George Eastman at his best.

Along with Eastman, 2019: After the Fall of New York also some cult appeal because it starred Michael Sopkiw.  The handsome Sopkiw had a short film career, starring in four Italian films and working with directors like Lamberto Bava and Sergio Martino, before retiring from acting.  The briefness of his career and his backstory as a former sailor-turned-marijuana smuggler-turned-model have given Sopkiw a certain enigmatic mystique among fans of Italian exploitation.  2019: After the Fall of New York was Sopkiw’s first role and he brings a lot of enthusiasm to the role.

As directed by Sergio Martino, 2019: After The Fall of New York is full of interesting oddities that set it apart from your typical Italian post-apocalyptic thriller.  For instance, a radiation-scarred man is occasionally seen wandering through the rubble, playing a trumpet and, at one point, serving as a chorus to the action.  Another character, in a scene reminiscent of a Fulci film, has his eyes graphically ripped from their sockets and spends the rest of the film preparing for an eye transplant.  Two of Big Ape’s followers are dressed up as gorillas and Big Apes even gets a chance to show off his skills with a scimitar.  Perhaps my favorite random detail is that the Euracs do their evil plotting in front of a reproduction of Picasso’s Guernica.  It’s just so wonderfully weird.

Guernica

In fact, the whole movie is wonderfully weird.  2019: After The Fall of New York is Italian exploitation at its best!

Before the Force 2: George Lucas’ AMERICAN GRAFFITI (Universal 1973)


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amer1After the box office failure of THX-1138, George Lucas had an idea for a different kind of film. A comedy-drama based on his experiences growing up in early 1960s Modesto, California. AMERICAN GRAFFITI was the first movie produced (by Lucas’ friend Francis Ford Coppola) under his Lucasfilms banner. The new project was rejected by all the major Hollywood studios, until Universal decided to take a chance and green light the production. A wise choice, for AMERICAN GRAFFITI was one of 1973’s biggest hits, garnering Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Editing, and Supporting Actress (Candy Clark), and putting George Lucas on the map as a “Force” to be reckoned with.

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The story follows four friends on the last day of summer 1962. Steve (Ron Howard) is heading east to college, much to the displeasure of high-school sweetheart Laurie (Cindy Williams). When he tells her they should see…

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Star Trek Beyond Looks Much Faster and More Furious


Star Trek Beyond

J.J. Abrams reinvigorated the Star Trek film franchise when he did a sort of sort-reboot in 2009. It brought the franchise into the consciousness of a younger demographic who didn’t grow up as fans of the franchise both in film and the many tv series. The film was a success and Paramount made sure to strike while it was still hot and greenlit a sequel that looked to build on the strong foundation set-up by J.J. Abrams.

2013 saw that sequel come out and to say that it underwhelmed and burned much of the goodwill created with the 2009 film would be an understatement. Star Trek Into Darkness (a title derided the moment it was announced) literally took the “darkness” part of the title and ramped it up to 11. There wasn’t any of the fun and adventurous nature of the first film. It didn’t help that screenwriter’s Robert Orci’s 9/11 Truther ideology seeped into the film’s plot.

When it was announced that Robert Orci would end up directing the third film after J.J. Abrams went to go direct the latest Star Wars film, the outcry was loud and clear. Orci was a bad choice and just keeping him on would just sink a film franchise already teetering on the brink of becoming irrelevant in a blockbuster environment where superhero universes and the original blockbuster universe reigned supreme.

So, it was with some relief and cautious optimism when Paramount dumped Orci and went with Justin Lin (hot off the massive success of Fast & Furious 6) and rewrites by Simon Pegg. The franchise was going to get the fun back into the series and everyone was invited. Even the chosen title, Star Trek Beyond, spoke to a creative team who saw a chance to bring back the franchise from just being part of a fandom but for those who wouldn’t know a dilithium crystal from a Sith Lord.

The first teaser shows the fun part of what Justin Lin and Simon Pegg have been talking about. Now, will the next trailer show a much more dramatic side to the events fans are hoping will balance all the fun.

Star Trek Beyond looks to land on July 22, 2016.

Attack Of The Clones : “War Of The Robots”


Trash Film Guru

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In the distant (I’m assuming, at any rate) future, mankind stands on the verge of the greatest breakthrough of all — the completely artificial creation of life from thin fucking air. No cloning required here, folks, as the process developed by one Professor (that’s the closest thing to a first name he’s ever given) Carr (played by Jaques Herlin) just makes something — or, more specifically, someone — outta nothin’. Don’t ask me how this is supposed to actually work — and don’t ask Carr, either, because he can’t seem to explain it to either his ostensible “partner” in the project, Dr. Wilkes (Massimo Righi), or to the second-in-command scientist that he’s got the hots for, Lois (Malisa Longo). All we know is that it requires the use of a nuclear reactor — which is no big deal because Carr’s got one attached to his home/laboratory.

Unfortunately, news of…

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Sci-Fi Review: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005, directed by George Lucas)


Star_Wars_Episode_III_Revenge_of_the_Sith_posterThe year 2005 was a dark time to be a fan of Star Wars.

The first two parts of the highly anticipated prequel trilogy had been released and had left fans feeling as if millions of voices had cried out in terror and suddenly been silenced.  No sooner had fans started to recover from the trauma of The Phantom Menace then Attack of the Clones was unleashed and they were stunned to learn that a movie could be even more pointless than The Phantom Menace.

The summer of 2005 promised the release of Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith.  Fans were excited because they knew that Anakin Skywalker would finally be transformed into Darth Vader but they also knew that he would still be played by Hayden Christensen.  Many of us who went to see the movie on its opening weekend did so with low expectations and mixed feelings.

“WAR!” the opening title crawl of Revenge of the Sith declared, as if it was trying to reassure those of us in the audience that it would not be another boring Star Wars prequel.  There was nothing in the crawl about taxation or trade routes.  Instead, it was all about how the Galactic Republic was at war with separatists and how Chancellor Palpatine was being held prisoner by General Grievous.  After an exciting battle on Grievous’s flagship, Anakin not only rescued Palpatine but also decapitated Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku, despite the fact that Dooku had surrendered and was unarmed.  That’s when those of us watching knew that Revenge of the Sith was not going to be like the other two prequels.  Revenge of the Sith was going to be darker and edgier and not just for kids.  A headless Count Dooku action figure would not be sold at your local toy store.

Looking back, it is easy to forget how relieved many of us were that Revenge of the Sith was not terrible.  After the bitter disappointment of the first two prequels, we were happy that Jar Jar Binks only appeared during one shot towards the end of the film and he did not speak.  We were happy that Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman both finally got to give performances that justified casting actors of their caliber as Obi-Wan and Amidala.  We were happy that, since Anakin and Amidala were secretly married between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, we did not have to sit through any more scenes of them falling in love.  Many of us had found Hayden Christensen’s performance to be petulant in Attack of the Clones and, intentionally or not, Revenge of the Sith seemed to validate our suspicions by having both Yoda and Mace Windu say the same thing about Anakin.  After the embarrassment of Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, this was a prequel that we felt we could get behind.

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And we were really happy with the climatic battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin.  After Anakin had gone over to the dark side, he and Obi-Wan dueled on a volcanic planet.  “You were supposed to be the chosen one!” Obi-Wan shouted after chopping off Anakin’s legs.  After being left to die by Obi-Wan, Anakin was rescued by Emperor Palpatine.  It was only after being encased in that famous black armor that Palpatine told the new Darth Vader that Amidala had died.  Darth Vader’s “Nooooooooo!” would go down in history.

At the end of the film, Jimmy Smits was seen giving an infant Luke to Owen and Beru Lars and Darth Vader and the Emperor were seen standing on the bridge of an imperial ship and looking out at the skeleton of the Death Star.  For the first time since the prequels were first released, some of us applauded at the end of a Star Wars film.

When, ten years later, I rewatched Revenge of the Sith for the first time in a long while, my immediate impression was that it was nowhere close to being as good as I remembered.  Without a doubt, it was still the best of the prequels but how much was that really saying?  Of all the prequels, it came the closest to capturing the sense of awe and excitement that made the original trilogy (even Return of the Jedi) so entertaining but, at the same time, it still had many of the same flaws that afflicted Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.  Hayden Christensen was as stiff and inexpressive as ever, as was George Lucas’s dialogue.  (When Obi-Wan tells Anakin that Palpatine is evil, Anakin actually replies, “From my point of view, the Jedis are evil!”  He shouts this in the middle of a light saber duel.)  Even the movie’s most shocking moment, when Anakin murdered a group of children, was no longer effective because everyone in the movie insisted on calling the children “younglings.”

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Throughout the entire prequel ordeal, George Lucas would insist that it was necessary to see all three of the prequels to really understand the story he was trying to tell and how it fit in with the original trilogy.  However, of all the prequels, Revenge of the Sith is the only one that feels as if it adds anything to what we had already learned from watching the original trilogy.  Nor is there anything to be gained from having seen the first two prequels before watching Revenge of the Sith for the first time.  The main accomplishment of Revenge of the Sith was to prove that The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were entirely unnecessary.  (Revenge of the Sith actually works better if you have never seen Phantom Menace because there is no way that the Anakin played by Jake Lloyd could have grown up to be the Anakin played by Hayden Christensen.)

Why, when we originally watched Revenge of the Sith, did so many of us think that it was so much better than it actually was?

In the year 2005, we were just happy to have a Star Wars film that did not totally suck.

Jar