Big, Bad Mama Monster!: GORGO (MGM 1961)


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When Melanie at The Film Detective offered me the chance to watch and review GORGO for them, I immediately said yes! GORGO was one of my favorites growing up as a little Monster Kid, a Saturday afternoon staple on Boston’s Channel 56, and the opportunity to see it without all that UHF “snow” was too much to resist (and if you don’t know about The Film Detective, I’ll clue you in a bit later).

Producers Frank and Maurice King were a pair of slot machine magnates turned low-budget movie moguls who had success with 40’s films noir like WHEN STRANGES MARRY (with Robert Mitchum), DILLINGER (making a star out of Lawrence Tierney), and the Joseph H. Lewis classic GUN CRAZY . When the stateside release of Japan’s Giant Monster Movie GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS proved a hit, the Kings decided to secure the American rights to another kaiju eiga 

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The Meg, Review By Case Wright


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Yes, I know The Meg came out a while ago, but I just got it on Netflix and had a pretty good date night watching it; so, you’re going to learn about too.  The press was not kind to this film.  They used words like dumbed down, boring, and bland.  I wouldn’t put The Meg in any of those categories.  This was a high budget SyFy movie like Sharknado, but less self-aware.  As for the film, there were some legit scare moments.  My general beef is that it acted as a Chinese propaganda film.  Jason…Buddy…you don’t have to pander like that.  You’ve got abs and monster shark eating people.  Really.  Even if you want to pander, showing the Chinese flag waving gloriously not once, but twice was just over the top ass-kissing.  Just stop.

The Meg, directed by Jon Turtletaub (Jericho, Rush Hour) and written by Joe Hoeber (Battleship), is a straightforward monster movie.  A Jerk Billionaire (Rainn Wilson) funds and exploration of a deepsea cave.  The dive team investigates and voila there be dino-sharks swimmin in thar and they get trapped in the land of the lost in the briny deep. *Pirate Voice*  Hmmm, maybe this entire article should be read in a pirate voice.  Think of it as your innarrrrrrrrr monologue.  A couple of megalodons get out and only Jason Statham and his abs can stop them.  Side Note on abs: I’ve lost 65Lbs and nearly have Statham Abs.  This doesn’t really add to the review, but come on abs really didn’t add anything to stopping the megalodon, but if Statham hadn’t shown his abs you’re telling me no one would’ve been disappointed?! Really?!  REALLY?! You’re sticking with that?! Fine!

Jason (Just calling him Jason, again, come on…is anyone remembering the character’s name?!!!  You went to see it because Jason was in it…..ughhhh… Fine) ….

Jonas (Jason Statham) is down and out because he had a run in with a Kaiju earlier in his career and now he drinks beer all the time that give him abs….THAT is the only part of the movie I don’t buy and irritated me.  He should’ve been doing crossfit! I’m sorry if you have even one lousy Heineken, you are not going to look like this:

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IT’S NOT POSSIBLE! I bust my hump 6-7 days a week in the gym to get the above results and boozing is not possible if you want Statham abs!  He should be doing burpees and drinking green juice!

Anywho, Jonas decides to rescue the yellow submarine and then kill the not one, but two Megs.  There a quite a few Jaws-like death scenes.  There is even a beach scene where The Meg chows down on Chinese beach goers AND when The Meg comes in for seconds, you can see wee swimsuits in his jaws (nice touch Turtletaub, nice touch). Jonas has to pursue the Meg into the beach and kill it.  This is not a spoiler! What else would he do?!  Jonas uses some weird looking submarine and kills it with some sort of submarine knife; I honestly couldn’t tell.  It was kind of a darkly lit scene.

Addendum: There is also a minor subplot with Jonas and Suyin, but it’s too dull to discuss.  I would’ve edited her and her overly cute kid out the movie entirely.

Is The Meg worth Netflixing? Yes! It’s a monster movie. The mainstream press is just too snobby to enjoy a Sharknado or unironically watch a Lifetime MOW.  But not me! I can enjoy a creature feature!

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IO, Review By Case Wright


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New beginnings and adventure versus intimacy and connection is the theme of Netflix’s latest straight to stream scifi think piece- IO.  It makes sense that human connection is the main theme because this movie was written by a team.  Rule of thumb: if you see Writer 1 and Writer 2 that was rewritten because writer 1 kinda sucked, BUT, if you see Writer 1 & Writer 2, this was written as a creative team.  In this case, there were three writers working together: Clay Jeter, Charles Spano, & Will Basanta.  I can’t imagine how challenging that would be for a film script mostly because I’m very solitary as a writer.  I’m an extrovert in every other way, but my ideal writing space is a well-lit isolation cave.  What is impressive to me  is that Netflix took a chance on these writers because it was their first real feature.  Normally, I would make a parenthesis next to the writers’ names, but here they haven’t really done anything prior.    The director, Jonathan Helpert, has done short films, never a feature. Despite this being everyone’s first feature, they executed well and attracted some real talent to their piece: Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers) and Anthony Mackie (Captain America: Winter Soldier).

The film takes place in just two locations, has two principles, and essentially just a cameo by a third actor.  The special effects were so minimalist that it made Another Earth (Lisa’s Review) look like Star Wars.  90% of the film takes place on a campsite, 5% in an empty neighborhood, and 5% in a museum. This film really ratchets up the intimacy and nothing can make two people closer than not having any other human beings around to distract them.

At first, I thought I was in for some Al Gore environmentalist porn because the film begins with a mass exodus of humanity from earth to an outpost to IO because runaway pollution changed our air to ammonia.  Obviously, there’s not enough fabreeze in the world to get rid of that smell.  Our heroine, Sam (Margaret Qualley) is up on a mountain campsite where the air is still breathable.  She is working alone to further her father’s research to adapt bees and plants to the new atmosphere in order to make the world habitable for humans again.  She makes trips down to the city below to scavenge for parts and to finally get decent tickets to see Hamilton.  This sounds like it would be dull, but it’s totally engaging because Margaret Qualley is such a talent that she plays the claustophic loneliness so you can feel it yourself.

Sam has a REALLY long distance relationship with Elon her engineer boyfriend who is determined to find humanity a new home.  His life is in the unknown and the stars; whereas, Sam’s is one earthbound and lonely.  Her loneliness is ended with the arrival of Micah (Anthony Mackie) a much older man than she, but there are obvious sparks.  They share an interest in the humanities and mourn our lost paradise.  Micah followed Sam’s father’s advice and attempted to stay on earth and survive and adapt, but doing so cost him his wife’s life and anyone else’s who listened to him.  He spent years floating around earth on a hot air balloon, seeing humanity’s fall from above.  When Micah met Sam, their age difference, the poisoned earth, or the uncertain future didn’t matter because they made a connection and developed concern for one another.

A lot has been discussed about the quasi-ambiguous ending because I suppose people are really good at missing the point.  It never was about whether humanity retook the earth or colonized a new home beyond the stars; it was about humans rediscovering their humanity.  In fact, the last lines of the film discussed exploration, coming to where you began, and re-discovering your starting point as if it were new because it is: you have changed, you have grown, the meaning has evolved.  By the end of the film, Sam and Micah had learned that they were still human.  These connections are why we fight a Trojan War to bring our loved ones home because we are connected to them, they matter, and because we are human.  The end was not about whether she survived and lived on earth on not; it was heartbreaking because alive or dead, we knew that the roads Micah and Sam would walk would not be together.

 

The Christmas Chronicles (Dir: Clay Kaytis), Review by Case Wright


Netflix is known for taking risks and “The Christmas Chronicles” is no exception. There are six felonies in this film: 2 Grand Theft Autos, a kidnapping, money laundering, attempted murder, and whatever they did to that partridge in the pear tree.  Yet, it worked! I will admit that I am of the Y-Generation and Kurt Russell remains forever cool in my book, but this movie had some good story writing, great acting from veterans like Kurt Russell and Stevie Van Zandt, but great performances by up and comers Judah Lewis (The Babysitter) and Darby Camp (Big Little Lies) as well.

Clay Kaytis had his directorial debut with this film.  He is famous for being an animator for a panoply of films that you have taken your daughters to see: Frozen, Tangled, and Mulan…etc.  Clay was a pretty good choice considering the amount of animation that is in this film.  Honestly, it was a family movie that would have been a HUGE box office draw.

The film begins with a series of home movies featuring a classic nuclear family enjoying Christmas over the years…until 2017.  We learn that the father was a fireman who lost his life saving a family, leaving his family grieving and without the spirit of Christmas.  The mom is now taking extra shifts as a nurse, the daughter is REALLY into Santa, and the son is now a no-kidding degenerate car thief.  There are enough dark scenes in this film to classify it as Film Noir.

The family is trying to live as best they can and the daughter Kate is trying to reconnect with the memory of her late father by watching old home movies.  In one of the films, she sees a mystery arm delivering a package.  She convinces her brother that it could be Santa in the film and they decide to set a trap for him…..and IT WORKS!!! Not only do they catch Santa on film, they stow away onto his sleigh and cause Santa to crash.  He loses his sleigh, reindeer, bag of toys, and his magic hat.  The main ticking clock for the film is that Santa needs to get his presents delivered before christmas is up or christmas spirit will tick down to zero and it will be like the Hills Have Eyes or something.  The rest of the film is spent helping Santa retrieve these lost items and busting Santa out of jail to prevent the After Times.

And yes, Santa ends up in jail, charged with multiple felonies, and does a pretty amazing blues number with the E Street Band.  Yes, the E Street Band.  I know that a lot of this movie is starting to sound like a Christmas fever dream, but it works and my 7 and 9 year old girls were riveted and didn’t hurt each other for the duration of the film.  Thank you, Clay Kaytis…THANK YOU!

I would recommend this film and for you to subscribe to Netflix.  Otherwise, how will you understand half of my reviews?!!!!!

Merry Christmas!

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Through The Mirror, Review by Case Wright


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Happy Horrorthon!!! We are back in the eeeeeeeeevil Star Trek universe! Why is it evil? Obviously, it’s because they have beards and follow strict capitalist principles with a healthy dose of militarism.

Before I get into the story, I want to write that David and Scott Tipton do a good job of not having the mirror universe characters seeing themselves as villains.  This may seem obvious, but it’s actually very common – especially in comics.  For example, Stan Lee once had Magneto lead a group of mutants with the moniker of Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  I get that the X-Men thought they were evil, but why would Magneto?

This volume: Through the Mirror brings our Mirror Universe to the Next Generation universe our youth for supplies and plunder.  Bearded Picard is faced with blockades from rival species in his universe and needs materiel and plunder to fuel his war machine in order to bring the Terran Empire back to its former glory before Emperor Spock made them go all drum-circle kumbaya…bleh.

My main complaint with the Volume Two is actually in the first installment.  It opens with Worf investigating the theft of precious minerals from a mining colony in the “good universe”.  He sees the thief and nearly catches him.  This is a recurring issue with volume 2; the story should be only from the perspective of the mirror universe characters.  There is simply too much of the “good universe”.  They also have the “Good Universe” find an Andorian Ship that has been attacked by Evil Picard after the fact.  WHY?  Show us the Evil Planning, Show us the Pirate Picard attack, Show us why they believe they are justified.  We bought the book; therefore, we are invested in these anti-heroes.   The story could be great if we just get to bathe in their villany.  Don’t judge them.  This is their code.  This is their society.  They don’t see themselves as evil and neither should we.  We can only judge them as evil if they violate their own code of morality not ours.  This isn’t our universe.  The good universe should be treated like MSG a little is … ok… too much and you vomit.

Back to the story, Pirate Picard lures the good enterprise into a trap, hoping to seize it.  They fail, but they failed too much.  It should’ve been more of a draw with a push to the evil universe. Scott and David – the evil guys are your heroes.  They need to win at least a bit.  You can have a close game, but don’t have them get their ass kicked because it makes it too much of a Good Next Gen story.  The other knock is that they left Evil Barclay behind, dragging us back unnecessarily into the good universe.  You are thwarting them waaaaay too much.

It’s time for Evil Picard to kick some ass, but it in a good way.  Is it just for wealth for Pirate Picard?  I don’t think so.  In this universe, the Terrans see themselves as Superior like the British or Roman Empire.  Therefore, when the Klingons and Cardassians took back a lot of the Empire they likely took many Human captives as slaves.  This must be disgustingly unacceptable to Pirate Picard or any Terran Empire member.  Have them liberate a planet, rescuing Human captives.  From their perspective, they are not only NOT EVIL, but good because they are reasserting rightful human dominance to their universe.   If you have to, make some propaganda posters with Pirate Picard.  Make it personal for Pirate Picard.  Maybe Picard’s brother joined the fleet and was captured?  Make it personal! Go for it!  Have Pirate Picard risk it all: mutiny, the ship, the Terran Empire to liberate and rescue his brother and nephew Robert.  It would be epic!!!!! You have an unending depth that you can give Pirate Picard.  Give him his version of humanity.

This volume was ok, but they are not fulfilling some great story potential here.   This could be a great way to reboot the series.  Just remember: They Don’t Consider Themselves Evil.

 

Creeped Out, S1E1, Marti, Review by Case Wright


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Creeped Out is a Netflix release that really isn’t.  I have noticed that Netflix will call something an original series even though they just bought the rights.  This show was originally produced by CBBC, explaining why the second episode has very hard to understand British accents.  I checked Bruce McDonald’s IMDB and yes…he’s english and wrote for the Eastenders.  Eastenders or EastEnders (sp?) is show that I believe is about poor people in London or something…I’m not investigating anymore than that.

I watched the first episode Marti with my girls (7,9).  They were quite scared by the opening and one other scene that I will get to later.  The show is a lot like the 90s show The Outer Limits.  It has a lot of spooky and technology themes that teach a morality or cautionary tale.  I was primed to like this show because I loved the Outer Limits and one of the writers is really nice: Melinda Snodgrass (follow her on twitter).

The story opens with Kim.  Kim is a pretty girl in high school who none of the boys pay attention to because that actually happens in real life.  She has nerdy friend that also is a pariah for no particular reason.  Kim is forced to hang out with her loser friend and pine for a boy who looks like Justin Bieber.  She gets a new phone and pays for it somehow.  This phone is indestructible and self-aware.

The phone’s AI calls himself Marti.  Marti is really really creepy.  He works autonomously to make Kim popular and succeeds.  Kim gets the attention of the cool kids, including Bieber.  Just when Bieber is about to go out with her, in true Lifetime MOW fashion, Marti reveals himself to be a jealous psycho boyfriend.  He threatens to destroy Kim’s new found popularity unless she agrees to be only his.  YIKES.  When Kim gets fed up, she tries to destroy the phone, it doesn’t work.  Kim tries to call customer service and a woman answer who slowly takes Marti’s side.  Then, the voice switched to Marti’s voice and my daughters both screamed.  They didn’t understand why fully it was so scary, but I finished the show alone.

Marti blackmails Kim to take him to the prom and she agrees.  It’s really creepy.  She eventually defeats Marti, but he destroys her popularity.  She entombs Marti in cement, but then considers releasing him six months later because she really liked being popular.

The show had a real Outer Limits vibe and played upon human weakness and need to be loved.  There’s always been the morality tale of giving up your soul for fame, but this is more basic.  Kim wants to be loved and our technology has never made us more isolated from real love.  Marti’s popularity is twitter popularity: fake.  Marti gave her multiple friendships that were ended as quickly as they began like muting or blocking someone.  On the other hand, Kim’s nerdy friend took the good with the bad and continued to love Kim.  It spoke to dependence and isolation because of technology and our total dependence upon instant love.

 

“How It Ends” A Netflix Film Reviewed By Case Wright – Some Spoilers


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How It Ends is a horror/thriller from Netflix and if you don’t watch, Netflix will probably make you.  The story begins with Will, an up and coming lawyer who is seeing the ultrasound of his soon to be son with beloved Samantha. Will is sweet, but the least manly man to ever unmanly.  He’s wound tight, nervous, and hyper-insecure.  Will needs to get Sam’s father Tom (Forest Whitaker) to give his blessing so Will and Sam can wed.  Will flies from the greatest city on Earth- Seattle to a totally ok City of Chicago to see Tom.

We meet Tom and his wife.  Tom is everything Sam is not.  Tom was a career Marine, manly, confident, and determined.  During the dinner, Tom does everything, but say to Will- You are a wimpy worthless un-man. Tom’s response is both whiny and defensive.  It’s just all kinds of awful.  Then, the power goes out nationwide with F-22s buzzing around Chicago AND all communications are down as well nationwide.  Tom asks if Will rise to the occasion and road trip to Seattle to find/rescue Sam.

I know, I know… this sounds like Taken et al, but it’s not.  It becomes a Father (in-Law) and Son survival story and we watch Will become a Man.  They leave in Tom’s Cadillac and hit the road to Seattle.  Immediately, they find that they cannot stay on the main roads to get there because rednecks try to steal their car at the first rest stop and then an escaped convict tries to murder them.  This is within the first half hour of this very action packed show and we still don’t know what caused the catastrophe.  We get hints, but it’s not Aliens …. I don’t think.  Frankly, I’m still not totally sure of all of the details of the disaster even now.

They decide to stay off the main roads and team up with a teen who has mechanical skills.  Along the way, people are trying to murder them for gas and supplies.  The teen that goes with them becomes part of Will and Tom tribe for a short time and has to kill to protect her new tribe.  Unfortunately, this is too much for the teenager to accept and she abandons Will and Tom to find her way forward alone.  It’s a very accurate depiction of societal breakdown.  During Katrina, towns setup armed checkpoints to prevent looting and mayhem.  I had friends in Mississippi during Katrina and they did exactly that.  They needed to shut ingress and egress from their communities to survive and they did so.  The communities acted like a tribe would.

Will has to learn how to shoot, drive and shoot, do a chest-tube, read people, give up trust, and murder.  We watch him change from a spineless nerd to a confident leader who will readily kill to protect his tribe.  During Will’s transformation, the tribal bond between Will and Tom becomes as strong as steel.   It’s a story that gets to the very foundation of what family does and what it means to be part of a tribe.  The moment the lights go out, we will go from Facebook likes to being real tribal humans again.

When Will gets to Seattle, it’s heartbreaking.  Seattle is totally destroyed….sniff.  It just gets you. Even the Clink…The Home of my Beloved Seahawks is gone.  THE PAIN, THE PAIN!  It’s like 2015 all over again! Will’s beloved is gone, but she left a note for her coordinates.  Therefore, Will has to go back on the road to find her and save her from whomever.

Will finds Sam with a neighbor Randy who is at his mountain lodge getaway.  Randy is the epitome of our current society. He is a wealthy-techie-know-it-all-socially-awkward-creep who thinks that all of his thoughts are facts.  He believes that in this new society he will continue to be on top and he tries to take Sam as his own.  Not so fast, the world has changed- sorry the power was down forever so no more facebook updates for you.  Life has reverted back to a tribe-based system and Randy is left behind literally into dust.

I would recommend this film because it has tremendous suspense and dares to show us what we’ve lost trading our friendships for likes and retweets.  You never really know what caused the disaster because that is not the story.  The story is about the immediate reemergence of tribal life and how it enables people to determine rapidly who is a friend and who is a foe.  In essence, the film challenges us to see a possible positive to this new reality.  People are closer and snakes like Randy are easily identified and remedied for the good of the tribe.  We still survive, but we have to do it as human beings.