Thursday, October 27, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks - Epidemic/Pandemic/Outbreak

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Come join us by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them!

I'll be honest: movies about viral outbreaks are NOT my thing. WAY too real. I'm not much of a germophobe, but this sort of thing really makes me want to crawl up into a ball, silently rock back and forth, and never EVER leave my house.

That said, these movies are really good.

Contagion (Steven Soderbergh, 2011) Do NOT watch this movie unless you want to go through life with latex gloves and a doctor's mask on FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Seriously, this movie is SO scary - Gwyneth Paltrow contracts a cold on a business trip, except it's NOT a cold, but rather a SUPER contagious disease, and then everything goes to hell. This movie seriously feels all too real. A ridiculously starry cast is the least that this movie has to offer.

World War Z (Marc Forster, 2014) FAR better than the initial reviews would have you believe, World War Z is a terrific thriller about a United Nations investigator who has to find a way to stop a zombie pandemic. Yes, it's ridiculous, and yes it ends on a bit of an anti-climax, but its best sequences are real edge-of-your-seat, biting-your-nails, watching-through-splayed-fingers masterpieces of suspense.

Idiocracy (Mike Judge, 2006) Yes, yes, alright, fine. This TECHNICALLY doesn't have any sort of viral outbreak in it, BUT, admit it - an epidemic of stupid is kind of scarier than an outbreak of bird flu. Especially since Mike Judge's satire of American machismo and overconsumption gets more and more prescient every day.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks - Science Fiction Horror

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join the fun (and scares!) by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them.

Full disclosure: I was so caught up in the Presidential Debate last night that I completely forgot that today was Thursday. It was appropriate, though, since last night really was its own kind of horror movie, and we are devoted to things that go bump in the night this month on Thursday Movie Picks! Unfortunately, it's not science fiction, it's all too real... UNLIKE MY PICKS FOR THIS WEEK! #SeamlessTransition

My picks for this week all have something in common. Can you guess what it is?

The Invisible Man (James Whale, 1933) It's a bit of a risk casting a huge star as the lead of your movie and then keeping their face off the screen for the entire running time, but when you have a voice like that of Claude Rains, who needs a face? (And besides, this was Rains's American film debut, anyway) Rains is terrific in this, fully capturing the tension and the mania of someone being slowly driven insane by his own genius, which as resulted in a procedure that has rendered him invisible to the naked eye. The film also does a great job of capturing the feeling of HG Wells's book, equal parts funny, smart, and scary.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956) When a number of his patients appear to be suffering from Capgras delusion (the belief that their loved ones have been replaced with identical impostors), Dr. Miles Bennell at first thinks it's probably just a small case of mass hysteria. But then he and a former flame find two giant pods with exact copies of themselves growing inside. And then they start to notice that the denizens of their small California town are increasingly losing all human emotion. What is going on? Are aliens behind this? Or is it.... even worse.... COMMUNISTS?!?!? One of the foundational texts of American cinema and pop culture, Invasion of the Body Snatchers still retains all of its icky paranoid power today, despite being remade - both directly and indirectly - countless times since.

The Fly (Kurt Neumann, 1958) A brilliant scientist has perfected a transportation machine. Or so he thinks. Well, I mean, it works. It works really well, actually. But the thing is, it can really only transport one thing at a time, in one direction. "Fine," you say. "What's the problem?" Well, the problem is, a fly happened to buzz its way into one of the transportation chambers when the scientist was testing it, and... well... I think you know what happens from there. Nowhere near as visceral as David Cronenberg's '80s remake, the original is very much a product of its time, meaning it's pretty scary, a little dated, and equal parts intentionally and unintentionally funny. Oh yeah, and it stars Vincent Price.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks - Creature/Monster Features

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves, in which participants pick three films that fit the week's theme and share a bit about them. Join us! It's fun!

Halloween Month continues on Thursday Movie Picks, and this week, we're talking Creature Features. Now, for purposes of this assignment, said "creatures" may NOT include: werewolves, vampires, zombies, or aliens. So, in other words, no extraterrestrial or supernatural creepy-crawlies. OK. Let's see if we can do this....

Them! (Gordon Douglas, 1954) Probably my favorite classic '50s creature feature, Them! is the one with the giant ants. During the height of the fears of nuclear fallout following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many B-movies exploited the mood, crossing people's ordinary everyday fears with the timely fears of science. I think Them! pulls it off the best, especially since the giant ants don't look too fake. I mean, don't get me wrong, they don't look REAL, but they don't look as far away from it as you might expect. It's just a corny, cheesy, campy, good time all around!

Creature From the Black Lagoon (Jack Arnold, 1954) A fossil has been discovered in the Amazon - a possible link between man and fish. When a team goes to find the rest of the creature's skeleton, they discover that one of the creature's descendants is still alive and well - and it's coming for them! This definitely isn't the best of the classic Universal Monster Movies, but it's still fun in its way - that way that old pictures had of going "over the top" in exactly the right ways to be fun. It's a movie meant to be enjoyed with the lights off, sitting next to your date, with a big bucket of popcorn between the two of you, as you both laugh, jump, and gasp at the exact same moments.

Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984) Aw, look at that sweet little furball! Cute isn't he? He'd make a great pet, wouldn't he? There's just one slight problem.... if you get him wet, he'll multiply, and if you feed him or his offspring after midnight... well... let's just say all hell could break loose. Gremlins is hilarious fun, sending up American consumerism, dependence on technology, and old-school creature features (like my two other picks this week), and countless other things with gleeful abandon. Slightly scary and plenty funny, this is a near-perfect horror comedy, and one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks - Witches/Warlocks

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join in the fun by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them!

It's October, which means it's Halloween Month at Thursday Movie Picks! Time for the creepy, the spooky, and the scary. I have a strange relationship with horror movies - I generally don't like them, but I'm kind of fascinated by them. This week's horror is witches (and the male version, warlocks), and they can certainly be scary. But they can also be sexy and funny. Personally, my favorite witches are the Charmed Ones, but this isn't Thursday TV Picks, so let's go with these instead...

Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) It's a tale as old as time: Young beautiful American ballerina gets accepted to prestigious ballet school, discovers the school is actually a front for a coven of witches. Suspiria is legendary for its opening scene, a notoriously bloody chase through the ballet school that ends with a brutal hanging. Giallo master Argento saturates the colors throughout the film so that it's undeniably beautiful even when it gets gory, and ratchets the tension up so well that the terrible acting almost doesn't matter. But for my money, the best part of Suspiria is the score by Goblin, which will creep up and down your spine and give you shivers for days after the movie is over.

The Witches of Eastwick (George Miller, 1987) Jack Nicholson is the Devil, tempting the all-time great trio of Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Susan Sarandon into ever more sinful acts. And poor, poor Veronica Cartwright gets caught in the crossfire. As funny as it is macabre, this prime slice of '80s popular cinema is still super enjoyable thanks to its supremely watchable leads.

The Crucible (Nicholas Hytner, 1996) The belly of the beast of the Salem witch trials, exposed for all its hypocrisy in Arthur Miller's classic play. The film isn't perfect, but the script still is, and Daniel Day-Lewis and especially Joan Allen are All-Time Great as the central couple torn asunder by the machinations of a scorned teenage girl (Winona Ryder, giving a good performance hampered by Hytner's worst directorial impulses). This isn't as good a film as Miller's Great American Drama deserves, but it's still pretty good, with Allen deserving of an Oscar for her tremendous performance.