Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Movie Review for Rikalonius

AMC has been doing its Friday the 13th marathon yesterday and today.  I am always interested in which films get shown and which ones get missed, usually because a network only owns rights to show or copies of certain films.  I don't think you ever get a smooth start to finish on any network.
My favorite is part 6.

Well, since you asked, Part 6, subtitled Jason Lives was the beginning of the second cycle of the F13 franchise and really codified so much of what the fanbase thinks of when they think of F13 films, indeed what those who deride the films sight unseen think of them as well.  The film is a monster movie, plain and simple.  The original slasher formula was discarded in favor of a classic monster movie.  Echoes of Revenge of the Creature, the first of the sequels to Creature from the Black Lagoon can be seen in Jason Lives.  If  you've never seen Revenge of the Creature you should.  It is a real treat.  So often we have implied power in the monster films.  We believe Frankenstein to be very strong but when we get to see it that is another matter.  In Revenge the Gillman goes on a land rampage that results in his flipping over cars, among other things.  The suggested great power of this perfectly adapted aquatic monster is shown in no uncertain terms in the sequel.  The same can be said of Jason Lives.  The director looked at the script and told the producers he wanted to do it as a comedy.  The producers told him he could on the one condition that he was not allowed to make fun of Jason.  So he plays Jason straight, and then has fun with the picture and it works.  Once upon a time I would have told you that Jason Goes to Hell: the Final Friday was my favorite, and it still rates highly with me, but Jason Lives currently holds the top spot.
When I say it is the beginning of the second cycle of the F13 franchise, I might need to qualify that.
Friday the 13th was not supposed to have any sequels.  The first film was made in 1979 and released in 1980 by Sean Cunningham as a potboiler.  It was a suspenseful film with a fair amount of gore (there had been gorier films in the past, however) and fit the "slasher" paradigm. (Some say it codified the paradigm)  The film made scads of money and Paramount wanted a sequel.  The original backstory was retooled in the classic fashion to tell us that young Jason Voorhees did not die in Crystal Lake, but instead grew up in the woods, a wild man, and witnessed the beheading of his mother.  This legend is delivered around the campfire in the fashion of a classic campfire tale because that is the origin of the whole story.  Jason would become the killer for the 3 sequels that followed the original until his demise at the hands of Corey Feldman in F13 pt 4 The Final Chapter.
This marks the end of the first cycle.  F13 pt 5 was a bit problematic.  I can't say, properly, where to put it.  Paramount sort of pulled a Halloween III Season of the Witch moving the plot and characters away from Crystal Lake, but keeping a character from the previous film, providing a new copycat killer masquerading as Jason V. and suggesting that Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman from Pt 4, now in his late teens) would inherit the role of Jason due to being driven bonkers by his experiences with Jason.  It was called A New Beginning and it might have been but the box office returns suggested that the fans weren't happy.*  F13 pt 5 was trying to start the second cycle, its subtitle makes that clear, but it proved a false start.  Thus it was Jason Lives that started the second cycle.  The second cycle of F13 featured a reanimated/undead Jason Voorhees, brought back to a semblance of life by a bolt of lightning.  No more the backwoods stalker-killer, Jason had become a true monster.  Much of his rage, formerly directed at people that invaded his territory, the woods of Crystal Lake, was now directed at anything that moved anywhere near him.  No longer was he hiding his deformed face out of shame and systematic abuse, now he seemed to be completely comfortable with his role as a destroyer of life for its own sake.  As I said, monster Jason.  Where in previous films Jason's face reveal would show a basic look that varied with make-up artists, now he was a rotting beast of exposed bones and part of the makeup was to make him more rotted and more monstrous.  The supernatural had officially arrived to the series, and none too soon given the popular horror films of the second half of the 80s (e.g. Nightmare on Elm Street films, The Lost Boys).  In previous films Jason is often in hiding and then people come into his orbit, but as of 6 Jason keeps getting "put to sleep" so to speak.  Going undead dormant like Dracula with a stake, only to be revived when the stake is removed to kill again.  The second cycle also has the hallmark of cartoon violence.  This goes with Jason as a monster, his increased strength and durability and so on.  While a creative kill was always important to the series, the Jason of the second cycle performed stunts that never would have been attempted in the more "realistic" first cycle, such as picking up a person in a sleeping bag and beating them to death by swinging them into a tree.  Jason Lives is thus the high point of the whole franchise, being the first time monster Jason appears, and being a monster movie, and it would never be that good again.  Per the Wiki it was the lowest grossing of the films, but a fan favorite, and pre-figured Craven's much celebrated Scream for its use of meta-humor, fourth wall breaking, and combination of horror with action.
Sometimes they show F13pt6 and sometimes they don't.  I think it is always better when they do.  After all if you are going to give them the worst (Jason Takes Manhattan) you should give them the best as well.

*To be fair the slasher genre had already peaked and was in decline when F13 pt V was released in 1985.  The spectacular box office of 1984's A Nightmare On Elm Street had brought the supernatural back into the horror genre, where it had been largely absent for years.  Halloween's unpopular H3:SotW in 1982 meant that the Halloween series would remain silent for 6 years before Michael Myers and Sam Loomis would be resurrected along with the franchise.  Thus since the slasher genre was already in decline, it might be a bit unfair to say that the change in direction of F13 pt V was solely the reason for its failure.

Aliens and Halloween: Transition to Something Spooky

Halloween is about the spooky.  Combining space and spooky is not that hard, really.  Aliens grabbing your face and implanting their spawn into your chest cavity is not a light-hearted concept.  Okay, Mel Brooks played it for the funny in Spaceballs.  You got me.  John Carpenter, however, played it straight when he did his film adaptation of Joseph Campbell's Who Goes There? as The Thing and that is classic horror and paranoia.  A creature able to perfectly imitate any lifeform it ingests and has advanced technology and knowledge far beyond human levels is the stuff of (wonderful) nightmares.  Who can you trust?  Can you trust yourself?
But an awesome costume that does not make.  Just showing up to the party in an anorak and a beard wearing a sombrero (you, not the beard, obviously) and telling people that you are R.J. MacReady does not really sell the Halloween vibe.
Zombies sell the Halloween vibe.  I hate it, but it is true.  (Look, I'm 98% sick of zombies)
Now space zombies can be done a variety of ways.  You can get a NASA astronaut costume and some zombie make-up and go wild.  Essentially zombies are people that get zombiefied.  So any walk of life costume can be converted into a zombie costume with a little effort.  Of course if you just put on zombie make-up and a space suit you are not going to win any prizes.
There is, however, a commercially available space zombie costume that does get my approval.
Mr. Chekhov make your heading for the Lucas Quadrant.
Mr. Sulu, screen please.
"This sort of shit never happens in our Utopian future stories."
Thank you.  Aaaahhh...shit...Detailed Scan, quickly!

Death Trooper.  According to Mr. Spock the entire concept of a zombie, much less a zombie Storm Trooper, is highly illogical.  That dead organic tissues can be reanimated to such an extent that the entity will be able to function in a semblance of life, ambulatory and capable of limited fine-motor skills, is found only in the ancient Earth superstition of Voodoo and rampant fanboyism.  McCoy tells me that the half-breed is so bound by logic that he can't accept what he sees right in front of him, which is an ambulatory dead man wearing aesthetically creepy armor.
Death Troopers come from the 2009 novel Deathtroopers by Joe Schreiber and represent the first (to my knowledge) fusion of two insanely (but inexplicably) popular pop culture concepts: zombies and Star Wars.  People seem to love Star Wars and a large number of those same people love zombies.  So zombie Storm Trooper.  It's pretty much what it looks like.  It is a great Halloween concept for combining Sci-Fi and Horror though.

Assessment: Those shoes just don't work.  I like the look otherwise.  Stormtroopers started off as the frightening faceless enforcement power of the Empire's iron will but quickly degenerated into the Keystone Cops of space fiction.  Is a zombie Stormtrooper the cure for such an ill?
Probably not given how piss easy it is to kill zombies.

Stay tuned as we continue to explore Lucas Space, now proudly brought to you by the world's wealthiest anthropomorphic rodent.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Aliens and Halloween: Space Cowboy

Alien species help to define the science fiction genre in the same way that elves and dwarfs help to define the fantasy genre.  In a sci-fi work the aliens can be enemy monsters, helpful companions, or remote observers, just to categorize a few options.  With a few exceptions, however, the heroes of the works are humans.  Thus the aliens provide the trappings for the setting more than actual content.  In Star Wars Lucas put the aliens on display at the Mos Eisley cantina but outside of that scene we really only have Chewbacca to provide the alien flavor.  The fans latched onto those aliens, aided by Kenner action figures, and fans being what they are, they spun an Expanded Universe of tales about those aliens.  This is the sort of obsessive behavior the sci-fi and fantasy fans are known for displaying.
As previously touched upon, the standard for the genre is to assume that all members of a species are alike until proven otherwise.  All Bith love music and make great musicians.  All Wookies are poor losers.  So on.  To some degree these stereotypes are why we love the aliens so much, but then it is in our nature to play with the stereotypes to develop more cool characters.

Details, please.

This should be one of the coolest things to ever come out of a Star Wars property.  Cad Bane, space gun-slinging bounty hunter just annoys me all to Hell.

Assessment: Maybe Star Wars is a big sandbox for us all to play in (until the big bearded kid kicks down the castles and takes away your pail and shovel) but this Clint Eastwood-Duros-With-No-Name wannabe just doesn't fit.  There might have been a time when he did, but that was before the whole thing became about Jedis and Sith all the damn time.  Cad Bane appeals to the kiddies, but then one is left to wonder why given that the Western in general, and Clint Eastwood's spaghetti westerns in particular, are not relevant to a modern young audience.
As Mr. Spock would say, "This individual demonstrates belligerent behavior and an alarming lack of regard for the law."  Or the law of fashion, Spock.  I mean it.  What the hell are those things on his cheeks?  I've seen plenty of Duros before and he's the first with cheek pipes.  Damn, Lucas, you suck.

Stay tuned for more aliens and Halloween fun.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Aliens and Halloween: Nebula of the Undead

As everyone knows, vampires are a firmly entrenched part of Halloween.  Indeed they are a firmly entrenched part of American culture as a whole.  There has a been a television series on the air featuring vampires for almost twenty years now.  If one ends another will start or have started recently to keep the disease going.  The ubiquitous nature of these blood-sucking fiends means that even outer space is not free from their undead taint.
That looks awfully familiar.  Detailed scan!

Just what I thought: Space Nosferatu.
Space Vampires are nothing new.  From Planet of the Vampires to Lifeforce to the Necroscope series, the idea of the vampire as an alien entity has been explored with varying degrees of success.  Given the amount of unfiltered cosmic rays in space I would imagine being a space vampire is like being a slug in a salt mine, but what do I know?
Regardless the idea here is that vampires, including the kind that suck energy instead of blood, (which is not really much of a vampire is it?  I'm being pedantic here, I know) have been seen in science fiction for a number of years.  Aliens can be pretty frightening.  Vampires should be pretty frightening.  Alien vampires therefore should be at least twice as frightening.

Assessment: All vampires suck and must be destroyed, so why should alien Nosferatu be an exception?  There is no coming in peace here.  Even if, say, he comes from a planet where he is the native intelligent life form and they all drink blood instead of water that's still a problem to be dealt with using the tried and true methods.  What is the probability that we scan this guy and find out that he's not the native inhabitant of his planet but indeed one of the natives infected with the Vampire Virus.  Because once you go sci-fi you start labeling supernatural things as virus or mutant and take all the magic out of it.  Next thing you know things are sparkling and it's all a big mess.  I'm betting that a death ray set to full power will toast this guy up just as quickly as a stake through the heart.  
He does have the robe and high collar look, so I suppose he might just be an alien and not a Space Nosferatu.  On the other hand...
Computer, enhance segment beta 2, beta 3, gamma 2, gamma 3.
Ha!  There is no way in Space Hell that is not a vampire.
Just look at that sucker.  Let me see, let me see, Prime Directive...here it is: No identification of self or mission.  No interference with the social development of said planet.  No references to space or the fact that there are other worlds or civilizations.
Not much help there.  But it doesn't specifically say we can't blast this sucker out of existence and since he hailed us that means that...sod it!  SET PHASERS TO STAKE!  FULL POWER!

That was close.  Come back soon for more useful information. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Aliens and Halloween: BIB

Beings In Black.
The general assumption when dealing with aliens is that they are either monstrous killing machines that have no intergalactic technology (the kind that hitch rides on meteors or you meet when you visit an uncharted planet) or they are highly advanced entities beyond our understanding.  Yet we always manage to defeat them.  Because we are awesome.
However we should consider that the alien killing machine, when encountered in its own environment, is just a normal animal native to that world.  Imagine you are a Grey and you land in the African savanna and meet some lions.  Holy space crap!  They have giant teeth and claws!  They move at blinding speeds and cannot be reasoned with!  Get to the saucer!  Get to the saucer!
These definitely aren't the complacent mooing Terrans we are accustomed to dealing with.
That's what it is like to meet the monster aliens.  They are the roaches, lions, deer, cows, platypuses and so on of their worlds.
Now the second type, being the highly advanced type, are probably like us.  By that I mean that any truly advanced civilization will have a staggering variety of personalities present in its population.
One of the big failings of science fiction is the idea of homogeneity among all beings save Earthlings.  All Vulcans are logical.  All Klingons are proud warriors.  And so on.  From a literary perspective this is fine in the short run as these are merely allegories but in long term cases, such as a long running series or series of novels (and comic books) we have to explore and accept the notion that any advanced species with civilization and culture will have its criminals, its aberrant members, its greedy plunderers, its hippies, its politicans and its working Joes.  Just like us.
Captain, what's that on the screen?  
"Just out for a little ride, I take it?  I'm going to need to see your license to operate a starship and your cargo manifest."
Can we see a detailed scan, please?

Standard Type 1: Grey but this one is green.  We should not confuse it with the saurian breeds for this is definitely not of that lizard variety.  Indeed these are the guys from Mars that left Mars long ago after an unfortunate incident involving an atomic reactor, two Martian dolphins and a cotton candy machine.  Fleeing from Mars they determined that no other sentient species should ever have to suffer a similar fate.  Rather than go on an anti-nuke crusade or send nanobots to planets to try to get them to recycle the Race Formerly Known As Martians decided to take more practical steps.  There are few problems that a smart suit and a Flenobian Death Ray won't solve in short order.

Assessment: The RFKAM are-

Desist, Earthman.

I beg your pardon-

Begging will do you no good.  You do not assess.  You have not the qualifications to assess.  We assess.  Since the day when we shed our Corinthian helmets and pteruges we have been as far beyond your race as you claim to be beyond your Earth canines.  Your presence in this sector is not authorized by the Intergalactic Enforcement Council Code 11789321998933432 Zeta-

Intra-Galactic.  Let's be honest.  The galaxy is big and so far my investigations have not gotten out of it.  You Riffkam types can't possibly have left the galactic boundaries yourselves and even if you have this council has no authority outside of it.  You have no member systems outside of the Milky Way.

Shut up, Earthbeing.  Turn this ship around and get the Spacehell out of here before I run you all in for resisting a Galactic Peace Officer.
Next topic there, Space Ace.

Well, you heard the, um...man?  Tune in next time for more helpful information.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why Fantasy Is NOT My Preferred Genre

Roscoe the Flannel, the 12th level wizard, stood with his party on the third level of the dungeons of the mad lich Krendlezeit.  The party consisted of Nanoc the barbarian warrior from the Hellblasted Hills, Sister Chastity the cleric, and Scroat the rogue.  The first two levels had been troublesome with Scroat having to use his considerable skills to disarm many a deadly trap and Nanoc nearly entering his special bersarker rage twice when the opponents had come just a little too thickly for tactical comfort.  Sister Chastity had used many a prayer to her patron goddess, Treetits Mossbush, to save Nanoc's life and now they were, exhausted but undaunted, staring at yet another locked door inside the third level, moving ever downward.

"I've got this, chums," declared Scroat.  He pulled out his magical thieve's tools and began to work on the lock.

Nanoc had little patience for the finer points of dungeon delving, preferring instead the smell of blood, the sounds of battle, or the froth of ale served by full-breasted and pliable wenches.  Sister Chastity flipped her cloak back to catch a cooling draft, exposing the metal plate cups of her brassiere, the sacred navel ring glinting as her bare midriff caught the light of the torch she held.

There was a loud click.

"I got it!" Scroat yelled.

Without warning a dozen Ogre-kin warriors appeared from the darkness.

"Battle!" Nanoc bellowed as he rushed headlong toward the enemy, foam flecking his manly lips.

I hate my fucking life, Roscoe thought.

The End

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Aliens and Halloween: How Uncanny My Valley

"We've received a hailing frequency."
Thank you, Mr. Sulu.  Please bring up the visual.
"Men, I think it's a she."
What the f...
Let's risk a detailed scan.

Well this is an interesting development.  I would say our subject is a Type 1: Grey, but honestly, she's blue.  She is also noticeably a "she".  Unless, that is, on subject's planet males have rounded hips and breasts.
Here's the thing about breasts.  Breasts are a mammalian characteristic.  Mammals are endothermic across the board, but then so are birds.  Mammals have hair, they have highly developed brains, four chambered hearts and most, but not all, are placental.  Of all of these things I want to stress that mammals have mammary glands.  It sort of defines the name.  It is common in science fiction, well soft science fiction, to have all manner of aliens that are clearly of a non-mammalian origin (like Mon Calimari and Rodians and such) sporting knockers.  Adipose tissue in the pectoral region of sometimes inconvenient dimensions.  In short: breasts.  Either science is dead wrong about what breasts are and for what purpose they developed or science fiction fans are a disturbing lot.
You decide.
I digress and so back to our subject.  She (let's go with that) seems to be of an advanced mammalian, possibly related to humanoids, species.  Her blue skin and green-tinted eyes tell us she comes from a planet with a blue star or similar.  The lack of visible body hair only heightens the massive cranium which stands out from the otherwise human proportioned torso and limbs.  We can be assured that the larger cranium denotes greater intelligence by observing the much smaller upturned collar.  Fashion sense is, after all, a key signifier of actual intelligence.  Again we see robes, common to aliens that are not bred for war and out to eat your face and implant eggs in your intenstines but these have a certain old world charm.  Or maybe she's wearing an evening gown or we've interrupted her as she prepares for a function and that's a dressing gown.  Thinking and seeing are the hallmarks of what makes our species so successful, so we must assume that Type 1 aliens, having bigger eyes and bigger brains are ultra-successful at all the things we are.

Assessment: Probably harmless.  I don't think you are in for a probe any time soon, but maybe.  The probablem with a truly advanced species is that they can be very reasonable, like humans, and then they can be very irrational, like humans.  If they are truly so advanced as to see us as we see lower animals on our planet then you are probably in for some sort of scientific experimentation.  Of course I assume aliens have their own version of PETA and Greenpeace, so no doubt there's a few that are screaming "Save the Terrans!", so you might get lucky there.  And of course among humans there are those that like animals and then there are those that like like animals.
Follow me?

Warp back soon for more alien identification.