Tag Archives: Terminator

Color Out of Space

23 Jan

‘Color Out of Space’: It’s classic Lovecraft updated with classic Nicolas Cage freakout

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If you were tickled pink by Nicolas Cage doing his goofball gonzo best in the bloody revenge thriller “Mandy” in 2018, sharpen your knives for another foray into the freaky with some genuinely glorious hambone-gnawing moments. In this adaption of H.P. Lovecraft’s favorite story, “Colour Out of Space” – which has had several cinematic spins, including “Die, Monster, Die!” back in 1965 starring Boris Karloff – Cage plays Nathan Gardner, trying to live off the grid in the farmhouse he grew up in under the thumb of a controlling patriarch.

The pursuit of Eden (in the fictional town of Arkham, which Lovecraft situated in our fair state and used often in his tales, though the film’s not shot here) doesn’t last long. Nathan’s attempt at growing tomatoes isn’t going so well – he’s a Gardner who can’t garden – though his alpaca endeavor seems to be doing marginally better. Then there’s Nathan’s wife, Theresa (Joely Richardson) who’s wildly unhappy with the spotty Wi-Fi and can’t work, while their daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) practices Wiccan rituals in the woods.  Rounding out the nuclear-plus clan are big brother Benny (Brendan Meyer) who gets stoned while tending to the woolly creatures in the barn and the youngest, little Jack (Julian Hilliard), something of  mama’s boy who becomes drawn to the voices he hears in the old well out front.

Things get really weird after an electrical storm drops a meteor in the front yard. The anemic tomatoes suddenly grow plump and large – but taste like crap – while fuchsia mushrooms crop up and a large technicolor dragonfly bemuses Jack. It’s all a wonderment, until the dog goes missing and mom goes into a hypnotic trance while paring vegetables in the pantry – the scene is the edgiest moment in the film and one that’ll have you wincing before anything goes wrong. Turns out the meteor’s an alien invasion of sorts that’s transported a “color” here to contaminate the water supply, mutating/possessing those who quaff it. Watching Nathan pull a clingy jellyfish creature from the shower drain will give you as many second thoughts about entering the bathroom as “Psycho” (1960) did.

Things work their way into John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982) territory. Tommy Chong pops up as the tripped-out hippie down the lane and the small-town cops are late to the game as Cage’s Nathan starts to do his very best Jack Torrance. You want to say you’ve seen it all before, but you have to remember Lovecraft was a contemporary of H.G. Wells, penning tales of the outré long before Stephen King was in diapers or John W. Campbell cooked up “Who Goes There?” (the basis for “The Thing”). The film also marks something of a comeback for director Richard Stanley, who, after coming to notoriety for his 1990 “Terminator”-esque thriller “Hardware” had a nasty fall when given a chance to helm a passion project, “The Island of Doctor Moreau” in the mid-90s. Yes, the one based on Wells’ book and starring Brando and Val Kilmer – and from which he was fired and replaced a week or so into principal photography, after a litany of production problems forming a rich narrative in its own right). Since then Stanley made a series of documentaries, including “The White Darkness” (2002) about voodoo and, more recently, returned to genre with a segment of the horror anthology “The Theatre Bizarre” (2013). “Color Out of Space” sets Stanley comfortably back where he started. The film looks far more polished than its modest $6 million budget. it’s not fully consistent or narratively clear, but it is a ghoulish pleasure to see Cage ditch his ho-hum dad and dive into the lunatic fringe.

Upgrade

5 Jun

‘Upgrade’: Victim of attack has a question: ‘Siri, how do I get my gruesome revenge?’

 

The name Logan Marshall-Green might not ring a bell immediately; he played the first scientist in Ridley Scott’s “Alien” reboot, “Prometheus” (2013) affected by the alien, his eyes going black and turning into something of a berserker before getting torched by a flamethrower and run over by a bus. Seeing “Upgrade,” a sci-fi take by longtime “Saw” collaborator Leigh Whannell (working with James Wan), it seems these are desirable acting skills, as rough, good-looking Marshall-Green plays another intrepid protagonist similarly subjected to violent torment and put through a nasty physical transformation. The good news for his Grey Trace is that the brutal smackdown happens upfront in this film; then it’s time for the upgraded Grey to lay down his own brand of ass-kicking.

Set in the near future where driverless cars are the norm and criminals and vagrants roam the littered cityscape, Grey and his wife are beset upon in a vehicle that goes way off course. It doesn’t end well – she’s dead; he might as well be. A few days later Grey’s up, learning to walk again, a super computer chip implanted in his head to help make all connections to the nerves that make him go. He also hears voices in his head: his own personal Siri, that, if Grey grants permission to take control, can use his body in lightning-fast ways. In short, he becomes his own personal “Terminator” on the trail of getting revenge on the posse of vermin who offed his wife. 

Natch, there’s a fly in the ointment – corporate espionage, bottom lines and more that drive the bigger picture, and themes right out of “Frankenstein” or “Blade Runner” (1982) – but it’s all a device for Grey to tap into his inner HAL and hack up henchmen, some of whom have guns implanted in their arms; one who can sneeze deadly spores.

In the end, the clear borrowing from the great, snarky original 1987 “RoboCop” (near-future cityscape and all) almost overpowers “Upgrade.” It’s not nearly as sharp or socially biting, but does have a fresh, whimsical take on tomorrow – “Her” (2013) on crack and very angry. Whannell could have played the camp angle for more; as is, the dark and violent approach works largely thanks to Marshall-Green selling his wonder and horror so effectively. Besides genre fans, “Upgrade” is likely to prove a fun, forgettable watch, more a reboot than the next version.

Terminator Genisys

2 Jul

“I’m old, but not obsolete,” is the new Arnold Schwarzenegger zinger in the “Terminator” franchise reboot, “Terminator Genisys.” “I’ll be back” gets recycled too, and there’s plenty of logic for the aged Schwarzenegger terminator – now affectionately called “Pops” – being gray and wrinkled (his external covering goes like ours). He even gets to confront the young, buff, naked Arnold, so sleek and intimidating as the lethal T-800 prototype back in 1984.

063015i Terminator GenisysMuch of what propels “Genisys” lies in the basis for James Cameron’s game-changing B-film some 30 years ago: the notion of rewinding the clock and altering history and destiny. Wrinkles upon wrinkle in time have changed the game so much you almost can’t tell where rebel leader John Connor (Jason Clarke, with a scar-marred face) ends and Skynet begins.

The ever-churning plot machinations are wild, but don’t offer much bite. Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke from “Game of Thrones” – the second actress from the series to play Sarah Connor, as Lena Headey starred in the 2008 series “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”) is still on the hit list, but knowledge from the future has worked its way back in time, so what was a pat scenario in previous chapters becomes a game of time-hopping chess, with Skynet and the humans trying to out-wrinkle the other.

Not to give too much away, but we begin in the Skynet future from where the young Arnold T-800 (a killer computer recreation) is sent back in time to L.A., exactly like in the ’84 original – but just as he’s about to steal the clothes from a trio of punks, things go off-script from what had been. The year of  Judgement Day (1997) has been pushed to 2017 as well. Why? Well, Skynet has decided the best way to rule the world isn’t an apocalyptic nuclear strike, but a Trojan horse computer virus through the highly sought new operating system Genisys – from a company that’s Apple cool and Microsoft hungry. There’s much more to it too; Oscar-winner J. K. Simmons (“Whiplash”) plays a cop in L.A. and again in San Fran in 2017. He’s a bit of a boozer, so no one really buys it when he says he’s seen time traveler Kyle Reese (played by the handsome but wooden Jai Courtney) and Sarah before.

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