Saturday, February 26, 2011


I had read many good things about this film when it was released last September and then again in December to a very small number of theaters from anyone who was lucky enough to actually see it. Much was made of how small the budget was and how director Garth Edwards virtually made this film on his own. Garth wrote the script, was the cameraman/cinematographer and also created the over 250 visual effects for Monsters, so the success of this intimate science fiction film wrests squarely on his shoulders. Fortunately, Mr. Edwards’ gamble to not only keep total creative control of Monsters to himself, but to shoot this film guerrilla style in Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Texas paid off with a film that makes the alien elements of Monsters look almost as real as their terrestrial counterparts.

A simple text crawl sets up the back story at the beginning of Monsters. This story takes place six years after a NASA probe that contained samples of alien life forms from an unspecified area of space, crash lands in Central America and soon begins infecting the local fauna with its alien plant life and other things. The US and Mexican governments cordon off a large area of Mexico by building a wall along both sides of the “Infected Zone” from coast to coast. Monsters’ first scene shows a brief fight between the US Army and the tentacled alien creatures that will feature more prominently later in the film.

The real story begins when we meet an American photographer and journalist who is called by his employer to escort an American tourist back to the States. Andrew discovers that his consignment is the daughter of his employer, who has gone walkabout over anxiety over her impending wedding. Andrew buys he and Samantha passage by train to the coast, where they hope to get a ship to the States and bypass the Infected Zone. They manage to purchase tickets for the boat ride, but Andrew, who gets drunk the night before they ship out, is robbed by a local girl who not only steals the rest of his money, but also both of their passports. As a result, they miss their boat and are forced to pay for an armed escort through the Infected Zone.

Initially, they make it through without too much trouble. When they begin traveling on a small river boat, they are attacked by one of the alien creatures and the craft is destroyed. They make it to shore and are fortunate enough to hitch a ride with a local militia. Unfortunately, they too are attacked by the creatures on the road and the American couple now find themselves traveling alone in the alien infested territory. With only each other for companionship and protection, Sam and Andy grow from strangers to friends to something more.

The film concludes with the young couple finding their way to the relative safety of the United States, but all is not what they had hoped for.

Monsters is an unusual film for its type. Instead of focusing on the drama of the humans surviving the alien creatures and the harsh environment, it concentrates on the relationship of Andrew and Samantha. This is very much a personal drama and not a science fiction drama. Despite this, I found myself drawn to these very real characters and engrossed in their struggle to survive not only their exterior problems, but their internal conflicts as well. I think this would make a good film to introduce a non-genre fan to science fiction, because it feels so much like real world drama that only happens to have an otherworldly antagonist. I also liked the way the film took the time to establish the political structure of the world that these characters inhabit. We not only see the towering wall that separates the Infected Zone from the rest of the world and the soldiers and military fighting the alien creatures, but we also see the everyday lives of the ordinary people whose lives have been altered by living in such close proximity to these alien creatures.

Science fiction film directors who are creating the bombastic and special effects laden movies of late [see: Skyline], would do well to follow the example of Monsters and take the time to develop their characters. That way, when these characters come into contact with the science fictional elements of their film, the viewer will become more involved in the fantastic, as opposed to being detached from and removed from these elements.

Monsters is deserving of any science fiction film fan’s time. Go out of your way to watch it as soon as you can!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


In part six of Introducing Zombzany the Necromancer, it appears that Zombzany’s zombie cameraman Myron has taken a dirt nap behind the lens while zoomed in on a close up of the Necromancer’s dead visage. Right from the start Zombzany is obviously not pleased with the film Frankenstein Created Woman, as he mumbles a complaint to his undead crew about running another Frankenstein film instead of a zombie movie. Zombzany attempts professionalism and carries on with his scripted dissertation on the film. Meanwhile, Bill E. Bones is creating mayhem behind the scenes, making a mockery of both the film and Zombzany’s deadpan presentation. Enjoy Introducing Zombzany the Necromancer- Part Six.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


In this fifth part of Introducing Zombzany the Necromancer, it appears that Bill E. Bones has grown bolder assisting  his master host the next movie of the night, which is Hammer's The Mummy. Bones jumps right in mocking the name of the title character and heckling Zombzany with acerbic laughter. Apparently, Zombzany is concentrating so hard on his earnest reading of the descriptive narrative that he is oblivious to Bones' taunting. Find out what happens to Bill E. Bones in Introducing Zombzany the Necromancer -- Part Five!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Howdy Sci-Fi film fanatics! This here is yer old pal Major Mac Maniac! You young’uns might not remember me on account of I been hangin’ out here in space fer the last ten years or so. I’m beginnin’ ta think them there NASA lab-jockeys have plumb fergut about me up here in orbit on the Hysterical IV. Now I know how that there John Tracy felt bein’ stuck on Space-Monitor duty whilest the rest o’ his kin got ta go off rescuin’ folks in in their fancy Donnervogle. What can I say? I watched the dang show while I was stationed in Germany! Sorry fer gittin’ side tracked, but the damn machine transliteratin’ this here post is puttin’ down every verb I spit out. It’s probably havenin’ a computation conniption fit figurin’ out how ta spell my high-faulting dissertation. I finally made me a deal with the Ruskies ta upgrade my dish so I can pick up the Playboy channel… I mean… so I can hook up ta the Internets and contribute to Freak’s little blog.
Ol’ Doc Freak’s been spendin’ so much time convertin’ hours of Zombzany’s video tapes ta digital doo doo that he’s been remiss in his duties as a sci fi film freak! I aim ta correct that blunder with a review of some of the latest films that Hollywood has the gall ta label SF. The most recent cinematic concoction that I could call science fiction is the film Repo Men, which was released ta theaters last year, but I only just caught on HBO via my dish. Maybe I’ve been starved for entertainment fer too long, but this here dystopian drama weren’t too bad!

In this here version of the future, there is a mega-corporation called The Union that has cornered the market on mechanical replacement organs. The upside is that all the folks that can afford ‘em lead long healthy lives. Unfortunately, these organ replacement do-hickys, or modules as The Union likes ta call ‘em,  ain’t cheap and most folks have ta sign an installment payment plan ta afford ‘em. Just like when you cain’t make yer payments on that fancy new vehicle that ya shouldn’t a bought, The Union sends someone to repossess yer mechanical organ – whilest its still in yer gizzards! That’s where our “hero”, Remy and his partner Jake, the Repo Men come in. Remy makes good money fer his family killin’ innocent people for The Union whilst rippin’ their artificial part out of ‘em. His wife Carol ain’t too keen on her hubby’s job and she eventually talks him into applyin’ for a sales job at the company. Remy pulls one last repo job ta celebrate, but he has a heart attack when a gizmo he was usin’ on a client backfires. The Union replaces his heart with a fancy new mechanical one, which forces Remy to keep workin’ as a repo man just so’s he kin make the payments on it. Carol leaves the poor bastard, and even worse, Remy finds out that after his accident, he don’t have the “heart” ta kill no more. Git it? Remy ain’t got a real heart, so he ain’t got the heart to be a Repo Man no more? Yeesh! Everyone’s a critic. Anyhow’s…whiles Remy’s sulkin’ in a bar, he meets this here gal that has some drug issues and he helps her clean up. Remy discovers that Beth has a whole slew of these gizmos in her and that The Union is on her tail too. She and Remy run off ta hide in a real low-rent district of the city – if’n ya knows what I mean – but eventually some of Remy’s former repo buddies turn up and he’s forced ta kill ‘em in order to save himself and his new gal pal. After a failed attempt ta escape the country at the airport which involves Remy killin’ lots of repo men, Remy decides his only course of action left ta him is ta shut down the main frame Union computer and erase the existence of he and Beth from their records forever.

Repo Men is former storyboard artist Miguel Sapochnik’s first film as a director and its purty good for a rookie effort. Repo Men looks and feels like a very believable future, because for the most part it is set in what looks like a contemporary city. There ain’t no flyin’ cars or space ships – which is a little dissapointin’ – but there is some spaced out gadgets and such. The guns that the Repo Men stun the victims with look a little like stun guns, only they’re equipped with multiple shots and don’t have them lame wires hangin’ off ‘em. The repo men have an unhealthy fetish for knives in this movie and spend a lot of it cuttin’ up people or fightin’ with ‘em. There’s a heck of a lot of blood sprayin’ in this fick and if’n you’re just a trifle squeamish about that sort of thing this film ain’t fer you!


As far as the characters are concerned, Remy the repo man, as portrayed by Jude Law, is a fairly complex feller. At first we don’t like him much ‘cause he don’t seem ta fret much about the cuttin’ up and killin’ of his clients. As the film goes on, we find out why Remy has become what he has and why eventually he turns away from his job and whole former life. This is some pretty slick actin’ on Law’s part and I ani’t been much of a fan of his other sci-fi work like Gattaca or eXistenZ. Forest Whitaker is a talented actor, but his role as Jake seems fairly limited, despite the importance of his role in Remy’s life. Alice Braga plays Beth and she does a remarkable job of playing a gal who is forced by her world to adapt to its cruelties by any means necessary. A lesser actress would make her a tough bitch, but Barga shows both a softer vulnerable side to her character, as well as the more pragmatic tougher side of Beth. Liev Schreiber is perfect as the head of the local branch office of The Union, as he plays him with an emotionless ruthlessness that would be required of someone of his position.
Don’t get me wrong. Repo Men ain’t no great work of art. I ain’t much for artsy fartsy sci-fi films anyhow, so Repo Men gives me just enough real nuts and bolts science fiction world buildin’ ta make me believe in the story of a callous society created by the wholesale murder of consumers of the life giving, and ultimately life taking, modules created by The Union. Check out Repo Men! It’ll give ya a kick in the gizzards!

Saturday, February 5, 2011


In part four of Introducing Zombzany the Necromancer, you can see that he has vacated his throne to take a midnight stroll through his cemetery. Although this is only the third film of the night that he is hosting, Zombzany has already requested a cup of coffee from his zombie servant Sebastian. Zombzany hides his disdain for Horror of Dracula well; extolling the virtues of both stars of the film with moderate enthusiasm. Bill E. Bones, apparently just off camera and therefore a safe distance away, becomes more bold and verbose in his pithy interruptions of Zombzany’s soliloquy. The skeletal zombie manages to hit a dead nerve of Zombzany’s towards the end of this segment, as Bones forces a confession of Zombzany’s true feelings about vampires. Enjoy part four of Introducing Zombzany the Necromancer.