The Watcher 12
Reviews for Dream Scenario (2023), The Boy and the Heron (2023), A Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971), Warriors from the year 2072 (1984), The Park (2023), C.H.U.D. (1984) and Dead Space (1991).
Dream Scenario (US 2023, Kristoffer Borgli) ★★★★★
Paul Matthews, a professor for Cultural Evolution, starts appearing in everyones dreams and everything goes as expected.
A wonderful gem of a movie, a quirky, completely unique jewel that compares to nothing, except maybe to Being John Malkovich. Seeing Nicolas Cages life as a boring, stiff professor spiraling out of control is a blast, his clumsy tries at maintaining a global viral wave of that nature, interwoven with his failings in professional and private life, both at his fault and others, are pain- and delightful to watch at the same time, turning this small picture into a true wholesome experience.
The movie often comes around more like an exercise than a fleshed out film, it has a sort of hazy, scribble-like atmosphere to it, which absolutely fits it's surreal plot, staying intentionally fuzzy around the narrative edges with no clear turns or ends, where everything stays dreamy. The movie might also be one of the first instances of what i call synch fiction, in which stories and narratives revolve around memetics and vibes and people starting to act weirdly the same -- in this case: Dreaming of the same guy --, and as a writer interested in mememtics for a very long time now, i'm very very thankful for that.
It might also be one of the first realistic depictions of future neural technologies and it's implications, when they turn the Nic Cage-dream phenomenon into a device for dream travelling and an ad agency wants to use Nic Cages character to infiltrate the dreams of people to sell soda, which absolutely has been already been tried in the real world, giving the surreal scifi-story an unsettling realistic spin.
With Apple having a patent for brain wave reading in ear speakers, Brain-Computer-Interfaces improving every year and AI-models being able to regenerate our visual thoughts by training them on brainwaves, we're not too far away from working neuro-tech for end users, meaning we might see the technologies and phenomena depicted in this film within our lifetime. Dream Scenario then also becomes a warning about the unforeseen consequences of "brain fame" and neural virality in a future that is about to become very, very weird.
I'm thankful that it's not some blockbuster bruhaha or some bad B-movie crap being one of the first flicks to go there, but this: A small gem of a quirky, surreal scifi-story about synchronized dreams and neuro technology, featuring one of the greatest and weirdest actors alive. I have nothing but praise for this film.
The Boy and the Heron (Jap 2023, Hayao Miyazaki) ★★★★☆
A griefing boy moves to rural Japan during WWII and finds a magic tower in the backyard, when a very suspicious heron takes some curious interest.
While i'm not that much into anime, i've seen my share of Myazakis, from Nausicaa to Spirited Away, from the Moving Castle to Totoro, and i consider them masterpieces of animated film, up there in the anime canon for very good reasons.
The Boy and the Heron, Hayao Miyazakis swansong for which he came out of retirement one last time, is a good movie and all the Ghibli-strength are there: A quiet built-up taking it's time to shape the characters just to be followed by a colorful explosion of the fantastical, the quirky fun creatures and weird supporting characters, the themes of human emotionality and relationships. But you can't shake the feeling that it's just more of the same, and that it's more or less Spirited Away drawn differently, playing within the fantasy world in a tower instead of the fantasy world in a bathhouse.
Sure, another Spirited Away is welcome, and the movie features enough magical moments to revel in the fantastical otherworld, and it's kind of a blast to see Myazaki pull a postmodern trick out of his old hat and presents us an anime version of both David Bowie as the Jareth and Hoggle the Goblin from The Labyrinth, as an old wizard and the heron respectively.
The Boy and the Heron is great as a last film, a last statement with a personal edge, and it's a good, maybe very good movie for Ghibli. I just wish it was up there with the genre defining classics, which it is not, for it's lack of originality. But as the end point of an outstanding carreer of the legend that is Hayao Miyazaki, it is a well crafted, wonderfully drawn, magical, personal statement, and it one more time shows you how anime is done right.
A Lizard in a Woman's Skin (Ita 1971, Lucio Fulci) ★★☆☆☆
Deborah's dreams of killing her neighbor Julia come true, and hippies high on acid have seen it all.
Early Fulci Giallo with a lot of what he calls "expressionist filmmaking" but is actually just random camera moves and cuts from someone without any clue what he's doing. This being Fulci, you're lucky if you can follow any of the plot, but that's not what the main point is for Fulci anyways, that being tits and gore ofcourse.
Of both i've seen more from the guy, but it's the early seventees, Fulci was just starting to get into the game at this point and the highest low points of his, uhm, carreer were about to come.
Tarantino says that Fulci might have been the only director who got high on his own material. I think he's right. Fulci making a film seems to me like he's deejaying a techno-set on LSD: It sounds like the goddamn best tape you've ever done while you're doing it, but when you listen to it the other day, it's just incomprehensible stupid crap. This is what Fulcis movies are. And this was one of the better ones.
Warriors from the year 2072 (Ita 1984, Lucio Fulci) ★★☆☆☆
In a dystopian Rome in the year 2072, a TV network stages modern gladiator games with murderers as contestants, who learn about a secret conspiracy behind the games.
What could've been just another madmaxian ripoff from italy is made extra juicy by clueless Lucio Fulci effing it up even more than other bad italian scifi flicks from the era. So on top of the usual bad acting (with this one featuring some very special crosseye action, a speciality of bad italian movies from the 70s) and badly executed FX work, we get some extra weirdness from Fulcis amateurish camera moves, the usual random stuff popping up in the script, and dialoge lines like "Laser points will penetrate your subconscious".
It's kind of fun to watch a movie that is so simple and straightforward -- they just had to put a few stuntmen on bikes and let them fight -- to become such a convoluted stupid mess. Fulci always adds more, some Nazi-aesthetics on top of the dystopian TV-setting on top of Gladiator-aesthetics plus bladerunneresque SciFi-shots and a bad Hal9000-imitation, all of which leads to an ending that just pops like a bubble because the stakes never really mattered at all, surely not for Fulci.
But hey, it has Fred Williamson looking grim, and some of the action sequences have some rare moments that hint at something like coolness, but those are rare and go by fast. Another cheap, weird crapfest by the one and only Fulci.
The Park (US 2023, Shal Ngo) ★★☆☆☆
Kids survive a dystopian world in a theme park.
The film wants to be a coming of age story in a post apocalypse, but it's way too brutalizing for that, the kids being stone cold against each other with no further explanation given. Then the movie decides it wants to have a heart, nevertheless, and shows us kids being kids, playing in a theme park, making the bone shattering violence just more baffling.
A film that doesn't know what it wants to be, and delivers that nothing with very dramatic overacting.
C.H.U.D. (US 1984, Douglas Cheek) ★☆☆☆☆
Radioactive toxic waste in the NYC create Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers living in the sewers, gnawing away New Yorkers.
A stupid, incoherent mess, this movie is most remarkable for an early appearance of John Goodman as a cop, and not much else. Monsters in very bad mask FX just pop up randomly, and while we do get a plot about an asshole from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission which is resolved, we somehow never get to know what finally happens to those monsters. Which makes the whole movie an astoundingly pointless crapfest.
If you're an 80s horror completist or need some bad schlock for an 80s-themes VHS-fest, you might "enjoy" this if you have enough beers, but as a movie, it just stinks.
Dead Space (US 1991, Fred Gallo) ★☆☆☆☆
A virus turns scientists into Alien-Ripoffs and Space-McGuyver is called in to save the day.
An incredibly bad remake of Roger Cormans 1982 Schlockfest Forbidden World, which itself already was an Alien-ripoff but at least had some fun-gore and some pretty good FX going for it. This one doesn't, featuring some very bad makeup and creature design with tons of crap silicone-puppets getting literally just thrown through the room while others are just static marionettes barely moving their monster arms. It also has a lot of unintentionally funny slapstick-action scenes and some astonishingly bad dialogue lines ("It will destroy your lab from inside out -- or outside in!"), but those never elevate this to a "so bad it's good"-level.
This is not even Schlock, it's just a great big waste of time, completely void of suspense and it's uninteresting throughout, except maybe for an early appearance of Bryan Cranston as one of the scientists, without him adding anything of substance here.