Back in 1982, American audiences were enamored with the extraterrestrial. We were in a time where the prospect of aliens was cuddly and friendly, and we were capable of exploring vast new worlds. What with “ET” and “Close Encounters” and “Star Wars,” who didn’t want to visit new worlds? Then John Carpenter came along in 1982 with his version of “Who Goes There?” a short story about an amorphous alien entity that could consume human bodies, and America wasn’t too kind to it. John Carpenter’s masterpiece is notorious for not being welcomed by critics or the box office during its release date, but thankfully years later, horror fans and movie buffs alike have embraced “The Thing” for the sheer pitch perfect masterpiece it is. John Carpenter doesn’t provide us with a more positive outlook of an alien visitor as he did with “Starman.”
The shockingly obscure masterpiece “The Noah” is an exploration of grief through a man named Noah’s solitude as he realizes he’s the only person left on the planet. Set on a desolate island where supplies are cumbersome but humanity has diminished, our character Noah drifts by a life raft to the shore, and makes it his home. Even though he’s realized that humanity has become extinct due to the war, he makes it his mission to turn the island into his domain and keep himself occupied. He now sees a responsibility in staying alive to preserve his race for all time. He is literally the only person on the planet, thus he must engage in a battle against isolation, and loneliness.
Fred Zinnemann’s classic Western is an absolute masterpiece that continues to hold its place as my favorite Western of all time. It’s a marvel of cinema, and a wonderful dramatic thriller set in the old West and ponders on the question of what happens when the helpers need help. It’s also a stunning albeit cynical glimpse at the ultimate summary of a hero and how they can sometimes be cast aside by those that they’ve protected for so many years. Gary Cooper’s role as Will Kane is absolutely pitch perfect, especially when it pertains to his role as a man desperately seeking help in staring down imminent death and settling score that will meet him at the end of his day, no matter what he does.
Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake and adaptation of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” remains one of the most resounding arguments for the purpose of remaking films. Often times like the case of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” directors can rework certain ideas and add something to the mythology, allowing for a starker and very bleak vision that helps a film stand on its own. John Carpenter achieved that with “The Thing,” and Philip Kaufman succeeds in adding his own layer of dread and futility with “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” A lot of horror movies are filled with some tinge of hope that perhaps humanity or our heroes will prevail over the unusual menace threatening to consume a portion of Earth.
IN LIMITED RE-RELEASE July 24th and 27th — It’s pretty exciting that two of the most important pieces of cinema ever released, “Night of the Living Dead” and “Planet of the Apes” would come in the same year and pack the same intellectual punch. Written by non other than Rod Serling, “Planet of Apes” is like an extended episode of “The Twilight Zone” filled with terror, and social commentary. And much like the aforementioned George Romero horror film, “Planet of the Apes” garners an absolutely shocking ending that is still one of the best delivered finishers in film history. Though the title says it all, “Planet of the Apes” is still a rather unique genre experience, mainly for its willingness to avoid showing the apes until a good portion of the movie has passed.
Charlton Heston gives an iconic turn as Colonel George Taylor, an astronaut who crash lands on a distant planet after a space expedition and learns the hard way that apes are rulers of this world. Primitive and yet completely organized in class systems that are identified through the species of apes, much like the human race, Taylor is stuck in a world he’s completely unfamiliar with, and can barely muster the strength to rebel, as the sights startle him. Pierre Boulle’s source material is drastically different from the film adaptation, but none of the impact is lost, nor is the commentary on the way we relegate our animals to the lower echelons of our society.
There’s the irony of our primitive counterparts becoming rulers of a jungle land while humans are servants, pets, and test subjects for medical experiments. Meanwhile the various ape species garner their own system of classes and aristocracies, mulling over the structures of their own society. The gorillas are police officers, military, hunters and workers, and the orangutans are administrators, politicians, lawyers and priests, while and chimpanzees are intellectuals and scientists. As Taylor watches his friends die, he inevitably begins to fight back, and, much to the shock of the apes, speaks back defiantly. This sparks an immediate rebellion, and prompts the ape society to completely re-think the way they operate.
“Planet of the Apes” features a world and society that’s different from ours and yet perfectly similar, even alluding that the apes are still in their early stages of evolution as a species. Franklin J. Schaffner’s production from the Serling script is masterful, with a massive cast of brilliant performers offering great performances. Heston’s turn is immortal, all the while folks like Kim Hunter, Roddy McDowall, Maurice Evans, respectfully transcend their ape visages to convey very unique and complex characters all around. “Planet of the Apes” is a pitch perfect science fiction film, that still conveys sharp social commentary and will win over the hearts of science fiction purists old and new.
It only takes a ripple to make a tidal wave, and “Star Wars” is one of the greatest cinematic tidal waves to ever hit America. It’s no secret that George Lucas’ science fiction epic was inspired by classic movie serials, and was generally looked down upon by studios who thought it would barely strike a chord as it was being made. What’s surprising is that many decades later, in whatever form you enjoy it, “Star Wars” is still a fantastic and flawless space adventure. Lucas masters the art of telling his own self contained tale that would open the door for future films.
I was lucky enough to be one of the folks that went to see “Toy Story” in theaters back in 1995 when Pixar premiered their newest animated adventure. It was an amazing experience then, and it is still one of the best movie going experiences of my life. Back then, the very notion of a motion picture completely computer animated was absurd and made people gasp in shock, even when Pixar boasted about creating a large realistic world. Just producing Homer Simpson in computer animation for a segment of “The Simpsons” cost a lot of money and took immense man hours, just think of a movie based around the medium. “Toy Story” is gladly not a film you’d expect to be computer animated since Pixar takes great pains to unfold a world that’s charming, magical, and grounded in enough reality to enjoy.
I don’t consider it a far off notion to call Neil Marshall this generation’s John Carpenter. The man has delivered his own twisted and original visions of various genres that have ended in some of the most riveting movie experiences I’ve ever had. I first discovered Marshall with “Dog Soldiers,” which successfully combines the werewolf sub-genre with a war movie, resulting in a quite obvious homage to “Assault on Precinct 13.” I’m also a humongous fan of his post apocalyptic tale “Doomsday,” which is his loving ode to the post apocalypse sub-genre and zeroing in on a heroine that’s basically Snake Plissken, even missing one eye, to boot.
Marshall at his best is a raw and relentlessly brilliant filmmaker who can muster up some unique emotions and arouse hot debates among the horror and science fiction community. Marshall’s masterpiece is his odd form of “The Thing,” in where he casts a predominantly female cast, all of whom are confined to one location, forced to fight off delirium, and mistrust, and becoming victim to their landscape, which is harrowing and dangerous no matter where one turns.