Oh boy. I’ve had this one coming for a while. Jupiter Ascending is the latest full length film from the Wachowskis, the dynamic duo of writer/ directors who are known for occasionally popping into the Hollywood scene and flipping the sci-fi genre on it’s head. They dropped The Matrix in 1999, and… umm… I guess they fumbled around with it’s sequels, then there was Speed Racer in 2008 which only made back 75% of its 120 million dollar budget. There was also Cloud Atlas in 2012, which had pretty mixed reviews, and, well, I guess they knocked it out of the park with The Matrix and just kind of floundered for almost two decades since then.
So, that brings us to Jupiter Ascending. This movie is about Jupiter (Mila Kunis), a daughter of a Russian immigrant who’s family flirts with the poverty line running a house cleaning business for the rich and the upper class. Her life sucks, having to wake up before 5am every morning and scrubbing toilets all day, every day, but her life gets flipped, turned upside down when she meets Caine (Channing Tatum) a half-man-half-dog (he’s his own best friend!) hybrid from space who brings her to space so she can find out she’s Queen of Earth because her DNA is exactly the same as the actual Queen of Earth whose dead now and the Princes and Princesses of this intergalactic royal family are fighting over who gets to own Earth so they can farm the humans to make big glo-sticks that keep you young forever. This is all the first 15 minutes of the movie. Confused? Me too. (more…)
Looper is the third feature length film from writer/ director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) who has been swallowed up by the Hollywood machine to direct Star Wars Episode VIII. Looper is a neat little time travel movie set in the not so distant future starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe: a Looper, a man who kills people who are sent back in time by a crime syndicate in the future. Apparently it’s super hard to dispose of a body in the future, so sending it to the past to be killed and left there is a sure fire way to keep things under wraps.
When Loopers sign up for this gig, they are on contract for 30 years which when up is when they are sent back in time to be killed by their past selves, closing the loop. If the loop doesn’t get closed neatly, the mob that hires out the Loopers will make sure both ends of the loop are closed off. Get it? Got it? Good. So, naturally, one day Joe happens to show up to perform a hit only to find himself face to face with an older version of himself (Bruce Willis) who is ready and willing to fight him. Older Joe escapes, and present day(ish) Joe has to track him down and kill him to close the loop before the mob closes it for him. (more…)
Not too long ago I dipped my toes into the New French Extremity movement by watching the home invasion gorefest, À L’interieur. Seeing how Shudder has given me access to the big three French Extremity films, I decided to check out one of the ones that blew the door wide open for films like À L’interieur and Martyrs to enter horror’s filmography, Alexandre Aja’s twisted slasher: Haute Tension.
Haute Tension (High Tension in English, and sometimes known as Switchblade Romance) is the second full length film by Alexandre Aja who is best known for directing the 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes. It stars a tomboyish Cécil de France and Maïwenn Le Besco as the punk rocker Marie and the preppy Alex, two college girls who are retreating to Alex’s family’s country home to study for their upcoming exams. Horror movie does and horror movies do, and their peaceful, quiet time away from civilization turns into a Hellish nightmare.
A mysterious man invades Alex’s family’s home, systematically slaughtering them before kidnapping Alex and driving off with her chained up in the back of his rusted truck. Marie stows away in the back of the vehicle and it’s up to her to figure out how to get her and her friend away from the killer and off to safety.
I’ve mentioned before how I work as a video store clerk, and any movie store worth it’s salt is sure to have a decently sized Criterion section. We’re lucky enough to have a sister section in our Criterion shelf dedicated to Arrow Video, a company that behaves like Criterion except they specialize in horror, sci-fi, exploitation, and cult films rather than pieces of high art. For example, films like Microwave Massacre, Society, and the entirety of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ catalogue of the macabre are available. Naturally, these films have flashy, explicit covers to grab your attention in any way possible, but out of all of them, I was drawn to a box set with a rather restrained and elegant cover. This turned out to be the Female Prisoner Scorpion Collection, a series of movies I knew nothing about at the time but after some quick Google-Fu, they shot right to the top of my to-watch list.
The Female Prisoner Scorpion films follow Nami Matsushima a.k.a Matsu the Scorpion (Meiko Kaji, later famous for Lady Snowblood), a convict in a Japanese all-women’s prison who was incarcerated for assaulting a police officer. Matsu fell in love with a narcotics officer named Sugimi who convinced her to work with him on a sting operation. Sugimi let the Yakuza catch Matsu, and let them have their way with her before using her rape as a distraction to help make his drug bust. Left bloodied, broken, and bruised, Matsu became hellbent on getting her revenge on Sugimi, and after a failed murder attempt against her former lover, she was locked away behind bars. Her hatred burns so deep however, that she’ll take any opportunity she can to escape prison, find Sugimi, and pay him back for the torture and pain she went through when he betrayed her.
2016 was a big year for horror movies about people being held in one location against their will. Green Room, Hush, and 10 Cloverfield Lane all featured our protagonists caught in a pickle, stuck in a room or house trying to escape. I’m always interested in one-location films because I love to see how the filmmakers work around only having one type of location available to film in. It’s harder to make your movies more engaging when you can only work with a bunch of dingy rooms in an old house, so when they pull it off it elevates the film to something a little more special for me. When I heard that Fede Alvarez (director of the 2013 Evil Dead remake, which I love) was going to be making another horror film set mostly in one house, I was totally sold.
Don’t Breathe is Alvarez’s second full length film, and sees him pairing up with Jane Levy again as his leading lady. Levy played the drug-addled Mia in Evil Dead, and returns in Don’t Breathe as Rocky, a young woman in a broken family trying to escape her shitty life in Detroit with her younger sister. Rocky, her boyfriend Money (played by Daniel Zovatto who was Greg from It Follows, and yes, Money is the character’s real name) and her friend Alex played by Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps, Prisoners) break into houses and sell off whatever valuables they can steal to get by. Alex’s father works for a home security alarm company, and Alex takes advantage of his knowledge of the security systems to help their burglaries go off with out a hitch. After finding out that a blind war veteran (Stephen Lang) came into a large amount of money after his daughter was killed in a car accident, our intrepid band of deplorables set their sights on his house for what could be the last heist they’ll ever need to pull.