Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Jurassic World (2015) Trailer Lands

Cult-Movie Review: Honeymoon (2014)

In 1956, Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers contended with the idea that we are all, finally, strangers from one another. 

On the surface, that classic movie concerned an alarming epidemic or outbreak in which family members in a small California town suddenly felt alienated from the important people in their life, including their spouse.

In the end, of course, invading aliens were behind these very legitimate feelings, creating biological “substitutes” for the affected loved ones that lacked emotions and therefore the ability for true intimacy, for true connection

The new horror film Honeymoon (2014) takes that notion of interpersonal alienation and applies it directly to a young, newlywed couple. 

In the film, the delightful and sweet Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) grow more and more alienated from one another because of an outside influence, yet are unable to bridge the increasing gulf between them, despite their good intentions.

This clever horror movie thus meditates on the old belief that after you get married, the person you love “changes.”

In real life, of course, people do change. 

You change too. 

So do circumstances.  

If you work hard at your relationship, it survives when husband or wife (or partner) inevitably "evolves."  

If not, those feelings of isolation and loneliness creep in, gnaw at you, and a happy ending may be impossible.  

Honeymoon  -- which utilizes a horror story to explore this concept -- features only four characters on screen, and limited settings, mainly a cabin in the woods, but thrives nonetheless as an immediate, thought-provoking viewing experience. 

This is so in part because of the strong central performances from Leslie and Treadaway, and in part because director Leigh Janiak stays focused on the important things -- the little, intimate things -- that go into a relationship. 

The film boasts no major set-pieces, though there is one moment involving grotesque physical or practical effects that may have you crawling out of your skin. And Janiak doesn’t feel the need to push or explain the details of her narrative in too much detail. Some aspects of the tale remain commendably ambiguous -- such as the motivation and identity of the invaders -- and the movie is all the stronger for her restraint.  Janiak's discipline and laser-like focus permits Honeymoon’s central metaphor -- the inexplicably “alienated” married couple -- to remain at the forefront of audience thoughts. 

What’s truly remarkable about Honeymoon is that it concerns two people who are in love (and who, over 87 minutes, you will come to love too...), but that -- despite their best efforts -- can’t save their marriage, or each other.

That description probably makes Honeymoon sound unremittingly dark, and yet the film is oddly beautiful and hopeful in its own  unique way.  

Paul and Bea fight for each other to the best of their abilities, and it is that fight, not necessarily the terrifying outcome, which you remember as the screen fades to black.

“Oh my God, who are you?”

Paul (Treadway) and Bea (Leslie) embark on their honeymoon together, shortly after theirwedding ceremony.  They stay at a remote cabin on a beautiful lake, and spend the days boating, fixing meals, and making love. All is well. A happy future awaits them.  Or so it seems.

The only sour note on the trip is the discovery that Bea’s childhood friend Will (Ben Huber) lives nearby and runs the local restaurant with his wife, Annie (Hanna Brown). Paul is jealous because Will and Bea obviously still have a flirtatious connection.

Then one morning at 3:45 am, Paul awakens early to go fishing, but finds that Bea is missing.  He looks desperately for her and ultimately finds her in the woods, naked and shivering. She claims to have been sleep walking, but she is shaken.  And she has never slept-walked before.

Soon Paul is shaken too, because Bea begins to act strangely. She develops difficulty remembering their time together, uses the wrong words, forgets how to make French toast (and coffee), and refuses to make love to Paul. 

At one point, Paul spies on her in the bathroom rehearsing her excuses for not having sex (namely, a headache). He confronts her about her behavior, but she claims to be fine.

Paul grows more and more concerned, as Bea’s behavior grows ever more bizarre. Paul starts to fear that something in the woods that night replaced the love of his life…

“You feel distant. You feel different.”

Honeymoon dwells on the idea that although you think you can know somebody really well, when you get married…all that changes. All bets are off.  

People are so complicated, multi-faceted, and filled with contradictions that it is impossible to know -- to really know -- perhaps, another human being…even one you believe you love. The film commences with the narrative that Paul and Bea consciously share: videotaped stories they tell (on the occasion of their wedding) of their first date.  

This footage is their relationship mythology, and they don't question it, or the intimacy it portends. This is their shared history and the foundation of their life together.  As it grows close, every couple grows its own unique history or story in this fashion, the fairy tale of two lives coming together.

Soon however, we see cracks in that mythology. 

Early in the film for instance, Paul and Bea seem to joke about this very subject (not knowing someone...) when the topic of killing frogs comes up at the lake.  “Oh my god, who are you?” is the question asked of Bea by Paul, and the question rings true of every new marriage.  

As much as you do know about the person you love, there is probably as much you don’t know, and you are taken by surprise, moment by moment, by these additional new shades or behaviors.

Not surprisingly, then, the film deals, substantially, with Paul’s paranoia. First he meets Will, Bea’s old friend, who is clearly still interested in her romantically, and vice-versa. 

And then his new wife shuts down emotionally, and refuses to sleep with him. We have seen in the film, at this juncture, how physically attracted and connected Paul and Bea are. They are young, attractive, and can't keep their hands off of one another. So Bea's sudden "turning off" to Paul is disturbing and hurtful.

Is it because she wants to sleep with Will? 

Is it because, after just a few days of being married, the magic is already gone?  

Or oddly, is it because she has been possessed by some alien force?

These are the questions Paul must ponder, and Bea's strange behavior is anxiety-provoking.

In Honeymoon, there is indeed (I believe...) an alien force involved and it has settled literally and symbolically inside Bea’s vagina. The movie features an intriguing through-line about this fact.

Early on, for example, Paul inadvertently mentions Bea’s "womb," a word-choice that leads to an awkward conversation about having children. It is a conversation that is tense, and which the couple is not yet ready to have.

Not long after that difficult conversation, the alien thing actually takes root in Bea’s insides, occupying her womb, so to speak. By living in that particular spot, the alien has thus usurped Paul’s place inside Bea (as both lover and would-be father to their child). 

And Bea, who was not ready to have a child take over her life, instead sees an alien in her womb doing just that. 

And in one horrifying scene, Paul physically yanks the strange, worm-like creature out of Bea's...interior. But even the removal of this physical obstacle does not bring the duo closer together. 

The problems they share are now much more than sexual in nature.

What I admired so much about Honeymoon is the way that it depicts Paul and Bea as being truly in love, fighting for each other right up until the very end. 

You can make a case that either Paul or Bea has it worse here, but both of them struggle mightily to hold onto the person most dear to them. Bea is invaded, literally, by an alien force, but she holds onto her desire to protect and love Paul, with tragic results.  And Paul has every reason to feel rejected and paranoid, and yet he too fights to the very end to save Bea. 

In a very real sense, you can compare this doomed couple to Dante's Paolo and Francesca, suffering the torments of Hell but never abandoning one another, at least not consciously or willingly.

So Honeymoon is, in fact, a tragic love story.

On one hand, the film is very brutal in terms of the things it subjects Paul and Bea to, and it plays like a literalization of the old trope about what happens to couples after marriage. You know: the honeymoon is over. Oft-times too quickly.

On the other hand, Paul and Bea themselves are carefully-drawn, beautifully-realized characters who hold onto each other for all their worth, and in the face of what is apparently impossible odds.  I guess this too could be considered a metaphor for marriage, or romantic, spousal connection.

To wit: life hurls a lot of shit at us, every day, and the only thing that makes that shit survivable is having someone special to hold your hand and fight for you. 

You win some and you lose some, for sure, but you can face each new day with renewed dedication and strength because of the bond you share with a husband, or a wife, or a partner.  As the film notes, before Paul and Bea got married, they were alone.  "Now they are not."

If you consider Honeymoon a calling card, director Janiak is a talent to watch, equally adept at generating an atmosphere of dread and doom as orchestrating the occasional, electric jump scare. 

It would have been easy to make this film a gross, two-dimensional and even lurid picture about alien abduction. Instead, Honeymoon is about creeping alienation of affection and the unbridgeable distance between even the closest of lovers.  

Those topics are much scarier to think about, right?

Movie Trailer: Honeymoon (2014)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ask JKM a Question: ReAction Figures?

A regular reader, Duanne, writes:

“I've seen the ReAction figures and I think they're cool! I haven't collected anything in a while, but these have peaked my interest. What are your thoughts on them?

I was actually in Target last week with my son Joel, and I saw the ReAction figures for The Goonies, and had to stop myself from splurging. I had to walk away. 

Or rather, Joel had to drag me away (to the Minecraft toys...).

As readers here know, I’m a huge fan of action figures from the 1970s and 1980s, so these ReAction figures really hit that sweet spot of nostalgia, as far as I’m concerned.  They look very authentic to the late 1970s/early 1980s.

When I think about all the ReAction figures out there -- the sets from Alien, Firefly, Back to the Future, the Universal Monsters, plus characters from The Terminator, and Escape from New York -- I feel the sudden desire to spend vast sums of money.  This is a problem, however, because I'm trying to sell a lot of my collection (but nothing from Space:1999...), and buying more is not in the game plan at the moment.

The fact that these ReAction figures look like they came direct from Kenner circa 1980 may be unappealing to some younger collections, but it hits me where I live…as a ten year old kid obsessed with play sets and make-believe adventures.

I would especially like, however, to see the line expand to include action figures from Space:1999, The Fantastic Journey, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (film and series), The Starlost, and V: The Series. 

If that happened, I’d have to construct a new wing off my home office to house all the action figures….

Great question!  

Readers, don't forget to ask me more questions at Muirbusiness@yahoo.com

Cult-TV Theme Watch: Turkey Day

Thanksgiving 2014 is nearly here! This national holiday -- also known as Turkey Day in some quarters -- is devoted to giving thanks for your blessings --  a tradition which goes back to 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts

It is a time for family togetherness, counting one’s blessings, and -- yes -- bad movies and Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Turkey Day has also featured prominently in many television programs across the decades. 

Two classic Turkey Day or “Thanksgiving” episodes first aired in the year 1978.

On Happy Days (1974 - 1984), the episode “The First Thanksgiving” concerned an historical flashback to an early Thanksgiving in Milwaukee, with the Fonz (Henry Winkler) and other characters playing roles. 

And on WKRP in Cincinnati (1978 - 1982) the infamous “Turkeys Away” episode featured a radio station promotion for the holiday gone horribly wrong.  The promotion involved turkeys, a helicopter, and reporter-on-the-street, Les Nessman…

In more genre-oriented programming, Dexter Morgan has broken bread with another serial killer – played by John Lithgow -- for Thanksgiving on Dexter (2006 - 2013). 

And Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s fourth season featured an episode called “Pangs.” That episode saw the vampire Spike (James Marsters) sharing the holiday dinner with the Scooby Gang, and was gleefully incorrect in terms of its politics, as the holiday devolved into modern day Californians fighting ghosts of wronged Native Americans.

From 1991 through 1995, Mystery Science Theater 3000 celebrated “Turkey Day” with marathons of bad movies.

In particular though, I remember the host segments of 1995, wherein Jack Perkins, Mr. B. Natural, Pitch (A devil…) and the Kitten with a Whip showed up to celebrate Thanksgiving with Dr. Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) and his mother, Pearl (Mary Jo Pehl).

Those were the good old days.

The Cult-TV Faces of: Turkey Day

Identified by Hugh: The Munsters.

Identified by Hugh: Happy Days.

Identified by Hugh: WKRP in Cincinnati

Identified by Hugh: The Simpsons

Identified by Hugh: Mystery Science Theater 3000

Identified by Hugh: Seinfeld

Identified by Hugh: South Park.

Identified by Hugh: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Pangs."

Identified by Hugh:S mallville.

Identified by Hugh: The Walking Dead.

Identified by Hugh: Heroes

Identified by Hugh: Dexter

Television and Cinema Verities

“It was grandiose, and all that, but whatever was subtle, in the first movie, gradually got lost in the second and third. Now with The Hobbit one and two, it’s like that to the power of 10..” 

- Viggo Mortensen discusses his reservations with the Lord of the Rings sequels, in Entertainment Weekly.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Advert Artwork: The Waltons/Mego Edition

From the Archive: The Lone Ranger: "The Lone Ranger's Triumph"

In “The Lone Ranger’s Triumph,” the opening arc of the series comes to a climax.

Here, Cavendish (Glenn Strange) escapes from Doc Drummond and Sheriff Taylor’s custody and orders his men to take the Lone Ranger “dead or alive.

Meanwhile, Tonto (Jay Silverheels) attempts to get help from the police deputies at Colby, only be treated in disrespectful, bigoted fashion.  The deputies, In fact, are working with Cavendish and have been planted in Taylor’s department.

The Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore) and Tonto join up one more, and begin taking down Cavendish’s installed stooges in Colby.  They have the time to do this because Cavendish overheard some disinformation from the Lone Ranger, namely that the U.S. Cavalry was nearby, and was going to be recruited to stop the outlaw.  As Cavendish prepares for the cavalry, literally, the Lone Ranger and Tonto re-take Colby.

Taking down one villain at a time, the Lone Ranger and Tonto capture the town jail, and then proceed to stop the bad guys in their tracks.  Finally, after a long and intense chase, the Lone Ranger captures Cavendish and delivers him to the city jail.

When Tonto asks if their quest has ended with the capture of Cavendish, the Lone Ranger answers in the negative:  “Our job has just begun.  We have a lot of trails to follow.”

Although the episode title “(The Lone Ranger’s Triumph”) effectively gives away the narrative outcome, this is nonetheless a satisfactory resolution to the Cavendish arc.  The final chase scene does not disappoint, and it’s a pleasure to see a hero dispatching a villain without resorting to murder.  Here, Cavendish ends up in jail, pending trial.

Without belaboring the issue, it strikes me as especially important that The Lone Ranger does not count himself above the law, or feel that it his personal right to exact revenge.  He doesn’t mishandle Cavendish, or otherwise abuse him.  He does only what the law requires and permits…he brings a criminal to justice.  Once upon a time, this outcome was a given in our American entertainments, but somehow in recent years we have become afraid that by giving “bad guys” like terrorists a trial, we are somehow “weak.”  On the contrary, submitting villains to trial and justice is a real sign of strength. It shows that we believe in the rule of law, and that our principles are not mere things we talk about but representative of our actions.

In terms of the Lone Ranger mythos, all the final pieces fall into place here.  Once captured, Cavendish asks a variation of the famous line: “who was that masked man?” as the Lone Ranger and Tonto ride off into the sunset, bound for more adventures.  

And the Lone Ranger kicks off his departure with his  immortal radio sign off: "Hi-yo Silver, away…”

Perhaps of more genuine interest, at least by today’s standards, is the discriminatory way that Tonto is treated by virtually every Colby official he encounters.  “The redskin’s getting a little ornery,” one deputy notes dismissively, and it’s impossible not to parse the phrase in anything other than racist terms.  

What’s great about The Lone Ranger, however, is that this ugly talk comes from a certified bad guy, and thus equates racism and bigotry with the behavior of outlaws and other men of disrepute.  I must admit, I didn’t realize that programs as early as 1949 had taken this viewpoint regarding race in America, but it’s rewarding to see Tonto treated as true blue, while his dismissive enemies are, rightly, treated as ignorant thugs.  Late in this episode, Tonto proves his worth again, leading the cavalry into battle against Cavendish.

From the Archive: The Lone Ranger: "The Lone Ranger Fights On"

The second episode of The Lone Ranger (1949 – 1957) is called “The Lone Ranger Fights On” and it picks up at the cliffhanger ending of “Enter the Lone Ranger.” 

Tonto and the Lone Ranger battle the treacherous Collins (George Lewis), and shoot him down off his perch atop a cliff.  Afterwards, however, they express remorse that he too has died on this day:  “No one should have his life end like that.”

Then, the duo of Tonto and the Lone Ranger head to the Valley of Wild Horses, where they spy a buffalo about to stampede and kill a badly-wounded (and gorgeous) white stallion.  The Lone Ranger shoots the buffalo, and with Tonto’s help nurses the horse back to health.

After a time tending to the animal, the horse -- who Tonto has named Silver -- is healthy  and robust once again, and back on his feet.  The Lone Ranger notes: “I’d like that horse more than anything in the world, but if he wants to be free, he should go…

They free Silver, and indeed, the animal returns, choosing to be the Lone Ranger’s steed.  The voice-over narrator announces: “Here is a partnership…the Lone Ranger and Silver accept each other, as equals.”

With a magnificent steed (or “dream horse” in the terminology of the episode), the Lone Ranger and Tonto head to the troubled town of Colby, where Cavendish (Glenn Strange) has launched a campaign to murder public officials and replace them with his own corrupt minions.  

A friend of the Lone Ranger’s named Jim Blaine (Ralph Littlefield) is framed by Cavendish as the murderer of a local judge, and Tonto and The Lone Ranger decide to hide him at a nearby silver mine that the Lone Ranger once discovered.

At the silver mine, one more piece of the legend fits into place. Tonto and The Lone Ranger settle on creating silver bullets as a “sort of symbol…which means justice for all.

Outfitted with horse and silver bullets, The Lone Ranger decides it is time to take the fight directly to Butch Cavendish in Colby.  He enlists the services of the town doctor, Doc Drummond (George Chesebro), and the local Sheriff “Two Guns” Taylor (Walter Sande)...

As the preceding synopsis makes plain, a good portion of this sophomore episode, “The Lone Ranger Fights On” involves the Lone Ranger’s first encounter with Silver, his famous white horse. 

First the Lone Ranger shows Silver a kindness, by saving his life, and then freeing him.  And then Silver returns that kindness by becoming the lawman’s steed. The scenes involving Silver's training are really wonderful, and it’s great to see a story in which an animal’s needs are not considered secondary to tertiary to the demands of humans.  

As the dialogue I excerpted above makes plain, the Lone Ranger considers himself and Silver a pair, a team.  Call me mushy, but I love that.  I love that a sixty-year old something TV series understands the special bond that can be created between a human and an animal.

Silver bullets are also a key part of the Lone Ranger’s mythos -- even though the hero doesn’t fight werewolves -- and this episode shows Blaine refining silver for the lawman’s immediate needs, namely “money and bullets.”  Essentially, the silver bullet becomes the Lone Ranger’s calling card in the lawless West. He leaves them behind in his enemies as his signature. Therefore, lawmen know he has been involved, and outlaws know...fear.  

In terms of the overall arc, most of the ingredients for the series are now firmly in place.  The third and next episode “The Triumph of the Lone Ranger” involves the final take-down of the fiendish Butch Cavendish, and the climactic elements of each Lone Ranger televised adventure, but we’ll get to those in the next review...