Midnight Movie Madness: “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” – (2017, France, 2hrs 17mins – PG13)

Luc Besson takes us on a trip through Space and Time with personal meaning. Those unfamiliar with the “Valerian & Laureline” series of comic books, and other materials referenced in this film, might hopefully find it to be good escapist fare. Good offerings in the Space Opera genre are too rare and having grown up reading them I am just as fond of “Valerian & Laureline” as the director, Luc Besson.

A disclaimer: although I read the comics the film is based on,  I read them between 35 to 45 years ago, and my review is based largely on personal recollection.

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Midnight Movie Madness: “night of the lepus”

Night of the lepus” – (88 minutes, USA,1972 – PG)

They could have titled this one “follicle follies”. In the vein of eco-inspired horror flicks of the ’70s, the premise of “night of the lepus” makes your hare stand on end: in a single night and starting with a single wabbit injected with some experimental hormone shot, the rabbit population of southern Arizona ‘splodes into hordes of 150 pound ravenous long-hared mofos eatin’ and a-killin’ and a-screwin’ anything and anyone in their path.

Lepus? WTF is a lepus?!?
Lepus? WTF is a lepus?!?

Dilemma: coyotes have all been keeled by some dude who did his job too well and now the ranchers’ lands are ravaged by wild rabbits running even wilder…

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Caturday: the towering inferno

The cat tower is one place where the kittoons play with such abandon, things verge on disaster.
We’ve had to anchor the thing to the book case with tethers after they managed to topple it a few times, and since then they can race up and jump down the damn thing as hard as they please. And boy oh boy, do they play hard.
Which always begs the question, exactly what is going through their fevered brain..? Judging by the way they slam that thing against the wall, you’d think they’re re-enacting “Earthquake“. Or perhaps “the towering inferno“…

"It's out of control, and it's coming your way. You got about fifteen minutes."
“It’s out of control, and it’s coming your way. You got about fifteen minutes.”

Titan: “Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Tito: “Sigh… That’s not the line…”

The fire claims its first elderly victim
Gasp! It’s so hot in here!

The fire claims its first elderly victim…

Titan: “пожилых людей? Я раздавить тебя!

Okay, break everyone… The director of photography needs to point out that in order to get the “performers” in position, a laser pointer had to be used for their mark, and that even then, they would get distracted by the caw of a bird or the ludic possibilities of a speck of dust, because they have the attention span of a herd of gnats

I’m just saying, it’s frustrating…

"The sprinkler valve's stuck!"
“The sprinkler valve’s stuck!”
How are they gonna get explosives up there?
How are they gonna get explosives up there?

Tito: “Oh they’ll find some dumb son of a bitch to bring it up.”
Jenny: “Hey..!
Titan: “гогот! гогот! гогот!

That, unfortunately, is about as much thespian dedication the director could muster from all three, so let’s cut to the obligatory love scene at the end…

"Well, I always wanted to die in bed..."
“Well, I always wanted to die in bed…Purr… Purr…”

….Annnnd, CUT.

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Midnight Movie Madness: “food of the gods”

“Food of the gods” – (88 minutes, USA, 1976 – PG)

The ’70s… Roller skating, creepy-crawlers, bean bag chairs, disco balls, and of course, Earth Day… “Food of the gods” is pure 1970’s grade fun which wonderfully makes no sense whatsoever.

Loosely inspired by part of an H.G. Wells story, “food of the gods” begins with a cautionary monologue by the protagonist, Morgan (Marjoe Gortner), about the wrongs done by man against nature: “just let man continue to pollute the way he is, and nature will rebel”, his pop used to say…

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Midnight Movie Madness: “Red Dog”

Red Dog” – (92 minutes, Australia, 2011 – PG)

I really want to like movies featuring animal protagonist(s), and I’ll often check out movie listings for older, newer as well as foreign films hoping to find a good one.

But my problem is the same as with Science-Fiction, especially space operas: they both tend to be formulaic and “anthropomorphize” their subject.

Which brings us to “Red Dog“, an Australian film based on actual events. The poster tag lines read: “sometimes you pick the dog. Sometimes the dog picks you”, and “he’s been everywhere, mate.”

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Midnight Movie Madness “Karate -Robo Zaborgar”: a boy and his bike

Karate-Robo Zaborgar” – (114 mns, Japan, 2011 – NR)

As the saying goes, ‘first I was like OMG, then I LOL’d’… On this side of the ring, the good guys: Daimon and his motorcycle , the titular Zaborgar thingamajig. The Zaborgar thing transforms into a robot which fights bad guys and bad robots alike with karate. It’s also made from Daimon’s dead brother’s DNA, extracted and mechanized by Daimon’s Nobel Prize winning scientist dad.

If this wasn’t enough baggage, while training in karate years ago, Daimon witnessed the death of his father, who had been captured by the evil Sigma organization, trolling about in the sky aboard what looks like – well, a gigantic ass.

Thankfully, Daimon was spared the spectacle of his father’s humiliation (his word) at the hands of Dr. Akunomiya’s cyborg henchmen, who inflicted titty-twisters on the venerable scientist, before he leaped off the giant ass in the sky and got nuked in mid-air by a laser blast, exploding above Daimon’s karate class… Did I mention the professor used to breast-feed his sons..?

I know. At this point you might think an aspirin is in order but perhaps a stiff drink is more apropos. We still have to discuss the bad guys, the Samurai robot and the Diarrhea robot. That’s right: the Diarrhea robot, an ant spewing acid from both ends.  As for Samurai robot, he has giant lips designed to kiss politicians on the mouth, stealing their DNA. Their karate skills are no match for Zaborgar, but Miss Cyborg and her missile-launching bra is another matter. Why, she even manages to steal  Daimon’s heart (not literally)…

With Daimon’s loyalty tested by corrupt politicians he’s sworn to protect and his heart divided between Zaborgar and Miss Cyborg, which path will he take? To find out, let’s kill a few people and flash forward twenty-five years…

This is more than a revival of ’70s Japanese television, “Karate Robo Zaborgar” is a comedy  well off the beaten path, in the same vein as “Gentlemen Broncos“. “Karate Robo Zaborgar” pits high-school misfits (both the good and bad guys) against the true villains: lecherous, corrupt politicians, with slow-mo explosions, Bruce Lee moves and moos, ludicrous subtitles and very weird innuendos…

Karate Robo Zaborgar” gets five jellybeans….

5 beans
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“Beyond the black rainbow”: un film de…

Beyond the black rainbow” – (110 minutes, Canada, 2010 -NR)

How this film came to be is very easy to  imagine, as described by the writer/director: a typical awkward teenager browsing video stores in the ’80s, staring at video jackets of R-rated films his parents won’t allow him to watch, conjuring visions of what the movies are like.

‘Struth… But what makes it a little more unusual is that the kid’s father was George P. Cosmatos (1941-2005), who directed some popular movies in America and abroad, such as “the Cassandra crossing“, “Rambo II” and “Tombstone“. There isn’t much to find online about either father or son, and the elder Cosmatos’ decision to move his family to Victoria, British Columbia, reflects a strong desire for privacy and normalcy well away from Hollywood.

Barry Niles
Michael Rogers as Dr. Barry Niles

[…]1983. Dr. Barry Niles (Michael Rogers) runs the Arboria institute, created by his mentor Mercurio Arboria (Scott Nylands).

Mercurio Arboria
Scott Hylands as Dr. Mercurio Arboria

Dedicated to the development of human potential through technology and experimental medication, the facility houses a young girl named Elena (Eva Allan) with telepathic powers reined in by drugs and electronic voodoo in the form of a pulsating pyramid…

Eva Allan as Elena
Electronic voodoo

This is about as much of the story behind “beyond the black rainbow” which I’m willing to tell, because going further would only be laying out my own interpretation of a very personal film. “Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing. It may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to something entirely different.”  – Sherlock Holmes in “The Boscomb Valley mystery”.

The Sentionaut
The Sentionaut

Although “beyond the black rainbow” is very interesting visually, some would argue it isn’t anything particularly new. When I first saw the film’s trailer, I wondered: is that an early De Palma I missed? The stark decors with deep shadows and bright blue or red light, the mirrored surfaces and characters’ look…

But “beyond the black rainbow” is not imitation it is reflection, Pan Cosmatos’ imagined version of what 1980’s films were like, and an attempt at coming to terms with the loss of his parents. I suspect that a viewer’s take on the film will be very personal: much of what happens on screen, as well as the back story, is ‘hinted’ at.

Young Barry Niles chasing the rainbow
Young Barry Niles chasing the rainbow

Watching “beyond the black rainbow” is an experience of sorts, the combination of sharp visuals, slow pace and tonalities made me feel as though I was in some altered state. The unfortunate result being that I fell asleep twice trying to finish the film.

This in itself makes it somewhat difficult to recommend the film: it certainly doesn’t fit the usual “midnight movie madness” mold of entertaining weirdness. It does however has an appeal shared by  “the Lathe of Heaven” (the 1980 version), and “altered states“, exploring themes which are not readily translatable to the screen.

Niles' breakthrough
Niles’ breakthrough

I want also to single out the performance by Michael Rogers as Dr. Barry Niles, whose strange, androgynous appearance becomes clear in the last few minutes of the film. His  interpretation of a brilliant mind pulled between different realities, with muted lassitude, disgust and rage was subtle and fearsome at once.

Beyond the black rainbow” gets four jellybeans.

4 beans

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Christmas Movie Madness: “rare exports: a Christmas tale”

The evil of Farther Christmas has been unleashed upon the world once more. Can a small group of reindeer herders catch him in time to sell it to the Americans?

Rare exports: a Christmas tale” – (2010, Finland, 84 minutes – rated R)

Like all industries, Christmas is made up of many businesses, the more unsavory and dangerous ones, the more “interesting” the folklore.

The hunters
The hunters

While NORAD pretends to track Santa’s sleigh every year, the real hunting takes place on the frozen ground of Northern Finland, Lapland to be exact. There, rough men practice skills honed over generations, working in groups of three: the tracker, the marker and the sniper. Their quarry is the Wild Father Christmas, an elusive and savage predator pouncing on reindeer and naughty children alike. The following video is NSFW:

In “Rare exports: a Christmas tale“, Mount Kurvatunturi, the site where Father Christmas was entombed is being “excavated” with explosives  by an American company, Unwittingly, they unleash the ancient evil. It is now up to local reindeer herders and father and son Rauno and Pietari Kontio (Jorma and Onni Tommila) to capture the beast and sell it to the Americans.

Rare Exports

based on  the 2003 short “Rare Exports, Inc.” posted above, “Rare Exports: a Christmas tale” is another highly enjoyable example of dry, dead-pan Nordic humor, in the vein of “Trollhunter” or “the sound of noise“. Monty Python lives…  And…

… Father Christmas is out there, ravenous, nasty and lethal. Until the tame final product, result of hard work and hours of beatings, is fit for shipment around the world. “Rare exports: a Christmas tale” is where it begins…

Rare Exports: a Christmas tale” gets five jellybeans. They should show this in schools.

5 beans

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Midnight Movie Madness : “the sound of noise”

The sound of noise” – (102 minutes, Sweden/France, 2010 – rated R)

Drummers Magnus (Magnus Borjeson) and his pal Sanna (Sanna Persson) are speeding along Swedish freeways in a van, when Sanna’s rythmic (erratic?) driving prompts a motorcycle cop to give chase, which all ends up looking like a terrorist plot after the crashed van is found at the German embassy’s gates and the tick-tock of the metronome on the dash sounds like a bomb to the cops.


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Midnight Movie Madness: “The fall” (2006)

The fall” – (117 minutes, India/USA, 2006 – rated R)

In a Los Angeles hospital of the 1920s, a 5 year old Romanian girl named Alexandria (Cantinca Untaru) is recovering from a broken arm she suffered picking up oranges with her migrant workers parents. Relieving the monotony of long days in this adult world is her accidental meeting of another patient, Roy Walker (Lee Pace), a young movie stuntman.

"The fall" title
Opening title

Roy is bedridden after performing a stunt he intended to impress the film’s female lead. The opening sequence of “the fall“, a gorgeous black and white montage using Beethoven’s 7th symphony, reveals what happened after Roy plunged off a railroad bridge on horseback into the river below, killing his horse and wrenching his back.

The fall iron horse
… And the Iron Horse

As it turns out, Roy is not only just as bored as Alexandria, he is contemplating suicide, the hopeless romantic…

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