Jun 2 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane: A short review

Adel Gabot

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1:15PM

Look. I know.

I’m late to the game. Most of you have probably seen it in the theaters months ago and have your own opinions about it. But curiously I hadn’t seen it yet, until yesterday.

Since they finally released 10 Cloverfield Lane digitally and on physical media last weekend, I finally got a chance to catch it and see what the fuss was about. And the fuss was largely warranted, save for the ending which was kind of a letdown, at least for me.

We’ll get to that later. Don’t worry. On the off chance there are those reading this who haven’t seen the movie either, I won’t spoil it for you. Well, not much anyways.

This movie was under the radar during its production, and just suddenly popped out of seemingly nowhere, fully formed. This was a fact that worked well for the movie, as the audience didn’t know what the hell to expect. Even the trailers were cryptic and mysterious. All anyone needed to know was that J.J. Abrams was involved, and that was good enough for them.

By virtue of its title, it claimed a tenuous relationship with another movie called Cloverfield, a twitchcam captured footage movie which did reasonably well at the box office some years ago. And it does have some connection, though not directly. 10 Cloverfield Lane can stand alone, even if you never saw the other film.

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It’s an intimate and very tight movie, and featured just three main characters thoughout the entire film: John Goodman as doomsday prepper Howard, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the imprisoned bystander Michelle and John Gallagher Jr. as Emmett, the handyman who forces his way in the bunker with Howard (who he used to work for), when the shit hit the fan.

These three, by curious circumstance or the vagaries of fate, end up weathering out a world-ending catastrophe (or so Howard says; we never really know for sure until the final moments of the film) for weeks in an underground bunker in rural Louisiana. I won’t get into the details anymore, but suffice it to say this uncertainty (particularly for Michelle) fuels most of the movie, as we the audience don’t really know what’s happening to the world outside the bunker.

Acting chops, I got absolutely no complaints with. Goodman, Winstead and Gallagher all hold up their end pretty well. Particularly Goodman, who’s always excellent in anything he does. The tension between Howard and his two guests you can cut with a knife, and the unspoken back-and-forth between Michelle and Emmett spoke volumes. Subplots abound, as the complicated relationships among them make things very uncomfortable for our three protagonists in the cramped confines of the bunker.

A lot happens in the interim and I won’t spoil it for anyone, but when Michelle finally busts out of the bunker and sees what’s really happening outside, it was kinda a big letdown for me. For 10 Cloverfield Lane to suddenly take a left turn and become a run-of-the-mill science fiction movie and leave behind its taut, realistic, fatalistic storyline, I was pretty disappointed.

But then again, its the journey that counts, not necessarily the destination.

Two thumbs up!

 

 


Nov 5 2015

V

Adel Gabot

esquire_2015-Nov-05

11:01PM

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November.”

Wala lang.

Was just reminded of Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta, and the passable movie they made out of it.

They’re using the Guy Fawkes mask widely now in protests around the world. Huh.


Oct 27 2015

Understanding Prometheus

Adel Gabot

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10:37AM

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012), the purported fifth film in the Alien franchise (sixth if you count AVP Aliens vs Predator—but you seriously don’t want to; that’s a crappy Paul W.S. Anderson rip-off movie), is an acquired taste.

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When I first saw Prometheus in the theater, I was enthralled by the production design and values, but was confused and troubled by the story. It was supposed to be a prequel to the entire series but it was really much more than that. In the end, I largely discounted its entry into the franchise and deemed it an interesting but failed experiment.

If you took the story to heart, it made the original Alien film a mere footnote in a larger and intricate story in the creation and history of mankind. It had many thrilling scenes, some of them hard to watch, and a bit difficult to understand in the context of the entire trilogy. (It may just be me, but I found that MedBay scene with Noomi Rapace getting a C-Section to remove an alien bun from her oven really sent me over the edge.)

I guess I wasn’t ready for a movie like that at that time in my life.

But now, after watching The Furious Gods: Making Prometheus, a thorough and comprehensive behind-the-scenes documentary directed by Charles de Lauzirika, I’ve changed my mind.

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De Lauzirika is the de facto director of the Alien franchise documentaries. I believe he made one for each of the previous four movies on my Alien Anthology bluray set (I can’t remember, it’s been a while since I watched them), but his long docu for this new one on the bluray takes the cake. Seeing this intricate and obssessively completist making-0f really made a case for the film. It literally covered every single thing about Prometheus and I better understand the intent.

There were separate, exhaustive sections on the concept behind the story, the planet it takes place on, the spaceship they traveled in, the cast and the costumes, the studio they filmed in, the creature design, the stunts, the visual effects, post-production and eventual release. They covered everything, and in detail. No wonder it ran for almost four hours, twice as long as the film itself.

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The longest sections are the “why we did what we did” and “how we did it” parts, at least it seemed that way to me. Ridley Scott wanted to expand the mythos and delved into mankind’s pre-history and origins, and how the xenomorphs and “engineers” figured into it. Suffice it to say, after devoting a full evening to watching the long documentary, I learned more than I ever wanted to about the movie.

I found out about the genesis of the various creatures, from when they were just a gleam in Scott’s eye to when they were actual, practical and CGI models created by WETA. That MedBay scene I was talking about was given particular attention, and we find out that the tummy-roiling effect was just Noomi exercising her stupendously agile belly-dancer muscles. We found out about the long push-pull debate on whether to use Sean Harris’ actual make-up -enhanced visage in several key scenes or to go for complete CGI. That sort of thing.

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I think it’s sometimes worth it to go through an in-depth making-0f documentary to get a better idea of what the filmmakers were intending to do with the movie, and saves it from being dismissed as a glorious but failed experiment. At least for this viewer.

 


Oct 24 2015

My Top Ten Science Fiction Films

Adel Gabot

7:20AM

Since I did my Top Ten Horror Movies already, I figured I’d do my Top Ten Sci-Fi Movies as well. Why the hell not, right? My two favorite movie genres!

Again, these are chronologically arranged by year of production, and not ranked in any way, shape or form. (And I see they’re all American movies as well. Does it say anything about the film industry that most of the good science fiction movies come from there?)

 

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Invasion of The Body Snatchers (1956/1978)

This first one is kind of a cheat. I put down both the original and the remake as one movie. They’re both good, but in different ways. And with these movies, even if you are paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

 

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Planet of The Apes (1968)

The best O. Henry ending of any movie ever. “You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

 

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Soylent Green (1973)

Another Charlton Heston epic. (These two along with The Omega Man (1971) I consider the quintessential Heston sci-fi trilogy.) The claustrophobic, overcrowded landscape will hold true for any dystopic movie for years to come. And again, that ending!

 

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Star Wars (1977)

I almost didn’t include this because of its slight (but serious and earnest) campiness. There’s no denying its impact on the film industry.

 

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Alien (1979)

The most interesting thing about this is it doesn’t seem to age! Some of the computer stuff may look a bit outdated, but that’s all. I almost put this in my Top Ten Horror Movie list, but at heart it’s still sci-fi.

 

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Mad Max: The Road Warrior (1981)

Nothing will ever capture the elegance of apocalyptic road combat than that 15-minute tanker chase scene at the end, one of the most aggressive and violent actions scenes ever put to celluloid.

 

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Blade Runner (1982)

What can I say that hasn’t been said about this seminal cyberpunk epic? The forever-dark, rainy, polluted urban future has influenced the genre more than any other film since.

 

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The Matrix (1999)

I just mean the first movie, not the other two sequels, which were, in a word, execrable. But this first one started it all, wearing all its influences on its sleeve yet managing to convey an exciting originality nonetheless.

 

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Ex Machina (2015)

Robots have finally come of age, and this movie posits the question of what self-awareness really means.

 

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Predestination (2015)

This initially confusing, intricate and complicated movie will puzzle you at first, but stick with it; it’s going to be worth it at the end.

 

When I was compiling the movies for this list, I came up with over 40 different choices, and I had to chop it down to a bare ten. In the process, I painfully left out many worthy (you might say worthier) classics, like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) or Close Encounters of The Third Kind (1977), or even more recent films like Her (2013) or Looper (2012).

I stand by my choices, which were made with the simple proviso: what movies would I come back to again and again? Which is as good a benchmark as any, I guess.


Oct 23 2015

My Top Ten Horror Films

Adel Gabot

9:06AM

In honor of Halloween (and after seeing dozens of these Top Ten Horror Movie lists all over the web), I thought to compile my own list of personal horror movie favorites. These are listed in chronological order, and are not ranked:

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The Exorcist (1973)

Ah, the classic. Much deserved and earned praise. Artfully shot, mercilessly paced, it stands up even today as the perfect horror movie, ageless and relentless.

 

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The Legend of Hell House (1973)

When you first arrive at the deserted mansion, enveloped in fog and oppressive silence, you know you’re in for it.

 

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Dawn of The Dead (1979)

George Romero’s paean to zombies and capitalism, this ‘living in the mall with zombies’ epic is at once scary and thought-provoking.

 

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The Changeling (1980)

This Canadian-made film is the classic haunted house flick, starring George C. Scott and a bouncing ball.

 

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The Shining (1980)

Stephen King hated Stanley Kubrick’s version of his book, but I view it as a separate and completely different creature, and love it for what it is.

 

 

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The Evil Dead (1981)

I saw this in the theater when it first came out, and I was thrilled and astounded by the relentless B-movie pacing and gory old-style effects. Excellent early Sam Raimi.

 

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John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)

I’ll allow putting Carpenter’s name in the title, because it’s his most seminal work. This intimate tale of a bunch of guys trapped in a remote location with a shape-changing creature is a wonderful nightmare. The effects aren’t bad either.

 

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The Exorcist III (1990)

Exorcist II was crap, but the third movie is a great call-back to the first one, with the same sentiment and weirdness. The shot of that grandmother crawling on the ceiling will give you nightmares for days.

 

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[rec] (2007)

This Spanish-made apartment-house zombie siege sets a frantic pace from the get-go and doesn’t stop for anything.

 

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It Follows (2015)

The pure definition of the creeping death.