The Phantom of the Opera (2004) – This is the big-screen adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, not the Lon Chaney silent shocker. Or the 1943 version starring Claude Rains that I absolutely hate. Or the 1962 Hammer version which I haven’t seen, or the ill-conceived 1989 Robert Englund version with time travel and soul-selling, or the respectable 1990 TV miniseries with Burt Lancaster and Charles Dance, or the 1998 Dario Argento version which I haven’t seen, or the other few versions that I really don’t know anything about…
The name of Joel Schumacher is often bandied about as “worst director in Hollywood” (a label applied almost completely by Batman Forever and Batman & Robin), but he’s really at his best with bombastic, gothic settings, so this is spot-on.
My daughter Sariah turned this on, knowing only that (a) it was a musical, (b) there was a guy in a mask, and (c) a chandelier falls. By the end, she was crying into the pillow clutched on her lap. Then she made her mother and sister watch it. And then her friends.
Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs (2015) – I was awful disappointed that this wasn’t a period piece, something to show on a double feature with The Valley of Gwanji (1969). No, it was instead a cookie-cuttered SyFy-ish creature feature, with check-the-box character templates, standard Sega-level CGI, and nothing really to recommend it except (a) the mighty Vernon Wells as the old and mean Requisite Eee-vil Businessman, and (b) Sara Malakul Lane as Dr. Sinclair, a fresh-out-of-college mining geologist whose impressive mammaries (the consensus of Teh Intarnets is that they’re very well done implants) are so bodacious that, even being fully clothed the entire time, they tend to distract from the presence of bloodthirsty dinosaurs.
Speaking of bloodthirsty dinosaurs… I know this really isn’t the context in which to complaint about verisimilitude, but here’s the thing about meateaters: They eat meat. They don’t just cruise through a town, killing all the locals one after another without stopping to consume their prey. (On the other hand, these are dinosaurs that will climb several stories through an old grain elevator after their human quarry while ignoring the horse placidly grazing beside the door.)
Ant-Man (2015) – While the huge blockbuster first-string Marvel heroes dominate the universe-shattering tentpole movies, a second-string movie like Ant-Man can really imitate what makes a comic-book universe fun: It inhabits a world in which those other heroes and events exist, but it can explore story ideas without having to have the universe hang in the balance every single time, or without primarily being a segment in the dominating meta-saga (I’m looking at you, Age of Ultron). This is the kind of movie that lets me entertain the far-fetched notion that maybe, just maybe, there could be an Agents of Atlas movie in the future.
As longtime readers (all 1.5 of you) will know, our family tradition is to hold a movie marathon on the Friday before Halloween: I’ll just keep tossing fun horror flicks in until everyone throws in the towel.
Except this year, my wife and kids had so many overlapping activities and engagements on Friday, we held the marathon on Thursday. The kids didn’t have school on Friday, which also meant that my wife, who works in the schools, could sleep in. I was the only one who’d have to drag himself to work on Friday…
Except Thursday was not itself an unencumbered evening, so we didn’t get started until after 9 pm. thus, our “marathon” this time out consisted of only three movies:
The Andromeda Strain (1971) – Yeah, it was interesting… in a boring way. The pacing was glacial, the dialog was stilted, and the acting was more wooden than an Ewok village. It seems like an instructional video on how to isolate and deal with an extraterrestrial virus using circa 1971 technology. At about two-thirds of the way through, we fast-forwarded to see if the world was destroyed. It wasn’t. The end.
Eight Legged Freaks (2002) – Attention, all writers and producers for the Sci-Fi Channel (or SyFy, or PsiFai or whatever you’re calling yourself): This is what a fun movie about giant bugs looks like. Watch. Learn. Go and do likewise. (Favorite scene: Giant trapdoor spiders vs. a flock of ostriches.)
The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) – Oh, regional cinema, where would we be without you? This docudrama about a Bigfootish creature south of Texarkana — with at least half of the vignettes acted by the original participants — is the perfect movie for that giddy time of night. We about lost it when we met Herb, who limps because he accidentally shot off part of his foot in a boating accident. “I didn’t know the boat was loaded!”
Unlike so many content-to-be-bad post-apocalyptic movies, this one wants to be good. It doesn’t quite make it, but hey, points for trying. In the far future, an isolated tribe of humans thinks they’re the only ones, living in a small spot of jungle that’s otherwise infested by infectious zombie creatures. When a zombie attack infects his loved ones, a young man tries to follow in his wanderer father’s footsteps and, with the help of Sean Bean who knew his father, journey to a despot-ruled city where the cure for the zombie disease is kept under lock and key.
Production values aren’t bad; the giant sloth show in the first five minutes (explained later as a leftover of pre-collapse genetic prowess, but mostly included because GIANT SLOTH) looks fully as realistic as any of the critters in 10,000 B.C., and there are some sets which leave me wondering if the South African shooting locations included leftover sets built for some larger production that I don’t recognize. But the movie tries too hard to be inoffensive, and as a result comes across more bland than anything.
(Note: This will probably be the last post-apocalyptic movie mentioned here for a while — I’m still considering that blog/book project reviewing every post-apoc movie ever made, and I don’t want to get tired of the topic too soon.)
The People That Time Forgot (1977) – You know what you’re getting into with one of these A.I.P./British co-production Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptations: stilted acting, arbitrary plots, and cardboard dinosaurs. If you don’t like that kind of stuff, why are you putting it on?
What this sequel to The Land That Time Forgot (based on the novel that was the sequel to the novel of The Land That Time Forgot, natch) really reminds me of, though, is Beneath the Planet of the Apes. You’ve got the lite version of the first movie’s hero (In this case Patrick Wayne, son of some guy named John) trying to find the hero from the first movie (in this case, studly everyman Doug McClure) who only shows up in the last few minutes.
Also: I was wondering all through, “Where have I seen this Patrick Wayne before?” Afterward, the IMDb informed me that I knew him from from Revenge, the 1986 shot-on-video pioneer of the direct-to-video movement. Oh, how the mighty fell…
Beast of the Bering Sea (2013) – AKA Damn Sea Vampires. Yes, it’s a cheap creature feature that premiered on the SyFy Channel. No, it’s not produced by The Asylum. Yes, it’s just as bad and then some. Things I learned from this movie:
- Weird manta-ray-like creatures can insert an egg into a human host and have it germinate to near-adulthood in mere hours.
- Anchorage, Alaska has a population not exceeding two dozen.
- Family crews on Alaskan gold-dredger boats can shrug off the deaths of close family members in a matter of minutes.
- When deep sea fish are exposed to strong ultraviolet light, they will literally explode.
Grab a beverage; this is gonna be long.
Ben Carson snagged a goodly proportion of the recent news cycle with his comments on Muslims and the Presidency of the United States. As such statements go, I don’t think it’s nearly as heinous as his critics make it out to be, but that’s how these things go; after all, political critics have a vested interest in making every statement they disagree with into TEH WORST THING EVAR!!1! (At least if they don’t support the speaker; if they do support the speaker, then they just reinterpret and water-down the meaning of the statement so that they can claim it’s innocuous and anyway, why are you ignoring what Ben Carson said, you racist??)
However. My daughter-in-law was raised Muslim here in Utah, and has a very sobering perspective on all of this:
When I was young, students in my school pushed me down and trampled me after recess (age 7). I was pushed into a corner and had multiple students threaten to beat me (age 8). I would go to the store with my father, and people would come up and tell me that my headscarf was a sign of oppression (age 10). I was attacked in a Wal-Mart parking lot (age 12), where a man attempted to kidnap me for being “terrorist scum”. I was so traumatized that I removed my headscarf for the last time. I have not worn it since.
Tangential to the point of this post (but certainly not an unimportant point overall) is that I am sickened and appalled at the behavior of my co-nationalists and, very likely, my co-religionists — especially the latter, in that Mormon children memorize and recite the eleventh of our Articles of Faith, which states:
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
These should not be — they cannot be — empty words, and there is sore repentance needed among those who mouth them but then ignore them.
Now, further necessary background to my point, because I find that half of the disagreements in the world stem from people arguing using words one whose meaning they have not agreed. So, some necessarily definitional ground rules:
Race is not the same as ethnicity, and ethnicity is not the same as personal credo.
Race is… frankly, a stupid idea that everyone needs to get over. It’s genetic heritage thanks to the variations in superficial human physical norms (height, skin color, hair consistency and dispersion, the ability to dance well, etc.) due to the isolation of particular populations in centuries past. In our current western culture, where some degree of genealogical admixture is the rule rather than the exception, the idea of distinct identifiable races is tenuous at best; and the idea of racial essentialism — that Mariah Carey, Snoop Dogg, Al Sharpton and Barack Obama share an ineffable but undeniable blackness that no one who doesn’t share it can never comprehend (unless, of course, they “identify” as black without sharing any of that genetic heritage) — is so ludicrous that I cannot believe that its propounder and promoters are taken half as seriously as the Westboro Church of Hatred.
Ethnicity is simply culture, usually of a variety that was incubated in a certain geographic locale, and because of that geographic component, racial labels and ethnic signifiers often overlap to the point that people looking for a quick way to categorize human beings will lump them together. Ethnicity has a better claim to individual essentialism than race, mainly because a person’s ethnic identity is often cemented in their formative years: The food they considered “normal,” the dress that is beautiful to them, the music that comes naturally to them, the religion that was the language in which they first encountered the divine. People can consciously turn away from some of all aspects of their ethnicity, but they cannot erase it without a complete mindwipe — it’s the environment in which they were wormed.
A personal credo (a philosophy, an outlook, a consciously-chosen identity — there is no one term which encompasses this concept) is the combination of unconsciously, culturally inherited ideals and preferences with consciously determined stances, goals, and codes of ethics. The proportion of inherited vs. determined planks to a credo varies, with some individuals practically being an unconscious one-person representative of their native culture and others seeming almost entirely self-made, having elevated the conscious examination of themselves to the highest priority in their lives. The rest of us fall somewhere in between, consciously deciding some issues while falling back on cultural defaults for others.
And now, all of the above being preamble, I can start finally to get to my point, which is this:
It is entirely legitimate to ask how the parameters and norms of a particular ethnic identity mesh or clash with the duties and mores of a particular position, be it public office or private employment or the area which encompasses both.
It is entirely legitimate to ask a seeker of public office whether they see a conflict between the duties of that office and the seeker’s otherwise expressed or implied credo.
Further, it is entirely legitimate to explore said seeker’s answer in greater detail if the questioner does not understand how those duties and that credo are compatible. For instance, if a member of the Westboro Church of Hateful Jackasses seeks public office, I find it entirely justifiable to raise a skeptical eyebrow to any protestations that said member’s religion will not affect his ability to execute that office. Similarly, if a candidate for public office describes himself as an observant Jehovah’s Witness or Mennonite, I feel entirely within my rights to ask more probing questions so that I can understand how this person professes to resolve two loyalties which, to my understanding, are incompatible. Nor do I feel it unfair or prejudicial of me to ask deeper questions of that candidate than of a Catholic, Jew, or Mormon, as I have seen how other members of those faiths comport themselves in public office, and on the basis of those examples I have no anxiety that the demands of their faith traditions necessarily conflict with the demands of their public duties.
Thus, I feel that it’s entirely legitimate to ask a Muslim candidate for office the following questions specific to his faith:
- “Some other Muslims have declared that sharia law trumps all man-made government. To what degree to you agree or disagree with that statement?”
- “Do you feel that you could faithfully execute the office to which you are elected or appointed, without a conflict between the duties of that office and the duties imposed by your understanding of your religious obligations?”
- “If in the future you find that there is an insurmountable conflict between the duties of your office and the duties of your religion, will you resign your office because of your inability to execute the duties for which you were elected?”
That last question is the kicker, because I expect anyone in public office, if they find themselves unable to execute the duties to which and for which they were inducted into that office, to declare publicly that the conflict is insurmountable, and to therefore resign. I consider that a non-negotiable part of being a person of integrity, whatever your religious or ethnic label.
I expect that of a Muslim.
I also expect that of a Mormon.
I also expect that of a Catholic.
I also expect that of an atheist.
I also expect that of a born-again county clerk.
I also expect that of a “citizen of the world” social justice warrior.
I expect that of every damned person, as a condition for being treated as an honorable member of a free society. If the oath of your office is one you can’t fulfill, don’t make it.
I cosplayed Friday at Salt Lake Comic Con for the first time since I was eighteen (which is long before the word “cosplay” — we just called it “costuming”). No specific character or franchise, just a post-apocalyptic wastelander outfit, because post-apoc is basically wearable assemblage art.
And then I never got a picture of it, so thanks to David West for sending me his shot, because otherwise I’d have to put it all on again.
(Click to embiggen.)
And yes, that is Stephenie Meyer’s photobombing face over my right shoulder.
Also, here’s my booth, before I started selling stuff:
The rack on the left side of the photo is Sariah’s collection of polymer-clay-made earrings, necklaces, etc., plus her crocheted (I get scowled at every time I say “knit”) character hats. By final tally, she outsold me by twenty or thirty dollars, so I made her chip in on the cost of the table.
Update: Vanessa Colunga also sent the pic she took. Thanks!
Thursday September 24, 2015 4:00 pm
Creating Horror: How to Scare the Crap Out of People
Room 255F (with Jason A. Anderson, Michael R. Collings, Michaelbrent Collings, Steve Diamond, Craig Nybo, Lehua Parker)
Thursday September 24, 2015 7:00 pm
H.P. Lovecraft & Horror: The Joys of Cosmic Terror
Room 255C (with Michael R. Collings, Sean Hoade, Josh Lee, Carter Reid, Eric Swedin)
Saturday September 26, 2015 10:00 am
The First Five Pages: How to Hook Your Readers Instantly with Your Novel or Screenplay
Room 253A (with Platte F. Clark, David Farland, Sara B. Larson, Shannon Messenger, Ilima Todd, Bryan Young)
Most other times, I’ll be manning the Cold Fusion Media table in Artist’s Alley (don’t ask me why they put me there), where among other things I’ll have copies of The Last Christmas Gift: A Heartwarming Holiday Tale of the Living Dead so you can get your Christmas shopping done early.
Plus, for the first time ever at any convention since I was eighteen years old, I’ll be cosplaying on Friday! Come see my post-apocalyptic getup, currently in progress!
As I mentioned on Facebook last week, I was toying with the idea of a book reviewing every post-apocalyptic movie ever made in chronological order. There were many yea and nay comments (or as I like to think of them, the sensible and the enablers), and good friend Allan Richards pointed out that an already existing book from 2014, World Gone Wild: A Survivor’s Guide to Post-Apocalyptic Movies by David J. Moore, purports to cover 800 movies from the genre. The awareness of such a book lessened the appeal of the hypothetical project for me somewhat…
…Until I said, “800 movies?” Seriously, there are that many post-apocalyptic movies? Depends on how you define the genre, I suppose. But I looked at the titles referenced in the Amazon description, and realized how much my own standards would be different. Here’s how I would define inclusion:
- There must have been a global (at least as far as the characters can tell) societal crisis which caused the near annihilation of modern Western infrastructure, with attendant population decreases. Among other things, this would disallow 28 Weeks Later, because the whole premise of that movie is that they’re dealing with a purely local pandemic. Similarly, we have no idea in Escape From New York what the rest of the world is like.
- While most post-apocalyptic stories are also dystopian, it is not enough that it be dystopian. Also, if the whole point is that this new society is so draconian and strictured that teenagers are going to be railroaded into a repressive role in adulthood unless they break away from social expectations and live as free spirits, I’m gonna say that lack of infrastructure isn’t really their problem.
- These are post-apocalyptic movies, not apocalyptic ones. None which occur during nuclear war, or bizarre climactic change, or pandemic plague — a post-apocalyptic story takes place almost wholly in the aftermath. This disallows movies like The Day After or Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
- Even if the inciting incident is post-apocalyptic, if the majority of the movie takes place in a pre-apocalyptic or non-apocalyptic time/place, the movie as a whole really isn’t post-apocalyptic. Mainly, that’s a time-travel problem, disallowing X-Men: Days of Future Past and all but one of the Terminator movies; it also leaves Logan’s Run as a marginal case.
- No zombie apocalypses. Arbitrary, but that’s how I roll; right there is why World Gone Wild contains 800 movies, because that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of worms. Also, it spares me from having to watch any of the Resident Evil movies.
- No shorts. There are almost as many ten-minute post-apocalyptic movies on Youtube as there are ten-minute zombie apocalypse movies. I’m defining “feature-length” as at least an hour.
- EDIT: No anime. That whole genre is such a different creature that delving into it in a book dominated by live-action films just doesn’t make sense.
- 2ND EDIT: Still considering this one: The characters should not be working to reverse the cause of the apocalypse (scientists working on a cure for the plague, freedom fighters fending off the aliens, etc.).
So with that in mind, I’ve been creating a Watchlist on Amazon of everything that qualifies as post-apocalyptic by my standards. Here’s the exported list in chronological order, currently at 173 entries; if you want, you can click through to see it alphabetically to see if your favorite is on my list.
EDIT: Before you tell me anything I missed, check the up-to-date list at the link; I’ve updated with a half-dozen titles since I first published this post, and I’m sure more will be coming.
Day the World Ended (1955)
Teenage Cave Man (1958)
The Creation of the Humanoids (1962)
The Last Man on Earth (1964)
In the Year 2889 (1967)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
The Omega Man (1971)
Creation of the Damned (1974)
The Ultimate Warrior (1975)
Strange New World (1975)
Damnation Alley (1977)
The Last Chase (1981)
The Aftermath (1982)
Anno 2020 – I gladiatori del futuro (1982)
2019: After the Fall of New York (1983)
Survival Zone (1983)
Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle) (1983)
Endgame – Bronx lotta finale (1983)
Exterminators of the Year 3000 (1983)
Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983)
Warrior of the Lost World (1983)
Yor, the Hunter from the Future (1983)
Escape from the Bronx (1983)
Rats – Notte di terrore (1984)
The Final Executioner (1984)
A Man Called Rage (1984)
City Limits (1984)
Def-Con 4 (1985)
Wheels of Fire (1985)
Survival Earth (1985)
O-Bi, O-Ba – The End of Civilization (1985)
Radioactive Dreams (1985)
Warriors of the Apocalypse (1985)
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
Land of Doom (1986)
Wired to Kill (1986)
America 3000 (1986)
Morning Patrol (1987)
World Gone Wild (1987)
The Time Guardian (1987)
Death Run (1987)
Leere Welt (1987)
Equalizer 2000 (1987)
Steel Dawn (1987)
Phoenix the Warrior (1988)
The Sisterhood (1988)
Empire of Ash (1988)
Mutant War (1988)
Fire Fight (1988)
Dead Man Walking (1988)
The Lawless Land (1988)
Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)
The New Gladiators (1988)
Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds (1989)
Escape from Safehaven (1989)
Rising Storm (1989)
Posetitel muzeya (1989)
Deadly Reactor (1989)
Ultra Warrior (1990)
Neon City (1991)
Tretya planeta (1991)
Dune Warriors (1991)
Dark Vengeance (1992)
Raiders of the Sun (1992)
Eternal Fist (1992)
Frogtown II (1992)
The Last Border (1993)
American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (1993)
Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow (1993)
Cyber Seeker (1993)
TC 2000 (1993)
Cyborg 3: The Recycler (1994)
New Crime City (1994)
Fist of the North Star (1995)
Tank Girl (1995)
Steel Frontier (1995)
Roboman Hakaider (1995)
Terminal Virus (1995)
Omega Doom (1996)
Toad Warrior (1996)
Dragon Fury II (1996)
Barb Wire (1996)
The Postman (1997)
Amazon Warrior (1998)
Six-String Samurai (1998)
Cold Harvest (1999)
The Last Patrol (2000)
Battlefield Earth (2000)
Teenage Caveman (2002)
Reign of Fire (2002)
Dream Warrior (2003)
Kampfansage – Der letzte SchÃ¼ler (2005)
Bloodfist 2050 (2005)
Alien Apocalypse (2005)
Android Apocalypse (2006)
Star Troopers (2006)
The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell (2006)
Tooth and Nail (2007)
The Last Sentinel (2007)
I Am Legend (2007)
Mutant Chronicles (2008)
Scars of Youth (2008)
Terminator Zan Kill (2008)
City of Ember (2008)
Experiment 7 (2009)
The Sky Has Fallen (2009)
Assault Girls (2009)
Terminator Salvation (2009)
Apocalypse Female Warriors (2009)
The Book of Eli (2010)
The Last Seven (2010)
World’s End (2010)
Never Escape (2010)
The Lost Future (2010)
The Day (2011)
The Collapsed (2011)
Population: 2 (2012)
The Colony (2013)
Revelation Road: The Beginning of the End (2013)
Revelation Road 2: The Sea of Glass and Fire (2013)
The Last Survivors (2014)
The Black Rider: Revelation Road (2014)
The Rover (2014)
Young Ones (2014)
Water Wars (2014)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Cyborg X (2015)
Road Wars (2015)
Predator: Dark Ages (2015) – This one’s a fan film, so you don’t need to feel guilty about torrenting it. And it demonstrates that, really, unless it’s a $200 million Avengers vs. Micronauts movie, what do we really need Hollywood for anymore? This Kickstarter-funded 25-minute short shows a handful of Templars (not really “Dark Ages,” but oh well) and a Saracen fractiously teaming up to fight a mysterious something that… well, you know.
Professionally shot and edited, well acted (or well enough, at least), with desktop digital FX at least as good as those which originally gave us the Predator’s cloaking device, this should finally prove to just about everyone that indie filmmaking deserves as much respect as indie publishing has gotten in the last couple of years.
Cyborg (1989) – Look, would you just stop acting shocked at all the “essential” movies I haven’t seen? I’ve seen enough of Albert Pyun’s other movies (far too many, actually) to know exactly what I was going to get with this: Ludicrous dialogue, tissue-thin characterization, bizarre pacing (I seriously thought the movie was almost over before I realized that only 50 minutes had gone by and there was still a half-hour to go), misuse (and overuse) of slow-motion, motifs stolen whole from better movies (in this case, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West) and the unnecessary inclusion of either a cyborg or android because Pyun likes ’em. Cyborg did not disappoint on any count, which means that it was a terribly disappointing movie. Frankly, reading about how this movie emerged out of the ashes of both an abortive Spider-Man movie and a Masters of the Universe sequel is more entertaining than anything shown on screen.
10,000 B.C. (2008) – One doesn’t watch a Roland Emmerich movie for deep philosophy or stirring characterization, but it should at least have thrills that make the budget worthwhile. 10,000 B.C., though, strains even one’s forgiveness for bubblegum summer fare with its club-footed dialog, it’s by-the-numbers plot conveniences, and its general lack of a feeling of enthusiasm. A group of heroic Cro-Magnonesque primitives follow the Bronze Age slavers who captured half their village through bizarrely sudden terrain shifts, dodging anachronistic and incongruous predators to an ersatz African that was just waiting for a white guy to come along to lead all the tribes against the slavers’ Iron Age employers, who ape Stargate just enough to let you know that they’re supposed to be bad guys. Along the way there are prophecies, of course, because they’re expected. In fact, everything in this movie seemed like it was here because it was expected, and for no other reason. It brought to mind the image of someone rounding the bases after everyone in the stadium has gone home.