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a blog from Eli the Bearded
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Starcrash


I was looking for Caroline Munro works and found this 1978 film. This is a Roger Corman production, and in many ways typical of his stuff: cheap. Considered by some a cult film, it was a quick to market rip-off of Star Wars.

There is an evil overlord with a novelty spaceship. There are a pair of smugglers being pursued by space police. There's risky hyperspace jumps to avoid those space police. There are robots. There's a weapon the size of a planet that needs to be dealt with. There's Akton (played by Marjoe Gortner) a force magic user (it's not really explained, not even to Star Wars: A New Hope level of explanation.)

And there's Stella Star (played by Caroline Munro in costumes not entirely unlike Barbarella). Unlike a lot of Corman's stuff of the era, this is strictly PG, so while Stella is never, eg, topless, she's clearly meant to be the big draw for a teenage male audience. They do spice it up with a planet of "Amazons" who also dress like the weather is rather warm.

The story is amusingly bad, and the special effects are amusing. There are some robots (not all of them) that remind me of Harryhusen's Sinbad films. (Munro became famous as a slave girl in one of those films.)

But Akton. Ugh. He just ruins the film for me. Gortner's rise to fame came from being ordained at age four and preaching on the "revival" circuit for years in his youth, then turning to acting to earn an honest living. It's an interesting story for the actor, but none of that matters for the film. Throughout this he can never seem to not look smug, and it grates. I've seen him in Bobby Jo and the Outlaw and didn't find him as unwatchable there, so I don't think it was Gortner's fault. (To be clear, the reason to watch that film is not him, the outlaw, but Lynda Carter's Bobby Jo.)

One escape pod out of four.

Starcrash at imdb
Star Wars: A New Hope at imdb

Bobby Jo and the Outlaw at imdb

Promising Young Woman


The trailer for this promises (delibate word choice) some wronged woman Death Wish revenge. The movie delivers something slightly different. There's a lot more psychological damage than physical.

The cruelty Cassie wants to inflict stems from being lost and seeking revenge for a life-long friend wronged in college. At first it is mostly small aimless stuff, random guys from random clubs, but then there's a reconnection to people from her college and a much more serious and deliberate plan.

I felt like it started off a bit heavy-handed, but quickly became more subtle. The filming is prettier than the story needs, and there's a lot of cliched sexiness, all very deliberate to help reinforce how much Cassie has reinvented herself for her revenge plot. She's watching videos on applying the perfect "blow job lips" makeup (the director makes a cameo as the instructor) with the intention to know how to lure in the guys, but not with any intention to satisfy guys.

The finish is relatively strong and satisfying, if also a bit too much of a movie ending.

Four tally marks out of five (|||| of ||||).

Promising Young Woman at imdb

Minari


First a note on watching this. A24 has a "screening room" to buy streaming access to this. They mention you can watch it via Roku, but what they really mean is you can (with certain Roku models) stream it from a computer to the Roku. You'll still need the computer to stream it. Rather than stream it twice wirelessly (once to computer, once from computer to Roku), we used an HDMI connection to my wife's Mac.

The other thing about the streaming access that stands out as "needed more explaination" is the times. When you buy access to this it comes at a particular date and time. Turns out that particular time is the start of a multihour (five? six?) window to watch it.

And a minor note. The video stream has customer identifying watermark that jumps around. It sticks to the very edge of the screen but moves up / down and switches sides. This was distracting at first but eventually ignorable.

On to the film.

This is an autobiographical story of the director's childhood, focusing on the first year of living in rural Arkansas with his Korean immigrant parents, and later his maternal grandmother, moved in to both care for her and provide some child care.

It is very striking that it avoids pretty much all of the cliches of a foriegner story. There's essentially no racism, no white savior, no special Asian wisdom to save the day. It's a story of people with conflicting desires, health problems, and farm troubles. The meanest line in the film is from a local teen directed at a local old man, overheard by the immigrant kids. There is a bit of a running joke about misundertanding that Mountain Dew is not some sort of natural mountain stream water.

Much is made of the boy's "cuteness" in accompanying commentary. The boy is the young director, and given a lot of significance in the story, but to me it was the grandmother who was the most interesting character. Her fascination with professional wrestling on TV, for example, was quite funny.

It's a slice of life film, and as typical for those, a little slow. But I didn't regret a moment of it. Call it a tad better than three amateur exorcisms out of four.

I watched the interview with the cast special feature afterwards. I felt that was largely a waste of my time. The title refers to one of the plants grown (this is clear in the movie), but Lee Isaac Chung (director) notes this was the rare plant that ultimately did well at the farm.

Minari at imdb

Children of Men


This movie by Alfonso Cuarón came out in 2006 and is set in 2027. When it was new, someone I know commented that the lack of electric cars was hard to believe. Sitting in early 2021, having just watched Children of Men, the lack of electric cars seems quite plausible.

The basic story is for some reason, unknown to the characters, women, at least humans, stopped having babies in 2006. The story opens with the death-of-Princess-Diana level news about the youngest person, an 18 year old, having been killed. The coverage gives his age to the day. I get the sense that after the infertility set in, people just gave up on preserving the world for the future and doubled down on pollution.

It's clear that what's left of society has given up most hope, Britain is shown as a rare place where life sort-of continues normally, and thus is a huge destination for displaced peoples from the rest of Europe. It is a point of great friction in that world.

Background details show quite believable tech advances like the fancy monitors in an office, a TV as an alarm clock, and video ads on the sides of buses. And seeing the refugees get left in cages and having a reference to a flu pandemic made this seem rather 2020-topical.

Anyway, the main character, Theo, is a former activist now numb to pretty much everything. "At least with a hangover, I feel something." Then his ex-wife approaches him to ask for a favor. There's a young woman who needs to get to safety — she's pregnant and everyone wants to have the baby for propaganda reasons.

This story doesn't break ground with themes. To me, it seems like a tale ripped from 1970s dystopia, with the 1970s taste for setting it twenty to thirty years later, but with much more modern budget and production values.

The whisk-a-woman-to-safety (with some precious cargo) story has been done before. My mind went to The Ultimate Warrior (1975, Yul Brenner as title character) there. The prison camp scenes made me think of Escape from New York (1981, late for 1970s).

The details, filming, world realization, war scenes, etc, all those are much, much better than the 1970s versions of this story. As such, it's good entry into that escape collapsed society niche, just time shifted.

Five security checkpoints out of six.

Children of Men at imdb