Halo: Nightfall – Essentially a piece of decently budgeted and officially sanctioned fan fiction, Halo: Nightfall is both frustrating and fulfilling. Frustrating, because it establishes a larger universe of possibilities in a whole universe dominated by a human-Covenant war, only to zero on on one tiny, semi-doomed mission to a mostly uninhabited planet; satisfying, in that it doesn’t need to betray its source material to please a wider audience.
During an uneasy truce, a Covenant soldier detonates a bio-weapon formed from a compound that was created when Master Chief destroyed the first Halo ring. A team of Spartans is sent to the nearest planet to set of a nuke and ensure no more of said compound remains, but the barren planet features swarms of deadly flying worms who attack any form of technology they detect. With one spaceship left that will only carry two of the team to safety, tensions fray and personal concerns threaten to derail the mission.
The main thing to take away from this? Mike Colter is an awesome badass as team leader Jameson Locke, and he’ll be a fine Luke Cage on Marvel’s Netflix series.
Aguirre, The Wrath of God Arguably the predecessor to the Italian cannibal horror exploitation flicks that scared the shit out of helpless would-be censors in the early ’80s, Aguirre sees director Werner Herzog teamed with his favorite nutjob actor Klaus Kinski, as a conquistador searching for El Dorado, venturing deeper and deeper into the jungle and cannibal territory, exhibiting the soon-to-be customary western arrogance that will inevitably lead to his entire crew’s downfall. Includes different English and German commentaries by the always-entertaining Herzog.
Exodus: Gods and Kings – Widely disliked retelling of the story of Moses by Ridley Scott, starring non-Jewish, non-Middle Easterner Christian Bale (Scott earned no friends by describing any hypothetical alternative as “Mohammed so-and-so from such-and-such). I only saw 30 minutes of it, but they struck me as poorly edited and uncomfortably homophobic. Charlton Heston fans need fear no usurper.
Penguins of Madagascar – Although it’s arguably the best of the Madagascar movies, focusing solidly on the supporting characters that costar Benedict Cumberbatch keeps calling “Pengwings,” even in the movie itself…this one didn’t do so well. I guess that means we can expect more Ben Stiller lion in our future.
The Lady from Shanghai – Nearly 70 years old, Orson Welles’ famed noir film might be – aside from Citizen Kane – the only one of his films that displays his talents at their height, but was not tampered with by studios (like The Magnificent Ambersons or Touch of Evil). For a film like this, extra features are often secondary to seeing the wonderful restoration in full digital glory. And, wow, does this one look good.
My Girl – Macaulay Culkin kisses a girl, then dies from a bee sting, in one of the most deceptively marketed movies ever.
Mark of the Devil – Arrow Video has exhumed a not-so-well-known-but-nonetheless-celebrated exploitation flick from 1970, starring Herbert Lom from the Pink Panther movies. This is a rough one, even for the grindhouse crowd. There is a rape over the opening credits (!), and the film is about a young man (Udo Kier) who loses faith in the church after he realizes that witch burning are a chance by the clergy to extort money and land. Oh yes, and a woman gets her tongue ripped out. Happy nightmares, kids.
Song of the Sea – As tired as I am of animated movies always going for the family audience, Song of the Sea won me over, and it’s appropriate that it’s being released on St. Patrick’s Day, as it may be the most Irish film ever made (I’ll put it this way: if you know the song “Baidin Fheilimi,” this is a movie for you). An Irish boy, angered that his mother seemingly died in childbirth, takes his rage out on his younger sister, little knowing that she’s a selkie (seal-person), and part of a much larger battle between an old world of magic and the new. What follows is a wonderful journey through ancient Celtic myth and depressing modern reality, with one seriously earned tear-jerker of an ending.
Did I miss out on anything good this week?
[Witney Seibold contributed to this post]