Jon Gries

Federighi Films

It’s the near future, and the world (or at least this part of it) is suffering from a decade-old drought. Two teens in the newly desert-like state of Oregon struggle to survive on what used to be a family farm — Dean (Booboo Stewart) hides out in the attic, Kendal (Haley Lu Richardson) makes runs to the nearby well for water — but their efforts are hampered by his failing kidneys, a roving band of violent marauders and the well’s dwindling water supply. They have a plane in a nearby barn, but it’s in need of a very specific engine part, and it soon becomes clear that they may not last until that piece is found. Dean’s health grows worse each day, and Carson’s (Jon Gries) gang is stepping up their efforts to eliminate threats to the region’s limited water sources. What’s a teenage girl with moderate shotgun and samurai sword skills to do? The Well offers up a smartly-crafted, lo-fi apocalypse that packs in substantial substance and care for its budget. Director/co-writer Thomas S. Hammock delivers a mostly convincing and desolate world along with a highly empathetic lead character who acts as our guide through a life seemingly without hope.

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lazlo

Growing up with Real Genius, I’ve mistaken it for a guilty pleasure. The college comedy, which opened in theaters 28 years ago today, was easily lumped in with a number of other nerdy teen movies of the era, including WarGames and Weird Science, the latter of which opened just five days before this and went on to make more money and reign as the better known of the sci-fi oriented pair. And Real Genius is really silly, with its penis enlargement jokes and goofy pranks. It always felt like, as it sort of is, a PG-rated knockoff of the previous year’s Revenge of the Nerds. Little did I know then that it received a good deal of positive reviews, including a 3 1/2-star rave from Roger Ebert. Never mind what the critics thought, though. While it’s always hard to objectively re-examine a beloved movie from your youth (don’t dare tell me Maximum Overdrive isn’t a good film!), there’s at least some proof that Real Genius was intelligently produced and meant to be different from the pack it seems to run with. It also has a more interesting legacy than it’s given credit for.

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Natural Selection opens with a birth, of sorts, and ends with another. Kind of. A landscaper is working the grounds outside a prison, but when he takes a break and walks away from his riding lawnmower the clippings bag begins to move. A seam rips open and out pours a scrawny, filthy, mulleted man clearly thrilled to have escaped from jail. A few states away Linda (Rachael Harris) and her husband Abe (John Diehl) are waking in bed. She makes moves of a seductive nature, but he shuts her down with a reminder that God would not approve. She’s barren and unable to conceive, and God only approves of fornication in the service of procreation. It’s a struggle that she accepts without complaint, but when Abe suffers an ironic stroke that puts him in a coma while “donating” at a sperm bank she discovers he’s been doing so since they were married over twenty years ago. Double standard? Maybe, but when she’s informed he has a son named Raymond she sets off to find the young man and unite them before Abe passes.

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After working with both Mark Shostrom and Sonny Burman on Evil Dead II, I had ended up back at Stan Winston’s studio. Stan and his permanent crew of John Rosengrant, Shane Mahan, Tom Woodruff, Jr., and Richard Landon were back in the shop from England and Aliens, and had just completed the Robert Zemekis episode of Amazing Stories, “Go to the Head of the Class.” The next assignment was a mechanical boar for the Debra Winger/Theresa Russell vehicle Black Widow. No, you didn’t miss anything. The sequence was cut just as we finished the puppet. Alec Gillis returned to the studio in time for the next Amazing Stories episode “Miss Stardust” for which we created three intergalactic beauty contestants. Ironically, it was during the shooting at Universal Studios, that Stan told us what the next assignment was going to be: A cross between The Goonies and Ghostbusters entitled The Monster Squad. Okay, confession time here. I do like the original Universal films Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Wolfman; I’m not a huge fan of The Mummy. Yes, my brother and I saw all of the films and collected the Aurora model kits (so good) but my love of monsters truthfully was for giant monsters: King Kong, Godzilla, Ray Harryhausen pictures, dinosaurs – those were the monsters that really ignited my imagination. I was partial to The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but technically, this was a 50s monster and not a 30s monster like its cousins. So when Stan told us […]

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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