The Shelf: “Trance,” “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” “Kiss of the Damned”
by Kyle Anderson on July 23, 2013
This week’s got a lot of mind-effs and bot riffs. It’s also a good week if you like James McAvoy. However, you might not, once you’ve watched the movies.
British director Danny Boyle is one of my favorite modern filmmakers. He’s utterly fearless. Having started making very edgy fare like Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, and 28 Days Later, he transitioned into feel-good Oscar bait like Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. However, whilst he was ensconced in the process of making the truly fantastic opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics (a quite lengthy process), he took a much-needed break and decided to go about as far from being Britain’s Darling as possible, by making the twisty, dream-like, very adult Trance. I’m very glad he did.
The film follows an art auctioneer (James McAvoy) who suffers a trauma during the heist of a very expensive and rare painting. He can’t seem to remember much of what happened before it, which is a shame, because it turns out he was actually in on the heist with criminal Franck (Vincent Cassel) and his gang. McAvoy needs to remember where he put the painting or bad things will happen, so he goes to see a hypnotist (Rosario Dawson) who quickly twigs that something fishy is going on, and she wants in on the action.
Trance is a very convoluted and confusing movie until you understand what’s going on, and then it all makes sense. It’s mostly subjective, as we, the audience knows as much as McAvoy’s character most of the time, which is very little. In lesser hands, this movie might just be a brain-hurting mess, but with Boyle’s bravura directing style and some really great performances by the three leads, it becomes something much more. Any movie about memory loss and gain is going to be challenging, and this one challenges more than most, but it’s a rabbit hole worth diving into.
Jeepers creepers, 27 volumes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. If you’re doing the math, that’s about 108 episodes, which is just over half of the ones that exist. Now, granted, they all won’t get a release, probably, due to rights, but that’s still pretty astonishing. This set has a good mix of old and new episodes from various periods in the show’s history.
Episode 108 – The Slime People
The eighth episode from the Comedy Channel days has Joel and the bots watching mid-’60s garbage about a race of mollusk aliens attacking Los Angeles. There’s also a Commando Cody short!
Episode 205 – Rocket Attack U.S.A.
The following season saw the arrival of TV’s Frank (Frank Conniff), Kevin Murphy taking over Tom Servo, and Michael J. Nelson becoming head writer. The movie is a Cold War spy caper. This is also the first episode to have a “Stinger.”
Episode 523 – Village of the Giants
The penultimate episode from Mike Nelson’s first half-season has Beau Bridges, Ron Howard, and Tommy Kirk ruling a small town after drinking an elixir that makes them enormous.
Episode 804 – The Deadly Mantis
The first Sci-Fi Channel season, which had Mary Jo Pehl’s Pearl Forrester as the Mad and Bill Corbett taking over as Crow T. Robot. The movie is your typical big huge bug attacking people movie (video above).
I’ve always been a bigger fan of the Mike years, especially the Sci-Fi Channel stuff (which I’m aware is sacrilege to some), mostly because that was when my comedy brain was awakening, but it’s always nice to see some of the very old stuff to see where the series got its start.
The set also includes an interview with one of the stars of The Slime People, “Chasing Rosebud: The Cinematic Life of William Alland,” about the producer of The Deadly Mantis, and “Life After MST3K” with Trace Beaulieu.
Here’s a rule: if a woman tells you she has a skin condition that makes it impossible for her to be exposed to the sunlight, and she gives you a bunch of reasons not to try to pursue her, she’s not playing hard to get; she’s a vampire. Okay, pal? This bloody, moody thriller stars Milo Ventimiglia and is full of sex and violence, which is pretty much everything you could want from a vampire movie. Nobody sparkles, either. So there is that.
Twixt – What? Francis Ford Coppola made a horror movie? When did this happen? Oh, a couple years ago? Weird.
Welcome to the Punch – James McAvoy is back, this time with the awesome Mark Strong and the also-awesome Hayley Atwell for a British cop thriller. Not bad.
The Jack Benny Program: The Lost Episodes – 18 episodes of Jack Benny’s classic TV series that have never been seen since original broadcast are available now, fully restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Good work, team!
Robotech Two Movie Collection – If this is your thing, then this will be your thing.