Review – There’s A Bad Moon Rising (“Moonfall”)

Roland Emmerich is back! And that can only mean one thing–untold mayhem, unimaginable $$$ in property damage, and billions of people in mortal danger! Yup, ain’t nobody makes a disaster movie like Emmerich and this one is no exception.

Emmerich (2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla) steals liberally from both his own Independence Day movies, along with Contact, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Alien: Prometheus with this bombastic, cheesy, and thoroughly idiotic sci-fi movie that would seem more at home on the SyFy Channel. It’s 2011, and a space shuttle mission goes terribly wrong, thanks to a strange space swarm anomaly resembling billions of tiny bees that no one really sees, except astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson). His partner, Jocinda “Jo” Fowler (Halle Berry) was knocked out and saw zilch.

Fast forward ten years later and super-nervous Dr. K. C. Houseman (John Bradley), a conspiracy theorist & podcaster, has discovered (like NASA has) that the moon has shifted its orbit! Uh-oh! As people riot and go nuts, Jo Fowler, now NASA’s director, orders a full investigation of the moon, but discovers that the moon is actually hollow and housing some ginormous smart snake-like A.I. creatures (think Hiro Hamada’s microbots from Big Hero 6). Worse yet, it likes to attack any space ships that get near it. What is it? Why is it? Is it intelligent? Just as that part gets interesting, we keep switching back to the forced B-story of the movie, the family drama stuff. Ugh!

Yeah, you just can’t have total planetary death & destruction and a cool space adventure without some cripplingly stupid family shenanigans going on at the same time, now can you? *sigh* Disgraced and broke Brian has a delinquent teenage son (Charlie Plummer) who is “misunderstood” and is estranged from his mother (Carolina Bartczak) and step-dad (Michael Pena). Plus, Jo Fowler is divorced and has a precious little boy who is learning Chinese from his Asian nanny (Kelly Yu). Oh, and Houseman’s mother has Alzheimer’s. Got all that?

So, while the moon is losing its orbit and destroying every living thing on Earth, our three heroes (Houseman, Fowler, and Harper) are off on a search & destroy mission to the moon to kill that nasty space-snake thingy. Meanwhile, their kids and family members try to stay alive under utterly ridiculous and insane conditions. This is one dumb movie. I mean, really dumb. Written by director Emmerich, Harald Kloser (2012, 10,000 B.C.), and Spenser Cohen (Extinction) they have essentially cranked out a really awful fan-fiction sci-fi script that rips-off several other films with laughable clichés, space-shuttle sized plot holes, and dialogue that sounds like a middle-schooler wrote it.

This is not a case of “it’s so bad it’s good” like The Room or Popeye, this is just plain bad. I can suspend my disbelief just so far until a breaking point, and that occurs about 20 minutes into the film. In movies like these, nobody ever says or does anything sane or remotely intelligent. The acting ranges from pretty good (Wilson, Berry, and Bradley) to LOL not good (Plummer). And Donald Sutherland has a tiny little cameo! Sheesh! I will give kudos to the nice SPFX; I guess that’s where all the $146 million budget movie went, huh? It sure wasn’t in the writing, that’s for sure! 

**Now playing in theaters only

First Men in the Moon (1964)

It finally happens! In 1964, the first men set foot on the moon. . . but, what the hell? They discover evidence of a prior moon landing!? And one that dates back to 1899?  How the?? What the?? Who the?? That’s the set-up for this comedy/thriller/fantasy, brought to you by H.G. Wells & the fantastic work of stop-motion master, Ray Harryhausen.

Needless to say, the United Nations is flabbergasted at the news and tracks down Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd), a very old man in a nursing home in England who, apparently has an unbelievable story to tell them. Back in 1899, Arnold Bedford and his fiancée, Katherine Callender (Martha Hyer), meet a loopy eccentric inventor named Joseph Cavor (Lionel Jeffries), who has invented “Cavorite”, a strange liquid that, once applied to anything, deflects the force of gravity! And Cavor plans to use his new invention to travel to the Moon!

Cavor has already built a spherical spaceship for this purpose, taking Arnold and (accidentally) Kate with him. Once on the Moon, Bedford and Cavor fall down a vertical shaft and discover to their amazement, the Selenites, a population of intelligent insect-like creatures living beneath the surface. Afraid of their hostile intentions about attacking the Earth, Bedford kills a few, despite Cavor’s protests. After escaping from the Selenites, Bedford heads back to the surface, but their ship (with Kate inside) has been dragged away!

After fighting off a giant caterpillar-like monster, Bedford, Kate, and Cavor discover the Selenite’s extraordinary underground city, powered by a unique sunlight crystal. They find their ship, as Cavor has a discussion with the “Grand Lunar” of the Selenites about humanity and their aggression. Bedford manages to sneak onboard the sphere and escape with Kate, but Cavor stays voluntarily on the Moon. Back in the present day, Bedford recounts that they landed safely in the ocean. The U.N. officials are perplexed at this as the TV shows the live feed of the current moon mission, who have just found the hidden Selenite city and. . . and . . .

Adapted from H.G. Wells’ novel by Nigel Kneale (the Quatermass franchise) and Jan Read (Jason & the Argonauts), this screenplay hits on all marks. Both silly and fun while maintaining a delicious fantasy adventure that had, at its core, has an exciting sense of foreboding. Director Nathan H. Juran really knew his way around the camera, having done crazy TV shows like The Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants, and Lost in Space, so this sci-fi film was right up his alley. Okay, so it was pure fiddle-faddle as far as the story was concerned, but the target audience was aimed at kids with its ‘G’ rating and family-friendly writing.

Still, you can’t deny some of the best Harryhausen animation around! His Selenites, that gigantic monster caterpillar-thingy, Cavor’s sphere-ship, and more, is just cool to watch. And then you have the actors who really put their heart & soul into this film, starting with Jeffries who sells this movie like his life depended on it! Yes, it’s all very British, with Judd and Hyer giving great performances as well. Rent this, it’s a great Saturday afternoon at the movies.

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