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'The Magnificent Seven' Is A Good Popcorn Action Movie - Nothing More, Nothing Less
Production: Score & Soundtrack: 
Action Sequences: 
While it may be hard to prove that Hollywood is truly out of original ideas, there hasn't been any recent shortage of remakes and reboots. This summer alone has provided moviegoers with re-imaginings of Ghostbusters and Pete's Dragon, as well as a Blair Witch movie that, let's face it, may as well be considered...

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'Operation Avalanche' Is Lo-Fi For Film Geeks And Conspiracy Theorists
Production: Cinematography: 
Taking place in 1967 right as the Space Race between the US and the USSR was heating up, Operation Avalanche is about a pair of CIA agents named Owen Williams and Matt Johnson who are sent into NASA to uncover a mole planted by the KGB to sabotage the Apollo moon landing program. Filmmakers themselves, Owen and...

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'Blair Witch' Has The Same Fun Spirit As The Original, With More Storyline...And More Scares
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There can be little doubt that The Blair Witch Project has been one of the most legendary and influential movies of the modern era. The 1999 no-budget classic practically jump-started the "found footage" trend of filmmaking (whether it gets credit or blame is up to you, dear reader). A year later a sequel was...

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'Snowden' Shows Off Oliver Stone At His Most Polarizing
Production: Cinematography: 
In recent history, few figures have been as polarizing as National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Some feel he is a patriot, while others consider him a traitor. In Snowden, writer/director Oliver Stone (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July) makes it clear which side of the fence he is on. Snowden...

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Despite All The White Powder, 'White Girl' Is As Bland As White Bread
Production: Writing: 
White Girl is about a young college student named Leah (McFarland, USA's Morgan Saylor) who, along with her best friend/roommate Katie (India Menuez from Something in the Air), moves into a new apartment in a seedy part of New York. Looking to score some marijuana in her new neighborhood, Leah boldly approaches...

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'The Neon Dead' Has More Neon Demons Than 'The Neon Demon'
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Score & Soundtrack: Scary Factor: 
Earlier this year, Nicolas Winding Refn's strangely hypnotic The Neon Demon was released to receptive-yet-confused audiences. To add to the confusion, there is now a movie called The Neon Dead that has found its way to American horror fans. Luckily, the two movies could not be more different. The Neon Dead...

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'Sully' Shows Another Side Of The 'Miracle On The Hudson'
Production: Acting: 
Most Americans know the story. On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 departed from LaGuardia Airport, bound for Charlotte, North Carolina. Just after takeoff, the plane ran into a flock of birds and both engines were disabled. The pilot, Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, was forced to put the plane...

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'Little Men' Is A Lighthearted Movie With A Powerful Undercurrent
Production: Directing: 
Coming-of-age movies usually deal with kids growing up. But sometimes, as Little Men shows, the adults go through some growing pains, too. Little Men is about a thirteen-year-old boy named Jake Jardine (Theo Taplitz in his first feature-length role) whose grandfather dies and leaves a Brooklyn building to Jake's...

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'Other People' Laughs And Cries With Raw, Genuine Emotion
Production: Comedy Factor: 
One of the most surprisingly funny movies to hit theaters last year was the festival darling Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, in which "Saturday Night Live" alum Molly Shannon played the mother of the titular girl who spends the entirety of the film dying of cancer. Now, it's Shannon's turn to face the deadly...

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The Light Between Oceans Is High Drama With Top-Tier Acting
Production: Acting: 
The Light Between Oceans is a tearjerker. It's the type of movie where, if you aren't hearing sobs at least a few times throughout the film, then you are likely in an empty theater, or you're seated in a room full of soulless monsters. Director Derek Cianfrance has never been one to shy away from tough subject...

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'Morgan' Disappoints With Its Sci-Fi Predictability
Production: Scary Factor: 
From the trailers and advertisements, Morgan looks like it could be a sequel to last year's Ex Machina. While Morgan does share some of the same themes and ideas as Alex Garland's robotic masterpiece, and even goes so far as to flaunt some similar imagery, Morgan is no Ex Machina. The title character in Morgan,...

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Fede Alvarez's 'Don't Breathe' Is An Edge Of Your Seat, Fright-Filled Thrill Ride
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A few years back, writer/director Fede Alvarez took on the unenviable task of remaking Sam Raimi's legendary cult classic The Evil Dead. He knocked it out of the park; Alvarez's Evil Dead, a dark and brutal interpretation of the tongue-in-cheek original, was one of 2013's best movies. Now, with Raimi behind...

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'Killer Party' Is A Zombie Movie With A Refreshing Lack Of Zombies
Production: Comedy Factor: 
Scary Factor: 
For the better part of three years, first-time filmmaker Alex Drummond's The Shower has been toiling away in its various forms on the festival circuit. Finally, it will be available to audiences - only the name has been changed to Killer Party. Killer Party is about a group of Hollywood twenty-somethings who...

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'Hell Or High Water' Feels Like A Lost Coen Brothers Faux-Western
Production: Writing: 
Between his prison drama Starred Up and his sci-fi romance Perfect Sense, director David Mackenzie has been simmering away in the independent filmmaking underground. With Hell or High Water, he is poised to break through. Hell or High Water follows the exploits of Toby and Tanner Howard (Star Trek's Chris Pine...

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Fear Not - 'Pete's Dragon' Will Not Ruin Your Childhood
Production: Special Effects: 
Score & Soundtrack: 
In 1977, as a seven-year-old kid, I loved the original Pete's Dragon. The clever blend of animation and live action stuck me on the hook, and the catchy songs reeled me in. Not even the two-hour-plus running time discouraged my "Sesame Street" attention span. So, while everyone else was worrying about whether...

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'Sausage Party' Is An R-Rated Toy Story, And It's Hilarious
Production: Comedy Factor: 
Imagine Toy Story, but instead of a talking cowboy doll and spaceman, the main characters were a talking hot dog and bun. And instead of the world of toys come to life, the world of food takes on a mind of its own. That's basically Sausage Party in a nutshell. Oh, and the food is raunchy, foul-mouthed, and borderline...

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'Suicide Squad' is a Messy Anti-Superhero Movie
Production: Action Sequences: 
What if Superman came down to Earth and, instead of helping the population, decided to enslave it? That's the question posed by Suicide Squad, director David Ayer's anti-Avengers, a movie where the bad guys unite under the flag of good, while at the same time consistently reminding us they are bad. It's a movie...

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Modern Action Movies Have Passed 'Jason Bourne' By
Production: Action Sequences: 
For all intents and purposes, the Bourne franchise has been batting 1.000 with Matt Damon in the lead role. The Bourne Identity came out with a surprise blend of espionage and gritty action, and its follow-ups, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, continued that legacy. Speaking of legacy, it's best...

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'Nerve' Is A Dangerous Fairy-Tale For The Adrenaline Junkie Generation
Production: Directing: 
A few years back, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman turned heads with their provocative "documentary" Catfish (in quotes because its authenticity as a nonfiction film has always been suspect). A year later, the filmmaking duo was rewarded for their efforts when they were asked to helm Paranormal Activity...

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Frame Of Mind

The Hurt BusinessMixed Martial Arts, or MMA for short, is the fasting growing sport in the United States today.  Combining the flash of professional wrestling with the brutality of boxing, MMA draws thousands to live events and sells millions of pay-per-view orders.  MMA is also the subject of a new documentary from Vlad Yudin (who also made the bodybuilding doc Generation Iron) called The Hurt Business.

The HauntingWith about forty feature films to his credit over a sixty year span, director Robert Wise was a fairly prolific filmmaker.  He also was extremely versatile, with a resume that includes everything from Hollywood musicals such as The Sound of Music and West Side Story to science fiction epics like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  He also did more than merely dabble in the horror genre, with credits like The Curse of the Cat People, The Body Snatcher, and Audrey Rose to his name.  His crown jewel, at least as far as fright flicks are concerned, is the 1963 spookfest The Haunting.

Author: The JT LeRoy StoryJT LeRoy was a real-life Cinderella: an androgynous boy with a truck stop prostitute for a mother who lived a life of drug addiction and sexual abuse before becoming a literary phenomenon when his first autobiographical book, Sarah, was published in 1999.  JT LeRoy was also a fraud: an identity manufactured by writer Laura Albert as a way for Albert to write about taboo subjects that she normally wouldn’t dare approach.  Albert’s deception was exposed in 2005, and the entire drama is documented in the fascinating film Author: The JT LeRoy Story.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial KillerIt would seem as if 4k restorations are all the rage in the horror world.  Last year, Tobe Hooper’s classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre got one, as did George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and there’s one for Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm on the books as well.  Well, not to be outdone, it has recently been announced that one of the most controversial horror films ever made, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, is also getting the 4k treatment for its thirtieth anniversary.  It’s as good a time as any for Cinema Fearité to take a look back at the 1986 shock film classic.

Night of TerrorIn retrospect, it would appear as if Universal Studios owned the American horror cinema market in the 1930s.  In actuality, however, nearly every studio in town was making horror films just as prolifically during that decade, with RKO Radio Pictures (King Kong, The Most Dangerous Game), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Freaks, Mad Love), and Columbia Pictures (Black Moon, The Man They Could Not Hang, The Black Room) all releasing quality fright flicks.  Columbia was especially productive, even managing to convince some of Universal’s stars to moonlight on their movies.  That’s what they did in 1933 with the great Bela Lugosi, just two years after he became a household name in Dracula, with Night of Terror.

GleasonFormer New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason’s football career can be defined in a single play.  On September 25th, 2006, in the Saints’ first home game since their city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Gleason blocked a punt by the Atlanta Falcons that was returned for a touchdown, the first score of a game which the Saints would go on to win.  It was more than just a football play.  It was a symbol of resilience, a statement about the resurgence of a city that had been nearly destroyed.  Gleason provided a spark of hope which turned the city around.

Poor Pretty EddieAlthough they’re not always considered horror films, there can be little doubt that rape-revenge movies are horrifying.  Some of them, like Wes Craven’s debut film The Last House on the Left, are well-crafted artsy experiences.  Others, like Meir Zarchi’s infamous shocker I Spit on Your Grave, are more exploitive in nature.  And some, like 1975’s Poor Pretty Eddie, are a crazy combination of both.

Night of the CometEver since George Romero turned the horror world on its ear with Night of the Living Dead, the words “Night Of The” have become staples of fright flick titles.  Whether it’s a creature feature B-movie such as Night of the Lepus or a tense crime drama like Night of the Juggler, those three words can really let the audience know what they’re in for.  Cinema Fearité has already sung the praises of a couple of these aptly-named movies - Night of the Creeps and Night of the Demons.  And now, we’re doing one more – the 1984 horror comedy Night of the Comet.

De PalmaWhether one considers him one of the freshest voices in modern cinema or just a hack Hitchcock imitator, there’s no doubt that Brian De Palma has made some of the most important movies of the last half century.  Now, fellow directors Noah Baumbach (Mistress America) and Jake Paltrow (“NYPD Blue”) turn the camera around on the iconic filmmaker in the simply titled documentary De Palma.

GothicIt’s common knowledge that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was the result of a friendly writing competition between herself, her future husband Percy Shelley, the poet Lord Byron, and author/physician John Polidori.  While stuck indoors during the unseasonably rainy summer of 1816, the four writers took turns trying to scare each other with stories of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins.  Only the four participants know for sure what happened over the course of those isolated and secluded days, but director Ken Russell (The Devils, Altered States) posits one theory in his 1986 movie Gothic.

Diary of a MadmanWhen most people think about classic horror writers, two names usually come immediately to mind: Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.  But there is a third name that deserves to be there.  The prolific French writer Guy de Maupassant had every bit as much imagination and talent as Poe and Lovecraft.  There just haven’t been enough movie adaptations of Maupassant’s work for him to have gained household name status.  There have been some Maupassant movies, however - the best known being the 1963 chiller Diary of a Madman.

Theatrical one-sheet for TICKLED, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.A lot of weird stuff can be found on the internet.  The general rule is that just about anything – and I do mean anything – is just a Google search away.  For example: who would have thought that Competitive Endurance Tickling was a thing?  Well, if you believe the new documentary Tickled, apparently it is.

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2The biggest news coming out of last weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con was, arguably, the announcement that the upcoming Adam Wingard/Simon Barrett movie The Woods is, in fact, a sequel to The Blair Witch Project.  With all the hoopla and hub-bub, some fans seem to have forgotten (or perhaps have been trying to forget) that there already has been a Blair Witch sequel: 2000’s Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.

Warcraft PosterIn 1994, Blizzard Entertainment released the game "Warcraft: Orcs & Humans," which created a universe so popular the company created three more games in the series; the most widely known and arguably the most popular being "World of Warcraft (WOW)." The "WOW" phenomenon has had its ups and downs in popularity among gamers, but it continues to have a solid following. The most shocking part of the games' story is that it took over 20 years to have a movie based on them made. Warcraft has finally arrived, rolled up in an action-packed, CGI-filled fantasy spectacle that will surely have "WOW" devotees grinning from ear-to-ear.

 

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