When it comes to holiday themed horror movies, Thanksgiving really gets the short end of the stick. Of course, Halloween has all of the really good movies, and rightfully so, seeing as how John Carpenter’s Halloween essentially kickstarted the modern slasher genre. Christmas has a pretty long list of entertaining films about it as well, including classics like Silent Night, Deadly Night and Black Christmas. Even April Fool’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and New Year’s Eve have legendary slasher movies that revolve around them. Between Home Sweet Home and ThanksKilling, the few fright flicks about Thanksgiving have been, excuse the pun, turkeys. In 1987, director John Grissmer (False Face) came up with another attempt at Thanksgiving horror with a twisted tale of twins called Blood Rage.
A title at the end reveals that Joanna Hogg's third feature, Exhibition, is dedicated to the recently-late architect James Melvin, which should come as no surprise since the film is as much a portrait of the sleek, modernist Kensington townhouse in which it is almost exclusively set, as of the mildly dysfunctional marriage that resides therein.
Chistian Porumboiu ups the formal rigour of his last, Police, Adjective (2009), with a film composed of 17 shots, most capturing conversations for a full reel's 11 minutes, and filmed with an almost entirely static camera. His subjects are film director Paul and his actor and new bedmate Alina, rehearsing, eating, discussing the restraints (those 11-minute reels) of film versus digital, or how national cuisines developed according to the utensils used. They contrast in his shlubby demeanor and her careful, dancer-like movements; they misunderstand one another over dinner; and he wearily humors her working over the fine details of a scene, in order to achieve his aim of getting her naked onscreen.
Like Asghar Farhadi's previous film, A Separation (2011), Le passé (The Past) is a superb feat of narrative construction and mise en scène, keeping three to four characters at the centre of attention, and balancing their motives and desires with careful equanimity. The problem is that there's little more to recommend the film than this cleverness, since none of the characters are especially interesting or likable, and the third act develops into a twist-too-far detective story, before ending on a note that, albeit presumably not deliberate, is a thudding sequel set-up, and for a far more lively film to boot.
One wouldn’t necessarily guess it, but A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness, a collaborative effort by two of the leading lights of international experimental film, Ben Rivers (UK) and Ben Russell (US), is an enquiry as to where utopia(s) may exist (as noted in interviews and screening introductions). Possible locations, it is suggested, are in the present and in cinema (an art-form, the film-makers posit, which is permanently and exclusively located in the present). The film itself is nothing like as explicit.
It’s understandable that Alain Guiraudie won the best director of Un certain regard at Cannes this year, since for the most part L’inconnu du lac (Stranger by the Lake) is a very tight piece of work, effectively exploring the time and place of a single location and milieu, charting the uncertainties that blossom as a new relationship deepens, unfussily depicting the mores of a gay lakeside cruising ground, and building with a skillful slow-burn to a long final shot of excellent tension.
Wunderkind Xavier Dolan never seems to make it to the AFI festival because he's always off shooting his next movie (four movies by the age of 24 and Cannes prizes galore). He was in production on this one when last year's Laurence Anyways screened, a continuation and expansion of the high-pitched emotional drama of his first two films. Whether these were conceived as a triptych or not, Dolan switches tack for his fourth, adapting a play by Michel Marc Bouchard, and serves up a high-pitched psychological thriller that frequently borders on Grand Guignol.
Vic + Flo Saw A Bear is something like an expansion on Denis Côté's last, the strictly observational non-documentary Bestiaire (2012), although that in turn was a distillation of his favoured practice of looking at slightly odd characters shut away from the world. In Curling (2010) and Carcasses (2009), for example, it was by their own volition, as distinct from the animals of Bestiaire, and in Vic + Flo Saw A Bear the same is true, although rather weighted since both women are not-long released from prison.
Agnès Varda has cited Documenteur as her favourite of her own films, presumably because even more than The Beaches of Agnes (2008), it is her most personal and most emotional. She was apart from her husband Demy on her second trip to Los Angeles, at the start of the ‘80s, to develop a script (turned down), deciding instead to make her documentary Mur Murs (1981) on the city's mural art. During this time she was inspired both by her sadness of separation and by the sense of disenchantment and exile she found in Venice, to make a film that fully justifies its subtitle of an “emotion picture.”
The title R100 is a joke on the ratings system because director Matsumoto (Big Man Japan, 1997) claims that no-one who has not lived a century will understand this film. Such a pronouncement is in keeping with the striving absurdity of the movie, which is frequently funny, but overall a slightly laboured litany of craziness.
Jafar Panahi continues to defy the 20-year ban on film-making imposed on him by the Iranian government with a new feature, co-directed and starring his colleague and frequent collaborator Kambozia Partovi, and it is an intriguing magnification of his last illicit achievement, This Is Not A Film (2011). That title was wittily, bitterly disingenuous, whereas Closed Curtain specifically evokes the shut-in existence both of the writer protagonist of the film’s first half, and that of the film-maker himself. There is an opposite sense as well, however, since more even than the previous experiment, this film both opens itself to what kind of cinema can be made under such straitened circumstances, and opens the consciousness of its writer-director; and, despite his palpable anguish, the curtain of possibility remains open at the end.
The sound of bones crunching against a tree, as a man's body tumbles down an unforgiving hill; not once, but twice. This is the sound that haunts you after watching Lone Survivor, superseding the gunfire, explosions, helicopter propellers, and painful screams of four men being ambushed in Afghanistan by Taliban forces. It could easily go unnoticed, this sound, if it were not blatantly on display, or if the scene was anything less than horrific. The success of displaying the carnage, the way in which each man's body was pummeled, bruised, battered, and riddled with gunfire, is to show the perseverance they displayed, the outward courage of these Navy SEALs, that takes on an entirely new level of empathy from the viewer.
While the first Thor – released in 2011 – was a suitable introduction to the Marvel Comics character Thor, it was also a fairly tepid approach to what is one of the more cosmic members of the Avengers team. Up until that point, moviegoers had been treated to a Marvel world that existed in a realm where most of the superheroes seemed plausible, if not completely believable. Iron Man was a guy rich enough to build himself a super suit, the Hulk a man who was caught on the wrong end of Gamma radiation, Captain America a super soldier, and so on. Thor, on the other hand, is the God of thunder, and literally occupies a completely different realm from those previously mentioned characters.
In the sporting world, there are a handful of elite athletes who were able to rise head and shoulders above their competition. In the NFL, Jerry Rice not only still holds just about every major receiving record worth holding, but holds them all by such a huge margin that many will most likely never be broken. In the NHL, Wayne Gretsky was so dominant that the entire league, not just the teams for which he played, retired his number 99 jersey. The NBA’s Michael Jordan was a player who, every time he touched the ball, seemingly held the defense at the mercy of whatever it was that he wanted to do with it. These athletes had something special, something for which they have each been memorialized forever within their respective sports. Lance Armstrong had it, too. At least, that’s what everyone thought.
Alfred Hitchcock may be the most recognizable name in suspense, but there is one man who certainly gave Hitchcock a run for his money. Henri-Georges Clouzot was a master of suspense in his own right, and as a contemporary of Hitchcock, became a great rival and influence. His most frequent themes dealt with the moral corruption of individuals and communities. Films such as Le corbeau and Quai des Orfèvres depict a very cynical assessment of humanity while showcasing Clouzot’s immense talent for suspenseful filmmaking. His best film – and the one he is best known for – is undoubtedly Les Diaboliques, a noir adaptation of a Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac novel. Hailed by some as "the French film noir to end all French film noirs," Les Diaboliques turned noir convention on its head and provided one of the best examples of a noir thriller with horror overtones.
As the years go by it seems ever more likely that Dario Argento will never rescale the inspired heights of his '70s output, the hysterical horror and steely set-pieces that more than make up for wooden acting, distracting dubbing, and leaden exposition. Mother of Tears had its moments and gave one cautious hope in 2007; Giallo (2009) was familiar enough to be comforting; but while Dracula 3D feels reassuringly like an Argento film on plenty of occasions, it fails to play to his strengths, hamstrung by half-hearted literary faithfulness, strangely perfunctory in its murders, and unbalanced by far too much downtime.
In some regards, film noir was a genre that came full circle, from the darkly brooding French films that inspired American tales of ill-fated, morally corrupt characters and back again to the French who coined the very term “film noir” and celebrated its impact as a genre. Late 1930s French cinema saw an influx of films whose pessimistic themes earned them the name “poetic realism.” From directors such as Jean Vigo, Julien Duvivier, Marcel Carné, and Jean Renoir came films that sought to depict life in all its gritty realism and characters who lived on the margins of society – the working class and even criminals. One of the most celebrated films of the poetic realism movement is Marcel Carné’s Le jour se lève (1939). The third in a trilogy of fatalistic dramas, Le jour se lève is less a story about crime and more of the doomed love triangle that ruins a humble working man’s life. A deeply claustrophobic film, its emphasis on disillusionment and imprisonment within society are clear precursors to classic film noir.
The World's End is a film that cannot be summed up succinctly or without meandering off into a tangent or two. A face value it's a story about reuniting with old friends and squashing, or rehashing, decades-old squabbles, but just underneath the surface is an homage to the body-swapping flicks of the '50s. Buried even deeper, almost as a meta film, The World's End is the final piece of "The Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy," a loosely connected series of films that started with Shaun of the Dead (2004) and continued with Hot Fuzz (2007).
Blackfish is documentary filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s disturbing look into the capture and treatment of orcas, or killer whales, in aquariums and marine theme parks. Specifically, the film deals with those whales that snap, attacking their trainers. Even more specifically, the film centers mostly around one particular animal: Tilikum, a male orca who has been involved in the deaths of no fewer than three people (two of his trainers and one knucklehead who snuck into the park after hours and decided to go for a swim). Blackfish chronicles Tilikum’s entire life as an exhibition animal, from his capture, to his training at Sealand of the Pacific in Canada and his transfer to Sea World in Florida and, ultimately, the detailed accounts of the incidents that resulted in the deaths of his trainers.
The hilarious minions, that audiences around the world have grown to love for their hijinks in the Despicable Me movies took over Manhattan on November 25, 2013. Take a look at the images from their fun-filled day, and watch the sizzle reel to join in on the madness.
Aaron Paul may no longer be cooking up meth on "Breaking Bad" but that does not mean his career of getting high off dangerous doings is over. Paul can be seen in Need For Speed, from Dreamworks Pictures, arriving in theatres March of 2014. Watch the first trailer from the film, and prepare for speed, lots of speed.
The new poster for How To Train Your Dragon 2 has been released, and the excitement has only built up for one super fan of the first film. Yes, that super fan is yours truly, and I am not ashamed to admit the fact. I may be an adult, I may not have children, and I am surely not the target demographic for the movie but none of the aforementioned changes the fact that How To Train Your Dragon 2 is my most anticipated film for 2014. I fell in love with the first one, and not just because it featured dragons (a mythical creature I cannot resist, even in a movie like Reign of Fire). I even felt it should have won the Academy Award for best animated feature over Toy Story 3--shocking, yes, but completely warranted. Come June of 2014 I will finally get to see How To Train Your Dragon 2 and the anticipation has now only built up to an extreme level. Until then, the poster will have to suffice, until the first trailer is released.
The day just got a whole lot better because Darren Arnonofsky's Noah has its first trailer. Everyone knows the story, obviously, but in Aronofsky's hands this is not going to be the old testament's Noah, oh no. Watch the trailer now, and prepare for the flood March 28, 2014.
Sleeping Beauty has an entirely new problem, Maleficent is no longer animated, and she's downright scary. Take a look at the new poster for Disney's live-action Maleficent, to see Angelina Jolie at her witchy nastiest.
There cannot be a respectful Frankenstein themed movie without gargoyles flying about in the dark. Well, there can, but it's so much better with them. The new poster from I, Frankenstein has gargoyles, and Frankenstein on full display. Feast your eyes and enjoy the view.
Horror fans that have been critical of the recent rash of classic remakes may have a dilemma on their hands. According to his Facebook page, Clive Barker is working directly with Dimension pictures on a Hellraiser remake. The original 1987 film marked Barker’s feature-length directorial debut, introducing the Hollywood horror world to the prolific genre writer. Details are sketchy at best right now, so there’s no telling if it will be a complete reimagining or a pointless rehash, but with Barker at the helm, the project should at least attract plenty of attention.
With the recent onslaught of release date changes there is one movie that is firmly staying in place for the winter movie season, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. A brand-new poster has been released for the movie and, well, it definitely paints a glorious picture of the gang being larger than life in the big city. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues opens in theatres December 20, 2013, just in time to enjoy during the Christmas holiday break...what a nice gift.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier has its very first trailer, and you can enjoy the spoils of watching it right now. Enjoy!
The Paranormal Activity movies have all been the same: suburban home, connected family ties, people sleeping peacefully in their beds until "something" happens. Well, the new trailer for Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones has arrived and all I can say is, "What the hell is going on?" Watch and see if you agree with my sentiment.
You have been patient, and now the wait is over. Watch the brand-new trailer for Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel now. Enjoy!
Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger teased audiences with their buddy-esque chemistry in The Expendables 2, and now they are together as an unlikely pair of convicts who must work together in order to escape an unescapable prison in Escape Plan, in theatres October 18, 2013. They both sat down for an interview to discuss Escape Plan; the story, the work environment, why it took so long for them to star in a movie together, and how their characters in Escape Plan combine their separate genius to make the impossible, possible.
Who's ready for a new Frankenstein? I know I am. On January 24, 2014 audiences will welcome a new Frankenstein story to the long-standing myth of the man created from death, by his trusty scientist father. Watch the new trailer for I, Frankenstein now and mark your calendars, its going to be a monsterific start to the new year.
Thanksgiving without turkey? Sacrilege. Well, if the turkey's in Free Birds manage to go back in time and change history, by removing turkey from the Thanksgiving menu, you just may be eating Tofurkey...and not know an alternative exists. Free Birds is a new animated-adventure comedy, releasing in theatres November 1, 2013. Take a look at the character posters below and watch a new :60 second clip from the film.
You couldn't say anything nice about Loki, until now. Because now he is channelling the late, great Jim Morrison with his newfound style while being imprisoned by Thor. It's fantastic! But wait, Thor is giving Loki a chance to redeam himself? Oh, this has trouble written all over it. Watch the new clip from Thor: The Dark World and see it all play out.
Disney has released the first poster for the upcoming animated adventure Frozen and it makes freezing look like a great deal of fun. Take a look...
One of the best reviewed films of the year is The Spectacular Now, and indie darling from director James Ponsoldt, with a script by (500) Days Of Summer's hugely-talented Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. The Spectacular Now is expanding into more theatres/markets on August 16, 2013 and San Diego, California is very lucky to have one of the stars of the film, Miles Teller (Footloose (2011)) hosting Q&A's at the opening day shows.
Disneynature's upcoming release Bears has its first trailer and the editors behind-it knew exactly what to include in order to get you excited to see Bears--adorable baby bear cubs. Seriously, your heart will melt at the cuteness, and oh those little paws, its too much! Watch the trailer now and prepare to see Bears in theatres on April 18, 2014 (that's so far away!).
If you were one of the horror fans who thought that The ABCs of Death was too inconsistent, here’s your chance to put up or shut up. The sequel, appropriately titled The ABCs of Death 2, is holding a contest to find its 26th director. The last contest winner was Lee Hardcastle, the sick genius responsible for the animated “T is for Toilet” from the first film. Aspiring filmmakers are asked to make a short film about death based on the letter M for consideration. That can be M is for Murder, M is for Maniac, M is for Mutilation, M is for Malevolence...just don’t steal my idea, M is for Meow. I’m taking that one to the winner’s circle.
To help get everyone pumped up for the August 23rd opening of You’re Next, Lionsgate has released a little snippet that sets the tone. The 30-second clip has more suspense crammed into it then some entire movies that have hit theaters this summer have had, and it is bound to make anyone afraid of strangers in animal masks. If it’s any indication of what’s to come, horror fans are in for some real thrills. Only two more weeks to wait…tick tock…
Fright Rags, producer of high quality and extremely cool horror movie t-shirts, has announced the release of a trio of t-shirts based on Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator, the classic 1985 film based on H.P. Lovecraft’s story and starring Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton. Each of the three shirts has been lovingly designed by a different artist and will be printed with the same quality and affection that fans have come to expect from Fright Rags.