Born out of Jean-Pierre Melville’s love of 1930s Hollywood crime dramas, Le Samouraï (1967) is unquestionably one of the best homages to film noir. The film itself is a cross between classic film noir and Japanese yakuza samurai films, melding the principled noir anti-hero and the honor-bound, wandering warrior samurai figure into a rumination on the loneliness of the drifter. Le Samouraï achieves a minimalist noir style and, in embracing the utter fatalism of film noir, gives audiences one of the bleakest depictions of a doomed noir anti-hero. By incorporating these elements of film noir and the narrative conventions of the samurai, Melville’s film is a brilliant depiction of film noir as contemporary tragedy.
Cinema Fearité Presents 'The Sentinel', The Missing Link Between 'The Exorcist' and 'The Amityville Horror'
Perhaps the oldest good versus evil story is that of God and Satan, and the struggle between the two powers has made for some memorable cinema. The seventies alone saw the making of two classics of the horror genre, The Exorcist and The Omen, both of which deal with the fight between the Church and the Devil. In 1977, the year after the release of The Omen, action film director Michael Winner (Death Wish, The Mechanic) tried his hand at the age-old tale when he made The Sentinel.
After a string of highly successful films that started way back in 1931, the legendary Bette Davis made a seamless transition to television in the early fifties. When she returned to film about a decade later in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, the actress found that she had become a bit of a horror movie icon. Never one to disappoint her fans, Davis followed up with another spooky film in 1964 when she played a pair of twins in Dead Ringer.
Stanley Kubrick is best known for his films 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Lolita (1962), The Shining (1980) and A Clockwork Orange (1971), but he always considered his first mature feature film to be the elaborate film noir heist The Killing (1956). Clearly overshadowed by his later works, The Killing is generally viewed as a minor work in Kubrick’s oeuvre, but it has served as the blueprint for heist films ever since, greatly influencing contemporary films such as Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992). Kubrick brought a fresh twist to film noir with the film’s non-linear structure overlapping each heist member’s perspective of the robbery. The result is a puzzle of a film, full of suspense and an overwhelming sense of doom. As with most elaborate cons, something, if not everything, will go wrong.
The golden age of slasher films saw Hollywood struggling to find new and different horror movie killers. By the time the late eighties rolled around, mad murderer movies had become stale and passé, and studios were willing to do seemingly anything to find a way to refresh the genre. In 1989, the generically titled Night Shadow was released, a film which tried to combine the suspense of the slasher film with the sheer terror of the werewolf movie.
Danny Boyle is no stranger to stylish thrillers. From Shallow Grave (1994) to 28 Days Later (2002), Boyle is a master of mystery and suspense. His latest film Trance (2013) takes many cues from film noir, incorporating a conflicted anti-hero, Simon, whose principles are rattled all the more by his memory loss. The psychological neo-noir thriller deftly juggles issues of memory, dreams, and the repeated reconstruction of identity. As Simon’s memories are progressively unraveled, one plot twist after another sees the lines between truth and manipulation begin to blur. With so many questions, the biggest unknown in the film is its femme fatale, Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson). Trance is the first time Boyle has put a woman at the heart of one of his films, and here, Elizabeth holds all of the film’s secrets. With every new twist, Elizabeth becomes more and more the classic, vicious femme fatale but with a surprising backstory of emotional damage and victimization.
After a series of production delays, that have included extensive re-writes of the script, re-shoots of principal photography, and release date changes, World War Z will finally be released in theatres June 21, 2013. An adaptation of the novel "World War Z" by Max Brooks, son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, fans of the book are eager to know how screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Drew Goddard (Cabin In The Woods), and Damon Lindelof (Prometheus) re-imagined the story for movie screens; and if it will be anything like the book.
Cinema Fearité Presents Mia Farrow In 'The Haunting Of Julia', One Of The Best Ghost Stories Ever Adapted To Film
In 1968, after a successful run on television’s “Peyton Place,” actress Mia Farrow finally broke through to big-screen audiences in Roman Polanski’s influential horror film Rosemary’s Baby. Although Farrow would go on to play straight roles in works such as The Great Gatsby and a television production of “Peter Pan,” she never failed to keep her horror fans happy with films like See No Evil and Secret Ceremony. In 1977, she made her most frightening film since Rosemary’s Baby when she starred in The Haunting of Julia.
There is no better film to finish our discussion of the noir loser in the Coen brothers’ films than The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001). With the film’s protagonist, Ed Crane, the Coens take the noir loser archetype to its extreme. Whereas previous Coen losers were anxious, unsure men who let people walk all over them, Ed is effectively a cipher.
The Coen brother’s films frequently share film noir’s basic philosophical assumptions: power corrupts all, evil is pervasive, and fate cannot be controlled or avoided. Their films illustrate this philosophy through stories of simple people with complex problems. These characters are tempted by greed and corruption and ultimately begin a downward spiral that can only result in disaster in this fate-driven world. The characters most susceptible to this greed are ill-fated noir losers. Continuing the discussion of the noir loser archetype in the Coens’ films, Fargo’s Jerry Lundegaard is the best example of a man utterly incapable of stopping the onslaught of destruction resulting from his own corrupt decisions.
Fritz Lang’s Fury is based on the same small-town California news story, but this is the real deal. Instead of an innocent man threatened by a lynch mob, Try and Get Me has returning GI (never saw combat) Frank Lovejoy struggling to make ends meet for his wife and child, falling in with startling sociopath Lloyd Bridges, and them going to jail for the callous murder of a local rich boy. The lynch mob still gathers, but infinitely more frightening than Lang’s, storming the jail in an unstoppable onslaught, rather than burning it down, captured with occasionally startlingly verité camerawork by Guy Roe.
Alice Winocour’s 'Augustine' Has Commitment And Quiet Charisma From The Stars; It's Just Not Very Interesting
Augustine is one of the harder sorts of films to write about, being handsomely mounted, with appealing leads and an interesting story, a minimum of pandering or condescension towards the audience, and fully aware of the ramifications of its subject matter. The problem is, it’s just not very interesting.
Cinema Fearité Presents Audrey Hepburn And Alan Arkin In 'Wait Until Dark,' A Simple Film That Is Scary As Hell
As strange as it may seem, horror movies and stage plays have enjoyed an incestuous relationship over the years. Starting as far back as the musical adaptation of the Roger Corman classic The Little Shop of Horrors, iconic horror films such as Evil Dead, Carrie, Night of the Living Dead, and The Brain that Wouldn’t Die have all been turned into theatrical productions. The big screen/small stage connection is a two-way street, however, with dozens of movies having been adapted from stage plays as well. One of the most frightening films of the sixties was born out of this trend when director Terance Young reworked playwright Frederick’s Knott’s Wait Until Dark.
Assault On Wall Street is one of the most confounding movies you could ever watch; although I am not necessarily suggesting you watch it. Set amidst the most recent financial crisis in the United States, it tells the story of a man who has every possible negative outcome occur in his life stemming from the crisis. He loses his life savings due to a shady investment in commercial real estate, has a lien placed upon him because of the investment, loses his job, his home, and to make matters even worse his health insurance cap is reached, amongst other things. The loss of health insurance is an important part of the story as his wife needs post brain tumor therapy and without the insurance coverage they must resort to using their credit cards. The credit card debt soon piles up, the interest rates rise, and suddenly yet another problem is added to the list for the couple. The onslaught of negativity Assault On Wall Street delivers is far too much for a casual viewer, made worse by what the film does as the solution to Jim's (Dominic Purcell) problems--he becomes a domestic terrorist.
This week, the motion picture industry lost one of its most influential figures. Special effects artist Ray Harryhausen passed away in London at the age of 92. Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation techniques are the stuff of legends, from the ape in Mighty Joe Young (which won an Oscar for best visual effects) to the medusa in Clash of the Titans. Although he is mainly known for his contributions to adventure films like Jason and the Argonauts and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, his creations lent themselves equally well to science fiction and monster movies, and 1955’s It Came from Beneath the Sea is a classic example of his unmistakable work.
Scarecrow would have been a very different film had it starred, as originally intended, Bill Cosby and Jack Lemmon. As it is, it allowed up and coming Al Pacino and Gene Hackman to give two of the best performances of their careers, and it remains a mystery why the film has remained so long under the radar (the answer is partly that, despite winning the Palme d’Or, it was cold-shouldered by Warner’s a week into its theatrical release, in favor of pushing The Exorcist). Perhaps too, because it is about a pair of bums, with no real story aside from the picaresque of meanderings and passing encounters; but it also charts the growth of a male friendship, in a fashion extremely well-judged and genuinely moving.
The films of husband-and-wife team Frank and Eleanor Perry are amongst the most undervalued of the wave of semi-independent American films of the 70s. In titles like Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970) and Play It As It Lays (1972) they tackled a specifically contemporary sense of malaise and neurosis, on both coasts, in a way comparable really only to some of Woody Allen, with a slightly gauche self-seriousness in place of the comedy.
Beloved in France but little known elsewhere, La traversée de Paris holds the distinction of being the one film by Claude Autant-Lara deemed acceptable by the young François Truffaut, in his campaign against the prevailing cinèma du qualité in 1950s France.
Cheap, tough, and drenched in shadows, The Narrow Margin was the sort of thing that the RKO technicians could knock out in a couple of weeks with no trouble at all, but is raised by particularly tight direction from Richard Fleischer, including terrific use of confined spaces, windows, and yes, lots of shadows (but also, some nice harsh sunlight); and by lived-in performances from never-quite-made-it players, Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor.
Film Rave: Favoring Style Over Substance, Baz Luhrmann's 'The Great Gatsby' Is A Frenetically Paced Extravagant Affair
Oh, the green light. If you have read the novel "The Great Gatsby," by F. Scott Fitzgerald, you are well aware of the green light, and everything it stood for in the story. It exists in the most recent film adaptation by director Baz Lurhmann, The Great Gatsby, coupled with an exaggerated quality of decadence and style like only Lurhmann can create on screen.
The films of the Coen brothers present strangely familiar yet bizarre and inexplicable characters. Just as their films subvert conventions, their protagonists are average people driven to extremes, and frequently exaggerated and surreal extremes. Although the Coens’ films typically defy genre, this characterization is clearly influenced by the classic noir loser – an ordinary man who sees an opportunity to advance his life, often immorally, only to find himself the victim of fate. The noir loser is, fundamentally, the common man out of his element, losing control. This common man loser may be seen in Coen characters Barton Fink, Jerry Lundegaard, Ed Crane, H.I. McDunnough, and more; the difference in these characters being how they handle their escalating, unfamiliar situations.
Rushlights is a twisted tale of lies and deceit, with a host of characters that get more shady by the minute. This is, of course, the extreme fun in watching Rushlights' story play out on screen. The twists keep coming, the momentum never slows down, and the near-pulpiness of the movie only helps matters.
Samuel Z. Arkoff’s American International Pictures made a habit of capitalizing on the successes of Universal Pictures movies in the 1950s. The production and distribution company pumped out modernizations of the classic monster films, including I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein. In 1958, hot on the heels of Universal’s The Incredible Shrinking Man, AIP rushed a film with the working title of I Was a Teenage Doll into production, a film that would be quickly released as Attack of the Puppet People.
Director William Savage creates a touching story of love, loss, and mourning with his first feature-length film In Lieu Of Flowers. Premiering at the 2013 Newport Beach Film Festival, audiences are sure to applaud the heartfelt sentiment found in the film. As well as the never faltering feeling of hope for life after heartbreak that permeates the narrative.
Cinema Fearité Presents 'The Town That Dreaded Sundown', A True Story That Is Creepier Than Fiction.
Masked killers are always scary, but the words “based on a true story” seem to magnify the effect. From The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to The Strangers, the claim that a horror movie is based on actual events gives it an air of authenticity that can be terrifying. In 1976, during the infancy of the true crime horror phase, the gimmick was exploited by a classic film called The Town that Dreaded Sundown.
Movie budgets of the 1940s pale in comparison to those of today. It’s the question of maybe a few million versus an average $40 million, but just as independent films are produced today, there were independent films with minuscule budgets released in the ‘40s. Most of these low budget films were genre B movies produced by the so called “poverty row” studios. One such film to receive critical praise was Edgar G. Ulmer’s film noir Detour (1945), produced by the lower tier PRC studio. Ulmer made a reputation for himself as the master of the “stylish cheapie,” able to expertly disguise his threadbare production values, and Detour is no exception. Considered by some as the grandfather of the independent film, Detour is a stunningly impressive feat of technical creativity over budgetary limitations.
One sure way for a horror movie to shock the public is to make the main villain a child, or a group of children. Some of the more frightening movies in horror history have employed this technique, ranging from a single kid in The Bad Seed and The Good Son to entire tribes in Children of the Damned and Children of the Corn. In 1981, a trio of horrible kids wreaked havoc on their hometown in Bloody Birthday.
Film Rave: Eron Sheean's Fascinating And Horrifying Genetic Mutation Tale 'Errors Of The Human Body'
The subject of genetic mutations is enough to evoke fear in anyone. The lack of control humans have over their genetic material, and what horrors may exist in its intricately woven thread, is a subject science fiction and horror cinema happily investigates. In his feature-length film debut, director/co-writer Eron Sheean ventures into the territory of genetic research, that of bio-engineering, to deliver a fascinating and horrifying tale in Errors Of The Human Body.
Continuing last week’s exploration of Christopher Nolan’s neo-noir Following (1998), it is only appropriate to venture into a discussion of his more widely known noir throwback, Memento (2000). As in Following, Memento builds upon the sinister, paranoid tone of noir by employing a non-chronological timeline. The film goes one step further, however, by incorporating two alternating timelines: a black and white timeline told in chronological order and a color timeline told in reverse. This structure certainly makes Memento a unique and fascinatingly confusing neo-noir, yet the most interesting aspect of Nolan’s screenplay is its portrayal of the femme fatale, Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss). Arguably the most complex character in Memento, Natalie is at once the quintessentially coercive femme fatale and the character most sympathetic to anti-hero Leonard’s condition and vendetta.
With the dawn of the eighties, slasher movies saturated the horror genre; spawned by the 1978 success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, scores of imitators made their way into theaters during what would become known as the Golden Age of the slasher film. Some of these films, like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, became timeless classics. Others toiled away in obscurity, only seen and remembered by hardcore fans of the subgenre. Released in 1980, Silent Scream is one of the underappreciated.
Fans of director Christopher Nolan will note his eight feature films prevailing noir tones. From Memento (2000) to the The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception (2010), Nolan is constantly imbibing his films with sheer mystery and suspense. As Nolan continues to cleverly deceive audiences, his ardent fans return to his first features and the start of his career to see the vision of a fledgling director who would become one of the most commercially successful filmmakers of his generation. It is these fans along with a small cult of admirers who would be familiar with Nolan’s debut feature Following (1998). The film has many trademark Nolan elements: a less than reliable narrator, an unstable sense of identity, and a non-linear chronology. Following, however, is an ingenious neo-noir worthy of more notoriety, a stunning throwback to the low to no-budget film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s.
Cinema Fearité Presents 'The Black Room' Starring Boris Karloff At His Finest, With No Monster Makeup
By the middle of the thirties, Boris Karloff had already played the monster in Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein as well as the title role in The Mummy, all for Universal. Taking a vacation from monster roles, Karloff turned to Columbia Pictures for a chance to show off his acting chops, and the film that they gave him was a tour-de-force for the thespian: The Black Room.
As one of the pioneers of low-budget, can-do filmmaking, Roger Corman has a reputation as one of the most prolific producers and directors of all time. His films usually revolve around some campy gimmick, whether it is the rubber suited monster in Creature from the Haunted Sea or the killer plant in The Little Shop of Horrors. In 1959, Corman was approached by American International Pictures to make a movie for less than $50,000, and the resulting film was the cult classic A Bucket of Blood, a picture without any monsters except for an emotionally damaged artist.
The classical film noir period may only have stretched from the early 1940s to the late 1950s, but the tone, themes, and style of film noir continue to inspire a host of modern films, or neo-noirs. One of the most stylistically successful neo-noirs of the past decade is Rian Johnson’s Brick (2005). Unlike contemporary neo-noirs such as Chinatown (1974) or L.A. Confidential (1997), which lovingly recreate the 1930s-1950s, Brick applies the style and even the dialogue of classic film noir to a modern-day high school setting. A modern high school is a self-contained world teeming with moral strife and a perfect stand-in for the seedy underground of the classical noir city. This melding of noir and adolescence intuitively recognizes the pervasive sense of gravity shared by both and makes Johnson’s effort unique among neo-noirs.
Cinema Fearité Presents A Movie So Bad Its Awesome Again With 'Cathy's Curse' (Dir. Eddy Matalon 1977)
Oh, Canada. The relatively low production costs coupled with extremely film-friendly government tax incentives see many horror films heading north of the border to the land of hockey, mounted police and Bryan Adams to shoot. Sometimes, these films end up as classics of the genre, as is the case with Prom Night and Terror Train. Other times, they end up like 1977’s Cathy’s Curse.
When I was in elementary school way back in the seventies, there was a rumor floating around the playground that Christopher Lutz, the middle child from the family that was immortalized in The Amityville Horror, went to our school. He would have been in the same grade as my older sister but, of course, he wasn’t in her class. In fact, no one knew what class he was in. I never met him, and I’m not even sure that he ever attended the school, but the rumor itself is evidence of how big of a pop culture phenomenon that The Amityville Horror had become.
There is a great deal that can be inferred by writer-director Juan Solaris' Upside Down, depending on the context in which you view the film. At the simplest level it is a love story about two people from different stations in life who desperately want to be together even though it is forbidden--a tale as old as time. Another possibility is to see Upside Down as commentary on social politics, the have's and the have-nots constantly at odds with one another and the sole individual willing to risk it all to bring about equality. There is one more route you can take, that of a historical recalling and a fantastical glimpse into post-war worlds--as the two worlds created in the movie resemble greatly historical photos of post-WWII Germany or Poland versus the untarnished industrialized and thriving West. With so many possibilities Upside Down can easily please a variety of viewers, what it cannot do is uplift the viewer as it fails to delve deeply enough into any one theme, one idea, or one clear vision to warrant greatness, just mild amusement and a deep want for greater meaning that never comes.
After ten years of working on Blancanieves, writer-director Pablo Berger must have had mixed feelings about the appearance of The Artist last year. That film’s runaway success was undeniably a useful ice-breaker, however, for they are similar beasts, modern silent films made (largely) according to the conventions and constraints of the 1920s. Berger even gives Uggie a run for his money, with a perky rooster named Pepe.
Continuing the exploration of the outer limits of film noir I will now discuss one of the last examples of the genre with Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958). In the seventeen year period between 1941 and 1958, film noir had come to dominate Hollywood. Loosely based on the novel "Badge of Evil" by Whit Masterson, Touch of Evil offers an intriguing new take on the noir detective hero and the femme fatale and a much darker world view than that expressed even in The Maltese Falcon.
Cinema Fearité Presents The Equally Hysterical And Terrifying Cult Classic 'TerrorVision' (Dir. Ted Nicolaou 1986)
One of the biggest and most important advances in entertainment technology to come out of the 1980s is the advent of cable television and satellite reception. No longer were people limited to movies at a theater and a mere thirteen channels of programming. As with any new technology, however, there was a learning curve, and the features ended up confusing and frightening some customers. Someone was bound to make a movie about it and, in 1986, B-movie producers Albert and Charles Band did. That movie, equally hysterical and horrifying, was called TerrorVision.
When the second World War is discussed the conversation usually turns to Germany and Adolf Hitler. The same can be said for movies about WWII; more often than not, and particularly in recent film history, it is the story of the Nazi's rise to power and the holocaust that feeds screenwriter's imaginations and research. But what of Japan? For Americans the impact Japan had on WWII is a constant reminder of how our country is not impenetrable to war on our own soil in the modern age; made even more evident on September 11, 2001. Director Peter Webber's Emperor is a rarity among WWII-themed pictures, as it tells the story of the aftermath of the war.
There are two films most often cited as the bookends, the outer limits of film noir: The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Touch of Evil (1958). By near consensus, John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon marks the beginning of the genre, and it will be the topic of Part I of this look at the boundaries of noir. Part II will cover Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil and the end of film noir. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon introduced the elements that would become the hallmarks of the genre – the amoral private detective, the femme fatale, and the dark city surrounding them. Huston’s directorial debut truly put a new spin on the traditional detective film. The film’s most important contribution to the film noir genre is its depiction of the flawed private eye as a noir hero, characterized by his unscrupulous behavior.
Cinema Fearité Presents The Most Far-Fetched And Fun Waterlogged Creature Feature 'Tentacles' (Dir. Oliver Hellman 1977)
When Jaws ushered in the modern monster movie era in 1975, moviegoers everywhere became terrified to go into the water. Jaws was so effective that it spawned a bevy of aquatic imitators, each more strange that the last. For several years after Jaws, audiences were treated to thinly veiled rip-offs like Orca in 1977, Piranha in 1978, and Alligator in 1980. Perhaps the most far-fetched, and therefore the most fun, of these water-logged creature-features is the Samuel Z. Arkoff 1977 killer octopus presentation known as Tentacles.
Film noir is a term coined by French critics writing in the Cahiers du cinéma to describe the distinctly dark films coming out of America during World War II; they noticed decidedly different shifts in tone from American Studio films of the 1930’s. Film noirs were characterized by their pessimistic and cynical portrayal of people and society and their sombre style. Unlike the usual happy endings in American movies, these noirs often ended in defeat, with ordinary protagonists drawn astray by temptation and violence.
As an introduction to film noir, here is a list of five must-see films emblematic of the genre.
Because the horror genre has always embraced short film, the horror anthology has always been hugely popular. Whether it’s a simple excuse to stick a bunch of shorts together into a feature length film or a purely organic set of episodic storylines, horror anthologies provide frightening entertainment for the attention-deficit crowd. Although it hit its peak in the seventies with Tales from the Crypt, Asylum, and The Vault of Horror, the fad is actually much older; it dates back to the silent movie era with 1924’s Waxworks.
In a perfect world, where politics and a heavy amount of bullshit do not decide who wins the Academy Award each year in the biggest categories, like Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, and so on, the following films, actors, and moviemaking professionals would be the Academy Award Winners, 2013. This is of course my personal opinion, but I am right.
Just like any successful horror film, the first Friday the 13th brought about a slew of imitators. Not only did the film spawn more than a half dozen sequels in the years that followed, but the early eighties also saw films like Sleepaway Camp and Madman hop on the bandwagon and provide their own spin to the summer camp killer motif. The first of these films, releasing just a week after Friday the 13th Part 2 in 1981, was a bloody thriller that was destined to become a classic called The Burning.
By the nineteen seventies, every filmmaker in the horror world was looking for something new to scare audiences, and the scurry led to some very original films. For every influential blockbuster frightfest like The Exorcist, Jaws, or Halloween, there were several lesser known but just as creative movies. One of these films that slipped through the cracks was the 1973 low budget monster thriller Sssssss.
As frightening as male characters can be, the role of the villain in horror movies has not always belonged strictly to guys; women can be every bit as terrifying, if not more so. Whether she comes in the form of an unstable woman, like Annie Wilkes in Misery, or a supernatural banshee, like the title character in Mama, a lady is just as adept at inducing fear in an audience as a man. Although the trend has seen a boost since the seventies, the female horror antagonist is hardly a new concept; audiences were treated to it as early as 1944 in The Soul of a Monster.
Ever since the original King Kong amazed audiences with its cutting edge animation, stop-motion photography has been a viable alternative to costumed creatures in horror and science fiction movies. The nineteen seventies saw a nice little resurgence in stop-motion/live action monster movies, with the technique being used seemingly everywhere from Roger Corman’s Piranha to the Star Wars movies. At the forefront of the stop-motion movement was visual animator David Allen, and his work on 1977’s The Crater Lake Monster serves as a textbook example of the trend.
Many of the most successful and admired Hollywood directors cut their teeth making horror films. The legendary Steven Spielberg’s early career includes the classic fright films Duel and Jaws. The Godfather’s Francis Ford Coppola got his humble start working on the Roger Corman productions The Terror and Dementia 13. Peter Jackson could never have brought The Lord of the Rings trilogy to life if he hadn’t made his directorial debut with Bad Taste and Dead Alive. The recent critical darling Kathryn Bigelow is no exception; in 1987, years before The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, she made the revisionist vampire classic Near Dark.
In the world of horror movies, witches and the devil seem to go hand in hand; it’s always the Dark Lord himself that is behind the witchery. When children get dragged into the fold, things start getting really scary. A film made in 1971, right between Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, called The Brotherhood of Satan effectively pulls off the horror trifecta of creepy kids, a witch’s coven, and Satan himself.
As frequently misunderstood concepts, reincarnation and hypnotism are pretty good subjects around which to base a horror movie. While one would think that a movie about past lives and mind control would lend itself to be a psychological thriller, 1956’s The She-Creature takes the concepts in another direction and becomes a full-fledged monster movie.
Here they are, the best films of 2012--a personal list.
In the 1930s, Fay Wray was as close to a female horror icon as Hollywood had; after carving out her niche in 1932’s Doctor X and The Most Dangerous Game, the actress found herself in the movie that would make her a career monster victim, 1933’s King Kong. Taking advantage of a studio system that shared resources like sets and crews, she appeared in an astonishing 21 films between 1933 and 1934. In between classics like The Vampire Bat and The Countess of Monte Cristo, Wray found time to star in a creepy little film in 1934 about voodoo called Black Moon.
Another year has gone by at FilmFracture and it has been full of great movies, mediocre trips to the cinema, and some downright awful wastes of time. With that said, here are the best and worst movies of 2012, based solely on their Production ratings (how they faired in other categories may have been better, or the same, click out on the titles to see for yourself). I must warn you, our choices for the best movies may come as quite a shock--who would have thought a Troma picture would make a best of list?
By the time the golden age of the slasher movie was in full swing, Jamie Lee Curtis was already a bona-fide scream queen. Her role as the archetypical final girl, Laurie Strode, in 1978’s Halloween put her on the map, and she had parts in no fewer than three horror classics released in 1980. Given that she made the box office successes The Fog and Prom Night in the same year, it’s no surprise that her other 1980 slasher film, a Canadian schlockfest about a group of med-school students on a train for a New Year’s Eve party called Terror Train, has flown under the radar.
Here they are, the top ten horror movies of 2012 as compiled by FilmFracture's own horror aficionado, James Jay Edwards.
In 1984, the movie world was up in arms about Silent Night, Deadly Night and the fact that its central figure was a serial killer who dressed as Santa Claus. Although killer Santas were nothing new, the controversy surrounding Silent Night, Deadly Night took publicity away from another 1984 Christmas slasher film, one in which the men in Santa suits were the victims, called Don’t Open Till Christmas.
On December 19, 2012 Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand are heading out on the open road in the comedy The Guilt Trip. I had the pleasure to attend the press conference for The Guilt Trip with Barbra and Seth in attendance, as well as director Anne Fletcher and screenwriter Dan Fogelman. The questions posed to all four made for a stimulating and often times hilarious afternoon. Even if everyone wanted a piece of Barbra--but you can't blame them, it is a rare occasion to have the opportunity to ask Barbra Streisand a question. Here are some of my favorite moments...with commentary thrown in for good measure here and there.
Once a horror franchise gains momentum and finds an audience, it’s only a matter of time before sequels are no longer enough to satisfy its audience – the next step is a crossover. From Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and King Kong vs. Godzilla to Freddy vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator, monster crossovers have a proven track record at the box office, attracting fans from both original franchise camps as well as new viewers who are curious to the trend. In 1958, American International Pictures took advantage of the teenage monster film craze and released a different kind of crossover film called How to Make a Monster.
Now Playing On Demand: Magnolia Pictures' Deadfall, starring Eric Bana, Charlie Hunnam, and Olivia Wilde
Eric Bana once played the Hulk, in the forgettable 2003 film Hulk, directed by Life Of Pi's Ang Lee. Charlie Hunnam currently stars as Jax Teller on the hugely popular television show "Sons of Anarchy," and Olivia Wilde is on her way to becoming box office poison with the lack of success her last starring role films have had, namely Tron: Legacy, The Words, and The Change-Up. Kate Mara (10 Years), well, she is someone you always wished had a better agent, but she never seems to get one. Throw in Sissy Spacek, Treat Williams, and Kris Kristofferson for good measure, or because you can given their schedules are quite free these days, and you have the surprisingly talented cast of Deadfall.
Monster movies are some of the oldest, most beloved horror movies. As such, monster movies have also used every sort of cinematic technology to bring their beasts to life. The mother of all monster movies itself, King Kong, has been made and remade three times in three different ways: in 1933 with stop-motion animation, in 1976 using the simple but classic man-in-a-gorilla suit, and in 2005 utilizing the latest in green-screen CG technology. Horror and sci-fi fans are especially fond of the second method, the rubber suit monster, due to the varying degrees of camp and quality and because of the sheer fun of the creature feature. In 1971, Octaman was released, updating the classic creature feature for the nineteen seventies.
Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff both had successful and prolific acting careers before the 1930s, but the pair became horror icons when they were cast in their signature roles, Lugosi as the title role in Dracula and Karloff as the monster in Frankenstein, by Universal Pictures. As two of the crown jewels in Universal’s horror stable, Lugosi and Karloff were bound to be teamed up, and the first film in which the two actors took the screen together was 1934’s The Black Cat.
In the wake of the release of Fox Searchlight’s long anticipated Alfred Hitchcock biopic, appropriately called Hitchcock, a different production about the master of suspense has flown under the radar. Home Box Office, in conjunction with the British Broadcasting Corporation, has made their own Hitchcock film, The Girl, which focuses on a darker side of the influential director.
Happy Holidays, everyone. This year the FilmFracture team brings you the most anticipated, and must see movies, of the 2012 Holiday Movie Season. Some may be obvious--The Hobbit--others not so much--Silent Night--but they are coming to theatres to make your holiday a little more bright, while being spent in the dark.
The horrors of drug abuse have had the pleasure of being documented on film for nearly a hundred years. While most of these films are thinly veiled social commentary, others mask their message in a true artistic expression of cinema. Somewhere in between Reefer Madness and Requiem for a Dream sits a weird little horror film from 1972 called Blood Freak which tries to do both – yet accomplishes neither.
Dreamworks Animation has given moviegoers some of the most treasured animated franchises; from the Shrek and Madagascar series of films to Kung Fu Panda's, as well as How To Train Your Dragon and the highly anticipated upcoming sequel coming 2014. Their newest film, Rise of the Guardians is based on a series of books by William Joyce called "The Guardians of Childhood" that brings to life a world where Santa Klaus (voice of Alex Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (voice of Hugh Jackman), Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy (voice of Isla Fisher) exist to keep the world safe; they are The Guardians and it is with the belief of children around the world as to their existence that their powers remain in tact. There is one other fabled character who has never been given much attention in the modern age, or any age for that matter, Jack Frost (voice of Chris Pine). Rise of the Guardians is Jack Frost's story as to how he becomes one of the Guardians, while assisting the others in saving the world from the evil Boogeyman (voice of Jude Law).
As long as there have been actors, there have been actors wanting to be directors. Whether they would handle it all from the beginning of their careers, like Orson Welles or Woody Allen, or transitioned into directing after years of acting, like George Clooney or Ben Affleck, the desire to move from in front of the camera to behind it is a common one in Hollywood. This “I-can-do-that” mentality has even hit the low budget horror world and, in 1958, famed B-movie character actor Bruno VeSota (Attack of the Giant Leeches) tried his hand at directing in American International Pictures’ sci-fi horror gem The Brain Eaters.
Natural disasters are easy prey for filmmakers wherein the melodrama is grown organically out of the true story the film portrays. This is usually their downfall, as the events and performances are so over-the-top and seeping with mushiness that they get thrown onto a Cable Network and forgotten--all for the best. Then there is one that goes against the odds stacked up against it, a melodrama based on true events that takes place during a harrowing experience that is the entire film-worthy package, meant to be seen on a big screen. The Impossible, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona of The Orphanage (2007), is that movie.
AFI FEST 2012 Film Review: Post Tenebras Lux (Dir. Carlos Reygadas Mexico/France/Germany/The Netherlands 2012)
Carlos Reygadas burst on the scene as an unapologetically pretentious arthouse director with Japón , and gained instant renown/notoriety in the circles that care. This was cemented with Battle In Heaven , but the calmed down Silent Light  won over many of the off-put. For Post Tenebras Lux, however, he returns to his first inclinations with a vengeance.
Barbara’s elliptical beginning delivers the eponymous heroine, a doctor, to a provincial hospital in a seaside town. She is just released from some unspecified incarceration, and still under surveillance from the implacable secret police. Only gradually do we realize that this is East Germany in the early 80s, and only gradually do we warm to Barbara’s sour trout face and hard, defiant, watchful eyes.
Xavier Dolan stretches out with his third feature, not just in budget and length, but in matching his emotionally high-pitched material with an equally bravura style, and in tackling a subject less frequently seen on screen even than the tortured mother-son relationship of his début éclatant, I Killed My Mother , or the MMF love triangle of Heartbeats . He remains for the first time behind the camera, ceding the demanding lead role to veteran French actor Melvil Poupard – he started aged 9 with Raúl Ruiz – who gives a subtly restrained and highly appealing performance in Laurence Anyways.
The rather lovely tone of Miguel Gomes’ Tabu is set from the beginning, in a poetic voiceover prologue about a widowed huntsman in Africa, accompanied by a beautiful, simple piano piece, and dripping in that peculiarly Portuguese saudade.
Caesar Must Die is apparently a small, simple film, with one straightforward aim: to remind the viewer that lifers in a maximum security prison in Rome, no matter their crimes, remain emotionally valid and susceptible human beings. Yet to achieve this, the veteran Taviani brothers take on one of the most nebulous issues of them all, the power of art, via that most enduring of artists, in the prison production of Julius Caesar.
This is really quite a silly film, Piéta, albeit played totally deadpan, from the portentous and only-just-relevant title on down, as a punky young loan enforcer goes around crippling the poor machinist clients who cannot pay their exorbitant interest. The appearance of a silent, nicely-dressed middle-aged lady amidst the fantastic detritus of the industrial tenement setting forces him out of his lonely, cold-blooded routine, and awakens suppressed mother issues that will leave him unable to do his job, and wide open for revenge.
With its origins in the early seventies, the revenge film has consistently been one of the most controversial genres in the horror world. Not only do these films feature extreme graphic violence, but they often include misogynistic scenes of rape and dismemberment that are not intended for the faint of heart. Revenge films are frightening in a different way than typical horror films; they don’t include supernatural creatures or mythical monsters, instead opting to use human antagonists that are every bit as evil, but bring a sense of realism to the story. In 1976, Ivan Reitman (yes, that Ivan Reitman, the man who also brought the world Ghostbusters and Animal House) produced a nasty little Canadian film called Death Weekend that remains one of the forgotten gems of the revenge film subgenre.
AFI FEST 2012 Film Review: Leviathan (Dir. Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel US/UK/France 2012)
Leviathan is a fantastic audio-visual experiment, presented as by the Sensory Ethnography Lab. The emphasis is on the sensory, so to get the other out of the way, it is filmed entirely on and around a commercial fishing vessel and yes, it’s a hard life for these fishermen, with much of their work machinelike in its mindless repetition, and mostly at night (happily the fish-gutting is filmed with some discretion; the removal of ray wings less so).
This is unashamedly unconventional, but in a fan rather than snooty way. Using (mostly) just diegetic sound from the post-production of a fictional mid-70s Italian horror movie, Peter Strickland has followed his superb debut, Katalin Varga , with a largely non-narrative nightmare hymn both to the electronic soundtrack experiments of that time, and to the gorgeous analogue gear that made such arcane chantries of the era’s recording studios, with Berberian Sound Studio.
Thus far Daniel Craig's James Bond films – Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace – have been a mixed bag. While the former was a successful reinvention of agent 007 the latter threw most of those intriguing concepts away in favor of a humdrum story about water being our most precious resource. However, despite the inferior quality of Quantum of Solace there was a belief that Craig's Bond was still a viable hero, one that could be redeemed. And thankfully MGM too saw fit to keep the property alive with Craig, and will this week deliver the third Bond adventure for Craig (23rd for Bond), Skyfall.
There are pockets of whimsy in the Ken Loach filmography, but following 2009’s Looking for Eric, he seems more fully than ever to be embracing an Ealing-inflected lightheartedness. The Angel's Share starts off in reasonably familiar territory, as a succession of poor, unemployed Scots have their petty crimes recounted in court, and the community service sentences passed down. All crew cuts, tracksuits, and impenetrable Glasgow accents, the stage is set for some grubby grim-up-northness, but Loach’s film turns out to be anything but.
Director Tobias Lindholm's first feature film R was a gritty prison drama that upheaved the generic genre conventions that came before. His second feature takes a drastic look at a very topical subject, and one very much ignored in detail in the media--except for the sensationalizing of pirates sailing the open sea. A Highjacking is the story of a group of crew members aboard a Danish ship headed to Mumbai, sailing in waters that are not common territory for water-bound highjacking. Never say never is the shocking truth that A Highjacking brings to life, with as much intensity and claustrophobia possible.
If nothing else, Brandon Cronenberg has been quite unafraid to make a film that could pass for an earlier one of his father’s. Antiviral boasts a fertile premise that ties biological interference to celebrity obsession, is very handsomely mounted, and features a fine, committed performance from Caleb Landry Jones in the lead. But the title rings hollow as an antidote to the modern woes depicted on screen, or as representative of any of the characters’ actions or motivations – like the film itself, catchy, but little more than superficially thought-provoking.
It should be noted that the original title of Olivier Assayas’ well-received Something In The Air is Après Mai. For a film set in France in 1970, that inevitably means “after [the extensive riots of ] May 1968”. Let it be clear, however, that this is neither a political film, nor a film about politics. The Assayas surrogate takes part in high school revolutionary activity, and the context is being heavily used to sell the film of course, along with the implications of autobiography. But that title also means “after school got out in May”, because it’s basically Assayas’ “What I did in my summer vacation 1970” and it goes something like this:
Abbas Kiarostami has gone to Japan, and why not? Like Someone In Love is less obviously tricksy than his last, and his first outside of Iran, Certified Copy ; and it reveals a little more of what was obvious all along – that Kiarostami’s interests lie in people, identity, and communication (between characters, and with the audience), rather than in cultural specificity. This is no more a film about Japan than the last was a film about Tuscany, or the others – really – are about Iran.
Of all the holidays that have had horror movies made in their honor over the years, there is still only one undisputed champion of the genre: the spookiest holiday of them all, Halloween. In 1978, John Carpenter’s genre defining classic Halloween paved the way for several imitators, the most obvious being a film made by adult film director Gary Graver a few short years later in 1982 called Trick or Treats.
AFI FEST 2012 'Breakthrough' Must See Selection: Nairobi Half Life (Dir. Tosh Gitonga 2012 Germany Kenya)
If you go to the AFI FEST website, and select Film Guide from the navigation menu, you will find all of the festival's sections laid out before you, with an image from one film highlighting each. It should come as no surprise that Nairobi Half Life has been selected to represent the 'Breakthrough' section of the guide. Not to discount the greatness of the other five films in the section but after viewing Nairobi Half Life it is hard to imagine any other film being as remarkable--although I am sure they all have their respective merits, and I will discover those when the festival runs November 1-8, much to my excitement. For now I will share with you the fascinating and brilliant accomplishment in filmmaking that is Nairobi Half Life.
AFI FEST 2012 'Young Americans' Must See Movies: The International Sign For Choking, Somebody Up There Likes Me, and Starlet
The 'Young Americans' section of the AFI FEST program is a place where emerging U.S. filmmakers showcase their recent works to the festival audience in the hopes that they will win the coveted audience award prize. There are eleven films in the section for the 2012 festival, three of which have made an incredible impression on me during my pre-festival coverage--I have not seen all of the eleven, and I look forward to watching the rest during AFI FEST 2012 (November 1-8). But for now, a preview of three sure contenders for the audience award, and they are undoubtedly going to please every festival goer who takes the time to see them--and I highly recommend you add them to your schedule--The International Sign For Choking, Somebody Up There Likes Me, and Starlet.
As frightening as fictional serial killers can be, they are no match for the real-life bad guys. Movies have been made about the most famous of mass murderers, including both exploitation films like Ted Bundy and big Hollywood productions such as Zodiac. Back in 1959, the earliest of the household name serial killers also got the first movie of the bunch when Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman unleashed Jack the Ripper.
Ever since the resurgence of the slasher film in the early eighties, teenagers have been the staple victims in horror movies. Whether it’s a lone babysitter trapped in a dark house or a group of camp counselors stranded in the woods, the relative innocence and inexperience of adolescents make them ripe for the picking. In 1985, Friday the 13th director Sean S. Cunningham went one better by making kids both the heroes and the villains, an effort that resulted in the teenage horror film The New Kids.
In Leos Carax’s rather wonderful and fantastic new film Holy Motors, there are several points at which one may wonder what is real. The answer is none of it, and all of it. It begins explicitly as a dream, after all, in a cinema, with Carax the dreamer himself; but it is a dream of life, of possible lives, and a dream of the very process of cinema.
Spending time with Charlie Hunnam and Lizzy Caplan together in an interview setting was anything but structured, cohesive, or lacking in humor. Promoting their new film 3,2,1...Frankie Go Boom, it was a refreshing interview as the two actors had a great rapport with one another; they were constantly laughing, telling jokes, sparring with sarcasm, and for the most part making it extremely difficult to get a straight answer about anything. It was one of the best times at an interview I have ever experienced, because it was unpredictable. Here is a highlight reel of their best commentary. Warning, it does not make much sense as a whole, and that is kind of the point, but please be aware that everything was said in jest, and should not be construed in any other way when/if possible.
Serial Killer as anti-hero has been a popular motif in slasher films for as long as there have been slasher films. From the seminal Peeping Tom through the influential Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to the over-the-top American Psycho, cold blooded murderers have always made a fun and different type of protagonist, one that can be rooted for as well as against. In 1970, legendary Italian giallo director Mario Bava (Twitch of the Death Nerve, Black Sunday) introduced the world to his own psycho killer John Harrington in an under-the-radar film called Hatchet for the Honeymoon.
Three things that have always made good fodder for horror films are ghosts, psychics and serial killers. In 1973, director Nicolas Roeg (The Witches) combined these elements in his film Don’t Look Now and, in the process, created one of the most frightening British films ever made.
Although Boris Karloff had been making movies for years before he became the monster in Frankenstein, this signature roll opened the gates to offers for more monster roles and cemented his legacy as an icon in the horror genre. Tucked neatly within Karloff’s filmography between The Mummy and The Black Cat is a lost little classic from 1933 called The Ghoul which ranks as one of his creepiest films.
There are two kinds of bad movies. There are bad movies that are just unwatchable, and then there are bad movies that strike a chord with certain audiences and are sought out and viewed because of the very fact that they are bad. In 1987, The Video Dead was made, becoming an instant cult classic and inspiring horror fans for decades.
When Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master premiered at the 2012 Venice Film Festival the immediate reaction from critics in attendance was that of high praise. The festival jury agreed, bestowing best actor awards to Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix and best director to Paul Thomas Anderson; and, as is expected at the Venice Film Festival, a scandal erupted over whether the best picture Golden Lion went to The Master or Kim Ki-duk's Pieta [NY Times Artsbeat]. The admiration for filming on 65mm (to be seen on 70mm in theatres) also gave The Master an immediate boost is likability because in a dying world of film usage in lieu of the cheaper digital format a movie made on 65mm is rare beyond measure. The usage pays off as The Master is breathtakingly beautiful with its expansive extreme wide shots and uncomfortable close-ups that last far too long and cause one to stir in his seat from the intrusive nature of the shot. The trance inducing score with its methodical rhythm only further creates an almost ominous feeling surrounding the entire film, creating a place in time that is haunted by the ghosts of the characters. The technical aspects of The Master are not what will have people talking after seeing it, and the scandal in Venice has since been forgotten, as the praise for The Master continues--but the worthiness of such praise is complicated, as The Master's success or failure resides in a viewer's own perception of the material, and the material presented is difficult to process.
Legendary writer Richard Matheson has had his hand in dozens of Hollywood productions, whether it has been as the imagination behind many of the more memorable episodes of “The Twilight Zone” or as the creator of screenplays for movies like I Am Legend or Duel. In 1973, Matheson’s most frightening book was brought to the big screen, and The Legend of Hell House turned the haunted house genre on its ear.
Ridley Scott's newest film Prometheus (2012) has raised a great many questions, and provided few direct answers for moviegoers. This piece seeks to uncover some of the mystery surrounded the unanswered questions in Prometheus while analyzing the information provided in the film. It contains spoilers, and ideas that are solely those of the author and is not intended to be considered factual in its basis. Unless you completely agree that is, and then of course, it holds truth; more truth than you could ever imagine. Now, let's have some fun figuring out Prometheus.
A writer's words can project their soul onto the page, for the world to embrace, admonish, or when such words reveal a love story beyond measure to provoke a wealth of emotion. Passing off another's work as your own is the cruelest act a writer can commit; in The Words, Bradley Cooper's character Rory Jansen does just that. But the truth behind the motivation of Rory to use another man's story in order to become a published writer is not simple. The complexity of Rory's tale tests morality, as it also reveals the truths behind the fact that having told a story may be more important than who actually wrote the story. The Words is a complicated dialogue on morals, on truth, and most of all a love story that makes the aforementioned inconsequential.
Vampires have always been the most sexy and loved movie monsters. Starting with Dracula himself, following through The Lost Boys and continuing into Twilight, bloodsuckers have gained a reputation as the hip, romantic undead beings. It’s not just the male vampires that can be fashionable, either, as director Roger Vadim (Barbarella) showed the world in his 1960 film Blood and Roses.
Politically charged documentaries are a dime a dozen. Documentaries of a satirical nature, that also say a great deal about world politics in an informative, engaging, and humorous way are less common. Danish Director Mads Brugger ventures into the territory of political documentary satire, or a political farce, with The Ambassador. Mads opens The Ambassador by stating, "Here ends my life as a Danish journalist." His new life venture is to become an African Diplomat, for bags of diamonds he claims he can smuggle out of his new found country as a Diplomat. His country of choice, thanks to the ease of achieving Diplomat status with the right amount of money, is Liberia. His target is the Central African Republic (CAR), a little known country to the rest of the world but a place full of what Mads wants most: blood diamonds. Mads Brugger uses his style of documentary storytelling that he calls "performative journalism" to share his experience. In performative journalism he creates an "absurd caricature of a corrupt diplomat, with hidden cameras, black-market credentials, and razor-sharp wit." The experiment is a success, to say the least.
Nineteen Seventy-six was a banner year for Jodie Foster. Already a bona-fide television child star, the fourteen-year-old made the jump to the silver screen in a big way, with not only her Oscar-nominated turn in Taxi Driver, but with starring roles in the family films Bugsy Malone and Freaky Friday. Those projects alone probably made her the hardest working kid in Hollywood, but she also showed off her versatility in a creepy little horror mystery called The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.
In director Till Schauder's documentary, The Iran Job, American basketball player Kevin Sheppard travels to Iran in 2008 and joins the Iranian Super League, Iran's equivalent to America's National Basketball Association. Although Kevin's professional career has been spent overseas playing in countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Spain, China and Israel, living in Iran initially makes him very nervous. His worry, shared by his parents and his girlfriend back home, is warranted considering Iran's reputation of being one of the world's most feared countries, a safe-haven for Islamic terrorists, and suspect of being in constant development of nuclear weapons. From the very beginning of the film director Till Schauder establishes America's rocky relationship with the foreign country via old press conference footage of former President George W. Bush and Senator Hilary Clinton condemning president Ahmadinejad's calling for the destruction of Israel. Schauder also films various Iranian neighborhoods with huge anti-American street art displayed upon their walls. As if living in an "enemy" state isn't nerve-wracking enough, Kevin is being paid more than any other player to ensure the first year team, A.S. Shiraz, makes it to the playoffs.
The country of Colombia has always been a place of violence, political unrest, and consistently under scrutiny. Famously known for its Drug Cartel, and former cartel leader Pablo Escobar, Colombia continues to supply 90% of the cocaine to US drug traffickers. A rarely told viewpoint is that of the women in Colombia, from the rural villages that are caught in the crossfire between the government and guerillas. Director Nicole Karsin ventures into this unchartered feminist viewpoint with the documentary We Women Warriors. Told from the perspective of three native women, Doris an Awa from Southern Colombia, Ludis a Kankuamo of Northern Colombia, and Flor Ilva, a Nasa woman in Southern Colombia, Karsin weaves an intricate story about perseverance in a place where violence has overrun the desire for peace, but three women seek to make change with non-violent actions.
Greed, blackmail, sex, and...butter. These are the four components that make-up Director Jim Field Smith's quirky movie aptly titled Butter. Set in the oh-so-americana State of Iowa, where State Fairs do indeed still exist, there is the royal family of butter carvers, the Picklers. Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell) has been the Iowa State champion of butter carvers for the past fifteen years, his crowning achievement's include 'The Last Supper' and 'T-Rex Eating Girl', plus the impressive 'Shindler's List'. It is his wife Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner) who has been by his side the entire time, making sure Bob achieves greatness, and doing her part to maintain the utmost of poise as the First Lady of butter carvers.
Science fiction films, particularly those creature features from the 1950s, usually dealt with aliens from another world traveling through space in an attempt to invade or colonize Earth. But what about the beings who have always been here, hiding just out of sight? Prolific television Western director Virgil W. Vogel (“Wagon Train” and “The Big Valley”) asked that same question in 1956 when he made The Mole People, creating one of the most unique sci-fi monster movies ever made.
Robert Pattinson smells like sex...that is what director David Cronenberg makes clear in Cosmopolis, his new film starring Robert Pattinson as the paranoid corporate tycoon Eric Packer who is destined to fall prey to his own created schizoid demise. Adapted from the highly acclaimed novel "Cosmopolis" by Paulo Branco, Cronenberg's screen adaptation pits Pattinson against his own known screen persona, the vampire, baiting him to come forth and prove he is more than a cool and distant undead male desperately seeking affection and empathy for his cruel deeds. But Pattinson's Eric is exactly the same typographical character in Cosmopolis; the only difference being his thirst is not for blood but for money, security, and power.
In 1974, director Tobe Hooper put himself on the horror map with his seminal fright flick The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. So, how does the next big thing in horror follow up one of the most influential films in the history of cinema? By making a movie about a serial killer who feeds his victims to his pet crocodile, which is exactly what Hooper did in 1977 with Eaten Alive.
Mummies are some of the more unsung movie monsters, not getting as much attention as vampires or werewolves despite being a consistent fixture of horror cinema. Legendary studios like Universal and Hammer have always cranked out their numerous mummy movies and sequels, and in 1957 United Artists got into the picture when they distributed a different kind of mummy movie, a film called Pharaoh’s Curse.
W.W. Jacobs’ short story about wishes-gone-bad, “The Monkey’s Paw,” has been adapted into several effective films, but most of them stop when the story ends, when the mother has wished her dead son back to life and he knocks on the door. Although it draws inspiration from the same place, director Bob Clark’s 1974 film Deathdream starts at the end of the classic story, showing what would happen if the door was opened.
When a film has a bit of success, it’s inevitable that other films will try to ride the coattails and cash in on the windfall. The best example is John Carpenter’s Halloween and its ushering in of the golden age of the slasher film. Years before, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho inspired scores of filmmakers to pump out quick and cheap movies in an attempt to exploit the new psychopathic killer fad. One of the more interesting of these films is Robert M. Young’s 1962 horror mystery Trauma.
As a horror movie device, the power of telekinesis has always been popular. Brian De Palma made two films about it, Carrie and The Fury, before he even grew out of his Hitchcock phase. As overused as it is, the ability to move things with one’s mind is still an understated and misunderstood skill, and that combination opens doors to frightening situations. In 1978 (The same year that De Palma released The Fury), Australian director Richard Franklin (Psycho II) put an interesting spin on the subject by having his psychokinetic antagonist be a comatose young man named Patrick.
British filmmaker Bart Layton came across a story that appeared more fiction than truth. A 23-year-old French-Algerian man had stolen the identity of a missing Texan boy, some three-and-a-half years after his disappearance. A master con-man, Frédéric Bourdin was in need of a new identity, being wanted by Interpol for his crimes and finding himself without any options left in Linares, Spain. A master manipulator, he posed as a missing teenager and was taken in by the Linares police after tourists phoned in their finding a scared and troubled boy. The events that occurred afterwards are outwardly shocking, and the story Bart Layton creates on screen of this real-life happening is absolutely intoxicating to watch.
In the late nineties, Wes Craven’s Scream franchise had become so popular that it inspired its own comic horror send-up, the aptly title Scary Movie, that has spawned just as many sequels as its muse (so far, three). While no one will ever be able to accuse Scary Movie of being overly original, even the idea of a horror movie spoof was done twenty years earlier when Julie Corman (Roger Corman’s wife and B-movie producer extraordinaire) brought Saturday the 14th to the table.
Holiday themed films have been all the rage, beginning back in the late seventies with Halloween and continuing through the modern era with Valentine. When it comes to the Fourth of July, the choices slim out a little bit; of course, Jaws takes place on the holiday, and there’s the obviously named Independence Day. But those are big budget no-brainers. If one really wants to see an under-the-radar July 4th movie, the real American Hero is Uncle Sam.
Models. The word alone can send women into a panic of self-doubt and conjure body image issues galore. What is it about models that makes women intensely insecure? It is not the models, the women to be exact, that perpetuate this reaction in women but the manner in which cultures substantiate that a model is the ideal, the embodiment of perfection. To be beautiful one must look like a model. This is of course an impossible feat for a woman as we cannot all look the same way, nor should we want to--and we do not all have access to make-up artists, personal trainers, nutritionists, and all of the other necessities that go along with a life in front of the camera. The societal pressures to be perfect, to be model-like, is a constant sociological problem that has been addressed in numerous documentaries. Have you ever wondered what the aging model thinks about the entire situation? How they handle growing older in a profession that glorifies youthfulness and admonishes aging? Director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders has assembled some of the biggest fashion models from the past 60-years to discuss these questions, and more, about their life as part of the modeling world in About Face.
You may want to bring some ear plugs for this, because Neil Young Journeys is a concert film shot in a style so loud and yet intimate that you may be taken with the fear of getting hit by some of the legendary rocker’s sweat and spittle. Filmed in May 2011 at Toronto’s iconic Massey Hall, Young is in peak form, playing his classics and new material with passion and verve.
The setting in which a horror movie takes place is integral to the effectiveness of the scares; haunted houses, insane asylums and dark forests are much more threatening than bright, sunny suburban neighborhoods. Yet, when an innocent place becomes the scene of terror, it can be doubly frightening. In 1982, a Canadian film from the golden age of slashers showed that not even a hospital, a place of healing and curing, is exempt from evil in Visiting Hours.
Denis Côté, DP Vincent Biron, and producer Sylvain Corbeil have created a singular (beast of a) movie with Bestiaire. Offered the chance to shoot at a rather tired safari park in rural Quebec, Côté decided to make an experiment, to find new ways of making images of animals.
Ace title designer Saul Bass (and ace designer of all sorts of other things) directed only one feature, Phase IV (1974). Notoriously hard to see, it was tracked down by the TCM Classic Film Festival in a rare, original release print, scratched and kind of pink, but a real oddball treasure.
The sounds are heard around a burgeoning middle-class street in Brazil’s Recife, half of which used to be owned by silver-bearded patriarch Francisco, but which is now mostly tower blocks. First-time feature director Kleber Mendonça Filho reworks some of his shorts material to lay out a mosaic of life on this particular, present-day street, both aurally and visually, centered largely on the extended family who have always lived there. The camera wanders through a playground of kids, or spies on a kissing couple near a rooftop below. Other extras and kids pop up from time to time – the kissing girl even gets to answer to her called-out name later on – but the film concentrates on a relatively small handful of characters, following them through the inconsequential mundanities of everyday life.
At every film festival there always seems to be one movie that strikes you as a viewer more so than any other. For the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival the honor goes to Director Mads Matthiesen's Teddy Bear. The promotional image for Teddy Bear displays a hulking figure of a man, bodybuilder Dennis (real-life super-heavyweight bodybuilder Kim Kold), curling his biceps in front of a mirror with a barbell weighted far more than most people could carry with both hands. Dennis is covered in tattoos, rippling with muscles, and looks nothing like the gentile man you come to know in Teddy Bear--a juxtaposition of a title if there ever was one to the striking figure of the man it refers. But Dennis is all heart, a sweet-natured man who yearns for love but is painfully shy.
Aside from Edgar Allan Poe (and possibly Richard Matheson), no writer has had their short stories adapted into horror films more often than H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft has been so influential to the genre that even films which are not direct retellings of his stories, like Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead series, are based around one of his inventions, the Necronomicon, or the Book of the Dead. One of the first appearances of the Necronomicon on the big screen was director Daniel Haller’s 1970 creep-fest The Dunwich Horror.
Presented by the Director himself, William Friedkin, Killer Joe played to a full house on the second night of the Los Angeles Film Festival 2012 and the entire room was laughing out loud, enjoying every minute of this dark and twisted tale. As Friedkin puts it, "It's a comedy by the way, you must not freak out."
The advent of cinema created a world where artists could create moving portraits, an artistic medium not bound my any form of limitations. Rarely a film is created that holds a transgressive quality, the ability to move you completely out of your comfort zone and violate the standard laws of filmmaking. Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by Benh Zeitlin, who co-wrote the screenplay with Lucy Alibar, has done just that, and more. Beasts of the Southern Wild may be classified as a magical realist film, wherein the real and the fantastic exist in the same place, simultaneously, and without pure distinction.
In the world of horror movies, death can come from many places. Danger is all around, whether it comes from the axe of a masked serial killer, the claws of a rabid monster or the mouth of a mysterious alien. But what happens when the harm comes from something as seemingly innocent as desert? That was the question posed in 1985 by the horror/comedy film The Stuff.
What a pleasure it has been to wallow in the 16-film Fassbinder retrospective this past two weeks. For various reasons it’s not been easy to see his films in the theater, but now that distributers Janus hold this selection of (very nice) subtitled prints, one can hope that they’ll resurface more frequently.
When Drag City announced a couple of years ago that they were releasing a long-lost early ‘70s album by a band you never heard of, named Death, comprising three black brothers from Detroit who made punk rock years before anyone else, the knee-jerk reaction was to assume this was just hipster bait. But your (my) knees should know better, for Drag City can be trusted by and large, and the band and their story are truly worthy of their unusual, if belated, place in the pantheon.
It has taken over two years for Charlotte Brandstrom's Wallander: The Revenge to gain theatrical distribution in the U.S., and it has been worth the wait. The film is a continuation of the highly successful novels written by Henning Mankell that feature the main character Kurt Wallander, a Swedish police detective. Instead of merely adapting one of the published novels, a fete that has been done to nearly all of them, Mankell created thirteen new stories featuring Wallander, starting with The Revenge being released theatrically and the following twelve episodes will be released on VOD and DVD, all with a running time of 90 minutes.
Although no one doubts their physical prowess, it’s no secret that today’s professional wrestlers are as much actors as they are athletes. When a movie needs a certain type of personality, the filmmaker can usually turn to a grappler who wants to make a name for himself in Hollywood, whether as a hero, like Roddy Piper in John Carpenter’s They Live, or as a villain, such as Tyler Mane in Rob Zombie’s Halloween. Starting in the 1930’s, 400 pound Swedish sensation Tor Johnson blazed the acting wrestler trail, becoming one of B-movie legend Ed Wood’s favorite oddities in the process. He had recurring roles in Wood films like Bride of the Monster and the classic Plan 9 from Outer Space, but it was a film that wasn’t directed by Wood, 1961’s The Beast of Yucca Flats, which would go down as Johnson’s last credited film.
We’re halfway through the American Cinematheque’s wonderful Fassbinder retrospective, and if it’s demonstrated one thing, it’s that a Fassbinder double bill is a hell of a lot of cinema. His work rate was so prolific that one would assume a film here and there to have been merely tossed off. Some of them were, but his remarkable sense of how drama plays, and what can be done with the camera to enhance that drama, repeatedly finding variations on obsessive themes – the self-perpetuating hierarchy of power and control, in socio-economic or love-relationship terms, and the impossibility of freedom – is so sure that every single one is an immersive viewing experience, rich in text and subtext. It is as though Fassbinder had an innate, instinctive film-making ability, which works even when it shouldn’t: asked by Peter Chatel, his envoy to present Despair (1977) at Cannes, why there’s lots of Nazis at the start but almost none later on, Fassbinder confessed he’d forgotten to film them. Chatel protested that he couldn’t tell that to people; of course not, replied Fassbinder, just tell them that in 1933 the Nazis were a new thing, but that later on people had become insidiously inured to them. It works.
Hide Away is the simple story of a man who buys an old ship and fixes it. Even the main characters are simply named the Young Mariner (Josh Lucas), The Ancient Mariner (James Cromwell), and The Waitress (Ayelet Zuerer). The movie is not so much concerned with complicated plot lines as it is with the straightforward metaphor of man as a broken down vessel. The film relies on performance and mood to bring the myth to life, which unfortunately is not altogether successful. The actors give their all in an attempt to salvage the shipwreck and Director of Photography, Elliot Davis, is able to find sadness in nature throughout all four seasons of the year, but none of it is enough to compensate for the bare-bones script. Dialogue is replaced with silence, which would be fine if the rare conversations that did take place weren’t so wooden. The actor who sells the boat to the Young Mariner could’ve been easily substituted with a robot. The film also dwells too long in the territory of the vague. The audience’s patience wears thin as we await any hint of the Young Mariner’s back-story. When finally revealed it then turns out that the secrets should have stayed hidden as the scene is melodramatic and underwhelming. Major turning points in the plot also feel overly convenient and unearned.
Tanya Wexler's Hysteria makes its point as a lighthearted comedy about the invention of the vibrator once a woman breaks out into an aria from “La Traviata" after receiving hands-on stimulation from her doctor. Hysteria is not the average romantic comedy, nor is it a biographical account of how the vibrator was invented in London, circa 1880. The Victorian prudeness is front and center in Hysteria; you will never hear the word orgasm spoken by any character, especially the prim and proper Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), who believes his method of curing hysteria in women is to "relieve tensions in the womb" by manual stimulation of the clitoris, another word unspoken of in the film. It would be inappropriate to consider that women suffering from hysteria, a condition affecting the majority of women during the era that has them depressed, suffering nymphomania, anxious, or generally feeling malaise, is to in fact pleasure them sexually. Their husbands would be mortified to think they were not pleasing their wives, or that they should.
In 1976, Stephen King’s first novel, a memorable tale about a high school girl with telekinetic powers, was turned into the terrifying and successful movie Carrie by director Brian De Palma. Less than two short years later, apparently not finished with the extrasensory perception motif, De Palma’s next movie dealt with a pair of young people with psychic gifts when he made The Fury in 1978.
Once the vampire and werewolf movies of the 1930s had run their courses, Hollywood producers turned to science fiction to get their monsters into theaters, pumping out alien invasion and radioactive creature movies by the dozens in the 1950s. In 1957, the studio whose name is synonymous with monster movies, Universal, made a film called The Monolith Monsters that turned seemingly ordinary rocks into world-threatening invaders.
A hand-held camcorder accepts the task of portraying the first-person account of an event. It records the action, and by doing so records to memory what happened on a specific day, at a specific time. Lovely Molly's director Eduardo Sanchez pioneered the use of the first-person camera, commonly called found-footage, in his debut film alongside Daniel Myrick, The Blair Witch Project. The found-footage technique is grossly overused in cinema today, and nearly every horror movie employs it now--the low-budget aesthetic is just that, made on the cheap and eaten up by audiences. Sanchez uses his pioneering technique in Lovely Molly, taking the audience on a journey through Molly's lens over the course of a year. The opening scene of the film starts at the beginning with newcomer Gretchen Lodge as Molly, distressed and shaken speaking into the camera on 10.16.11 stating "it wasn't me" and that she is "not in control anymore." The initial performance by Lodge in this brief scene relates the fact that she is going to be the defining core of Lovely Molly, and you are immediately hooked.
Although it may seem that making horror movies geared towards children is a waste of time, it has been proven time and again that a film does not need to rely on blood and violence to be frightening. A tight thriller that can invoke fear in an audience without resorting to cheap standby methods of shock can be even more effective than any gory slasher, causing a young viewer to remember their fright well into adulthood. In 1983, Walt Disney Studios took a stab at children’s horror with Something Wicked This Way Comes and, in the process, made kids everywhere afraid to go to carnivals.
According to Wikipedia, mumblecore is a term used to describe American independent films produced in the 2000s characterized by low budget production values and amateur actors. Those looking for an example of the genre need not look any further as "amateur" can certainly be used to describe this particular interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy. Everything from the cheesy kung-fu fight scenes to the cheap special effects to the Yiddish rip-off of Eminem’s "The Real Slim Shady" makes watching Romeo And Juliet in Yiddish almost unbearable. It’s a fact that director Eve Annenberg employed non-professional actors and so credit must be given to her for molding her cast into acceptable performers. It's thus a shame when sound difficulties often muffle the dialogue, an unwelcome distraction even when subtitles are present. The film does sport a variety of excellent exterior shots, whether it be outside of JFK International Airport, walking the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or hanging out at Coney Island. Interior sets however, such as a scene set inside an airport security office scream for an art direction makeover. With its obvious budgetary restraints, it’s safe to say that technical excellence is not the movie’s drawing point.
Prolific Hollywood director William Beaudine is known mostly for his work on family-oriented television shows like “Lassie,” “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” and “The Mickey Mouse Club.” However, he made scores of films, many of them crazy mash-ups of characters, such as Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, Billy the Kid vs. Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. In 1946 he made another mix-up film, combining mad scientists, ghosts and voodoo witchcraft in a creepy ode to Frankenstein called The Face of Marble.
The rock music festival, a staple event in every culture, country, and a right of passage for many a youth yearning for days on end of unadulterated partying, live-music, and the possibility to connect with like-minded attendees. There are a few such festivals that take place every year, made iconic over time for the spectacle they create. One of the largest resides in Scotland, "T in The Park", over the course of 3-days during the Summer. It was there, in the Summer of 2010, that Director David Mackenzie shot the film Tonight You're Mine; completely on location and with the full cooperation of festival director Geoff Ellis.
In a new exclusive series, FilmFracture will take you behind the scenes of Hollywood's inner sanctum. Like a fly on the wall, we will hear the actual conversations between directors and the movie producers after first screening a film. Ever wonder what the studio thought after seeing Casablanca? Star Wars? or Ishtar? Me too! And now we can learn together.
How did we get these transcripts and recordings, you ask? That's not important, and I'll thank you to stay out of my affairs.
The first installment of the series features Waterworld, Titanic, and No Country For Old Man.
The modern world can be such an impersonal place. Take, for example, automobiles. People tend to forget that there are other people in them so that, instead of living, breathing organisms with thoughts and emotions, they are considered just faceless metal objects standing between a driver and their intended destination. But what happens when the object in the way is a bloodthirsty killing machine that doesn’t want to yield? In 1977, a movie was released that let the world know what evil drives: The Car.
Fox Searchlight Pictures is releasing Sound Of My Voice in select cities beginning April 27, 2012. Co-writers, plus star and director, respectively, Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij sat down to answer questions about the film in a roundtable interview setting. For a film such as Sound Of My Voice it was a welcome opportunity as the perplexing nature of the story breeds analysis from the viewer, and for a science fiction fan (like me!) all sorts of questions dying to be answered.
The Marquis de Sade’s writings are violent, sadistic and blasphemous. It only makes sense that someone would make a horror movie based on them. In 1965, Italian director Massimo Pupillo (under the name of Max Hunter) gave it his best shot on Bloody Pit of Horror.
The TCM Festival does a great job of getting old stars out to be fêted along with their classic films. Rhonda Fleming, Marsha Hunt and others turned up this year, but the highlight was undoubtedly the appearance by Peggy Cummins, wonderful star of Gun Crazy (1950).
One of the more unlikely career moves of old Hollywood was Dick Powell’s evolution from nice-guy hoofer to tough-guy lowlife. Between Murder, My Sweet (1944) and Cry Danger (1951), both his image and his position within the industry were transformed. The TCM Classic Film Festival had expert Eddie Mueller to introduce each of their noir screenings, and he filled us in on how Powell struck out on his own, found investment in the mid-west, and set up Olympia Productions, whose only picture was Cry Danger.
One of the big draws of the TCM Classic Film Festival is the presence of all kinds of luminaries, both of the silver screen and of the channel itself (swoon, Ben Mankiewicz). Another draw is the presentation of freshly restored old classics, and this year the festival hosted the US premiere of a brand new 4K scrubbing-up of Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937). This was introduced by Le Mank in conversation with veteran actor Norman Lloyd, not especially well known himself, despite being an original member of Welles’s Mercury Theater, and turning up in Limelight, Dead Poets Society, Losey’s M and Saboteur and Spellbound for Hitchcock. More to the point, he played support in Renoir’s The Southerner (1945), and he and his wife became very close friends with Jean and Dido during their stay in Hollywood.
The best thing for an aspiring motion picture director to do to hone his skills is to study at the heels of a master of the craft. Low budget movie mogul David DeCoteau has had the fortune to work with two such mentors; In 1980, he got his start in the movie business from the legendary Roger Corman (Little Shop of Horrors, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School), and in 1986 he went to work for the inimitable Charles Band (Puppet Master, Re-Animator). After working with these two B-movie giants, it’s no surprise that, in 1988, DeCoteau would make a movie with the over-the top, memorable name Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.
The modern strand in this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival was a celebration of Robert Evans’ tenure at Paramount, and part of the ongoing 100th birthday celebrations of the studio. The too-late punters for the first Raw Deal screening couldn’t be tempted by the empty seats in Love Story, but it doesn’t take much persuading to get a film buff to sit through Chinatown or Rosemary’s Baby again. Except that after a gap of many years from my first viewing, it’d take quite a lot for me to sit through the latter a third time.
One of my favorite screenings at last year’s TCM Classic Film Festival was Clara Bow in Hoop-La (1933), restored by MOMA at the urging of Bow biographer David Stenn. Stenn was on hand again this year to present Bow in Call Her Savage (1932), and to explain a bit about its background. The irrepressible Bow had fled Hollywood in disgrace a year before; the year before that she had been the No.1 box office star. She still had some clout, and decided she’d show ’em, with the sort of antics that had luminaries calling for a Production Code. Apparently her vigorous wrestling with a Great Dane (taller than she is) was a direct thumb of the nose to a published rumor that she’d enjoyed carnal relations with her own beloved dog.
The jewel of Sunday morning’s program was the recently restored, original hand-colored version of Méliès’s Le Voyage dans la lune (1902). The colored version had long been presumed lost; it turned up in 1993, but fused into basically a solid disc in the canister. A certain amount was done to try and rescue it chemically, but Bromberg had to wait until 2010 for the digital technology to evolve that would allow for an actual restoration. 95% of the original coloring was saved, the rest seamlessly filled in (13,375 frames in total), and a splendid accompaniment commissioned from Air. Even in black and white, it is a film that never ceases to astonish; the pristine, vivid colors take it to a whole new level.
TCM Classic Film Festival: The Legendary Costume Design of Travis Banton, with Mae West in I'm No Angel
Mae West...the feisty screen siren who defied the dictated societal norms placed upon women and was brash, to-the-point, and oh-so sexualized in every movie she made. Teaming up with Cary Grant for the second time, Mae wrote the screenplay for I'm No Angel, a movie about a woman working in the circus who has a non-stop parade of boyfriends who keep her in nice things that are far above her social status. With one-liners to die for rolling off Mae's lips and a story that is sweet if not audacious in its execution of sexual innuendos, I'm No Angel is a romantic comedy featuring the undeniably sexy West and enough men to keep her occupied. The movie is hilarious, sweet natured, and evokes many a temptation in the viewer. To call I'm No Angel sinful is the greatest of compliments.
Head honcho of Lobster Films, Serge Bromberg is an avid collector and preserver of film, and happily for the rest of us, he is also an enthusiastic exhibitor. He came to the TCM Classic Film Festival this year with a fascinating program of short experiments and showcases for various stereoscopic filming techniques, dating all the way back to some fantastic 10-second snippets made on paper strips in 1900. Bromberg excused their slightly naughty nature by explaining that they were French; he himself is charmingly so.
The romantic comedy genre doesn’t leave room for too many surprises. We know that at some point a boy will meet a girl, the boy will do something foolish and lose the girl, and then the boy will eventually get the girl back with a heartfelt speech, or a symbolic gesture of some sort. And vice-versa for every Kate Hudson and Katherine Heigl movie, of course. As viewers we know this going in, and all we ask is to be entertained along the way with characters that ring true, humor that’s original and acting that is believable (ahem, Ms. Heigl). Luckily, the writing team of Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel seem to be well aware of the potential pitfalls of the rom-com. Just as they did with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Stoller and Segel have crafted another original, witty, and charming story with The Five-Year Engagement.
The TCM Classic Film Festival presentation of Cover Girl (1944) was special because, as festival godhead Robert Osborne declared in his typically informed and engaging introduction, it was the one screening for which he had allowed time in his busy schedule to watch in its entirety (it was some pressing matter, no doubt, that demanded his departure three quarters of the way through).
As Osborne reminded us, Cover Girl is special for a number of other reasons: the package put together by talent producer Arthur Schwartz included the first teaming of Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin; Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly producing choreography that would convince MGM to give them a freer rein; and a fantastic costume team headed by Travis Banton. Rudolph Maté handles the cinematography with the expected elegance, and presumably not making much of an impact on the finished product, but a tidbit for the geek, assistant direction was provided by one Oscar (“Budd”) Boetticher.
The popularity of Raw Deal is down to its status as the pinnacle of Anthony Mann and John Alton’s über-noir collaboration. T-Men the year before was a stone triumph of drenching B-budget sets and actors in shadows both evocative and eerily abstracting, and banging out a cops-and-robbers procedural that doesn’t let up for a moment across its taut 92-minute running time. For Raw Deal, Mann and Alton push the abstraction yet further.
The collected works of Ernest Hemingway are popular for cinematic adaptation. One of the lesser known, and only adapted once for the screen, is Hemingway's novel "The Short Happy Life Of Francis Macomber". In 1947, Director Zoltan Korda, of the famous Korda family, brought The Macomber Affair to the big screen with the legendary Gregory Peck, Joan Bennett, and the soon-to-be star of Broadway Robert Preston. The story revolves around the Macomber's (Bennett and Preston) vacationing in Africa where they hire a hunting guide (Peck) to take them on a hunting exhibition. Things go terribly awry and Mr. Macomber ends us being shot in the back while on the hunt. The event is considered an accident but the truth over what really happened is shrouded in secrets until the pieces are slowly revealed in flashback.
Slasher filmmakers were poking fun at the sub-genre way before Wes Craven did it with Scream. Even in its infant stage, filmmakers who saw the familiarity in the gratuitous sex and violence would exploit it, usually without apology. After the success of killer-stalking-kids films like Halloween and Friday the 13th, any location with a group of young women gathered together was considered a ripe scenario for a horror film. In 1982, producer/director Amy Jones sent a killer into a dream hunting ground - a teenage girl’s sleepover - in The Slumber Party Massacre.
It all sounds pretty French: teenage boy falls in love with his older aunt, attractive, smart, and been around the block a few times, as incarnated to perfection by Béatrice Dalle. The expected dynamic is subverted, however, even obliquely in the opening scene, and the well-worn elements of such a relationship are treated as though anew, with little interest in misplaced teenage priapism.
On April 8th millions of people worldwide will be celebrating one thing, and it is not the soon-to-be-released films Lockout and The Cabin In The Woods (yes, we are excited for them both). Nope, April 8th is none other than the Easter Holiday for Catholics, Christians, and any other religion who follows the New Testament. It is also, and maybe for some more importantly, the day the Easter Bunny visits, bringing chocolates and goodies for children everywhere--and maybe even a fun-filled Easter egg hunt too. Just because it is a family-oriented holiday does not mean there will not be movie-watching going on; and for those who do not celebrate Easter you need to find something to do with yourself because Costco is closed on Easter Sunday. Thus I bring you the Easter Movie Survival Guide, a list of films that will appeal to the family, the religious, the heathens, and more importantly, the person who wants to watch movies all day on Easter Sunday because they can, and will.
One of the earliest tricks that filmmakers would use to forecast fear into their audience is the use of a “warning,” a bit of fourth-wall breaking narration in the movie that would let the viewer know that they were in for some pure terror. From Edward van Sloan’s “it will thrill you, it may shock you” speech at the beginning of Frankenstein to William Castle’s offering of patrons’ money back if they were too scared to stay until the end of Homicidal, these warnings were great fun, but rarely taken seriously. In 1958, director Alex Nicol went above and beyond with his introduction to The Screaming Skull; he offered to pay for the burial costs of anyone who died of fright during his movie.
Fear can be a powerful motivator. It’s common knowledge that it can save a person’s life when their fight-or-flight response kicks in, but can fear ever take a person’s life? Can someone ever be so scared that their body just shuts down, involuntarily, and they die? This is the concept that was explored in 1963 in director Lew Landers' (The Raven) last film, the generically titled Terrified.
For all the monsters and murderers that populate horror films, nothing is quite as scary as a good haunted house movie. The best ghost stories usually double as mysteries, with the victimized person having to research and solve the problem of the spirits’ unrest. Of all of the ghostly haunt films, few come even close to being as scary as the 1980 Canadian spook-fest The Changeling.
In all the annals of the horror movie archives, perhaps no real person has inspired more films than the serial killer Ed Gein. Gein’s life has provided the basis for such legendary villains as Norman Bates in Psycho, Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. Not nearly as iconic as any of those films, but following Gein’s case much more closely, is another forgotten Canadian splatter film from 1974 called Deranged.
Everyone has survived the holidays, and the time has now come for the movie industry to slow down a bit. Take a deep breath and sigh as the winter movie season has officially begin. Say hello to horror movies, romances, and the odd-ball comedy or dramatic piece that did not seem to be award worthy. This is also the time where the limited release award films expand--so all is not lost on what we call "the season where movies go to die." I am only (partly) kidding of course, there are always great movies to be found regardless of the season and everyone at FilmFracture is excited to see what the New Year brings.
While William Castle may not be a household name outside of the horror genre, his films most certainly are. The director has been behind some of the most gimmicky and fun horror movies ever made, including House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts and The Tingler. Castle has often said that his personal favorite film of his own was the ghoulish 1961 tale Mr. Sardonicus, about a man with a strange affliction and the doctor who tries to help him.
In the fifties and sixties, The United States of America was not the only country to delve into making low budget sci-fi horror movies. In 1960, with the world still reeling from the use of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an Italian producer named Mario Fava (who may or may not be an alter-ego of the Italian master of macabre himself Mario Bava) made a quick and easy fright film called Seddok, l’erede di Satana, released in America three years later as Atom Age Vampire.
The time has come for The Academy Awards 2012! Who will win, who will lose, and what extra long speeches will we have to endure. We are live from Colton, CA watching The Academy Awards. Please excuse the blunt and possibly offensive commentary. The Oscars are all about having fun, and good fun, we mean no offense--we're just sarcastic.
After the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, scores of slasher movies flooded theaters with hopes of being the next big scare. It was only a matter of time before the Australian low-budget “Ozploitation” filmmakers would get on board. In 1980, director John D. Lamond (Felicity) made his only horror film, a psychological thriller called Nightmares that had all of the elements of its American counterparts.
Since founding the COUM Transmissions collective in the late sixties, via Throbbing Gristle’s invention of industrial music, and numerous highly provocative music and art shows (sex, gender, physical alteration, domination and extremity being constant themes, with a smattering of black magic), Genesis Breyer P-Orridge has dedicated herself to exploring the (off-)limits and possibilities defined and denied by societal taboos.
One of the more sensationalistic aspects of horror and science fiction films over the years has been the phenomena of 3-D. Long before James Cameron’s Avatar reintroduced the world to the fad that enjoyed a resurgence in the horror world in the 80’s, when it seemed that every franchise’s third film was in 3-D (Friday the 13th Part 3D, Jaws 3D, Amityville 3D), the kids of the fifties enjoyed the golden age of 3-D movies. In 1953, hidden between Vincent Price’s House of Wax and Universal’s It Came from Outer Space sat a neat little thriller called The Maze that has been all but forgotten among its contemporaries.
The most stressful time of the year is said to be that of the holidays, beginning around Thanksgiving in the States and leading up to New Year's Eve. In January everyone takes a breath, heads to the gym to work off the holiday weight and eases into the cold winter months. Then February hits and the stress of the holidays seems like a welcome vacation over the dreaded day of love--Valentine's Day. Men go into panic mode trying to decide what they should buy for their sweetheart; they then panic even more when they realize how much it is going to cost them to buy a dozen roses, or take their girl out to dinner with the deluge of pre-planned Valentine's Day menus (restaurants take full advantage on this day). For the single people of the world Valentine's Day feels like a slap in the face; a cruel joke being played out for weeks ahead of time as every store is laden with themed decorations and all of the commercials on television advertise all the things you should buy for the one you love. Being alone on New Year's Eve is a cakewalk compared to surviving a day at the office on February 14th; where the smell of roses and the sounds of giggling girls in their cubicles in nauseating.
A good horror movie needs a frightening antagonist to keep the action coming. Whether it’s a faceless killer or a wild animal, a good villain is the driving force behind any film, not just horror films. Sometimes, however, an unseen force is a much scarier foe, a phenomenon that has been dealt with over and over again like in the Final Destination series. Producer David Foster’s The Legacy has one of these deadly entities, and is one of the freakiest movies of the seventies.
Each year Russell Espinosa watches every film released in theatres; and each year he takes the time to write up an epic "best of" list. Here it is for the year 2011, and while some of his choices may seem typical, others are an interesting surprise. Enjoy!! - Kathryn Schroeder
In the late 60’s, the Alice Cooper band invented the musical genre of “shock-rock,” with their in-your-face music and horror-themed stage antics. It seemed like a logical progression that, once his musical career cooled off, Cooper would go into acting, and the natural place for him was in a horror film. In 1984, after a string of unsuccessful experimental albums, Alice found himself cast as the lead in a cool little werewolf movie called Monster Dog.
There are few events more horrific than war. Of course, when something is fear-inducing, there will always be filmmakers ready to make a movie out of it, and horror films have been effectively using the backdrop of war for years, from the classic Isle of the Dead to the more recent Dead Snow. Master British director Henry Cass (Blood of the Vampire, Last Holiday) made a film about a group of World War II soldiers in 1960 called The Hand that explored the physical and psychological scars of battle while scaring the heck out of its audience.
The nominations are in for the 2012 Academy Awards. Here are all of the nominees for awards that will be telecast at the ceremony. For a complete list, including the technical categories, go to www.oscars.org. The asterisk next to a film/person(s) is the best guess at who will take Oscar home--but more on that later because it does not mean we agree.
Steven Soderbergh has made a variety of films, in all of the different genres. He is even credited with propelling the independent film movement of the 1990s with his Sundance Film Festival hit, Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989). He has also said he was retiring from moviemaking more than once, only to announce later that he was misquoted or "[insert other excuse here]." Soderbergh marks his long-career with his 25th film, Haywire, being released on January 20, 2012--starring real-life MMA fighter Gina Carano as, you guessed it, a special ops agent who does what she does best, fight.
For the past five years or so, the horror genre has been saturated with a new subset of films that critics have dubbed “torture porn,” meaning that the films pay more attention to sickening gore than a cohesive plot. While films like Saw and Hostel seem fresh and new, one only needs to look back about twenty years to find the prototype for today’s torture porn, 1986’s Crawlspace.
A film that has been somewhat under the radar over the past few months is Red Tails. Only lately have materials been released for it, and only in the past two weeks has anyone been talking about it--mostly because of Executive Producer George Lucas. The time has come to see what Red Tails is all about when it releases on Friday, January 20th. Sure, the hopes for the film are not all that high because:
1. It has been hidden from audiences, and not much marketing put into it by 20th Century Fox.
The AFI FEST presented by Audi is fast approaching (3-10 November, 2011), and with much of the program already announced, a healthy number of interesting titles are already trailing good word of mouth from other North American and European fests. One such is Alex Ross Perry’s second feature The Color Wheel, winner of the Narrative Award in Chicago: following the oddball backwoods Pynchon riff Impolex (2009), he this time ditches surrealism and heads straight for mumblecore land.
There are a huge amount of must-see movies in 2012. The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, and The Avengers top most must-see lists, and to no surprise. There is also The Expendables 2, a film that will bring together all of the favorite action heroes from time past once again, and a few more recent faces looking to become epitomized in movie history for having rock hard abs and one-liners people will be quoting for years to come.
One of the action hero relics everyone knows is Sylvester Stallone, the man who will head up The Expendables 2. In case you were unaware he has another action film releasing this year with Warner Bros. Pictures. The first official image has been released from the film and Stallone is looking like his old self, kind of (we all know his marbled chest and tightened skin can be credited to someone other than Stallone himself). Regardless, everyone loves a good action trip with Sylvester Stallone, and Bullet To The Head looks to be something out of 80s action movie heaven.
After well-received stops at Cannes, Toronto and New York, the fourth feature from I’m Gonna Explode director Gerardo Naranjo is set to represent Mexico in fine style at AFI Fest presented by Audi, starting November 3, 2011.
Torn from the headlines, Miss Bala pitches beauty queen aspirant Laura into the murky world of the Tijuana drug cartels – it’s the title of Miss Baja California she’s going for, but bala means “bullet”, plenty of which are expended before the end of the film. The real-life Miss Sinaloa (also named Laura) was indeed arrested for her association with the Mexican drug gangs, but this is no docudrama. Laura here is an innocent, drawn into the underworld through being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and buffeted from dangerous situation to dangerous situation by the twin expediencies of self-preservation and having no other choice.
**Winners being updated, as the show airs, LIVE now!**
The Award Season has officially begun with The Golden Globes airing on Sunday, January 15, 2012. The list of nominees is included below and come Sunday all of the winners updated as they are announced.
The Golden Globes began awarding their Best Animated Feature category in 2007, and have continued each year to nominate three to five films (not the standard five as in other categories). Every year, beginning in 2007 (for the year 2006), a Pixar (or Disney-Pixar) film has been nominated; and every year wins the award. It began with Cars in 2007 (up against Monster House and Happy Feet), then Ratatouille in 2008 (up against The Simpsons Movie and Bee Movie); in 2009 WALL-E took home the prize and not Bolt or Kung Fu Panda. The year 2009 marked the first time five films were nominated, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, and Up. Even with two more films competing against them, Pixar was victorious with Up. Now, 2010 was a tough year for Pixar at The Golden Globes competition wise and the winner was not clear going into the award show. Dreamworks Animation had finally produced an equally good product as Pixar with How To Train Your Dragon and it was anyone's guess whether Toy Story 3 would reign victorious (the other films nominated were Tangled, The Illusionist, and Despicable Me although none had a chance). Dreamworks may have been hopeful but Pixar reigned King once again as Toy Story 3 won--I myself think it had to do with the instantaneous weeping the film caused a viewer, beginning with the incinerator scene.
Director/producer Athina Rachel Tsangari’s reluctance to be lumped in with some nebulous Greek New Wave is as understandable as the categorization is inevitable. She has been producing the work of Giorgos Lanthimos, and her second film as director shares with his Dogtooth (2009) and Alps (2011) not only strong tonal and thematic similarities, and an interest in linguistic distortion, but also the cool white light of Thimios Bakatakis’ camerawork on the former; Lanthimos even takes the supporting role of in cast’s quartet.
Disney is a company synonymous with the art of American animation. From their Golden Age fairy-tale adaptations such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Peter Pan to their innovative computer animated hits such as Toy Story and The Incredibles, it seems impossible to think of Disney as anything but a giant in the industry. There was however a time when Disney’s dominant standing was in question. Throughout most of the 80s, a series of unsuccessful feature length films along with the competition of independent animators such as Don Bluth caused Disney to fall on rocky times. In 1989 however, Disney reclaimed their title as the top animation company with their groundbreaking work The Little Mermaid. This would lead into Disney’s Silver Age, cementing the companies place as the dominant force of 90's American animation. Now, more than a decade later since these films were released, Disney has made plans to re-release their Silver Age classics in theaters, remastered and in 3D. Their second offering of this series is the 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast, the first animated movie in history to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best picture and the second classic of the Silver Age.
The psycho killer has long been one of the obvious staples of the horror genre. What could be more frightening than an unstoppable madman preying on innocent and unsuspecting victims? How about an unstoppable madman who has mastered the art of invisibility? In 1976, television director John Florea (who directed episodes of both “CHiPs” and “Sea Hunt”) asked the question in a feature-length sci-fi cop show called The Astral Factor.
Relativity Media continues to promote the film Haywire, directed by Steven Sodebergh and releasing in theatres January 20, 2012, by providing viewers the opprtunity to watch the first five minutes from the film. I have seen Haywire and these first five minutes feature one hell of a fight scene between MMA superstar Gina Carano and Channing Tatum. Tatum has seen better days, and Gina proves she is one tough woman.
On January 6, 2012, a live Q&A will stream following a screening at the Wadsworth Theatre of The Artist featuring director Michel Hazanavicius, stars Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle and producer Thomas Langmann.
Of all of the mythical beasts that have been immortalized over the centuries, the lycanthrope, or werewolf, has arguably made the smoothest transition into motion pictures. Aside from the vampire, no other creature has been done and redone over the years, from Lon Chaney’s definitive performance in 1941’s The Wolf Man to the Team Jacob shirtless heartthrobs in the Twilight films. In 1956, the incomparable sci-fi producer Sam Katzman (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, It Came From Beneath the Sea) took a shot at revising the werewolf mythos with the appropriately titled The Werewolf, and set forth some new theories and ideas about lycanthropy.
Emerging from the recent trend of independent horror in British cinema, Ben Wheatley’s small-scale gangster massacre Down Terrace made a bit of a splash last year. His latest, Kill List, ups the horror ante and finds a natural home in the AFI FEST’s Midnight Movies strand this week (festival runs November 3-10).
December 2011 brought a great deal of new trailers for films releasing as soon as January 2012 all the way into Summer 2012. Welcome back Kate Beckinsale and your spandex/pleather wearing self in Underworld: Awakening! Three of the most anticipated films trailers finally arrived, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, causing a flurry of excitement for moviegoers everywhere. Then there were some less than exciting additions to the trailer universe, including Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and The Three Stooges (what looks to be the first train wreck of the new year). [Continued]
Tucked in amidst all of the action hero and martial arts films made by Menahem Golan and Yoran Globus (the producers who brought the world the American Ninja series, the Delta Force films and the Death Wish sequels, among many others) can be found a neat little horror film called New Year’s Evil. Made in 1980, during the golden age of the slasher film, it is more than just an entry into the holiday-themed horror craze that ran rampant during the early eighties; it is an inventive twist on the serial killer movie.
Christmas horror movies are usually thinly-veiled slasher flicks where the killer is some maladjusted grownup who was scared into insanity by a freaky Santa when he was a kid. In 1996, screenwriter Michael Cooney (Identity) flipped the script with Jack Frost, an original story about a murderous snowman, and the Christmas horror movie genre hasn’t been the same since.
The holiday season is upon moviegoers once again, and that means a new season of movie-watching has begun. This season is always filled with Award contenders, big name Directors making big serious pictures, and the opportunity for actors and actresses to show their best skills on screen--all in the hopes that they will take home one of the many possible awards available to them for the year's best work. There is also always the underdog independent film that will take everyone by surprise. Lest us not forget the plethora of family movies that will keep everyone occupied during those big family gatherings at the holiday's. After a lackluster (and that is putting it mildly) year of movies, this holiday season holds high hopes for moviegoers, and moviemakers alike.
When a movie script calls for a set of twins but only one lead actor is available, what does the director do? Ask the lead actor or actress to play both parts, that’s what. Brian De Palma had Margot Kidder do it in Sisters, just like David Cronenberg asked Jeremy Irons to double dip in Dead Ringers. In 1943, B-movie legend Sam Newfield (The Terror of Tiny Town) got horror character actor George Zucco (The Black Raven, Scared to Death) to give the playing of twins a try, resulting in the creepy vampire/witchcraft film Dead Men Walk.
Legend has it that in the early eighties, respected horror director Larry Cohen (It’s Alive) looked up at the Chrysler Building in New York City and said “that would be the coolest place for a nest.” The legend goes on to say that Cohen, fired from the directing job on another film and not wanting his New York stay to go to waste, quickly wrote, cast and shot Q, one of the greatest monster movies of the decade.
Earlier this year I received an email from an independent filmmaker, Joe McClean, asking if I would take a look at his short film How To Make A David Lynch Film before it premiered at the Dances With Films film festival in June 2011. I do not usually watch short films, or review them for that matter. I do always try and make time to watch as many non-distributed, festival bound (hopefully), independent feature length films I am asked to when approached by the filmmakers. The title of Joe McClean's short intrigued me--how could I resist watching something called How To Make A David Lynch Film? I watched Joe's short, and ended up writing a review of it because I absolutely loved it. How To Make A David Lynch received an honorable mention award at the festival and to my happy surprise the success, and positive reviews, have led to Joe McClean's production company, Red & Tan Productions, to secure the financing for a feature-length film.
Shakespearian plays have been adapted for the screen time and time again. "Othello", "Hamlet", "Romeo and Juliet", "The Tempest", the list goes on an on and the familiarity for a viewer with these stories is established before they ever enter the theatre. "Coriolanus" is a lesser know, and lesser adapted, play Shakespeare wrote. Well-known actor Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort in Harry Potter) in his first directorial effort has adapted "Coriolanus", with a screenplay by John Logan into a modern-day political film, while maintaining the original shakespearian dialogue.
Laure's family has recently moved to a new suburb in France. With her short blonde hair and ambiguous features it is unclear on first meeting Laure on screen if she is indeed a boy or a girl. This of course begs the question, "what makes a person look like a boy or a girl?" Laure prefers the walls of her bedroom to be blue, and her parent't happily oblige. She wears long shorts and t-shirts, never a dress. Her short cropped hair is typical for a boy of her age, as is her lack of girly attributes like barrettes. When she speaks her voice does not carry high or low, with no indicative speech markers of either gender. But Laure is a girl by birth, she just happens to not outwardly portray feminine characteristics and in turn her first meeting with a local girl, Lisa, results in the misunderstanding that Laure is indeed a boy; and she does nothing to correct the situation.
Whether they’re on film or in real life, cults are scary things. A group of people brainwashed to worship a deity and commit heinous acts in its name is a frightening thing, whether it’s the devil worshipping coven in Rosemary’s Baby or the murderous teenagers who pay tribute to He Who Walks Behind the Rows in Children of the Corn. In 1962, television director William J. Hole, Jr. (who worked on both “The Bionic Woman” and “Peyton Place”) teamed up with screenwriter Jo Heims (Play Misty for Me) and legendary B-movie producer Rex Carlton (Nightmare in Wax, Blood of Dracula’s Castle) to unleash The Devil's Hand on an unsuspecting world, and subsequently gave another meaning to the term “cult movie.”
The 2012 Spirit Award Nominations are in, celebrating the best in Independent Film for the year 2011. We have seen most of the films and could not agree more with the selections; some we must disagree with but that is the nature of the beast. Here are all of the nominees; we can't wait to see who wins in February at the Awards Show.
It is a little alarming to hear people describe Takeshi Kitano’s latest, Outrage (Autoreiji), as a return to form, since it comes off the back of his masterpiece, Achilles and the Tortoise. What they means is that it’s a return to the straight Yakuza genre with which Kitano started his career, and into which he has injected some interesting elements at various subsequent points. Not so much here, which from anyone else would be fine, but from him is a disappointment. Nonetheless, it is a perfectly efficient gangster film, told at the usual slow-steady pace, laced with black humour, and boasting some particularly unpleasant moments of violence.
There seems to be a slasher film about every holiday imaginable – Halloween, Christmas, Birthdays, even April Fools’ Day, they all have their own movies. The holiday of Thanksgiving is ruefully underrepresented in the catalog of horror. In 1981, director Nettie Peña tried to exploit the thus-far unexploited with Home Sweet Home, and the resulting film is the best kind of bad.
In the world of the modern horror movie, audiences get bored quickly with standard slice-and-dice killings and filmmakers are constantly trying to think of new ways to dispatch their characters. There seems to have always been a competition to come up with the most creative and inspired deaths, from the early slashers like Friday the 13th and Happy Birthday to Me to the modern Final Destination and Saw series of films. Imaginative murders combined with ingenious special effects have helped filmmakers recycle the same plot over and over again, yet still turn out interesting and entertaining movies. In 1978, a British film called Terror introduced audiences to several new ways to die on celluloid, and horror movies have been trying to keep up the pace ever since.
A rather appealing if throwaway cat and mouse thriller, Headhunters introduces us immediately to the forcefully charming persona and slick art-thievery methods of its protagonist, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie). His criminal activities subsidize a career as über-successful corporate headhunter, but he makes no bones about having overextended himself for the sake of his Nordic model-beautiful wife, ostentatiously luxurious lifestyle, and 1m 68 height (5’6”).
An exquisite salmagundi of moral grey shades, A Separation explicitly hands off judgment to the audience in the opening scene, as Simin and Nader sit before a judge and address directly to camera their cases for and against divorce. She wants to emigrate, to raise their daughter, Temeh, away from the difficulties and repressions of Iran, whilst he does not want to leave his Alzheimer’s suffering father, but must provide consent for the daughter to travel. They agree to a temporary separation whilst this is worked out.
AFI FEST 2011 Film Review: Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
It’d be best to be prepared before going into this, for a long slow evening. Amongst the various aims of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s new film is the conjuring of the strange all-night atmosphere experienced by a group of officials in search for a dead body, based on the experiences of his co-screenwriter, Ercan Kesel, a doctor who partook in a similar investigation when serving in the same remote village region as depicted in the film. Another of Ceylan’s aims is an explicitly Chekhovian tapestry of apparent banalities, everyday concerns, and the passing of time, that will bring various of the characters unhurriedly to life, and add up incrementally to a portrait of something like life itself.
This is really a one idea movie, but it’s a very good idea (taken from a short story by Tom Bissell). Nica and Alex are young travelers in Georgia, engaged to be married, who depart on a trek with mountain guide Dato. And then Something Happens. To explain the Something would be to spoil the impact of the film, but one of its major problems is that to create that impact, for the first half of the film virtually nothing happens at all. The second problem is that virtually nothing happens afterwards either.
Sokurov concludes his Moloch trilogy, on evil and power, with a loose adaptation of Faust. So loose, in fact that one would be hard-pressed to recognize anything of the original save the name of the protagonist. He’s still a doctor, but poor, neurotic, and, after a while, fixated with a very young girl named Margarete. It is for a night with her, rather than for unlimited knowledge, that he finally signs the Mephistophelean pact late on in the film, and rather than the smooth persuader who will inevitably triumph, this Mephistopheles is a vile, goatish moneylender named Mauricius who ends up buried beneath boulders in a place suggestively described as “far away and very high up”.
Giorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth caused quite a splash last year, so many were eager to see what queasy weirdness his latest would offer. Alps is barely less weird, somewhat less queasy, and just as opaque. Even more than his last film, it also teeters on the verge of being merely affected.
A real Hollywood oddity, this is a cracking carnival noir charting the rise and fall of hubristic mentalist Stanton Carlisle – Stanton the Great – from cheap clairvoyant-act barker to quasi-religious swarmi, to.. well, that’d be spoiling it, but by the look on Tyrone Power’s face, he knew it had to be.
This is most definitely a film, a wonderful, essential conjuring of something from nothing, a necessity for the film-maker, and the selfless defiance of a repressive regime. The Iranian government has banned director Jafar Panahi from film-making or from leaving the country for twenty years, and at the time of this film’s making, he was appealing a six-year prison sentence; it was smuggled to Cannes on a flashdrive hidden in a cake. For what can a film-maker do if not make a film?
In an alternate universe, a Turin Horse will become the name for a movie that turns out to have nothing to do with its title. Slow-cinema maestro Béla Tarr’s latest (last?) opens with a blank-screen voiceover relating the semi-apocryphal story of Nietzsche’s madness-inducing encounter with a mistreated carthorse, and declares that “of the horse, we know nothing”. Cut to a carthorse, trudging through a hellish swirl of mist. But this is not necessarily the same horse, we are clearly not in Italy, and the film soon lets the animal retreat to the background, in order to focus exclusively on the slow, hard, regular days of the old carter and his daughter. He has an apostle’s beard and a mop of grey curls, frequently backlight-haloed, and the use of only his left arm; she has a hard, handsome face, tight-mouthed and dead-eyed, beneath long wind-whipped hair; and they live a life of emptiness and hardship in a stone croft on a barren plain.
There is such a thing as a perfect storm in filmmaking. When legendary directors, writers and actors all put their talents towards a common goal, the results are usually cinematic classics. Such is the case with 1982’s Pieces, a schlock-gorefest that brought together some of the most creative yet understated minds of low budget filmmaking, and it should be considered essential viewing for any horror fan.
Every year at AFI FEST there are films placed in the Special Screenings section of the program. They are films with distribution in place, and will become available for the general public to see in the coming weeks or months. Jeff, Who Lives At Home was a part of this special screening section and will be opening in theatres in March of 2012 thanks to Paramount Vantage. The newest film from The Duplass Brothers, who have been festival darlings in the past with The Puffy Chair, Baghead, and last year's Cyrus, is in the style of The Duplass Brothers who like to make movies about people and relationships, with an offbeat sly humor. Jeff, Who Lives At Home keeps with their traditional themes, and continues to provide the more subtle, and not so subtle, humor we come to expect from them.
Making himself known as a man who enjoys making movies about damaged souls in uniform, Director Oren Moverman departs from the military of his 2009 film The Messenger to focus on a cop in the Los Angeles Police force in Rampart. Taking place during the Rampart scandals of 1999, scandals that forever changed the Los Angeles Police Department, when police officers were implicated in acts of misconduct, including planting evidence, unprovoked beatings and shootings, perjury, and covering up evidence. These were dark days in the city of Angels, and amidst all of the greater scandal Rampart takes a look at one officer's own personal struggles, on the force and at home.
AFI FEST 2011 Film Review: Carré Blanc (Dir. Jean-Baptiste Léonetti 2011 France, Luxembourg, Russia, Belgium, Switzerland)
As a feature film directing debut, Jean-Baptiste Léonetti's Carré Blanc is sure to make a strong impression on the filmmaking community, and the impressionable audience member who wanders into this dystopian view of the world's future. Shown as part of the World Cinema section at the 2011 AFI FEST, Carré Blanc is a relatively short film by festival standards, at only 80 minutes, but the impact of the film, both stylistically and theoretically, will have you thinking about it for much longer.
AFI FEST 2011 Film Review: With Every Heartbeat (Kyss mig) (Dir. Alexandra-Therese Keining Sweden 2011)
Writer/director Alexandra-Therese Keining's With Every Heartbeat was presented at AFI FEST 2011 as part of the Breakthrough section. Keeping in line with the excellence of Swedish films of the past, and present, Keining presents an intimate portrayal of love being found in the unlikeliest of places and at a time neither person expects--the two people in question just happen to be women, one openly gay and the other engaged to a man. A true triumph for the LGBT cause, the film portrays love as love is in it's natural form, disregarding much of what could have been a proclamation for equal rights on gender issues that only makes its a stronger piece of filmmaking in the process.
The main draw of Hanaan is its ethnic exoticism: a Korean cop in the urban/industrial wasteland of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which is certainly not something you see every day (Stalin forcibly relocated thousands of Koreans to populate the USSR’s Asian republics). The story feels well-worn, however – like something from an American movie, as one character observes of a stakeout – with the ups and downs of drug addiction providing automatic pathos but few surprises.
What with the whole skin transplant element of Almodóvar’s latest, it was no great surprise that in his capacity as Guest Artistic Director of this year’s AFI Festival, he should pick as one of his personal screening choices, the wonderful medical horror film Eyes Without A Face.
It is a most unusual film, in story, tone and the inclusion of a remarkably unsettling face transplant – in part for the slow, tense, medical precision with which it is presented and conducted – which must have been goodness-knows how shocking in 1960 when the film was released.
AFI Festival-goers who caught Nacho Vigalonda’s Time Crimes a couple of years ago knew that it was a good bet to mark their diaries for this year’s screening of his second feature, Extraterrestrial. They were not disappointed.
The irrepressible Vigalonda explained in his introduction to the screening that he was stuck in a long pre-production process and wanted to make a quick little film. That’s just what he did, with even greater economy than Time Crimes, but with just as sure a control over the narrative logic of escalating complications. A man wakes up in the bed of a beautiful young woman, unable to remember a thing about the night before. The playing-out of a stock situation is handled with perfectly judged restraint and deadpan performance (they discover, amusingly, that they are named Julio and Julia, but she’s ditzy enough to forget his name more than once). The awkward morning after is derailed, however, when they notice that there’s no-one outside and that a 4-mile wide flying saucer is hovering over Madrid.
It boded so well. The credits play over a serene beam of moonlight on the water, while an excerpt of Tristan and Isolde tinkles gently; then we’re thrown into a noisy neon Malayan karaoke club/shack, where an unexpected, very public murder is followed by an even more unexpected, somnambulant Ave Maria. But Chantal Akerman, taking Joseph Conrad’s first novel, goes nowhere near such stylish flamboyance again and delivers much that is expected, and much that is unexpectedly unsuccessful.
There’s always some good weirdness to be found in the Midnight Movies strand at film festivals, and my top tip for the AFI FEST sponsored by Audi, starting this week, is the fantastically trippy Beyond the Black Rainbow. Let me be clear: this film has not been picking up fans at previous festivals, with complaints ranging from “deathly dull” and “unnecessarily lengthened student short” to “retro-hipster counterfeit” and “complete crapola”. It’s slow and derivative, with a jarringly misjudged ending, but far as I am from an ’80s nostalgist, I couldn’t help but fall a little bit in love with it.
AFI FEST 2011 Film Review: The Kid With A Bike (Le Gamin Au Velo) (Dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne 2011 Belgium, France, Italy)
A new film from the Dardennes brother is always cause for celebration, particularly in Cannes where they just keep being given prizes. This year it was the Grand Jury award for their latest, Le gamin au vélo, and it’s been a popular title at numerous festivals since, finally rolling into Hollywood for the AFI FEST this week (November 3-10).
AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi has announced much of the slate of programming for the festival, running November 3rd to the 10th. Free tickets are available starting October 27th, and on October 26th for AFI members and alumni. There a limited number of passes available for sale. More information about the festival can be found at AFI's website, www.afifest.com.
Roger Corman is the undisputed champion of the creature-feature, but few people know about his older brother, Gene, who got into the film business before Roger and also made some memorable monster movies. In 1959, Gene used many of Roger’s core team members and pumped out Beast from Haunted Cave, a quickly produced but cleverly written gangster film-cum-monster movie set in the beautiful snowy mountains of South Dakota.
Before either of them were famous reality T.V. stars, Gene Simmons from Kiss and Ozzy Osbourne from Black Sabbath were serious musicians. In 1986, both rockers lent their names and talents to a heavy metal horror film called Trick or Treat, foreshadowing the career path they would follow in the decades to come. While Simmons’ and Osbourne’s names are on the front of the DVD cover, their roles are basically cameos in this hard rock shock fest that makes light of one of the most ridiculous political witch hunts in recent memory.
In 2006, Director Chris Paine debuted a documentary, Who Killed The Electric Car?, with much acclaim. The documentary focused on the destruction of electric cars, like the EV-1, by the major automobile companies. Questioning the motivations behind the sudden extinction of electric vehicles, and the move back towards gas run automobiles and the dependence on foreign oil it was a harsh look into the reality of big business. Now five years later the topic is examined once again, from a drastically different viewpoint. In only five years the automobile industry has made electric vehicles a priority, and four are on the road today. Chris Paine's Revenge of the Electric Car traces the steps three major car companies, GM, Nissan, and Tesla, as well as an underground environmentalist who is converting gasoline vehicles into electric ones.
Film Rave: Martha Marcy May Marlene (Dir. Sean Durkin 2011) as presented by the LACMA/Film Independent Screening Series
Presented as part of the new film series between Film Independent and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Martha Marcy May Marlene marks the second event in the series. The moderator for the evening was Elvis Mitchell, esteemed film critic and curator at Film Independent; and to the audiences delight quite friendly, engaging and funny with his opening address. After giving a brief synopsis of the film, and throwing in a well-received joke about star Elizabeth Olsen's famous sisters, matters turned to watching the film in LACMA's spacious Bing theatre.
For the ninth consecutive year the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences presents an evening of films from 100 years ago in film history. This year's program, "A Century Ago: The Films of 1911, Heroes and Heroines" will take place on Monday, November 7th at 7:30pm at the Academy's Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. The films will be presented on a 1909 hand-cranked Power Model 6 Cameragraph motion picture machine, and be presented with live musical accompaniment by Michael Mortilla.
The time has come again for Los Angeles to embrace the love for Italian Cinema with "Cinema Italian Style 2011". A combined effort between Cinecitta Luce and the American Cinematheque, the Cinema Italian Style series aims to bring the best Italian movies to Los Angeles as well as films that have received recognition at international film festivals. The series is held from November 10th to the 15th at the American Cinematheque.
The fifties and sixties were a fertile time for B-movies, and everyone with a half-decent story idea and a little money could make a film that, little did they know, would be kept alive by cult followers and public domain archives. Written by producer Rex Carlton and director Joseph Green, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is one of these films, a movie so bad that it’s amazing, and, much like the brain in the title, just won’t die.
Inspired by the life story of ethnomusicologist Louis Sarno, who has spent 25 years with the BiAka pygmies of Central Africa, Lavinia Currier’s film aims partly to parallel Sarno’s work: that is, to bring to world-wide attention the wonderful and complex music of the forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers. The BiAka’s music is as rich and well-practiced as any other such heritage in the world; possibly even more so, structured around an unusually long 64-beat cycle, and incorporating the natural sounds of the jungle as an integral part of the harmonious, pulsing music.
**Winners Announced--Was it Your City**
Paramount Pictures announced today a very different method of deciding what cities to release Paranormal Activity 3 in first. Only 20 cities will open the film on October 18th before its global release on October 21st, based upon the most fans who, and I quote, "Tweet To See It First."
The early eighties is regarded by most fans as the Golden Age of the slasher movie, an era ushered in by John Carpenter’s Halloween and kept in business by scores of cheaply produced yet well-received films full of gore, nudity and dying kids. In 1981, a bloody little film called The Prowler flew in under the radar and became a seldom seen but never forgotten piece of horror history.
New Line Cinema presents the “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” Munchies Truck Tour"! Yes, you read that correctly. In order to celebrate Christmas early, and the upcoming release of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas on November 4, 2011, a munchies truck will visit twelve college campuses to spread, well, holiday cheer and FOOD (because we know how those college kids get the munchies so often). There will be a specially themed menu on the Munchies Truck as well as a signature Harold & Kumar item--I wonder what that could be?
After the success of Godzilla in 1954, Japanese filmmakers were tripping over each other to produce monster movies that would make money and entertain the masses. In 1959, United Artists of Japan teamed up with American production company Shaw-Breakston Enterprises to close out the decade with a different kind of monster movie, an American influenced B-movie classic called The Manster.
A new clip has emerged (pun completely intended) for The Thing (2011) that is titled the "R" rated clip. Sounds like fun, yes? You even get a better look at the "thing" itself. While some things are better left a mystery, it never hurts to have a little tease now and again.
There’s little argument that George Romero is the king of the zombie film. His Night of the Living Dead and its sequels have completely revolutionized the horror genre while creating a whole sub-genre. His name is so synonymous with the zombie flick, that it’s easy to forget that he made other kinds of horror movies. Having more convention breaking ideas in his head, in 1977 he attempted to update the vampire movie with Martin.
When RKO Pictures began production on King Kong in 1932, the always economical studio decided to double dip, using the same skull island set, much of the same crew and two of the lead actors to simultaneously shoot a smaller budget film based on a short story by Richard Connell called “The Most Dangerous Game.” Costing less than $250,000 to make, The Most Dangerous Game not only ended up having a bigger profit-to-cost percentage than King Kong, but it also wound up being a horror classic, inspiring everything from an episode of “Gilligan’s Island” to the upcoming film The Hunger Games and influencing both the sport of paintball and the Zodiac Killer.
In the early- to mid-seventies, frightening and unexplained “real” creatures were all the rage, fed in part by sensationalistic television shows like “In Search Of…” and “That’s Incredible!” The public seemingly couldn’t get enough of mysterious monsters like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, and filmmaker Charles B. Pierce decided to exploit the craze further by concocting a faux-documentary called The Legend of Boggy Creek. At the time, he didn’t know that the film he would make would not only influence dozens of future filmmakers, but it would scare the hell out of thousands of impressionable kids.
Relativity Media Teams Up with eBay to Auction off Movie Memorabilia from Machine Gun Preacher for Charity
Relativity Media is proud to announce it is working with eBay to auction off premiere tickets, an autographed movie poster, and a custom-built motorcycle from its upcoming release of Machine Gun Preacher. 100% Proceeds to benefit Angels of East of Africa Rescue Organization.
Earlier this year Film Independent announced a new screening series partnership with The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). For members of Film Independent, as well as frequent visitors to the LACMA year-round film program this new partnership was intriguing, and wanting to know more details on the partnership much desired. With today came the first announcement of what the Film Independent at LACMA Film series first slate of events would contain.
The year is 1982 in Peru. Cayetana (Fatima Buntinx) lives in a spacious home outside the city with caretakers. Her mother, and stepfather, are returning home after a long while away and Cayetana is not interested in seeing either of them. Buntinx makes the most disinterested, annoyed, and ultimately bothered facial expressions--this is an actress who does not need dialogue to convey emotion, it is written all over her face. Now Cayetana is a bit of an odd-ball; some may call her sinister. In reality, she is a child going through a great deal of emotional turmoil and unfortunately the good intentions she should have veer towards the bad.
In the 1940’s, RKO Pictures enlisted B-movie producer Val Lewton to bulk up the studio’s output with low-cost, high quality thrillers that would more than make back their budgets at the box office. At the same time, tired of the typecast monster films that he was making for Universal, Boris Karloff signed a three picture deal with RKO and was assigned to Lewton’s unit. This synchronicity began an all too brief but amazing partnership between Lewton and Karloff that would produce three classic films, the first of which was 1945’s Isle of the Dead.
Bucky Larson: Born to be A Star is releasing this Friday, September 9th, 2011 in theatres across the country. In an attempt to see what "buzz" surrounded the film I turned to Twitter. Here are some of my favorite's tweets, and possibly the source of the best laughs of the year:
Semper Fi: Always Faithful is a documentary chronicling the struggle to make the public aware, and the Marine Corps/Government admit to their gross negligence in dealing with contaminated water at a variety of Marine Corps, and other, military bases across the United States of America.
In the world of horror movies, there are few potential victims that are more vulnerable than that of the lone babysitter. Always female, and usually little more than a child herself, the babysitter is left alone with the children in an empty house, and a mysterious stranger inevitably shows up. In 1971, years before the situation was explored and exploited in When a Stranger Calls and Halloween, British director Peter Collinson (who directed the original The Italian Job) made Fright, simultaneously inventing a horror sub-genre and scaring the hell out of young girls for generations to come.
Great Britain’s Hammer Film Productions is famous for its gothic horror movies and its re-imaginings of the classic Universal monster films, but between the 1950’s and 1970’s Hammer also produced several psychological thrillers, films which they lovingly called “mini-Hitchcocks.” Often overshadowed by the monster movies, these suspenseful tales were every bit as well done. One of these lesser-known films from the Hammer canon, 1958’s The Snorkel, is a prime example of how Hammer made a human being more frightening than any monster.
The fall/holiday movie season is just around the corner. From September to December a variety of new movies will be released; from the expected horror's in October to the Oscar bait that begins in November, the fall season never ceases to be a time to go to the movies. Here is a run-down of what is coming your way...
During the early eighties science fiction boon, there were two ways for filmmakers to approach the alien movie - they could make the visitors peaceful, like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or they could make them murderous, like in The Thing. In 1983, British director Harry Bromley Davenport tried to take the best elements of both schools, and he unwittingly made a movie that would be placed on the United Kingdom’s Video Nasty list of films that censors deemed unfit for public presentation. The film he made was the gory slime fest known as Xtro, and it asked the question; “what if E.T. was more like Alien?”
The 1960s, a time of free love and drugs aplenty. The "hippie subculture" of this era took root around 1965, spawning a worldwide counter culture movement that still has remnants in today's society. How this new subculture was established, and spread so quickly around the globe, can be attributed to a variety of factors. Ask those close to the movement and they may have one clear answer to give you, "it all started on the bus."
If George Romero can be considered the father of the zombie movie, then the Halperin brothers are the grandfathers. More than 30 years before Romero made Night of the Living Dead, producer Edward Halperin and director Victor Halperin introduced the film world to zombies with White Zombie. Four years later, in 1936, the Halperins followed it up with Revolt of the Zombies, and although it didn’t fare as well as White Zombie, it helped to invent a new genre of horror film.
That Raúl Ruíz describes his new film as his most theoretical might seem a bit daunting. He’s made over 100 movies in 30 years and they’re all pretty theoretical, from The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (1979), to Time Regained (1999). Plus, the new one’s a four and half-hour nineteenth-century drama.
When most people think about modern horror movies, the vision that comes to mind is one of scared kids running away from crazed axe-wielding psychopaths through the woods screaming their heads off. While this image is due mostly to the Friday the 13th franchise, additional scared camper films like Sleepaway Camp and The Burning also contributed to this stereotype. In 1982, just two short years after the first Friday the 13th movie, director Joe Giannone and producer Gary Sales unleashed their offering to the genre, a slasher called Madman, upon the horror world. The institution of summer camp would never again be looked at in the same way.
The Superhero, a modern-day myth of a man, or woman, who protects the innocent. Or more humorously, according to the Urban Dictionary's number one definition: a person who is looked up to, fights crime and looks good in tights (the latter is not a must). The image of a person in tights, or some sort of costume that masks their face from public view so they may lead a normal existence outside of the crime fighting world is a common visual for the superhero. It is also common, and deemed sane, to understand and reason that superhero's do not exist in reality. There are no superpowers, fancy gadgets, cars that can turn into boats at the flip of a switch or palms that shoot spiderwebs so one can swing from building to building. The man of steel is fictitious. Even Batman, who has no actual "superpower" cannot be real. But what if there were superheroes?
From Korea comes Director Kim Min-suk's Haunters. A film centered around two men specifically who both harbor exceptional abilities. Kyu-nam (Koo So) believes himself to be ordinary. Having just lost his job at a junk yard he is seeking employment. He finds work at a pawn shop, and believes this is the moment his life will take off and become great. When an unknown man (Gang Dong-Won) walks into the shop one day and freezes everyone present, being Kyu-nam's two friends, and the owner, things begin to get weird. Weird in that the only person who does not freeze is Kyu-nam. He is not ordinary after all, but is the only person this unknown man has ever come into contact with who is not susceptible to his powers. This of course causes great panic in our unknown antagonist, who has lived his entire life with the ability to freeze people, as well as control their actions with his eyes.
The dry humor that surrounds Familiar Ground (En Terrains Connus) is just that, dry--a lifeless, suburban enclave of Quebec where the most interesting amusement comes in the form of a giant blue inflatable something or other in front of a car dealership. This is not to say the film isn't good, far from that actually. It is very much internalized, leaving the characters to meander through their humdrum lives interacting with one another on such superficial and unemotional levels that the pure existence of the lifelessness becomes somewhat fascinating.
The Cinecon Classic Film Festival is not for novices. Held over Labor Day weekend mere steps from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Cinecon attendees are more likely to stop and admire the sidewalk stars of Louise Fazenda and Richard Barthelmess than Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp. Do you recognize those names of old? Cinecon is an annual gathering of the people who not only recognize, but celebrate, laud, discuss, and admire the oft-forgotten legends of silent and early sound cinema.
One of the oldest and most cherished archetypes in the horror movie genre is the mad scientist. From the crazed genius of Dr. Frankenstein to the calm brilliance of Dr. Jekyll, the mad scientist has always had his place in classic monster movies. In 1944, legendary B-movie director Sam Newfield (known primarily for quick-made westerns such as The Terror of Tiny Town) introduced the world to Dr. Igor Markoff in The Monster Maker. Often overshadowed by more popular movie madmen, Dr. Markoff is every bit as diabolical and devious as his contemporaries. And he keeps a gorilla as a pet.
As soon as Steven Spielberg struck gold in 1975 with his blockbuster hit Jaws, seemingly every tiny studio in Hollywood scrambled to make a man vs. beast movie in an attempt to capitalize on the “animal horror” trend. First up to the plate, in 1976, was Grizzly, a film that (like the name suggests) features a killer bear in the antagonist role. Grizzly was quickly directed by William Girdler (who would go on to make Day of the Animals and The Manitou) on a shoestring budget, and it became an instant cult classic.
At the height of his bout with alcoholism, acclaimed director John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate, Ronin) turned from his usual suspense-thrillers to direct a pure horror film called Prophecy. Written by David Seltzer (who also wrote The Omen), Prophecy kept with Frankenheimer’s theme of making socially and philosophically relevant movies. In Prophecy, he just used more monsters.
Director Asif Kapadia takes Senna's story from his humble beginnings in Brazil to his star turn on the track in the documentary Senna with great success. Structuring the documentary like a narrative feature, as written by Manish Pandey, it maintains a successful story structure that becomes full of more energy, drama, and feeling than many fictional story's put to film. Told with a linear structure through archival footage (from F1, Senna's family, as well as news coverage), actual voice-over of Senna himself explaining parts of his career and life, as well as still photographs and other voiceover narrative Senna's fascinating story comes to life, without the feel of a stiff documentary.
Sgt. Gerry Boyle is an Irish Guard, aka policeman, in a small town in the West of Ireland. As the man in charge he takes little, if anything, seriously. When his newest recruit and he discover a dead body of a man they do not recognize it is with dark humor, and a general sense of not giving a --ck that Boyle cheekily investigates the crime. This death is not so easily forgotten as the United States sends their own investigator, FBI Agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to team up with Boyle on the case. For this is a case that is much bigger than Boyle thought, it involves drug trafficking, murder, and cover-ups. For a lawman of a small town in Ireland this could be the case of a lifetime, for Gerry Boyle it is more of an inconvenience.
The stuffy, bourgeois lifestyle in England was quite the opposite life Christopher Isherwood desired to have as a young man. In Berlin things would be different for the published author, who was a homosexual during a time where such a lifestyle choice had to be hidden at all costs. Christopher and His Kind tells the story of Christopher's time in Berlin. A time of great freedom and passion with the rent boys, of fanciful and daring conservations with the sensational and heartbreaking Sally Bowles; and the first glimpse of real love in a time of great fear and anxiety as the Nazi command begins.
For a time in the late seventies, movie theaters were filled with science fiction films while television was packed with cop shows. Every film studio wanted a Star Wars just like every broadcast network wanted a "The Streets of San Francisco." In 1979, prolific television writer Stanford Whitmore had the idea to marry the space opera with the hard-boiled crime drama by creating a serial killer who was an alien werewolf. The resulting film was called The Dark.
Andrew Haigh’s film Weekend concerns Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), two young British men who meet at a bar one Friday night and embark on a 48 hour affair. Haigh’s emotionally honest scripting and the pitch-perfect performances by Cullen and New lend poignancy and unexpected intimacy to this story of a brief but powerful affair.
Project Nim is not a film about a happy chimpanzee who came to live with humans. It is more a commentary on the flaws of behavioral science, the flaws of mankind, and above all the realization that it is possible for a primate species to evolve in unimaginable ways--if only humans were a strong enough species to allow the flourishing to occur without dire consequence.
There are two ways that a filmmaker can approach a horror film. The first is to make a truly frightening and realistic film that will scare the audience long after they’ve finished watching the film. The second way is to make the film so over the top ridiculous that shocks and screams are mixed with laughs. Horror legend Wes Craven achieved the first type of film with his 1984 masterpiece A Nightmare On Elm Street. Two years later, he tried his hand at the other type when he made Deadly Friend.
While watching Another Earth is a completely enjoyable experience, thanks in part to the performances by the very talented William Mapother (John) and Brit Marling (Rhoda) it is a very routine and predictable film. Rhoda is awash with grief and must reconcile with herself and the man she hurt; as she goes about doing this it is obvious where the film is going to take you. The side-story of there being another Earth out there, and the upcoming launch of a group of civilians going to visit it, is important but obvious in the direction of the story. The ending, completely expected and a tad redundant.
"Print Media is Dead!" Well, not exactly dead but it is slowly dying. Numerous newspapers across the country have gone out of business since the Internet grew exponentially, providing immediate content distribution via a free source model. Some of the largest newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times (and its sister publications) have been forced into bankruptcy to protect themselves, resulting in a much smaller version of the paper with less than stellar content. Andrew Rossi's documentary, Page One: Inside the New York Times goes inside the largest newspaper in the United States, The New York Times, to document the effects the Internet, and changing media platforms, have had on the paper, as well as seeking answers to the question that has been circulating for years amidst the changing tides of media distribution, "When will the New York Times cease to exist?"
It is astonishing – incomprehensible, even – that local indie drama How to Cheat should have won the acting prize for its ensemble at this year’s LA Film Festival – the leads of Sawdust City, for example, were far more deserving. True, the acting is one of the least bad things about the film, and if star-acting is the trick of making the character become the actor as opposed to vice versa, then across the handful of films of his I have seen, indie everyman Kent Osborne is certainly a star, and one of the most charmless onscreen today.
There is something inherently creepy about twins. There’s something about not being able to tell the difference between two beings, especially if one is good and one is evil, that is frightening, and horror writers have picked up on this fact. From the separated conjoined sisters in Brian Depalma’s Sisters to the woman-sharing brothers in David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, twins have been a staple of scary movies. In 1972, Robert Mulligan (who directed To Kill a Mockingbird) brought Thomas Tryon’s The Other to the big screen, and brought the Perry twins into everyone’s nightmares.
Frivolous lawsuits, tort reform, caps on damages, just a few legal terms that if you asked the average person on the street the likelihood they would know what these things are is questionable--or at least that is the belief Director Susan Saladoff wants you to have given her on-the-street interviews in the documentary Hot Coffee. The film centers around four specific cases, each relating to one of the above terms, and how they have impacted the legal system today. It is an incredibly dense documentary that provides little entertainment value to the material being presented. Consisting of interviews with the parties involved in each case as well as others, and additionally legal jargon or definitions titled throughout Hot Coffee feels like an educational video. In its defense, it provides great detail on the matters addressed, yet it is plagued with poor production values and a clear social message at the end that is off-putting to a viewer who is not easily influenced.
Director Bert I. Gordon (nicknamed Mr. B.I.G.) was at the helm of some of the most creative and innovative sci-fi and horror films of the last century. Gordon wrote and directed such great B-movies as The Food of the Gods, Empire of the Ants and The Amazing Colossal Man. In 1960, Gordon made Tormented, his take on a simple ghost story. While not as well known as his other films, Tormented is still a big feather in Gordon’s cap.
The iconic image of Henry Spencer from Eraserhead floats across the screen as the short film How To Make A David Lynch Film begins. For all the ways this man looks just like Henry, a true Lynchian fan knows it is not; this man is an impostor, and something is awry. This trickery is of course done on purpose by Director Joe McClean for this is a film about how to make a film like David Lynch makes a film, and what better way to begin such a fete than with Lynch's illustrious main character from his first feature film.
Great directors are not born, they’re made. They hone their craft through years of putting all of their blood, sweat and tears onto a thin strip of celluloid, often with embarrassing results. It’s no surprise that a director of Oliver Stone’s caliber would have a debut like Seizure. Seizure was written (along with acclaimed horror writer Edward Mann) and directed by Stone in 1974, long before he made Platoon and JFK. While his promise as a director shines through, so does his lack of experience.
Three short years after bursting onto the horror scene with his directorial debut Hellraiser, Clive Barker adapted his novel “Cabal” into the big screen monster movie Nightbreed. Like Hellraiser, Barker both wrote and directed Nightbreed and, although not a commercial success, the movie has found a cult audience that is rabidly faithful. Nightbreed is a movie about monsters, but it is not a typical monster movie. It is part fairy tale, part mythology and part straight-up horror.
Years from now, people all over the world will remember where they were when an American Navy Seal team caught and killed Osama Bin Laden in a daring raid. Me? I was watching Riff and Bernardo dance-battle at the TCM Classic Film Festival.
West Side Story, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, was screened in a flawless 70mm print to a packed house at the iconic Egyptian theater. The audience sang and danced in their seats (or at least lip-synched), which might usually be a distraction or annoyance but with the festival atmosphere and stunning colors and choreography writ large on the screen, it was practically impossible to contain oneself. The news of Bin Laden’s death did nothing to dissuade the enthusiastic applause that followed every musical number. (It may even have contributed to the elation—USA! USA!)
During the 1920s, all films were screened with live musical accompaniment, from the small town piano player to the largest metropolitan orchestra. Without a prescribed soundtrack and audible dialogue, there was no singular version of any film, allowing for a diverse, collaborative experience and many repeat viewings. I have seen silent films with piano accompaniment, and I have seen The Cameraman many times, but I have never had a more exciting silent film experience than this one at the TCM Classic Film Festival.
The Tingler (1959) is a glorious exaltation of big screen gimmickry. The film features Vincent Price as Dr. Warren Chapin, a mad scientist (what else!) who discovers that extreme fear is caused by a parasite attached to the spine. The only way to stop the "Tingler" (so called because it causes that tingling sensation you get on your spine when you feel afraid) is to let out a blood-curdling scream, killing the monster and detaching it from your spine. In a Hitchcockian turn, Castle himself appears in the prologue of the picture, warning the audience: "Remember this: a scream at the right time may save your life!"
I Bury the Living is a very misleading film. Judging from the title, it would seem to be an eerie Edgar Allan Poe adaptation. Looking at the movie poster, one would think that it is a zombie splatter flick. It is neither. Directed by Albert Band (Ghoulies II) in 1958, I Bury the Living is a suspenseful supernatural tale that comes off as more of a 76 minute episode of “The Twilight Zone” than a heart-pounding horror film.
In 1978, director Richard Attenborough and writer William Goldman teamed up to parlay the success they had with their war film A Bridge Too Far into a psychological thriller. The movie they ended up making was Magic, featuring a crazy looking ventriloquist dummy that is so terrifying, it still haunts the nightmares of anyone who was a child when they saw the film for the first time.
With a film so thoroughly parsed and analyzed, you can’t really review Citizen Kane—you just have to experience it. And the TCM Classic Film Festival provided one hell of an experience. Screening a newly restored digital print at the enormous, gorgeous picture palace of Grauman’s Chinese theater, Citizen Kane was a mighty spectacle. Perhaps you have not seen the film and scoff at the hype surrounding its status as Greatest Film of All-Time. Oh, no, my friend. Believe the hype. Although such designations are arbitrary, Kane is an almost indefensibly solid choice for the #1 spot. Celebrating its seventieth anniversary this year, Welles’ masterpiece is as modern as the day it debuted and, impossible though it may seem, somehow still comes across as fresh, innovative and something heretofore unseen in cinema.
Before he made The Fly, The Dead Zone, Videodrome and Scanners in the 80’s, David Cronenberg wrote and directed The Brood in 1979. Although not his directorial debut, The Brood was his first commercially successful film. While by no means as popular as the films he would make in the decade after its release, The Brood would pave the way for the iconic mix of science fiction and horror that would become the director’s trademark.
Bernard Herrmann made beautiful music; whether it was romantic, chilling, laced with suspense, or of the fantastic realm. For those who study film it only takes a small sampling of a score before you know it was composed by Bernard Herrmann, his style is quickly recognizable, as is his musical genius. I may have seen The Ghost and Mrs. Muir a dozen times before but never had I solely watched in order to let the music overtake me, and even closed my eyes at times to feel the emotions the score evoked without a single moving image to assist. It was remarkable, and the score should be noted as one of Herrmann's best, and appreciated more than it has been in film history.
A Night at the Opera does not have the satirical bite of their earlier masterpiece Duck Soup and for that, will probably always be considered by some to be the lesser Marx Brothers movie. However, in terms of comedy construction and pure laugh factor, A Night at the Opera is the better film. All of the comedy routines, including the classic contract bit (with the famous “sanity clause” joke), are perfectly timed and executed. Their inclusion in any other movie would be the highlight of a lesser film. As always, seeing a film (especially a comedy) in a theater, with an audience, amplifies its impact. There are so many laughs in the picture that are packed so tightly, it’s thrilling to hear an audience react to one joke with a hearty laugh, followed by little, mini-laughs: the glorious ripple effect you rarely experience watching at home.
In The Devil is a Woman Marlene Dietrich’s eyes are constantly moving: searching, darting, batting flirtatiously. By their fifth and final film collaboration, Dietrich and director Joseph von Sternberg had perfected the formula for exotic, onscreen seduction: just keep the camera on Dietrich. As Concha Perez, an enterprising destroyer of men’s souls, Dietrich is as alluring and deadly as any black widow spider. Can she help it if every man in the movie is so utterly powerless against her charms?
As one of Marlene Dietrich's most unpopular films, The Devil Is A Woman made the perfect choice by The Turner Classic Movie Festival as part of the Discoveries section as many people have never seen the movie. A newly restored 35mm print was loaned to the festival by the Museum of Modern Art. Katie Trainor of MoMa introduced the film and gave a brief history of the restoration. The only reason the film is available is because of Marlene Dietrich herself. Having always loved the movie, and saying it was the most favorite part she ever played, Dietrich had a print of the film in her personal vault. Paramount Pictures had destroyed the master shortly after release when Spain threatened to ban all Paramount movies because of the (so they felt) negative depiction of the Spanish Police Guard. Mildly put, this movie was scandalous...
Comparisons to Psycho are inevitable with Peeping Tom. Both were made in 1960. Both are suspenseful, scary and unlike anything the movie going public had ever seen. Both films imply violence more than they actually show it, and both deal with the underlying theme of voyeurism and vulnerability. The main characters have similar traits, too, both being socially awkward loners with psychotic tendencies brought about by parental issues. But where Psycho is a more straightforward crazy-killer movie, Peeping Tom is a complex character study of a disturbed murderer.
As hard as it may be to believe Pixar Animation turns 25 this year. The brilliant minds, who have made animated films accessible to both adults and children, show no sign of slowing their total domination of the animated film market, much to the joy of many filmgoers. It may not seem like a big deal to celebrate the 25th anniversary of a company, but Pixar is special in a very distinct way; they have consistently produced product that is intelligent, entertaining, and flawless in design. They have also singlehandedly (in lieu of recent achievements by Dreamworks Animation) changed the face of animation forever.
Nineteen Eighty-Two saw the release of the third Friday the 13th movie (in 3D!), which was the first film in the franchise in which Jason donned his famous hockey mask. That mask transformed Jason from a simple camp killer to an Iconic Movie Villain. However, most people are unaware that another movie murderer also picked up a hockey mask that same year and has been all but forgotten. Maybe it’s because The Bleeder from Alone in the Dark had to share his psychotic load with three other madmen, or maybe it’s because he only wore the mask for one scene, but Jason has gone down in history and The Bleeder is just a footnote in horror movie archives.
Somewhere in between the lumbering, grunting zombies of Night of the Living Dead and the athletic, screaming zombies of 28 Days Later, there lies a more frightening zombie. This scarier zombie is the one that walks among the living, undetected by the untrained eye. These are the zombies that populate director Gary Sherman's (Poltergeist III) 1981 film Dead & Buried.
Conception is a deeply intimate film. It borders on the voyeuristic in many ways as you are privy to the inner workings, the feelings, the heartfelt sentiment, and often hilarious banter of couple's private matters. The film holds nothing back as it develops, and the writing is exceptionally genuine joined with great talent by Director Josh Stolberg. These are conversations people do have, circumstances many people face, and uncertain futures one can relate with completely.
THOR, from Paramount Pictures...Watch the new "Taser" clip. See the trailers and television spots, and check out photography and one-sheets from the film.
The year 2010 is over and the time has come to choose the best films of the year!
Splice may not be traditional, but the film is all the better for it. Of course, you may not like it. You may buy a ticket and walk out of the theater cursing my name for this recommendation. So be it. The backlash on message boards is already as strong of the film's critical support. It's been accused of being anti-science, pro-rape, anti-women, ablist, misogynistic, as well as the usual filmgoer complaints of "dumb" and "boring." But if you want to see something that doesn't challenge you at all, that doesn't care about the psychological complexities of its characters or the moral and ethnical implications of their work, a film that doesn't give a lick about science or scientists, then please, don't see Splice.
I walked out of the theater after Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces and my eyes refused to adjust back from the brilliant and colorful world of the film; the real world paled in comparison. Even as I shut them now, the vibrant reds, moody blues, and roaring yellows still swim against my eyelids. Almodovar does not just use color, he speaks with color. He allows the film to move solely through colors, which results in a visual journey that remains beautiful as it carries the viewer through difficult relationship trauma. The irony: all this magnificent color for a tale about a blind man and his emotional scars.
I realize it may be difficult to see Pablo Escobar as a positive influence on Colombia. This is the great paradox of the film. It defies the historiographies and provides a new outlook. We may go as far as to say Andrés is similar to Pablo in that he is fully what Pablo was partly. The good soul who wanted no more than to give pride to his country. Only to have that stripped away from him by his own people when murdered. As the filmmakers Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist state about making the film, "it became clear that this was far from a classic "deal-with-the-devil" narrative". That statement only becomes more and more clear as every piece of history is revealed. Call Pablo a devil if you like but be prepared to see a side of him that has not been seen before while being introduced to a man full of love for his country who could only have existed with the devil by his side, Andrés Escobar.
It is impossible to know the events of that day or what happened between Director and Subject leading up to filming. By the way the scene plays out it is hard for me to see anything other than a form of reality television occurring. As we all know, reality television is nothing close to reality, it is scripted. I can hope this is not the case and I do not mean to take away from the amount of work involved with this documentary as the production value is good. I simply cannot reconcile that what I have seen is in fact natural. All I could think at the end, when trying to decide where this film falls in the documentary genre, is that it belongs with Nanook of the North (Robert J. Flaherty 1922).
When The Tillman Story draws to a close and the lights go on you will feel a rush of emotion. I noticed a definite quieting of people as they left the theater as if deep in thought and in need of processing what they had just watched and in turn learned from. This is a film everyone should see because it unmasks so much in terms of our government and military. To say you will enjoy the film is impossible. I did not enjoy watching this movie but I did appreciate it and gain respect for all involved. For to tell this story could not have been easy and took much bravery to put it out there for the world to see regardless of the repercussions. No matter what reaction the film evokes in you remember it is not just the story of Pat Tillman. It represents all military personnel and the truth that what happened to Pat can and will happen again.
The opening credits are accompanied by still photographs of a bank robbery. The music melancholy and foreboding. The final title frame is a portrait of the animal kingdom. The lion standing tall amongst the other animals. The films title hovers for a moment over the portrait and we immediately realize this is a film about power and dominance. What we do not yet know is how the film will depict the destructive nature of such power and it's fleeting existence.
[Excerpt] You want desperately for more light, more noise, anything to clue you in to what is going to happen. All of your senses awaken in an attempt to find answers. To solve the puzzle before the characters do so you can sit in peace for the rest of the film. This peaceful existence never happens because there are no answers it seems.
"If you like your history bloody, this is the film", Director Neil Marshall introducing Centurion to the audience at The Los Angeles Film Festival Ford Theatre screening. Those are strong words to live up to and it was with great pleasure that the film delivered just what he promised. Centurion is an epic of small proportions.
As a spotlight film of the 2010 Feel Good Film Festival it definitely was well suited for this particular festival as you walk away from the film with a positive feeling, regardless of the somewhat uncertain and bleak ending for the two documented filmmakers. The film took home Best Director for Brent Florence at the festival. More information on the film directly can be found at its website here.
The infamous French Gangster Jacques Mesrine's life is chronicled in a two-part film that attempts to show the man behind the media sensation that he became as French Public Enemy No. 1. Part One, aptly titled Killer Instinct, begins with Mesrine's return from Algeria in 1959 to France. It chronicles his rise to a life of crime that included bank robbing, murderer for the mob, kidnapper, and a most entertaining master jail break artist. Over a span of 20 years he would become both the most wanted criminal in France and a celebrity, as shown in part two Public Enemy #1. Leading to a fitting end in a hail of gunfire at the public Place de Clichy in 1979.
Even with its tendency towards the melodramatic, Bedrooms does portray important human struggles that are relatable. The disillusionment of life, the secrets people keep, and the possibilities of reconciliation with truth, are wonderfully presented. Bedrooms is a raw portrait of human relationships in its writing and presentation; but looking past the rough edges you can see the impressive depth of each story.
Adalberto faces an incredibly difficult decision on whether to stand true to his beliefs that not everything has a price or to give in to the tempting prospect of selling the magazine for the spoils the money may bring.
[Excerpt] Taking a good look at Joaquin Phoenix at this point, and to be completely blunt, you can only think he has suffered some sort of mental break and emotional breakdown. His appearance alone is upsetting as he has gained a considerable amount of weight, has a beard that is overgrown and mangy, his hair is a knotted mess that may or may not have been washed in the past month, and even his clothing are in tatters. He smokes far too many cigarettes, partakes in various recreational drugs, drinks large amounts of alcohol, enjoys the occasional hooker or groupie and looks like he has not had a decent nights rest in years. His attitude is sometimes positive and carefree but in a moment may turn to angry, paranoid, or loopy. Phoenix is a mess, and taking him serious when he is in this condition is a difficult task. Then again, we do not know the real Joaquin Phoenix, as he made quite clear in the beginning.
Set in Hamburg, Germany, Soul Kitchen is a comedy of errors centered around Zinos, a small-time restaurant owner who has seen better days. His girlfriend is moving to Shanghai, his restaurant performing below expectations, and his parolee brother causes him the occasional amount of grief. To make matters worse, he injures his back causing a herniated disc, making it impossible for him to cook. Adding to the already full plate he has is a childhood friend who is set on purchasing the land the restaurant sits upon and he will stop at nothing to make it his own. Poor Zinos, he just cannot seem to catch a break. Thankfully this adds up to a great amount of comedy for the viewer as we watch him stumble through the multiple trials put in front of him.
Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy) comes from a family of assassins with a long legacy of deadeye pride. His mother (Eileen Atkins), who he has recently moved into a retirement home after living with her all his life, is none too pleased Victor has heretofore failed to produce an heir to continue the family trade. Lonely, exacting, socially awkward and approaching his fifty-fifth birthday, Victor is a failure. (The fact that he's the most ruthlessly efficient and expensive assassin in London does not seem to impress dear, old ma.) But when Victor is hired to kill Rose (Emily Blunt), a beautiful thief on the wrong side of an elegant criminal (Rupert Everett), it seems his legacy problems might be solved.
Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, the stunning debut feature from twenty-five year old writer/director Damien Chazelle, harkens back to a time when intimate, docu-realist love stories were common and the lines between film genres weren’t so rigid. Chazelle’s film feels both classic and thrillingly new, something we haven’t seen much of since the French New Wave pioneered that kind of storytelling more then fifty years ago. Guy and Madeline is a love story set to music, scored by the jazz that he (trumpeter Jason Palmer) plays and she (Desiree Garcia) longs to share.
As part of the Special Screenings section of the 2010 AFI FEST, Made In Dagenham held the promise of a rousing tribute to the women of Dagenham, England, who in 1968 went on strike against Ford Motor Company to demand equal pay to the men employed at the factory. This Norma Rae type film ended up being a practically disgraceful representation of this proud moment in women's history.
American writer/director Aaron Schock wanted to make a documentary about a traveling circus, but in the U.S. that kind of entertainment is a relic of a bygone era. So, he went to Mexico. The subject of Schock’s film, La Gran Circo de Mexico, is nowhere near as majestic as its name, consisting only of members of the Ponce family who can trace back their participation in the circus business a century. The leader of the family now, Tino Ponce, is a man determined to live and die by the circus.
Mandrill is a rollicking B-movie exploitation flick from Chile that gleefully references everything cool in espionage and action cinema, from James Bond to 1970s exploitation and kung fu movies. As a boy, Antonio Espinoza witnessed the murder of his parents by a ruthless gangland boss named Cyclops. Now a man, Antonio has adopted his own one-named moniker, Mandrill, and a similar profession as a highly stylized, highly efficient assassin for hire. Still on the hunt for Cyclops, Mandrill (Marko Zaror) tracks him to Peru, where he falls for his beautiful and dangerous daughter Dominic (Celine Reymond). The pair fall in love but mixing business with pleasure is never easy, as Mandrill soon discovers.
“The law is the law, but men enforce it.” That line is said to Judge Tian (Ni Dahong), a fair and honest court official dealing with the sudden death of his daughter in a car accident. Tian is presiding over the case of Qiu Wu, a poor young man accused of stealing two cars, a crime punishable in China in 1997 (when the film takes place) by death. Tian’s heartbreak is compacted by the lack of closure in his daughter’s case: there are no suspects and the only detail of the crime is that she was killed by a stolen car. Thus the moral dilemma in Judge (Touxi), from co-writer and director Liu Jie: what is fair judgment?
The Weather Station (Pryachsya) is structured with two alternating storylines, one in the present and the other in the past. When a distress call is made from the station a team of investigators is sent to help. Upon arrival they find the station deserted and any signs of how or why everyone is missing are not present. As the two agents uncover evidence or conjecture hypothesis' about what occurred the film expertly shifts into flashbacks using fantastic cross cutting editing techniques, as well as match-on-action, to reveal the answers. But only partial answers are ever given as just as quickly as the film moves from present to past it moves back again to the present from the past. This deliberate withholding of all the facts keeps the mystery going and maintains the viewer's interest as twists in the story appear to occur constantly.
Shown during the midnight movie portion of AFI FEST, 2010, Cargo is the first ever science fiction film from Switzerland. Made over a period of eight years it has the much needed visual style to compete with the more mainstream science fiction films and enough mystery and suspense to appease the casual viewer.
California, a place known for its idealistic landscapes and plethora of tourist destinations. Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego lay in wait every year, welcoming people from all over the world who embark on seeing how the people of these romanticized places live. There are other parts of California as well. Places locals may refer to as pit stops along the way to better destinations. Areas where you may stop to re-fuel or grab a snack. These are the towns that go unnoticed in guide books, and barely make it onto maps. This is small town America, nestled among the bright lights of big cities; places they are so close to but feel alienated from. The film Littlerock explores one such town, through the eyes of two travelers who inadvertently find themselves stuck there, fittingly named Littlerock, California.
Certified Copy is a movie about its ideas more than about its plot or even its characters. Director Abbas Kiarostami is renowned for utilizing the tight spaces of everyday life, like the insides of cars, to give us scenes of daily life unfolding at its natural pace. Couples talk, their conversations full of pauses, hesitations, parried opinions and careful retractions.
Adapted from the stage play of the same name, the film Rabbit Hole examines the ways in which a married couple cope with the loss of their 4-year old son. Moving away from the initial aftermath of such an emotional and life-changing loss the story takes place eight months after his death. It focuses on what happens as days go by, and how we as people move forward when unexpected and unforseen actions rip apart our simple existence.
[Excerpt] The typical summer Blockbuster requires little to no thought, just a set of eyes on an empty vessel ready to be taken on a roller coaster ride. So a mid-July film that actually demanded one to utilize his/her brain cells was a pleasant surprise. More than a smart summer movie though, here was a movie that evoked thought. As normal Joes and Janes, we often go through our lives uninspired; we wake up, drive to work, clock-in, clock-out, sleep, and repeat. Routine breeds a society of unenthused zombies so when something as alarmingly original as Inception comes along audiences wake up to life as they allow awe and wonderment to reenter their imaginations.
The pattern and main theme surrounding the film Rubber is an homage to the no reason. As the introduction states, "Life itself is filled with no reason". There is no reasoning behind why a rubber tire would suddenly gain consciousness; nor does there have to be. Such is the draw to the film Rubber: to try and make sense of it only plays into the idea of life being full of things beyond reasoning. Sometimes you just have to commit to the fact that there is no explanation. There is no actual reason for an event or an action. It just happens. Just as a group of people watching a rubber tire go on a desert killing spree just happens.
[Excerpt] Boyle and editor Jon Harris construct a dizzying montage of the present and the past (Aron conjures happier memories of time spent with his girlfriend to prepare him) that is at once shocking, terrifying, gruesome and, as embodied by James Franco's performance, triumphant. The filmmakers bend over backwards to elicit emotional reactions during the sequence, although Ralston's recollections of a failed relationship with a heretofore-unseen girlfriend never gripped me. Instead, it is the physically visceral power I found most convincing. This scene--and indeed, the final twenty minutes of the movie--is so emotionally overwhelming, my palms are sweating just recalling it.
As the camera swoops along with Aron climbing up and over mountains, in small gorges and caverns, it is a fluid molding of man and lens. The camera's eye is one with his movements, it sees what he sees, and gives the viewer a clear view of what he is encountering or about to. The pivotal scene, when everything changes for Aron and his life-changing journey begins, is caught from below. His legs are rooted in a small crevice between two mountains, he is preparing to climb down into the crevice, mere feet away from the side of the mountain he wishes to propel down. His entire trip has been leading up to this climactic moment and his anticipation and excitement is at the highest peek. Then, in a haunting twist of fate, a loose boulder changes everything, and his body is sent sliding down into the cavern. His arm is wedged between the boulder and the mountain side and he cannot free himself. The camera zooms out from Aron's dark claustrophobic cavern to the wide, lonely, and uninhabited expanse of desert/mountains. Aron is completely alone. The clock now begins to tick.
Twenty-two year old Aura has just come home from college in Ohio with a degree in film theory and no idea what to do with herself. “I’m in a post-graduate delirium,” she says. Tiny Furniture plays like a post-graduate, post-The Graduate--quarter-life crises of Woody Allen if Woody Allen was a twenty-two year old girl.
If I tried to explain to you the plot of Troll 2 you would not believe me. Many have tried to dissect the nonsensical structure and chaotic visual style that's rendered it notorious; either for its outrageous ineptitude or its towering avant-garde genius, depending on your point of view. Whatever your flavor of fanaticism, Best Worst Movie attempts to document the phenomenon of the unlikely cult surrounding Troll 2, the 1990…let’s use “film” loosely, which seems to have replaced classics like Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space as the coveted Worst Movie Ever Made.