Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Archive for May, 2011

Clint Eastwood

Icon and a living legend, Clint Eastwood is a superstar in international cinema. Born in San Francisco 81 years ago today, he is the son of steelworker Clinton Eastwood Sr. (1906-1970), and factor worker Ruth Eastwood-Belden (nee Runner, 1909-2006). The family moved around Northern California before settling in Oregon. After graduating high school, he moved to Seattle and worked as a lifeguard before training as a lifeguard for the military in 1951. After completing his service, he moved to Los Angeles where he found work digging swimming pools. Clint started trying out for bit parts in B-movies, and was signed as a contract player for Universal. He found work as an actor with brief, uncredited appearances in ‘Tarantula’ (1955) and ‘Revenge of the Creature’ (1955), which led to credited supporting roles in more various b-movies. He got his breakthrough at the end of the decade with the TV series ‘Rawhide’ (1959), where he was a cast member for six years. As Rowdy Yates, he made the show his own and became a household name around the country.

But Eastwood found even bigger and better things with ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ (1964), ‘For A Few Dollars More’ (1965) an ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’ (1966). Clint became synonymous with the character the Man With No Name and the movies were a big hits, with the latter turning him into an international star. Eastwood got some excellent roles thereafter. He starred in ‘Coogans Bluff’ (1968), the western   ‘Hang ‘Em High’ (1968) and the musical ‘Paint Your Wagon’ (1969). Eastwood went in an experimental direction again with ‘Kellys Heroes’ (1970) and ‘Two Mules For Sister Sara’ (1970), both of which combined tough-guy action with offbeat humor.

1971 proved to be his best year in film, or at least one of his best. He directed his first movie, the thriller ‘Play Misty For Me’ (1971), in which he played a man being stalked by a crazed female admirer whose obsession with him turns from seductive to violent. That same year, he starred for his mentor, director Don Siegel in ‘The Beguiled’ (1971) an played the hard edge police inspector in ‘Dirty Harry’ (1971) that gave Eastwood another one of his signature roles and invented the loose-cannon cop genre that has been imitated even to this day. Eastwood also found work in American revisionist westerns like ‘High Plains Drifter’ (1973), which he also directed. He had constant quality films over the next few years, teaming up with Jeff Bridges in Michael Cimino’s directorial debut, the buddy-acton flick ‘Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’ (1974), and starring the “Dirty Harry” sequels ‘Magnum Force’ (1973) and ‘The Enforcer’ (1976), the quintessential western and my personal favourite ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ (1976), action flick ‘The Gauntlet’ (1977), and the hugely successful comedy ‘Every Which Way But Loose’ (1978) with Clyde the orangutan.

Eastwood found even more solid work with the fact-based thriller ‘Escape From Alcatraz’ (1979). The sequel to “Every Which Way but Loose”, ‘Any Which Way You Can’ (1980), was also a blockbuster despite negative reviews from critics. It was the fourth ‘Dirty Harry’ sequel, ‘Sudden Impact’ (1983) (the highest grossing film of the series) that made him a viable star for the eighties and gave to world a new catchphrase: “Go ahead, make my day”. Clint also starred in ‘Firefox’ (1982), ‘Tightrope’ (1984), ‘Pale Rider’  (1985), and ‘Heartbreak Ridge’ (1986), which were all big hits but did not become classics. His fifth and final “Dirty Harry” movie, ‘The Dead Pool’ (1988), was a minor commercial hit but severely panned by critics. Shortly after his career declined with the outright bomb comedy ‘Pink Cadillac’ (1989) and the disappointing cop adventure ‘The Rookie’ (1990). It was fairly obvious Eastwood’s star was declining as it never had before.

But Eastwood surprised yet again. First with his western, ‘Unforgiven’ (1992), which garnered him an Oscar for best director and producer of the best picture, and nomination for best actor. Then he took on the secret service in ‘In The Line of Fire’ (1993), another huge hit. Next up was ‘The Bridges of madison Couty’ (1995), a popular love story with Meryl Streep. Over the next few years, the quality of his films was up and down. He directed and starred in the well-received ‘Absolute Power’ (1997) and ‘Space Cowboys’ (2000), and the poorly received ‘True Crime’ (1999) and ‘Blood Work’ (2002).

However, Eastwood rose to prominence once again, first as director with ‘Mystic river’ (2004) and then directing and starring opposite Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman in what is arguably the best made film of his career: the boxing drama ‘Million Dollar Baby’ (2004). A critical and commercial triumph, the movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as earning Eastwood a nomination for Best Actor and a win for Best Director. He directed ‘Flags of Our Fathers’ and ‘Letters From Iwo Jima’ (2006) for producer Steven Speilberg. He then directed the Angelina Jolie starring ‘The Changeling’ before breaking his four-year acting hiatus by starring in ‘Gran Torino’ (2008). This film grossed $30 million during its opening weekend in 2009, making him the oldest leading man to reach #1 at the box office, and another one of his biggest hits.
After starring in iconic movies for four decades, Clint Eastwood has proved himself to be the longest-running movie star. Although he is aging now and focusing more on directing, his career continues to thrive. Clint Eastwood has been one of my idols for as long as I can remember, as a kid watching him on TV, seeing him at the cinema to replaying VHS copies of his movies throughout the 80’s and now on DVD. I love the image, his westerns, the dry humour and dark heart in his work; he’s priceless and irreplacable. LEGEND.

Phil Spector – Al Pacino

Al Pacino is set to star alongside Bette Midler in a TV film about the Phil Spector murder trial. Al will take on the lead role. The film will chronicle the relationship between Spector and his defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden (Midler). Phil Spector was famous for creating the Wall of Sound production technique and producing the excellent Ramones album End of the Century. He was sentenced to 19 years in jail for murdering actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.

After.Life *½

Anna Taylor (Christina Ricci) is a bored and depressed young woman. She attends a funeral and for a split second thinks that she may have seen the body move; Funeral director Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson) catches a glimpse of Anna’s reaction. Anna isn’t having a good day; she’s unhappy in her relationship with her wealthy boyfriend Paul (Justin Long) he doesn’t understand her wants and needs and it appears that she doesn’t either. After an argument at a fancy restaurant Anna flees into the stormy night and promptly crashes her car into a truck.

Anna ‘wakes up’ on the morticians slab only to be told by Eliot that she is in fact dead and he has a gift, the ability to communicate with the dead before their crossing over fully to the other side. He prepares Anna for her imminent burial; her wounds are dressed, she is stripped and indulges Eliot in clichéd conversations about what it means to be alive.

For the next hour or so Ricci spends the movie naked, drugged and wavering between accepting her fate and half-heartedly trying to escape.

Anna’s boyfriend believes that she’s still alive and tries to find out exactly what is going on at the funeral home. As he delves deeper into Anna’s death his own life starts to unravel.

Is Anna alive, kept in a semi-conscious state by the drugs administered by Eliot or is she really dead? The images thrown at us over the course lead us in different directions and towards differing conclusions as to what is happening. Anna experiences the supernatural in the form of an elderly female corpse in the movies freakiest and only real horror themed scene. However the fact that she is being drugged and leaves condensation on the various mirrors she breathes onto leads us to believe that she is still alive.

The film makers obviously believe that they have made or at the very least set out to make a serious look at life, death and what happens between. However the script is riddled with clichés and is barely sustained by some decent performances from an understated Neeson and Ricci who spends most of the movie completely naked, if they’d used that as a selling point it may have done better!

The result is an incredibly melodramatic and self-conscious film that takes itself far too seriously. Is Anna dead or alive… or in the space between? That’s up to you to decide, I for one didn’t care either way.  

Quality: 2 out of 5 stars

Any good: 1 out of 5 stars     

Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper was born on May 17, 1936, in Dodge City, Kansas. The young Hopper first appeared in a slew of 1950s television shows, including ‘Medic’ (1954) with Richard Boone and ‘Cheyanne’ (1955) with Clint Walker. His first film role was in the western ‘Johnny Guitar’ (1954), which was quickly followed by roles in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ (1955), ‘Giant’ (1956) and ‘Gunfight At The OK Corral’ (1957). Hopper became good friends with James Dean and was devastated when Dean was killed in a car crash in September, 1955. He regularly appeared on screen throughout the 1960s, often in rather undemanding parts as a villain in westerns such as ‘True Grit’ (1969) and ‘Hang ‘Em High’ (1968). Then in early 1969, Hopper, fellow actor Peter Fonda and writer Terry Southern, wrote a counterculture road movie script and managed to scrape together $400,000 in financial backing, the film was called “Easy Rider’. Hopper directed the low-budget film which starred Fonda, Hopper and a young Jack Nicholson. The film was a phenomenal box-office success, appealing to the anti-establishment youth culture of the times. It changed the Hollywood landscape almost overnight and major studios all jumped onto the anti-establishment bandwagon, pumping out low-budget films about rebellious hippies, bikers, draft dodgers and pot smokers.

Hopper’s next directorial effort, ‘The Last Movie’ (1971), was a critical and financial failure, and he has admitted that during the 1970s he was seriously abusing various substances, both legal and illegal, which led to a downturn in the quality of his work. He appeared in a sparse collection of European-produced films over the next eight years, before cropping up in a memorable performance as a pot-smoking photographer in the Vietnam War epic ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979). He also received acclaim for his work in both acting and direction for ‘Out of the Blue’ (1980).

With the recognition from these two movies he made a slow comeback, stealing the limelight in roles in ‘RumbleFish’ (1983) and ‘Rivers Edge’ (1986) before making headlines as the despicable Frank in David Lynch’s ‘Blue Velvet’ (1986).  With the support of Sean Penn, Hopper returned to directing with the controversial L.A. gang movie ‘Colors’ (1988) which was well received. He continued to steal movies as an excellent supporting actor in ‘True Romance’ (1993), ‘Speed’ (1994) and ‘Waterworld’ (1986). He was a multi-talented and unconventional actor/director regarded by many as one of the true “enfant terribles” of Hollywood; he managed to work both within and outside the system for more than five decades. As well as his acting/directing talents, Hopper was a skilled photographer and painter, having had his works displayed in galleries in both the US and overseas. Dennis Hopper died a year ago today on May 29th 2010.

Dark Shadows is filming

“Dark Shadows” by Tim Burton and Johnny Depp is officially underway. A gothic-horror tale centering on the life of vampire Barnabas Collins and his run-ins with various monsters, witches, werewolves and ghosts. The cast features Depp as Barnabas Collins, Chloe Moretz, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Lee Miller and of course Helena Bonham Carter. Hopefully this will be a return to form for Burton who has always been more at home in the gothic realm. 

Based on the popular “Dark Shadows” TV series, Warner brothers official press release describe the movie as follows:

In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet-or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Brouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better…

Troll Hunter – Coming Soon

If you enjoyed ‘Cloverfield’ and I’m not judging you… then you should enjoy this, check it out here

Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet *½

Sometimes when you rent a cheap horror DVD you’re pleasantly surprised, it’s rare that you unearth a gem, usually you get what you expect. With Blood Night you get what you expect, in fact the quotes on the cover leave you in no doubt: “The kick-ass splatter film of the year” and “Gratuitous violence and gore”. That’s exactly what it is.

Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet to give it its full title starts with Mary Mattock, nicknamed ‘Hatchet’, killing her parents after having her first period. She is sentenced to life in a mental institution where she spends her time naked; she’s raped by a night shift guard and gives birth to a still-born baby. One night she escapes from the institution and kills nurses, orderlies and beheads the guard who raped her before eventually being shot dead by two Policemen. All of this is shown before the opening titles, all 12 minutes of it, for a 78 minute movie that’s a fair chunk of premise.

20 years later a group of teenagers get together for a séance and party on the anniversary of Blood Night. The characters are basically a slasher movie check list, there’s the town nutter, Graveyard Gus (Bill Moseley) who knows all the stories and has seen Mary’s ghost; the sporty guy, the geeky guy, the party guy, the hot chick, the couple who head off early to have sex, you know what’s coming… Mary turns up and proceeds to chop off heads and generally kill the teenagers in fairly bloody ways.

The surviving kids escape from their party and run into Graveyard Gus, he drives them to the old mental asylum, informing them that Mary is searching for her dead baby. If they reunite mother and child Mary should be able to rest, however when they dig up the child’s grave they discover that the coffin is empty. Searching through the asylum records they discover that the child didn’t die, a girl, she was adopted by a local family..!

This is the type of horror flick where you have to check your brain at the door or spend the movie picking holes in the quality of the script, direction, performances, effects and all manner of production flaws. No one sets out to make a bad movie and lack of budget isn’t an excuse anymore. A good idea works no matter what, good direction and performance shine through, and there is no excuse for splatter effects given the great work done on a budget in the past. It could have been an entertaining, nasty little slasher flick but the ‘stylistic’ camera angles and horrible CGI additions to the gore ruin what chance the movie had on that score.

Quality: 1 out of 5 stars

Any good: 2 out of 5 stars   

Peter Cushing

Peter Cushing was born in 1913 in Kenley, Surrey, England. At an early age Cushing was attracted to acting, inspired by his favorite aunt, who was a stage actress. While at school Cushing pursued his acting interest in acting and also drawing, a talent he put to good use later in his first job as a government surveyor’s assistant in Surrey. At this time he also dabbled in local amateur theater until moving to London to attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama on scholarship. He then performed in repertory theater, deciding in 1939 to head for Hollywood, where he made his film debut in ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’ (1939). He featured in a few other Hollywood films such as ‘A Chump at Oxford’ (1940) with Laurel & Hardy. However, he soon returned to England by way of a stint on Broadway in New York. Back in hisEngland he contributed to the war effort during World War II by joining the Entertainment National Services Association.

After the war he performed in the West End and had his big break appearing with Laurence Olivier in ‘Hamlet’ (1948), in which Cushing’s future partner-in-horror Christopher Lee had a bit part. Both actors also appeared in ‘Moulin Rouge’ (1952) but didn’t meet until their later horror films. Towards the end of the decade he began his legendary association with Hammer Film Productions in its remakes of the 1930s Universal horror classics. His first Hammer roles included Dr. Frankenstein in ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’ (1957), Dr. Van Helsing in ‘Dracula’ (1958) and Sherlock Holmes in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ (1959).

Cushing continued playing the roles of Drs. Frankenstein and Van Helsing, as well as taking on other horror characters over the next 20 years. ‘The Revenge of Frankenstein’ (1958), ‘The Mummy’ (1959), ‘The Brides of Dracula’ (1960), ‘The Evil of Frankenstein’ (1964), ‘The Gorgon’ (1964), ‘She’ (1965)’ ‘Frankenstein Created Woman’ (1966), ‘Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed’ (1969), ‘The Satanic Rites of Dracula’ (1973) and his last outing as Frankenstein in ‘Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell’ (1974). He also appeared in films for the other major horror production company Amicus Productions where he made a couple of Dr. Who films (1965, 1966), ‘The House that Dripped Blood’ (1971), ‘I, Monster’ (1971) and ‘The Beast Must Die (1974), among others. By the mid-1970s these companies had stopped production, but Cushing, firmly established as a horror star, continued in the genre for some time thereafter.

Perhaps his best-known appearance outside of horror films was as Grand Moff Tarkin in ‘Star Wars’ (1977). He made appearances on television shows ‘Hammer House of Horror’ (1980) and ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ (1983). Cushing’s retired in 1986. I grew up watching Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee on television every weekend, they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Universal horror legends.

In 1989 he was made an Officer of the British Empire in recognition of his contributions to the acting profession in Britain and worldwide. Peter Cushing died in August 1994 aged 81. Legend.

Alien – Released 32 years ago today

32 years ago Alien was released in the United states… ‘In space no one can hear you scream’

The Nostromo, an interplanetary mining ship loaded with ore, is on it’s return voyage to Earth. The crew are woken early from their hibernation tanks by Mother, the ship’s computer, after a radio transmission from an unexplored planetoid has been detected. Company policy requires making contact with alien life-forms whenever possible. Upon landing, crew member Kane (John Hurt) is attacked by a octopus-like parasite. Days later, a hideous alien erupts from Kane’s chest. The alien escapes and the crew start a hunt through the ship’s dark, claustrophobic passageways. The alien grows at an alarming rate and begins picking them off one-by-one. Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) fights for her life and tries to escape in a shuttle but she discovers that the Alien is also aboard…

32 years ago today, Alien was released (May 25, 1979). The film arrived in between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back as a stylishly malevolent alternative to George Lucas’s space fantasy. The Ridley Scott directed film became an instant classic and set a tone of its own, offering richly detailed sets, ominous atmosphere and relentless suspense. The HR Giger designed Alien was an incredible shioft in style from those in previous space-set movies, Giger so impressed Ridley Scott that he was hired to design the alien fachugger, chestburster and the alien sets. They would become iconic. 

The cast are all exceptional, Sigourney Weaver as Ripley setting the tone for all the action heroines that followed; Ian Holm is creepy as android Ash; John  Hurt almsot steals the movie with his iconic ‘chestbursting scene’; Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright and Tom Skeritt are all good.   

Scott would further enhance the Sci-fi genre a few years later with his equally ground-breaking Blade Runner (1982), though that film was initially not well received it has since become a cult hit.

Alien spawned a further 5 sequels of differing quality. The best of which was James Camerons excellent action movie Aliens (1986);  David Finchers directorial debut Alien³ (1992) and Jean-Pierre Jeunets awful Alien: Resurrection (1997). There were also two cross-franchise movies where the Alien(s) battle with versions of the Predator in Alien Vs. Predator (2004) and Alien vs Predator requiem (2007)… both should be avoided at all costs. Scott is currently filming ‘Prometheus’ a rumoured prequel/sequel/re-imagining of the first Alien. No one is really clear what it is about, but at least with Scott back at the helm of the franchise he started we can at least be reassured that it is in good hands.

Source Code ****

Colter Stevens (Jake Gylenhall) wakes up on a commuter train heading to Chicago. He’s seated opposite Christina (Michelle Monaghan) who although he has no recollection as to who she is, appears to be in the middle of a conversation with him. After a few minutes, 8 minutes precisely as we are about to discover, the train explodes killing everyone on board. Stevens ‘wakes up’ in a confined metal pod, he’s strapped in and as unaware of his surroundings as he was in the train. He is questioned by a military officer, Goodwin (Vera Farmiga). She wants to know if he knows who the bomber on the train is, when Stevens answers ‘no’ he is sent back to the train. This time he is slightly more aware as to what is happening and realises that he is living the same 8 minutes as before.

Again the train explodes and Stevens finds himself back in the pod, this time he wants answers, what is happening to him, where are his squad, the last thing he remembers is being under attack in Afghanistan. A senior officer, Dr Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) explains quickly that Stevens part of a project that can put him inside another person’s consciousness but only during the last 8 minutes of that person’s life. He can help the military prevent an explosion in busy down-town Chicago, but only if he finds the train bomber… he’s sent back to the train, again and again.

The script is a good blend of thriller, sci-fi and emotional drama. It has enough tech-talk to keep the sci-fi fans happy and is a smart enough thriller with some nice character moments to hold your interest for the duration. The end is a stretch but if you’re willing to go with it then it’s satisfying conclusion to an original idea. It has been compared to last year’s best film Inception; it’s not as good as that and has also been compared to ‘Déjà Vu’ (2006) with Denzel Washington with which it shares more similar themes. Although Source Code lacks the budget of both those movies it doesn’t suffer at all by comparison.

Source Code is the second feature from Duncan Jones, the man behind one of my favourite movies of 2009, ‘Moon’ which starred Sam Rockwell whose exceptional performance was overlooked for all of last year’s Best Actor Awards. As with Moon, Jones has crafted another smart, entertaining and suspenseful film. The actors are solid and believable. The effects, again, as with Moon, are better than their budget would imply. This is definitely worth seeing if you want something other than fast cars, loud explosions, pounding music score or sequels to sequels.

Quality: 4 out of 5 stars

Any good: 4 out of 5 stars      

Carrie – Remake on the way

Another week and another remake is on the way… this time however it’s a more understandable update. ‘Carrie’, the 1976 teen classic starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, Nancy Allen, horror staple PJ Soles and a young John Travolta was the first Stephen King novel to be filmed. Made by director Brian DePalma, the movie helped to set the tone for the countless prom-set horror movies that followed.

The original movie follows Carrie White, a shy young girl who doesn’t make friends easily and lives with her domineering, religiously obsessed mother. Carrie is different to the other students in more ways than anyone can imagine, she can move things with her mind, and she’s not sure why. After her class mates taunt her about her horrified reaction to her totally unexpected first period one of them takes pity on her and gets Tommy Ross, her boyfriend and class hunk to invite Carrie to the senior prom. Meanwhile another girl who has been banned from the prom for her continued aggressive behaviour is not as forgiving and plans a trick to embarrass Carrie in front of the whole school. What she doesn’t realise is that Carrie is … gifted, and you really don’t want to get her angry.

Although well made, the movie is somewhat dated and the ‘bullied teenager at school scenario’ is perfect fodder for a remake that unlike some of the other remake titles bandied about of late, The Exorcist and The Thing both of which should remain untouched, Carrie is well suited to an update. Stephen King is no stranger to updated versions of movies based on his work. There are two versions of ‘Salem’s Lot’ , the first made by Tobe Hooper in 1979 with David Sole and remade as a TV movie in 2004 with Rob Lowe. Most famously though King was very unhappy with Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 version of ‘The Shining’ starring Jack Nicholson, a movie considered a horror classic by most observers. King wrote the screenplay for the television remake in 1997 and although it follows his book more closely and is a decent effort it’s not a patch on the Kubrick version.

The remake of Carrie is slated for a release sometime in 2012 and will be produced by MGM and pertners Screen Gems. There is no news yet on the director or who will star as Carrie… Today’s teen audience probably haven’t seen the original so please retain the original shock ending and PLEASE stop at one, we don’t need another ‘The Rage: Carrie 2’..!

Jim Jarmusch Vampire movie

Tilda Swinton, Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska have been confirmed for Jim Jarmusch’s untitled vampire movie, which the writer/director calls a “crypto-vampire love story”. It’s an exceptional cast and with Jarmusch behind the camera should be an exciting take on the vampire genre.

Jeremy Thomas and Reinhard Brundig will produce the film which will be “set against the romantic desolation of Detroit and Tangiers,” and will shoot on location in Detroit, Germany, and Morocco early next year.

Buried ****

An American contractor in Iraq, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up bound and gagged in a roughly hewn wooden coffin. He finds a Zippo lighter, pen knife, pencil, hip flask and mobile phone. Unable to read the Arabic instructions on the mobile he calls his wife back in the States, she’s not home, he calls 911, the FBI and his contract company. All the calls frustrate him further until he receives a call from his kidnappers, who inform him that they want $5 million dollars for his release and he only has 90 minutes of air in the coffin.

Paul gets through to a hostage negotiator who informs him that they are on the case. The kidnappers call back and instruct him to make a hostage video for the media, when he refuses they send him a video file of one of his associates, a female driver who Paul was close too, she’s murdered on camera.

Buried spends the entire 95 minute running time in the coffin with Ryan Reynolds. It sounds boring but Director Rodrigo Cortes keeps the film flowing and really works to make it visually interesting without cutting away from the situation at all. The use of various light sources is excellent; we only ever see Paul in varying glows cast from the lighter, a glow stick, shoddy flashlight and from the mobile phone screen. They all differ and work as a visual aid to Pauls mental and emotional state, he’s resourceful when using the lighter, frustrated with the dying flashlight, tense with the glow stick. The blue glow from the mobile breaks up these different states and drives the ‘action’.

Cinematographer Eduard Grau does an exceptional job with the film and you really feel that you’re in there with Paul throughout his ordeal.

The script is well written and takes us on an emotional ride with Paul; we feel his frustration and fear especially during the tense and sometimes oddly amusing phone calls with his captors and the people who are supposed to be on his side. Scriptwriter Chris Sparling said in a recent interview that his previous scripts were all knocked back due to the prohibitive budget costs so he thought of the simplest scenario he could. He certainly put more thought into Buried than that throwaway line indicates and has delivered a fantastic premise that really works on emotional, intellectual and visceral levels.

Ryan Reynolds delivers a performance I never thought him capable of from his previous outings. He’s alone on screen for the duration and entirely believable in a difficult role. Tense, suspenseful, exciting and original, Buried won’t appeal to everyone, especially those looking for cheap thrills and big action set-pieces, but it has far more to offer and is worth the effort.

Quality: 4 out of 5 stars

Any good: 4 out of 5 stars

Harvey Milk Day

Harvey Milk Day is organized by the Harvey Milk Foundation and celebrated globally each year held May 22 in memory of Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist who was assassinated in 1978. The holiday was established by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009 following the success of the award-winning feature film ‘Milk’ retracing Milk’s life.

Milk is a 2008 American biographical film on the life of politician Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Dustin Lance Black, the film stars Sean Penn as Milk and Josh Brolin as Dan White, another city supervisor who was Milk’s assassin. The film was released too much acclaim and earned numerous accolades from film critics and guilds. Ultimately, it received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, winning two for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Penn and Best Original Screenplay for Black.

Stanley Kubrick Poster Art

Two more cool Art Posters. This time for two Stanley Kubrick films.

The Shining (1980) for a screening by the Alamo Drafthouse.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) for a screening at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco.


James Stewart

James Stewart was born today in 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, USA. He made his acting debut in a boy scout play. After graduating from Princeton in 1932 with a degree in architecture, he joined the University Players whose members included such future stars as Henry Fonda and Margaret Sullavan.

His first motion-picture appearance was in 1935 in ‘The Murder Man’. Stewart’s career gained momentum after his well-received Frank Capra films, including his Academy Award nominated role in ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ (1939) and ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ (1946).

James served in the US Army Air Forces in World War II and was heavily decorated. After the war, he returned to the theater in ‘Harvey’ (1947) (he later re-created the role in the 1950 film version of the play). Then made his first collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock with ‘Rope’ (1948). During the 1950s, he took on more challenging roles and expanded into the western and suspense genres, thanks largely to collaborations with directors Anthony Mann in ‘Winchester ’73’ (1950) and ‘The Naked Spur’ (1953) and 3 more features with Alfred Hitchcock, including Rear Window (1954), The man Who Knew Too much (1956), Vertigo (1958)).

In the early sixties there were roles in three John Ford films, including the classics ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ (1962) and ‘How The West Was Won’ (1962). He won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1941 for his role in ‘The Philadelphia Story’ and was awarded an Honorary Award in 1985 for ‘Fifty years of memorable performances, for his high ideals both on and off the screen, with respect and affection of his colleagues’ James Stewart died in 1997.


Check out this fake trailer and equally brilliant fake DVD cover left, for ‘Demonitron: The 6th Dimension’  

This screened at the ‘Dead by Dawn’ International Horror Film Festival in Edinburgh.

It’s a hilarious, yet spot-on homage to the films of Italian Horror Film Makers Argento, Fulci, Bava, etc., this fake trailer is a ridiculous amount of fun (even if you don’t know any of the names mentioned above).

I’d rent it.

The Tunnel – Download for FREE

Do you love being the first to see awesome new movies before your friends? The Tunnel, set amidst a maze of abandoned tunnels winding underneath Sydney Australia, is a deliciously creepy thriller and it’s released today for FREE..!

The film was screened at the Marche du Film at the Cannes Film Festival and was the opening night screening at the A Night of Horror Film Festival in Sydney. Review of that screening posted on this blog on April 2nd 2011

It’s the first film ever released simultaneously on Television, DVD and BitTorrent. It’ll even be shown on the big screen at Hoyts Entertainment Quarter in Sydney this June for four weeks. Click on the link now and it’s yours today.

The Horde ***

A group of vigilante cops led by Ouessem (Jean-Pierre Martins) and Jimenez (Aurelien Recoing) determined to exact revenge for the murder of one of their own stage a late night raid on a dilapidated tower block where the gangsters are hiding out. The cops are a fractured group due to a past affair between Aurore (Claude Perron) and the slain colleague. Moments before they are about to blow the door to the hideout the cops are sprung and taken hostage by the gang. Jimenez is shot and bleeding to death; questioned by the gang leader Ade (Eriq Ebouaney) and his unstable younger brother Bola (Doudou Masta), Jimenez is shot dead. Before they execute the rest of the cops, a zombie apocalypse breaks out. Escaping to the rooftop after some extremely bloody action, both groups decide to join forces to make their escape and ensure survival.

La Horde is one of the bloodiest and more violent zombie movies of recent years. The zombies here are of the ’28 Days Later’ type, they’re quick and savage, and are dispatched with guns, axes, machetes and even fists in some very violent scenes. There are a few exceptional action scenes; the first encounter with the undead is gory and chaotic, and a great scene with Aurore battering a zombie in a small kitchen using her fists, feet, a cupboard door, glass ashtray and eventually the fridge. The whole last third of the movie is extremely gory and blood splattered and should keep most hardcore zombie fans fairly happy.

This is a low-budget movie, as most zombie movies tend to be, however it is well thought out and in keeping with recent French horror releases, it is very violent. Fans of gory, bloody, brutal action will love it and probably forgive the lack of exposition and inconsistencies within the script. It looks good for what it is, probably due to budget restrictions the idea to use a run-down apartment block actually makes sense and the grimy setting really works in the movies favour. The special effects are a fairly good blend of make-up, blood and CGI which is used sparingly to enhance the blood/gore effects in certain scenes.

For a debut feature by joint directors Yannick Bordas and Benjamin Rocher this is a solid start. The premise is not very original but has enough going for it to keep you interested. Making all the characters unlikable is bold and it pays off as they come across as much more believable; even in an unpleasant scene where 3 men discuss raping a zombie! I’ll be keen to see what they do next.

Quality: 3 out of 5 stars

Any Good: 3 out of 5 stars

Straw Dogs – remake trailer

So another Hollywood remake of a classic is on the way. This time it’s Straw Dogs, of which I reviewed the original on April 13 here

It has been remade by Director Rod Lurie (The Contender and The Last Castle) and stars James Marsden, Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard. The update has moved the action to the deep South… Judge for yourselves…

Trailer here

Remake Synopsis: L.A. screenwriter David Sumner relocates with his wife to her hometown in the deep South. There, while tensions build between them, a brewing conflict with locals becomes a threat to them both.

Frank Capra

Frank Capra was born today in 1897, he died on September 3rd, 1991. He was responsible for ‘It Happened One Night’ (1934) which was the first film to win all five top Academy Awards; ‘Mr Deeds Goes To Town’ (1936) and ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ (1938) for which he won his second and third Best Director Awards. Arguably his most famous films are ‘Mr Smith Goes To Washington’ (1939) and two of my all-time favourite classic movies, ‘Arsenic & Old Lace’ (1944) a macabre black comedy with Cary Grant and ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ (1946) with James Stewart. The latter was initially a box-office flop but has since become recognised as an all-time classic and perennial Christmas favourite. It is number one on the American Film Institute list of most inspirational American films of all time. Capra joined the army at the outset of World War 2 and made a series of propaganda films which were highly lauded for their remarkable craftsmanship and were the best of the U.S. propaganda output during the war.

Werewolf Movies – A List…

So after trashing ‘Skin Walkers’ last week I was asked for a good example of a werewolf movie… so here’s another list of the Good, Okay and Avoid… Starting with six Good ones:

An American Werewolf in London (1981). Written and Directed by John Landis, this is the best werewolf movie by some distance. Frightening, funny and featuring the best transformation scene ever filmed. The film follows two American backpackers, David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) who are holidaying in rural England. Following an awkward visit to a village pub called ‘The Slaughtered Lamb’ they wander over the moors and are attacked by a wolf. Jack is killed but David survives and is troubled by disturbing dreams and visits from his dead friend Jack. I love this movie; it’s an all-time favourite of mine and generally considered a classic of the genre. There’ll be a more extensive review soon. Unsurpassed.

The Company of Wolves (1984). Directed by Neil Jordan and starring Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury and a host of British thespians. This fantastical gothic-horror film looks at the underbelly of the Red Riding Hood fable. Jordan has always maintained that it is not a horror film and to call it so would be misleading the audience. It’s a stylish, bizarre, dark and beautiful fairytale teeming with symbolism and imagery. It also features one of the more original and unusual transformation scenes. I love this film and you can read a full review on this site posted 3/05/11. 

Dog Soldiers (2002). Writer/Director Neil Marshall’s first feature, Dog Soldiers follows a squad of British soldiers led by Sergeant Harris (Sean Pertwee) on a training mission in the Scottish Highlands. They are being stalked by a Special Ops Squad and something far more dangerous. As they make their escape from the unseen foe they stumble across a zoologist called Megan (Emma Cleasby) who seems to know a little too much about what is hunting them. This is a really great fun, the action is brutal and the werewolves are exceptional considering the tiny budget.

The Howling (1981). Directed by Joe Dante and famous for the effects work by Rob Bottin who got the job after Rick Baker left to work on ‘An American Werewolf in London’ (A very good decision). The movie follows journalist Karen White (Dee Wallace) as she is attacked by a serial killer, she suffers amnesia and is sent to ‘The Colony’ by her therapist Dr. Waggner (Patrick MacNee) to recover. However all is not what it seems there… The lack of budget in certain scenes is glaringly obvious (Animated sex-silhouette.!?!) but overall the film is great fun and worth a viewing.

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961). Hammer classic starring Oliver Reed as Leon Corledo, the werewolf. Set in 18th Century Spain for a change, this is a different take on the werewolf myth and is a lot of fun. A beggar is teased and imprisoned by a cruel nobleman; the nobleman’s wife is thrown into the same cell 15 years later and raped by the beggar… she gives birth to a cursed child who is raised by a local family. Soon enough town animals are found dead and the townsfolk go on the hunt for a wolf… Great fun and Reed really sinks his teeth into the role.

The Wolfman (1941). The Universal classic starring Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot, the cursed Wolfman of the title. Revisiting his ancestral home, Talbot is bitten by a wolf while visiting a local Gypsy camp where his bleak future was foretold by an old Gypsy fortune teller. This is classic Universal style fun with exceptional Wolfman make-up. Chaney reappeared in several sequels, some with other classic Universal monsters but this is his best.

Four okay werewolf movies:

Wolfen (1981). Based on Whitley Strieber’s novel and directed by Michael Wadleigh. The movie follows New York Cop Dewey Wilson (Albert Finney) who is investigating a series of murders in his district, he slowly comes to realise that they have been committed by an inhumanly strong animal of some sort.  The movie takes a slightly different look at the wolf folklore; here they are Wolfen, not wolves. It features a good cast, particularly Finney and Edward James Olmos and some quite bloody kill scenes. Overall a pretty decent effort. 

The Wolfman (2010). Upon returning to his ancestral home for his brother’s funeral, actor Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) is bitten and cursed by a werewolf. He subsequently falls for his brothers fiancé Gwen (Emily Blunt) and realises that his father (Anthony Hopkins) is stricken by the same curse and is responsible for his brother and mothers deaths. Not as bad as the reaction to it on initial release, Del Toro’s vanity project hence his miscasting features some of the best make-up ever by Rick Baker. The transformation scene alone is worth watching the movie for, utilising a terrific blend of traditional make-up and CGI for the best scene. Overlong but fun.

Wolf (1994). Directed by Mike Nichols and starring Jack Nicolson and Michelle Pfeiffer, Wolf is the Hollywood heavyweight entry on the list. It follows mild mannered editor-in-chief Will Randall (Jack) who is bitten by a wolf while driving home in Vermont. Shortly afterwards he is demoted by his new boss Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer) and replaced by Stewart Swinton (James Spader) who is also having an affair with Will’s wife Charlotte (Kate Nelligan). Will starts to become more aggressive, taking on the characteristics of a wolf. He enters an affair with Aldens daughter Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer) and changes his life. Wolf treats the werewolf mythology seriously and quite cleverly; good fun.

Ginger Snaps (2000). A good movie by director John Fawcett, focussing on Ginger (Katherine Isabelle), a 16 year old obsessed with photographing scenes of death. Together with her younger sister Brigitte (Emily Perkins) she makes a pact to kill herself when she has her first period, however that night she is bitten by a werewolf. Over the next month she goes through some body changes and her craving for blood intensifies. This is a really good, fun movie and was moderately successful which unfortunately meant a sequel and prequel followed.

…and four werewolf movies to avoid:

Skin walkers (2007). Reviewed yesterday. It’s an action film with werewolves and it’s rubbish. Avoid.

Twilight: New Moon (2009). Longer review coming soon. Directed by Chris Weitz this is a woeful follow up to Twilight. The werewolves are terrible CGI, their design and animation is cheap and immediately removes you from the movie when they feature on screen. Avoid.

Cursed (2005). Directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson who should both know better, this is awful.  Siblings Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) and Ellie (Christina Ricci) are scratched by an animal while trying to rescue the passenger of a car they hit. They start to develop wolfish traits and blah, blah, blah… avoid.

Van Helsing (2004). The worst movie on the list for so many reasons… A big budget and good cast wasted by a stupid script and awful CGI effects… avoid at all costs.

Thor – my 5 year old sons review *****

I took my 5 (and a half, the half is VERY important at this age) year old son to see ‘Thor’ on saturday, when he saw me uploading the review that I posted earlier he asked what I was doing. After a brief explanation about the blog he offered his own review of the movie so here it is verbatim…

“Thor is about superheroes. It’s about good guys fighting bad guys. The good guys fight the ice giants and an ice giant monster with four legs. I liked it when Thor flew through the monsters head. I liked the giant robot as well, I liked it when it was smashing the cars up and when it was fighting the good guys. When they were fighting it was bit scary because it was really loud. It was good fun.”

I asked him to give it a rating and it scored Five out of five stars

Thor ****

Interrupted moments before his coronation by an attempted theft of a powerful weapon by an ancient enemy, powerful, popular but arrogant heir to the throne Thor (Chris Hemsworth) decides to exact revenge on the perpetrators. He enlists the help of his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and friends Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Volstagg (Ray Stephenson), Fandral (Josh Dallas) and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) he attacks the Frost Giants in their home planet of Jotunheim. If all this already sounds a bit ho-hum, stay with it as it’s done so well and is great fun. There’s a fantastic battle between Thor’s warriors and the Frost Giants, however when all seems lost our heroes are rescued by Thor’s father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Odin is furious at the arrogant and impetuous Thor who is stripped of his powers, cast out of the realm of Asgard and banished to Earth.

Crashing to earth in the New Mexico desert, Thor is rescued/run over by astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings) and mentor Dr Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard). Thor struggles to adapt to this new world; it is these moments which add much needed humour that helps to take the edge off the Norse god scenes. Thor and Jane are intrigued by each other and develop a close relationship. Thor’s hammer, the source of his power, has also landed in the desert and is quarantined by S.H.I.E.L.D agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). When Thor discovers this, with Janes help he tries to retrieve the hammer, but after beating up countless agents he is unable to lift the hammer, he is not worthy to do so… yet.

Meanwhile back in Asgard, Odin is taken ill and collapses; Loki assumes power and upholds Thors banishment. Loki also tries to take the hammer but cannot lift it; he sends a powerful weapon called the Destroyer to destroy Thor and the New Mexican town. During a fantastic battle Thor offers himself as a sacrifice to save his friends, Jane and the town, this is the key to his worthiness to wield the hammer.

I was initially sceptical about this movie not being much of a fan of the Thor comic books. I always found it difficult to allow the necessary suspension of disbelief to enjoy Thor fighting alongside Captain America, Iron Man and the Hulk, all of whom are products of science. I was wrong, the movie is so well made and so much fun; it’s littered with references to the previously released Iron Man and the upcoming Captain America, as well as a cameo from Jeremy Renner as archer Hawkeye.

The movie looks incredible; the design department have created a fantastical world in Asgard, both the set design and costumes look amazing. The Frost Giants and Destroyer are awesome looking foes.

Kenneth Branagh has done a wonderful job bringing the disparate elements together and as mentioned earlier he really blends the separate worlds well, mixing the ‘Shakespearean Asgard gravitas and dialogue’ with the more realistic modern day earth. I thought he was an unusual choice as director, although admittedly from my point of view his involvement was a reason to see the movie.

As expected from Branagh he handles the sibling rivalry, family feuds and weighty dialogue with the necessary gravitas garnered from his extensive Shakespearean knowledge. The movie could have come across as incredibly ‘hammy’ but instead ends up being a fun romp and the front runner for popcorn flick of the year to this point. Hopefully this acts as the reboot to his Hollywood career.

The cast are all good, we know what to expect from the likes of Hopkins, Portman and Skarsgard but Chris Hemsworth is a revelation in the titular role. I was unsure what to expect but he handles the muscular action scenes, ridiculous language, romance and humour equally well. If he chooses his next few roles well he should have a bright future.

Great fun if you’re looking for a blockbuster with big action, huge set pieces and its tongue firmly in cheek. Some scary scenes with the Frost Giants for really young kids but they’re more than likely to complain about the running time than those action scenes.

Quality: 4 out of 5 stars

Any good: 4 out of 5 stars