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

Archive for June, 2011

Prometheus News

Screenwriter Damon Lindelof appeared on The Kevin Pollak Chat Show this week and talked about his latest work writing on Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus, how he got the job and how that connects to the Alien films. Find out what he said here


Dr. Raymond Moody

Dr. Raymond Moody was born today, June 30, in 1944. He is most famous as an author of books about life after death and near-death experiences (NDE), a term that he coined in 1975. His best-selling title is ‘Life After Life’.

Moody studied philosophy at the University of Virginia, United States, where he obtained a B.A. (1966), an M.A. (1967) and a Ph.D (1969) in the subject. He also obtained a Ph.D in psychology from the University of West Georgia. In 1998 Moody was appointed Chair in Consciousness Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. After obtaining his M.D., Moody worked as a forensic psychiatrist in a maximum-security Georgia state hospital.

Moody’s own beliefs on NDEs can be summed up with the following quote from his interview with Jeffrey Mislove: “I don’t mind saying that after talking with over a thousand people who have had these experiences, and having experienced many times some of the really baffling and unusual features of these experiences, it has given me great confidence that there is a life after death. As a matter of fact, I must confess to you in all honesty, I have absolutely no doubt, on the basis of what my patients have told me, that they did get a glimpse of the beyond.”

From a study of 150 people who had clinically died or almost died, Moody concluded that there are nine experiences common to most people who have had a near death experience. These are:

  1. hearing sounds such as buzzing
  2. a feeling of peace and painlessness
  3. having an out-of-body experience
  4. a feeling of traveling through a tunnel
  5. a feeling of rising into the heavens
  6. seeing people, often dead relatives
  7. meeting a spiritual being such as God
  8. seeing a review of one’s life
  9. feeling a reluctance to return to life

Decide for yourself if he’s a nutter or not by checking out this interview with Moody and his website where you can purchase a signed copy of his book. All this fuels the supernatural movie genre so I view it, with skepticism, as a good thing.


Haunted Mansion – Review by my 5 year old son ***

Another review from my 5 year old son. He couldn’t wait until the weekend to review ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ so knocked out this review until he sees that behemoth on Saturday afternoon. This is more of a synopsis than a review. SPOILER ALERT. He gives away the ending. I usually edit out huge spoilers from his movie reviews but figured that this is so old now and no-one is going to rent it anyway.

“It’s about a spooky house that’s called a mansion. It’s about ghosts and graveyards. A man and a woman give some people some cookies. There’s a nice ghost. The nice ghost helps the man get his children out of a box from the skeletons that are spooky. The bad ghost can’t get hurt by anyone but in the end he gets fire on him and the good guy is okay. It’s not too scary for kids but little kids might get scared. It’s spooky and funny but spooky.”

Any good ***


Robert Evans

Robert Evans (born June 29, 1930) is a Film Producer best known for his work in the golden era of new Hollywood. He started out as an actor, however, dissatisfied with his own acting talent, he determined to become a producer.

He got his start as head of production at Paramount by purchasing the rights to a 1966 novel entitled ‘The Detective’ which Evans made into a movie starring Frank Sinatra in 1968. This got Evans noticed by Charles Bludhorn, who was head of the Gulf+Western conglomerate who owed the studio, and hired Evans as part of a shakeup at Paramount Pictures.

When Evans took over as Head of Production for Paramount, the foundering studio was the ninth largest. Despite Evans’ inexperience, he was able to turn the studio around. He made Paramount the most successful studio in Hollywood and transformed it into a very profitable enterprise for Gulf+Western. During his tenure at Paramount, the studio turned out classic films such as ‘Barefoot in the Park’, ‘The Odd Couple’, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, ‘The Italian Job’, ‘True Grit’, ‘Love Story’, ‘Harold and Maude’, ‘The Godfather’, ‘Serpico’, ‘The Conversation’, ‘The Great Gatsby’, and many others. Although he obviously had an eye for a hit, he did turn down ‘The French Connection’ and ‘Jaws’…

Dissatisfied with his financial compensation, and desiring to produce films under his own banner, Evans struck a deal with Paramount that enabled him to stay on as studio head while also working as an independent producer. Other producers at Paramount felt this gave Evans an unfair advantage. Eventually Evans stepped down, which enabled him to produce films on his own. He went on to produce such films as ‘Chinatown’, ‘Marathon Man’, ‘Black Sunday’, ‘Urban Cowboy’, ‘The Cotton Club’ and the Chinatown sequel, ‘The Two Jakes’.

Evans began to fall on hard times in the early 1980s, when during the production of ‘Popeye’ he was convicted for attempting to buy cocaine. Things got even worse for him when he began filming ‘The Cotton Club’. Evans was slated to direct, but due to production complications Francis Ford Coppola was called in during the filming. The budget for the film soared and Coppola and Evans fought endlessly. Evans was peripherally linked to the murder of Roy Haddin, an investor in The Cotton Club, who was murdered. Evans was accused of involvement; he pleaded the 5th Amendment and was sent home. Evans wrote in his excellent 1994 autobiography ‘The Kid Stays In The Picture’ that he was a “tangential character, at best” in regard to the case.

Hollywood scriptwriter Joe Eszterhas repeatedly describes his friend, Evans, as “the devil” in his book, Hollywood Animal, and goes on to say that “all lies ever told anywhere about Robert Evans are true.”


Ray Harryhausen

Ray Harryhausen, born on June 29, 1920 in Los Angeles, California, is an Producer and special effects creator. Check out the official Ray Harryhausen website

After having seen King Kong for the first of many times in 1933, Harryhausen spent his early years experimenting in the production of animated shorts, inspired by the burgeoning science fiction literary genre of the period. A friend arranged a meeting with Harryhausen’s idol, Willis O’Brien, animator of ‘King Kong’  O’Brien critiqued Harryhausen’s early models and inspired him to take classes in graphic arts and sculpture to hone his skills. Harryhausen became friends with an aspiring writer, Ray Bradbury, with similar enthusiasms. Bradbury and Harryhausen joined a Los Angeles-area science fiction club formed by Forrest J. Ackerman in 1939, and the three became lifelong friends.

Paramount executives gave Harryhausen his first job, on the ‘Puppetoons’ shorts, based on viewing his first formal demo reel of fighting dinosaurs from an abortive project called Evolution. H also produced a variety of other short animation demos during the post-World War II 1940s. He put together a demo reel of his various projects and showed them to Willis O’Brien, who eventually hired him as an assistant animator on what turned out to be Harryhausen’s first major film, ‘Mighty Joe Young’ (1949). O’Brien ended up concentrating on solving the various technical problems of the film, leaving most of the animation up to Harryhausen. Their work won O’Brien the Academy Award for Best Special Effects that year.

Harryhausen was hired to do the special effects for The Monster from Beneath the Sea. While in production, the filmmakers learned that a long-time friend of Harryhausen, writer Ray Bradbury, had sold a short story called “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” to The Saturday Evening Post, about a dinosaur drawn to a lone lighthouse by its foghorn. Because the story for Harryhausen’s film featured a similar scene, the film studio bought the rights to Bradbury’s story to avoid any potential legal problems. Also, the title was changed to ‘The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms’ (1953). Under that title, it became Harryhausen’s first solo feature film effort, and a major international box-office hit for Warner Brothers.

He followed that movie with minor hits, ‘It Came From Beneath The Sea’ (1955), ‘Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers’ (1956) and ’20 Million Miles to Earth’ (1956) before his greatest masterpiece (and biggest hit) of the 50s, ‘The 7th Voyage of Sinbad’ (1958).

After ‘The Three Worlds of Gulliver’ (1960) and ‘Mysterious Island’ (1961), both great artistic and technical successes, his next film is considered by film historians and fans as Harryhausen’s masterwork, ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ (1963). Among the film’s several celebrated animation sequences is an extended fight between three actors and seven living skeletons, a considerable advance on the single-skeleton fight scene in Sinbad. This amazing stop-motion sequence, never since equaled by a single individual, took over four months to complete, and helped to inspire an entire generation of subsequent filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Tim Burton, Sam Raimi and James Cameron, among many others.

Harryhausen was then hired by Hammer Film Productions to animate the dinosaurs for ‘One Million Years B.C.’ (1967). It was a box office smash, helped in part by the presence of shapely Raquel Welch in a cavewoman bikini. Harryhausen next went on to make another dinosaur film, ‘The Valley of Gwangi’ (1969); the movie is set in 1912 Mexico, in a parallel Kong story—cowboys capture a living Allosaurus and bring him to the nearest city for exhibition. Sabotage by a rival releases the creature on opening day and the creature wreaks havoc on the town until it is cornered and destroyed inside a burning cathedral.

After a few lean years, Harryhausen re-teamed with Schneer, who talked Columbia Pictures into reviving the Sinbad character, resulting in ‘The Golden Voyage of Sinbad’, often remembered for the sword fight involving a statue of the six-armed goddess Kali. It was first released in Los Angeles in the Christmas season of 1973, but garnered its main audience in the spring and summer of 1974. It was followed by ‘Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger’ (1977), which disappointed some fans because of its tongue-in-cheek approach. Both films were, however, box office successes. The latter was my first cinematic experience of Harryhausens work; I’d been a fan as a little kid watching his movies on saturday matinees but seeing his effects on the big screen blew me away.

The last feature film to showcase his effects work was the ‘Clash of the Titans’ (1981), for which he was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Special Effects. It featured an amazing set-piece with a Kraken, however despite of the relatively successful box office returns of “Clash of the Titans”, more sophisticated technology developed by ILM and others began to eclipse Harryhausen’s production techniques.

Amazingly, none of Harryhausen’s films were ever nominated for a special effects Oscar. Harryhausen’s contribution to the film industry and he was finally awarded a Gordon E. Swayer Award for “technological contributions [which] have brought credit to the industry” in 1992, with Tom Hanks as the Master of Ceremonies and Bradbury, a friend from when they were both just out of high school, presenting the award. This recognition made Harryhausen an international celebrity. A long series of appearances at film festivals, colleges, and film seminars around the world soon followed as Harryhausen met many of the millions of people who had grown up enjoying his work. On one of these tours he visited the Disney studio in Sydney where I was lucky enough to meet him and score an autographed copy of ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ DVD… it’s still my favourite piece of memorabilia.


30 Days of Night: Dark Days **

Taking place a year after the Alaskan town of Barrow was decimated by vampires during the annual month long darkness. Stella Oleson (Kiele Sanchez) has spent her time since the attack trying to convince the world of the truth about what happened at Barrow and that vampires exist. She is met with scepticism and laughter wherever she goes. After a meeting in L.A. where she turned ultra violet lights on the audience and burned up a couple of vampires Stella is cautioned by FBI agent Norris (Troy Ruptash) who warns her to stop her crusade. Upon returning to her motel, Stella is met by Paul (Rhys Coiro), Todd (Harold Perrineau) and Amber (Diora Baird) who introduce themselves as vampire hunters. They inform her that the vampires who attacked Barrow were instructed to do so by Lilith (Nia Kirshner) who happens to be in L.A… Blah, blah, blah…

After a series of action set-pieces where first Paul is killed by vampires, then their vampire contact Dane (Ben Cotton) is killed by the now turned vampire agent Norris; Stella decides to take on Lilith and her coven head on.

If you really liked the original ‘30 Days of Night’ you probably won’t like this sequel very much. I liked the original and I wasn’t expecting much of the sequel and was still underwhelmed. Although both movies followed the outline of the Steve Niles graphic novels they are markedly different movies.

Whereas the first movie has character development, good actors, a decent script, a wonderful premise and a good stylish director; this sequel, well, it doesn’t really have any of those. Although to be fair Kiele Sanchez is okay, far better than any of the rest of the cast.

It starts well enough then descends into an action flick where we follow stupid characters doing stupid things. If you’re going to hunt vampires and you know where they are it may be a good idea to do it during the day. Not these clowns, they do all their hunting in darkness. Well, it’s cheaper I suppose. And why do head vampires always look like someone out of an Evanescence video clip?

The SFX is a mixed bag, some of the prosthetics are very well done and some of the blended CGI shots work okay. I think they spent most of the budget on the effects. There are also some pretty good, gory action scenes although some of them though just don’t make sense. It’s established early on in the movie that ultraviolet light kills vampires so no one ever uses it again… They use guns and machetes for the remainder of the movie.

It’s not useless; it’s just not very good. Watch the original or Blade 2 instead.

Quality: 2 out of 5 stars

Any good: 2 out of 5 stars (because I wasn’t expecting much)   


30 Days of Night ****

Barrow, Alaska – Northernmost town in the U.S. Isolated in 80 miles of roadless wilderness. Cut off every winter for 30 days of night. Town Sheriff Eben Olsen (Josh Hartnett) notices some strange occurrences during the last day of sun, cell phones burned, local dogs slain, the town helicopter sabotaged and his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George), the regional Fire Marshall, is stranded in town after missing the last flight out. Eben arrests a stranger (Ben Foster) after he’s aggressive in the local diner; the stranger informs him that “they’re coming” and that he’s a dead man.

The vampires then arrive for a feeding frenzy during the month long darkness. Led by Marlow (Danny Huston), these vampires aren’t sexy, seductive or cool; they’re vicious, brutal and single-minded. It only takes 17 minutes into the movie before the first attack, quickly followed by another and another on the helpless townsfolk “You just keep shooting and they just keep coming”

Eben, Stella and a small band of locals must survive for the next 30 days or perish at the hands of Marlow and his clan of vampires…

Written by Steve Niles from his graphic novel; Produced by Sam Raimi and Directed by David Slade. This movie has some solid credentials and doesn’t disappoint. The original source material has been followed quite closely; I’m a big fan of the graphic novel and Steve Niles has done a great job retaining the sense of dread and isolation. David Slade has done a fantastic job translating the story to the screen. His first feature, Hard Candy (2005) was an incredible debut and he’s followed it up with one of the better vampire movies of the last decade, and there have been a lot of them! Here he focuses on a gripping story of perseverance and survival against the odds; the characters are fleshed out as the movie progresses and their reactions are grounded with real emotions.

The cast are all solid; Josh Hartnett is the best he’s been as stoic Eben. Melissa George and Ben Foster are very good; however the movie belongs to Danny Huston wheneverhe’s on screen. As the lead vampire he’s incredibly menacing, intense and creepy.  

The visuals are beautifully shot and the movie looks amazing; the setting and characters look and feel so cold and real. The movie makers haven’t shied away from bloody violence, the movie is filled with incredibly brutal attacks by the vampires. An original take through a well worn mythology that feels fresh. It is intense, violent, gory, action-packed and great fun.

Quality: 4 out of 5 stars

Any good: 4 out of 5 stars