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

Archive for August, 2011

West Memphis 3 – Feature Film

The West Memphis 3, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were freed in an Arkansas hearing after being in prison 18 years for the murder of three children in 1993. The three were freed after pleading guilty and drawing a sentence equal to the time they already served. The original conviction, which was derived despite any physical evidence tying the trio to the murders, became a cause celebre and the West Memphis 3 have received moral and financial support from the likes of The Hobbit director Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines. The case has also be the subject of two Paradise Lost HBO documentaries by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. A third installment will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month, followed by the New York Film Festival and a January airing on HBO.

After the West Memphis Three murder defendants were released from prison, it seemed like just a matter of time before the movie crowd got involved because the case is so controversial and became a cause celebre with the likes of Johnny Depp and Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. Turns out that there is a feature film that already has a screenplay and a major director, ready to start production by the spring. Devil’s Knot is an under $20 million feature that has The Sweet Hereafter and Chloe director Atom Egoyan aboard to direct a script that was originally written by Scott Derrickson and Paul Boardman, the team behind The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Egoyan has spent the last six weeks working with Boardman on a rewrite.

The script is based on investigative reporter Mara Leveritt’s 2003 book Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three, an in-depth chronicle of the sensationalized trials that sent the three to prison for the murder of the three 8-year old boys who were found hog-tied in a drainage ditch. The project is not a rush job. Derrickson and Boardman began writing it in 2006 when the film first took root at Dimension Films. It will be produced by Elizabeth Fowler, Clark Peterson, Richard Saperstein and Boardman. Saperstein was Dimension president and he acquired the film. After he left, Dimension eventually put the project into turnaround and Saperstein became re-involved as producer. The package includes life rights deals with some of the figures in the case, and especially Ron Lax, a private investigator who has been working pro bono on trying to overturn the verdict since 1993. There are no rights deals with the West Memphis 3  defendants Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., because at the time, two were serving life sentences and Echols was on death row.

The Wild Bunch – Remake

With news earlier that Ridley Scott was returning to his sci-fi classic Blade Runner. His Scott Free partner and brother Tony Scott is also getting serious about a new version of a movie classic. Scott is in talks with Warner Bros to direct a reboot of the 1969 Sam Peckinpah-directed The Wild Bunch. This film becomes one of three or so that Scott is most eager to direct as his follow-up to the Denzel Washington-Chris Pine action film Unstoppable.

The original The Wild Bunch was about an aging group of outlaws that try for one last score on the Texas-Mexico border in 1913, as the Old West changes around them. The original starred William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan and Warren Oates. The studio has tried for years to get this going, once getting a script from Training Day‘s David Ayer. It’s early days on the project, but Scott and producer Jerry Weintraub have a take for the movie and Brian Helgeland will draft it.

Blade Runner – Sequel?

After revisiting his classic Alien with the upcoming 3D Fox film Prometheus, Ridley Scott is committing to direct and produce a film that advances his other seminal and groundbreaking science fiction film from the past. Scott has signed on to direct and produce a new installment of Blade Runner. He’ll make the film with Alcon Entertainment, producing with Alcon partners Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove. This would be the most high profile project for Alcon since The Blind Side. They got control of the franchise earlier this year, but it’s a whole different ballgame with Scott at the helm.

It’s unclear at this point whether Scott intends to do a sequel or a prequel to the 1982 film that was loosely based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Also unclear is whether they start fresh or reach out to Harrison Ford. The original took place in dystopian Los Angeles in 2019, in which organic superhuman robots called replicants escaped and are hiding somewhere on earth.  Ford played Richard Deckard, a burnt out blade runner assigned to hunt them down. His tired life gets altered when he himself falls for one of the replicants and struggles to keep her from being destroyed.

The film was not a blockbuster when first released–it grossed $32 million in its original run–but the film has gained esteem over time. From the bleak but breathtaking  visuals to the complex storyline and themes of mortality, Blade Runner became a classic. There has periodically been talks of doing a sequel but those never really went anywhere.  After injecting state of the art 3D in reviving Alien, imagine what Scott can do with Blade Runner? Now, the filmmaker is ready to engage. Alcon has its output deal with Warner Bros, which remastered and released a 25th anniversary version on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2007. Warner Bros made the original film.

This is just the first step and the project will have to be written and it will likely evolve during that process. That’s what happened on Alien, which began as a prequel to his 1979 classic. That changed when Lost‘s Damon Lindelof came onboard with a different take on the subject matter that imprinted on Scott and Fox  executives. They wound up making Prometheus, which Fox considers an original but which I’ve heard is a cousin to the original Alien franchise. That film will be released June 8, 2012, with Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Patrick Wilson, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce starring.

Top 5 Eyeball Mutilations in Movies

Excellent article at ‘fearnet‘ featuring clips of the top 5 eyeball mutilations in movies.

Star Wars, Empire and Jedi – Poster Art

50 Best Movie Special Effects

Check out the list of the ’50 Best Movie Special Effects’ by the UK Total Film magazine. Click on the link here:

At number 42, ‘The Fly’ (1986), at number 28, ‘Jason & The Argonauts’ (1963) and at number 8 ‘The Thing’ (1982) should all be higher. Their effects haven’t dated unlike many CGI shots.

Extraterrestrial – Nacho Vigalondo

New movie on the way from director Nacho Vigalondo who made the excellent ‘Time Crimes’ (2007) in which a man accidentally gets into a time machine and travels back in time nearly an hour resulting in a series of disasterous consequences.

Extraterrestrial Synopsis: There’s only one sane response when you wake up to a sky full of alien invaders – run like hell. But what do you do if the invasion starts when you’ve just met the girl of your dreams? Julio wakes up – horribly hungover and with no memory of the night before – next to a mindblowingly sexy girl, in a stunning apartment. She wants him to get out now but the alien invasion that’s just begun outside is the perfect excuse for Julio to stay. And even though things are growing worse by the minute, even though the girl’s husband has arrived on the scene… even though the alien threat is getting more and more terrifying, Julio’s clear about one thing. Just like the monstrous creatures that have traveled across galaxies to destroy Mankind, he’s here to stay.

The Avengers – Behind the Scenes Shots

Behind the scenes shots from the forthcoming ‘The Avengers’ currently shooting in Cleveland. Check them out on ‘Ain’t it Cool News’.

Trent Reznor – Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Check out this 7 minute sneak peek from the soundtrack by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross from David Fincher’s forthcoming remake of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’

Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro, Jr. (born August 17, 1943) is an American actor, director and producer. Nicknamed “Bobby Milk” for his pallor, the youthful De Niro hung out with a group of street kids in Little Italy, some of whom have remained lifelong friends of his. But the direction of his future had already been determined by his stage debut at age ten, playing the Cowardly Lion in his school’s production of The Wizard of Oz. Along with finding relief from shyness through performing, De Niro was also entranced by the movies, and he dropped out of high school at age 16 to pursue acting. De Niro studied acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory and Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio.

De Niro’s first film role in collaboration with Brian De Palma was in 1963 at the age of 20, when he appeared opposite his friend Jill Clayburgh in ‘The Wedding Party’; however, the film was not released until 1969. He then played Lloyd Barker as a spaced-out drug addict in Roger Corman’s ‘Bloody Mama’ (1970). It starred Shelly Winters as Machine gun totin’ Ma Barker who led her family gang (her sons) on a crime spree in the Depression era.

He than gained popular attention, and won the New York Film Society’s Award for Best Supporting Actor with his role as a dying Baseball player in ‘Bang the Drum Slowly’ (1973). That same year, he began his fruitful collaboration with Martin Scorsese when he played a memorable role as the small time crook Johnny Boy, alongside Harvey Keitel’s Charlie in ‘Mean Streets’ (1973).

That role brought him to the attention of Francis Ford Coppola, who cast him as the young Vito Corleone, the director having remembered his previous auditions for the roles of Sonny & Michael Corleone, Carlo Rizzi and Paulie Gatto in the original ‘The Godfather’. His performance earned him his first Academy Award, for Best Supporting Actor. De Niro and his hero, Marlon Brando, who played the older Vito Corleone in the first film, are the only actors to have won Oscars portraying the same fictional character. Brando and De Niro came together onscreen for the only time in ‘The Score’ (2001).

After working with Scorsese in Mean Streets, he had a very successful working relationship with the director in films such as ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976), ‘New York, New York’ (1977), ‘Raging Bull’ (1980), ‘The King of Comedy’ (1983), ‘Goodfellas’ (1990), ‘Cape Fear’ (1991), and ‘Casino’ (1995). They also acted together in ‘Guilty by Suspicion’ (1991) and provided their voices for the animated feature ‘Shark Tale’ (2004). I’ve covered Taxi Driver in a separate article.

In 1976, De Niro appeared, along with Gerard Depardieu and Donald Sutherland, in Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic biographical exploration of life in Italy before World War II, ‘Novecento’ or ‘1900’, seen through the eyes of two Italian childhood friends at the opposite sides of society’s hierarchy. In a busy year for De Niro he also starred in ‘The Last Tycoon’, directed by Elia Kazan for from Harold Pinter’s screenplay of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

In 1978, De Niro played Michael Vronsky in the acclaimed Vietnam War film ‘The Deer Hunter’, for which he was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, losing to Jon Voight for that years other Vietnam movie, Coming Home. Producer Deeley pursued De Niro for The Deer Hunter because he felt that he needed De Niro’s star power to sell a film with a “gruesome-sounding storyline and a barely known director”. “I liked the script, and [Cimino] had done a lot of prep,” said De Niro. “I was impressed.” Well known for his love of method acting De Niro prepared by socializing with steelworkers in local bars and by visiting their homes, he would take his love of the method to extremes with Raging Bull:

‘True Confessions’ (1981) and ‘The King of Comedy’ (1983) were slightly different characters for De Niro, however he returned to the mob movie with Sergio Leone’s epic, ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ (1984) with James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, William Forsythe, Treat Williams, Burt Young and regular on-screen partner Joe Pesci. At over 4 hours long the film explores themes of childhood friendships, love, lust, greed, betrayal, loss, broken relationships, and the rise of mobsters in American society. The film is done in non-linear order. While this plot states the film from the 20’s to the 60’s the film is largely told through flashbacks from the 60’s.

Fearing he had become typecast in  gangster roles, De Niro began expanding into more varied and occasional comedic roles in the mid-1980s and has had much success there as well, with such films as ‘Falling in Love’ (1984), ‘Brazil’ (1985), ‘The Mission’ (1986), the hit action-comedy ‘Midnight Run’ (1988), ‘Analyze This’ (1999) opposite actor/comedian Billy Crystal, ‘Meet the Parents’ (2000), ‘Meet the Fockers’ (2004) and the awful ‘Little Fockers’ last year.

De Niro returned to the mobsters movie with Brian De Palma’s ‘The Untouchables’ (1987) and Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’ (1990). Both modern classics of the gangster genre. De Niro has really ramped up his output over the last few decades, the best being ‘Awakenings’ (1991), ‘Night and the City’ (1992), ‘A Bronx Tale’ (1993) which he also directed, ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’ (1994), the excellent ‘Casino’ and ‘Heat’ (both 1995), ‘Cop Land’, ‘Jackie Brown’ and ‘Wag the Dog’ (all 1997) and ‘Ronin’ (1998).

Shock Horror: The Nightmare Begins

A few months ago I saw an advertisement that got me very excited. It was for the upcoming Culture Shock convention: ‘Shock Horror’; Freddy Krueger was coming to Australia! Robert Englund has since been joined on the bill by fellow Nightmare on Elm Street star, Heather Langenkamp; Candyman himself, Tony Todd and documentary maker extraordinaire, Thommy Hutson.

I decided a week or so ago to investigate this event a little further and submitted 10 questions to Culture Shock Events. Many thanks to Darren Roweth over there for all his help in achieving this, as well as answering question 8 with some great local news. As a bit of background, Shock Horror: The Nightmare Begins is a joint venture between Culture Shock Events in Sydney run by Rob Brown and First Contact Conventions in Melbourne run by Scott Liston.  It is the comments of these two gentleman I have sought for this interview. Enjoy.

1. You guys are primarily known for events that focus mainly on the sci-fi and fantasy genres, what made you decide to organise a horror specific event?

Rob – Horror is another genre that often bleeds into the sci fi and fantasy realms. In some ways it is hard to distinguish between the boundaries of these realms. I think it is a natural progression to look at horror themed events. Having said that I have always been a fan of some horror films. I loved the old b&w movies and a lot of what we would consider classic horror films from the 70’s and 80’s.

Scott – There is a lot of cross over between sci-fi and horror, and not just with the actors from the shows/movies. As you can see the guys we have lined up for November also have some serious sci-fi cred and we would have happily hosted them for that style of show. Who would ever forget Robert as Willie in the original V. But also some of the best sci-fi has enormous element of horror in it, look at Event Horizon. That was hard core sci-fi and but one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen.

2. Are you planning to have ‘Shock Horror’ run as an annual event on the convention calendar? And if so, how do you see the event evolving?

Rob – Shock Horror will hopefully become one of our branded events, a lot like OzTrek. It may not be a yearly event however more likely a number of events throughout the year and perhaps in different cities as opportunities arise to run them. Shock Horror 2 is already planned for early 2012 with a definite theme.

Scott – We never really plan for anything, these shows just sort of happen. Regarding event evolution, I guess we just like to do the best that we can and make sure then everyone has a good time…including us. So as long as that happens and we can make ends meet, then I’m sure Shock Horror will be around for a while.

3. You’ve started your first ‘Shock Horror’ event with some huge horror icons, none more so than Robert Englund, how difficult is it to acquire stars of that status?

Rob – Robert is an icon of some standing. It is often hard to acquire guests such as Robert. Sometimes it is the cost of acquiring them and also it is often a question of availability at the time you are looking at hosting them. Robert was always someone I have wanted to do an event with. Not just because he is Freddy Kruger but I also loved V and his character was a favourite. Tony Todd likewise. I actually admire Tony more in his roles on Star Trek and most recently ‘The Man from Earth’ than his role as Candyman. With Robert on board both Heather and Thommy fell nicely into place.

Scott – The thing you find is that actors want to be found. That’s the nature of their business, a casting director might see them in a show and have a role that would be perfect for them, so they need to be able to get in contact with them to make that happen. When you look at it, we are just casting agents and we do the same thing, we need to be able to track them down to offer them a job.

4. Debuting with horror icons Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp and Tony Todd is a massively impressive start, how do you follow up a event like this?

Rob – We actually don’t concern ourselves with topping ourselves each event. It would be unrealistic. Basically we will run an event we would like to go to ourselves. Sometimes the guests will be more high profile than others, sometimes they won’t. As long as we and our attendees have fun and the guests are happy.

Scott – Lol, I have thought about that myself and wondered if we had peaked too early, but I guess if someone wants to suggest the next headliner I’m all ears. Although I do like the idea of Doug Bradley.

5. There will be an obvious interest in your event from fans of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, was it a conscious decision on your behalf to pair ‘Freddy’ and ‘Nancy’ as well as Thommy Hutson together for your event?

Rob – As I mentioned before with Robert on board it was natural to look for A Nightmare on Elm Street stars. There are a lot out there from the movie series and I am sure we may see more of these actors as guests at future events. It certainly was a conscious decision and I am hoping we get a lot of fans to attend the event.

Scott – Well we had Robert booked first and then we were contacted by a few actors from the Nightmare series, but I was trying to not make it a Nightmare show, but when I was contacted by Thommy and Heather, I couldn’t really say no. I mean who wouldn’t want to see Robert and Heather together, that’s a photo I want to have taken.

6. Heather Langenkamp has recently produced a documentary ‘I am Nancy’ will this be screened and/or available at the event?

Rob – At this stage scheduling on the day is a little way off. I am sure it is possible we might ask Heather if we could do a screening of the film. Thanks for the idea.

Scott – We are working on something for the Melbourne end that might see “I am Nancy” screened at a full cinema, but I do hope that we will have it available at the show as well.

7. If the focus of this event is ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ are there plans to do similarly themed events for (examples) ‘Friday the 13th’, ‘Halloween’ or the ‘Texas Chainsaw’ series?

Rob – The theme of an event is usually an offshoot of the guests we have available. The usual process tends to be we get a guest and then work something from there. Shock Horror 2: Dead Downunder has actually worked the opposite. I have fallen in love with the new TV zombie apocalypse series ‘The Walking Dead’ and just knew I wanted to do something with that.So Shock Horror 2 will be a Walking Dead themed event. It will be fun and I am sure not the last zombie themed event we will do. 

Scott – We hadn’t really thought of that, but it is something that the shows might evolve into as you said earlier. Friday the 13th is a good idea, it would be great to have a few Jason’s all in one place.

8. Horror seems to be regaining ground locally with the success of indie film ‘The Tunnel’, and having Tom Savini work on local horror movie ‘Redd Inc’; do you have plans to incorporate Australian filmmakers in the future?

Rob – It would be great to incorporate Aussie film makers and guests into the equation for future events. It is strange though, in our usual genres of sci fi and fantasy, Australian audiences seem to be less interested even if the show is popular here. I hope that this isn’t the norm amongst local horror fans and that any aussie horror film maker or actor would be well received. 

Scott – This is something we discussed in the early stages and we have always had the intention of supporting the local scene, but the problem is they don’t seem to want to support. We have contacted many local guests etc and it always seems to fall into their too hard basket. I guess most people are always trying to get something out of them, and they find it hard to understand what we do and why we do it. We’re fans first…that’s why we do it!

Darren – As a long time horror fan the local scene is something I have closely followed and supported.  Films like ‘Razorback’, ‘Undead’, ‘I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer’ and more recently ‘The Needle’ have shown what the Australian industry can do.  We hope Shock Horror will, like the US conventions, be a venue for both studio and independent film makers to show their product by screening trailers or shorts.  We have invited several independent film makers to come along to Shock Horror so we shall see what happens.  We have also approached Roger Ward (‘Turkey Shoot’ and ‘Mad Max’) to come along to the Sydney event and he is looking forward to it, which is something we hope to continue in the future.  

9. You guys obviously have a love of film, do you have aspirations as filmmakers or any plans to branch out into production or distribution?

Rob – I love my film and TV, but no, I have no inclination to be a part of the industry. I enjoy being interviewed on TV and being asked to be a guest on a show to talk about what we do but that’s where my ambitions end. By day I am a high school history teacher. Shaping the minds of our kids. A scary thought. I am also an archaeologist and have a heap of fun making a trip overseas each year to work in the field. Both careers are a long way from the film or TV industry…unless you want me to film a documentary series about working in Pompeii.

Scott – Lol, we all have day jobs and do this as a hobby (albeit an expensive hobby). When we no longer enjoy it, we’ll stop doing it. But no, we don’t have any plans to become producers or anything like that, we’re happy doing our thing as we do it.

10. Your favorite classic horror film, when you first saw it, why it’s still a favorite. And any new releases that have impressed you?

Rob – Favourite horror film..mmm…that’s a hard question. Two really stick in my mind because they had lasting impact. Firstly the original Exorcist. As a kid it scared the crap out of me. The haunting music at the start and the howling of the desert dogs as archaeologists unearth a demonic artifact. Still makes hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The other was Evil Dead. Saw that as a teenager, strangely enough in a senior history class at school as it was end of year and our teacher wanted an easy couple of periods. Loved the film. Scary and some funny moments at the same time. Lately not a lot has really grabbed me. The remakes don’t have the same impact as the originals and others are more thrillers than horror. I guess the Saw franchise has done well.

Scotty – Creature From the Black Lagoon…it’s awesome, the effects are classic, the music really makes it and adds to the suspense. Took me ages to track down a copy and I can’t even remember the first time I saw it.
I thought the first SAW film was awesome. I wasn’t going to see it, but there was a girl at work who watched it and had nightmares because of it, so I thought this is great, I must see this. So I waited till I had the house to myself on night, waiting until midnight, turned off all the lights and put the film on. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be, but as a suspense/thriller I thought it was great.

Thanks to Rob and Scotty for their time, and again to Darren for organising the interview. Don’t forget to check out the event here.

Nicolas Roeg

Nicolas Jack Roeg, CBE, BSC (born 15 August 1928) is an English film director and cinematographer.

He worked as a cinematographer on such varied projects as ‘The Masque of Red Death’ (1964), ‘Doctor Zhivago’ (1965), ‘Fahrenheit 451’ (1966), ‘Casino Royale’ (1967) and ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ (1967). However it is his exceptional work as a director for which he will be remembered.

In 1968, Roeg acted as cinematographer and collaborated with Donald Cammell to co-direct ‘Performance’ starring James Fox and Mick Jagger. Set in the London criminal underworld, Performance tells the tale of an East London gang member Chas (James Fox) who works as a debt collector, through the use of intimidation and violence. After murdering a local book keeper, Chas goes into hiding in the house of Turner (Mick Jagger), a reclusive former rock star. Turner lives with Pherber (Anita Pallenberg) and Lucy (Michele Breton) with whom he enjoys a bi-sexual menage a trois. Chas and Turner are  initially contemptuous of each other, slowly their interest in each other grows. Drugs, sex and violence ensue in a classic piece of late 60’s cinema.

Roeg followed up Performace with ‘Walkabout’ (1971). A schoolgirl (Jenny Agutter) and her younger brother (Luc Roeg) are driven to the Australian outback by thir father who starts to shoot at them, as they run for cover, he sets fire to the car and kills himself. By dawn the next day, they are weak from exposure, and the boy can barely walk. Discovering a small pool with a fruiting tree, they spend the day playing, bathing, and resting. Next morning, the pool has dried up. A young Aboriginal boy (David Gulplil) appears. Though the girl cannot communicate with him, her brother mimes their need for water, and the newcomer cheerfully shows them how to draw it from the drying bed of the oasis. The three travel together for several days, with the Aborigine sharing food he has caught hunting. The boys learn to communicate, using words and mime. I watched this movie several times throughout my youth, it’s a sad, beautiful story, incredibly well told.

In 1973, Roeg directed ‘Don’t Look Now’, a thriller starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as a married couple mourning the loss of their young daughter. They head to Venice where they meet two elderly sisters, one of whom claims to be clairvoyant and informs them that their recently deceased daughter is trying to contact them to warn them of danger.

While Don’t Look Now observes many conventions of the thriller genre, its primary focus is on the psychology of grief, and the effect the death of a child can have on a relationship. Its emotionally convincing depiction of grief is often singled out as a trait not usually present in films featuring supernatural plot elements. Originally causing controversy on its intitial release due to an explicit and—for the time—very graphic sex scene between Christie and Sutherland, its reputation has grown considerably in the years since, and it is now acknowledged as a modern classic and an influential work in horror and British film.

Roeg next made the cult film ‘The Man Who fell to Earth’ (1976) about an extraterrestrial who crash lands on Earth seeking a way to ship water to his planet, which is suffering from a severe drought.

Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie) is a humanoid alien who comes to Earth from a distant planet on a mission to bring water back to his home planet, Anthea, which is experiencing a terrible, catastrophic drought. Newton starts by using the advanced technology of his home planet to patent many inventions on Earth. This allows his rise to incredible wealth as the head of a technology-based conglomerate, World Enterprises Corporation, aided by leading patent attorney Oliver V. Farnsworth (Buck Henry). Secretly, this wealth is needed to construct his own space vehicle with the intention of shipping water back to his planet.

The film maintains a strong cult following for its use of surreal imagery and its performances by David Bowie (in his first starring film role), Candy Clark and Rip Torn.

Roeg took four years to make his next film, ‘Bad Timing’ (1980), a dark film about sexual obsession. Described brilliantly as  “a sick film made by sick people for sick people” the film proved a difficult sell and although decorated at several film festivals, was poorly received at the box office. It was the first in a line of collaborations with actress Theresa Russell who he would marry in 1982.

Roeg made ‘Eureka’ (1983), about a prospector who strikes it rich and lives in fear that his daughter and partner are scheming to take away his wealth. In 1985, Roeg released ‘Insignificance’, a drama/comedy set in a hotel where four people bear striking resemblance to Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, Albert Einstein and Joe McCarthy.

In 1986, Roeg directed Oliver Reed and newcomer Amanda Donohoe in ‘Castaway’, adapted form the book by Lucy Irvine, telling of her experiences of staying for a year with writer Gerald Kingsland on the isolated island of Tuin, between New Guinea anmd Australia. He followed that with ‘Track 29’ (1988).

Roeg then made the incredibly fun family film ‘The Witches’ (1990), based on the book by Roald Dahl. Helga (Zetterling) warns her grandson Luke (Jason Fisher) about witches, describing them as demonic women who hate and destroy children. While they look and act like ordinary women, it is really an elaborate facade. They hide their bald heads with wigs and their clawed hands with gloves. Their feet have square ends and hideous stumps where the toes should be, forcing them to wear sensible shoes most of the time. About the only way to tell them apart is by their purple eyes. They also find the smell of children repulsive.

The family take a holiday by the seaside, ostensibly so that Helga can recover from her illness. They visit a hotel where a children’s charity group is holding its general meeting. Luke discovers that the group are all witches. Starring Angelica Houston, Mai Zetterling and Rowan Atkinson. As well as being the final film that the legendary Jim Henson personally worked on before his death.

His last few movies , ‘Cold Heaven’ (1991), ‘Two Deaths’ (1997) and ‘Puffball’ (2007) have received a colder reception by critics and the viewing public. Nic Roeg is an artist, a visionary, and a legend of British film.

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Visit Troma!

A Toxic tale by guest feature writer Saskia Mountchesney

I will preface this parole by stating that up until this point, the only Troma films I had actually watched in their entireties were Toxic Avenger 2 and Poutrygeist. Hence the overall slimeball feeling as I wrote to Troma one boringsville day in NYC, citing that I had ‘always loved their movies’ and ‘could a studio tour be arranged?’ Was it morally debaucherous to openly feign fandom to an institution that relies on its devotees for income? Would they know that I really wanted to see Lloyd Kaufman in the flesh so I could rub it in my manfriend’s face as some sort of quasi-feminist “You can watch all the stinking movies you like, I went straight to the source for a stickybeak – because I could *insert witchy cackle*”? It seems that sometimes, lies don’t make baby Jesus cry: they get you signed posters and DVDs of deliciously rubbish moofies to hawk to your friends back in Australia.

So that very afternoon, after a speedy reply from the studio manager stating that, as a Tromette, I was always welcome at Troma HQ (gulp), I caught the OMG dodgy train to Long Island City and found myself thick in New York’s industrial zone. Instantly regretting the spandex pants I’d carelessly chosen in the midst of sartorial despair, I was greeted by a quiet and almost sheepish young fellow called Scott? Sam? Simon? I feel terrible for forgetting. This is what happens when you trollops through the ghetto in disco pants and cowboy boots. My saintly guide (let’s call him ‘Sinbad’ for continuity’s sake) directed me straight to the mothership room to meet Lloyd and Michael, Aka, Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, Troma co-founders and the powerhouse writer/director/producing team of Troma’s most prized back catalogue.  Lloyd Kaufman is the twisted Willy Wonka-cum-Rodney Dangerfield of the duo, all schtick and pantomime, but what his public persona doesn’t let on is the fact that he’s a perfect gentleman and possibly the greatest Uncle I’ve never had. He offered me a caw-fee and even let me sit in his chair and whizz around on it, simply because I asked.  What mortal bows down to such a request? Surely this is marks a fine leader of people, no? Michael Herz on the other hand heard my Australian accent and immediately demanded that I call a distributor in Brisbane to flog off their latest masterpiece. Showbiz.

Feeling starstruck, Sinbad took me through the Troma studio, meeting a barrage of really friendly and totally normal people who plied me with t-shirts, posters and DVDs. Quite lovely for an independent studio sans Hollywood megabucks, don’t you think? As I had innocently slipped in my welcome speech that I too had worked on several low-budget features, Mistuh Kaufman kindly gestured for me to join him in the editing room to give my opinion on a video clip he was making for some metal band in Germany. Meanwhile, I could hear Michael Herz heckling me about any ‘connections’ in Australia I may be hiding. I had to laugh as I was taken through the amazingly ramshackle archives of Dat tapes, film spools and forgotten merchandise that were strewn across the basement of the old fortune cookie factory where Troma was situated. My favourite bit of archival material? A Japanese ‘Vegas in Space’ poster, the movie of which I am still hunting down today.

My visit to Troma HQ lasted no longer than one hour – but I left a changed woman. Compared to the rampant bitchiness of the NY fashion institution that I was currently working at, the kindness and enthusiasm of these merry low-budget filmmakers warmed the cockles of my heart, and reminded me of the unspoiled joie de vive of my own rag-tag bunch of cinemaniacs at home in Radelaide. I watched the original Toxic Avenger with my signed poster smiling down on me – and it hit me why this blood, tits n’ farts movie studio keeps on keepin’ on. Their films are funny. Their films are stupid. Their fans are one, but certainly not the other.

Check out what Lloyd and Troma have been up to at:

Hellboy – The Death of Hellboy

Mike Mignola is killing off Hellboy. Read Mignola’s open letter posted by Dark Horse Comics:

I’ve been planning this one for a long time. Well, sort of.

Almost from the beginning of Hellboy I knew that if the series went on long enough, I would eventually kill him. I didn’t know exactly how or when, but I figured that when the time was right I’d know. I actually did kill him off in the middle of The Island, but it didn’t take—it just wasn’t quite his time yet.

When Hellboy quit the B.P.R.D (at the end of Conquerer Worm) and ended up at the bottom of the ocean (The Third Wish), I could see we were headed in this direction. When Duncan came onboard to draw Darkness Calls, I told him I wanted him for a three-book arc and I knew the third book would end in Hellboy’s death. I know back then I had a rough idea for the third book, but over the years its plot changed so many times—I’m sure Duncan must have heard me tell him half a dozen different versions of it over the years, and (I hope, for his sake) he must have just stopped listening after a while. I remember that at one point the Gruagach (the long-suffering pig-man) was going to become the major villain and he would be the one to kill Hellboy, but, as is so often the case, these characters don’t always stick to the roads we make for them. Gruagach in particular took on a life (a very sad life) of his own, and the story sort of followed after him. I had to trust that he at least knew where he was going and it turned out that he did. When I asked Scott Allie (long-suffering editor) if I could have a couple extra pages for The Fury #3, it was so I could give Gruagach a proper exit. I just couldn’t leave him hanging in that tree.

And speaking of hanging in a tree—that’s probably where I’d have ended up if I’d tried to draw these last three books myself, so thank you, Duncan Fegredo. The simple truth is that Duncan is amazing. His storytelling is spot on, and he has a nearly inhuman ability to draw everything well. When I write for myself, I tend to avoid certain things, but with Duncan as artist I was free to write the story I wanted to write without worrying about how to draw Hellboy kissing a girl or what a helmet made of birds would look like. And, in my humble opinion, Duncan is one of the best artists working when it comes to giving characters real personality and emotion. I was spared writing a lot of awkward dialogue, because when Duncan draws two characters looking at each other, more often than not you can tell what they’re thinking. I would say I’ll miss writing for Duncan but, fortunately, I don’t have to. While I will be taking over the ongoing Hellboy story line (I’ve always said that in my world, when characters die they just become more interesting) as both writer and artist, there are still a lot of untold stories from Hellboy’s past—a simpler time when he didn’t have to worry about being the Beast of the Apocalypse or king of England. Duncan’s agreed to stick around and draw a bunch of those. I couldn’t be happier.

And now I have to get back to the drawing table.

– Mike Mignola

The Walking Dead – Frank Darabont

The Walking Dead; the truth about AMC, Frank Darabont and more. Read this excellent article by The Hollywood Reporter.

Alfred Hitchcock

Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in his native United Kingdom in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood. In 1956 he became an American citizen while retaining his British citizenship.

Over a career spanning more than half a century, Hitchcock fashioned for himself a distinctive and recognisable directorial style. He pioneered the use of a camera made to move in a way that mimics a person’s gaze, forcing viewers to engage in a form of voyeurism. He framed shots to maximise anxiety, fear, or empathy, and used innovative film editing. His stories frequently feature fugitives on the run from the law alongside “icy blonde” female characters. Many of Hitchcock’s films have twist endings and thrilling plots featuring depictions of violence, murder, and crime, although many of the mysteries function as decoys or “MacGuffins” meant only to serve thematic elements in the film and the extremely complex psychological examinations of the characters. Hitchcock’s films also borrow many themes from psychoanalysis and feature strong sexual undertones. Through his cameo appearances in his own films, interviews, film trailers, and the television program ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’, he became a cultural icon. 

Hitchcock directed more than fifty feature films in a career spanning six decades. Often regarded as the greatest British filmmaker, he came first in a 2007 poll of film critics in Britain’s Daily Telegraph, which said: “Unquestionably the greatest filmmaker to emerge from these islands, Hitchcock did more than any director to shape modern cinema, which would be utterly different without him. His flair was for narrative, cruelly withholding crucial information (from his characters and from us) and engaging the emotions of the audience like no one else.” The magazine MovieMaker has described him as the most influential filmmaker of all-time, and he is widely regarded as one of cinema’s most significant artists

Friday the 13th – Jason Body Count Infographic

Exceptional infographic of Jason Voorhees kills from the original ‘Friday the 13th’ through to ‘Jason X’. This image came out in 2009, around the time of the remake, so it doesn’t take the kills from the new movie into account. Plus, the way that film played out, it always seemed like that movie was more of a reboot than a sequel… although it fits easily into the ‘Friday’ canon post ‘Friday 5’ as they are universally awful… fun, but awful.

The Wizard of Oz

On August 12, 1939, MGM released The Wizard of Oz.

Dorothy (Judy Garland) lives on a Kansas farm with Aunt Em (Clara Blandick) and Uncle Henry (Charley Grapewin). After the evil neighbor, (Margaret Hamilton), tries to take Dorothy’s dog away from her, the teenager runs away. When her farmhouse is caught up in a cyclone she’s knocked out and whisked away.

When Dorothy finally hits land again, she discovers she is no longer in Kansas, but in the land of Oz. Trying to get back home, Dorothy finds three companions, a Tin Woodsman, a Scarecrow, and a Cowardly Lion who go to the Wizard to ask for help. The wizard tells them that before he can help any of them, they must seize the broom from the evil Wicked Witch of the West. They return with the task completed, after an arduous struggle, but learn a shocking secret about the Wizard of Oz.

After the screening, producers debated about removing the movie’s signature song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow because they felt that it was too slow and boring. Studio boss Louis B Mayer put the song back in; it has since been named the most loved song from a movie by the American Film Institute.

The film had a total of 4 directors over the course of production:
Richard Thorpe – 12 days
George Cukor – 3 days
Victor Fleming – most of the production (4 months), until he was called away to finish up Gone with the Wind
King Vidor – finished the production.

Although MGM had intended the role of Dorothy for Shirley Temple, the part went to Judy Garland instead.

Buddy Ebsen who played the Tin Man suffered a near-fatal reaction to the makeup of the Tin Man costume and was replaced by Jack Haley. Ebsen would later say that it was the most disappointing moment of his career.

The Munchkins are portrayed by The Singer Midgets. They were called that way because it was their manager’s name (Leo Singer). They couldn’t sing and their voices were dubbed.

The film has been deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

The book The wonderful Wizard of Oz has been translated into well over 40 different languages. In 1985 the unofficial sequel Return to Oz was released. It’s a combination of the novels Ozma of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz. The movie was not well received.

Captain America – Review by my 5½ year old son ****

Another review from my 5½ year old son. This time for ‘Captain America’ starring Chris Evans.

Captain America is about army men fighting the Red Skull’s men. At the start of the movie Captain America is little and skinny and is a good guy. He doesn’t like bullies and he tries to keep joining in the army but they won’t let him because he’s little and skinny; until he goes into a machine and it makes him strong and fast and big. He doesn’t die in the movie, he nearly dies when he jumps over a big explosion after the Red Skull pulls his mask off. The Red Skull was in disguise as a bad person when he pulls his mask off his face is all red, he’s the Red Skull.

The best bit was when he punched a punching bag and it flies across the room. It might be too loud in the fighting bits for little kids. It was really good. Not as good as Thor, but better than Pirates, Super 8 and Transformers.

4 Stars

World War Z – News

Paramount Pictures has set Dec. 21, 2012 as the release date for World War Z, the Marc Forster-directed adaptation of the Max Brooks zombie-infestation novel. The film is in production now, with Brad Pitt and Mireille Enos and James Badge Dale starring. Pitt is producing with his Plan B partner Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Colin Wilson. The film’s co-financed by David Ellison’s Skydance Productions and Jeff Sagansky’s Hemisphere Media Capital. And Graham King’s GK Films has also come aboard as financier, with King and Tim Headington taking executive producer credit.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) *½

Young waitress Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara) and her classmates are being stalked in their dreams by razor-gloved killer Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley). After one of the kids is killed in the diner where Nancy is working, Quentin Smith (Kyle Gallner) and Nancy realise that they are all having the same nightmares. Their parents are dismissive when Nancy and Quentin ask questions about this ‘Freddy’ character, what are they hiding from the kids..?

Who cares? Certainly not me and from what I can gather from IMDB, it seems that hardly anyone else cared either. This is yet another Platinum Dunes remake of a classic horror movie, and this time they’ve really outdone themselves and made their worst remake yet. The movie may have better quality of shots, lighting, framing, stock and direction… but that doesn’t make for a better movie.

It is devoid of scares, creativity and this new Freddy is charmless. It probably sounded like a good idea, and that buzzword ‘edgy’ would have been thrown around at story meetings, to make more of Freddy’s dark and twisted paedophile past but it works against the film. How can you cheer for Freddy to kill these kids when the film makers have demonstrated how despicable he was/is?

Like most fans of the genre, when we heard that the movie was going ahead, the one thing that sounded like a positive move was bringing in a quality actor like Jackie Earle Haley for the Freddy Krueger role. Haley has proved that he’s a great actor in Little Children (also as a paedophile) and as the best thing in Watchmen as Rorschach. However he’s been handed a humourless, one-dimensional, watered down version of Freddy. He’s not helped by the new make-up which although probably a more realistic version of a burn victim renders him expressionless. The movie also features the up and coming Rooney Mara, soon to be seen in the David Fincher remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, hopefully she’ll be given more to work with in that.      

As with most of these remakes, it is directed by a music video director making his feature debut. This time around it’s Samuel Bayer who like everyone before him has managed to make a stylish, bland update devoid of any scares. Poor script, shallow characters, even the death scenes are awful, Freddy appearing in the wall above the bed, and Kris (Tina in the original) being dragged across the ceiling were done much better in 1984. No build-up, no tension, no clue. This is THE WORST of the recent spate of remakes.

Quality: 2 out of 5 stars

Any good: 1 out of 5 stars

Gillian Anderson

It’s Gillian Anderson’s birthday today. She was every nerdy guys pin-up throughout the 90’s, well, maybe her and Buffy… Armstrong is far classier than her stake wielding junior though. Happy birthday.

Robert Shaw

Robert Archibald Shaw (9 August 1927 – 28 August 1978) was an English stage and film actor and novelist, remembered for his performances in ‘From Russia with Love’ (1963), ‘Battle of the Bulge’ (1965), ‘A Man for All Seasons’ (1966), ‘The Golden Voyage of Sinbad’ (1974), the original ‘The Taking of Pelham One Two Three’ (1974), ‘Black Sunday’ (1977), ‘The Deep’ (1977), ‘Force 10 From Navarone’ (1978) and most famously ‘The Sting’ (1973), and ‘Jaws’ (1976), where he played the iconic shark hunter Quint.

In The Sting, Shaw played Chicago crime boss Doyle Lonnegan who is the target of a swindle by the characters played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Doyle Lonnegan’s limp in the film, used to great effect by Shaw, was in fact completely authentic as Shaw had slipped on a wet handball court at the Beverly Hills Hotel just a week before filming began and had split all the ligaments in his knee. He had to wear a leg brace during production which was kept hidden under the wide 1930s style trousers he wore. This incident was revealed by producer Julia Philips in her 1991 autobiography ‘You’ll Never Eat Lunch in this Town Again’. She said that Shaw saved The Sting since no other actor would accept the part, that Paul Newman hand delivered the script to Shaw in London in order to ensure his participation, and that he had to be paid an extremely high salary. Philips’ book also asserts that he was not nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award because he demanded that his name follow those of Newman and Redford before the film’s opening title.

The role of Quint was originally offered to actors Lee Marvin and Sterling Hayden, both of whom passed. Producers Zanuck and Brown had just finished working with Robert Shaw on The Sting, and suggested him to Spielberg as a possible Quint. thank God it played out that way. As much as I love Lee Marvin, Robert Shaw will always be Quint. As captain of the Orca, he’s exceptional in the role, a perfect mix brashness, bravado, sarcasm and melancholy. He has a few memorable scenes in a movie crammed full of them; his entrance, at the town meeting, dragging his fingernails down the blackboard; his pitch perfect delivery of his experience on the USS Indianapolis to Brody (Roy Scheider) and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss); and his death, as he slides down the deck of the sinking Orca, into the sharks mouth and is eaten alive, fighting to the very end. Although filming was scheduled to take 55 days, it eventually ended on October 6, 1974 after 159 days. Spielberg, reflecting on the extended delay, stated: “I thought my career as a filmmaker was over. I heard rumors … that I would never work again because no one had ever taken a film 100 days over schedule.” Spielberg himself was not present for the shooting of the final scene in which the shark explodes. He believed that the crew were planning to throw him in the water when this scene was complete. It has since become a tradition for Spielberg to be absent when the final scene of a film he directs is being filmed.

Andy Serkis Interview

Cool Andy Serkis interview, 25+ minute audio file. Listen to the man who was Gollum, King Kong, Captain Haddock from the forthcoming ‘Tintin’ movie and of course Caesar in ‘The Rise of the Planet of the Apes’. Listen to the interview here.