Thursday 23 December 2010
I just re-watched Joe Dante's "Matinee" today and it further cemented my love for the film. Not only is it a great look at how fear can paralyze us (until we can come out the other side), it also shows a great passion not just for the old style showmanship of movie houses but for movies in general. And few are more passionate than Lawrence Woolsey (as played by John Goodman) - a William Castle-like producer who is testing out his latest film "MANT!" (half man, half ant) in Key West Florida. Along with his constant promotion schemes, he's always looking out for new ideas...
And then with an air of finality:
And was that Naomi Watts popping up in one of the films within the film ("The Shook Up Shopping Cart")?
Yep, it sure was! Just one more reason to love the movie...
Saturday 11 December 2010
I love a good dose of colour in movies. Nothing against spectacular Black and White cinematography - Film Noir is one of my favourite styles of film after all - but I'm always happy to see bright and shiny colours put to good use on the screen. I went back and forth on how to try to capture that in a video - there are plenty of scenes I could have used that are filled with bright hues, but I wasn't sure how to pull it together. So I decided to focus on clips that use primarily one colour and then string them together to work through the spectrum of the rainbow. I'm not sure this came out quite how I expected it to, but I still like it...
When I put together my horror montage, the music came first as that particular Mogwai tune drove the idea. In this case, I worked the other way - I had the idea and the clips before thinking of the music. However, as soon as I thought of the song I used ("Jeans Jeans Jeans" by the terrific Montreal band Plants And Animals), I knew it could work. The band's second album La La Land also provided the music over the end credits (a track called "Tom Cruz").
Wednesday 1 December 2010
After a lengthy bout with horror films throughout October (I'm still taking them on, but more sporadically at the moment), I've been bouncing around a bit (Japanese monster movies, documentaries off NetFlix instant viewing, a few old musicals, a re-watch of the Bourne trilogy, etc.), but now I'm settling into catching up on 2009/2010 releases. So in the last few days I've wrangled "This Movie Is Broken", "Please Give", "The Killer Inside Me", "The Social Network" and, the most recent two, Lars von Trier's "Antichrist" and Xavier Dolan's "Heartbeats".
I had few expectations of any commonality between these last two - von Trier's is an out and out horror film and Dolan's follow-up to his debut "I Killed My Mother" is a look at two friends who fall in love with the same guy. I knew "Antichrist" would look gorgeous (it did) and I expected as much from "Heartbeats" as well (though with far more colour), but not much else otherwise...
Then I got this:
Totally different of course - one has falling acorns, the other falling marshmallows.
"Heartbeats" was a frustrating watch. Aside from a terrible English title (the French title "Les Amours Imaginaires" - ie. Imaginary Lovers - is not only far better suited to the film, but far less trite), the film just didn't offer much new to the story of unrequited love. Neither of the two friends was an interesting character and I couldn't see why the common love interest even wanted to be friends with them. Some lovely uses of colour, but it amounts to very little - a major step backwards for Dolan. I hope he invests more in the writing and character development for his next film since he has the visuals pretty much down pat.
Sunday 28 November 2010
Saturday 20 November 2010
The other week I was browsing through my mammoth Google Reader list of subscribed blogs and was catching up on Glenn Kenny's Some Came Running site. He had a post with a very arresting image in it (not the one above), but with no further description of the film. I was intrigued and dove into the comments to finally discover it was from "Quartermass And The Pit" - a movie from Hammer Studios that has been on my list for quite some years.
That single image boosted it way up, so I decided to look for it. No listings in zip.ca (and definitely not on netflix.ca - a good service, but needs to grow its catalog) and nowhere to be found on amazon.ca or com. OK, likely not released in Region 1. No problem...My acquisition of a region free player this past year has opened things up, so across the pond I went to look for it. My very first search on amazon.co.uk yielded several hits, but right at the top was a Hammer films box set listed at what seemed a reasonable 35 pounds. At under $60 with the exchange, it sounded pretty good and I thought maybe there would be a good 5-6 films in it. As I clicked on the link to look at its contents I felt that there was the makings of a pretty decent deal. And indeed there was...
Turns out the set contained 21 discs. Twenty One.
My jaw dropped. I scanned the list of titles and I had seen only 2 of them. Two.
Within mere seconds, that set was ordered. Hell, even if there were nasty shipping charges and duty, it still wouldn't come out to more than $4 a disc. Four.
I now have the set and have watched the Quartermass film which was absolutely as entertaining as I hoped it would be. I expect there will be some clunkers in the box - "Prehistoric Women" and "The Vengeance Of She" don't appear to be masterpieces (but, hey who knows?) - but I'm pretty thrilled with the purchase. There's even a couple of documentaries thrown in and several commentaries sprinkled about.
OK, maybe that's not an outlandishly amazing deal since it's still available and it's not like I had to scour for it. I still got a nice little movie geek thrill out of it though.
Thursday 18 November 2010
Sunday 31 October 2010
What's the Rush? Stay for some horror...
Zombie (1979 - Lucio Fulci) - So this is the pinnacle of Fulci's output, eh? Oh there's plenty to remember here - the eyeball pierced with the sharp piece of wood is indeed as wince inducing as you might expect (even with the obvious dummy stand-in), zombie vs. shark was extremely enjoyable and his raft of slow moving mummified zombies was impressively creepy - but overall it's flat and, most unforgiveable of all, kinda dull. It shouldn't be, but aside from some vague voodoo references in regards to the zombies, there's little story to care about and very little exciting going on. Sure there's a few group zombie scenes and those just risen corpses look pretty cool, but Fulci just doesn't seem to be able to carry any energy through any section of the movie. It just wilts after anything reasonably entertaining or shocking happens. It's likely not as bad as all that, but I was hoping some of Fulci's "genius" would show through here.
Suck (2009 - Rob Stefaniuk) - Yes, that's Alex Lifeson (guitarist from Rush) in my ever-so-clever opening photo and pithy comment. Though the screencap is mostly there due to my fanboy-esque love of the band Rush, it serves to illustrate how the film packs in the cameos from rock stars (Lifeson, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins, Moby, Carole Pope, etc.) as well as incorporating other references into its tale of a struggling club band who start finding success as the band members become vampires. There's lots of saturated colours and vivid images to go along with the goofy performances and occasional clever analogies to real band-on-the-road issues, but it really hangs by a thread sometimes. The band's French Canadian roadie provides most of the laughs while other moments seem greatly forced and simply not that funny. There's a tendency to use a far greater number of techniques and effects than is really necessary (the stop-motion car as they travel between cities, the sped up motion when a vampire is feeling sick, the music videos of the band's songs, etc.) and it dilutes the potential of what you could do with musicians clawing for success and then having it dangled in front of them - with a small price to pay. I eventually found a good rhythm with the movie, but early on I thought it was going to be a painful 90 minutes.
Bride Of Chucky (1998 - Ronny Yu) - After finally getting "Child's Play 3" under my belt at the start of my October marathon, I figured it would be fitting to end it with the two follow-on Chucky films. The third installment was bordering on straight to VHS video quality, but its two sequels dwarf it. The tone of this film works perfectly with everyone on board with the concept of two talking dolls forcing a young teenage couple to drive them to a graveyard to retrieve an amulet that will allow the souls in the dolls to return to flesh and blood hosts. Jennifer Tilly is just wonderful as Chucky's old girlfriend (when he was just a simple multiple murderer) and equally good as the voice of Tiffany the doll (it doesn't really matter much how her soul gets transported into the female doll, just that it is). A few gory kills and finally some consistent banter for Chucky. The movie stands tall on the shoulders of its trio of Child's Play films - it's really on another level (and it's the best looking by far of the bunch). Tremendous fun. And talk about setting up your sequel...
Seed Of Chucky (2004 - Don Mancini) - Possibly the most entertaining movie I've seen all month. Fun, smart, self-referential, a spiraling piece of deconstruction, gory, silly, satirical, surprising and sharp. And fun. Jennifer Tilly is even better here than in Bride - though she once again takes on the voice work of Tiffany the doll, she also plays herself - currently making a movie called "Chucky Goes Psycho" co-starring Chucky and Tiffany. When the dolls' confused child shows up from England (just go with it), he manages to accidentally re-animate the dolls and mayhem of the bloody kind results (this is likely the messiest of the series). There's some debate as to whether the little Brit is actually a boy or a girl (checking anatomically with dolls can sometimes still leave you undecided apparently), so Chucky calls him Glen and Tiffany calls her Glenda. Needless to say, the child doll has some issues and they're slowly getting worse. On top of that, Tiffany is trying a 12-step program to help her stop killing, but Chucky just can't kick the habit. Meanwhile Jennifer is concerned about her stature in Hollywood and wants better roles than stupid doll movies while also struggling to keep to her diet ("she's so fat" Tiffany says at one point). Tilly is fantastic here - not only gorgeous and sexy, but having a blast playing at the plight of female actresses in Hollywood. I was certainly biased going in that I would like it, but didn't think it would be this terrific.
OK, now what do I do in November?
The Prowler (1981 - Joseph Zito) - If you're going to go the Slasher route for your horror movie choice, you can certainly do a lot worse than this early 80s example. The story is set during the first high school grad dance the town has seen since a double killing at the last dance 35 years ago. The murders were tied to a Dear John letter one of the returning vets received, and decades later someone in military fatigues is still pretty peeved about it. It follows a lot of the standard conventions - very vague characters (except the Final Girl who gets a bit more screen time), girls with "loose morals" end up being targets and characters being chased make really stupid decisions (at one point a girl is walking down a flight of stairs and notices the killer a flight above her - instead of continuing down the stairs to leave the house, she runs to a hallway and tries to get into several rooms and eventually makes her way out a back staircase when she was on the front one in the first place!) - but it handles them quite well, takes its time with some of the scenes and provides some good scares. And who doesn't like a good pitchforking?
Madman (1982 - Joe Giannone) - If you're going to go the Slasher route for your horror movie choice, you can certainly do a lot better than this early 80s example. OK, so it's not that different than the previous movie described above (a madman who killed his family years ago still lives in the woods and reappears whenever someone says his name out loud), but the execution simply isn't there. The characters are less than shells, story threads are left dangling and there's never really a sense of anticipation built up as another death approaches. There's one or two inventive scenes and it never really tries your patience that much, but I suppose that may not be the most ringing endorsement ever.
The Crazies (2010 - Breck Eisner) - A great looking, well acted and pretty faithful remake of Romero's original from 1973, this past year's "The Crazies" is a whole lot better than I ever expected it would be. That's not to say it's without problems - though this is more violent and gory than the original, it's far less angry and perhaps isn't all that great at making its points. One can see how dropping out just about any point of view or interaction with the anonymous soldiers in their Hazmat gear hammers home the fear of government intrusion, etc. but it doesn't add a lot to think about. Having said that, the film is really well constructed and with Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell and Joe Anderson doing fine jobs holding down the fort, I was happy to follow it through it's attempt at a realistic scenario. There's a great amount of attention put in each setup, framed shot and usage of natural landscape.
The Eclipse (2009 - Conor McPherson) - Less a horror film than a weighty look at the struggles of a few characters to move on with their lives. In particular there's Michael, recently widowed and finding it hard to get anything in gear. It's actually been about a year since his wife passed away, but he still thinks of his children as being the age they were at that time and won't confront his grief. The literary convention at which he volunteers brings him into contact with several new people - a full of himself author (played by Aidan Quinn) and another writer who actually manages to divert Michael's attention (Iben Hjejle). There's a great deal of imagery and careful framing around religious artifacts, but the core of the film is about people obscuring their own views of what is best for them and their families. Michael is often cast is very dark shadows and struggles daily to put a smile on his face. The few shocks in the film seem a bit out of place, but are very effective given Michael's state of mind. Yet another beautiful looking film, this also has a lovely main storyline even though it may prove a bit slow for some.