Archive for October, 2008

31
Oct
08

November Movie Release Schedule

 

 

 

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” – Formerly “The Crate Escape,” those crazy New York Zoo animals try leaving the island, only to end up in Africa. They may spend some time kissing the rains… Opens November 7, 2008.

 

“Role Models” – Seann William Scott and Paul Rudd are energy-drink reps who get in trouble and are sentenced to community service via “Big Brothers.” Opens November 7th, 2008

 

“Soul Men” – Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson are the surviving members of a 70’s soul group called The Real Deal. They take a road trip to the Apollo Theatre in honor of their late frontman (played by Isaac Hayes). Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes were working on this film before their passing. Opens November 7, 2008

 

“Slumdog Millionaire” – An 18-year-old kid from the slums of India goes on their version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” in order to find the girl of his dreams. Opens November 12, 2008

 

“Quantum of Solace” – Bond is back! Opens November 14, 2008

 

“Bolt” – The title character is a dog for a hit TV show that winds up –mistakenly- to New York City, where his adventure back to Hollywood begins. CG-feature with the voices of John Travolta and Susie Essman. Opens November 21, 2008

 

“Twilight” – A girl is sent to live with her father in the state of Washington. While there, she falls in love with a kid named Edward Cullen. Edward is a vampire. Opens November 21. 2008

 

“Australia” – Word War II period piece with Nicole Kidman inheriting a ranch the size of Maryland and Hugh Jackman as the guy she reluctantly gets to help her drive 2,000 head of cattle across the country. Hugh’s not the only one who would do that for her… Opens November 26, 2008

 

“Four Christmases” – Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon are an unhappily married couple who must go to four separate family Christmases. Let me know how that one ends… Opens November 26, 2008

 

“Milk” – Gus van Sant biopic on Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man voted into a public office. Opens November 26, 2008

 

“Transporter 3” – Jason Statham is back as the lead character. Opens November 26, 2008

 

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29
Oct
08

Off the Trick or Treatin’ Path: Chas’ Halloween Movie Picks

Officially endorsed and sanctioned by Chas, here are my movie suggestions for Halloween:

 

“28 days later” (2002) – A bike courier (Cillian Murphy) wakes up 28 days after being side-swiped. Walking around, he finds that he’s one of the few not infected by the Rage, a virus that turns people into wild, thrashing, meat-craving zombies.

 

 

 

“An American Werewolf in London” (1981) – John Landis wrote and directed this tale of two American guys hiking through England; one winds up dead, the other a werewolf. Known for its transformation scene, the movie won Rick Baker an Oscar for makeup. After watching, remember to stay clear of the moors.

 

 

“Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’” (1992) – Francis Ford Coppola gave us his rendition of Bram Stoker’s story, with Gary Oldman playing the title character. Also stars Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, and Anthony Hopkins. Worth the rental, if not owning.

 

 

 

“Event Horizon” (1997) – The Event Horizon was a spaceship built to bend time and space in order to travel. It disappeared 7 years ago, and has mysteriously reappeared. A salvage crew, and the ship’s designer, go to find out what happened. When they find out what really happened, they do everything they can in order to escape.

 

 

“The Fog” (1980) – A John Carpenter movie, this deals with Antonio Bay and its celebration of its founding. Problem is, a crew that shipwrecked in the bay 200 years earlier has returned to exact their revenge for the gold taken from their ship to build the town. It’s the first movie in which Janet Leigh and her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, appeared together in.

 

 

“In the Mouth of Madness” (1995) – Another John Carpenter movie with Sam Neill as an insurance fraud investigator hired to find reclusive horror writer Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow) Creepy, based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. “Do you read Sutter Cane?”

 

 

 

 

“Session 9” (2001) – Brad Anderson directed movie about a hazardous materials crew cleaning out the abandoned Danvers State Mental Hospital. And then it all goes wrong. Stars David Caruso, Josh Lucas, and Peter Mullan. “Hello Gordon…”

 

 

 

And just for fun…

 

“Army of Darkness” (1992) – The third of the “Evil Dead” movies, Ash (Bruce Campbell) is sent back to the Medieval Ages. When he accidentally releases the forces of evil, it’s up to him and his chainsaw to rectify everything before being sent back to the present. “Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas.”

 

 

“Shaun of the Dead” (2004) – Simon Pegg stars as Shaun, and Nick Frost is his best friend Ed. Together, they must fight to stay alive against a world turned to –literal- zombies. Some of the best parodying/spoofing of the zombie genre.

 

 

 

“Student Bodies” (1981) – Early Eighties spoof of the horror/slasher genre. “The Breather” goes around creatively killing high school kids having sex. Trivia note: the voice of the “Breather” was done by Richard Belzer.

29
Oct
08

Where’d HE come from? The Gill Man

You see her swimming in the water by the boat. You wanna take her home, back to your cave. What will she think of a guy with webbed feet and hands, as well as gills? And her boyfriend would probably protest, getting a bunch of guys with harpoons to hunt you down. But how did you get here?

 

Following such horror authors as Poe, Bierce, and Maupassant, there lived one Howard Phillips “H.P.” Lovecraft (1890-1937). Lovecraft is known for creating the Cthulhu mythos, as well as stories involving guilt, crimes committed by forefathers, forbidden knowledge, etc. His work has been brought to the screen with such films as “Re-Animator,” and influenced such writers as Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. To cut to the chase, it’s theorized that Gill-man, a.k.a. “The Creature,” was based off of Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself, here. The Lovecraft story was seemingly based on “The Harbor-Master,” by Robert W. Chambers, a story about the last race of amphibious humans and “Fishhead” by Irvin S. Cobb, a story about a fish-man.

 

Published in 1936, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” deals with a man on a secret mission to Innsmouth. He says that he’s studying the architecture and general nature of the place, but there’s more to what he’s doing. When he comes across town local Zadok Allen, he’s told of Obed Marsh, a sea captain who brought the fish-frog men to Innsmouth so they can mate. The offspring can supposedly live forever. The narrator tries getting out of the town only to have the bus he’s waiting on experience engine trouble. While trying to stay an extra night he’s accosted by the local fish-frog men and escapes to the next town. In time he finds out that he’s a descendent of Obed Marsh and that he, too, will become one of the fish-frog men.

 

The “Creature,” or “Gill Man,” came to cinematic consciousness in the 1954 film, “The Creature From the Black Lagoon.” Directed by Jack Arnold and originally filmed in 3-D, the film centered on a group of scientists traversing the Amazon River (funny how it looks like Jacksonville, Florida) for fossils when they run across an amphibious creature. They capture him; he escapes but returns and falls in love with Kay, the fiancée of one of the scientists. Kidnapping her the hunt is on for him.

 

“The Creature From the Black Lagoon,” inspired two sequels, “Revenge of the Creature” (1955) and “The Creature Walks Among Us” (1956). H has also been referenced in the TV show “The Munsters,” as well as a pinball game and other merchandise. Currently, the film is being remade by Breck Eisner.

28
Oct
08

Movie Review: City of Ember

 

 

A post-apocalyptic kids movie.

 

Starring Harry Treadaway, Saoirse Ronan, Bill Murray, Toby Jones, Tim Robbins and Martin Landau. Directed by Gil Kenan. Based on the book “City of Ember,” by Jeanne Duprau.

 

The story: in a world on the throes of Armageddon, a group of scientists create a city underground (City of Ember) that will last 200 years. The Mayor of the City is instructed to keep a box that counts down the 200 years and gives explicit instructions on how to evacuate Ember and return to the (hopefully) restored Earth above. Problems ensue when the 7th Mayor of Ember has a heart attack and the box is hidden away.

 

Doon (Treadaway) and Lina (Ronan) are school friends. When the power outages become longer and more frequent, Doon and Lina decide to do something about it while others blindly wait for the Builders to return and fix everything. Doon searches through the Pipeworks and finds secret doors and passages. Lina meets with Mayor Cole (Murray) and fins how corrupt he really is. When Doon finds that his father, Loris, and others tried to escape Ember and Lina finds the instructions to leave, they become suspected of treason. They’re only hope is to find the way out of Ember.

 

“City of Ember” could have easily been darker and grittier, but it wasn’t. I would say that’s akin to “The Black Cauldron,” or more serious childrens’ fare. My only real complaint about the movie is that I felt it took a while to get to the heart of the mystery, but that’s pittance compared to what the movie delivered. The overall movie was entertaining, engrossing, fun, and it held my attention the entire way.

 

Most impressive to me had to be the set designs. Ember looked like it had been designed somewhere between the 1940’s and 1950’s. And with the fact that the city would be limited in resources, especially after 200 years, it only seemed right that the characters would be wearing hand-me-down-to-the-nth-generation clothing. The city existed in the basement of the Earth, and thus so had small inventions scrapped together from bits and pieces of other objects. The entire civilization was well thought-out.

 

There’s no doubt that Bill Murray ate-up his role as the corrupt “everything is just fine” Mayor Cole. Tim Robbins stood in as Doon’s father, and did pretty well. Most surprising was Martin Landau as Sul, the narcoleptic engineer at the Pipe Works. He provides comic relief and effectively “saves the day.”

 

Do I recommend this movie? Sure. There’s no language and relatively no violence. The story is engaging enough to keep the attention of kids and adults. As for what ages should see it, I suggest 6 and up.

 

My grade: B+

27
Oct
08

Movie Review: Choke

 

 

A feel-good sex addict movie.

 

Starring Sam Rockwell, Brad William Henke, Anjelica Huston, Kelly MacDonald, and Clark Gregg. Written for the screen and directed by Clark Gregg. Based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk.

 

Funny. Sad. Poignant. It wins!

 

Based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk (esteemed author of “Fight Club”), Sam Rockwell plays sex addict and “historical interpreter” Victor Mancini. Victor has a fellow sex addict and historical interpreter roommate Denny (Henke), a big guy who’s into masturbation and finds a girlfriend; stripper Cherry Daiquiri (Gillian Jacobs). His mother Ida (Huston) is at a nursing home and whenever Victor arrives, she believes that he’s one of her many lawyers. To pay for her stay, Victor goes to restaurants and chokes on food, thus eliciting sympathy and monetary compensation. Life is sad and lonely for Victor.

 

It all changes when he meets his mother’s new doctor, Paige Marshall (MacDonald). She tells him there’s an experimental way to save his mother from dementia, and to do it they must do it. This causes problems with Victor because he’s about sex, not relationships. Speaking of relationships, Victor is trying to find out from his mom who his father really is and the secrets are in a diary she wrote in Italian. With Denny moving out, falling in love with Paige, and the possibility that he may be a direct descendant of Christ, it all becomes too much.

 

For those wanting to compare this with, “Fight Club,” the only traits this movie shares with it is that the character is sad, depressed, lonely, and basically living on the bottom rung. And this person also has relationship issues. That’s about it. Dotted through this film are pieces to explain to us how Victor came to be. His mother went from place-to-place, Victor was often put in foster care, and there is a more than a hint that Victor was taken by Ida from another couple.

 

This is one of the most honest movies in regards to portraying relationships and sexuality. As I’ve stated earlier: funny, brutal, messed-up, but honest.

 

Kudos to Clark Gregg who not only wrote and directed this (based on the novel), but had a part as Lord High Charlie. Funny.

 

My grade: B

24
Oct
08

Where’d HE come from? Freddy Krueger

You wear gloves with blades in them. A hat covers your head, giving shade to your mottled, burned skin and sinister grin. You can enter a person’s dreams, twisting and turning them as you wish and even causing death. But, how did you get here?

 

 

 

Let’s take this one back to the Greeks: everyone has heard of Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams. What some do not know is that he had two brothers: Phobetor, who creates “fearsome” dreams, and Phantasos, who creates unreal dreams. This triumvirate ruled the world of dreams.

 

 

 

With all the stories based on “bad dreams” and Morpheus taking the heat of it all it was only a matter of time before a being to control them would rise from Hollywood. In 1984, Wes Craven delivered “A Nightmare on Elm Street” to the American cinematic doorstep. Filmed for $1.8 million (and earning $25 million), “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” involved a group of teenagers who collectively are experiencing bad dreams. When cuts and bruises that happen in dreams transfer over to reality, the teen Nancy Thompson finds out that the “demon” in her dreams with the knife-finger gloves and the hat is Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a child murderer who had been killed a decade earlier. Devising a trap for Freddy the teens make a go of it, but Freddy wins in the end.

 

Being written and directed by Wes Craven, he claims that the character was based on a homeless man who stared at him from the street as he looked through a window in his house (the hat), and a bully at his school (the name of the character). As for Freddy wearing a bright red and forest-green striped shirt, he had read an article in Omni magazine stating that the worst combination of colors would be those two, which is why he used them. And as for the kids dying from dreaming in their sleep, that was based on an article in the L.A. Times about such an event occurring.

 

“A Nightmare on Elm Street,” went on to have 4 sequels, and Freddy himself was featured in three more films after that. Add to that a short lived TV series called, “Freddy’s Nightmares.” Oh yeah, and novels and video games, too.

23
Oct
08

Where’d HE come from? The Invisible Man

You’ve got the gloves, the goggles, the scarf, the hat, and the long jacket. You’d love to “do the town” but there’s one problem: people can see right through you. Literally. Holing up in some motel, you plot your next course of action. Rob a bank? Get vengeance on those who avenged you? But how did you get here?

 

Stories of invisibility have been around almost as long as vampires and werewolves. In the beginning, only gods, angels, demons, and the like were able to become invisible, or actually be invisible. In Plato’s “The Republic,” a peasant finds a ring that provides invisibility, which he uses to get into the palace and seduce the Queen, plotting to kill the King. The Greek hero Perseus used a cloak of invisibility to kill Medusa. From this point, invisibility was kept primarily to objects such as rings, cloaks, and hats.

 

Skip way-forward to 1859, when author, playwright, and critic Fitz James O’Brien released the short story, “What Was It? A Mystery.” Although more of a playwright than a novelist (or short story writer), this piece of fiction was the first to deal with the subject of an “invisible monster.” About 22 years later then techno-writer Edward Page Mitchell released, “The Crystal Man,” an 1881 novel that is credited for the first use of scientific means to make a man invisible. These two literary sources led to “The Damned Thing,” by Ambrose Bierce (1894), where an invisible monster is loose in the Old West, and “The Horla” by Guy de Maupassant (1897), where an invisible being slowly drives the main character insane.

The same year H.G. Wells released, “The Invisible Man.” Not to be confused with “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, this story was about Griffin, a scientist kicked out of a university who pilfered money from his father and had been conducting experiments on invisibility until an altercation forces him to test it on himself. In being invisible, he robs banks in order to have money to continue finding a “cure” for invisibility. A pursuit by the police occurs and Griffin is killed. As he dies, his body slowly returns to being visible.

 

Horror author H.P. Lovecraft took the invisibility + monster idea and used it to craft his tale, “The Dunwich Horror” (1929). Hollywood, or rather Universal Studios, stepped in 4 years later and released, “The Invisible Man.” Directed by James Whale, “The Invisible Man” starred Claude Rains as Jack Griffin, a scientist who creates a new drug called “Monocane.” This drug allows him to be invisible, but slowly drives him insane. Trying to force his one-time partner Kemp (William Harrigan) to be a partner again and secretly seeing Flora (Gloria Stuart), things go awry. He’s captured and dies in a hospital, becoming visible again after death.

 

You’ve got the gloves, the goggles, the scarf, the hat, and the long jacket. You’d love to “do the town” but there’s one problem: people can see right through you. Literally. Holing up in some motel, you plot your next course of action. Rob a bank? Get vengeance on those who avenged you? But how did you get here?

 

Stories of invisibility have been around almost as long as vampires and werewolves. In the beginning, only gods, angels, demons, and the like were able to become invisible, or actually be invisible. In Plato’s “The Republic,” a peasant finds a ring that provides invisibility, which he uses to get into the palace and seduce the Queen, plotting to kill the King. The Greek hero Perseus used a cloak of invisibility to kill Medusa. From this point, invisibility was kept primarily to objects such as rings, cloaks, and hats.

 

Skip way-forward to 1859, when author, playwright, and critic Fitz James O’Brien released the short story, “What Was It? A Mystery.” Although more of a playwright than a novelist (or short story writer), this piece of fiction was the first to deal with the subject of an “invisible monster.” About 22 years later then techno-writer Edward Page Mitchell released, “The Crystal Man,” an 1881 novel that is credited for the first use of scientific means to make a man invisible. These two literary sources led to “The Damned Thing,” by Ambrose Bierce (1894), where an invisible monster is loose in the Old West, and “The Horla” by Guy de Maupassant (1897), where an invisible being slowly drives the main character insane.

The same year H.G. Wells released, “The Invisible Man.” Not to be confused with “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, this story was about Griffin, a scientist kicked out of a university who pilfered money from his father and had been conducting experiments on invisibility until an altercation forces him to test it on himself. In being invisible, he robs banks in order to have money to continue finding a “cure” for invisibility. A pursuit by the police occurs and Griffin is killed. As he dies, his body slowly returns to being visible.

 

Horror author H.P. Lovecraft took the invisibility + monster idea and used it to craft his tale, “The Dunwich Horror” (1929). Hollywood, or rather Universal Studios, stepped in 4 years later and released, “The Invisible Man.” Directed by James Whale, “The Invisible Man” starred Claude Rains as Jack Griffin, a scientist who creates a new drug called “Monocane.” This drug allows him to be invisible, but slowly drives him insane. Trying to force his one-time partner Kemp (William Harrigan) to be a partner again and secretly seeing Flora (Gloria Stuart), things go awry. He’s captured and dies in a hospital, becoming visible again after death.

 

The 1933 movie was followed by sequels: “The Invisible Man Returns” (1940), “The Invisible Woman” (1940), “Invisible Agent” (1942), and “The Invisible Man’s Revenge” (1944). TV series were created; “The Invisible Man” in 1958, “The Invisible Man” in 1975, “Gemini Man” in 1976. etc. “Hollow Man,” a film starring Kevin Bacon as the main character, was released in 2000 (it also has a straight-to-DVD sequel). And rock band Queen even had a song called, “The Invisible Man,” on their album, “Innuendo.”