Archives for October 2011

Trick or Treat …

This year let’s go for the TREAT, shall we? In previous posts I have mentioned My Tales of Terror, and recommended Cat People. This year I am in a rather jovial mood, so I have decided to take a look at the “lighter” side of cinematic Halloween fare …

I Married a Witch (1942) Fun Veronica Lake vehicle.

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) – previously mentioned in Cool Off with the Classics meme. If the word ZANY was ever used in the right way, it would have to be to describe this film.

Ghostbusters (1983) Who ya gonna call? I remember seeing this back in the day 1.5 in the theater. This was at a time when you did not get kicked out of the movie theater. I remember so clearly. Halfway through the second showing my brothers, my cousin and I snuck into see the end of Star Trek: The Search for Spock.

The Little Shop of Horrors (both versions!) The 1950’s version is worth seeing merely for the glimpse of a young Jack Nicholson!

Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) – another one that has gotten a previous mention on my site.

The Devil and Daniel Webster – part of Double Feature Theatre. Lesson: NEVER make a deal with the devil, especially now that Daniel Webster is around to help argue your case!

The Trouble with Harry – this list would not have been complete without a nod to Alfred Hitchcock! This is one of the lesser-known outings from the Master of Suspense. It is equal parts funny and macabre. As the poster explains, this is quite an unexpected offering from Hitchcock.

 

Then of course there is the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which I will not count because … I have not seen it all the way through in one sitting. But I have seen the Glee episode. Same goes for Shaun of the Dead. 

What films for Halloween do you really enjoy (in the fun way)? Please add your comments below.

 

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Death at a Funeral (2007)

For many of my fellow countrymen, when they hear the title Death at a Funeral, it may conjure up this image:

At least that is what I imagine – working in Times Square I can remember vividly with some shock and horror staring at the massive poster on an afternoon of lunchtime errands. I thought to myself – how could they remake a film that was perfectly adequate and really did not need ‘Americanizing.’ (*Full disclosure – I did not see this version, so I will try to refrain from making any comparisons to the finished products).

A remake, you say? Yes indeed this long awaited pairing of Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence is a remake. I am not sure about the word of mouth promotion of the Neil LaBute 2010 offering but I suspect that there may have been mention of the British comedy of the same name released three years prior.

Well that is the version that I am here to talk about …

The 2007 installment is directed by British-born American director-actor (live and voice)-puppeteer Frank Oz. The ensemble cast features many names probably unknown to American audiences. That is, with the exception of Peter Dinklage (who, strangely enough is in BOTH versions) and the frankly underused Alan Tudyk.

The story takes place at an English country house and it is a solemn occasion; a family is gathering for the funeral of its patriarch. Every character we are introduced to brings with them their own sets of issues which will make this otherwise somber event one that you will not forget anytime soon.

What particularly works for me about this film are the performances of the actors. With every absurd and ludicrous turn the story takes, there is an understated deadpan delivery to the material that made my response even more pronounced.

My favorite review of the film comes courtesy of Ruth Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle, in which she states:

in the tradition of those classics, in black-and-white and starring Peter Sellers or Alec Guinness, in which disasters keep piling up, each one more drolly funny than the last.

That’s high praise for “Death,” but no more than it deserves. The humor manages to be simultaneously sophisticated, supremely silly and very dark.

That said, I know that this film will not work for everyone, especially, as can be extrapolated by Stein’s review, people who are not fans of (or unfamiliar with)  the Ealing Studio comedies of the 1940s-and 50s which often featured Alec Guinness. If you do not like those films (Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts and Coronets, etc.), then you may want to give this one a miss.

Has anyone seen the 2010 version? the 2007 version? Both? Let me know in the comments below.


* be sure to check out Todd Mason’s blog to read more contributions from some great bloggers.

Houdini’s Magic Ticket Blog-a-Thon


First a special thanks to Dan at Top 10 Films for developing this blog-a-thon. The idea is basic, if you had a magic ticket, what films would you decide to inhabit.

For my contribution, I decided to take a straightforward approach; there were a series of guiding questions that Dan put together. I basically compiled my list based on these 8 questions. So without further ado, here are my Magic Ticket would take me to ….

 

What character would you most like to be sat next to on a plane?

I know who I would NOT want to be sat next to – Jackson Rippner played by Cillian Murphy in Red Eye.

As for I would like to be sat next to – one Roger Thornhill as played by Cary Grant (North by Northwest).

 

What character would you most want to enjoy a passionate romance with?

David Shaw as played by Viggo Mortensen (A Perfect Murder); as a movie, it did not do much for me, but the hot artsy type …..

 

If you were a cop who would you want as your partner?

Nicholas Angel as played by Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz), of course!

 

What animated feature would you love to walk around in?

The Snowman- truly magical and I would not be walking – I would be FLYING!

 

What adventure based on earth would you most like to go on?

As a youth, I really wanted to be a Goonie, so I would have to go with that. But being a bit older (and wiser), my choice would have to be one that is life-affirming. As such, I choose the cross country trip of Sullivan’s Travels.

 

What movie gadget would you love to try out (or steal)?

It’s a tie. At first I thought it was a no brainer – Doc Brown’s DeLorean from Back to the Future. Time travel is cool. BUT Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak ain’t too shabby either.

 

What film’s plot would you alter and how would you do it?

Suspicion (1941). I would change the ending to one of the alternate endings that did not make the cut [SPOILER ALERT] I would have made Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant) kill his wife Lina (Joan Fontaine). Furthermore I would have been there at his capture!

 

What one film would you most want to be transported into, simply to be a part of that world?

I think based on recent history, I would have to say the Paris as depicted by Woody Allen in Midnight in Paris. Not only would I be able to inhabit the modern city of Paris, which I love, but I could be transported to the Paris of the Roaring 20’s!

 

As you can see this ticket would take me far and wide!

Tuesday’s Overlooked: the Hughes Brothers

At the time (the 1990’s to be exact), the Hughes’ Brothers were considered a part of the ‘new crop of emerging black filmmakers.’ Nearly 20 years on their collective output has been rather light – their body of work consists of four features and a documentary. I have previously posted a link to a video about the brothers as seen by the critic Mark Kermode. For the record, the one feature I have not seen is the documentary American Pimp (1999) that he mentions in his video.

I chose to feature them today in my overlooked segment because I feel there work is deserving of praise  and worthy of  some attention (0r at least further critical examination), especially considering they cut their filmmaking teeth in rap videos and made their feature film debut at the ripe old age of 21.

Known for raw and patently violent depictions in their films, their movies may not be suited to everyone’s personal tastes. However when you strip away this violence you will find homages to classic cinema; for example,  Menace II Society (1993) owes a great deal, at least in its narrative structure, to another film set in the City of Angels – Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950).

Released within a couple of years of John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood (1991), the comparisons between the two films were inevitable. At the time, I chose not to compare the films and as saw them instead as similar told different ways. In retrospect, I see them as ends of a spectrum. At the time there is no doubting that Boyz was groundbreaking in the tale that it told – life in South Central Los Angeles from the perspective of those who lived there. But for me, time has not been kind to this movie. It seems to play too much like a message film that you would see in an afterschool special. On the other hand, Menace has held up as a grittier, tougher film, with and more grounded sense of the place and time its inhabitants occupy.

Following the critical success of Menace, they made Dead Presidents, which is equally disturbing to watch due to its depiction of violence; but if you can get through it, it does tell a tale that even my Vietnam veteran father was able to relate to on some level. I have previously mentioned my liking From Hell (2001) ; so it does not bear my repeating what I liked about the film here. In fact, it is that post which got me to look more closely at the brothers’ filmography.

Away from the silver screen, there have also been a couple of forays into television, notably the U.S. adaptation of the British crime drama/mystery Touching Evil.

Nearly a decade after From Hell, the brothers were back in 2010 with the release of the apocalyptic The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman. Seen by many not as a total return to form, Eli received mixed reviews but in the end accumulated a worldwide box office totaling $157,107,755 (Source: Box Office Mojo).

According to IMDB, the next project in the pipeline is the neo-noir Broken City. According to the credits, Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta Jones are attached to the project that is scheduled for release in 2014. Also according to the credits, Allen Hughes will solely be directing this film.


* Be sure to check out Todd Mason’s blog for more Overlooked Films from the various contributors.

Quick Monday Morning Fix

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a glorious weekend.

Just thought I would jolt your brain with a little Monday morning ‘pick me up’ – by way of a Forum post I saw on Total Film magazine’s website.

The question asked is Have you ever walked out of a movie? It is a tried and true question to ask any cinema-goer and is sure to elicit a wonderful and varied response.

I will get the ball rolling with my response: I have actually not walked out of a film – ever. Although there was that coulda-shoulda-woulda moment with Armageddon. About 10-15 minutes in I just about gave up the will to live (okay that is a massive exaggeration).  A combination of confusion over Bruce Willis’ accent, overuse of the sweeping shot and a general lack of interest in the characters left me with a desire to call time on this movie. But due in large part to the fact that I was responsible for a group of summer campers, I had to soldier on and sit through the film. I think I amused myself by dozing off a few times.

Enough about me, how about you? This should get the old gray matter going!

New York Film Festival 2011 – It’s a Wrap!

Today marks the last day of the New York Film Festival. Unfortunately this year I was unable to attend. And boy am I gutted over this … there were a quite a number of films that I was looking forward to seeing.

With that in mind, I have decided to gather a few articles, features, etc. from the internets to provide a ‘sight unseen summary’ of sorts of what were (or could have been) a few of my highlights of the goings over the past couple of weeks:

Next year will mark the 50TH ANNIVERSARY of the festival so I will every effort to attend and report os to the goings on ….

Coming to a (TV) Screen Near You (Whitechapel)

For the record, I am an unabashed ‘fan’ of the mystery surrounding the Whitechapel Murders involving the infamous, still unidentified “Jack The Ripper.” Well saying ‘fan’ may be a bit of a stretch. I have read several novels and short stories (including the fantastic Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper, written by Robert Bloch in 1943). In fact, a seminal childhood memories is of my grammar school friend reading this story to me over the phone one Friday afternoon. This was probably the moment which sparked my “Jack the Ripper” interest.

More recently on a trip to London, me and my friends stopped by the Sherlock Holmes Museum and among other forms of kitsch and paraphernalia, there was a sweet collection of bits related to the crimes committed in 1888.

This fascination goes beyond the printed page and jumps on to the silver screen. Among my favorite ‘Ripper-themed’ films are:

  • The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1923) dir by Hitchcock
  • The Lodger (1944) starring George Sanders and Merle Oberon
  • Man in the Attic (1953) starring Jack Palance
  • Time After Time (1979) starring Malcolm McDowell, David Warner and Mary Steenburgen
  • From Hell (2001) based on the Alan Moore graphic novel and directed by the Hughes Brothers. Starring Johnny Depp, Heather Graham and Ian Holm

So you are probably wondering where this all leading. While watching Law and Order: UK  as I do on Wednesday evenings, there was a preview for a ‘new’ series coming to BBC America. It is called Whitechapel  and it is premiering here in the States on October 26th.

The plot is pretty basic – in modern day London, there is a killer on the loose whose M.O. mirrors that of the Victorian-era serial murderer. Here are the opening credits.

So what do you think? Is this something that you are interesting in watching this?

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: The Hitch-Hiker

Chalk up another entry for Todd Mason’s ongoing blogging series, “Tuesday’s Overlooked Films.” This week’s selection is a classic noir from Anglo-American actress and (this time) DIRECTOR Ida Lupino.

As the opening sequences state, this film is based on a true story of two average guys, who pick up a mysterious hitch-hiker on their way to Mexico, where they a relaxing weekend of fishing. What they get unfortunately is something totally unexpected that puts their lives in imminent danger.

There may be some dispute as to whether or not this is the first film noir made by a woman; one thing is for certain: you cannot argue that this is one of the more solid offerings of the genre. As many noirs are, Hitch-Hiker is a low-budget B-film. So if you look at “bang for the buck” this film really delivers.

I also selected this film because for many filmgoers, they may not know who Ida Lupino is. She was born in the United Kingdom to a famous acting dynasty and studied at RADA. The silver screen came calling and she headed to Hollywood, where by my estimation her talent was on full display in films such as On Dangerous Ground, High Sierra and Road House. According to Wikipedia, for turning down a film role, she was placed on suspension which lead her to take a stab at directing.

As a director, the subject matter for his films was somewhat cutting edge for the time. Other films of note are The Bigamist, Hard Fast and Beautiful and Outrage.

Even if you are not interested or able to catch any of her films, I urge you to take a look at Ida Lupino simply as a biography and history of pioneers in cinema’s history.

One final note: in 1998, The Library of Congress of the United States’ National Film Registry seleted this film as cultural, historical or aesthetically significant.

 

Main Cast:

  • Edmond O’Brien as Roy Collins
  • Frank Lovejoy as Gilbert Bowen
  • William Talman as Emmett Myers
  • José Torvay as Captain Alvarado

Sources: Wikipedia, National Film Registry

I Have Finally Seen …

Last night I finally got a chance to see Peter Yates’ Bullitt starring Steve McQueen. Well when I say that I watched it, frankly I watched it until ….. the scene:

 

…. and shortly thereafter left the remainder of the film on as background while I whiled away yet another Friday night.

I have heard about how this car chase is one of  the greatest ever filmed; I knew I had to see it for myself. Even though I am not a vehicle enthusiast, I do enjoy the tension that often accompanies watching a scene in movies where cars are involved.

It should come as no surprise then that this scene lived up to and somewhat exceeded my expectations. What I particularly loved about it was the back and forth – the cat and mouse of the chaser becoming the chased and back again. What really got me going was the close up of one of the baddies buckling his seat belt early on in the action sequence. I thought to myself “Oh yeah this is going to be AWESOME.”

In terms of points of comparison, I will reserve judgment since it has been AGES since I saw The French Connection and its iconic car chase scene.

This did however get me thinking about other films whose scenes of tension involved automobiles (not limited to car chases per se). It should come as not surprise that many of my choices are from Alfred Hitchcock works:

  • Suspicion – the penultimate scene in one of Hitchcock’s less-discussed ‘classics’
  • To Catch a Thief – cars along the Riviera (see number 18)
  • Children of Men  – it comes mid-way in the story; possibly one of the slowest car chases of all time BUT it left me (at least) on the edge of my seat.
  • Vertigo – another film that takes us around the city of San Francisco, albeit a bit slower and about 10 years earlier than Bullitt.

In many of Hitchcock’s works, a lot of credit goes to his frequent collaborator, composer Bernard Herrmann, whose scores built just the right amount of tension and suspense with the audience.

There are a couple of car-related moments of tension that I have experienced while at the movies, but I am drawing a blank as to specific titles. There is one scene in particular that freaked me out when I was a child. The scene involved some sort of zombie or demon on the front of a car being driven by a woman. The lady in question is zig-zagging across a road at night and in a heightened state of panic. The only other part of the scene I remember is pointy gate, whose purpose I do not clearly recall but in hindsight can only assume at some point is used to dispose of the zombie/demon thing.

But I digress, what are some of your picks?

 

Michael Fassbender Talks About “Shame” (NY Times Interview)

Since it is a Friday, I will make this right simple — after watching the video what do you think?