Wednesday 31 August 2011

London FrightFest 2011: Fright Night Review

With the ongoing merry-go-round of 70's/80's horrors remakes, it was only a matter of time before somebody brought their attention to Fright Night (1985). It might not quite be up there with such horror classics as Friday the 13th and Halloween, and have the same iconic imagery, but is still fondly remembered by those who have seen it thanks to its successful balance of scares, wit and laughs.

When the 3D remake was announced last year, it became quickly apparent that it was not going to be some cheap cash-in however. A director plucked from the indie world was on board (Craig Gillespie, who directed Lars and the Real Girl) as well as a great cast you certainly would not expect with that sort of films: Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Toni Collette...

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Fright Fest Round Up- Part 2

So day two of FrightFest. The first screening of the day was Israeli horror Rabies, which is actually the first Israeli horror ever made. The first scene make it look like it is going to be a derivative teen horror, however the story takes plenty of unexpected turns and you quickly realise that the story can be read at many different level without never feeling didactic. While it took me some time to understand where this was going, it became obvious than this was a lot smarter than your average horror, and can also be enjoyed as a subtle metaphor for the ongoing conflict in Israel. The two directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado were present and came across as really likeable and full of enthusiasm for the genre.

Monday 29 August 2011

London's FrightFest Round Up - Part 1

The Woman (2011)

The horror/fantasy film festival Fright Fest has become a real institution in London. It takes place every year over the long bank holiday week end at the end of August, in one of the biggest screen of the city at the Empire Leicester Square and with an adoring audience of fans that is probably the best in the world. Even if many of the films presented will end up as late night DVD fodder, seeing them on a huge screen among such a reactive audience makes it an entirely different and much more enjoyable experience altogether. They scream, laugh and clap at all the right places and I cannot think of a best place to watch a horror film.

This year's line up was the usual mix of f high profile titles (Final Destination 5, Fright Night...) and more unusual picks, with a great worldwide selection that included the first horror films ever made in Switzerland (Sennentuntschi) and Israel (Rabies).

Thursday 25 August 2011

Hellraiser 9! Really?

Horror is the one genre that has suffered from sequelitis more than any other. We have to admit, us, horror fans, that our tolerance level to any kind of trash is very high. And to what depths of mediocrity have we been exposed... Friday the 13th 10, AKA Jason X, in Space! Leprechaun 4, in Da Hood! Leprechaun 5, in Space! Wrong Turn 5! In space? Not quite yet, although I had no idea there was a Wrong Turn 3. Or 4. One franchise is beating them all however, and really is scrapping the bottom of the rusty barrel with dirty nails full of splinters: Hellraiser.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

The Muppets: OK Go!

What is the most anticipated film of the next 12 months? Move over The Avengers! The Dark Knight what? The Amazing Spider-who? One film is blowing them all out of the water, The Muppets, of course! What might have sounded like an unlikely project some time ago, the revival of what was thought to be a moribund franchise, has managed to build up some mighty momentum over the last few months. And while waiting for the release which is months away still, we are being treated to more script details and a hilarious video for a reinterpretation of the Muppets theme song.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Box Office Blood Bath

Last week end three new films were vying for the attention of a late summer audience, yet ended up like jilted bridesmaids at the altar of the US box office, with earlier releases The Help and Rise of the Planet of the Apes keeping the first two spots. With week end results struggling to reach double digits above the million dollar mark, these were terrible results. Add the 3D premium attracted by all three films which should have boosted the revenues, and have a look at the actual attendance figures, and these results are abysmal. Just what went wrong?

Saturday 20 August 2011

Ghost Rider 2: Drive Angrier?

Cage Rage. We all love Cage Rage. I am obviously referring to Nicolas Cage's unique acting style and especially the times when he completely looses it and goes off on one. He is the acting equivalent of a car missing a turn and dropping into a ravine in freefall. With other actors you would call it chewing the scenery, but with him it is so heartfelt that it actually works. His career might have nosedived, he might have had to sell his castle in Germany and be churning out clunkers after clunkers, but there is nobody quite like him and I love him for it. Hell, he is one of the few actors I pay to watch nearly every film, and yes that includes Season of the Witch.

But I digress. Ghost Rider was one of the only few of recent films of his that could be called a hit despite the critical panning, so a sequel was inevitable. The first one was a rather entertaining guilty pleasure, but probably suffered from being a bit too serious, and the CGI Ghost Rider was not just a little bit dodgy.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Conan the Barbarian review

German director Marcus Nispel, mostly known for music videos, has made a speciality of remaking 80's classics. Within the wave of horror remakes of the last decade, his underrated Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake was probably the best of the crop. However he then squandered any expectactions we might have had of him, with the tedious Friday the 13th remake and the nonsensical viking actioner Pathfinders.

He has now tackled yet another iconic 80's classic, Conan the Barbarian. I am a huge fan of 80's heroic fantasy so I was hoping this would start a new wave of sword and sorcery films. There was actually talks of a Red Sonja remake recently, with Rose McGowan but the project got canned. So are our nerdish dreams fulfilled?

Tuesday 16 August 2011

‘Viola de Mare’ – Sea Purple – Cross Dressing in 19th Century Sicily...

Imagine being so in love that you are willing to change sex and give up your life as a woman or man. I am pretty sure I would not do it, but this is what happens in ‘Sea Purple’, the stunning film from Italian director Donatella Maiorca. Based on the novel ‘Minchia di Re’by Giacomo Pilati’, the title refers to small saltwater fish, capable of changing gender. The novel is based on a true story, and as hard to believe as it is at times, you have to remember that in those days what the Catholic Church said, the people believed.

Monday 15 August 2011

Cowboys & Aliens: Dull Encounters of the Third Kind

Plot: The Old West. A stranger wakes up with no memories and a mysterious device attached to his wrist. After a tussle with the locals of a mining town, he finds himself forced to ally with them when aliens suddenly appear in the sky and launch an attack, abducting many of its residents in the process.

A dark shadow loomed over this project. The last time a studio tried to mix western with fantasy, we ended up with the late 90's uberfiasco Wild, Wild, West. This adaptation of the old 60's popular TV serie was a commercial and critical flop, and became a case study of how not to make a blockbuster. The characters were unlikeable, the story was a mess and some un-PC jokes were borderline offensive, and not in a funny way. Above all, it was incredibly tedious.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Impressions on a BigScreen: UK's ComicCon

During this week end, the first edition of Empire BigScreen, a three days film event which has been billed as Britain's answer to San Diego ComicCon (the mother of all film conventions), it taking place in London in the UK. Previews, talks, showcases of upcoming films, classics, appearances from various actors and directors, the schedule is packed. There had actually already been a similar event in the past, but in its previous incarnation, it was set in the much, much smaller NFT and seats would sell out within nanoseconds. This new revamped event allowed for much more bigger experience, even if, and let's be charitable, the organisation left a lot to be desired to say the least. Today was so full on that it would be impossible to cover it all, so I will just mention the highlights.

Friday 12 August 2011

Stephen King's Revival? The Stand

Hot on the heels of the Pet Sematary remake comes the news that The Stand is being remade by no less than the magic Harry Potter duo: David Yates (directing) and Steve Kloves (adapting). Is it the beginning of an unlikely Stephen King revival, a mere few weeks after the ambitious (too ambitious?) Dark Tower's adaptation by Ron Howard was canned?

Wednesday 10 August 2011

From "Cobra" To "Pet Sematary"

A few months ago I was writing about French director Alexandra Aja's new project, an adaptation of Japanese 80's anime, Cobra, about a cocky and womanising space pirate called Cobra. He went to Cannes to drum up some interest however this project has been put on hold, due to lack of interest I can only guess. Instead, he is in talk to direct the Pet Sematary remake. Yes, he is making another remake yet again.

Monday 8 August 2011

Super 8: A Surprise Disappointment

Plot: 1979, Smalltown USA. A group of children is making an amateur zombie movie at night when they witness a catastrophic train crash. Soon after, pets, then people disappear and somebody, or something, seems to be on the loose, with the military doing everything to keep it all hidden.

While still a blockbuster aiming for a wide audience, there is one particular demographic that this film is targeting: anybody in their 30's who grew up watching all the movies that Steven Spielberg directed, produced or even just influenced in the late 70's/early 80's: E.T, Encounters of the third kind, Jaws, Explorers, Gremlins... and even Stand by Me. There was a certain magic to these films, the fantasy, the insight into complicated but ultimately loving family relationships, the friendships, an unseen terror, the childhood naivety and rites of passage... that make people my age say: "They don't make them like this anymore!"

Saturday 6 August 2011

Superman, Man of Steel! Catwoman, Woman of, erm, Fur!

It is a sad state of affair when pictures of films which are not due out for one year, or two years even, are being discussed. So let's follow this trend enthusiastically, since pictures of British thesp Henry Cavill as the man with the cape, and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman have now been released.

First off, Superman, the Man Of Steel. Produced and written by Christopher Nolan, directed by Zak Snyder, the Superman reboot is not out until Summer 2013, after its original Christmas 2012 release date was moved. Eyebrows were raised a few months ago when a British actor got offered the part of the quintessential American superhero (saying that, nobody said a thing when Canadian Chris Evans became Captain America!).

Thursday 4 August 2011

‘A Marine Story’ – Desert Workouts & Tequila Marine Style

‘A Marine Story’ is a hard-hitting film about Alex Everett, played by Dreya Weber, a woman who has followed in her father’s footsteps, and dedicated her life to the marines. She lives and breathes the military life and has spent many years in Iraq. Her world is turned upside down though, when she is investigated for open homosexual conduct, something strictly off limits in the rigid US military. Despite her denial of anything improper and the presence of a ‘husband’ her superior’s have photographic proof and she is discharged.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Twixt Trailer: Twin Peaks meets Stephen King meets French Surrealism

You have got to love the way Francis Ford Coppola's career has gone lately. Most had given up on him around the mid 90's, when he made such film as Jack (with Robin Williams, heaven forbid!) and The Rainmaker (solid but boring courtroom drama), up until a weird stint directing some scenes of forgotten sci-fi Supernova. Yet, like a filmic phoenix reborn from his celluloid ashes, after a long break, he has taken a new path, one of low budget, experimental films, far from big studioss interference. And it is doing wonders for his creativity.

While Youth without Youth was interesting if a little too arty and pretentious, its follow up, Tetro, was a small masterpiece, while still playing the arty card, a visual treat that was incredibly evocative and powerful. And now the Godfather director has tackled a new territory, the murder mystery with his latest film Twixt, starring Val Kilmer. The first trailer that has just been released has got to be one of the strangest I have seen in a long time, a world away from the conventions of modern trailers.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

The Avengers: Should We Get Excited? (I'd say, Yes)

As I was watching Captain America on the week-end, which I loved by the way, I knew all the audience with us was in the know. As the credits rolled, about two people left, the rest stayed on. I had heard conflicting news about the now usual Marvel post credit scene. And all the previous ones had been rubbish (the Thor teaser after Iron Man 2 was particularly poor) but I had hope. Finally, after what felt like twenty minutes of credits, it happened...

I nearly shrieked with excitement like a teenage girl watching the Breaking Dawn teaser (actually, I am kind of excited about that too...) as I saw split seconds The Avengers, featuring Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye... (but no Hulk so far) briefly interacting with each other! In case you did not know, The Avengers is the name of the group of aforementioned superheroes from the Marvel comics universe, who team up together to fight foes that no superheroes can withstand alone. And they are all going to be in one film together, in a summer that will see them battle it up against Batman and Spiderman for superhero supremacy. The world might end in 2012, but after a summer with all these films, we can all die content!