Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Making Movies

I am a filmmaker.
I'm also a weirdo. I love love love good film. My friends find it strange that I watch The Thing or Citizen Kane ad infinitum ...but it is different than that ...each viewing is a new lesson.
I'm learning.
Not a lot under my belt yet but it's going to be a brilliant year,
with our adaptation of Stephen King's short story "Mrs.Todd's Shortcut" then ...who can really say? I want to make a full form horror film next. That's my burning desire ...we'll see.
We have features and series ready to go ...smart concepts ...good dialogue..
If you'd like to read our script or involve yourself in the process
please comment below ...we're an organic company with good
leadership on a bullet train into the future( ..dragging the 70's
and 80's with us) and a bright one it is. Oh yeah.
If you love movies and you'd like to make them, then the question is..."Why not?"

cheers, A.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Painted Posters



More than just about anything film-related I miss the painted poster.

This(above) is one of my favorites ...it leaves you with questions ...with mystery ...and it's a helluva lot nicer to look at than a couple o' photoshopped heads.

I think they(posters) created a window, if you will, between the moviegoer and the film itself where only seeing the film could unlock the visual questions put forth - now you see a photo of the actor in the film and a trailer that tells you 90% of the story - no wonder people download movies - we're killing the magic ...or rather the artistry-free number-crunching jerk-offs are.

Thank the stars for Drew Struzan and a few smart cats out there over the age of 20 who think paintings might be nicer than shitty photographs. Anybody with half-decent computer skills could do 90% of the posters out there these days. Laaaaame.

All day I've been trying to figure out what it is specifically...
GOT IT! A film is a singular vision!  ...obviously takes many people to make one, but it is a single work of art interpreting the printed word visually. A painted poster is a small-scale version of the same process - one single artistic representation of many ideas coming together. Photoshop? ..really?!?
The artist asks "How can I paint the details/story/imagery for others ...so they can feel what I feel ...so that they can want more?" It's supposed to be artwork not packaging.

I just went and had a look for an artist I've been curious about for a while.
WHO painted the "Nightmare on Elm Street" posters? Turns out his name is Mathew Joseph Peak, and I found a great piece of writing on this unsung hero of horror film history.  I love those paintings but, having quickly discovered that this author had summed up my thoughts on the matter better than I could, I decided to contact him/her - see if I might point people over to it, only to discover it's written by a friend of mine, here in Halifax. Funny world this internet..
Check out Dave's love of the painted poster:


http://houseofhaunts.blogspot.com/2011/08/nightmare-on-elm-street-artwork-of.html

Film is about artistry.
Mine'll be painted.

Thank-you to all you unknown cats out there who've painted posters I've loved...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Trading Places

I love John Landis' Trading Places. Makes a good #3 on the Christmas list...
..and the 2nd Landis film to be discussed here in 'ol bloggy...

So many things make this movie funny, charming and re-watchable. Aykroyd and Murphy are great together and at their respective "bests" ...48 Hours ..Ghostbusters... effortless comedic chemistry. Denholm Elliot is in more of my favorite films than I would've guessed but Don Ameche and Frank Bellamy steal the elderly show ...so evil...
"I think your brother's having a heart attack.."
"Fuck him."
ha ha haaaaa....

Best sequence - Winthorpe's descent into Hell is comedy gold ...the fish ...the gun ...so so funny.

And then there's Jamie Lee Curtis ...my oh my...
The Scream Queen - what hasn't been said about Jamie Lee ...manoman ...The Fog ...Halloween ...Terror Train ...take your pick, but in Trading Places she goes topless - this seemed cool last night when I watched it again but years back a teenage version of myself thanked God specifically for creating Jamie Lee Curtis - my favorite female moviestar.
Probably shouldn't admit this but I broke the vhs version over the "climb in bed" scene...

Trading Places feels like a modern & funny Grimm fairy tale - the classical music opening - the rich New York of the holidays - a few creative choices make the movie feel a bit bigger ...more expensive perhaps, creating an immensely re-watchable story. I like film New York in the 70's/80's ...super cool - so much style.

This film has accompanied some of my best Christmas's ...including this one.
I bet you a dollar you'll love it again too...

Friday, December 17, 2010

TRON Legacy ...the debate begins.


I really liked it. I'm going to sit on it for a day or so ...maybe see it again, then I'll defend my position...
It is a strange film. Just weird enough to be interesting ...for me at least...

The Daft Punk score is a big element ..."out of time" is the phrase I'd use ...it feels alternately 70's/80's sound then very 2010... bit of Blade Runner in there too... very impressive. Cool to see the band in the movie - fitting, and a nice compliment to Michael Sheen's Ziggy Stardust-esque character.

Fact is - I can't wait to watch it again...

March 14/11
"FLYNN LIVES" - Go watch it!! - it boasts the return of a Tron character you love - great addition to Tron Legacy, which I'm stoked to see in Blu-ray on a nice TV...
And the trailer for Tron Uprising - just as cool - nice to hear that voice again...


To be continued...

Gremlins

#2 on the new "Christmas list" is Joe Dante's Gremlins.






Attended a new rep-cinema(Carbon Arc) last night and got to see Gremlins for the first time ever. Yeah, that's right ...wasn't super-interested when it came out maybe 'cause it seemed drawing younger people than myself, or perhaps chasing girls was more important ...anyway, I finally sat down and payed attention - good movie.
There was a certain ...I dunno ...feeling/vibe to a few of those 80's flics Spielberg was attached to and this plops right down in the middle of 'em. Turns out it's was shot on the same street sets as the Back to the Future films - but more than that ..it "feels" like the same universe ...one where Goonies, Innerspace and ET seamlessly fit. Even Poltergeist feels like a more adult tale that's set in the same neighborhood fer sure... Awesome.

I love a movie that bookends itself. The opening with Hoyt Axton's inventor father aquiring Gizmo ...charming and visually rich intro ...nice. The film is filled with character actors the likes of Dick Miller and Polly Holliday(FLO!!!) and a young Corey Feldman is pretty damn good gotta say. Frances Lee McCain rocks as Billy's mom - dispatching gremlins like Sigourney Weaver or something ...cool writing. Zach Galligan is perfect as that naive teen with a heart of gold and if you grew up in my era you looooove Pheobe Cates - Judge Reinholt spoke for us all in Fast Times at Ridgemont High - yowsa. The prolific Keye Luke returns in the end to wrap up the story in a classic fashion not unlike Spielberg's Amazing Stories TV show(and watch for the movie marquee that has two of Spielberg's biggie's original titles - just a nice touch).

Gizmo is cute. This fact, along with the Ewoks, allowed my nerd brain to shy away from a lot of the genre fare of the 80's but watching it now I smile - it's a really good puppet and again - really fun writing. I love the design of the whole thing ...the 80's greens & reds ...the Alien-esque pods ...the gremlins themselves ...and no CG - just talented people working hard to tell a story well. Great soundtrack too...
The movie is obviously escapist but it's more like a little fantasy Dante and Spielberg are tucking you in with on Christmas eve...

Tonight I see TRON Legacy ...ahhh, the 80's. Take yer shots but what a fun decade. What a fun movie. Ho ho ho...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Miracle on 3rd or 4th street... "FAITH, FRAUD, and MINIMUM WAGE"

This goes to the top of my new Christmas list as it did what a really good Christmas present is supposed to do - pleasantly surprise.
Canadian film is really good for that. I despise the somewhat tragic Canadian Film Industry's built-in limitations but occasionally(and more often than you'd guess) a movie comes along with my absolute favourite film element - investment. We've all seen those films where the cast and crew seem to be enjoying themselves more than we are - I'd use Iron Man 2 and The Big Bounce as good examples, but before that line is crossed - that's the realm I like ...where I feel real investment ...and that's what's up on the screen with Faith, Fraud, and Minimum Wage - a whole bunch of faith...
I had a great discussion with my ol' buddy, Clyffy some years back on the fact that a good movie is ...well, a miracle - I honestly believe it is.
How do a bunch of ego's and ideas and hard work come together to make something meaningful and memorable? Tax credits...rewrites...politics...financial woes ...the weather ...nothing short of a miracle I'd say. That's a beauty of film that really only those who make it understand ...extraordinarily difficult road ...extraordinary destination.
Okay - the performances... Callum Keith Rennie is one of the actors to watch these days - he's just plain great. I loved hating him in Battlestar(a series I don't love hating) but Californication ...whew, didn't think Duchovny could be eclipsed on his own show...
and he's really good here(Rennie) as a dad who reminds me of a few painfully real souls I've know. I like his sensitive smashed-up father a lot ...very good in those moments when emotions can switch up fast ...and obsessing over the dead to the living - I've seen my share ...catharsis on the screen for this kid.
Martha MacIsaac is the film, and if she weren't fantastic it just wouldn't work - but she is. Andy Bush is great, as is Don Allison in the role of "Nately's" villainous Stephen King-esque "Uncle Bob" ...who I hated instantly. Brian Heighton's cameo is a highlight and everything Matt Amyotte says is funny ...you should actually listen to Dave Marsh's songs ...funny funny. In fact, the film boasts a really impressive soundtrack ...well-tailored and catchy as hell.
Buuut Ricky Mabe kinda stole the show for me. He's excellent in the sensitive-jock role and two of my best moments are his uttering of her whole name - old romantic trick but I like it, and the kiss - one of the best screen kisses I've seen in years. Cool cool cool.

**Spoilers ahead...sort of..
The ending/resolution is one o' those make-or-break moments and I held my breath it wouldn't all get tidy and sweet. The miracle is that it doesn't ...instead, it gives a great Christmas gift ...the unexpected. The film works the same as it's lead character - small, feisty, & affecting.

I waited 19 years for Indiana Jones to get back up on the big screen - within five minutes I cared more about the people in this low-budget Canadian film, not because it was written by my friend, Josh - but because it was written well.

A good Christmas movie reminds us what this is all about...
and makes us smile in the process.

Thanks, man

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Superman too...


Rumours all the time about "Big Blue"...
..what-to-do what-to-do?

Zack Snyder's got him now so we will soon see..
Now I will say that Watchmen was a wonderful surprise - but a finite interpretation of a finite work - gonna be a lot of voices on this one... Just please cast an unknown - everyone else looks like an actor "trying" to be Supes. And here's a crazy idea - lose Luthor. Every interpretation of the character inevitably includes Luthor - I love the character but people want to see Superman BEAT SOMEONE UP!
He's Superman ...not a cop.
I'm crossing my fingers and enjoying Smallville 'til then...which incidentally is an excellent show this year ..an' gotta say - this would work as a Justice League show - why on earth is CW considering a Raven series? I'm a big fan of the Titans characters and that is one lame idea.
Why not do a JLA show with Raven on it?

For the film, I understand and agree with a 100% reboot of the Superman property - we are in a very different world - a world where it's hard to get people to care about anything let alone a character who reminds them of their humanity. But I think it's the humanity of Supes that can make for the great writing the character absolutely needs. If he isn't well written there is simply no point.
And speaking of humanity, it's weird that the "Superman curse" seems real ...Brandon Routh should be thankful he won't be remembered as Supes - he gets to live.
Watched Hollywoodland the other night ...good film. Sad. I can't imagine the weird pain of the kids who loved him ...that was rough to watch.

I love the one-page comic book interpretation of 1978's Superman above...

What a movie. I hope Christopher Reeve's kids know what he gave to the whole world.
We do.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Five? Years? The DEAD ZONE


I really like The Dead Zone - it's one of my favorite Stephen King adaptations and one of my favorite Canadian films. I know - I know - it's American but it was shot in Canada by a Canadian director - just enough to stake my claim and enjoy some o' that good ol' down home pride. We have less great films than the good ol' US of A and I like it when US/Can bone and make a baby like The X-Files ...or The Dead Zone.
Cool opening titles and a sad fitting score suggest that some talented people are invested in this movie - good. I was young when I saw Dead Zone for the first time but I knew David Cronenberg from Videodrome so I expected something weird. What I got was a chilly tale of a man who went into a coma and came out with amazing abilities - I think I wanted those abilities ...It's a different story watching it as an adult ...classic and tragic, anchored by great character performances, and a stylishly subdued Cronenberg.
It's fun to watch a young Christopher Walken reference Poe then Ichobod Crane and The Headless Horseman ...He'd have played a memorable Ichobod Crane back then - bit of a shame about The Headless Horseman(Sleepy Hollow) but I digress. He plays a cool John Smith - Walken works for the character - for Johnny Smith's experience, and Brooke Adams provides perfect balance. I had a big crush on her going in(Invasion of the Body Snatchers - my favorite version)...but she looks fantastic, and the cut to her crying shot after the "spilled milk" - awesome.

The "awakening scene" is very impressive ...genuine suspense to get to that number, boy - "Five? Years?" ...well done. We have a slightly more serious Herbert Lom as JS's doctor and his interesting thread is just another that's changed for me since my younger self soaked it up. The "not talking to his Mom" - I get it now - like the film - sad and cool. Every subplot in the film ends the same way - Jeffrey Boam's strong & consistent screenplay at work throughout.
Tom Skerritt is always cool, and a young Nicholas Campbell plays a subtle and creepy Frank Dodd - I could have watched a whole film focus on that subplot. Dynamo Colleen Dewhurst rounds out a good US/Can actors circle with nary a lousy performance in the film.

After their afternoon together Sarah and Johnny are having dinner with his father - Johnny jokes about his day - very cool look from his pop says plenty, and Walken's response - perfecto. Just a great acting scene.

I'm a Cronenberg fan so I admire his restraint with The Dead Zone. Now take David Lynch who can be pretty wild ...but like Lynch with The Straight Story, Cronenberg focuses on character and atmosphere. These are the movies that remind me these guys are substance over style despite their abundance of the latter. It's a nice looking film that leaves you feeling a bit chilly ...like Johnny Smith's Castle Rock in winter.
I like the subplot with the boy quite a bit - in fact, this was a section that scared me as a kid. The ice and the thought of falling through = Scary. I'd learned to skate on a lake that made those big cracking sounds while everything else was winter silent - great days though. Watching the film now I think the subplots could've been woven a little better but hey, that's just me.

Having read the book I missed seeing Greg Stillson's rise to power, but Martin Sheen has the energy of the character for sure. Stephen King is just so good at giving us human villains where the truly horrific resides - in the evils all around us - in politics and religion - in dark human places.

I remember thinking "I could kill him and get away", but that aint the point is it?
It's interesting to learn that Mr.King created the story out of a "what-if?"...What if one of the crazy crackpots claiming to know the end of the world was right? What if a man had a good reason to sacrifice his life? Fantastic storytelling that entertains but begs moral questions - what would you do?

I think we all say we'd go back and kill Hitler, but would we give up our name?...our life for what's right?
I think I'll make my charitable contributions to the world under the name "Johnny Smith" from now on.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

a n t i c h r i s t

Without a doubt - the most disturbing/affecting horror film I've ever seen. Brilliant.

Like Heavenly Creatures, I don't imagine watching it again ...but that's because it was sooo good. Now any good horror fan knows there are levels to the horror itself ...the 80's slasher stuff is mostly on the same level - I think Hellraiser rises above to the next level, but most of it has the same tone. Henry is a few levels higher, and I'd put Antichrist up from there.

The film is artistic and beautiful, evoking thoughts of Dante and damnation while pulling you in and holding you coldly tight. The tension is palpable even in the story's softest moments and the two leads match the dark tone amazingly well.
Willem Dafoe is at his best. Charlotte Gainsbourg, who I've never seen before, is just as sharp. I can't imagine how difficult it was to make this movie. The belief that this is a real couple is what sells it for me. I believe in them from that extraordinary opening scene through the nightmare to that ending. That haunting ending.
Spooky horrible imagery - spooky horrific tale masterfully directed by Lars Von Trier, who may be weirdo ...but a talented one for sure. If I watched it again I'd watch for the misogyny he's accused of but if I felt any emotion from the Director I'd say it was terror. My thanks to "Theisbj" for his review on imdb where he articulated what feels like "evil" within the movie itself. It sounds corny but I watched it a year ago - it feels like last night.
Viewing it, I felt like I had access to something I didn't really want access to ...an awful world ...dark, ancient and very adult. It feels like a connection to something genuinely bad ...and only Willem Dafoe's presence reminds me this is a film. That and reminding myself of the fact more than once. I like him and I'm glad he was the lead but if he'd been unknown or it was the first time seeing Dafoe it would have been a bit scarier ...so my coward side was glad for it. Again, it only takes the opening scene to see them as new people - a real couple, and this is one dedicated team ...whew, frightening performances. Frightening film.

If you consider yourself to be a "horror film" fan, go get Antichrist and watch it alone in the dark.
I don't have the balls ...do you?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The City on the Edge of Forever

There's good reason for the "legendary" status of this one too...

This is a pitch-perfect episode of Star Trek - the original series, and a great example of sci-fi storytelling at it's best ...of storytelling at it's best.

If you're one of the ten or so people who've never seen this episode - go rent it or buy it or download it ...then tell me it's not one of the most touching hours of TV you've ever seen. If you like to discount stories because Tom Cruise is in them or they have Star Trek attached then please stop reading ...you people who'd rather close doors are of no interest to me. "I don't watch so-and-so..." Fuck off.

*Wiki: "The City on the Edge of Forever" is the penultimate episode of the first season of the television series Star Trek. It is episode #28, production #28, first broadcast on April 6, 1967. It was repeated on August 31, 1967 and marked the last time that NBC telecast an episode of the series on Thursday nights. It was one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the series and was awarded the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The teleplay is credited to Harlan Ellison, but was also largely rewritten by several authors before filming. The filming was directed by Joseph Pevney. Joan Collins guest starred as Edith Keeler.

This episode involves the crew of the starship USS Enterprise discovering a portal through space and time, which leads to Dr. McCoy's accidentally altering history.*

The reason there's an enormous franchise called Star Trek is because of the original series. People's love for it(mine) comes out of the connection with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy ...and they do shine here. All three actors have the characters on a different level in this tale ...complex men playing complex men.

Joan Collin's Edith Keeler is one of the smartest characters ever written on the show. She's as bold and challenging as our intrepid explorers from the 23rd century without even a dash of misogyny present - this was 1966. Her assessment of Spock in relationship to Kirk "..at your side, as if he's always been there and always will.." is great writing as is her observation/feeling that the great Captain Kirk belongs somewhere else ...bigger ..grander - all delivered with those big beautiful Joan Collins eyes (..madly in love with her since way back). The screen chemistry between her and William Shatner is "big-screen" quality as is the sublety of his "Kirk" ...completely invested portrayal in this one. Again, all 3 actors are just a bit above the usual portrayals ...was it the script? ...the Director? ...or was it Joan Collins that "matured" the boys into their "A" game??

In the minutes between the Captain finding out Edith Keeler must die, his admission to his best friend that he's in love with her, her accident, then Spock's "He knows, Doctor ...he knows.." my palms get sweaty, just like watching it as a boy, but I know what's coming - another mark of great storytelling. Interstingly, the "emotionless" character provides just the right level for the whole scene to work perfectly. The look on Spock's face as she dies - then the acknowledgment ...wow, the mechanics of film at work here are as powerful as any of the great big-screen films that use the same tools. Perhaps even more so ...this screen is much more intimate when it's at it's rare finest.

The Shakespearean drama that unfolds is great entertainment, but like all really great stories - there's a lesson inside ...a hard adult's lesson. What a story - love - friendship - pain - and continuance. The tone of it ...the feeling as it wraps up ... like a cold night in the sixties, after 2 friends have had to bury another - it feels like the sadnesses of life that we'll all have to feel - the lonely pain of everyone.

William Shatner's expression, back on the planet, is pained and honest. I think his performance in this episode is as strong as the writing itself, which definitely borders on genius. Again, Star Trek at it's best, with the rest of the crew locked in the Terminator-esque "No future" storyline ...that parenthesizes the whole episode - smart.

I love that the crew has encountered one of the most impressive entities of science-fiction and the last line uttered ...perfectly and painfully is Captain Kirk's "Let's get the Hell out of here." I love love love his delivery on that line. I've had my own dark experiences that I didn't want to speak of (I think we all have)...that talking about wouldn't change. I feel that line.

Rumors abound regarding Harlan Ellison's legendarily big ego, but love him or hate him - he understands how hard it is to be a good man ...a good person in a hard world.

This is one of my all time favorite stories. It always will be.


Monday, November 22, 2010

JFK



T
oday is the day ...47 years ago, that JFK was shot and killed.


More acurately - I think November 22, 1963 was the last day America could look itself in the eye.

There are some bridges that cannot be re-crossed.

JFK is one of the most "watchable" movies ever made. I would call it a modern masterpiece, with only Pulp Fiction topping it in the 90's.

No matter your opinion on Oliver Stone or the topic or period itself, the film is a character-driven juggernaut that pulls you in close and whispers in your ear 'til that very last frame. My friend Harris and I used to put on his laserdisc of JFK to any point ...and watch - could be the last scene or something in the middle but it didn't matter - the quality of entertainment here is extraordinary. The performances are absolutely solid and the energy level is undoubtedly that of Oliver Stone himself, who is a master storyteller when he can manage to get out of his own way.

I get a distinct impression from this eclectic group of actors that there is genuine belief under the surface - a belief that Stone's vision is not too far off center. Maybe they're just great actors - Joe Pesci - Donald Sutherland - Kevin Bacon - Jack Lemmon/Walter Mathau(best team ever!!) and Gary Oldman is Lee Harvey Oswald. But I gotta agree - Tommy Lee Jones Clay Shaw/Bertram is genius, and worthy of the Oscar he won.

Facts are facts and anyone who thinks it was one bullet and one guy can go watch Romper Room - but again, like Zodiac - what is the truth?
Who did this? How many men? Why? Who, if anyone, knows the whole truth?

Hmmm, I think this years Zodiac Fest - "Psycho Night in Canada" will evolve into a comment on the 60's itself as a decade. JFK first ...something in the middle ...what says mid-60's best?? ...then Zodiac to finish. That should shut those hippies up...

I went to see my all time favorite band, THE POLICE in Boston a couple years back. Great show - great day - close second on the trip was my visit to the JFK museum the next morning. For a couple hours I felt like I was in a different era ...one with Marilyn Monroe and dinner parties put on by Jackie O ...an era filled with hope. Watching those old newsreels with other sniffling tourists, I felt like America was still young ...nice feeling. I guess I could finally taste what was in the air then ...and had gone away on that november 22 forever.

I think I'll watch JFK tonight and continue this tomorrow.
It's been a while...

Forbidden Planet - legendary, for good reason

What a fantastic film.
I'd heard and read about it for years, but I had no idea what to expect. Wow, how many of my favorite films' authors/directors/fx gurus sat and loved this movie? I can't even guess but I can say that I'd have loved this movie were I a 50's kid ...if even just for Anne Francis.
I have had such an instant crush on a moviestar since I was a boy ...but boyoboy, she is absolutely spectacular.
I like "smart" science-fiction. That, combined with "Robby-the Robot" kept me from watching FORBIDDEN PLANET all these years. I figured it'd be of the same calibre most of the 50's genre fare was ...fun and disposable, but the template alone has inspired half the science fiction since.
The obvious ones are ALIEN and STAR TREK ...I think Gene Roddenberry walked into Paramount and said "Let's do Forbidden Planet weekly" - that's basically what Star Trek is.
**Spoiler Alert**
That cerebral psychology ending - This is the other template used over and over since - "The Enemy Within" idea ...that our dark nature - ourselves, if you will, is every bit as dark as any other villain ...and we cannot hide from it ...cool, smart writing.

The sets are very impressive, as is the pacing and overall look. The first fully electronic film score, it's spooky and appropriate and probably inspired the awesome Doctor Who theme. I can't guess how many of my moviemaking heroes have filtered this film into their work ...plenty who don't do sci-fi, I'll bet. It has a great script and some very smart decisions up there on the screen with that beautiful face in the middle. The chemistry between her and Leslie Nielsen is worth watching the film for - fun, quick - entertaining.
I love Anne Francis ...those legs...

When was the last time you saw a stunning blonde in an intelligent science fiction film where the human ID was a red demon embodied by Disney animation?

Smart movie.

Friday, November 19, 2010

MRS.TODD'S SHORTCUT

This is the short film I'm making - love your input - Love your help...
A.Canning

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Me 'n' you, '82 ...


My brother and I were on a road trip with our Mom that summer. I was eleven years old.. ..what I consider to be a boy's true "last age" ... and I was a very young, happy eleven.
We didn't have a lot of money growing up, but my mother still took us on a trip every year - some of the best memories of my life to be honest. She'd rented a cottage on the water, then took us to a little diner for a bite. It was rustic and cozy and I think it was getting dark when Mom picked up the paper to see if there were any good movies playing in Sydney. She asked me to check the listings and I suggested "The Best Little War House in Texas".
God love my Mom - she tried to hide her laughter ...I remember reading more titles ...probably Tron and The Thing in there...then noticing Mom's menu bouncing up and down as she tried to contain herself. I hadn't seen my mother laugh that hard in a long time, if ever. Her attempts at explaining "Whore" and "Whorehouse" became a highlight of the trip for two little goofballs, who would end up producing films together many years later.

The end of July would see the release of Night Shift ...my family's personal favorite from what I consider to be the single most important year for film releases ever. I love Night Shift - I think it is a perfect comedy ...but I won't argue that it's the best film of 1982. That's a tricky one, with no definite answer...
Blade Runner and The Thing were released on the same day - The Same Day!! That's wild for me especially ...as those two are my most watched films by far(Zodiac's different...) and I'll never have a favorite of them ...be like picking a favorite child. Now, I wouldn't actually see either film for years - the Cowie Hill days again, and then years more to truly appreciate the material. Not since 1939 when Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz were released has there been a more relevant year in film. By June, Conan, The Road Warrior, and Das Boot had hit the cinemas locking it as a pretty good genre year but June/July ...these two months changed Sci-Fi forever...

If I could go back in time and see the summer films of '82 ...well, I'd start with Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan ...actually, bad example - I did see this one in the theatre and that was that - totally hooked. Same with ET ...it's just a part of our generation to love that little alien. Tron, Blade Runner and The Thing would take years to become favorites, but First Blood came along before them - I love love love First Blood and watch it every spring. I think this was the first film I felt that "link" ...that "I know this film is going to keep me company forever " feeling. Like The Terminator, it was a midnight watch, me curled up on the couch with my sleeping father across the room in his chair. Charming little Herring Cove memories of renting VCRs and begging to see Star Trek II and Night Shift again.
That September I started grade 7 with a legendarily scary new teacher named Minichiello, who's playing the lead in my Stephen King film this year - the one I'm producing with my brother. Anyway, I recall Brock Beazley asking me who my favorite actor was..."Clint Eastwood ...are you crazy? ...the monkey guy?". I took a lot of flack for that answer, but Mom loved him and if it wasn't Restricted we saw the new Clint Pic every time - Honkeytonk Man annnd Firefox at the Spryfield Cinemas that year. He's my adult hero now - for simpler reasons than I'd've ever guessed - basically a love of film and an extraordinary work ethic. One element I possess ...one I desire.

Q (or Quetzalcoatl - go rent this) and Deathtrap would both make good impressions in the years to come, as would Diner and Ghandi - so many good films but Walter Hill's 48 Hours is one of the few I saw soon after it's release and it still holds up as the best buddy-comedy of the 80's. How many boys were guiltily loving this with their Dad's?
On that note, my buddy Brock's dad took us to see The Toy the same December Mom and Barb Harrigan would take groups of us kids to see Tootsie and The Dark Crystal. Now obviously one o' those aint quite like the others(I'll never watch The Toy again ...last thing I want to do is discover it isn't so good...) but December '82 would also see The Verdict and Sophie's Choice ...quite a month. Quick aside ...Brock's folks dropped us off at the Hyland Theater one afternoon to go see Ghandi, and they wouldn't let us in - ratings stuff. We waited 3 hours in the sun that day ...which seemed appropriate years later when I finally did see the film.

Victor Victoria was one of my first adult style comedies, and I really liked it, but Bob Clark's Porky's holds that claim to fame for many. Many consider Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid to be Steve Martin's best - same for Richard Pryor's Live on the Sunset Strip, with Pink Floyd's The Wall marking the only time I found them interesting. Creepshow(where Stephen King turns in an incredibly funny performance) and A Stranger is Watching round out the horror/suspense nicely with Costa Gavras' Missing as #1 on my "must-see movie" list.

*addendum - Cheers, Remington Steele, and St.Elsewhere all debuted in 1982 ...need I say more?


The year itself, and all of it's spoils that would unfold in the years to come have profoundly influenced my life, and my desire to make movies. They were some of the best times and best people I'll ever know, accompanying some of the best work by filmmakers EVER - amazing days.

Thanks 1982 ...you're the best.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Skeleton Cruisin'

I had the good fortune of another conversation with a wise friend I don't get to talk to often enough..."Everyone online's a film critic ...they've all got blogs tearing everything apart...". It kind of stuck with me - why am I doing this? Because I love movies. Love them. Lots of people do and I realize this makes me ununique to the extreme ...but my weird brain and my personal experiences do give me a voice I'd like to share with anyone who wants to listen.
This blog isn't about ripping movies apart, or telling everyone how I could do it better. No, it's mostly about how incredible a good movie really is - how so many people - so many decisions can come together in something extraordinary. They can give voice to our experiences and our deep inner thoughts. Though they're often about single characters on singular missions, we know we're sharing the experience with millions, maybe billions of people and it's obviously speaking to them too. They give strength to our roughest days when we can ask ourselves what a particularly memorable character might do. We watch our own stories unfold and they can be scary as hell ...then sometimes they're incredibly funny. I see my own time here as a bit of a black comedy ...and mostly fantastic.
I named it Skeleton Cruise because I was reading Stephen King's Skeleton Crew at the time and I'm in the process of making short film based on one of his stories. The theme itself was really about trimming the fat, so to speak. I wanted to look at those who used to be great and weren't anymore but it felt too negative. I mostly ignore the stuff I don't like. I don't really touch on Star Wars since the new ones came out ...what's the point? ..half the "Net" talks about the disappointing junk out there ..nah, I want to embrace things like Psycho 3 at the same time as genuinely appreciating the genius of Citizen Kane. I love Kane.

Skeleton Cruise is keeping it's title since 50% of my writing will be about Horror films as I want to make them. Good ones too. I'm also very thin, and skeletons last ...the skeletons of pop culture - the skeletons of relevance.
I like entertaining and I like being entertained. This is both for me, and if you do read any of my occasionally goofy but always passionate writing you might just watch one of these movies and see a little something new. I think comments are awesome and if you're going to leave a mean one - try to make it really funny.

Cheers, A.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The WORLD at WAR

Little left-field, this one. World at War is a BBC series from the 70's about World War II. Hosted by Sir Laurence Olivier, it's a dry, informative, and oddly compelling series with a nice dramatic score. It feels like sitting down with that one Professor who genuinely cared, and discovering he was actually in the war. I've ditched most of my "box sets" but something about this one ...maybe it's comfort food of a sort.
My generation grew up with grandparents who faught in 'The War" and all us boys theorized about what kind of soldiers we'd make. Until maybe 25 or 30 I still believed there was a chance I'd be "drafted" if another war began, and it was a scary but romantic thought. I suspect that the generation coming up behind us sees WWII as something Hollywood conjured up ...tricky to text from a trench.
Like everyone out there, I've faced some difficult days, but war...
I can't imagine.

I'll spend today's spare hours watching The World at War, reminding myself that men and women born a long time ago fought for the freedom I enjoy very much.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

fullmOonfilms: An American Werewolf in London

What is it about An American Werewolf in London?
I watched this several years ago in the "Cowie Hill" days - some great times when I was lucky enough to have a an awesome film fan buddy named Will( not really but he doesn't like Ern). He made latex masks and obsessed over movies I had no interest in. Or so I thought...
We watched An American Werewolf in London, and like a lot of later favorites, I was underwhelmed. I thought it was weird and the pacing wasn't quite my style so I dismissed it and moved on. I liked Wolf a lot, and even The Howling had seemed a bit more intriguing - more to it maybe, but the simplicity of AAWiL might be the actual answer. I eventually watched it again and still couldn't quite ...I dunno - love it. I saw more but still wasn't getting it. Some movies are strange like this - take Zoolander ..I hate it, but people tell me all the time how great it is. I don't want to like it - who cares? ..but there was something about AAWiL ..something I wanted to like. That was the difference.
I've watched it a lot of times now - especially the first half hour since that's usually how long it takes to fall asleep if I put it on late. I love it now ..I just can't help it. it's like a marriage where we fell for each other about ten years in ...strange but true.

Another beauty of a good movie, and of film in general, is that it acts as a Time Machine - visiting the time it was made, the time it was written, and perhaps another period detailed within the film itself - amazing. We're just watching stories that are two hours out of any given day, but the worth...the cultural sense that is carried within, as well as whatever personal history we attach, can end up being a weirdly valuable two hours. As we get older they contain our youth, where I'd probably end up arguing with myself over this one ...and a maybe few others. Perspective changes.
Okay - Blue Moon ..great opening and just one of the many telltale signs this might not have a happy ending. The song works like the a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence, a comma in the middle and a period right at the end ...very cool.
gain, one of the many things I didn't "get" before, much like the exit from a truck full of sheep and The Slaughtered Lamb Pub where the tale really begins. The bright coats are a nice touch, as is the fact that it's shot in the UK and it feels it. The two friends remind me of traveling Europe a few years back, and not really having a clue ...great adventure where we were definitely closer to trouble than we understood ...couple times fer sure.
Anyway, it doesn't take too long before we hear the howl of a wolf and I like that. A very effective setup that leaves you ready to follow these two anywhere ..my kind of storytelling - the Stephen King way of creating characters I actually care about. I note this for the fact that in so many of today's pretty-people horror films I can't wait to see them get fucked-up ...different approach, I guess. The goofball humour and the sense of "fun" disappear when the Werewolf is stalking them in the mist, and the attack itself still holds up - scary and fast. The men from the pub frame the end of the sequence like a shot of Tales from the Crypt cover art. Cool.
Upon David's awaking in the Hospital to find out his friend was dead I immediately assumed he'd come back as a Werewolf - the undead buddy with a conscience is another especially nice touch.* Some people's favorite aspect of this film are it's effects, and Griffin Dunne is great.
The Doctor treating our protagonist is excellent, as is Jenny Agutter in the role of the Werewolf's lovely nurse/love interest. Then come The Muppets - any Werewolf movie with an original Muppets sketch ...well, how can one resist? Then there's the crazy dreams - bizarre and awesome - all adding up to my best reason for liking this flic ...one Director's vision. John Landis wrote this little opus and fought for years to get it made. It feels like one guy's story ...it's simple and unique and a perfect example of what I'd like to do - write good stories and then bring 'em to life. The more mainstream a movie the more fingers, it feels, were in the pie - usually resulting in the Harrison Bergeron effect ...down low for the dummies. Ugh.
This is not to discount the amazing design work of Rick Baker but it was Landis' movie - unlike say, his buddy George who is mostly the sum of others parts. A good Director gets together with awesome people and sometimes they make something that has something ...the energy, maybe, of one person's drive.
*It took me a couple viewings to be able to watch the "chat with Jack" scenes ..harsh effects ..impressive.
The "boy meets girl" has just enough time to be interesting ...enough so to really not want the ending to go the way you can kind of feel coming. The decidedly different tone of the Doctor's visit to The Slaughtered Lamb is fun and feels like it could fit nicely into any Werewolf story ...new or old. Don't Go 'Round Tonight ...niiice.
And back to the effects - just when we want to see what the Doc is going to unfold we're back to David under the full moon, and one of the best man-to-werewolf transformations ever. Real effects done in daylight - now that's a mandate, and incidentally cool about The Ruins too. The Werewolf attack scenes in nighttime London are cool though I suspect only Landis would write a british couple as 'drunk and care-free". Once their romance resumes we know it's doomed, but we're in for the ride - maybe he can escape the curse with his new love...
Alas, Piccadilly Circus - juxtapose the guns and sirens against the moors and the pub ...throw in a lot of humour and you've got one rich little Horror film. In it's final moments our tragic romance gives us "the moment" of all love stories ...and then the curse is ended forever. Like Chinatown, American Werewolf gives us that creepy ol' thought ...some places you wander in ...you're not going to wander back out.

While I was trying to figure out why I liked this movie so much it became one of my favorites...
and then the perfect punctuation of a John Landis Horror Comedy ...the uptempo Blue Moon as a final "..told ya so..."
Fantastic.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Z O D I A C part two

Zodiac is pretty pictures glued to a filing cabinet. I look at it and I question ...in fact, every time I watch it I get a few more pointers - arrows towards the truth. The opening scene alone does explain so so much(listen to the commentaries and you'll be more inclined to pay close attention to the opening scene), but leaves you with sooo many questions. Detail upon detail the average filmgoer doesn't see - doesn't need to see ..they don't matter to the narrative, and most would seem arbitrary anyway...
But they are not. To read Robert Graysmith's books and to explore the facts on your own - maybe crazy, but fun as hell. Each audio track features so many extra pieces along with the docs ...especially the interviews. It is absolutely compelling ...the serial killer known as "the Zodiac" was not a genius, and the men trying to catch him were not stupid ...so why don't we know who he is?

I very much like the fact that the screenwriters, the cast, the crew, David Fincher himself, all had theories on the "truth"...I've watched the film 4 times since, and I still don't know. I know what the film postulates ...it's 99% sure it's Arthur Leigh Allen, and I think it was too. Rather, I think it was two.
I believe he had help. Watching the interviews, one would might guess it was Don Cheney as well, but having read so much now, I think there might be someone out there who ...helped ...licked the stamps, two "MO"s at once. Cheney seems smart and creepy enough, but is it him? I love the fact, and thus my obsession, that comes from the ultimate question out of all of this - out of the possibility both Greysmith and Fincher acknowledge which is that may never know the absolute truth ...so the question as fact still remains ...Who was The Zodiac Killer?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Play Misty for Me

I was a '70's kid, so I grew up on Clint Eastwood. My generation grew up on Clint Eastwood. I remember my mother taking us to see "Firefox" at our grubby, but most awesome, Spryfield Cinemas ...& despite Mom's obvious crush, Dad loved Clint too - back then every guy would've liked to be Clint for five minutes...

"A Sensitive Director" - apparently this is the most popular current thought on Mr.Eastwood ...awesome. That at 80, he is one of the most respected filmmakers in the world is well ...a proper thing. He's been doing it, and doing it well for almost 40 years. From MISTY thru 70's and 80's tough guys to Unforgiven - the end of his men without names, to the swan song for his violent characters provided in Gran Torino(I'm sad we won't see him act again, but not really - it was a perfect ending, and that song ...amazing - one classy exit). No other actor/director has achieved anything even close to this kind of career.

But, way way back ...Clint decided that "directing" a movie might be fun. He told his agent, and his agent told Warner Brothers - they said "Cool, sounds great, but we're not paying you." The rest is history.
The script for "Misty" by Jo Heims is fantastic - tight, and smart, and timely. Fatal Attraction borrows heavily, as do probably many I haven't seen. The story is of a Cali coast DJ who sleeps with one of his loyal listeners, beginning an odyssey of obsession and terror. We get to know Dave Garver and his world, as Evelyn Draper invades it. This nuanced descent into madness, by Jessica Walters, is brilliant, as is the pace and direction leading her there. She will always be my favorite version of "the stalker", but I looove JW(Arrested Development, c'mon..)and I could watch her do anything ...from the bushes, or across the street in a phonebooth...
Anyway, there are 3 excellent characters here - Dave, Evelyn, and a very young Donna Mills as Dave's on-again-off-again girlfriend. She turns in a performance every bit as subtle and honest as Jessica Walters is sexy and psycho. The love-scene is deftly handled - not the obvious work of a gun-toting tough guy. And then ther's that "wave scene" as the duo walk and talk:
"The success of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" essentially launched Flack's career as a popular singer, and the single became one of her signature songs. Flack's slower, more sensual version was used by Clint Eastwood in his 1971 directorial debut Play Misty for Me during a lovemaking scene. With the new exposure, Atlantic Records cut the song down to four minutes and released it to radio. It became an extremely successful single in the United States, hitting number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the spring of 1972 and remaining there for six weeks; the song also spent six weeks at the top of Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks [2]." Wikipedia.
Exceptional Scene - To shoot them together, with that wall of water behind them, and that song - the enormity and power of nature used to illustrate "love" as just as powerful a force ...again, the instincts of a natural director. Amazing.

So many nice character touches in this story - from Don Siegel's presence as a bartender/advisor(little Director's help for Clint, too..) to John Larch's classic smart cop, and James McEachin's pot-smokin' DJ friend, it feels like a slice of life at the time, where any adventure Dave might've had would be watchable. Enter Jessica Walters - with as much screen charisma as Clint himself, and as I watch it again I realize my "crush" on JW now eclipses even Joan Allen and the legendary Helen Mirren. I am in love with Jessica Walters... & Arrested Development only cements it. She is awesome. From coy groupee to absolute psycho, and everything inbetween ...my only problem is that her character reminds me of more than one ex-girlfriend ...such is life.
A nice piece of the character day-to-day, and a nice slice of the era, is the montage shot at the Monterey Jazz Festival. It's long and freestyle, like the music - a very nice touch all around, and clearly a personal touch by Clint. He's indulged his jazz passion more and more over the years, and I can't help but think this inspired closing his last performance with a personal tune. Super cool.
TBC

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The 10 o' '10


The Ten so far...

I. Kane (1941) - Education / epic / character study - 100 books wouldn't cover it all. Can a movie destroy a life? ...yes, two, in fact.
II. Duel(1971) - 1st film / man(n) v man / nature / machine - Focus is what we have here.
III. Misty(1971) - 1st film / style / suspense / location - My single most inspirational film.
IV. Thing(1982) - Small / scary / tight / open - I love love love The Thing.
V. Buckaroo(1984) - Smart / fearless / committed - This film is absolutely unique - true to itself.
VI. Razor's Edge(1984) - Personal philosophy / experience - Life is beauty.
VII. Psycho 3(1986) - Sequel / dirty / curio strange - Mother talks on her own ...c'mon, how awesome is that?
VIII. Shawshank(1994) - Hope and despair / Stephen King - That a kind man possesses "one of the greatest imagination of our time" is extraordinary. I am a genuine fan of his work.
IX. Zodiac(2006) - Obsession / period piece / real history - What is the truth? ...and why do I need to know? Can obsession destroy a life? Oh, yeah..
X. A Team(2010) - Adaptation and expansion / reverence - If you're going to do something - do it right, but do NOT forget to have fun...even the bad guys.

Now that is one weird list ...but I do believe it is time to look more closely at why I want these 10 movies to influence my future filmmaking skills ...
Starting with the guy who, at 40 in '70, decided to direct his first feature...

Monday, July 5, 2010

LEt sLeePing CorPses LiE: a zombie interlude


Zombies scare me. Fact. I'm not sure why ...they always have. I think it's the inevitabilty ...their patience, if you will...
Night of the Living Dead scared me & it is the classic - no denying it - like The Thing, it's that ending that caps it perfectly, creating a "WTF?" instead of an "aahhh, everything's ok..."
From that I would've jumped all the way to 28 Days Later or Dawn of the Dead(06), but Jorge Grau's Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is my personal favorite in the genre. I watched it again last night(partially in response to my spiritual tirade earlier) back to back with Slither, which I'll yammer on about at a different point, but I've sampled a lot of Zombie movies, and I think this is the one that both borrows and inspires best.
For starters, Danny Boyle is clearly a fan of this movie - with the "rage" eyes and faster "dead", 28 Days Later is almost a remake...
A friend commented that the movie looks like an Agatha Christie movie ...'til the Zombies show up. It has a very British/70's storytelling element to it ...with just that dash of Italian darkness ...almost like a Stephen King story.
They do some different things here, with the homicidal babies, and the relentless hobo ...things that stay with you a little longer, and despite it's tone, we eventually see blood aplenty.
The acting is great, and the inspector(played by Arthur Kennedy) is a fantastic character, making the film feel more like a mystery featuring the undead, as opposed to a "horror" film. The score is excellent, the suspense genuine, and the outcome is unpredictable. This is an excellent movie by almost any standard, and as I write this I can't wait to show it to someone new...

My Ultimate Zombie Fest would read something like this:

Night of the Living Dead(1968) Let Sleeping Corpses Lie(1974) Dawn of the Dead(1978) 28 Days Later(2002) Dawn of the Dead(2004) Shaun of the Dead(2004) Zombieland(2009) Let Sleeping Corpses Lie(2012) - A remake and functioning sequel/follow-up to Shaun of the Dead(by the same team, of course).

If you look for it - it has about 30 titles ("The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue" /"Don't Open the Window"), so you can pick your favorite...

It's worth it ...watch it on a misty night ...trust me.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bill Murray & THE RAZOR'S EDGE

"America" - The last line of my favorite film.
Movies can inspire us ...affect us ...and sometimes they can answer questions we didn't know to ask...
This film, more than any other, sums up my truest philosophy on the human condition:

We all get what we truly want.

I was handed this new perspective at a time I was indulging something I thought I wanted, and it grabbed hold quickly. I was left with the question - what do I need(not want) and what does that need want? They are different. Our "learned personality" covets, and I believe this to be the downfall of North American culture.
I read a story by Kurt Vonnegut years ago called Harrison Bergeron ...about society bringing everyone down to the same level ...I think we do this to each other, but mostly to ourselves ...not so much misery loves company as impotence and fear adore company...
"Keeping up with the Jones'" has tragically created about a billion Harrison Bergerons ...only measuring ourselves against others - the "successful " ones, with no core sense of who or what we really are ...what we really need, to be the best possible version of this assemblage of gifts that any of us is.

Is life distracting us from obtaining our goals? ...or is distraction what we seek? Why does someone stay in an abusive relationship? ...what interior question is being addressed?
We measure ourselves against what we see to be success and decide it's too much ..too hard, and the fear is so warm ...

I believe we are searching, both consciously and un- , from the moment we wake til the moment we sleep, for what we truly desire in this world...
But what is it you seek ...what experience is guiding you? ..what pain or inspiration? ...what self-imposed limitation keeps that goal forever planted in the realm of the someday...?

"I didn't know I was lying, but I was." - I love that line.

Our protagonist, Larry Darrell is still a mystery to me ...but one I think of often. If honest answers are what we seek, how can life not be immeasurably rewarding?
What will make me happy? What will make this experience valuable while I'm in it? How do I affect others?
I honestly believe Bill Murray made Groundhog Day as a thematic sequel(or perhaps a philosophical follow-up) to Razor's Edge ...What is the value in anything ..anyone? How do I engage this experience unselfishly?
Beautiful.
But the lesson itself is not soft. What do you truly want? Honest answer...

At one point he visits an old friend who is not well ...listen to Larry's answer when his friend thanks him...

As for the film itself, John Byrum's direction is subtle and strong, allowing the film and the performances be patient when it's necesarry. Denholm Elliot could do no wrong in the 80's and the cinematography is gorgeous. My long-standing crush on Catherine Hicks remains undiminished ...Child's Play, Star Trek IV ...and she's great here(don't hate her)...as is Teresa Russell - lovely, vulnerable, sad.
And...
I love Bill Murray's performance as Larry Darrell, but I just love Bill Murray ...I think he knows who he is ...or at least, he's not afraid to look.
I could have discussed Ghostbusters - I think it's a perfect movie - Life Aquatic, Broken Flowers, etc...amazing, and I would give him the "best cameo of all time" award for Zombieland, but between the ultimate messages of Groundhog Day and Razor's Edge I think it's the personal philosophy of the actor that gets me most. GD feels more European in tone every time I see it ...and what a message - value what is valuable. That's it.
All the players in RE seek, and recieve ...but, like a great number of our lives I suspect, you have to look back at the question, and realize, that this and only this, provides the answer that is your day to day existence. What do I want?

Mr.Murray indulges both the exquisite beauty and the exquisite sadness that is life ...and honestly evokes that old idiom: If I didn't laugh I'd cry. I thank him and my friend Mike Goodfellow, who knew I should watch this movie...
It's like Jeopardy - sometimes the answer prompts the question itself.
I'm left with a question upon writing this. Do I want to be a filmmaker who measures himself against the works of others? No, I want to answer myself. The way the people on this list have, and then let the world form it's own questions to my answers.

There is a moment in The Razor's Edge when Larry is atop a mountain, burning his books to stay warm ...his last possessions. He is smiling - I envy that smile.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

THE A TEAM ...yes, The A-Team


Okay, now you think I'm crazy ...hear me out.
The 2010 update of the 80's TV show The A-Team could easily be viewed as just another of the infinite # of remakes and sequels that Hollywood continues to churn out ..except for a few valid points.
What is the truest purpose of re-doing something? I believe the answer is "to do it better".
Seems simple right? Wrong, as we all know ...
So here's the catch ...this movie is better than the show ever was. My friend Travelin' Dave summed it up perfectly in noting that GIJoe did not succeed in making us feel that rush that the show gave us as kids ...The A-Team did. But we're not kids anymore so how does it work?
Give us what we want as adult filmgoers:
From the adrenaline fueled opening culminating in Hannibal Smith's classic line to the very end of the film when we get the iconic "If you have a problem..." AWESOME. Joe Carnahan and his team have such a genuine and obvious love for the original concept that a pervasive sense of pleasure threads the whole movie. Even the bad guys shine with great performances, nuanced dialogue, and actors who seem to be having at least as much fun as we are.
Noteworthy here is that Smokin Aces by the same director distinctly felt as though it's makers enjoyed the process far more than we did.

The film is fun ..it's that simple. The plot is neither complex nor insulting, providing a non-stop ride and plenty of time for every actor here to playaround, and even evolve a little. Watching Liam Neeson do George Peppard's Hannibal Smith is almost as fun as Chris Pine's Captain Kirk - reverence and reinvention abound. Bradley Cooper is charming beyond, and Rampage Jackson pays absolute tribute to Mr.T's BA Baracus ...buuuut Murdock was my guy.
I was a teen when the show debuted so I found it a little young even then, but Dwight Shultz's Murdock was a guaranteed laugh. Sharlto Copley(of District 9) has so much fun with this role, I'd see it again for him ...he is just so funny. Our introduction to "Howlin' Mad"(*spoilers*) has him stitching a thunderbolt into BA's wound and lighting Face on fire ...I missed dialogue because I was laughing ...great, again - good reason to go back to the theatre. Only last years Star Trek impressed me this much(in the realm of the reboot) and though I believe that to be a superior film to The A-Team, it actually accomplishes slightly less: Star Trek was a fantastic show that needed some help in recapturing the magic again... The A-Team was never a fantastic show, but one that resided firmly within camp & nostalgia ...and how to make it work as a film ...easy, make it really entertaining - take everything we liked about the show and inject it with steroids ...perfecto. In other words, do exactly what every filmmaker should set out to do - entertain us.
I guess I'm one of the few guys around who loves sequels and remakes ...these are our stories ...our youth, retold and rebooted and repackaged ...and every once in a while you get to hear a story you know you've heard before, but the guy telling it is telling it even better.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

...and another THING...

I was right. I can watch it every day...then again - I am crazy, but it's just sooo good. The Thing is the type of film that I want to make. That's it...it's smart and consistent, with that flavor of character acting that I love - people that really feel like they're in those skins...Alien did it first, but this one is my favorite.
The whole film speaks in the voiced question of the original story...Who Goes There? ...at more than one turn we are left saying "Who was that? ..but who was that?" but like the book/screenplay of No Country for Old Men, The Thing is also remarkable for what isn't there: The men don't use words out of science fiction...they don't have the magic answer for us, so they feel real. Then there's the questions ..do they know if they've changed? Where is it from? The unanswered and unresolved compliment the story perfectly - no, they enhance it...I think this is what I despise most in a lot of the films of today...when they hand us not only ALL of the info we should have to discover ourselves, but usually even more than needed, making the experience not only stupid, but insulting...these "exposition scenes" I just can't stand...
Might be my favorite ending scene...no, Kane and Groundhog Day match it, but anyway, that ballsy ballsy ending is almost European in tone(and I still have no idea, much like Twelve Monkeys, what the truth is..) - I somehow doubt the upcoming remake will be so esoteric at it's edges...
Dean Cundey is a genius ...if genius means figuring out the absolute best look and feel to establish a tone for the story - it's pitch, if you will is perfect throughout, again more noticeable in films when it isn't. Though the story is messy the film is extraordinarily tidy - amazing.

So many cool posters for this film...
For three nights I've turned it on and turned away - used it as a radio show to go to sleep...awesome, with some freaky dreams to boot - I swear that score could hold up the whole film...simple, punchy, and creepy - there's a "dark inevitability" to it that unfailingly puts me in Antarctica, knowing I won't survive...or will I?
Had a discussion about "love" for film last night - love versus "like" or "really like" ...you film obsessos know what I mean...

I love The Thing, and like real love, it just keeps getting better.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

SUPERMAN ..or December '78


I don't know why but I feel compelled to write about the boy who went to see this film with his father on a chill night in the winter of 1978. I was a young eight, and there was still a gray area between reality and film. You can guess the impact of an expensive, expansive, well-done Superhero movie on a wide-eyed dreamer...and not just any hero...this was SUPERMAN up there flying around... this was modern myth made real.
My world became bigger that year. The United States had farms in the middle and cities on the edge. I learned that not everyone was as polite as I was used to(only Superman, it seemed)...but Metropolis(New York) now existed to me...busy, bustling, loud and dangerous...what a world.

As the little girl with the comic book begins ..the onscreen curtains open ...that drum roll...
I do believe it was my first erection...actually, I'm quite certain it was...nothing sexual about it...certainly didn't understand, but I do remember the overwhelming sense of seeing something grand ...grander than anything I'd ever seen...an energy and enormity of scope that pulled me in and simply never let go.
So much emotion locked up in this...it was the 70's and things were different...and I was eight. Dad was a tall archetype father to me then and about midway between Superman and normal human beings. I don't remember if Pad (my little bro) was with us or not...probably, but it quickly became so "mine" that the film would hold its place throughout various stages of my life...with that John Williams Score serving as a pick-me-up more times than I can possibly count, even after the death of my own father.

And from that amazing title sequence to Krypton to Smallville - to the big city and the modern threat of a Nuclear exchange - This is pitch-perfect action/drama with lots of laughs; something I'm certain all the "adults" in the audience were very pleased about. The tone and pacing are classic, and the movie is beautifully shot, with extraordinary effects work, despite the distinct lack of pixels or rubber suits.
The story by Mario Puzo is solid and the cast is a virtual who's who for the era: Margot Kidder's weirdly sexy Lois ...Glenn Ford's truly fatherly Pa Kent, and of course Gene Hackman's Luthor ...sooo much fun, but Hackman's my favorite actor of the 70's, hands down. And oh, yeah ..MARLON BRANDO plays his father ...the greatest American actor ever !!..Marlon Brando is Superman's Dad - perfecto. In fact, there are a number of "father" themes running thru thoughout ..I still remember how I felt when Pa Kent took his pulse, and looked, with one expression, as though the one thing he was feeling was "I won't see Clark grow up ...I can't help him anymore..." Amazing.
There is an earnestness about this movie, as though each and every one of the players actually loves the character and the film...it felt then as though everyone in the world loved Supermen as much as I did.

...and then there's Chris Reeve.

The man charged with making us "believe a man can fly" - truly did.
Christopher Reeve stepped out of our "collective mind's eye" vision of Superman, and then spoke. The face, the body language, the Clark Kent - you could screen-test every actor who ever lived and never cast the character better. He gives off a sense of undeniable power and confidence while humanizing not just an alien but a guy in tights. It works because he works. This, and the wisdom of Richard Donner, are not lost on what is now an adult perspective on a movie that was made for everyone, but by adults. I note this element only because even the best of the many "superhero" films made since, feel a bit juvenile...like these director's did let the run the show, or that's at least what they thought we wanted. Superman always feels like adult filmmakers with the reverence of children...an almost fatherly perspective on the character, and a cohesive sense of "what" Supes really stands for, as opposed to more modern or convenient interpretations. Only The Dark Knight captured the same adult tone but with far less genuine love for it's title character.

The First Great Comic Book Film portrays the origins of not only Superman but of the entire industry itself. It started with him ...then Batman ...then Spider-man(which is an anti-hero remake of this movie)...etc. ..and now, just like the comic book industry - there's a whole messy slew...but it all comes back to the big guy - Superman is to comic books what Citizen Kane is to film...everything comes after.
Sadly, his relevance has seemed to wane in these more "modern" times, but perhaps nineteen seventy eight was the last time our society could, or would, truly embrace this character. It seems that this 2010 internet culture is more about propagating the idea that we are all "special" ...and the big blue boyscout doesn't really fit into the "GenY" model...apathy doesn't need to be saved, I guess. The simple fact is that no one looks up in the sky anymore ...they're too busy texting.
Perhaps the secret is that perceived perfection actually makes us very insecure..
...but if you look again, you'll see that his trials are not unlike all of ours ...does he/she love me? ...how to balance who I want to be and who I have to be? ...where did I come from? ...and what do I do now?

I'm not thrilled that I'm getting older, who is? but...
This movie...this distillation of so many stories and ideas of goodness and heroism...of modern myth into an actual motion picture...an epic film...this is a reason to be glad you were born in the 70's. Up 'til some points like this one I couldn't necessarily grasp my father's work ethic, but watching this movie - I understood a sense of duty - a responsibility to what you are, once you know what that is. SUPERMAN made me believe I could fly ...that is, do just about anything...
& sometimes Dad did too.
It was a good night.

Friday, February 26, 2010

"Get busy living, or get busy dying" ...The SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION

Hope. This word brings me back to my original inspiration for writing about film...Stephen King. A film is only as good as it's villain...and in this extraordinary film we have the most insidious bad-guy ever on the screen...DESPAIR. This is the greatest strength of Mr. King(in my humble opinion)...to find the hope in the horror...to create situations where the human response can only be tragic or terrified...and yet...

I had the rare privilege of a triple feature in october of '94...Quiz Show(good movie)...Ed Wood(great movie)...then Shawshank...
My friends went to see The Specialist as a fourth feature...I went to a local pub and talked about the three films I just enjoyed, and made people promise to see Shawshank(I'm pretty sure we came up with a shooter called "the hardest screw" but the details are hazy)...then met said friends who immediately declared me "smarter" than them...I just couldn't taint that experience...

And it still stands...It's a cool october day every time I watch it...and I'm alone with my own spirit.

The Shawshank Redemption is perfect. This is the best teaming of Director/Writer in the canon of SK films, and though The Green Mile and The Mist are fantastic(as are Misery and Stand by Me), Shawshank is simply in a different category. Frank Darabont seems to pull a Mike Nichols in that his director's presence feels invisible...feels more like a prism focusing the story and performances. He seems to have no need to stamp this film, like say Kubrick who destroyed The Shining then rebuilt his version...but rather subtly guiding something that has a life of it's own. Now, I'm sure Shawshank is Frank Darabont's vision but it almost feels like both he and SK were in the higher service of hope itself...that this tenet is the drive of every moment here. I love the expression on Andy's face when he answers, as though any other thought is foolish...

That there are things in this world
not carved out of gray stone. That
there's a small place inside of us
they can never lock away.. that they can never get at ..hope.

.. I do have to note Darabont's slow push here...in on Andy as he reveals what he really is...and though Red is offended by his belief(their one and only clash) he knows that Andy is daring to look at something bigger than them all...and that dangerous pain that the knowledge of something better can carry...extraordinary. We feel Andy's leadership here and I do hope we've all had the experience of watching someone and not understanding their strength. I've had this experience...offended people who thought I should be sadder when my life was difficult... fuck-you.

This story isn't just a favorite film...it's my philosophy...that there is something inside that cannot be taken by anyone or anything. And that true hardship...true despair...leads to the truth - to what is really important. In this, I think The Mist functions as a thematic sequel to Shawshank with the truest horror coming out of the result of true despair...the final lack of hope.
Shawshank also sums up my philosophy on suicide...this and Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes "..that's the funny thing about life, it's never so bad it can't get worse..." ..or better. I've never understood that belief that this moment is worth dying for...to truly believe it'll never be good again...nuts to that.

Twenty people could have twenty reasons for loving this movie...
There's Tim Robbins' beautifully understated Andy Dufresne, the exceptional supporting cast, the claustrophobic stone walls of a real prison, the timeless feel, the menace of exceptional human villains(and ask yourself this..do I take more pleasure from watching evil gets it's come-upance? ..or from watching each supporting character evolve in Andy's light)...and then there's Morgan Freeman:
We all love Morgan Freeman...he's like that uncle who always had time for you but didn't put up with yer shit...his voice has intelligence and sadness in it...and hope. This is the story that made every filmmaker on earth want a Morgan Freeman VO...

Every time I watch this I'm saddened by Brooks' death...I hope that Red will get to the rock...and I cry when he does. I used to want to watch the next 2 hours of Red and Andy's story, but in this, too, is a lesson...
As we get older there is an immeasurable value to shared experience, especially shared pain. That beautiful end shot from high up...I wanted to see them up close...smile, hug...whatever, but it took a couple more viewings to realize we don't deserve to be there on that beach with them ...they earned it. If those of us watching want a moment so profound...we gotta go make 'em...we have to get busy living...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Bring me the knife, Norman...bring it to me.."


PSYCHO III, yes, Three.

WHY do I love this movie? Well, there are a couple o' reasons.
1. It's insane.
2. It's funny
3. I think Alfred Hitchcock would like this film.

But most of all - it's when Mother moves and speaks independently of Norman...awesome. I so hated this when I saw it years ago..."Hitch'd roll over in his grave, etc." ..
...but I was wrong...way wrong - there had to be some pretty interesting conversations during the genesis of this story..."Are we really making Mother talk independently of Norman...what the hell are we saying here?"
I love the Mother character in this movie. This time she is far more menacing than before - finally giving us the sense that Norman truly doesn't have the strength to resist his own mind. Inevitability. This isn't simply a controlling matriarch personality but an actual monster. And that voice... malevolent and creepy...

The movie is so strange and ...I dunno - "dirty 80's", that it has an odd charm...as though Norman Bates had directed it...and not Anthony Perkins. Psycho 3's underpinnings are as much the schlock inspired by Psycho as the original film, itself...more, in fact.
But...Norman's not a bad director, as it tuns out...the film has some really good shots...and about half of it is tongue firmly in cheek. Great.
Mind you, heavy-handed metaphors abound(with a Vertigo inspired opening) ..and I can't help but guess that Perkin's hidden life might also be playing into his themes and imagery. He plays a kooky paranoid with a secret very, very well...

Like Spielberg's shark(the non-functioning Bruce that necessitated his film be suspense over action), I do believe that the imposed limitations on Hitchcock's violence lent him more class than he'd have preferred having ...again, I think he'd smile at Psycho 3. It's violence feels different than the previous two films...like it's taking a self-aware pleasure...again, like Norman is directing a film about "Mother".
Psycho 3 also boasts one very strange bit in which we finally get to see Norman speaking as Mother...oddly edited, it ends up a spooky scene with a subtle tone of the supernatural...the place I'm surprised they didn't go with a fourth film.

...And there are those two good reasons the sequels to these films are not as easily dismissed as some other follow-ups of this calibre or better...the set and the star. The sequels all use the Universal set and the original Norman...lending a 30 year history to the whole thing - to the buildings themselves and as a cinephile watching CG replace "matter", this matters to me.
And that last shot is the antithesis of Psycho's sterile, "innocent" Mother/Norman - with a clearly mad Norman cradling the mummified hand of his dead mother - that fade on that face...good, cheesy fun.

And we all know that everybody loves at least one lousy film...this is mine.