Archive for the ‘Movie Columns’ Category

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Top 5 Horror Movies, ever

September 29, 2011

Top five horror movies. Ever.

October in BC –the morning chill that lasts all day, the mist covered lakes, the yellow leaves blown into gutters and left to rot. October is horror movie season and it climaxes on the best day of the year, the only public holiday that actually retains any sense of true feeling- Halloween.
Forget poisoned candy and razor-blade laced apples–that’s kiddie stuff, motherly paranoia. Halloween should be about real terror– Spine tingling, dry-mouthed fear that hits so hard and fast it paralyzes every muscle in your body except your eyelids and your sphincter.
It needn’t be on Halloween night, although that is obviously the best, but October is the month to watch horror flicks so tuck your feet under the blanket and make sure you’ve got clean ginch in the dryer, here’s the top five creepiest, soul-chillingest and most pant-filling horror movies out there.

1. The Exorcist (1973) William Friedkin directed what still holds up as perhaps the freakiest movie ever and he did it with a child monster. Sure, children are all a bit creepy, and the recent trend of pale, dark-haired child-ghosts in the Japanese films like The Grudge exemplifies that perfectly. But Freidkin, working from the novel by William Peter Blatty, gives us the creepiest kind of kid, one possessed by the devil himself. Child actress Linda Blair pukes, growls, contorts, and jabs herself so horrorificly that even the hardest viewer will squirm like a 4-year-old that has to piss. When this film came out it made viewers faint, puke and run from the theatre in terror. You can’t beat that. The Exorcist, you never get used to it.

2. Jaws (1975) Many will argue that it isn’t really a horror film but sit on a surfboard at dusk, dangling your legs and staring at the darkening ocean and try to tell me Jaws didn’t affect your psyche. While it may not be quite as chock full of terror as some others on this list, Steven Speilberg’s “fish movie” put real fear into people and kept it there. More because of the masterful soundtrack than the animatronic shark, Jaws inflicts a deep, heavy fearful nervousness that never really goes away. I know dudes that won’t jump in a lake because of this film. That’s real horror.

3. Psycho (1960) Before Psycho scary movies always involved threats from outer space, the undead, radioactice creatures, werewolves, giant animals and all sorts of out-there concepts. Alfred Hitchcock’s most notorious film, Psycho signals the first time horror manifested itself inside what appeared to be a normal guy, Norman Bates. Hitchcock brought the evil inside a human being, inside any one of us, and it scared the crap out of people. Loosely based on real-life serial killer/cannibal/amateur seamstress Ed Geins, Psycho is a true landmark in horror (and cinematic) history. Another movie where the soundtrack plays an integral role, Bernard Herrmann’s piercing strings send shivers down your spine. Awesomely, Psycho also introduced the shower-scene death, a classic horror convention.

4. The Shining (1980) Director Stanley Kubrick perfected what Psycho started with Jack Nicholson as the regular guy who transforms into a raving, axe-wielding maniac. Adapted from the Steven King novel of the same name, The Shining is Kubrick’s best movie– simple, yet terrifying. Kubrick utilizes the then-new steadicam technology perfectly within his setting, remember those long tracking shots of the kid riding his bigwheel or the frantic followcams in the hedge maze? Add in creepy twin girls, a bath tub scene and some elevators full of blood and you have a true classic horror movie. Besides, who knew the word “murder” would be way scarier spelled backwards.

5. Halloween (1978) John Carpenter popularized the slasher flick with this masterpiece about Michael Myers, a knife-wielding savage that escapes from a psychiatric prison and goes back to his old neighbourhood to terrorize a group of teens, including Jamie Lee Curtis in her film debut. Carpenter, who also composed the masterful score (see any patterns here? Sound and music is an essential part of horror) was careful not to reveal too much of his villain early on and Halloween is the perfect example of how what you can’t see, or can barely see, is often more frightening than what you can. This film has spawned countless imitations, sequels, and even a Rob Zombie remake but, as usual, the original still packs more punch.

Runners up are Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street (1980, 1984) which created villains so terrifying and vile they became household names and are responsible for decades of children waking up in the middle of the night sweating and crying for mommy. Same with Aliens or Leatherface in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The George Romero zombie movies, particularly Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead are also true classics, recent Japanese horror imports like The Ring definitely have their moments, and that night vision scene at the end of Silence of the Lambs is top-notch scary.
Blair Witch wasn’t the greatest but it opened new directions for the genre and the recent trend of torture porn like the Saw franchise and some of the wacky French stuff have their fans but these are more based on gore and squeamishness than actual horror and neither are as gross/awesome as Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, where an eyeball gets impaled on a wooden splinter and then a zombie fights a shark.
Happy October, just make sure to check the back seat when you get in the car.

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MoneyBall, Killer Elite, Abduction

September 22, 2011

Notes from the Back row- Sept 20, 2011

by Feet Banks

Brad Pitt makes good movies, drinks strong coffee and has the hottest girlfirend ever


Everyone loves an underdog, especially Hollywood. It also loves Sports Dramas because sports are a shared experience and movies are a shared experience and when you start stacking shared experiences on top of each other there is money to be made.
Certainly, Sports Dramas are incredibly formulaic – the underdog team/athlete who, against all odds, uses grit and some new ideas (and often an enigmatic leader) to show the world that it’s okay to dream. In Sports flicks it’s even acceptable to lose the big game so long as you gave it your all and no one expected you to get that far in the first place. There is a formula, it works, Hollywood loves it.
The same goes for real-life. Team sports have become a numbers game because the players all compete at such a high level and by evaluating statistics and running the right formula you can push for glory. Numbers can’t guarantee victory, but the law of averages is called a law because it’s proven effective. In Moneyball, based-on-truth and opening Friday, Brad Pitt plays the guy who figured that out.
Actually, he plays Al Beane, failed-ballplayer-turned-manager of the 2001-2002 Oakland A’s baseball team. Beane is the guy who believed in the guy who figured that out. That guy was Paul DePodesta, an Ivy-Leauge numbers geek who applied numerical formulas and forged a successful team out of non-superstar players with the right statistics. In Moneyball DePodesta’s played by Jonah Hill (Superbad, Cyrus) who, together with Pitt, shakes the foundation of baseball’s long-entrenched establishment and changes professional sports forever.
It sounds a bit like the Facebook movie for baseball nerds (and The Social Network writer Aron Sorkin co-wrote the Moneyball script) but bear in mind that Brad Pitt is the most trustworthy and consistently entertaining movie star working today– he simply doesn’t make shitty movies.
This time Pitt, who’s also credited as a producer, knocks it out of the park. So does Jonah Hill. Director Bennet Miller (Capote) provides a journeyman support cast, plenty of room for his actors to have fun, and a zinger, fast-talking script by Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Gangs of New York) and the aforementioned Sorkin.
The result is one of the best sports movies since Murderball and the best baseball movie since Major League. Moneyball is based on a true story and has a realistic feel with unique, funny scenes and enough heart to entertain a wider audience while still stirring up those same old feelings you get with every good sports movie. Moneyball is money in the bank, and Oscar bait to boot.
On the other end of the spectrum, Killer Elite also opens Friday. It’s a gritty genre story about assassins trying to kill other assassins while shit blows up all over the place. Sounds awesome right? Killer Elite is not rocket surgery but it was produced by the people behind The Bank Job and for fans of well-made pulpy genre flicks it delivers. Plus it stars Jason Stratham, Clive Owen and Robert DeNiro shooting a machine gun. ‘Nuff Said.
The other movie opening is Abduction, a Taylor Lautner (Twilight) action movie with not much action and too much shirt-taking-off. This one will certainly be a shared experience, just not for anyone with nuts or older than 16.
Of course, Whistler’s blood-soaked, home-grown cinematic highlight is also coming up this October 30 with the Tenth Anniversary of B-Grade Horrorfest. Ten years of local gore, nudity and artistry on the silver screen. As far as shared experiences go, this beats hanging out in the locker room every time. Tickets go on sale Oct 1 at heavyhitting.com

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Drive

September 22, 2011

Notes from the back row. Sept 12

Transformers 3 made over $765 million overseas, Imagine how much more that would be if megan fox had stayed in the picture...


I’ve met a lot of rude, shitty Europeans in my life (and by ‘met” I mean served food to) but the truth is there are lots of good ones too and Hollywood, more than ever, needs that Euro touch.
The way Hollywood operates is to go after sure things. That kind of makes sense with millions, potentially billions of dollars on the line, but it means they churn out sequels, remakes and franchises based on properties with built-in fanbases (comic books like Avengers, teenage-bodice-rippers like Twilight, literary phenoms like Harry Potter.)
Hollywood also loves dumbed-down movies of recognizable shit they know is not too difficult for the foreign (non-english speaking) market to understand. For example- 2012, the underwhelming apocalyptic movie that will never be cool unless the world does actually end next year? It made $166 Million domestically and $603 Million overseas! Transformers 3? Domestic grosses¬— a decent $350 Million (without Megan Fox,) overseas— $765 Million smackers. Even Avatar the biggest movie ever took $760 Million at home, over $2 Billion away. The sad truth is that Hollywood doesn’t really need to worry about the domestic audience.
And why should they? The domestic audience is pretty useless anyhow— we are afraid to spend our money on anything we aren’t familiar with (not you and I, dear reader, but almost everyone else living amongst us.) We too, like to go with the perceived sure thing– these days sequels and remakes.
Take The Hurt Locker – not mind-blowing, but it won the Best Picture Oscar yet grossed a measly $17 Mil domestically, a quarter as much as Transformers 3 made at your local cinema (without Megan Fox.)
After suffering through a summer of American movies as appealing as a colonoscopy delivered by Andre the Giant (who was 7-foot-4 and had fingers the size of Japanese eggplants) Hollywood is in dire need of some fresh, cultured, intelligent blood. That same attitude that makes Euros poor tippers at the restaurant helps them make superior films in the cinema–They don’t give a shit what we think, they do what they want and they make movies with that zest of creative passion.
Drive, directed by a Dane, Nicholas Winding Refn, opens Friday and stars Canadian Ryan Gosling (The Notebook, Lars and the Real Girl) as ‘Driver” a lonely loner whe drives for a living, a shady living. He gets mixed up, thanks to love, in a foul scheme and it’s all quiet, tonal awesomeness and balls-out bloody “F#ck Yeah” from there on in.
“WingDing” Refn brings a ultra-composed raw aesthetic that’s stripped down, patient and quiet like Beat Takeshi’s Kids Return or Antonioni’s Blow Up, but with big, sloppy exit wounds and gallons of sprayed blood, not to mention some doozy car chases. Drive isn’t perfect, Carey Mulligan (An Education) gets saddled with a weakfish love-interest role but for the most part Refn its damn entertaining and refreshing to see someone take a new (if hyper-violent) approach to a classic idea.
Fear not though, American film is not dead, watch Scorcese, Tartantino or the Coen Brothers for proof. And Canadians are always on the rise —Michael Dowse’s Fubar 1 and 2 belong in a time capsule to explain “earth” to alien civilizations, and his latest, a hockey flick called Goon was a huge hit last week at the Toronto International Film Festival.
But the beautiful continent of Europe, with directors like Joe Wright (Hanna) Pedro Almodovar (An Education) and Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) continue to breath new life into our broad-audience-appeal-based film industry. We colonialists could learn a thing or two and here’s hoping the Euros keep sending their films our way.

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Snow Porn

September 10, 2011

Notes from the back row.

Some people, those who have never actually made one, will call them “Snow Porn.” And they’ll say it with a real superior tone…
“Those movies are so predictable. Booter, booter, rail. Crash, rail, rail. Timelapse. Guy driving his snowmobile on pavement. Wrestling and/or partying naked. Blue, white, blue, white, establishing landscape shot. Repeat.”
You hear a lot of talk this time of year, with snowfall looming, but the truth is that shots of snowmobiles driving on the highway keep popping up in ski and snowboard flicks because driving your sled on the road is really fun. And stuff that’s fun almost never gets old.
And neither does day-dreaming of ripping hundred foot pillow lines, landing in virgin powder, straight-lining out the bottoms of steep, looming chutes or dropping cliffs so big they have trees growing out of them.
Fun, is what ‘those’ movies are about. Capturing, evoking, inspiring and preparing for fun. And the first one of the season, Sandbox’s Day and Age, premieres Saturday Sept 10 at Millennium Place in Whistler.
Sandbox’s Kevin Sansalone and Clayton Larsen have been in the game a long time¬— Day and Age is their seventh movie—and they know how to make it look slick. North Americans have been watching movies about folks sliding down mountains since at least 1946 and there are hundreds of ski/snowboard films produced each year now. As well the internet is literally infested with POV montages and amateur segments so the difficulty in keeping things visually interesting is paramount. The Day and Age crew has obvious skill and visual flair but they also have cameras mounted on remote control helicopters patrolling the streets like some kind of renegade government security force turned awesome. It rules.
So does Day and Age’s healthy amount of big mountain riding— Andrew Hardingham charges and Sansalone is back with a few tricks of his own, including a burly slough sequence that’s my favourite shot in the film.
Wiley Tesso bombs some juicy pillowlines, Trevan Salmon spins real smooth and Dave Short is a rabid beast (and he has the helmet cams to prove it.)
Day and Age is 40 minutes of killer riding, greased rails, sick tricks, gnarly big mountain and a shitload of fun because Sandbox is all about having fun— otherwise they wouldn’t film full-grown men grinding a rainbow.
What some people call “Snow Porn” is what gets kids excited to go out and spend that money saved landscaping all summer— spend it on a new snowboard, on a pass, on rent. These movies are what incite people to pack into a van and drive for three days to get here. Snow Porn, especially the stuff made locally, keeps our industry moving and keeps it moving forward with every younger generation getting stoked on the things that look like fun. Day and Age kicks off a busy premiere season that won’t end until after the Whistler Film Festival in early December. Summer was half-ass, Winter is here.
The good old Village 8 is also opening a slew of new flicks this week, including The Debt and the this-might-happen-any-day pandemic thriller Contagion starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet and directed by Steven Soderberg. It looks awesome.
And keep your eyes open for Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, supposedly coming later this month and starring Brad Pitt. Malick (The Thin Red Line) is notorious for making solid-but-unconventional films (aka: hard to understand) and I haven’t seen this one yet but you can bet the same people who scoff at “Snow Porn” will all say they love Tree of Life. Even if they don’t.

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Interesting reading — 5 reasons why movies suck these days

September 10, 2011

Find out why here

I’ll give you a hint. Because it’s truly all about the money, not the art.

also check this out. ^ film Industry cover-ups.

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Sept 1/11- Cultural Mysteries Revealed!

September 7, 2011

MIla

Notes from the Back row- Aug30

It’s officially been one of the shittiest summers in recent memory— cinematically speaking— so let’s salvage what we can and examine Mila Kunis, specifically how she is the next generation’s Angelina Jolie and we can therefore chart her career to learn more about the “kids these days.”
The awesome thing is that Mila played “Young Gia” in 1998’s Gia, which is one of Angelina’s standout films, noteworthy for Angie’s commitment to a risky role as well as the nudity and lesbianism. Only 23, Ms Jolie got an Emmy nomination for Gia but she’d already hit big with movie lovers (and lovers of lips) by stealing the show in the young-love, computer-crime thriller Hackers (which easily predicted an era when renegade computer nerds would ANONYMOUSLY hack into governments, banks and big businesses to steal and peruse data. )
Mila Kunis didn’t hit her naked-lesbian-movie phase until age 27 with last years Oscar-winning Black Swan. The kids these days are less rambunctious, 27 is the new 23, but our culture is pushing them into showbiz earlier— Mila started TV’s That 70’s Show when she was just 15. Angelina was modeling at that age but didn’t start seriously in film for another two years.
Angie followed Gia by winning an Oscar (Girl, Interupted) then doing a bunch of flicks with great nudity and sex scenes. 2001’s Original Sin saw her in various compromising positions with sex-symbol du jour Antonio Banderas– Angie was 26. Mila just completed the new version of celebrity sexy, a flick with Justin Timberlake called Friends with Benefits – she’s 28.
The funny thing about Friends with Benefits (other than the supporting cast) is that while it doesn’t show any real true nudity, it is chock full of Mila pulling on or off her pants and all the sex jokes are about things like cunnilingus, genital grooming and anal sex. Images are not taboo to a generation raised on easy-access Google nude pics. Actions are taboo now— “weird” sex acts and voyeuristic undressing whereas in the old days a good look at some bouncing titties or heavy thrusting would suffice. No longer, the kids have evolved.angelina
Angie, of course, moved away from the sex (not counting Taking Lives) after she became a mega-star with Lara Croft and shifted into overdrive- becoming a UN Ambassador, adopting/having kids, doing voice-over work for cartoons (Shark Tale, Kung Fu Pandas) still getting Oscar Nominations (The Changeling, A Mighty Heart) and marrying (essentially) Brad Pitt.
Also no stranger to voice work (Meg in The Family Guy) we’ll see what Mila has up her sleeve for her post-lesbo phase. You can bet her career/life path will be less full-on than Angelina (the kids are less motivated nowadays- rather than find this generation’s Brad Pitt Mila had apparently been dating Macaulay Culkin.) There is, however, no denying Mila’s talent, beauty or drive (two cunnilingus movies in two years) so she’ll do just fine, banking on her comedy chops for a few films before finding that action picture that spirals her into the big time.

Jolie


Speaking of the future, there’s a historical spaceman movie opening. Apollo 18 is a PG-13 horror-sci-fi about back-in-the-day American astronauts re-visiting the moon for a secret mission. And then they find giant Transformers— just kidding. Actually there were no previews (not usually a good sign but for a horror it’s actually better this way) so all I know is Apollo 18 looks to be shot entirely on in-narrative security cameras and has a real Paranormal Activity vibe going. Also, even though the flick drops Friday there’s already an Apollo 18 video game/puzzle that you can download and play on Facebook. Kids these days…

Kunis

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Raunch, Help, and Cheating Death

August 17, 2011

emma stone is a great help

Notes from the back row. Aug 9

Three worthy flicks

Raunch comedy is still Hollywood’s go-to for summer laughs. So far Bridesmaids has made the biggest splash (and a shitload of cash) by custom-catering raunch to the female crowds this week the dudes get a shot when 30 Minutes or Less, opens Friday at the Whistler Village 8 and the Garibaldi 5 in Squamish.
Danny McBride (Hot Rod, Pineapple Express) and Nick Swardson (Blades of Glory) star as two losers with a get-rich-quick scheme that involves kidnapping a hapless pizza delivery guy (Jesse Eisenberg from Zombieland, The Social Network), strapping a bomb to him and forcing him to rob a bank in order to pay a hitman hired to kill McBride’s rich father. Said pizza guy enlists the help of his ex-best friend (Aziz Ansari of 40-Year-Old-Virgin) and the dual-buddy-flick screwball comedy ensues.
30 Minutes or Less director Rueben Fleischer (Zombieland) doesn’t take things as far, or as dark, as he could—much of the comedy feels a bit standard issue but there are definitely some good laughs to be had. And few actors working today can curse as artfully as Danny McBride— this one is certainly not for the easily offended.
There are no decent female roles at all (unless you count “the stripper” and “the hot sister”) and the plot and story are utterly unbelievable, stupid almost. I think that is why I like it— stupid done right. 30 Minutes or Less, at just 83 minutes long, is “high” comedy that really motors.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, The Help is a sentimental drama about three extraordinary women in 1960s Misssissippi who band together over a secret writing project that tears down the societal norms and builds up a brave new day. I think this one is based on a famous book or something but it looks like one of those feel-bad/feel-good racism stories in the same vein as The Blind Side, that football movie that earned Sandra Bullock her Oscar. The Help has no football but stars Emma Stone (Superbad, Easy A) as the white girl who sides with the “help” (black maids and nannies who are generally treated worse than shit) to shake things up and get the times a changin’ for the better.
The Help doesn’t look too sappy though, which is always a danger with these kinds of films and I’m betting this is a perfect grandma and mom flick. It seems like a well-made, uplifting tale but it’s also two hours and seventeen minutes long so buy the extra bag of M&Ms and keep a few napkins handy, this one has tearjerker potential.
Speaking of napkins, the Final Destination franchise is infamous for it’s deadly, gruesome money shots and while there were no pre-screenings for Final Destination 5 it does have extra local appeal because the opening disaster scene features the collapse of Vancouver’s Lion’s Gate Bridge.
The premise is nothing new—five survivors who cheated Fate/Death battle to survive while getting picked off one by one via incredibly elaborate death scenes. Aside from raising some philosophical questions about predetermination and the true value of life, Final Destination 5 is really little more than locally shot Death-Porn. Which is good enough really, this franchise is going strong. I generally label these flicks as rentals but who hasn’t been kind of sketched out going over the Lion’s Gate Bridge (its really old) so I’m for sure checking this out on the big screen. Real movie fans should drive to Vancouver and watch in 3D, then cross the Lion’s Gate on the way home…