Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: Tim Burton and Henry Selick's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is Indeed a Timeless Classic

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 104 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Running time: 76 minutes (1 hour, 16 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some scary images
DIRECTOR: Henry Selick
WRITERS: Caroline Thompson, from a story by Tim Burton and an adaptation by Michael McDowell
PRODUCERS: Tim Burton and Denise DiNovi
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pete Kozachik (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Stan Webb
COMPOSER: Danny Elfman
Academy Award nominee


Starring: (voices) Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens, Ken Page, and Ed Ivory

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is a 1993 stop motion animation film. A musical fantasy film, it is directed by Henry Selick and is also the creation of acclaimed director, Tim Burton.

Next to Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, my favorite Christmas film is The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s a technique in which the filmmakers use models instead of hand drawn animation. To get even one second of film, the makers shoot anywhere from 25 to 35 photographs of the models, moving them ever so slightly for each photograph. Seen in film speed, it looks as if the models are moving – almost the same technique as hand drawn animation, except this is with models.

Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon; Danny Elfman provides Jack’s singing voice) is the Pumpkin King, the man who makes Halloween happen, but he’s suddenly bored doing the same thing year after year. In this story, each holiday (like Easter and Valentine’s Day) has it’s own land just Halloween has Halloweentown. Jack accidentally discovers Christmas Town, and he’s taken by the vibrant and warm colors of the holiday. He decides to kidnap Santa Claus (Ed Ivory) and have the resident bats, ghouls, and goblins of Halloweentown help him take over Christmas. However, Jack doesn’t quite get the concept of Christmas, and he replaces the traditional gifts of the season with thingies more appropriate for his holiday. The whole town is taken with the idea, and it seems that only Sally (Catherine O’Hara), Jack’s secret admirer, sees the error of Jack’s new direction.

There is so much that is wonderful with this picture. The stop-motion animation gives the film a quirky and offbeat rhythm that makes watching the film irresistible. Clearly, director Selick is in love with this method, and it shows in the lovingly moody and charmingly dark atmosphere. The animators, the art staff, and the model makers come together to make a movie that has an elegant beauty even in its darkly mysterious and gothic world. The film is a charming concoction that recalls Edward Gorey and Charles Addams (especially his “Addams Family cartoons for the New Yorker) and even Tim Burton’s brilliant film, Beetlejuice, among other things. There’s so much for the eye to take in and never has the creepy seemed so lovely. There is very little in American cinema that looks like this film.

Until I heard it, I never believed that Danny Elfman’s song score and music for this film could be so good. Not only does he make this a fine film musical, Elfman also takes the film to a higher level. As good as Nightmare is, it is Elfman who really sells the story. The concept is a novelty (born from a Tim Burton poem), and a one-note idea at that, and the script is pretty flat; sometimes the story didn’t seem to be going anywhere. However, Elfman gives it life; it’s his songs that express the longings, emotions, and ideas within the film, which are essentially about being yourself and being true to your game.

The voice acting is excellent. Clearly everyone was having a grand time doing this, and we will have a great time watching it. This is one time where I have mad love for the people who made the film.

8 of 10

1994 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Effects, Visual Effects” (Pete Kozachik, Eric Leighton, Ariel Velasco-Shaw, and Gordon Baker)

1994 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (Danny Elfman)


Monday, August 29, 2011

Disney's "Prom," "Nightmare Before Christmas 3D" Now on DVD and Blu-ray

PROM: Follow the delightfully-fun—and often hilarious—journey of a group of young teenagers as they navigate through the most memorable and also difficult times of their lives in the original film PROM, arriving on Disney Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, Movie Download and On-Demand, August 30, 2011. This enchanting coming-of-age story is the perfect family-friendly film that captures all the anticipation, excitement, drama, and humor that accompany every young person’s journey through high school.

Consumers will not want to miss the chance to own the ultimate 2-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack that is exclusively packaged with bonus features including a hilarious, laugh out loud short “Last Chance Lloyd,” deleted scenes, music videos and more. PROM will be available for purchase at retail as a 2-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD) or a High Definition Movie Download for the suggested price of $39.99 in the U.S. and $46.99 in Canada; as well as a 1-Disc DVD or a Standard Definition Movie Download for the suggested price of $29.99 in the U.S. and $35.99 in Canada. For more information on this release, please visit www.Disney.com/Prom.

PROM stars Aimee Teegarden (“Friday Night Lights”), Thomas McDonell (“The Forbidden Kingdom”), Danielle Campbell (“Prison Break”), Yin Chang (“Gossip Girl”), Nicholas Braun (“10 Things I Hate About You”), Jared Kusnitz (“The Secret Life of the American Teenager”), Jonathan Keltz (“Entourage”), De’Vaughn Nixon (“Sonny with a Chance”), Nolan Sotillo (“Corey and Lucas for the Win”), Cameron Monaghan (“Corey and Lucas for the Win”) and Raini Rodriguez (“I’m in the Band”).

TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS 3D - More astonishing and spectacular than ever before, Academy Award® nominated writer/producer Tim Burton’s overwhelmingly favorite The Nightmare Before Christmas becomes available for the first time ever to own on Disney Blu-ray 3D™ and/or 3D Movie Download, on August 30, 2011. Leaping off the screen and into living rooms this holiday season, the all-new 3D presentation of The Nightmare Before Christmas will be available as a 3-Disc Combo Pack (Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray™, DVD/Digital Copy hybrid) and/or a 3D Movie Download,* providing fans and families alike with several great ways to enjoy the film.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is produced by Academy Award® nominated writer and producer Tim Burton (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride) and Denise DiNovi (Edward Scissorhands, James and the Giant Peach), directed by Henry Selick (Coraline, James and the Giant Peach) and written by Michael McDowell (Beetle Juice, Thinner) and Caroline Thompson (Corpse Bride, The Addams Family). And the spectacular characters are voiced by the talents of Chris Sarandon (The Princess Bride, Fright Night) as Jack Skellington’s speaking voice, Danny Elfman (Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Jack Skellington’s singing voice and Catherine O-Hara (Home Alone, Best In Show) as Sally, to name a few.

The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-Disc Combo Pack (Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD/Digital Copy hybrid) will retail for the suggested price of $49.99 U.S./$56.99 Canada and the 3D Movie Download will retail for the suggested price of $25.00 U.S.

COUGAR TOWN: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON- Jules Cobb‘s learning that the idea of family isn‘t always so traditional on her not so quiet Florida cul-de-sac. Together with her teenage son, friends, neighbors and even ex-husband, the dysfunctional, yet supportive extended family manages the next stages of their lives together. This hilarious DVD release invites audiences to collect and relive every laugh-out-loud moment, plus exciting never-before-seen bonus features!

Cougar Town: The Complete Second Season is releasing as a 3-Disc DVD set with a suggested retail price: $34.99 US/$41.99 Canada.

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON - It‘s high noon on Wisteria Lane as a brand new rival stirs up even more excitement, deceit and romance in the neighborhood. This sizzling DVD release allows audiences to collect every red-hot episode, plus juicy never-before-seen bonus features.

Desperate Housewives: The Complete Seventh Season is releasing as a 5-Disc DVD set with a suggested retail price: $45.99 US/$54.99 Canada/

"Gantz" Live-Action Movie Now on DVD and Blu-ray


Sci-Fi Live-Action Film Based On Hit Anime/Manga Series Features Two Of The Biggest Stars Of Japanese Cinema

NEW PEOPLE Entertainment, a film division of NEW PEOPLE, Inc. that focuses on the licensing and distribution of Japanese films and media, will delight sci-fi, action and anime/manga fans across North America with the release of GANTZ on DVD (SRP $24.92) and Blu-ray/DVD combo-pack(SRP $29.99) on August 30th. The film, which is unrated, features both English and Japanese dialogue options and a bonus disc with an exclusive director’s interview and film trailers.

To celebrate the film’s release, a special screening of GANTZ is scheduled for Friday, August 26th at 7:00pm in San Francisco at NEW PEOPLE’s Cinema as part of the 2011 J-Pop Summit Festival. The film will be shown in Japanese with English subtitles. Get a great deal by purchasing a ticket bundle that also includes the brand-new DVD or Blu-ray plus a poster. Tickets and more information are available at http://www.newpeopleworld.com/films.

GANTZ is based on a hit manga series created by Hiroya Oku and stars leading Japanese actors Kazunari Ninomiya (Letters from Iwo Jima) and Kenichi Matsuyama (Death Note, Detroit Metal City). The film tells the story of two childhood friends that are accidentally killed while trying to save another man’s life. Rather than find themselves in the hereafter, however, they awaken in a strange apartment in which they find a mysterious black orb they come to know as “GANTZ.” Along with similar abductees, they are provided with equipment and weaponry and manipulated into playing a kind of game in which they are sent back out to the greater world to do battle with alien beings, all while never quite knowing whether this game is an illusion or their new reality.

“GANTZ first thrilled domestic audiences when we presented the film theatrically in a special one-night-only premiere at over 300 movie theatres nationally earlier this year that was attended by thousands of people across North America,” says Seiji Horibuchi, President and CEO of NEW PEOPLE, Inc. “Anticipation has risen steadily since then and fans now have the exclusive opportunity to own the film on DVD and Blu-ray with our release on August 30th. GANTZ features two of the biggest stars in Japanese cinema and remains true to the innovative storyline from the original manga series. Fans won’t want to miss this exciting release and stay tuned for news coming soon on the upcoming release of the film’s action-packed sequel, GANTZ II: Perfect Answer!”

Kazunari Ninomiya, best known in America for his role in Clint Eastwood’s 2006 blockbuster, Letters from Iwo Jima, is both an actor and a singer. He is also world-renowned as a member of the Japanese boy band “Arashi,” which topped Japan’s music charts in 2009 with the three best-selling singles.

Kenichi Matsuyama is currently one of the most sought-after actors in Japanese film and he has won several awards including Japanese Academy Awards Best New Actor (2007) and Most Popular Actor (2009). Matsuyama is widely recognized for his part as L in Death Note (2006), Death Note II: the Last Name (2006) and Death Note: L, change the WorLd (2008) and also for his portrayal of Johannes Krauser II in the outlandish rock and roll comedy, Detroit Metal City (2009).

About NEW PEOPLE, Inc.
Based in San Francisco, California, NEW PEOPLE, Inc. (http://www.newpeopleworld.com/) offers the latest films, art, fashion and retail brands from Japan through its unique entertainment destination as well as through licensing and distribution of selective Japanese films. NEW PEOPLE Entertainment (www.newpeopleent.com), a film division of NEW PEOPLE, Inc. strives to offer the most entertaining motion pictures straight from the "Kingdom of Pop" for audiences of all ages, especially the manga and anime generation, in North America. Some titles include DEATH NOTE, GANTZ, KAMIKAZE GIRLS, and THE TASTE OF TEA.

Pixar Unveils the Story of "Brave"

Brave is Pixar Animation Studios' next film and is set to be released in June 2012.  The synopsis of the film has been making the rounds the last few weeks.

From Pixar Planet:

Synopsis: Since ancient times, stories of epic battles and mystical legends have been passed through the generations across the rugged and mysterious Highlands of Scotland. In “Brave,” a new tale joins the lore when the courageous Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) confronts tradition, destiny and the fiercest of beasts.

Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane). Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch (voice of Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late.

Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, and produced by Katherine Sarafian, “Brave” is a grand adventure full of heart, memorable characters and the signature Pixar humor enjoyed by audiences of all ages. The film takes aim at theaters on June 22, 2012, and will be presented in Disney Digital 3D™ in select theaters.

A grand adventure full of heart, memorable characters and signature Pixar humor, “Brave” uncovers a new tale in the mysterious Highlands of Scotland where the impetuous Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) defies an age-old custom and inadvertently unleashes chaos, forcing her to discover the meaning of true bravery before it’s too late.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"5 Against the House" a Romantic, Comic Crime Drama

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 75 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

5 Against the House (1955) – B&W
Running time: 84 minutes (1 hour, 24 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Phil Karlson
WRITERS: Stirling Silliphant, William Bowers, and John Barnwell (based upon the Good Housekeeping magazine short story by Jack Finney)
PRODUCERS: John Barnwell and Stirling Silliphant
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lester White (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Jerome Thoms
COMPOSER: George Duning

CRIME/DRAMA with elements of romance

Starring: Guy Madison, Kim Novak, Brian Keith, Alvy Moore, Kerwin Mathews, William Conrad, Jack Dimond, and Jean Wills

Released in 1955, 5 Against the House is one of the first filmed heists and one of the first movies to depict a casino robbery. The film follows four college buddies who decide to rob a casino as a hoax. I am primarily interested in this film for two reasons. 5 Against the House is considered to be “film noir,” of which I am a fan. I am also a fan of the late actor, Alvy Moore, and this movie is one of his first big film roles.

Film noir is the term primarily used to describe a category of Hollywood crime dramas generally (but not exclusively) released in the 1940s and 1950s. I have been interested in film noir (or Film-Noir) for a long time, but it is only in the last decade or so that I have specifically sought out these films. 5 Against the House was released in 2009 as part of a five-DVD box set entitled, Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics 1.

Jack Alvin “Alvy” Moore was born in December 1921 and died in May 1997. Primarily a light comic actor, Moore made numerous guest appearances on television shows, but he is best known for playing the incompetent county agent, “Hank Kimball,” on the CBS television series, Green Acres (1965-71). Moore served in the United States Marine Corps and saw combat in the Battle of Iwo Jima. He broke into film in the early 1950s and had a small speaking role as one of Marlon Brando’s motorcycle gang in the 1953 film, The Wild Ones. As a supporting actor, 5 Against the House was one his early major roles. At one time, Moore had a small production company and produced the cult science fiction film, A Boy and His Dog (1975), based upon the Harlan Ellison short story.

5 Against the House begins with college pals: Al Mercer (Guy Madison), Brick (Brian Keith), Ronnie (Kerwin Matthews), and Roy Cruikshank (Alvy Moore). The young men are on their way back to college from summer jobs when they take a quick side-trip to Reno, Nevada, where they visit the famous casino, Harold’s Club. While there, Ronnie and Roy get caught up in a robbery attempt. After the culprit is apprehended, the boys overhear someone lament that there is no way a casino robbery can be done.

After they return to their college, Midwestern University, Ronnie, a brainy rich kid, begins to formulate a way to successfully rob Harold’s Club. Al reconnects with his gorgeous girlfriend, Kaye Greylek (Kim Novak), who is now a singer at a local nightclub. Meanwhile, Brick, who served during the Korean War, has a psychotic episode after a fellow student goads him into a fight. Al, who served in Korea with Brick, stops the fight and begs Brick to return to a veteran’s hospital for treatment of his head injury and for post-war mental trauma, which Brick refuses.

Ronnie convinces Brick and Roy to join his plan to rob Harold’s Club after he tells them that it is a hoax and that they will return the money afterwards. They plot to find a way to get Al to participate (with Kaye tagging along), but one of them secretly wants the robbery to be real and has no intention of returning a single dime to Harold’s Club.

I wouldn’t call 5 Against the House a great film, but it is certainly a darn good one. The script, by writers Stirling Silliphant (also a producer), William Bowers, and John Barnwell), efficiently covers a lot of ground in terms of characterization, impressive for a film that barely has over 80 minutes of actual narrative. Viewers will get to know the characters, from Brick’s desperation and psychosis to talkative Roy’s ability to diffuse a situation with one quick quip. Ronnie’s rich boy machinations add nice touches to several scenes.

The combined efforts of director Phil Karlson and director of photography Lester White yield a stylish film that can be tension-filled (casino scenes) and laid back (when the boys are on campus). The opening and closing shots of the gateway to Reno and the romantic scenes featuring Al and Kaye epitomize film noir’s alluring contrast of light and dark.

Some film noir movies have beautiful musical scores, and 5 Against the House has an excellent score from George Duning, which is by turns romantic and suspenseful. Kim Novak shimmers while giving superb singing performances of two songs, "The Life of the Party" (written by Hal Hackady and Billy Mure) and "I Went Out of My Way" (written by Helen Bliss).

I watched 5 Against the House mainly to see Alvy Moore, but I was introduced to a film I can add to my “favorite movies” list.

7 of 10

Friday, August 26, 2011


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Review: "Priest" Wants to Be a Cowboy

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 74 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Priest (2011)
Running time: 87 minutes (1 hour, 27 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and brief strong language
DIRECTOR: Scott Stewart
WRITER: Cory Goodman (based on the graphic novel series Priest by Min-Woo Hyung)
PRODUCERS: Michael De Luca, Joshua Donen, and Mitchell Peck
EDITORS: Lisa Zeno Churgin and Rebecca Weigold
COMPOSER: Christopher Young
ANIMATION STUDIO: Viking Animation Studios


Starring: Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Lily Collins, Christopher Plummer, Brad Dourif, Stephen Moyer, Madchen Amick, and Alan Dale

Priest is a 2011 post-apocalyptic, vampire action movie. The film is based on the Korean comic book, Priest, by Min-Woo Hyung, which was published in the U.S. by American manga and graphic novel publisher, TOKYOPOP. The film follows a vampire-killing priest who disobeys orders to track down his niece and the vampire that kidnapped her.

Priest takes place on a world where for centuries, humans and vampires (who are bestial and don’t have eyes) have been at war. The Church (similar to the Roman Catholic Church) created an elite group of warriors called “Priests” who are blessed with special powers that allowed them to slay vampires. Humans won the war, killing most of the vampires and placing the rest in reservations. The Church built giant walled cities to protect mankind and to better control people.

The movie opens in Cathedral City and focuses on the character known only as Priest (Paul Bettany), and like other Priests, he has lived as an outcast since the end of the war. Hicks (Cam Gigandet), the sheriff of the nearby small town of Augustine, arrives to tell the Priest that his brother’s family was attacked by a pack of vampires and that Priest’s niece, Lucy Pace (Lily Collins), has been kidnapped by the vampires. Black Hat (Karl Urban), a mysterious vampire leader with a connection to Priest, now has Lucy. Disobeying the Church’s demand for him to stay in Cathedral City, Priest sets out into the Wastelands with Hicks, Lucy’s boyfriend, to recover her. Along the way, they are joined by a talented warrior, Priestess (Maggie Q), who helps them uncover a shocking vampire plot.

Although it may not be as obvious as Cowboys and Aliens, Priest is basically a post-apocalyptic, science fiction Western film. The Priests are something like sheriff’s deputies, with Paul Bettany’s Priest being a renegade Western gunslinger as hero. Of course, Karl Urban’s Black Hat is the villain in a black hat. Sadly, the film does not really do much with the very talented Karl Urban, who has terrific screen chops. By the end of this movie, I couldn’t help but think that Urban was vastly under-utilized.

In fact, Priest is a concept with a lot of good ideas, and the film under-utilizes most of them. Priest’s version of the vampire is wickedly good and the environment in which they live is cool, creepy, and scary, but this film never seems to do enough with that. Luckily, the story does make good use of Hicks, the Priestess, and even Lucy.

Priest does make great use of its lead character, Priest, and of the film’s lead actor, Paul Bettany. Priest is the strong, silent type – part Wesley Snipes’ Blade and part Clint Eastwood’s the Man with no Name. Bettany is a talented actor with movie star looks and skills, and he also has a great speaking voice. Director Scott Stewart, who worked with Bettany on the recent horror movie, Legion, recognizes this and makes great use of his star. Bettany makes the journey through Priest’s kooky world of gruesome vampires and creepy Church officials an entertaining road trip. Priest could have been a B-movie hot mess; instead, Stewart and Bettany make it hot stuff.

5 of 10

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: "Drag Me to Hell" is Gross-Out Fun

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 5 (of 2009) by Leroy Douresseaux

Drag Me to Hell (2009)
Running time: 99 minutes (1 hour, 39 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images, and language
WRITERS: Ivan Raimi and Sam Raimi
PRODUCERS: Grant Curtis and Sam Raimi
EDITOR: Bill Murawski

HORROR with elements of comedy and thriller

Starring: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Adriana Barraza, Chelci Ross, Molly Cheek, and Reggie Lee

The Sam Raimi who directed The Evil Dead films has returned to his demonic spirits-gone-wild roots with the new film, Drag Me to Hell. Before he directed the Spider-Man films, Raimi unleashed ghoulish, comic horror movies that featured, among other things, preposterous scenes of mutilation and slapstick dismemberment, in flicks like Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992). Drag Me to Hell is essentially from the same family as those scary movies. It’s like EC Comics on crack with a steroid chaser – and rated PG-13!

This film focuses on the soft-hearted Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), an ambitious L.A. loan officer for WilshirePacific Bank. Christine also has a charming boyfriend, Clay Dalton (Justin Long), who has recently become a philosophy professor, but all is not well. The winsome girl with a dazed look in her eyes is tired of being life’s punching bag. She knows that Clay’s mother doesn’t like her (although they’ve never met), and at work, a cheesy co-worker, Stu Rubin (Reggie Lee), is scheming to snatch a promotion from her. When the mysterious, one-eyed Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) shows up at the bank and begs Christine for an extension on her home loan, Christine decides not to follow her instincts and give the old woman a break. Instead, Christine denies the extension in order to impress her boss, Mr. Jacks (David Paymer), and, in turn, get an edge in the battle for the promotion.

Christine’s fateful choice shames Mrs. Ganush and essentially dispossesses Ganush of her home. In retaliation, Ganush, a rotten-toothed old gypsy woman, places the powerful curse of the Black Lamia on Christine, which transforms the young woman’s life into a living hell. Almost immediately, the evil spirit starts to haunt and torment Christine, and her plight is misunderstood by her skeptical boyfriend. Christine seeks the aid of a seer, Rham Jas (Dileep Rao), in hopes that he can tell her what’s happening. What Christine learns is that after three days of tormenting her, the Lamia will drag her soul to hell to burn for eternity.

Perhaps, it is Allison Lohman loveable, huggable, girl-next-door quality that makes it easier for the viewer to sympathize with her and even want to take on her troubles. Maybe it’s Raimi’s ability to scare the hell out of his audience with cartoonish, ghoulish nightmares – or maybe both. Whatever the reasons are, Drag Me to Hell gets in your head. Raimi does that by creating a hellish carnival atmosphere: the kind where the ticket salesman is a hideous, curse-spewing crone; where the fun house is a level of hell; and where the cotton candy maker is a jack-in-the-box full of wormy devils. The film is also very old school; Raimi often creates the sense of creeping dread by using atmospherics like shifty shadows and sound effects. This film even features a favorite Raimi trademark – a demonic possession

Drag Me to Hell is also filled with wonderfully deranged sequences. The first physical altercation between Christine and Mrs. Ganush is film’s best confrontation, and it involves nothing but hands, feet, and teeth – nothing supernatural until the end of it. In fact, Mrs. Ganush is a great character, conceived to be a physically aggressive granny who is as delightfully vindictive as she is demonic and ghoulish.

You’ll laugh. You’ll scream. You may even laugh at your own gullibility, but Sam Raimi has returned to the wretched roots of his filmmaking – bugf*ck crazy horror movies. Drag Me to Hell isn’t perfect; there’s too much of a focus on Alison Lohman’s Christine to the detriment of the other quality characters (like Justin Long’s Clay and Dileep Rao’s Rham Jas, for instance). Still, its mixture of blood-curdling terror, gross-out horror, and inspired lunacy make Drag Me to Hell one of the most entertaining horror flicks in years.

7 of 10

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Thursday, August 25, 2011

John Pilger on the Recent Riots in London

"Damn It or Fear It, the Forbidden Truth Is There's an Insurrection in Britain"

In an age of public relations as news, the clean-up campaign, however well meant by many people, can also serve the government's and media's goal of sweeping inequality and hopelessness under gentrified carpets, with cheery volunteers armed with their brand-new brooms and pointedly described as "Londoners" as if the rest are aliens.

Go. Read.


Review: "Queen of the Damned" is a Mere Curiosity Piece (Remembering Aaliyah)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 175 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Queen of the Damned (2002)
Running time: 101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
MPAA – R for vampire violence
DIRECTOR: Michael Rymer
WRITERS: Scott Abbott and Michael Petroni (based on The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice)
PRODUCER: Jorge Saralegui
EDITOR: Dany Cooper
COMPOSERS: Jonathan Davis and Richard Gibbs


Starring: Stuart Townsend, Aaliyah, Marguerite Moreau, Vincent Perez, Paul McGann, and Lena Olin

Some may remember the furor and excitement over the unintentionally campy costume drama, quasi horror/fantasy, vampire movie, Interview with a Vampire, based upon the Anne Rice novel of the same title. Released in 1994, it featured Tom Cruise miscast as one half of a vampire duo with Brad Pitt, who wasn’t as miscast, as the other half. At the time, I liked Interview with a Vampire, but I have never been able to watch the film in its entirety since then.

Now comes a sequel of sorts – Queen of the Damned. This 2002 horror film is an adaptation of the third novel in author Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, The Queen of the Damned, with some plot elements from the second book in the series, The Vampire Lestat. While the first film had its controversy, Queen of the Damned is mostly remembered because it is the last screen appearance of R&B singer and actress, Aaliyah Dana Haughton, best known simply as Aaliyah.

In this film, sexy Stuart Townsend replaces Cruise as the vampire Lestat. Queen of the Damned also depicts Lestat’s rebirth as a vampire (which had been hinted at in the first film) at the hands of a noble dilettante vampire named Marius (Vincent Perez). Marius also possesses the (un)earthly remains of the King and Queen of Vampires (they’re frozen like alabaster statues). Lestat arouses the Queen, Akasha (Aaliyah), from her slumber and that panics Marius. The nobleman takes the remains before Akasha is fully revived and disappears, leaving Lestat alone. This is told in flashback.

The film really begins centuries later, as the sounds of rock music awaken the despondent Lestat, who eventually joins a band of Goth rockers. Still feeling very lonely, Lestat deliberately commits one of the greatest sins a vampire can commit against his kind; he goes public with his vampirism. Marius, who had been secretly following Lestat since he’d abandoned his apprentice, reappears to warn his “child.” However, Lestat’s rock star fame has earned him a death sentence from several vampires who want to destroy him for going public. Worst of all, Akasha finally awakens completely. She has her eyes on Lestat as her royal consort, but she also wants to destroy humanity again, as she did during her first reign.

Queen of the Damned is an occasionally delightful horror film with a heavy fantasy atmosphere, but it also has an equally heavy campy atmosphere. Still, I found it to be an oddly fascinating monster movie. The script is weak, and all the characters are little more than fancy and stylish ciphers. Like its predecessor, Interview with a Vampire, Queen of the Damned manages to have a peculiar kind realism or verisimilitude, as if the world of this movie could actually exist. Director Michael Rymer does a good job grounding this film in reality, which it makes the film’s more fantastic elements really stand out.

A really nice extra from this film is that Jonathan Davis, leader singer of the rock band Korn, and film composer Richard Gibbs provide some nice music and songs for Lestat’s rock band. Davis even sings the songs in the film, but contractual difficulties forced others to sing the songs for the film’s soundtrack CD release. The music adds a nice touch to this campy movie, which is worth seeing when you’re hungry for trash and laughs. I’ll remember Queen of the Damned for Aaliyah, the singer who became an actress with potential. Her beauty radiates in this film, and that makes me think more of it than I would without her.

5 of 10

2003 Black Reel Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Film Poster”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Montreal International Black Film Festival Announces Spokesman

Charles Biddle Jr will be the spokesperson of the 7th edition of the Montreal International Black Film Festival

The Montreal International Black Film Festival (MIBFF), presented by Global Montreal, is proud to announce that the spokesperson for its 7th edition will be Charles Biddle Jr.

Charles Biddle Jr has been shining on the cultural scene for many years, as both an actor and singer-songwriter. Since being awarded the 2001 Félix for Best Artist for his performance in the musical Notre-Dame de Paris, where he played the role of Clopin, the king of truands, he toured the world and then joined the American cast of Notre-Dame de Paris in Las Vegas.

Born into Black culture, jazz, motown and rhythm & blues, the incredibly versatile artist with an extremely diverse cultural background is proud to represent the Montreal International Black Film Festival: “As a society, it's important to broaden our horizons and reflect on the reality of others. The mission of the MIBFF allows us to do so in an entertaining way. Cinema is the perfect medium to bring awareness to issues we might not be confronted with on a daily basis. I cannot wait to take part in the festivities and enjoy the festival's full program.”

“Just like the MIBFF, Charles Biddle Jr is a perfect mix of African-American and Quebec cultures. We're proud that our spokesman is the son of the famous jazz man Charles Biddle, who contributed a lot to Montreal's musical heritage”, said Emile Castonguay, programming director and co-founder of the MIBFF.

Charles Biddle Jr. succeeds renowned Columnist Francine Grimaldi, who has been the MIBFF's spokesperson for the past 5 years and who will now be the Honorary Ambassador of the Festival.

The 7th MIBFF will take place from September 22 to October 2, 2011!

About the Montreal International Black Film Festival - MIBFF
Presented by Global Montreal, the Montreal International Black Film Festival (MIBFF) was created in 2005 by the Fabienne Colas Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting Cinema, Art and Culture. The mission of the Montreal International Black Film Festival is to stimulate the development of the independent film industry and to encourage more films on the realities of Blacks from around the world. The Festival wants to promote a different kind of cinema, cinema that hails from here and from abroad and that does not necessarily have the opportunity to grace the big screen, groundbreaking cinema that moves us, that raises awareness and that takes us all by surprise. The MIBFF wants to deal with issues and present works that raise questions, that provoke, that make us smile, that leave us perplexed, that shock us... A fresh new look at black cinema from the four corners of the globe! http://www.montrealblackfilm.com/.

Get all the festival news on:

Transformers: Dark of the Moon Returns to IMAX


Film Grosses $1,095 Billion to Date

Los Angeles, CA (August 23, 2011) – IMAX Corporation (NYSE:IMAX; TSX:IMX) and Paramount Pictures announced today that Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third film in the blockbuster Transformers franchise, is returning to 246 IMAX® domestic locations for an extended two-week run from Friday, Aug. 26 through Thursday, Sept. 8. During those two weeks, the 3-D film will play simultaneously with other films in the IMAX network.

Since its launch on June 29, Transformers: Dark of the Moon has grossed $1,095 billion globally, with $59.6 million generated from IMAX theatres globally.

“The fans have spoken and we are excited to bring Transformers: Dark of the Moon back to IMAX theatres,” said Greg Foster, IMAX Chairman and President of Filmed Entertainment. “The film has been a remarkable success and we are thrilled to offer fans in North America another chance to experience the latest chapter in this history making franchise.”

Transformers: Dark of the Moon: An IMAX 3D Experience has been digitally re-mastered into the image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience® with proprietary IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-mastering) technology for presentation in IMAX 3D. The crystal-clear images, coupled with IMAX’s customized theatre geometry and powerful digital audio, create a unique immersive environment that will make audiences feel as if they are in the movie.

About Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Shia LaBeouf returns as Sam Witwicky in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. When a mysterious event from Earth's past erupts into the present day it threatens to bring a war to Earth so big that the Transformers alone will not be able to save us.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the third film in the Transformers franchise and the first shot in 3D. It is directed by Michael Bay, written by Ehren Kruger and produced by Don Murphy & Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Ian Bryce. The executive producers are Steven Spielberg, Michael Bay, Brian Goldner and Mark Vahradian. The film has been rated PG-13. © 2011 Paramount Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

HASBRO, TRANSFORMERS and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro. © 2011 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved.

About Paramount Pictures Corporation
Paramount Pictures Corporation (PPC), a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment, is a unit of Viacom (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B), a leading content company with prominent and respected film, television and digital entertainment brands. The company's labels include Paramount Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics, Insurge Pictures, MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies. PPC operations also include Paramount Digital Entertainment, Paramount Famous Productions, Paramount Home Entertainment, Paramount Pictures International, Paramount Licensing Inc., Paramount Studio Group and Paramount Television & Digital Distribution.

About IMAX Corporation
IMAX Corporation is one of the world's leading entertainment and technology companies, specializing in the creation and delivery of premium, awe-inspiring entertainment experiences. With a growing suite of cutting-edge motion picture and sound technologies, and a globally recognized entertainment brand, IMAX is singularly situated at the convergence of the entertainment industry, innovation and the digital media world. The industry's top filmmakers and studios are utilizing IMAX theatres to connect with audiences in extraordinary ways, and as such, the IMAX network is among the most important and successful theatrical distribution platforms for major event films around the globe. The Company's new digital projection and sound systems - combined with a growing blockbuster film slate - are fueling the rapid expansion of the IMAX network in established markets such as North America, Western Europe, and Japan, as well as emerging markets such as China and Russia. IMAX theaters deliver the world's best cinematic presentations using proprietary IMAX®, IMAX 3D®, and IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-Mastering) technologies. IMAX DMR enables virtually any motion picture to be transformed into the unparalleled image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience®.

IMAX is headquartered in New York, Toronto and Los Angeles, with offices in London, Tokyo and Shanghai. As of June 30, 2011, there were 560 IMAX theatres (417 commercial multiplex, 25 commercial destination and 118 institutional) operating in 46 countries.

IMAX®, IMAX® 3D, IMAX DMR®, Experience It In IMAX®, An IMAX 3D Experience® and The IMAX Experience® are trademarks of IMAX Corporation. More information about the Company can be found at http://www.imax.com/. You may also connect with IMAX on Facebook (www.facebook.com/imax), Twitter (www.twitter.com/imax) and YouTube (www.youtube.com/imaxmovies).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Bambi II" Returns from the Vault - For a Limited Time

BAMBI II SPECIAL EDITION: Walt Disney Studios invites audiences to once again fall in love with the adorable, beloved forest friends - Bambi, Thumper, Owl, Flower and Faline - in this magnificent Bambi II Special Edition, the heartwarming story of a son’s courage and a father’s love. Available for the first time in Blu-ray™ high-definition, this touching sequel to Walt Disney’s original animated classic Bambi is finally releasing from the Disney vault on August 23, 2011 and will be available for a limited time.

Celebrate the unbreakable bonds of family and the power of friendship in this remarkable story, which reveals how Bambi was raised by his father, the Great Prince of the Forest. Perfect for the whole family to enjoy, this collectible release was packaged to include a variety of special bonus features including a new deleted song, interactive games, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and more.

Bambi II will be available for purchase as a 2-Disc Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack for the suggested retail price of $39.99/$46.99 Canada, a 1-Disc DVD for $29.99 U.S./$35.99 Canada, a High Definition Movie Download for $39.99 U.S./46.99 Canada and/or a Standard Definition Movie Download for $29.99 U.S./$35.99 Canada. For more information on this release, please visit www.Disney.com/Bambi2.

PHINEAS AND FERB THE MOVIE: ACROSS THE SECOND DIMENSION- Families can bring home Disney Channel’s original movie, Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across The 2nd Dimension, in the 2-Disc “Ultimate Fan Pack” DVD Set on August 23, 2011. Based on Disney Channel’s #1 animated hit comedy series among Tweens 9-14 for three years running, this epic release comes packaged with a DVD of the movie, a digital copy of the movie with eight digital music tracks, all new bonus features and an awesome do-it-yourself Platypult Kit – all for the suggested retail price of $26.99 in the U.S. and $29.99 in Canada.

This special 2-Disc “Ultimate Fan Pack” also includes a variety of cool bonus features (i.e., eight deleted scenes, an exclusive song, a sing-along “Perry-oke” feature, and a bonus episode). The Digital Copy lets viewers transfer the movie and the eight digital music tracks onto their laptop and/or portable devices of choice – to watch the movie or listen to songs anytime, anywhere and at the touch of a button. The Ultimate Fan Pack is the perfect gift for teens and/or families on-the-go!

BROTHERS AND SISTERS: THE COMPLETE FIFTH AND FINAL SEASON: The final season of the star-studded ABC drama continues the story of the Walkers, a contemporary picture of the American family. At the heart is matriarch Nora, who finds personal satisfaction in knowing her family is happy, however sometimes allows her intentions to be a little overbearing. Her five adult children, friends as much as they are relatives, come together to support each other through the joy and heartache as they try to manage their professional, romantic, and familial lives. Together they face genuine, relatable life issues in this warm and witty drama.

Brothers & Sisters: The Complete Fifth And Final Season, is releasing as a 5-Disc DVD Set for the suggested retail price of $45.99 in the U.S. and/or $54.99 in Canada.

OFF THE MAP: THE COMPLETE SERIES: From the creators of Grey’s Anatomy comes the inspiring medical drama, ABC‘s Off The Map. This exciting series takes viewers to the South American jungle with five idealistic doctors as they explore how far you have to go to truly heal. This sexy action-packed complete series invites audiences to relive the hope and discovery of every unique patient and medical case.

Off The Map: The Complete Series, is releasing as a 3-Disc DVD Set for the suggested retail price of $29.99 in the U.S. and/or $35.99 in Canada

Negromancer Bits and Bites August 23 2011 - 2 Songwriting Legends Leave Us

Stuff, I've found:

First, let's remember Yusef Hawkins.  Hawkins was a 16-year-old who was murdered 22 years ago today for going into a white neighborhood in America to buy a fucking car.


Nick Ashford is dead.  Please, read the New York Times obituary.  If you don't want to, here's a short bit about him. Nick Ashford was half of the Motown songwriting duo, Ashford and Simpson, with wife Valerie Simpson.  Ashford and Simpson wrote, among other songs, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" and "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing."  They started their career writing for The 5th Dimension, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles and joined Motown in 1966.  Ashford and Simpson had their biggest hit as an R&B duo in 1984 with "Solid." They were inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.  R.I.P. Mr. Ashford.


Another famous songwriter who died is Jerry Leiber, who was one of the real great ones.  With his partner, Mike Stoller, the lyricist wrote "Hound Dog" for Big Mama Thorton and also "Stand By Me" with Ben E. King.  After Elvis Presley made "Hound Dog," a huge hit in 1956, they also wrote "Jailhouse Rock," among others, for Presley. R.I.P. Mr. Leiber.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster Bring "Fast Five" to NASCAR Event


In a first of its kind for NASCAR, Chicagoland Speedway today announced the blockbuster movie Fast Five, the biggest and most successful installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise debuting October 4 on Blu-ray™ and DVD from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, as the event title sponsor for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday, September 16 at Chicagoland Speedway – the “Fast Five 225.”

A high-stakes, adrenaline-pumping thrill ride, Fast Five stars global superstar Tyrese Gibson and the talented and beautiful Jordana Brewster, who will co-serve as the Grand Marshals of the “Fast Five 225” to kick off the explosive triple header weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Grammy-nominated artist Tyrese Gibson, whose highly anticipated new album Open Invitation will be released November 1 through Voltron Recordz/EMI Music Services, will also sing the national anthem.

“We are so thrilled to align with the highly successful The Fast and the Furious franchise and to have this iconic brand as our entitlement partner for the NASCAR Truck Series race this September,” said Scott Paddock, president of Chicagoland Speedway & Route 66 Raceway. “This is truly a unique partnership, and we’re excited that Fast Five is using Chicagoland Speedway as a national platform to promote the roll out of its Blu-ray™ and DVD release. This is a franchise that really understands what high-octane thrills and pulse-pounding racing is all about, and we look forward to bringing fans that same type of excitement during the ‘Fast Five 225’.”

“This groundbreaking partnership with NASCAR and Chicagoland Speedway is the ideal opportunity to mark the highly anticipated home entertainment release of Fast Five, added Craig Kornblau, President, Universal Studios Home Entertainment. “The combination of Fast Five and NASCAR is sure to be a huge thrill for race fans. No two brands are bigger crowd pleasers or deliver a better action-packed, edge-of-your-seat racing experience.”

Friday, September 16 also marks the start of Hispanic Heritage Month and Chicagoland Speedway will have dedicated advertising and marketing promotions for the Hispanic communities in and around the Chicagoland area leading up to the “Fast Five 225.”

Fast Five will be released in a never-before-seen Extended Edition on Blu-ray and DVD Combo Packs, DVD, Digital Download and On Demand. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker lead a reunion of returning all-stars from every chapter of the explosive franchise built on speed as former cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) partners with ex-con Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) on the opposite side of the law while pursued by a federal agent (Dwayne Johnson). Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Matt Schulze, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Tego Calderon and Don Omar reunite for this ultimate high-stakes race filled with spectacular street chases and pulse-pounding action set in Rio de Janiero.

Chicagoland Speedway is the first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup this September – the first of ten ‘playoff’ style NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in pursuit of the 2011 championship. The Fast Five 225 will kick off the weekend on Friday, September 16 followed by the Dollar General 300 powered by Coca-Cola on Saturday, Sept. 17. The three day weekend will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 18 with the GEICO 400 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

For tickets to the Chase of the NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend of events at Chicagoland Speedway including single day tickets, visit http://www.chicagolandspeedway.com/ or call 1-888-629-RACE (7223).

The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend of events is as follows:
Date: Event
Sept 16:  Fast Five 225 (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series)
Sept 17:  Dollar General 300 presented by Coca-Cola (NASCAR Nationwide Series)
Sept 18:  GEICO 400 (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series)

For more information on Chicagoland Speedway stay connected on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/chicagolndspdwy and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ChicagolandSpeedway.

Chicagoland Speedway
Celebrating its 10th year of racing, Chicagoland Speedway is a 1.5-mile, paved oval race track located in Joliet, Ill. The track has hosted racing events of the major U.S. racing series, and currently conducts races in all three NASCAR national series, including the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Along with Route 66 Raceway, a drag racing facility located on the same property, Chicagoland Speedway is wholly-owned by International Speedway Corporation (ISC), a major promoter of motorsports activities. ISC owns and/or operates 13 of the nation’s major racing venues, including Daytona International Speedway. For more information on Chicagoland Speedway, visit http://www.chicagolandspeedway.com/.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Universal Studios Home Entertainment is a unit of Universal Pictures, a division of Universal Studios (http://www.universalstudios.com/). Universal Studios is a part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production and marketing of entertainment, news and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group and world-renowned theme parks. Comcast Corporation owns a controlling 51% interest in NBCUniversal, with GE holding a 49% stake.

Johnny Depp Bringing "The Vault" to the Big Screen


Sam Sarkar is proud to announce that his latest title, THE VAULT, is being adapted for film by Graham King’s GK Films and Johnny Depp’s Infinitum Nihil. Based on the comic miniseries created and written by Sarkar (Caliber: First Canon of Justice), illustrated by Garrie Gastonny (Senior artist at Imaginary Friends Studios, Warren Ellis’ Supergod) and edited by Dave Elliott (current Editor-in-Chief of Benaroya Publishing), THE VAULT will be produced by Johnny Depp, along with Infinitum Nihil’s president, Christi Dembrowski, as well as Graham King and Tim Headington from GK Films. Sam Sarkar is repped by Jon Levin at CAA and Nicole Romano and David Schiff of The Schiff Company.

THE VAULT is about a small team of treasure hunters, struggling to excavate a dangerous and legendary treasure pit before a massive storm hits Sable Island, the "Graveyard of the North Atlantic." Equipped with all the latest technology, the scientists believe they are prepared against all of nature's fury, but nothing can prepare them for what they are about to unleash.

“So thankful and happy to have the support of Johnny, Christi, Graham, Tim and Denis in bringing the movie of the Vault to life.” States Sarkar. “Lots more surprises to come!”

THE VAULT is a 3-issue miniseries published by Image Comics, with issues #1-3 available to order through Diamond Comic Distributors (http://www.diamondcomics.com/).

Academy Award winning producer Graham King launched his independent production company, GK Films, in May 2007 with business partner Tim Headington. GK Films is determined to leave its mark on the independent film world, acting not only as a production company, but also with premium marketing, publicity, business affairs and International sales divisions. Under King's previous banner, Initial Entertainment Group, he produced such critically and commercially successful films as Gangs of New York, The Aviator, Ali, Traffic and The Departed. In total, his films have been nominated for 41 Academy Awards, 27 Golden Globes and 35 British Academy Awards, and have made over $1.5 billion at the worldwide box office. For more information, visit www.gk-films.com

Johnny Depp and Christi Dembrowski, whose Infinitum Nihil has a production deal with GK Films, have been busy: The Rum Diary, which was written and directed by Bruce Robinson and stars Depp, will be released by FilmDistrict on October 28, 2011; the Martin Scorsese-directed 3D Hugo Cabret will be released Nov. 23, 2011 by Paramount Pictures; and they are now shooting the TV series transfer, Dark Shadows, at Warner Bros, with Depp starring and Tim Burton directing. Both Dark Shadows and The Night Stalker were based on series produced by the late Dan Curtis.

Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sam Sarkar is a 23-year veteran of the entertainment industry. He began his career as an actor and was one of the leads on the long-running, syndicated television series Neon Rider. Following the series, Sam decided to pursue writing and worked for the hit television series Beverly Hills 90210. Stemming from his work on the show, he also co-wrote a television pilot for Spelling Entertainment under the direct guidance of TV legend Aaron Spelling. Deciding then to embark on feature films, Sam took some chances, following a varied path of writing screenplays and working as a sound technician. In 2004, after working on several films with actor Johnny Depp, Sam was asked to help run Depp's production company, Infinitum Nihil, headed by Christi Dembrowski. As Senior VP at the company, he continues to serve the varied needs of Hollywood as an executive, producer and writer.

Having worked as a comic book artist and illustration lecturer, Garrie Gastonny now mainly focuses on illustration to avoid getting beaten up. Garrie also serves as Senior Artist at Imaginary Friends Studios. His credits include Warren Ellis' Supergod, Caliber: First Canon of Justice and Lady Death. For more information about the artist, please visit http://thegerjoos.deviantart.com/.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review: John Carpenter's "The Ward" is Amber Heard's Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 73 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

John Carpenter’s The Ward (2010)
Running time: 88 minutes (1 hour, 28 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence and disturbing images
DIRECTOR: John Carpenter
WRITERS: Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen
PRODUCERS: Peter Block, Doug Mankoff, Mike Marcus, and Andrew Spaulding
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yaron Orbach (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Patrick McMahon
COMPOSER: Mark Kilian


Starring: Amber Heard, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Laura-Leigh, Lyndsy Fonseca, Jared Harris, D.R. Anderson, Mika Boorem, Susanna Burney, Sean Cook, Sali Sayler, and Jillian Kramer

The Ward is a horror movie that debuted at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. After that debut, the movie played internationally and received a limited release in the United States this year, before being recently released on DVD. The Ward is also the first full-length feature film directed by famed horror moviemaker John Carpenter since 2001’s Ghosts of Mars. The Ward focuses on a young woman held in a mental institution that is haunted by a murderous ghost.

The story opens in 1966 as Kristen (Amber Heard) sets fire to an abandoned farmhouse. The next day she is taken to the North Bend Psychiatric Hospital in North Bend, Oregon. She is placed in “the Ward,” with several other young women: Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca), Sarah (Danielle Panabaker), Emily (Mamie Gummer), and Zoey (Laura-Leigh). These other patients mostly avoid her, and after the first night, Kristen suspects that there is something really wrong with this hospital.

Kristen soon meets her psychiatrist, Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris), who also cares for the other girls. She does not find him helpful, although he seems insistent and sincere about helping her. Kristen soon discovers that the staff members are the least of her problems. North Bend is being terrorized by a vengeful ghost, and it is determined to kill all the girls before they get a chance to leave the Ward.

I didn’t find anything in John Carpenter’s The Ward that made me think, “Oh, this is a John Carpenter movie!” other than having Carpenter’s name in the credits. This is an average ghost story and psychological thriller that just about any credible director with professional credits behind his name could have made. The script is not exactly pedestrian, but it mines very familiar territory and is simply reflective of a disappointing production: plodding pace, mildly-interesting characters, and a not exactly memorable killer/ghost.

The great thing about this movie is Amber Heard. She is gorgeous even when her character is dressed in hospital garb and looks beat up. Heard gives a passionate performance that brings energy to this sometimes stiff flick. The Ward does have its moments: in particular, Kristen’s first night at North Bend and the movie’s the last act. The setting is also quite good. If you’ve ever had an extended stay at or visited a mental hospital often, you will recognize the stone-faced orderlies; the pill-peddling, taciturn nurses with their crocodile smiles; and the cagey doctors with their inscrutable statements. That’s enough to send a chill up your spine. Mark Kilian’s musical score also does a lot of the heavy lifting in creating a proper scary movie atmosphere for this movie.

I waited a long time for The Ward, and while it isn’t a bad movie, it just doesn’t seem like a real John Carpenter movie.

5 of 10

Friday, August 19, 2011


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Review: "Junebug" is a Jewel on an Indie Film (Happy B'day, Amy Adams)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 49 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Junebug (2005)
Running time: 107 minutes (1 hour, 47 minutes)
MPAA – R for sexual content and language
DIRECTOR: Phil Morrison
WRITER: Angus MacLachlan
PRODUCERS: Mindy Goldberg and Mike S. Ryan
EDITOR: Joe Klotz
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Embeth Davidtz, Alessandro Nivola, Amy Adams, Celia Weston, Scott Wilson, Ben McKenzie, Frank Hoyt Taylor, and Joanne Pankow

Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz), a Chicago art dealer who specializes in “outsider art,” takes a trip to rural North Carolina with her husband, George (Alessandro Nivola), to convince David Wark (Frank Hoyt Taylor, whose small part is the film’s most memorable), a highly-eccentric folk artist to allow her gallery to show his art. George is not only from North Carolina, but his family lives not too far from Wark’s home.

Madeleine convinces George to finally allow her to meet his small-town family: his bristly mother, Peg (Celia Weston); his reserved father, Eugene (Scott Wilson); his crabby brother, Johnny (Ben McKenzie); and Johnny’s pregnant wife, the sweet and naïve Ashley (Amy Adams). Madeleine has a hard time fitting in, and Peg doesn’t try very hard to hide her dislike or suspicion of Madeleine. Johnny holds grudges against George and is taciturn with Madeleine. To make matters worse, George spends much of the day away from Madeleine, visiting his old haunts and friends, and he begins to revert to his hymn-singing, church-going ways – somewhat to the detriment of his marriage.

Junebug isn’t a great film (it misses that by a lot), but it’s quite good, mostly because of the efforts of director, Phil Morrison. Writer Angus MacLachlan gives us four familiar characters as George’s family, the bitter brother Johnny and the prickly mother Peg being the worse. It’s not so much that they’re stereotypes; it’s what MacLachlan does with them that makes them come across as old hat. Other than in Madeleine, there is no variety in the behavior of the characters. For the most part, they’re stuck in the mud and boring. Every time that there is some glimmer of hope that some breakthrough of depth is about to occur, it turns out to be nothing – stuck in “park.” Poor Celia Weston is like a record that skips, but the script doesn’t give her room to actually perform.

Junebug has three people that make it standout: the aforementioned director and also actresses Embeth Davidtz and Amy Adams. Adams gives one of those splashy performances as a peculiar or unconventional character in Ashley that gets the notice of the critics, and several critics associations and festival awards did indeed honor her for her performance. Ashley is likeable in her frantic need to be liked and in her poor desperation to get husband Johnny’s attention. When Ashley tries to create a bond with Madeleine, Adams makes it feel so real, not phony and desperate, although it initially comes across that way.

However, Junebug is really Madeleine’s story, and if awards must be given for acting in this film, they should have gone to Embeth Davidtz, or at least she should have shared in the glory. As Madeleine, Davidtz (who played a suffering Jewish servant in Schlindler’s List), embodies the film’s themes of family ties and outsiders. Davidtz’s character has to perform the balancing act of dealing with becoming a part of George’s family and dealing with the fact that George is a part of a family outside of her. It’s a culture and a lifestyle that is alien to her. In doing that Embeth gives a warm and poignant performance that guides the viewer through Junebug.

Director Phil Morrison makes Junebug such a compelling film. It’s as if he insisted that the camera drink and drink deeply of the narrative’s setting, as much as it does of the central players. He creates a film the resonates of family, but set in a world that is authentic. It’s not like every small town, but it sure seems like a genuine one. I didn’t like how Morrison has the night scenes that occur inside the house filmed with so little light, but I guess there was a reason for that. We’ll never really know George’s family, but Morrison certainly makes them compelling. Morrison realizes that for the most part, we’re like Madeleine, or at least we’re going to see this world through her eyes. As curious as we are about them, Morrison understands that like Madeleine, as much as we like meeting the kinfolk – those by blood or by marriage, we’re always ready to go home. With Embeth and Amy’s performances, Morrison’s understanding of outsiders and strangers makes Junebug a jewel of an independent film.

7 of 10

2006 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Amy Adams)

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Disney's "Enchanted" Thrives on Magical Amy Adams

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 22 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

Enchanted (2007)
Running time: 108 minutes (1 hour, 48 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some scary images and mild innuendo
DIRECTOR: Kevin Lima
WRITER: Bill Kelly
PRODUCERS: Barry Josephson and Barry Sonnenfeld
EDITORS: Gregory Perler and Stephen A. Rotter
2008 Academy Award nominee

FANTASY/ANIMATION/COMEDY/ROMANCE with elements of a musical

Starring: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Susan Sarandon, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, Rachel Covey, Tonya Pinkins, and Isaiah Whitlock, Jr.

What would happen if fairy tale characters that were like those in such classic Walt Disney feature animated films as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty entered the gritty, urban real world where there aren’t always happy endings – certainly not of the variety found in many fairy tales? Disney’s recent motion picture, Enchanted, a mixture of 2D animation and live action, answers that question. While Enchanted lacks the magic that makes many Disney animated films so beloved and memorable, it does have one bit of excellent magic – the charming Amy Adams as its star.

Princess-to-be Giselle (Amy Adams) lives a perfect life in the wonderful, musical, fairy tale (animated) kingdom of Andalasia, and that charmed life gets even better when Prince Edward (James Marsden) arrives on his white steed to carry her off, marry her, and make her Princess Giselle. Giselle’s dreams come to an abrupt end when the evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), Edward’s vile stepmother, exiles her to the cold, cruel, real world of New York City, where the naïve girl finds it difficult to get her bearings. Her rescuers arrive in the unlikely form of a cynical and divorced, divorce lawyer, Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey), and his lonely young daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey). Giselle soon falls in love with Robert, who is already more or less engaged to another woman, so Giselle has to wonder if her storybook view of romance can win a man in the real world.

Meanwhile, Edward has followed Giselle to NYC, so Narissa sends her henchman, Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), to keep Edward from finding and reuniting with Giselle. However, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself, so Narissa blows her way into our world determined to put an end to Giselle once and for all.

Anyone familiar with Amy Adams’ from her other movie appearances already knows that she is enchanting. She is magical in Enchanted, and makes this clunky, nicely conceived, but poorly executed concept worth watching. In creating her character, Giselle, Adams gives flesh and substance to the idea of the beloved “Disney Princess,” and personifies the utterly captivating charm and winning personality of a Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. Plus, she’s a good singer whose bubbly exuberance gives Enchanted’s Alan Menken/Stephen Schwartz songs some needed bounce. Adams makes the Oscar-nominated “Happy Working Song” seem like it popped out of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and she turns “That’s How You Know” into a remarkable and memorable love song in its own right.

On the other hand, practically everything else about this film, directed by Kevin Lima (who co-directed Disney’s 1999 animated feature, Tarzan) is mediocre. It would be ironic to say that the dreadful Patrick Dempsey is perfectly cast as the dull and cynical Robert, but maybe the script didn’t mean for the character to be as grey and colorless as the inexplicably popular Dempsey makes him. Sadly, the overrated Dempsey means that the thoroughly talented James Marsden (X-Men, Hairspray) gets less screen time, which is a pity. Marsden makes the most out of a poorly developed character and turns the saccharine ditty, “True Love’s Kiss,” into a fun song.

The great Susan Sarandon is also under-utilized, and her Narissa never reaches the heights of evil that she should, in spite of Sarandon’s best efforts. No, Disney’s Enchanted is a misfire. Perhaps, the film did indeed have a fairy godmother, but the only magic she gave Enchanted was the delightful Amy Adams.

5 of 10

2008 Academy Awards: 3 nominations for three songs by Alan Menken (music) and Stephen Schwartz: “Happy Working Song,” “So Close,” and “That’s How You Know”

2008 Golden Globes: 2 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Amy Adams) and “Best Original Song – Motion Picture” (“That’s How You Know”)

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Friday, August 19, 2011

Negromancer New Bits and Bites for August 19 2011

Stuff I found interesting:

Deadline has the details on anti-Muslin toad, Congressman Peter King's plan to launch an investigation into Kathryn Bigelow's Bin Laden Film.


Remember Hong Kong Phooey, the 1970s Hanna-Barbera animated series about a mild-mannered janitor-dog who is really masked crime fighter, Hong Kong Phooey?  There has been talk about a movie version going back to the early 1990s (that I remember).  I think the success of The Smurfs film means we'll be seeing more live-action/animation films made of old Saturdamy morning series.

Well, Eddie Murphy will be the voice of Penry the mild-mannered dog in Alcon Entertainment's live-action/animated Hong Kong Phooey.  For those who don't know, the late great Scatman Crothers was the voice of Penry.  Entertainment Weekly has some details.


Variety reports that Disney is filling out its Summer 2014 schedule with three pictures:  There will be a Marvel Studios movie May 16.  Two weeks later, a Pixar film arrives on May 30.  The second Marvel picture arrives on June 27.  The films are unnamed, but Variety reports that Marvel has a number of projects in development, including a Captain America sequel and an Avengers spinoff.


Deadline has an exclusive:  After finishing Prometheus, a kind of prequel to his 1979 classic, Alien, director Ridley Scott will return to another of his sci-fi classics.  Deadline is reporting that Scott has signed on to direct and produce a new installment of Blade Runner, with Alcon Entertainment, producing with Alcon partners Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove. Alcon apparently gained control of the Blade Runner franchise earlier this year.  There are conflicting reports about whether Harrison Ford, the star of the original Blade Runner will return, with some stating that he won't.


Huffington Post reports that Will Smith is working on a double comeback.  I don't think Smith needs to come back from anything, but let's humor them for the sake of this story.  Smith is working on his first album since 2005.  He hasn't been in a film since 2008's Seven Pounds, but he is working on "Men in Black 3."  Also, Shawn Levy is trying to get Smith for a remake of the 1966 science fiction film, Fantastic Voyage.

Review: Original "Fright Night" Still a Fright

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 72 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Fright Night (1985)
Running time: 106 minutes (1 hour, 46 minutes)
PRODUCER: Herb Jaffe
EDITOR: Kent Beyda
COMPOSER: Brad Fiedel


Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys, Jonathan Stark, Dorothy Fielding, and Art J. Evans

Fright Night is a 1985 horror film written and directed by Tom Holland. A hit at the time of its original release, Fright Night was successful because it was a horror movie that was both scary and funny. This film is about a teenager who discovers that his new next door neighbor is a vampire, but can’t make anyone believe him.

The story centers on Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale), a mostly ordinary high school boy trying to convince his girlfriend, Amy Peterson (Amanda Bearse), to go all the way and have sex with him. Charlie also has an active imagination and is huge fan of horror films and of Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), the host of a local horror movie television program.

Charlie’s active imagination kicks into overdrive when two men move into the empty house next door to Charlie and mother, Judy Brewster (Dorothy Fielding). By chance, Charlie discovers that one of the men, the dark and seductive Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), is a vampire. Charlie tells Amy and his acerbic friend, Edward “Evil Ed” Thompson (Stephen Geoffreys), but they don’t believe him. The police also ignore him, and even Peter Vincent isn’t buying Charlie’s story. Charlie will need to convince someone soon, because Dandridge and his roommate/carpenter/bodyguard, Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark), are preparing to kill Charlie.

I believe that film spoofs work best when they look like the genre in which they are spoofing. Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles convincingly looks and acts like a Western, so its skewering of the conventions of Westerns is supremely effective. It’s the same with Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, a send-up of Universal Pictures’ black and white horror films. Fright Night is a genuine horror film, but the screenplay takes so many digs at the conventions and stereotypes of vampire movies – from the way movies depict vampires’ fear of the crucifix to the way movies portray vampires seducing female victims.

Even with its humor and gentle mocking tone, Fright Night is a scary movie. I am old enough to have seen it in a theatre when it was first released back in August of 1985. Fright Night was both an old-fashioned monster movie and a vampire movie with a devilishly alluring villain as the vampire, superbly played by actor Chris Sarandon with cool, smooth arrogance and a dark charm. Fright Night was so different from the horror movies that thrived back in the 1980s. These were bloody slasher movies featuring masked maniacs wielding any kind of implement that could gouge and slash out the most blood from their victims. The young actors playing the victims were not interesting and were merely meat for the slasher film beast.

That’s different in Fright Night. The characters are either surprisingly witty or appealingly silly. I can see why this film has been remade. Every time I watch it, Fight Night works its scary movie magic on me.

8 of 10

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review: First "Conan the Barbarian" is Still a Beast of a Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 137 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Conan the Barbarian (1982)
Running time: 131 minutes (2 hours, 11 minutes)
DIRECTOR: John Milius
WRITERS: Oliver Stone and John Milius; from a story by Edward Summer (based upon the stories by Robert E. Howard)
PRODUCERS: Buzz Feitshans and Raffaella de Laurentiis
EDITOR: C. Timothy O’Meara
Golden Globe Award winner


Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Sandahl Bergman, Ben Davidson, Cassandra Gaviola, Gerry Lopez, Mako, Valérie Quennessen, William Smith, and Max Von Sydow

Young Conan (Jorge Sanz) saw his father (William Smith) murdered by a band of marauders who attacked their village. Conan’s mother (Nadiuska) took on the marauder’s warlord, Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), in a sword duel before Doom beheaded her. Doom’s soldiers subsequently sold Young Conan into slavery. The intense labor he endures as a slave (pushing a giant grinding wheel) transforms the adult Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) into a sinewy, muscular giant. Before long, opportunistic men further transform him into a skilled gladiator, who can outfight any man and probably kill at will.

Conan however becomes a thief. His companions are two mercenaries – the comely warrior woman, Valeria (Sandahl Bergman, who won a Golden Globe in 1983 for “Most Promising Newcomer of the Year in a Motion Picture – Female, an award the Globes stopped giving over two decades ago), and the sword fighter, Subotai (Gerry Lopez). The trio is captured by a grieving monarch, King Osric (Max Von Sydow), whose daughter joined a powerful snake-worshipping cult. His offer of riches to rescue her puts Conan on the path to avenging the murder of his Cimmerian tribesman and family. Osric’s daughter, The Princess (Valérie Quennessen), plans to marry the leader of this cult, which rules the land far and wide, his name – Thulsa Doom, the villain who murdered Conan’s mother. Revenge won’t come easy, Doom wields powerful magic, and his army is many and strong.

Before the age of computer generated effects, filmmakers of fantasy films relied on in-camera effects, hand drawn animation, makeup effects wizards, and mechanical puppets and creature effects to transport viewers to worlds that looked like ours, but were filled with warriors, kings, princess, monsters, and powerful wizards. There were no computer-generated combatants to fill imaginary epic battlefields (as in The Lord of the Rings). Stuntmen and fight coordinators who specialized in martial arts and hand-to-hand combat, animal wranglers to handle horses, prop masters and weapons makers, etc. had to use their wits and skills to create believable battle scenes. Often, the actors and actresses had to get down and dirty and perform their own stunts – do their own fighting.

To direct this kind of film, a producer would have to find a director who is a man’s man, one who made movies for guys – guys who love movies (as the TNT slogan goes). Filmmaker John Milius has spent his career writing or directing (and sometimes both) tough guy adventure epics. His resume includes script writing for Apocalypse Now and Clear and Present Danger. He also wrote and directed the semi-cult classic, Red Dawn.

Milius took on the ultimate action hero actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, early in the actor’s movie career in the film, Conan the Barbarian. The two work magic. Schwarzenegger isn’t a great actor in the classic tradition of playing a diverse body of characters and burying oneself in those roles. He is, however, a movie star – an actor who really looks like nothing else but an actor when the camera starts filming. Arnold as Conan has more than a ring of truth to it because Arnold has The Presence.

Milius puts it all together. Conan the Barbarian is a fine epic flick filled with burning villages, screaming peasants, murderous marauders, and devious women wielding sex and offering their supremely well-built bodies to men all-too-ready to get laid at the drop of a loin cloth or at the peek of boob flesh. Milius (who co-wrote the script with Academy Award winning director Oliver Stone of Platoon and JFK) gives up little fights, man on man tussles, and superbly staged battles of testosterone-fueled men stabbing, slicing, cutting, and gutting one another; of horses racing, falling, and dying on top of their riders; and of death on the battlefield.

In addition to Schwarzenegger, the rest of the cast also performs well. James Earl Jones is madness personified as the murderous, egomaniacal, and insane Thulsa Doom. Sandahl Bergman as Valeria and Gerry Lopez as Subotai hit the right notes as Conan’s thieves-in-arms. Milius’ crew of technicians, craftsman, and stuntmen also give him a superior effort. Basil Poledouris’ score is picture perfect; very few movies about men with swords fighting each other ever had music so good. Milius takes the Poledouris’ music and mixes it with the rest of his ingredients to create a truly entertaining guy’s fantasy flick. Conan the Barbarian isn’t perfect, but as a sword and sorcery epic, it’s perfect enough.

7 of 10

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

1983 Golden Globes: 1 win: “New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture – Female” (Sandahl Bergman)

1983 Razzie Awards: 1 nomination: “Worst Actor” (Arnold Schwarzenegger)


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