Monday, October 31, 2011

Rob Zombie's "Halloween" Fueled by Brutal Violence

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 8 (of 2009) by Leroy Douresseaux

Halloween (2007)
Running time: 109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong brutal bloody violence and terror throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity, and language
DIRECTOR: Rob Zombie
WRITER: Rob Zombie (based upon the movie written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill)
PRODUCERS: Malek Akkad, Andy Gould, Rob Zombie, and Andy La Marca
EDITOR: Glenn Garland


Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor-Compton, Brad Dourif, Daeg Faerch, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe, Hanna Hall, Ken Foree, Lew Temple, Danny Trejo, Danielle Harris, Kristina Klebe, Pat Skipper, Dee Wallace, and Tyler Mane

In 2007, musician turned movie director Rob Zombie already had two brutal horror films to his credit, House of 1000 Corpses and its sequel, The Devil Rejects, when he unleashed Halloween, a remake and re-imagining of director John Carpenter’s 1978 classic horror film of the same name. Zombie’s film followed the now familiar storyline, but went into the past to reveal some origins.

It’s Halloween, and 10-year-old Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) goes on a murderous rampage in the quiet town of Haddonfield, Illinois. He spends the next 17 years in the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium under the care of noted child behaviorist, Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). Loomis seems to be the only person who can truly understand the evil of Michael’s nature.

After 17 years, the adult Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) escapes from the mental facility on the day of Halloween and begins a bloody trek back to Haddonfield. He stalks a high school girl, Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), and her friends, Annie (Danielle Harris) and Lynda (Kristina Klebe). When Dr. Loomis hears about Michael’s escape, he races to Haddonfield and joins Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) to find Michael and to put an end to Michael’s reign of terror. There, Loomis discovers that Myers and Laurie Strode have ties to a similar past.

Rob Zombie’s Halloween is a prequel, a re-imagining, a reinvention, and a remake of the original film. This new film is partly a prequel because Zombie, as both writer and director, chose to begin the story earlier in Michael Myer’s life than the writers of the original movie, John Carpenter and the late Debra Hill, did. That the story begins before the scene in which Michael puts on the mask and kills his sister, which is where the first film began. Zombie’s film begins Halloween morning, at the breakfast table of a highly dysfunctional “white trash” family. The audience sees Myers the “perfect storm” as Dr. Loomis calls it: Myers’ destructive home environment and his murderous tendencies.

Zombie re-imagines the film in the way he presents Michael Myers. Michael is not something of supernatural force, as the first film suggest, but he is simply a human monster – a psychopath. In the original film and its sequels (in which John Carpenter was involved to some extent) Carpenter suggested that Michael Myer’s evil was in some way a reflection of the darkness that existed at the heart of small towns like Haddonfield. Zombie provides no such social context or metaphor. Myers is simply a bad-ass, evil killer dude.

The film is a re-invention of sorts because it presents the violent slasher film as sort of a reality show in which all the gushing fluids of violent murder must be on display before the voyeuristic audience. In the original Halloween, Carpenter showed no blood, although Myers’ attacks on his victims were quite violent. In Zombie’s hands, the attacks are rude and crude – exercises in blood and mayhem and in bloody mayhem.

This film remains a respectful remake. Scenes, sequences, and even certain shots are repeated from the original or are only slightly altered. Halloween 2007 can stand on its own. The acting wasn’t great, but Zombie chose a nice mixture of character actors for the major parts and some famous faces and somewhat cult figures to fill in the bit parts and cameos, and that works out well.

Towards the end, the film seems out of control, both in terms of Zombie’s usual excesses and the fact that the ending seems padded. Still, Halloween is a scary movie, a celebration of raw violent horror, and true to Zombie’s rebel spirit. It is scandalous and disrespectful of those “our values” about which so-called conservatives like to preach. It’s funny and scary – a black comedy and horror movie that is stained dark with a lot of blood.

6 of 10

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Review: John Carpenter's "Halloween" is a Great Horror Movie and Great Film

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 112 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Halloween (1978)
Running time: 91 minutes (1 hour, 31 minutes)
DIRECTOR: John Carpenter
WRITERS: Debra Hill and John Carpenter
PRODUCER: Debra Hill
EDITORS: Tommy Lee Wallace and Charles Bornstein


Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Nancy Loomis, P.J. Soles, Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards, Brian Andrews, and Nick Castle

On Halloween night 1963 in Haddonfield, Illinois, six-year old Michael Myers stabbed his sister to death. Fifteen years later, Michael escapes from a mental institution in Smith’s Grove, IL, and he heads back to Haddonfield with his psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), hot on the trail. Halloween night 1978, Michael is about to go on a bloody rampage, and high school student and babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends are his targets.

John Carpenter’s Halloween, more than any other film, was responsible for the 1980’s slasher movie genre. Lunatic/spree killer Michael Myers would influence the horror movies psychos that would wield knives, axes, and assorted sharp and blunt instruments to kill their teenage and 20-something victims in such films as Friday the 13th and Prom Night, especially the characters that had sex sometime during the course of the movie.

Although slasher films are a particularly bloody movie genre, Halloween is relatively free of blood and gore. There are only four onscreen murders (one off screen), and one of those happens at the beginning of the film to establish Michael’s legend. Carpenter spends most of the films first 50 minutes or so establishing mood and atmosphere. Once night falls, Carpenter allows only minimal lighting, so that most of the violence occurs in near total night darkness, which only adds to the creepiness and heightens the scares.

Carpenter also scored the film, and his “Halloween theme” is one of the most famous scary pieces of movie music. The other element that helped Carpenter create such a great horror flick is actress Jamie Lee Curtis, whose appearances in scary movies in the late 70’s and early 80’s made her the quintessential scream queen. Here, she personifies suburban innocence and all-American teen beauty – a flower ready to be plucked – which makes her the perfect victim for a knife-wielding maniac.

9 of 10

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Paranormal Activity 3" a Spine-Tingler for Real

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 88 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Running time: 85 minutes (1 hour, 25 minutes)
MPAA – R for some violence, language, brief sexuality and drug use
DIRECTORS: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
WRITER: Christopher B. Landon (based on film created by Oren Peli)
PRODUCERS: Jason Blum, Oren Peli, and Steven Schneider
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Magdalena Gorka Bonacorso
EDITOR: Gregory Plotkin


Starring: Christopher Nicholas Smith, Lauren Bittner, Jessica Tyler Brown, Chloe Csengery, Dustin Ingram, Hallie Foote, Johanna Braddy, Katie Featherston, and Sprague Grayden

Paranormal Activity 3 is a 2011 supernatural horror film, and it is also a prequel to the earlier films, Paranormal Activity (2009) and Paranormal Activity 2 (2010). Paranormal Activity 3 is set 18 years before the events depicted in the first two films and focuses on the two sisters at the heart of the series when they were children.

The main story opens in late summer of 1988 at the birthday party of Katie (Chloe Csengery), during which her younger sister, Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown), can be seen in the background talking to empty space. The girls live with their mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and her boyfriend, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith).

Dennis notices that strange things have begun to happen in the house ever since Kristi began interacting with an imaginary (or invisible) friend whose name she says is Toby. Dennis sets up cameras around the house to record these strange events. Through his investigations, Dennis discovers a strange symbol drawn on a wall in the house, which leads to an even more shocking discovery. As Dennis tries to learn more, the paranormal activity increases both in number and in intensity.

I compared the first two Paranormal Activity films to The Blair Witch Project, and the final act of this film has striking similarities to the end of the original Blair Witch film, which is a good thing in this instance. I really like Paranormal Activity 3 because it is genuinely scary. Several times, I hugged myself tightly in an anticipation of the next bump in the night or shadowy figure standing in the background. This movie delivers the chills. I was still thinking about it the morning after seeing it.

Still, it feels as if something is missing from Paranormal Activity 3. It’s as if there is a glitch in the storyline that runs through this film series and through the backstory that is the series’ spine. I won’t let that bother me. This movie is a real Halloween, scary movie thriller. Perhaps, it is because the entity seems angrier this time and because it threatens small children so much in this film. Whatever the reason, Paranormal Activity 3 is the real deal, and I’m looking forward to the next film.

7 of 10

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Review: Will "I Am Legend" Smith - The Film Rests on His Shoulders

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 143 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

I Am Legend (2007)
Running time: 101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence
DIRECTOR: Francis Lawrence
WRITERS: Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman (based upon the 1971 screenplay by Joyce Hooper Corrington and John William Corrington and based upon the novel by Richard Matheson)
PRODUCERS: Akiva Goldsman, David Heyman, James Lassiter, Neal H. Moritz, and Erwin Stoff
EDITOR: Wayne Wahrman
Image Awards nominee


Starring: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan, Salli Richardson, and Willow Smith

I Am Legend is the third film adaptation of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel, I Am Legend, following the 1961 film, The Last Man on Earth (starring Vincent Price), and the 1971 film, The Omega Man (starring Charlton Heston). The book also apparently influenced George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.

Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the last human survivor in what is left of New York City, and perhaps the last man on earth, after a manmade virus – unstoppable and incurable – ravages humanity. Neville, however, is not quite alone. He shares the city with “the Infected,” victims of the plague who were mutated into monstrously fast and powerful carnivorous beings, who can only exist in the dark (and look like the belong in a video game).

For three years, Neville, who is also a brilliant scientist and military virologist, has scavenged for food and supplies. He also sends radio messages hoping to find other human survivors – his only companion a faithful dog named Sam. Immune to the virus, he also continues to search for a cure to the virus, a way to reverse the effects to the virus. Meanwhile, the Infected are watching him, waiting for him to make a fatal mistake, and Neville knows that he is outnumbered and running out of time.

There’s something missing in I Am Legend, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I know what it does have in its favor – Will Smith, and that’s enough to carry the incomplete things and wash over the bad things. Neville played by Smith seems a powerful force in the lonely canyons and abandoned edifices of New York City – alone because man finally brought about Armageddon all on his own. It was the end of everything, and Satan didn’t have to break a sweat to bring it about, but here is the stubborn Smith-Neville, single-minded in his pursuit to survive and find a way to make hungry monsters human again. That makes him something like a persistent weed or an oblivious roach, or maybe he’s too clueless to remember that quite a bit of humanity was already trading in monstrosity before the virus wiped them out. This complexity of character and the ambivalence and stubbornness Smith gives Neville is what marks Will Smith as a great movie star and exceptional actor. His excellence is both in the process and in how he executes his preparation into fashioning engaging, riveting, mesmerizing characters.

Smith is glorious in a film that traffics in the mundane and sometimes makes intractable boredom the narrative, and what’s amazing is that he does it by playing a character that, while he may earn our sympathy, is largely unattractive. Neville is either slowly going crazy because he is lonely or has already been driven bonkers because he’s so desperate for human contact. He can’t be friends with the Infected who only want to eat him (although one could get the idea that he’d like to be friends). Smith presents Neville as someone, who because of his current state of affairs, should be avoided.

I Am Legend is well-served by the lovely German shepherd, Sam. In a world that has died, a dog is hope, love, friendship, and loyalty on four legs. Director Francis Lawrence, fortunate that Warner Bros. Pictures gave him another chance after Constantine, makes the best of this wonderful dog. Lawrence is also lucky for Smith’s masterful, rich performance and for the incredible CGI work that went into creating an empty NYC. That’s why “the whatever” that’s missing in I Am Legend seems like such a small thing, so Lawrence helms a film that is almost a great sci-fi movie, but is still a really good one.

7 of 10

Sunday, December 16, 2007

2008 Image Awards: 2 nominations: “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Will Smith) and “Outstanding Motion Picture”


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Vincent Price Carries "The Last Man on Earth"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 87 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Last Man on Earth (1964) – B&W
Running time: 86 minutes (1 hour, 26 minutes)
DIRECTORS: Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow
WRITERS: William Liecester, Furio M. Monetti, Ubaldo Ragona, and Logan Swanson (Richard Matheson); (based upon the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson)
PRODUCER: Robert L. Lippert
EDITORS: Gene Ruggiero and Franca Silvi


Starring: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, and Giacomo Rossi-Stuart

A worldwide plague (or pandemic) seemingly kills all of humanity, but it also causes the dead to arise and return as shambling, simple-minded, vampire-like creatures who want blood. Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) is apparently the only human unaffected – the last man on earth. Every night a group of these “living dead” attack Morgan’s house, calling his name, and demanding his life. What makes it worse is that one of the creatures was Morgan’s best friend, Ben Cortman (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart). Eventually, Morgan encounters a young woman named Ruth Collins (Franca Bettoia), whom Morgan at first assumes to be another surviving human. However, there is more to Ruth than meets the eye, and it may mean there are others like her – others who want Morgan dead.

The Last Man on Earth was the first film adaptation of one of the most famous vampire novels of 20th century, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Stephen King claims that the book was a huge influence on him, and both Matheson’s book and this 1964 adaptation influenced George A. Romero’s seminal zombie film, Night of the Living Dead. This adaptation is a somber and occasionally creepy, if not chilling, film about loneliness and what it truly means to be “the only one.” Price ably carries the film practically by himself, as every other character only has a small part. The surreal black and white photography and the carefully designed sets give this film a forlorn mood. However, the locations, which feature abandoned cars, debris, and bodies scattered about the streets make this a depressing and haunting, but engaging apocalyptic film.

7 of 10

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: Great Performances "Walk the Line" (Happy B'day, Joaquin Phoenix)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 177 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Walk the Line (2005)
Running time: 135 minutes (2 hours, 15 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some language, thematic material, and depiction of drug dependency
DIRECTOR: James Mangold
WRITERS: Gill Dennis and James Mangold (based upon the books The Man in Black by Johnny Cash and Cash: An Autobiography by Johnny Cash and Patrick Carr)
PRODUCERS: James Keach and Cathy Konrad
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Phedon Papamichael
EDITOR: Michael McCusker

DRAMA/BIOGRAPHY/MUSIC-SONGS with elements of romance

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Patrick, Dallas Roberts, Dan John Miller, Larry Bagby, Shelby Lynne, Tyler Hilton, Waylon Malloy Payne, Shooter Jennings, Sandra Ellis Lafferty, and Dan Beene

Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash biopic, chronicles Cash’s beginnings as the son of Ray Cash, (Robert Patrick), a poor Arkansas cotton farmer, his rise to fame with Sun Records in Memphis, and his early status as a rock and country music star with Columbia Records. Along the way, Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) battles an addiction to pills, struggles with his first marriage to Vivian Cash (Ginnifer Goodwin), and meets the true love of his life and his soul mate, June Carter (Reese Witherspoon), a singer Cash admired when he was a poor Arkansas boy and she was a child star singer on the country music circuit of the 1940’s.

Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash is the primary reason Walk the Line succeeds. He plays Cash with equal parts mad abandon and quiet intensity. His Cash is one moment a wild man and the next moment a vulnerable soul desiring an intimate connection with June Carter or perhaps seeking reconciliation with the past. A film biography usually can’t give us the interior substance of the man a book could. However, a film biography can give us some kind of emotional and visual approximation of Cash. That’s what Joaquin does in Walk the Line.

Sadly, the film’s (almost) fatal flaw is the script because it’s shallow. The writers, Gill Dennis and director James Mangold, rely on several elements to give the film its emotional impact. One of them is Cash’s drug use, but the film takes a very surface look at it. Cash uses drugs; he becomes addicted, acts like an ass to his friends and family, and breaks things. That entire sub-plot comes across as what it is – old hat. It’s more annoying than interesting.

Two other important sub-plots are Johnny’s relationship with his father, Ray, and his wife Vivian. Robert Patrick gives a good performance as Ray Cash, but Mangold and Dennis mishandle the relationship (or misunderstood it while doing research for the film). It’s a clunky bit of writing that usually has a strung-out Cash staring oh-so-intensely staring at Papa Cash while Ray simply acts like a mean sumbitch. The film doesn’t need the father-son dynamic to be touchy-feely, but that relationship has no heart, is paper-thin, and the resolution is tacked on for a feel-good ending.

Vivian Cash, expertly played by the stunningly gorgeous Ginnifer Goodwin, gets the same dismissal. Mangold and Dennis once again rely on an old film stereotype, one especially big in biopics – that of the shrewish wife. Vivian is more whiny than happy, and the marriage is more or less played as being misbegotten from the get-go. That’s inaccurate (certainly by the accounts of Cash’s four children by Vivian), and if the filmmakers intended to play the marital strife for dramatic effect, they failed, instead ruining a good character.

The biggest waste in Walk the Line is Reese Witherspoon’s June Carter. As written here, the part isn’t a co-lead; it’s a glorified supporting role. Ms. Witherspoon and Phoenix certainly have some serious screen chemistry. They butt heads, stare deeply at one another, and bicker like siblings – or like longtime lovers. Ultimately, however, the story plays June Carter as being only important because she is something Johnny has to have. Of course, this isn’t really June’s story, but it’s obvious to anyone who sees Walk the Line how important June was to Johnny, though we only get a tantalizing piece here and there.

In Ray, the Ray Charles biopic, actor playing important supporting characters get at least one scene to define his characters both as an individual and as a larger part of the narrative. Walk the Line doesn’t allow this except for June Carter’s part. We also get very little of Johnny Cash’s backup band and or of his industry collaborators and acquaintances. Ray also gave the viewer numerous looks at Ray Charles’ creative process of songwriting, performing, and producing. Other than the concert scenes, Walk the Line gives us very little of Johnny Cash’s creative process.

Still, I found myself getting emotional during much of Walk the Line. There are some powerfully emotional scenes here (for instance, when Johnny first performs for Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records). Add such magical moments to Joaquin Phoenix and, to a lesser degree, Reese Witherspoon’s performances, and Walk the Line is a special biographical movie.

7 of 10

Monday, November 28, 2005

2006 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Reese Witherspoon); 4 nominations: “Best Achievement in Costume Design” (Arianne Phillips), “Best Achievement in Film Editing” (Michael McCusker), and “Best Achievement in Sound Mixing” (Paul Massey, Doug Hemphill, Peter F. Kurland), and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Joaquin Phoenix)

2006 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Reese Witherspoon) and “Best Sound” (Paul Massey, Doug Hemphill, Peter F. Kurland, and Donald Sylvester); 2 nominations: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (T-Bone Burnett) and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Joaquin Phoenix)

2006 Golden Globes: 3 wins: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Cathy Konrad and James Keach), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Joaquin Phoenix), and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Reese Witherspoon)


Thursday, October 27, 2011

"We Need to Talk About Kevin" Wins 2011 BFI Best Film Award


London – 10.30pm, 26 October 2011: The 55th BFI London Film Festival, in partnership with American Express announced the winners at its high profile awards ceremony, supported by Montblanc at London’s LSO St Luke’s this evening. Hosted by Marcus Brigstocke, the four awards were presented by some of the most respected figures in the film world.

BEST FILM: WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, directed by Lynne Ramsay
Celebrating the most original, intelligent and distinctive filmmaking in the Festival, the Best Film award, presented in partnership with American Express, was chaired by John Madden who presented the award with fellow judge Gillian Anderson.

On behalf of the jury John Madden (Chair) said: “This year’s shortlist for Best Film comprises work that is outstanding in terms of its originality and its stylistic reach. It is an international group, one united by a common sense of unflinching human enquiry and we were struck by the sheer panache displayed by these great storytellers. In the end, we were simply bowled over by one film, a sublime, uncompromising tale of the torment that can stand in the place of love. We Need to Talk About Kevin is made with the kind of singular vision that links great directors across all the traditions of cinema.”

BEST BRITISH NEWCOMER: Candese Reid, actress, Junkhearts
This award is presented in partnership with Swarovski and honours new and emerging film talent, recognising the achievements of a new writer, producer, director, actor or actress. The award for Best British Newcomer was presented by Edgar Wright and Minnie Driver to Candese Reid, for her acting role in Junkhearts, a sophisticated, social drama about hope and the search for redemption. Starting acting at the age of nine, she joined Nottingham’s prestigious Television Workshop, and her role in Junkhearts, at the age of 18, was her first professional acting role. Candese also received a bursary of £5,000 courtesy of Swarovski

Chair of the Best British Newcomer jury, Andy Harries said, “Candese is a fresh, brilliant and exciting new talent. Every moment she was on screen was compelling.”

The long-standing Sutherland Award is presented to the director of the most original and imaginative feature debut in the Festival. This year, Argentinian director Pablo Giorgelli took the award for his film Las Acacias, a slow-burning, uplifting and enchanting story of a truck driver and his passengers. The director received his Star of London from film director Terry Gilliam.

The jury commented: “In a lively and thoughtful jury room debate, Las Acacias emerged as a worthy winner, largely because of the originality of its conception. Finely judged performances and a palpable sympathy for his characters makes this a hugely impressive debut for director Pablo Giorgelli.”

GRIERSON AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY: INTO THE ABYSS: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life directed by Werner Herzog
The award is co-presented with the Grierson Trust, in commemoration of John Grierson, the grandfather of British documentary. Recognising outstanding feature length documentaries of integrity, originality, technical excellence or cultural significance, the jury was chaired by Adam Curtis and the award went to Werner Herzog’s coruscating study of the senselessness of violence and its consequences.

BFI FELLOWSHIP: Ralph Fiennes and David Cronenberg (as previously announced)
Awarded to an individual whose body of work has made an outstanding contribution to film culture, the Fellowship is the highest accolade that the British Film Institute bestows and was awarded to Canadian auteur David Cronenberg whose film A Dangerous Method premiered at the Festival on Monday. The Fellowship was presented by Jeremy Thomas and Michael Fassbender.

Ralph Fiennes, one of Britain’s pre-eminent actors, who has just made a bold and critically well received transition to film directing with his festival film Coriolanus, was also presented with a Fellowship, this time from fellow actor and personal friend Liam Neeson.

Greg Dyke, Chair, BFI said: ‘The BFI London Film Festival Awards pay tribute to outstanding film talent, so we are delighted and honoured that both Ralph Fiennes, one of the world’s finest and most respected actors and David Cronenberg, one of the most original and ground-breaking film directors of contemporary cinema, have both accepted BFI Fellowships - the highest accolade the BFI can bestow. I also want to congratulate all the filmmakers and industry professionals here tonight, not only on their nominations and awards, but also for their vision, skill, passion and creativity.’

The Star of London award was commissioned especially for the Festival and designed by leading sculptor Almuth Tebbenhoff.

Jurors present at the ceremony included: Best Film jurors John Madden, Andrew O’Hagan. Gillian Anderson, Asif Kapadia, Tracey Seaward and Sam Taylor-Wood OBE; Sutherland jurors Tim Robey, Joanna Hogg, Saskia Reeves, Peter Kosminsky, Hugo Grumbar, and the artist Phil Collins. Best British Newcomer jurors Anne-Marie Duff, Tom Hollander, Edith Bowman, Stephen Woolley and Nik Powell; and Grierson Award jurors Mandy Chang of the Grierson Trust, Charlotte Moore, Head of Documentary Commissioning at BBC, Kim Longinotto and Adam Curtis.

Other guests included: Alfonso Cuarón , Sheharazade Goldsmith, Duncan Kenworthy, Aaron Johnson, Paul Gambaccini, Chair of the BFI Greg Dyke, Chief Executive Amanda Nevill and Festival Director Sandra Hebron.

Review: 1993 Version of "The Three Musketeers" is Surprisingly Fun

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 87 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Three Musketeers (1993)
Running time: 105 minutes (1 hour, 45 minutes)
MPAA – PG for action/violence and some brief sensuality
DIRECTOR: Stephen Herek
WRITER: David Loughery (based upon the novel by Alexandre Dumas père)
PRODUCERS: Roger Birnbaum and Joe Roth
EDITOR: John F. Link
COMPOSER: Michael Kamen

HISTORICAL/ACTION/COMEDY with elements of drama and adventure

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris O’Donnell, Oliver Platt, Tim Curry, Rebecca De Mornay, Gabrielle Anwar, Michael Wincott, Paul McGann, Julie Delpy, and Hugh O’Conor

The Three Musketeers is a 1993 swashbuckling comedy film from Walt Disney Pictures. It is based upon Alexandre Dumas père’s 1844 novel, also entitled The Three Musketeers.

The film opens on young d’Artagnan (Chris O’Donnell) who arrives in Paris with dreams of becoming one of the Musketeers, a band of men sworn to protect and serve the King of France, as his late father was. However, the king’s minister, Count Richelieu (Tim Curry), has just disbanded the Musketeers. This is part of Richelieu’s plot with the Duke of Buckingham of England to overthrow King Louis XIII of France (Hugh O’Conor). Richelieu wants to become the new king after the coup, and he also plans to take Queen Anne of Austria (Gabrielle Anwar) as his queen.

Through a series of misadventures, d’Artagnan joins the three best Musketeers: Athos (Kiefer Sutherland), Porthos (Oliver Platt), and Aramis (Charlie Sheen) to stop Richelieu’s evil plot. First, they must intercept Richelieu’s spy and secret agent, Milady de Winter (Rebecca De Mornay), from delivering a signed treaty to the Duke of Buckingham. However, it seems as if the entire country is set against d’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers as they try to save King and Country.

When this version of The Three Musketeers debuted back in November 1993, I was too much of a snob to see it. To me, it seemed like it was going to be nothing more than trash, but 18 years later, I enjoyed watching it. However, it turns out that I was right about some of my misgivings. Three of the four lead actors: Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris O’Donnell are just awful, with the lone exception of quality being Oliver Platt’s largely comic performance. Even Tim Curry is way more over the top than he needs to be, while Julie Delpy’s Constance is hardly in the film. Rebecca De Mornay actual makes the most of her scenes and turns in quite a nice performance as the femme fatale, Milady de Winter.

Early in the film, either because of the direction (by Stephen Herek) or the editing, the pace of the film is clumsy and awkward. Then, as the story goes on, the film settles into being a rousing adventure with a delightful comic mood. The film’s art direction and set decorations make this a surprisingly beautiful film, and the English and Austrian shooting locations offer viewers some lovely scenery. Plus, there is even a cool song for the soundtrack, “All for Love” sung by Bryan Adams, Sting, and Rod Stewart (written by Adams, film composer Michael Kamen, and Robert John “Mutt” Lange).

There isn’t much else to say. In most ways, this 1993 version of The Three Musketeers is just an average Hollywood flick, but I like it.

6 of 10

1994 Razzie Awards: 1 nomination: “Worst Supporting Actor” (Chris O'Donnell)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Curse of the Phantom Shadow" at Kickstarter

I received the following email:

My name is Mark Ross, and I am an independent filmmaker in the Las Vegas area. My current project may be of interest to your readers.

I am currently in production on our short concept film, Curse of the Phantom Shadow. This movie is an homage to:

Radio Dramas
The Phantom
B Movies
Dick Tracy
Spy Smasher
The Shadow
Republic Movie Serials
Comic books
Pulp Novels/Magazines of the 1930s/1940s

Our film takes place in 1948. We have professional actors, some of which have been in Hollywood productions.

Until recently, we were 100% self financed from my personal savings. We are now trying to raise money to finish our production.

I realize you probably get many of requests, such as the one I am about to make [Actually, no I don't.]. However, a mention on your blog would definitely help us with our fundraising endeavors:

I'm flattered that he thinks our little blog could help, and I hope that it does in any way it can.  So please, lend a helping hand if you can and give Mark and company a kickstart.

Review: "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is a Shiny Empty Thing

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 86 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
Running time: 154 minutes (2 hours, 34 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense prolonged sequences of sci-fi action violence, mayhem and destruction, and for language, some sexuality and innuendo
DIRECTOR: Michael Bay
WRITERS: Ehren Kruger (based on Hasbro’s Transformers Action Figures)
PRODUCERS: Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and Ian Bryce
EDITOR: Roger Barton, William Goldenberg, and Joel Negron


Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Rose Huntington-Whiteley, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Patrick Dempsey, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Alan Tudyk, Ken Jeong, Lester Speight, Glenn Morshower, and Buzz Aldrin; (voices) Peter Cullen, Leonard Nimoy, Hugo Weaving, Frank Welker, Charlie Adler, Reno Wilson, and Keith Szarabajka

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a 2011 science fiction war and action film. It is the third movie in the live-action film series starring Hasbro’s popular toy line, the Transformers. The two other movies were Transformers (2007) and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009). Once again, the human hero from the first two films is caught in a war between two factions of alien robots, the Autobots and the Decepticons, but this time the war involves a new technology that could enslave humanity and forever change Earth.

Dark of the Moon takes place three years after the events of the second film. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is frustrated on two fronts. U.S. government officials will no longer allow him to work with the Autobots, and Director of National Intelligence Charlotte Mearing (Frances McDormand) tells Sam that he is not a hero, but was merely a messenger bringing the Autobots to the world’s attention. Sam also cannot find post-college employment that satisfies him professionally and financially. He is also irritated that his new girlfriend, Carly Spencer (Rose Huntington-Whiteley), supports them both with her high-paying job.

Meanwhile, the Autobots are helping the U.S. military prevent conflicts around the globe. Bigger things are about to happen for the Autobots, however, and it involves a mystery that began 42 years earlier with the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Autobot leader, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), travels to the moon where he finds an Autobot thought to be dead, Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy), Optimus’ predecessor as leader of the Autobots. Optimus revives Sentinel, and that begins a series of events which allow Megatron (Hugo Weaving), leader of the Decepticons, to commence a diabolical plot to revive Cybertron, the ruined home planet of the Transformers. Soon, the Decepticons launch an all-out war against humanity with Chicago as the epicenter.

USAF Chief Robert Epps (Tyrese Gibson) and “Team Epps” join Sam on a mission to slip into Chicago to save Carly. Meanwhile, U.S. Army Lt. Colonel William Lennox (Josh Duhamel) leads the classified strike team, NEST, into Chicago to help them. But time is running out for them to save Carly and the world.

Like Revenge of the Fallen, Dark of the Moon got some bad reviews, although maybe not as many as Revenge. I like this as much as I did Revenge of the Fallen, but both films are too long. Dark of the Moon is probably a half hour longer than it needs to be, but it’s almost worth it to get just about any of the action scenes that include the Transformers. Many of the Transformers here are more complex and have more moving parts, in addition to the fact that this film is shot in 3D. The special visual effects wizards who worked on Dark of the Moon were up to the task and turned in the best visual and special effects of the three films.

Visually, this is an undeniably impressive science fiction action film. Sadly, the rest of the film is either barely coherent or simply incoherent. The acting is often lost in all the noise and visual splendor, and in many cases, that is for the better. There is some hysterically bad acting and embarrassing overacting. This film is also over-the-top and overwrought, and sometimes, it’s just too much. It took me three sittings over three days to watch this movie, and I’m glad I chose not to see it in a theatre.

The special effects and the robots transforming were superb, but as much as that blew my mind, something is really wrong with this movie as a story. This is director Michael Bay at his most mind-numbing, and it is now clear that he has perfected film as sound and fury signifying absolutely nothing. Transformers: Dark of the Moon shows how far the science and technology of cinema have come, but the storytelling is positively Stone Age.

5 of 10

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Virtual Pop Idol "Hatsune Miku" Concert Film in November 2011


World’s First Virtual Pop Idol Has Become An International Music Sensation And Will Be Featured In A Special Concert Film For Fans

Live Viewing Japan, a distribution company focused on bringing Japanese entertainment media to an international audience, has announced that it will stage a very special one-night-only Hatsune Miku event simultaneously in nine major U.S. cities on Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 7:00pm (local time). Hatsune Miku Live Party 2011 39's LIVE in SAPPORO (originally organized by 5bp Inc. in August, 2011) will screen a live concert performance of Hatsune Miku in movie theaters in select markets. More information about this exclusive one-night-only event is available at:

The cities that will host the Hatsune Miku event include:
Baltimore, MD
Boston (Manchester), MA
Chicago, IL
Houston, TX
Los Angeles, CA
Orange, CA
New York, NY – Two locations
San Francisco/Bay Area, CA
Seattle, WA

“We’re very excited to present this unique Hatsune Miku experience for her U.S. fans,” says Live Viewing Japan Exective Director Hiroki Kotani. “Miku has captivated a global audience with a mix of catchy pop music and captivating technology-inspired visuals. Her popularity has opened an entirely new range of possibilities to blend a cute pop idol persona with technology and computer-created graphics. We invite fans to visit the Live Viewing Japan web link for more information and for specific movie theater event locations. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see Hatsune Miku perform!”

Pop idol Hatsune Miku, whose name means, “first sound of the future,” is a Vocaloid (meaning machine-made vocals) digital female avatar and the most popular of the Vocaloid Character Series software originally created by Crypton Future Media, Inc. using Yamaha’s Vocaloid 2 engine to create organic-sounding synthesized vocal tracks.

In Japan, Hatsune Miku is a major national phenomenon and has appeared in numerous popular video games and music videos. She’s also played several enthusiastic “concerts,” where she performs on stage projected as a 3D hologram and backed by a live band. Miku recently played her first live concert in the U.S. called, “MIKUNOPOLIS in LOS ANGELES,” at the Nokia Theatre for the 2011 Anime Expo, held this past July in Los Angeles, CA. The show sold out in only 4 hours, further underscoring the growing popularity she enjoys in North America. Hatsune Miku was also recently featured in a T.V. commercial for the Toyota Corolla.

Live Viewing Japan has seized on the growing global popularity of Hatsune Miku and has plans to screen her live concert film in several countries including France, Thailand and Brazil.

About Live Viewing Japan:
Live Viewing Japan is a Japanese-based media distribution company focused on bringing a variety of entertainment properties to a global theatre-going audience. More information on the company and its projects is available at:

Review: "Jurassic Park" is Always Worth the Trip

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 117 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Jurassic Park (1993)
Running time: 127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense science fiction terror
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
WRITERS: Michael Crichton and David Koepp (from a novel by Michael Crichton)
PRODUCERS: Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen
EDITOR: Michael Kahn
COMPOSER: John Williams
Academy Award winner


Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Samuel L. Jackson, B.D. Wong, and Wayne Knight

Over a decade after I first saw it, I still get a thrill whenever I watch director Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. The Academy Award-winning film (Best Effects – Sound Effects Editing, Best Effects – Visual Effects, and Best Sound) is, like Star Wars and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a landmark film in the area of visual effects, in this instance, for its use of computer rendered characters or CGI, computer generated imagery. While the Terminator sequel introduced the moviegoers to the magic “morphing,” seamless changing a character into something or someone totally different, JP introduced a whole slew of characters that were not added to the film until principal photography was finished shooting. These were characters that only existed inside a computer and were digitally added onto the film.

In the movie, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), a billionaire industrialist, convinces colleagues Drs. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) to travel to his newly created theme park that he calls Jurassic Park. His company’s scientist have miraculously cloned dinosaurs to populate the theme park, and Hammond needs Grant and Ms. Sattler, two paleontologists, to examine the park and give their seal of approval to the venture which in turn will appease Hammond’s worried investors. But as with any test run, things go badly. The park suffers a major security breakdown and releases the dinosaurs, including a hungry T-Rex and pack of velociraptors who enjoy hunting humans. The computer malfunction has Grant, Sattler, and the rest of the park’s inhabitants and visitors (including Hammond’s grandson and granddaughter) struggling to survive the onslaught on vicious dinosaurs as they try to escape from the island.

Although Spielberg has made his share of “serious” films to impress film critics and Oscar® voters, his best work remains his films that have a sense of magic and wonder, and Jurassic Park has both. However, the film is also a razor sharp suspense thriller and amazing adventure filled with frightening pitfalls, daring escapades, and last minute reprieves – the kind that end just before the other shoe drops.

Spielberg is at his best when he manipulates his audience, but honestly by weaving a thrill-a-minute film that has heart. It’s more than just the things that stop your heart, and JP has lots of that. It’s also about the moments that warm the heart, and a Spielberg favorite theme – that of the father who earns redemption or the man who learns to become a father or father figure, is very strong here. A lot of the credit has to go to a script (by Hollywood screenwriting heavyweight David Koepp and the author of the novel upon which this film is based, Michael Crichton) that is friendly to the elements and themes Spielberg favors for his films.

Still, the master filmmaker takes it and not only does he make it work, he makes it work on a level that turns what could have been a novelty film into an movie that is both unforgettable and influential. On a purely entertaining level, JP is a great and a film that is a treat to watch. As a work of art, Jurassic Park’s subject matter may seem like B-movie material, but the entire work is both a brilliant piece of pop entertainment and masterstroke of film craftsmanship.

10 of 10

1994 Academy Awards: 3 wins: “Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing” (Gary Rydstrom and Richard Hymns), “Best Effects, Visual Effects” (Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Phil Tippett, and Michael Lantieri), and “Best Sound” (Gary Summers, Gary Rydstrom, Shawn Murphy, and Ron Judkins)

1994 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Special Effects” (Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Phil Tippett, and Michael Lantieri); 1 nomination: “Best Sound” (Richard Hymns, Ron Judkins, Gary Summers, Gary Rydstrom, and Shawn Murphy)


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Monday, October 24, 2011

Winnie the Pooh Film and Marvel's The Avengers Now on DVD

WINNIE THE POOH - The Walt Disney Studios proudly invites families and audiences of all ages to return to the Hundred Acre Wood with some of the world's most beloved characters, as “Winnie the Pooh,” the delightful all-new animated feature film comes home to Blu-ray Combo Pack for the very first time, as well as DVD and Movie Download on October 25, 2011. Reuniting audiences with Pooh, Tigger, Rabbit, Piglet, Owl, Kanga, Roo and last, but certainly not least, Eeyore (who has lost his tail), “Winnie the Pooh” is a honey of an in-home release containing hours of immersive bonus features, including exclusive animated shorts “The Ballad of Nessie” and “Mini-Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: The Balloon;” a sing-along viewing option; an informative behind-the-scenes featurette for the whole family and deleted scenes with director commentary – all available on Blu-ray Combo Pack.

Winnie The Pooh will be avaialable at retail as follows:
* 3-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) for the suggested retail price of $44.99 U.S. and $51.99 Canada
* 2-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD) for the suggested retail price of $39.99 U.S. and $46.99 Canada
* 1-Disc DVD for the suggested retail price of $29.99 U.S. and $35.99 Canada
* High-Definition Digital for the suggested retail price of $39.99 U.S. and $44.99 Canada
* Standard-Definition Digital for the suggested retail price of $29.99 U.S. and $35.99 Canada

Inspired by the beloved stories from A.A. Milne's books and crafted in Disney's classic style, “Winnie the Pooh,” is the most critically-acclaimed animated film of 2011*. It is narrated by the voice of John Cleese and features the vocal talents of legendary voice actor Jim Cummings (over 350 voices including Gnomeo & Juliet) and a host of other distinctive actors including Craig Ferguson (TV's 'The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson'), Tom Kenny (TV's 'SpongeBob SquarePants'), Bud Luckey (Toy Story 3) and musical performances by Zooey Deschanel (indie folk band “She &Him”).

The all-new “Winnie the Pooh” brings back to life the timeless charm, wit and whimsy of the original featurettes and characters. Sure to become a family favorite for every household, it is directed by Stephen Anderson (Meet The Robinsons) and Don Hall (The Princess and The Frog) and Executive Produced by John Lasseter.

Winnie the Pooh (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)

THE AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES – VOLUME 3 IRON MAN UNLEASHED - The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is a television series on Disney DVD that is inspired by the Marvel Comics Super Hero team of the same name. In each episode, the Avengers defend Earth from unimaginable threats – dangerous Super Villains, time-travelling conquerors, alien invaders and mythical beasts bent on the total destruction of humanity. When the forces of evil are so overwhelming that no single hero has the power to save the world, when no hope is left… the Avengers Assemble! Join Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, and many more of your favorite Avengers, as they discover the value of teamwork and friendship in the fight against evil!

The pulse-pounding action continues on October 25th with six unforgettable episodes in the Volume 3 release of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! Enjoy all the thrills as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk and the rest of the Avengers face off against Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil and defend earth from a full-scale alien invasion led by the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror!

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! Volume 3 Iron Man Unleashed is only available in the U.S. as a 1-Disc DVD for the suggested retail price of $19.99. This release follows the April 26th release of Volume 1 & 2 (episodes 1-13) which consumers can still find for purchase at local retail stores.

Marvel The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Volume Three

THE AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES – VOLUME 4 THOR’S LAST STAND - The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is a television series on Disney DVD that is inspired by the Marvel Comics Super Hero team of the same name. In each episode, the Avengers defend Earth from unimaginable threats – dangerous Super Villains, time-travelling conquerors, alien invaders and mythical beasts bent on the total destruction of humanity. When the forces of evil are so overwhelming that no single hero has the power to save the world, when no hope is left… the Avengers Assemble! Join Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, and many more of your favorite Avengers, as they discover the value of teamwork and friendship in the fight against evil!

On October 25th, get ready for the ultimate adrenaline rush with Volume 4 of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! In these final seven episodes of Season One, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk and the rest of The Avengers attempt to stop Ultron and his army of robots from ending all of humanity and prevent Loki from unleashing armies from Asgard on Earth!

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! Volume 4 Thor’s Last Stand is only available in the U.S. as a 1-Disc DVD for the suggested retail price of $19.99. This release follows the April 26th release of Volume 1 & 2 (episodes 1-13) and is accompanied with the October 25th release of Volume 3 (episodes 14-10) which will be available for consumers to purchase at their local retail store.

Review: "A Fish Called Wanda" is Still Amazing (Happy B'day, Kevin Kline)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 153 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
Running time: 109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Charles Crichton
WRITERS: John Cleese, from a story by Charles Crichton and John Cleese
PRODUCER: Michael Shamberg
EDITOR: John Jympson
Academy Award winner

COMEDY/CRIME with elements of romance

Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Marie Aitken, Tom Georgeson, Patricia Hayes, Cynthia Caylor, Ken Campbell, and Geoffrey Palmer

Set in London, a crooked foursome: heist man Georges Thomason (Tom Georgeson), his partner and close friend, Ken Pile (Michael Palin), George’s American girlfriend, Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis), and Otto (Kevin Kline) a weapons expert who pretends to be Wanda’s brother, but is really her lover, successfully pull off a big time diamond heist. They are about to get away with it when someone informs on George, who is promptly arrested.

George, however, never trusted Otto, so he hid the diamonds away, and only Ken knows where the new hiding location is. Meanwhile, Wanda seduces George’s barrister (attorney), Archie Leach (John Cleese), in hopes that he can discover and reveal to her the stolen loot’s location. There are, however, complications. Archie really falls in love with Wanda, but jealous Otto keeps interfering every time Wanda is about to get intimate with Archie and get the info she and Otto need. As George’s trial approaches, the desperate situation to learn the location of the diamonds really tests the notion of “honor among thieves.”

Nearly two decades after its initial release, A Fish Called Wanda remains a truly great comedy. I laugh at it now as much as I did when I watched in numerous times in the late 80’s. There is any number of reasons the film works so well as both a comedy and a crime film. One is timing, which is required for comedy. If the cast is in synch, it’s probably because they have good chemistry, and good screen chemistry gives a ring of truth to the proceedings – a sense of verisimilitude. The audience can suspend disbelief and believe that the actors are who they’re pretending to be and are really living in the film’s situations. One of the really good examples of this is the scene in which Archie Leach’s wife, Wendy (Marie Aitken), returns home and nearly catches Archie seducing Wanda. While Wanda and Otto, who’d also snuck into the home, scurry behind curtains, we get to watch Cleese’s hilarious performance as he tries to explain to his wife why he’s suddenly appeared in their upstairs living room with a bottle of champagne and two glasses – when he didn’t even know that she’s returned.

The film is also very well written in terms of characters and well-directed in terms of allowing the cast to develop and play the characters. The script is written by the most famous alum of the comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus, John Cleese, and Charles Crichton, a filmmaker at the legendary Ealing Studios, where he directed another great heist film, The Lavender Hill Mob (the film to which Wanda was often compared when Wanda was release in 1988). Both brought their sensibilities for creating truly mean-spirited, venal, vain, and eccentric characters. American filmmakers are good at making mean characters, but they often transform them into heroes – especially in comedies. From beginning to end, there is never any doubt that the characters in A Fish Called Wanda are liars, cheaters, thieves, and sometimes murderers, but we’re supposed to laugh at them. Their wicked ways cause them many inconveniences and hardships, and their vanity causes them embarrassment. Other characters are constantly picking at the things that make them vain and eccentric. This is comedy and fiction, so it’s OK to laugh at and even like these “bad guys.”

A Fish Called Wanda is also marked by what’s often called tour-de-force performances, and much of it has to do with the fact that the entire cast, especially the four leads are highly skilled actors, but are also excellent comic actors. Each does a simply fabulous job selling their characters to the audience. The most memorable performance in the film probably belongs to Kevin Kline, who won an Oscar for his role as the supposed-CIA agent, Otto. However, he’s only the cherry on top of what remains a great, great comedy.

9 of 10

1989 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Kevin Kline); 2 nominations: “Best Director” (Charles Crichton) and “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen” (John Cleese-screenplay/story and Charles Crichton-story)

1989 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Best Actor” (John Cleese) and “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Michael Palin); 7 nominations: “Best Film” (Michael Shamberg and Charles Crichton), “Best Actor” (Kevin Kline), “Best Actress” (Jamie Lee Curtis), “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Maria Aitken), “Best Direction” (Charles Crichton), “Best Editing” (John Jympson), and “Best Screenplay – Original” (John Cleese)

1989 Golden Globes: 3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical” (John Cleese) and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical” (Jamie Lee Curtis)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review: "The Evil Dead" Still Givin' Head to Horror Fans (Happy B'day, Sam Raimi)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 125 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Evil Dead (1981)
OPENING DATE: January 1, 1983
Running time: 85 minutes (1 hour, 25 minutes)
MPAA – NC-17 for substantial graphic horror violence and gore (1994 theatrical release)
PRODUCER: Robert G. Tapert
EDITOR: Edna Ruth Paul

HORROR with elements of comedy

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Hal Delrich, Betsy Baker, and Sarah York

Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his four friends are college students on vacation, and their destination is a cabin (an actual abandoned cabin that director Sam Raimi reportedly later burned to the ground) remotely located in the Tennessee woods. What they don’t know is that those very same woods are full of slumbering demonic spirits that are ever-present and ever listening. They lie in wait for the recitation of an ancient incantation that will allow them to possess the living. The student quintet finds a reel-to-reel recording of that same incantation in the cabin’s cellar, and they unwittingly play the recording. One by one, Ash’s four friends succumb to these merciless spirits, leaving him alone in a struggle to save his body from possession and becoming one of the evil dead.

Long before they produced the “Hercules” and “Xena: Warrior Princess” TV shows, Sam Raimi wrote and directed and Robert Tapert produced one of the most shockingly original horror films of the last quarter of 20th century, The Evil Dead. If horror movies can be funny, then no truly scary movie was as funny as The Evil Dead. The film’s primary influences were obvious (writer H.P. Lovecraft and filmmaker George A. Romero), but Raimi’s script created a bastard child of Lovecraft and Romero that wouldn’t submit to being properly reared. It’s insane. It’s gory. It’s frickin’ hilarious.

Using the few resources he had, Raimi combined stop-motion photography, homemade gory effects, and cheap, but frightening monster makeup. Perhaps the element the best served The Evil Dead was the Raimi’s penchant for using an active camera. He mounted a camera on a 2x4, and he and actor Bruce Campbell would each hold an end and run headlong through the set. This created Raimi’s signature visual clue that evil moving running through the woods. The camera also tilts, spins, dips, swerves, flips over, and generally does whatever it takes to create the sense that demonic forces are constantly moving and creeping around – always in attack mode.

The performances are great, in particularly Bruce Campbell’s combination of half-madness and half over-acting. However, his cohorts (and the many stand-ins actors or “shemps” as they were called, who played the possessed students in the second half of the film) attack their roles as demonic zombies with relish – all in all creating some of the scariest film creeps in horror movie history. No one can be a true fan of horror films without having seen The Evil Dead, regardless if in the end he or she didn’t like it. The film is simply a viewing requirement for scary flick fans.

8 of 10


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: "Red State" a Horror Movie That Does its Own Thing

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 85 (of 2011) by Leroy Douressaux

Red State (2011)
Running time: 88 minutes (1 hour, 28 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence/disturbing content, some sexual content including brief nudity, and pervasive language
PRODUCER: Jonathan Gordon

HORROR with elements of action and crime

Starring: Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman, Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, Nicholas Braun, Stephen Root, Matt Jones, Kerry Bishé, Kevin Alejandro, Ralph Gorman, James Parks, and Kevin Pollack

Red State is a 2011 horror film from director Kevin Smith (Clerks.) Smith chose not to distribute the film in the usual manner through theatres. Instead, he took Red State on tour showing it before small audiences. Perhaps, this unusual manner of exhibiting a film reflects that this is a highly unusual horror movie.

How unusual is it? Well, there are things that happen in this movie that will be familiar to audiences, but not familiar as something seen in the typical horror movie. This will leave you shocked, scratching your head, put-off, and/or entertained. Still, Red State is, for me, one of the most enjoyable film experiences I’ve had this year. I can’t get some of this movie out of my mind.

Three high school boys: Travis (Michael Angarano), Jared (Kyle Gallner), and Billy-Ray (Nicholas Braun) are horny enough to screw anything, so when they get an online offer for some nasty sex, they travel to woodsy Cooper’s Dell and into big trouble. Meanwhile, gay-, liberal-, Jew-, brown people-hating pastor, Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), and the parishioners of his Five Points Trinity Church get ready to rock with Special Agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman) and the ATF.

Red State has heavy political overtones, heavier religious overtones, and heaviest of all, social and cultural overtones. The film seems to fold elements of the horror movie, Hostel, into the real life events of the Waco siege. This siege occurred in 1993 and was a standoff outside Waco, Texas between the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and a religious sect, the Branch Davidian, which ended with the death of 76 people. In fact, Abin Cooper and his flock also bear a resemblance to controversial Pastor Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. Ultimately, writer/director Kevin Smith seems to be saying “a pox on both your houses” to both the church and state entities in this movie.

Red State is a horror movie because of the suspense, the abduction sequence, and the torture, and also because of the general brutal violence and mayhem. I don’t want to give away too much, but the events of the film and the way the characters act – both onscreen and off – amount to a horror show and would be considered horrifying to most people. What I like most about this film is that it is simply different and is an audacious and bold effort by a filmmaker, Kevin Smith, who has largely underutilized his talents or been underutilized. Red State is an example of untapped potential. Perhaps because of budget restraints, Smith does not take a number of subplots and character relationships far past the point of introducing them. Fully developed, they could have transformed this already good film and made it even better.

Finally, I should mention that there are a number of strong performances in Red State, with Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, and John Goodman as the standouts. Parks and Leo at least deserve consideration for Oscar nominations for their performances here. Leo just won a best supporting actress Oscar (for The Fighter), but her turn here as the religious zealot/nut who is also a fiercely loving mom could wrestle your imagination to the floor and pin it. Parks is a revelation as Abin Cooper, a fanatic with rock-solid, unshakeable faith; Parks makes you believe that this guy is real and for real. There are a number of reasons to see this. Believe it or not, the acting may be the best reason to see Red State.

7 of 10

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Friday, October 21, 2011

Review: 1973 Version of "The Three Musketeers" Retains its Comic Charm

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 84 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Three Musketeers (1973)
U.S. release: 1974
Running time: 107 minutes (1 hour, 47 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Richard Lester
WRITER: George MacDonald Fraser (based upon the novel by Alexandre Dumas père)
PRODUCERS: Alexander and Ilya Salkind
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Watkin (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: John Victor Smith
COMPOSER: Michel Legrand
BAFTA nominee


Starring: Michael York, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, Frank Finlay, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Geraldine Chaplin, Charlton Heston, Faye Dunaway, Christopher Lee, Simon Ward, Raquel Welch, Spike Milligan, and Roy Kinnear

The Three Musketeers is a 1973 swashbuckling comedy film from director Richard Lester (A Hard Day’s Night). This film is based upon Alexandre Dumas père’s 1844 novel, also entitled The Three Musketeers. This is also the first of a two-part film series, the other being The Four Musketeers (1974).

The film opens on young d’Artagnan (Michael York), a country bumpkin trained in the art of the sword by his father. D’Artagnan arrives in Paris with dreams of becoming a king’s musketeer – hopefully with the help of an old acquaintance of his father’s – but he is turned away. He meets and quarrels with three men: Athos (Oliver Reed), Porthos (Frank Finlay), and Aramis (Richard Chamberlain), each of whom challenges him to a duel. After discovering that the three men are real musketeers, d’Artagnan joins them in a brawl with the guards of Count Richelieu (Charlton Heston). Appreciative of d’Artagnan’s efforts, the three musketeers take him on as a kind of musketeer-in-training.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Buckingham (Simon Ward) has slipped into France to see French Queen, Anne of Austria (Geraldine Chaplin), with whom he is having an affair. Richelieu conspires to use the affair to bring down the Queen so that he can have more power over the King, Louis XIII (Jean-Pierre Cassel). Richelieu employs his spy and secret agent, Milady de Winter (Faye Dunaway), to help him.

D’Artagnan has an affair with Constance Bonacieux (Raquel Welch), a married woman who is an aid to the Queen. At her insistence, d’Artagnan decides to help the Queen. Soon the young musketeer wannabe joins Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, as they also seek to oppose Cardinal Richelieu at every turn.

It has been so many years since I read The Three Musketeers that I don’t remember much about it, although the film apparently adheres closely to the novel. I do remember this movie, though. I watched it and its sequel several times when I was a child and I loved it – love is the right word to use. Before I watched it again recently, I wondered if I’d still like it. It turned out that I still love this movie.

Lester and screenwriter George MacDonald Fraser inject a lot of humor into the story. In fact, the film emphasizes comedy over character, although the script gives each character a personality that is important in the context of the role he or she plays. The cast, which is composed of mostly veteran and talented actors and movie stars, makes the most of the material. For instance, Charlton Heston’s stout turn as Richelieu allows the character to be a villain, but an impeccable sense of timing also allows Heston to make the character menacing or mischievously funny, as necessary.

The Three Musketeers also tweaks the conventions of the swashbuckling movies of the 1940s and 50s. The film does the kind of lavish sets and art direction and sumptuous costumes that would make a 1940s MGM period film proud. However, director of photography David Watkins shot this movie with an eye for period detail, so he captures a squalid, more impoverished, and earthier reality as equally as he captures splendor. This makes the movie loose and energetic, rather than stiff and formal.

The Three Musketeers’ fight scenes are not fancy fencing duels like something out of an Errol Flynn movie. Rather, these fights are staged as brawls with the combatants using fists and knees as much as swords. In fact, furniture, food, sticks, and any objects at hand (even wet laundry) sometimes assist or replace swordplay.

When I first saw The Three Musketeers, I was too young to understand the bawdy humor and double entendres. Now, I see how Michael York strikes the perfect tone as d’Artagnan and also how the strikingly handsome Oliver Reed made the most of what is basically a supporting role. Raquel Welch as Constance and Faye Dunaway as Lady de Winter are devastating scene stealers; there could have been a movie built around just the two of them. The Three Musketeers is a childhood favorite that doesn’t disappoint the adult me.

8 of 10

1975 BAFTA Awards: 5 nominations: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Michel Legrand), “Best Art Direction” (Brian Eatwell), “Best Cinematography” (David Watkin), “Best Costume Design” (Yvonne Blake), and “Best Film Editing” (John Victor-Smith)

1975 Golden Globes: 1 win: “Best Motion Picture Actress - Musical/Comedy” (Raquel Welch); 1 nomination: “Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" Arrives on DVD in December

Bring Caesar Home on Blu-Ray - RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Evolution Becomes Revolution in the Critically-Acclaimed Over $432 Million Worldwide Box Office Smash Arriving Globally on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download in December

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A single act of both compassion and arrogance leads to a battle unlike any other when RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES makes its worldwide debut on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download on December 13th in North America and starting December 7th Internationally. From the Oscar-winning® visual effects team that brought to life the worlds of Avatar and Lord of the Rings comes revolutionary new ground - a CGI ape that delivers a dramatic performance of unprecedented emotion and intelligence, and epic battles on which rest the upended destinies of man and primate.

James Franco (127 Hours) stars as Will Rodman, a neuroscientist living in San Francisco trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease by testing on chimpanzees, giving them a human level of intelligence. After a test subject’s baby, Caesar, is orphaned, Will decides to raise him at home on his own with his Alzheimer-stricken father (John Lithgow; “Dexter”). What begins simply as a continuation of his experiment quickly turns into a problem for Will, as Caesar is taken away from him and forced to live in a primate facility. As Caesar’s intelligence continues to grow, he begins to stake his claim as the leader of his new primate counterparts, which will ultimately lead to the RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

Directed by Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist), this special effects blockbuster features fantastic supporting performances from Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), Brian Cox (Red), Tom Felton (Harry Potter films) and Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) in a ground-breaking performance. The RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Blu-ray is loaded with bonus material including deleted scenes, making-of featurettes commentaries and more.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Blu-ray + Digital Copy (North America)
Feature Film
Deleted Scenes
Alpha Gets Shot
Will’s Meeting with Lab Assistants
Will Discovers Caesar Has Solved Puzzles
Caesar Plays with Bicycle
Caesar Questions His Identity
Caesar Bites Off Neighbor’s Finger
Will Ignores the Risks of an Airborne Mutated Virus
Rodney Gives Caesar a Cookie
Rocket Gets Hosed by Dodge
Caesar Destroys the Lab and Koba’s Attempted Revenge on Jacobs
Caesar Pushes Helicopter
Koba with Shotgun
Pre-vis for The Future
Capturing Caesar – Script to Screen
Studying the Genius of Andy Serkis
Multi-Angle: Rocket Cookie Scene
A New Generation of Apes
Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries
Breaking New Sound Barriers: The Music and Sound Design of Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Ape Facts
Audio Commentary by Director Rupert Wyatt
Audio Commentary by Writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
Character Concept Art Gallery
Three Theatrical Trailers

Exact product configurations will vary by individual territories

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC (TCFHE) is a recognized global industry leader and a subsidiary of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a News Corporation company. Representing 75 years of innovative and award-winning filmmaking from Twentieth Century Fox, TCFHE is the worldwide marketing, sales and distribution company for all Fox film and television programming, acquisitions and original productions on DVD, Blu-ray Disc Digital Copy, Video On Demand and Digital Download. The company also releases all products globally for MGM Home Entertainment. Each year TCFHE introduces hundreds of new and newly enhanced products, which it services to retail outlets from mass merchants and warehouse clubs to specialty stores and e-commerce throughout the world.

Review: A Bag of "Bones" (Happy B'day, Snoop Dogg)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 151 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bones (2001)
Running time: 96 minutes (1 hour, 36 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence/gore, language, sexuality and drugs
DIRECTOR: Ernest Dickerson
WRITERS: Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe
PRODUCERS: Rupert Harvey, Peter Heller, and Lloyd Segan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Flavio Labiano (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Michael N. Knue and Stephen Lovejoy
COMPOSER: Elia Cmiral
Black Reel Awards nominee

HORROR with elements of fantasy

Starring: Snoop Dogg, Pam Grier, Michael T. Weiss, Clifton Powell, Ricky Harris, Bianca Lawson, and Khalil Kain

I held out no hope for rapper Snoop Dogg’s horror film vehicle, Bones. It was released in 2001, but I didn’t see it until two years later. When I finally saw it, I found Bones surprisingly entertaining, if a bit hokey and poorly written.

I also learned that Ernest Dickerson directed the film. Dickerson came to prominence in the late 80’s and 90’s as Spike Lee’s cinematographer on Lee’s first five full-length features including Do The Right Thing and Malcolm X. He made his directorial debut with the fairly well received urban drama Juice, about a group of friends and their trouble with a pistol. Dickerson later showed a deft touch for horror films with the delightful Demon Knight, a film version of the HBO series “Tales from the Crypt.” Sadly, Bones, although mildly entertaining, lacks Demon Knight’s sense of mad glee and hilariously evil hijinx.

Snoop plays Jimmy Bones, a low-key gangster, pimp type, and godfather of an inner city neighborhood in 1979. When he refuses an offer to join the drug trade, the dealers shoot him and force his associates and baby mama to participate in the killing. 22 years later, his angry spirit returns after some suburban kids buy his playa mansion and turn it into a club.

Bones isn’t that bad, but it isn’t too good. It’s lost somewhere in the middle of mediocrity. The characters all have potential, especially in regards to their socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, but the filmmakers sacrifice them to violence and trite special effects, many of the effects old when Clive Barker used that kind of SFX in his early Hellraiser films.

Snoop does most of acting with a perpetual scowl etched across his face. Still, he has excellent screen presence, and makes a good bad guy when he’s given (I don’t know, maybe) depth and subtext. It really would have been nice had Dickerson approached this film with the same sense of fun and funny mayhem that made Demon Knight such a charmingly trashy fright flick.

4 of 10

2002 Black Reel Awards: 1 nomination: “Theatrical - Best Actress” (Pam Grier)


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"The Howling Reborn" Now on DVD

A legendary horror franchise that redefined a genre returns to scare a new generation...


A New Moon Rises October 18th

Get ready to run with the pack again, as Anchor Bay Entertainment unleashes The Howling Reborn October 18th on Blu-ray™ and DVD. An all-new, original chapter directed by Joe Nimziki, the much anticipated Anchor Bay Films release stars Lindsey Shaw (“Pretty Little Liars,” “10 Things I Hate About You”), Landon Liboiron (Fox’s upcoming series “Terra Nova,” “Degrassi: The Next Generation”) and Ivana Milicevic (Casino Royale, Vanilla Sky). Described within industry circles as “Twilight with bite,” The Howling Reborn deftly combines romance, action and thrills that will have audiences worldwide embracing their inner lycanthrope! SRP is $26.98 for the DVD, and $29.99 for the Blu-ray™. Pre-book is September 21st.

Anchor Bay SVP of Marketing Jennifer Roberts stated: “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the picture, and are excited to get “The Howling: Reborn” out as quickly as possible for this Halloween. We truly believe this picture will re-launch the franchise and lead to even bigger and better new chapters ahead.”

The creatures for The Howling Reborn were brought to life by 2010 Academy-Award® nominee Adrian Morot (300, Night at the Museum 2), and the score produced by award-winning composer Klaus Badelt (Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean).

On the eve of his high school graduation, Will Kidman (Liboiron) finally looks up from his books to catch the eye of the girl he’s longed for the last four years –the mysterious Eliana Wynter (Shaw). He’s always been the shy kid, flying under the radar, but when he discovers a dark secret from his past— that he is heir to a powerful line of werewolves -- he finds he has a choice to make between succumbing to his primal nature, or turning against his own, and maintaining his humanity. In order to fight the destiny of his legacy, and save Eliana – as well as himself – he must battle not only his growing blood lust but an army of fearsome beasts bent on killing him, Eliana...and then, us all.

Bonus features on The Howling Reborn Blu-ray™ and DVD will include filmmakers’ commentary and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

The Howling began enthralling fans more than 30 years ago, with the 1977 publication of Gary Brandner’s best-selling novel and the 1981 film adaptation written by Academy Award® nominated screenwriter John Sayles (Lone Star, The Spiderwick Chronicles) and directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins, InnerSpace). The film’s success ushered in a new era of screen werewolves, as well as the six “Howling” sequels that followed.

About Anchor Bay Films
Anchor Bay Films is unique in that it offers the creative community a fully integrated distribution capability on all platforms and an international solution extending beyond the U.S. Anchor Bay Films is a division of Anchor Bay Entertainment and is on the ground providing quality distribution with operations in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, as well as distribution capabilities in other key territories. The company focuses on a platform release strategy for its films with an eye toward maximizing their potential across all ancillary distribution platforms. The company recently released the critically acclaimed comedy City Island starring Andy Garcia and Solitary Man starring Michael Douglas, Kill the Irishman starring Ray Stevenson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Val Kilmer, Christopher Walken, as well as Sundance Audience Award Winner happythankyoumoreplease starring Josh Radnor, Malin Akerman, Kate Mara, Zoe Kazan and Tony Hale. Upcoming releases include, Meet Monica Velour with Kim Cattrall and Toronto International Film Festival award-winner Beautiful Boy with Maria Bello and Michael Sheen. Anchor Bay Entertainment is a subsidiary of Starz Media, LLC ( which is a controlled subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation attributed to the Liberty Starz tracking stock group.