Sunday, July 25, 2010


In many ways, I am the opposite of the troublemakers known as SpielBay. They detest the machinations, repetitions, money-hungry smash-bash-and-grab cash movie-making practices of Steven Spielberg, Michael Bay and any other Hollywood types. I wait to have an opinion until the final product has arrived, maybe because I'm more comfortable participating in an audience scenario than as performer. Many times I agree that the old, pre-CGI films were better, but there are occasions when I can see the value of a remake, of a new retelling of a story that wouldn't be appreciated if it were only told in the old way. Hopefully we all take each others' opinions into account, and finally decide for ourselves what is of value to us, rather than making universal, snap judgments.

I recommend watching their videos and other projects HIGHLY.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

gods and monsters

--What is with religious, end-of-the-world spectaculars?

Just watched The Seventh Sign with a young Demi Moore. Same story as The Omen, The Prophecy, and most recently Legion: end of the world is upon us, who will sacrifice themself to save the rest of mankind? And with a title that is reminiscent of Bergman's Seventh Seal, no less. It seems the filmmakers believe that the subject matter is weighty enough, there needs to be no more put into it, thought-wise, humor-wise, entertainment-wise. Just "look upon me, and despair."

Even if these films are not remaking each other, it sure feels like a rehash, every time you see the same story. Why not go WAAAAAY back, to the times "when gods were petty and cruel..."

(pic from

I also saw Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightning Thief recently. It felt more like I was hoping the remake of Clash of the Titans would be: light, introductory for those who haven't read the mythology, colorful and fun to watch. Although it was rated PG, it had enough (relatively) subtle innuendo, particularly coming from the mouth of the satyr, to satisfy the adult in me, while not dragging me down too far into the back story. I know fans of the books series protest any and all changes made in transferring text to screen, but what are ya gonna do? Absolute, unerring faithfulness to the source material will be criticized for not being snappy enough, not being visual enough, not original enough. Only thing to do is regard each as its own separate entity, and hope that both will be worthy of your affection. If not, think of it as a learning experience--you've discovered yet another thing that doesn't measure up, so the ones that do will be that much better.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I Spit On Your Grave.

I Spit On Your Grave (1978), originally called Day of the Woman. The original scarred me for life, since I was still in the movie-watching phase when I felt like everything that was convincingly portrayed on celluloid COULD conceivably happen to me. Between this and Last House on the Left, I was left with a very dark view on backwoods and rural sex practices. The cinematography was done so subtly in the first part, it seemed the cameraman was a peeping tom, getting thrills from watching our protagonist, almost documentary-style. The sound design is stark, not allowing us to get distance from the events on-screen, by limiting the score to source music only.

We get to know the female author Jennifer Hills as she settles into a distant country home in order to finish the story she's working on. Some "generous" locals decide to help their handicapped young hanger-on learn about sex, by stalking her and showing him how it's done. The movie shows them playing with her like cats with a mouse, letting her getting away, then brutally attacking her again. They finally leave her for dead, but somehow she survives her horrific injuries and goes home to heal.

The second half is the story of her revenge on the group of men, managing it any way she can. I've read arguments that this is glorifying rape, that this is a feminist film, that there is no message behind this movie because it is simply exploitation, and that the woman takes back her power at the end. Which do you believe? Is it a "grit your teeth and endure it" kind of story, or is there a bottom line?

I'm glad I saw the original, but I will not be seeing the remake, because as long as it conveys the same message, it's unnecessary. I did not enjoy the experience of sitting through it the first time.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday evening

week of May 25th, 2010

I watched a good chunk of the new releases yesterday. Alice in Wonderland, Leap Year, Cornered, and tried The Tooth Fairy but hated it.

AIW: not your typical story. Tim Burton makes it a return to Wonderland, after Alice is grown up. I've seen many adaptations (including the SyFy Channel one and Kate Beckinsale as a blonde one) and I enjoyed this version. Plus it was pretty to look at. But I didn't care about 3D-ness of it. Only 3D I've really loved is Spy Kids 3D.

Leap Year: Enjoyed this. Girl follows her boyfriend to Ireland where he's at a conference, so she can propose to him on February 29th. Gets diverted to Wales, then Dingle, because of bad weather and has to find her way to Dublin. Predictable and shallow yes, but sometimes that's all you want from a movie. Comforting.

Cornered: Group of friends who own/work at/spend time at a failing convenience store lock up for the night and play poker upstairs. Find an unwelcome visitor and start dying in the methods they had come up with during a theoretical conversation earlier. Again, not terribly deep, but kind of satisfying. If I want a really good slasher film, I'd go for Sorority Row instead.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Predators. Directed by Nimród Antal, produced by Robert Rodriguez. Eight people wake in free fall to find themselves hurtling towards an alien planet, equatorial jungle in nature. These humans are played by Danny Trejo, Topher Grace, and Adrien Brody among others. They even are assisted at one point by Laurence Fishburne!

Rather simple story of trust, co-operation, ambiguity, power & control. Fun joyride of who will survive (Ten Little Indians-style) and how. I'm going to have to watch it over again from the beginning, paying more attention to see if hints were dropped earlier as to the ultimate ending. I suspect there is more to it than at first viewing. Love, love, love the casting, the set dressing, the makeup, the sound design...

Saw it with a few fans of the franchise, who noticed several tips of the hat to the original Predator, and said this was a companion story, not a reboot of any kind. I also learned it totally ignored the Vs. Aliens series.

And...I would like to lick honey off Adrien Brody's six-pack.

Friday, July 9, 2010

causes of zombification

Rewatching the remake of The Crazies today, thinking about how many other zombie/infection movies start with the water.
Found another post listing a few of those watery films here: ALL THINGS HORROR.
So I went on to think about examples of other virus/unexplained source of a zombie-mutating horror.

  • 28 Days Later (2002)/28 Weeks Later (2007)
  • [Rec] (2007)/Quarantine (2008)
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  • Day of the Dead (1985)
  • Demons 2 (1986) - yeah well, demons released from the TV count as zombie-like behavior.
  • Dead Alive (1992) - the bite of the Sumatran rat-monkey (pic from
  • Night of the Comet (1984) - was, of course, the gases of the comet passing through earth's atmosphere.
  • Night of the Creeps (1986) - aliens (pic from
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968) - unexplained
  • It Came From Outer Space (1953) - aliens
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, 1978, 2007) - aliens
  • Return of the Living Dead (1985) - government cover up of unexplained fluid
  • SLiTHER (2006) - aliens (pic from

and of course, Stephen King's Dreamcatcher (2003), which uses all of the above, essentially.

If you were to make a zombie (or zombie-like) film, which cause would you choose? or would you leave it ambiguous?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

parodies and recycling

It started with Scary Movie.

Then moved on to Date Movie, Epic Movie, Disaster Movie... Add to that list Not Another Teen Movie, Meet the Spartans, and most recently, I saw The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It. So disappointed. The actors were just doing horrible impersonations of the originals. The situations were given, predictable, not interesting or entertaining at all. Why would a studio give money for this kind of movie? What will be the fate of the newest one announced, Vampires Suck?

Good parody/recycled material includes the works of David Zucker & Jim Abrahams (Airplane, Hot Shots, The Naked Gun, Top Secret! and The Kentucky Fried Movie).

Do I just remember these films nostalgically? Or were they actually better than today's parodies are? I remember clever quips, brilliant in-jokes, admirable hair and costuming. I still quote many lines from Top Secret! such as "Things change, people change, interest rates fluctuate..."

Agree or disagree? Tell me why you think so!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Have you seen a lot of erotic thrillers? Exotica, 9 1/2 Weeks, or the one that Chloe (2009) is based on, Nathalie (2003)? IMDb has a list.

This remake was done by Atom Egoyan, who is Canadian and has rather a European sensibility to his films. The new screenplay is by Erin Cressida Wilson, whose previous work includes the screenplay of Secretary and Fur: An imaginary portrait of Diane Arbus. In the commentary, they talk a lot about the decision to use Toronto as itself in this film. They also discuss the use of reflection in mirrors, windows and other surfaces. Trying to find yourself in someone else is rather a universal action, and often goes hand-in-hand with mid-life crises. What's interesting about this is that the wife is the one discontent with her life, trying to figure out what to do, how to become more herself, instead of the husband.

(picture from

Again, I can't comment on how the original compares with the remake, due to not having seen the French film, but I enjoyed the newer version, and it made me think about the topics within, even beyond the viewing of it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dawn of the Dead

Here's a daring step: only one week into my blogging journey, tackling what I'm guessing is the second most hotly contested remake amongst my friends (after Transformers).

1978: George A. Romero creates Dawn of the Dead.
2004: Zach Snyder's Dawn of the Dead is released.

Romero's version starts out at a television studio where we meet Stephen (Flyboy) and Francine (TV executive girlfriend), watching live action on-screen, but distanced by media. The other two main characters, Roger and Peter, are SWAT team members, already deep in combat with the zombie invasion. The original gives us some of the best spoken lines in the zombie genre (as referenced on IMDb):

[Fran and Stephen are observing from the roof of the mall]
Francine Parker: What are they doing? Why do they come here?
Stephen: Some kind of instinct. Memory, of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.

Francine Parker: What the hell are they?
Peter: They're us, that's all, when there's no more room in hell.
Stephen: What?
Peter: Something my granddad used to tell us. You know Macumba? Voodoo. My granddad was a priest in Trinidad. He used to tell us, "When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth."

The original feels like several movies rolled up into one, as it switches from romance/buddy cop/survival flick, to a description of day-to-day life in a mall, to humorous motorcycle romp in an indoor location (possibly inspiring 1980's Blues Brothers' mall scene?). The newer version is more consistent in tone throughout, does well in building and keeping the tension as well as allowing occasional laughs to break and rebuild tension.

Kenneth: Is everyone there dead?
Steve: Well, dead-ish.
Kenneth: [more firm tone] Is everyone there dead?
Steve: Yeah, in the sense that they all sort of, uh... fell down... and then got up... and started eating each other.

CJ: [after everyone enters an elevator to escape the zombies] Hey... I like this song.

Televangelist [Ken Foree's cameo role]: Hell is overflowing, and Satan is sending his dead to us. Why? Because, you have sex out of wedlock, you kill unborn children, you have man on man relations, same sex marriage. How do you think your God will judge you? Well friends, now we know. When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.

Complaints that have been made about Zach Snyder's version include that it's just a feature length music video, that there's no character depth, that it's so fast-paced there is no chance to connect with the characters, and that zombies should never be fast, and that there's too much swearing (!). Complaints on the original include poor effects (early Tom Savini, pioneering his vision of how gore should appear on-screen), make-up, and its general dated feeling.

High points of the original include that Romero took his original concept of Night of the Living Dead, and built upon it, expanding upon the mythos. He truly made the most of his "Let's hide in a mall" idea (a new concept to the public at the time), and gave us very strong, interesting characters who made their situation memorable and intense. The realism of the environment, and the memories that it evokes of personal experience in 70s-era shopping malls, connect with older viewers, giving it a feeling of "this could happen." The newer version also has some strong characters who I can see fitting into archetypical positions, good dialogue (written by James Gunn), and excellent effects. The supersaturated color palette lends to the overly caffeinated, dream-like, sleep-deprived feel of the film.

My take is that each has to be viewed and judged on its own merits. If you can't suspend your disbelief of blue-skinned zombies, then the original is not for you. If you can't suspend your disbelief of fast-moving zombies, the the remake is not for you. But it is possible to enjoy both, as I do, when you take them for what they offer, and view each with an open mind.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Horror Lite

House On Haunted Hill
Thirteen Ghosts
House on Sorority Row
House of Wax
The Hitcher
When A Stranger Calls
The Stepfather

These were all classic horror titles, but now they've been remade. My opinion of these offereings is, "You get out what you put in," or for the geeks among us, "Garbage in, garbage out." For the most part, the new takes on these titles are more shallow, less worth multiple viewings, but I will make exceptions for William Malone's Dark Castle company, as well as the new Sorority Row. I loved the characters in these few, admired the non-gratuitous deaths (even Chugs' choking on a wine bottle I found entrancing, rather than the eye-rolling "of course" reaction I had to the other films), and want to see more in the same vein.

These exceptions prove once again that it's not intrinsic to a remake to be ridiculous and unnecessary, but often times that is the aftertaste when the director/casting/wardrobe/production designer/sound designer don't make the new movie their own vision. I have seen Thir13en Ghosts over 20 times since it came out, and I admire it every time. The amazing special effects, visual effects, and makeup to make those ghosts come alive show the effort and imagination of all involved, and how you can take a small idea and make it live in a much grander fashion. The house of glass with all those sigils and spells marking the glass should be remembered as another labor of love, as opposed to the sterile environment of the remake of When A Stranger Calls.

Tony Shalhoub, F. Murray Abraham, Rah Digga and Matthew Lillard give their all in Thir13een Ghosts. Their presence, and the gravitas they lend to the production, builds into the feeling of this being a solid, stand-on-its-own kind of film, rather than the "meh" feeling that comes from other productions.

Agree? Disagree? Have more titles to add to this list? Let me know!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Prisoner

For the past four days, I've been attending CONvergence, the yearly Minneapolis science fiction convention that takes place on the first full weekend in July. One of the panels I attended was in regards to The Prisoner. There was a 6-episode "remake" of the original 1967 TV show that aired in fall of 2009. Much of the discussion was spent in comparing the two different versions.

Apparently the new version had more in common with the Matrix, Lost and other alternate reality shows than with the original series. Many of the panel attendees agreed that they appreciated the ambiguity of the original more than being handed answers. We discussed whether that was the British vs American way, or 60s culture (post Cold-War) vs modern day. Other topics that arose was whether it was better to have a longer season, which may seem stretched and improvised, or a shorter season that is very well orchestrated.

The new version paid homage to the original not only in the setting of "The Village," but also in the episode titles, such as Schitzoid, Harmony, Anvil (instead of Hammer Into Anvil, Living in Harmony, and The Schitzoid Man). Since it had double the running time, it had more of a leisurely pace, time to get into the mind of our characters, rather than the immediacy of the remake.

Conclusion: If you have time to invest in thinking about the repercussions of reality vs what exists only in one man's mind, the second Prisoner series might be worth giving a try. But the original seems to be superior in every way, so hold off on seeing it until after you give the first a try, lest you be disappointed.