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Nine years after the first SIN CITY created a whole new look for the movies, the first trailer for the sequel has been released. Starring Josh Brolin, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Jaime King, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dennis Haysbert, Jamie Chung, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Julia Garner, Ray Liotta, Juno Temple, Jeremy Piven and Stacey Keach, SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR was directed by Robert Rodriguez from a screenplay by Sin City creator Frank Miller. But no Clive Owen. Sob.
The first Sin City was electrifying in its original look, and kicked off the entire trend of basing comic book movies on the actual comic. So many of the visual styles of the first movie have become tropes now, it’s hard to remember just how eyeball searing it was at first. And it’s safe to say the careers of both Rodriguez and Miller haven’t gone in the direction you might have expected since then. But the sequel promises to deliver more razor-sharp black and white debauchery by an all-star cast.
The film opens on August 22.
The Wrap has all the background on that beef between director Steve McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley, who both won Oscars for 12 Years a Slave the other night but somehow managed to forget to thank one another. It seems McQueen wanted a screenwriting credit, Ridley declined and bad blood flowed, with even Brad Pitt unable to secure a truce. All the shade throwing stayed quiet during the Oscar campaign however, and it worked! Even if in the group shot above Ridley in the back does look like the axe murderer who wasn’t invited to the party.
As you may have recalled, Ridley is actually one those big comics fans in Hollywood and spent a while writing comics for Wildstorm, including a run on the Authority, the mini-series Razor’s Edge: Warblade, and The American Way. The latter is a book that really deserves to be on more comics reading lists—an 8 issue mini-series drawn by Georges Jeanty and Karl Story that has similar themes to Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier about the cold war and superheroes, but treats them with a much harsher view. The book follows the government’s development of the Civil Defense Corps, a pr-driven team of superheroes introduced in the early 60s, and the turmoil that stem from the first African-American member in the Civil Rights era. A lot of comics mini-series have tried to be “the Next Watchmen” and The American Way is one of the few series that takes that tired “What if superheroes really existed???” idea and gives it a take based on the real world and not the imagined one.
Sadly, like many of Wildstorm’s adventurous comics of the Aughts, The American Way is not available in print (although you can find back issues pretty easily.) However, as DC’s Hank Kanalz reminded us on twitter yesterday, you can buy it all digitally.
AND finally, Zack Smith has an excellent
interview with Ridley about comics and diversity. Well worth reading. Ridley doesn’t rule out a return to comics, although he’s very busy launching a film he wrote and directed, All Is By My Side, and a TV pilot, and more so don’t expect him back in comics any time soon.
So I loved The American Way; I still own it, and if I could find a way to go back and do it…writing graphic novels is a serious business. The people who work on those books are serious, and the fans are serious. So I don’t want to be this guy who just air-drops in and it’s, “I got some award in some other space, let me come in and do graphic novels.” I’ve seen some people do that and it hasn’t worked out so well.
I would love to go back do it when I have the space, especially if I was able to work with an editor like Ben Abernathy, who helped me out and made me look good, who saved me from myself often – that’s a great editor, not just someone who goes, “Oh, John writes movies! Let’s get him to do this and this and this, and it has to be out by this date, so it needs to be done now.”
As BBC announced their plans for adapting Dame Agatha Christie novel's in celebration of 125 years of publication, they also mentioned the screenwriter of the mini-series adaption of J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy. Acclaimed screenwriter Sarah Phelps, who will be adapting Christie novels, was listed with The Casual Vacancy among her many credentials. Hypable also pointed out that The Casual Vacancy is also listed as "In Development" on Phelps' profile, on her agents website. Many thanks to Hyapble for the tip! The mini-series adaption of The Casual Vacancy is set to premiere later this year.
As reported earlier, Emma Watson presented the Oscar for Best Visual Effects (an award Harry Potter was often nominated for) along side Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Joseph Gordon-Levitt posted a funny selfie along side Emma, which can be seen below. There are many are other photos floating around of the pair as well. Many gorgeous pictures of Emma on the red carpet may be seeen here. Emma Watson graced the stage, wearing a beautiful metallic Vera Wang gown and subtle makeup.
Over two years ago, before The Only Ones came out, I did a countdown of 99 things (books, movies, art, places, etc.) that inspired it. It was a fun way to revisit some stuff I was actively thinking about when I wrote the book, as well as some stuff I didn’t realize influenced me until I had some time to reflect.
Well, it’s 99 days until The Riverman hits shelves and I figured, why not do it all again? So, without further ado, here is my list of #99inspirations that I’ll be counting down daily on Twitter. This doesn’t represent all of my favorite things (sorry, no bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens here), though it does include some stuff that I truly love. And hopefully it sparks some conversation about the stuff you love and the stuff that leaks into your creations.
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very short introduction
, the oscars
, Arts & Leisure
, TV & Film
, Very Short Introductions
, academy award
, film industry
, Gone with the Wind
, Micahel Wood
, oscars 2014
, Add a tag
With the Oscars round the corner, we’re delving into Film: A Very Short Introduction. Here’s an extract from Chapter 3 of Michael Wood’s book. In this extract he looks at the industry and the role of the moviegoer.
Film began as a very small business, a dramatic invention but a tiny piece of the world of entertainment. It was an act among others in a variety show. Very soon, though, there were shows composed only of films, and there were special places for their showing. A cinema called the Nickleodeon opened in Pittsburgh in 1905, and by 1907 there were 4,000 such places in the United States. Something resembling an industry developed in France, Italy, England, and Germany too, and audiences grew and grew across the world. Studios were born. Pathé and Gaumont in France; UFA in Germany; Universal, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount in the USA. Hollywood itself, a small Californian town surrounded by orange groves, became a movie settlement because of its steady weather (and because California was thought to be far enough away from the lawsuits that rained down on experimenters and investors in New York). Something like the contours of later patterns of film-making began to form. Stars began to glitter. And above all, money began to gleam.
A whole support system blossomed: publicity machinery, fan magazines, prizes, record-kepping. Box-office results became the equivalent of sporting scores, or world championship boxing.
Avatar (2009) is the largest grossing picture ever made, unless we adjust for inflation, in which case the title goes to Gone with the Wind (1939), and Avatar moves to fourteenth place. The American Academy of Moton Pictures awarded its first Oscars in 1929, and has awarded them every year since. Programmes developed from sets of short films to single feature films plus supporting entries; and from there to the two film diet that was standard fare for so long. By 1929, 90 million cinema tickets were sold each week in America, with figures proportionally similar elsewhere. There were ups and downs during the Depression and the Second World War, but the figure had reached one hundred million by 1946. By 1955, however, the number was down to 46 million, not a whole lot more than the 40 million or so of 1922. Movie-houses, of which a little more later, rose and fell, naturally enough, to the same rhythm: there were 20,000 in America in 1947 and 11,000 in 1959.
Programmes often changed midweek, and shows were continuous, so you could come in at the middle of a film and stay till you got the middle again. Hence the now almost unintelligible phrase “This is where we came in”. There is a remarkable piece by the humorist Robert Benchley about a game he liked to play. Arriving, say, twenty minutes into a film, he would give himself five minutes to reconstruct the plot so far. Then he would interpret everything that followed in the light of his reconstruction. He would stay on to see how close he was – or pretend to see. He claimed many movies were improved by his method.
Theories of the Seventh Art arose, as well as plenty of attacks of the mindlessness of moviegoers. It was in reaction to one such attack that Walter Benjamin devloped an important piece of the argument of his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility” (various versions between 1935 and 1939). The French novelist George Duhamel had included an onslaught on cinema in his witty and gloomy book on America, Scénes de la vie future (1930). The relevant chapter is titled ‘cinematographic interlude or the entertainment of the free citizen’, and within the text, the cinema is called, in the same mode of a grand irony, a sanctury, a temple, an abyss of forgetfulness, and the cave of the monster. Duhamel says that film ‘requires no kind of effort’ and ‘presupposes no capacity for consecutive thought’, ‘aucune suite dans les idées.’ Benjamin agrees that film audiences are distracted but claims that there are forms of distraction that may function as localized, medium-specific attention. ‘Even the distracted person’ he says, thinking of the moviegoer, ‘can form habits. ‘The audience’ he adds, ‘is an examiner, but a distracted one’.
Michael Wood is Charles Barnwell Start Professor of English and Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University and the author of Film: A Very Short Introduction. You can see Michael talking about film.
The Very Short Introductions (VSI) series combines a small format with authoritative analysis and big ideas for hundreds of topic areas. Written by our expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about. Grow your knowledge with OUPblog and the VSI series every Friday! Subscribe to Very Short Introductions articles on the OUPblog via emailor RSS.
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Image credit: By Coyau. CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0. via Wikimedia Commons
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Yes, Alex Ross designed the official ABC Oscar poster in 2002!
[No comics content here. This falls under "pop culture" and general geekery. ]
So, your waistline (and gastrointestinal tract) has recovered from the Super Bowl. You’re sick and tired of the weather. You seek another diversion. Well, next Sunday, Hollywood holds their soiree, handing out Oscar statuettes (“Academy Awards of Merit”, according to the rule book).
Situated right before March Madness, the Oscars allow for a warm-up to the office pools which proliferate during the NCAA tournament, and give the sports widows something to watch before hubby disappears into his mancave.
But… how to pick the winners? The Academy has frequently been criticized for ignoring blockbusters, as most geeks realize when their favorite movies are relegated to the special effects category. Sure, there is the glitz, the celebrity star power, but overall, the Oscars are a bit boring. (But, then, so is football.)
So, unless you live in a major metropolitan area, the following nominees are probably the first time you’ve heard, let alone seen, of them. ABSCAM? Retroviral drugs? Navy SEALs? Nebraska? And those are the Best Picture nominees! Take a look at the foreign films!
Here’s the technique I use, and my picks. I don’t know what Nate Silver likes, and I’m not a cinema geek, so take the following with whatever disdain and cynicism you use when reading online. Of course, feel free to share your comments below!
Consideration #1: Is the award voted by the entire AMPAS membership, or it limited?
Consideration #2: Did Oscar snub a particular film which was later lauded by a guild?
Consideration #3: Which did the guilds select as winners?
Consideration #4: What’s the buzz? What did BAFTA and others pick?
[Rule Sixteen Everyone votes for this one. Pick this last. Sometimes, a movie will sweep the show. The results from the other categories will give some indication. Any controversy can also effect voting. Sometimes, a film can earn the technical awards, but lose this award. Sometimes, the Oscars split awards between three good films, as happened at the 73rd Academy Awards. So, Gravity... mid-year, some nitpicking on the scientific liberties, not great acting. 12 Years a Slave is trending online. Does the Academy use a preferential voting system like they did in 2009, when there were ten nominees, allowing a second-favorite to pull ahead of the media darling? There is nothing stated in the current rules.]
“12 Years a Slave” (unusual, in that it might only win two awards)
“American Hustle” [SAG ensemble award]
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“The Wolf of Wall Street”
[Rule Ten All members vote. The Directors Guild of America is usually a good indicator, only missing seven winners.]
David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”
Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”
Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
[Rule Six All members vote. The Screen Actors Guild Awards are the barometer.]
Christian Bale, “American Hustle”
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”
Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
Judi Dench, “Philomena”
Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
June Squibb, “Nebraska”
Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”
Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”
Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”
Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club” [Want to win an acting Oscar? Cross-dress, preferably in a movie with a strong message.]
[Rule Twenty-Three Everyone votes. The Writers Guild of America is the barometer for these two categories. Sometimes, a great movie which is too ... innovative for the Academy will get a screenplay Oscar as a consolation prize. Consider: "Pulp Fiction".]
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
“American Hustle” – Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
“Blue Jasmine” – Written by Woody Allen
“Her” – Written by Spike Jonze
“Nebraska” – Written by Bob Nelson
“Dallas Buyers Club” – Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
“Before Midnight” – Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
“Captain Phillips” – Screenplay by Billy Ray
“Philomena” – Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
“12 Years a Slave” – Screenplay by John Ridley
“The Wolf of Wall Street” – Screenplay by Terence Winter
BEST ANIMATED FILM
[Rule Seven Everyone votes. There is no animation guild, although ASIFA does laud many animated films. My gut choice is below.]
“Despicable Me 2”
“Ernest & Celestine”
“Frozen” [Best Edited Film, GRA: Best editing of Music in a Musical Feature, CAS: Animated Feature, numerous VES visual effects awards]
“The Wind Rises”
[Rule Eight Everyone votes. The American Society of Cinematographers is the predictive guild.
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
[Rule Nine Everyone votes. The Costume Designers Guild awards achievement. Blue Jasmine won a CDG for contemporary design. Factor that into Best Picture. For you geeks, Hunger Games: Catching Fire won the fantasy award.]
Michael Wilkinson, “American Hustle”
William Chang Suk Ping, “The Grandmaster”
Catherine Martin, “The Great Gatsby”
Michael O’Connor, “The Invisible Woman”
Patricia Norris, “12 Years a Slave” [GDG Period]
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
[Rule Eleven Everyone who has watched all nominated films may vote. For both documentary categories, you can scan other awards, as well as guess which is the most politically correct or reflects the spirit of the times.]
“The Act of Killing”Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
“Cutie and the Boxer” Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
“Dirty Wars” Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill [Best Sound Editing of a documentary]
“The Square” Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer [Directors Guild Award]
“20 Feet from Stardom” Nominees to be determined [best edited documentary]
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
“CaveDigger” Jeffrey Karoff
“Facing Fear” Jason Cohen
“Karama Has No Walls” Sara Ishaq
“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed
“Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” Edgar Barens
[I'm going with "Prison hospice" as part of the HIV zeitgeist.]
BEST FILM EDITING
[Rule Twelve Everyone votes. American Cinema Editors hand out the Eddies.
“American Hustle” Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten (comedy or musical)
“Captain Phillips” Christopher Rouse (drama)
“Dallas Buyers Club” John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
“Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
“12 Years a Slave” Joe Walker
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
[Rule Thirteen Voting open to everyone who has seen all five nominated films. If a movie is nominated for Foreign Film and Best Picture, it will most likely win BFLF and not BP. Same goes for Best Animated Feature. These films are the official selection of each country's film society. Best strategy: consider other Oscar nominations, then check Rotten Tomatoes and online buzz.]
“The Broken Circle Breakdown” Belgium (RT: 79/74%)
“The Great Beauty” Italy (RT’s pick, 92/93%) (BAFTA winner)
“The Hunt” Denmark (93/92%)
“The Missing Picture” Cambodia (97/100%, 30 reviews)
“Omar” Palestine (89/96%)
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
[Rule Fourteen Everyone votes. The Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild gives out awards.
“Dallas Buyers Club” Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews (best period/character makeup
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” Stephen Prouty (special makeup effects)
“The Lone Ranger” Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny (Johnny Depp received a special award. Which goes without saying... McFarlane Toys should do a Johnny Depp line of figurines.)
[Rule Fifteen Everyone votes. Hey, there's a Best Musical Award (15.I.C)! There is a union for musicians, and some sort of composers guild, but neither seems to give out awards. My suggestion? Check online reviewers for buzz. John Williams is the record holder for Oscar nominations.]
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
John Williams, “The Book Thief” [11 more nominations and he passes Walt Disney as the record holder. Disney gets an asterisk...he produced many of the films which won.]
Steven Price, “Gravity”
William Butler and Owen Pallett, “Her”
Alexandre Desplat, “Philomena”
Thomas Newman, “Saving Mr. Banks”
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Alone Yet Not Alone” from “Alone Yet Not Alone”
Music by Bruce Broughton; Lyric by Dennis Spiegel
“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”
Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams
“Let It Go” from “Frozen”
Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
[Of note: each film can nominate three songs. Disney choose to nominate only one song from Frozen, possibly to avoid splitting the vote. Idina Menzel will perform the song at the Oscars. It may be the highlight of the show, along with U2.]
“The Moon Song” from “Her”
Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
[Rule Seventeen Everyone votes. The Art Directors Guild honors achievement in this field.]
Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler
Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard [fantasy film]
“The Great Gatsby”
Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn [period film]
Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena [contemporary film]
“12 Years a Slave”
Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker
[Rule Nineteen Everyone votes who has watched all of the nominated films. Check online for critics picks.]
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
“Feral” Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden
“Get a Horse!” Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim
“Mr. Hublot” Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares
“Possessions” Shuhei Morita
“Room on the Broom” Max Lang and Jan Lachauer
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)” Esteban Crespo
“Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)” Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras
“Helium” Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson
“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)” Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari
“The Voorman Problem” Mark Gill and Baldwin Li
BEST SOUND EDITING
[Rule Twenty Everyone votes. The Motion Picture Sound Editors give out the Golden Reel Awards. There's also the Cinema Audio Society which honors sound mixing.]
“All Is Lost” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
“Captain Phillips” Oliver Tarney [GRA: dialogue and ADR]
“Gravity” Glenn Freemantle [GRA: sound effects]
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Brent Burge
“Lone Survivor” Wylie Stateman
BEST SOUND MIXING
[Rule Twenty-One Everyone votes.]
“Captain Phillips” Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
“Gravity” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro [GRA:sound effects, CAS:Motion Picture]
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
“Inside Llewyn Davis” Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
“Lone Survivor” Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
[Rule Twenty-Two Everyone votes. The Visual Effects Society (winner of this year's best industry logo) gives out accolades.]
“Gravity” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould (Visual Effects feature, plus numerous others)
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds (Best Feature Film character)
“Iron Man 3” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
“The Lone Ranger” Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier (regular feature)
“Star Trek Into Darkness” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton
My picks for the Razzies? Movie 43 for every category. I watched this on NetFlix with friends (yeah, we were drunk), and I wished I’d hadn’t.
Just in case anyone from ABC or AMPAS is reading…
Please schedule the Oscars so that the ceremony starts at 7PM EST/4 PM PST. Run the red carpet pregame show from 5-7 PM. The show itself usually runs under four hours, giving ABC plenty of time to stage the show. If it ends early, then ABC can fill the remaining time with post-game interviews and commentary. The extra time can be filled with stuff that keeps the viewers watching… and might even allow more names to be added to the always controversial “In Memoriam” segment.
Yes, I know it’s unlikely, but at least they moved it from Monday, when ABC would routinely waste an hour of prime time with a forgettable Barbara Walters interview special. They will also finally start streaming the Oscars live this year! (That’s what you get when your membership is old, white, and male.)
It is a new millennium and a New Star Wars Trilogy. And according to reports this afternoon Adam Driver is nearing a deal to sign on as the villain in STAR WARS VII, which JJ Abrams is directing for release next year.
THR suggests that casting for the threequel is well underway, however, Manhattan Project-like secrecy lies over the films, with actors who reveal anything having their pinkies cut off having their unmasking close-up replaced with
Stan Sebastian Shaw.
I hope nothing bad happens to Driver, because despite being Hannah’s boyfriend on GIRLS he’s weird and riveting, and certainly rocks the villain goatee with great style. This guy would be a perfect General Grievous-type, who could torment the daughter of Han and Leia by first being a self-absorbed narcissist who’s selfish in bed, then suddenly becoming a needy clinging doofus who just won’t go away.
And as the clip above from above Inside Llewyn Davis shows, he’s well acquainted with life in space!
Now can we all get back to that petition begging Abrams to put in more than one female character?
So, I saw Catching Fire on Sunday and felt pretty much like Chester from the Nostalgia Critic‘s “Bum Reviews” – the latest of which, incidentally, is Catching Fire (beware of spoilers) (P.S. the NC reviews – though not so much the Bum Reviews – tend to include much swearing, just so’s you know) OH MY GOSH this is […]
By: Little Willow
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book to film adaptations
, catching fire
, Harry Potter
, Teens Wanna Know
, The Book Thief
, The Hobbit
, the hunger games
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By: Stacy A. Nyikos,
Blog: Stacy A. Nyikos
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, genre defiance
, Science Fiction
, Orson Scott Card
, Star Trek
, Ender's Game
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Orson Scott Card
Age Group: ?
With the movie quickly approaching, I got my hands on a copy of this almost cultish book. As a kid, I gobbled up science fiction - Dune, anything by Mary Stewart, Martian Chronicles, every Stars Wars book ever written. But Ender's Game came out way after my science fiction phase. I was well into battling my way through such wonders as the far more scientific (than fictional) Charles Monod's Chance and Necessity
. Sigh. Hours of my life I'll never get back.
For those of you who haven't had the pleasure yet, Ender's Game
is a battle heavy book about a boy who has to save humankind from the perceived threat of an alien race, much like the Borg for all you trekkie fans, that have attacked earth twice. There will be no third invasion. Instead, we're taking the battle to their home world and Ender must lead the attack.
Despite a zillion fight scenes and at times unsettling brutality, I enjoyed Ender's Game
. The premise was intriguing and the characters all Byronic heroes in their own way, but more than anything what kept me coming back for more was that the writing perplexed me. Card defies boxes.
Ender is a child who writes, speaks and acts like an adult. Entirely. There is nothing childlike about him. Either this is genius on Card's part, a particularity of the genre science fiction (there are no childlike characters) or an inability to create a child protagonist. Either way, unchildlike child protagonists are definitely Card's calling card, which has led me to theorize as to what good they do. I've come up with three: 1) this kind of character holds up a mirror up to the way we treat children in war zones; 2) this character portrays the way children view themselves, and 3) these characters create stories that defy categorization.
Three intrigues me most because Card's protagonist appeals to young audience and well as older ones, and has created a cultish following among none other than teen readers. How's that for defying/embracing all categories at once? Seems like genius on Card's part. His work defies the neat boxes publishing has attempted to erect and neatly divide books into. In getting rid of the boxes and making a jederman character, Card's stories unsettle me, and in unsettling me, challenge me as a reader to think, reassess, reenvision the world around her, and as a writer to challenge boundaries too. Yep, definitely genius.
For more great reads check out Barrie Summy's website
. It's brimming with temptation!
By: Angela Muse,
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Monsters Have Mommies
, children's ebook
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Halloween is just around the corner. Soon we will be surrounded by ghosts, witches and maybe even some monsters. Your little monster is sure to enjoy this picture book about family and parents.
Age Level: 0-6
Have you ever wondered if monsters have mommies and daddies? It turns out monsters families are a lot like our families. This monstrous tale about parents and family is perfect for children aged eight and under.
On sale for only $.99 this weekend, September 27th though September 29th (normally $2.99).
I learned via and email from Random House this morning that today is Roald Dahl day, a day to celebrate mischief and mayhem (image to the left is from Random House). How appropriate for a Friday the 13th. The email urges us to "Visit
the official Roald Dahl site for ways to celebrate in your classroom or library
and learn about the man behind the stories: www.roalddahlday.info."
But personally, I just want to talk about my two favorite Dahl stories:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the first Roald Dahl book that I ever read, and I love it to this day. It both captures the childhood imagination and contains biting satire. Such a perfect blend! When I was in 7th or 8th grade, I learned to type. I practiced by copying Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, sitting at the desk in my basement bedroom. I don't remember being bored for even a moment. Who wouldn't love (in regards to TV):
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY...USED...TO...READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
(You can read the full poem at the RoaldDahlFans.com site.)
Although it is somewhat different from the book (particularly the songs), I also love the movie. The original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder, of course, not the travesty of an unnecessary remake. What child of the 70's doesn't occasionally find herself humming: "Oompa loompa doompety-doo". (Full song lyrics here, if you want them.) And who hasn't dreamed of the chocolate waterfall?
My other favorite Dahl story is Matilda. I'll even go so far in Matilda's case as to say that the movie may be better than the book. But the book is lovely, too. My favorite part of the movie is when young Matilda visits the library, and sits there and reads and reads. The image of this tiny person waiting for the walk light so that she can be with the books that are as necessary as breathing, well, of course it resonates.
My husband and I have already introduced the movie to our three year old daughter. We were a bit worried that she would find it scary, but I think (and this is the beauty of Dahl) that it is so over-the-top that she finds it hilarious. She loves the part where the indifferent parents throw the baby seat loose into the back of the station wagon, so that it careens all over place. I think that witnessing the terrible parents that DeVito and Perlman bring to life so well makes her feel more satisfied with her own life. Or something.
But for me, Matilda is special because we share the eternal love of books, and the knowledge that books can take you anywhere. Happy Roald Dahl Day! (And than you Random House for the idea for this post.)
What are your favorite Dahl books? What will you do to celebrate Roald Dahl Day?
© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate.
Tharg popped round for a biscuit earlier, before thrusting a piece of yellowing paper into my hands and saying “this can run immediately.” It appears that 2000AD are endorsing the 18th September as ‘a day of action’, you see, during which they hope to drum up support for a sequel to the pretty-brill 2012 DREDD movie starring Karl Urban.
Day of Action comes exactly one year after the film came out in cinemas. Despite doing brilliantly in the UK and a growing cult-classic status, the film flopped in the US and plans for a sequel (plans for a trilogy, actually, writer Alex Garland revealed) were put on hold. However, a petition for a sequel has so far raised 80000 signatures, and there’s always a possibility that fan impact voting might help push a sequel through.
2000AD have officially endorsed the campaign for a Dredd sequel, which is where the 18th September comes in. Next Wednesday Judge Dredd Megazine will be publishing part one of their print sequel to the movie, written by Arthur Wyatt and drawn by Henry Flint. 2000AD are obviously hoping that sells well, but they also ask people to sign the petition, buy the movie, and buy shirts in support of the campaign. I imagine other activities will be going on as well.
So, if you want to see a sequel to DREDD, it looks like next Wednesday is the time to lend your support!
Don’t call it a prequel. WB and J.K. Rowling have agreed to make more films set in the Harry Potter universe. The first film will be written by Rowling herself and based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a slim volume of lore taken from the Potterverse (invented word). The film will star Newt Scamander, a cryptozoology-obsessed wizard who eventually became headmaster of Hogwarts.
The films will be set 70 years before the start of the Potter books, and the movie opens in New York, according to Rowling. “Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world,” said Rowling. “The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films.”
Rowling’s notes on the science, magic and backstory of her invented world are voluminous, so these movies can go on forever, much to WB’s relief. Who needs superheroes when you’ve got the Potterverse?
The new tale will be spun out into a video game, consumer products, and digital initiatives. No comic books, though—to be fair, Rowling does not allow any ‘extended universe’ type stuff for her world. She writes it all.
These new movies sounds fine to me. More cute beasts, adorably named foodstuffs, and cranky old wizards. In other words, instead of letting Peter Jackson do the fanfic prequel extension, Rowling is doing it herself. We’ve already bought a ticket.
Over at Press Play, I have a video essay and accompanying text essay on the first films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder
, the best of which were recently released in the US by Criterion as part of the Eclipse series
It's a great shame that most of Fassbinder's films are not easily available on DVD in the US anymore. Criterion has done great work bringing some of them to us, though they've also had some go out of print. Many are available for streaming at Hulu Plus
, thankfully. I'm holding out a bit of optimistic hope for a companion Eclipse set: Late Fassbinder
, which could include Lili Marleen
Or maybe for a release of Eight Hours Are Not a Day
. Or ... well, a boy can dream...
Read the rest of this post
[I'm one of the very few people in the world who really enjoyed THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK. Where others saw a confusing storyline, I saw a CGI heavy SF film that had actual imagination and didn't play by predictable rules. Admittedly it was a departure from the tighter, simpler PITCH BLACK, a tense action adventure which introduced Vin Diesel as Riddick, a tough as nails, brutal survivor of an interplanetary criminal. Taken together the films—both written and directed by David Twohy—were one of the odder SF franchises in the CGI era.
Although the Chronicles of Riddick was a flop, both Diesel and Twohy remained committed to their vision of a huge SF film epic. Making another Riddick movie was practically a passion project for them—and you can't make an effects heavy SF movie on a shoestring. However, after years, and by putting their own money into it—luckily the Fast and the Furious franchise has kept Diesel a highly bankable star—Diesel and Twohy managed to make essentially an indie SF action movie, probably the only one of its kind.
The result returns to the simple Pitch Black premise of Riddick the unstoppable against nature and man. Betrayed by the Neocromongers who made him their leader at the end of Chronicles, Riddick finds himself alone and badly wounded on a deserted planet. Surviving by various methods, he devises a scheme to get back to his home planet, Furya. It's an action movie through and through, with entertaining turns by some familiar faces—Dave Bautista and Katie Sackhoff play two of the dozen bounty hunters who provide much of the conflict in int film—and little known. Matt Nable and Jordi Molla play leaders of the two squabbling factions of bounty hunters, one a disgusting rabble, the other military precise. Neither provides too much resistance to Riddick's superskills.
After professing my love of Chronicles to a Universal PR rep—surely something she didn't hear every day—I was granted the chance for a brief interview with Riddick director David Twohy (too-ey). I was eager to have a chance to talk with this film vet who clearly has his own quirky sensibilities. As a writer he's written some pretty ace movies—The Fugitive and G.I. Jane—and on the Riddick franchise he's used the budget he has to put a distinct vision on the screen. He's not like too many other Hollywood folks out there. In the interview he mentions the plans that he and Diesel have for two more Riddick movies. I sincerely hope this film does well enough to enable them to make them. In a world of cookie cutter would-be blockbusters, Diesel, Twohy and Riddick are all rugged individualists.]
THE BEAT: It took so long to make this movie. What was the tipping point that allowed it to get made? You and Vin had worked on it for so long. What was the moment you knew it was going to work out?
TWOHY: That tipping point for us was the Berlin Film Festival [in 2010], taking my spec script down there and selling it to the foreign market and selling it better than any thing else at the market. That was the tipping point for us when we realized we would have barely enough money to make a respectable follow up. That allowed us to come back to LA and shop around for a domestic partner, someone who could release it the US and Canada. And lo and behold that ended up being Universal who had told us, “No, no we’re out of the Riddick business. We’re not going to do it any more.” So, it’s a crazy business. [laughter] The company that said no to us a few years before was now saying please, come with us. So now, it’s a happy partnership now that we’re back in bed together. But for a while I thought it would be released by Sony or Film District. They were showing strong interest but I think Universal’s competitive blood started to stir up and they had to throw their hat in the ring again
THE BEAT: Well, it makes sense because they have the previous two movies on DVD, right?
TWOHY: I guess. It has some dividends in that they can box it all up—even though they’ve already done that. With the manga piece they did they threw that in and called it a trilogy. I don’t know what they are going to call this one.
THE BEAT: It seems now for filmmakers there are more options available. This is pretty close to a DIY movie in that you financed it yourselves. I guess when you started it Kickstarter hadn’t kicked in yet, but this almost could have been a Kickstarter movie in a way.
TWOHY: I was vaguely aware of all that and I did say to Vin at one point, “if you used your Facebook page, if everyone who was on your Facebook page kicked in a buck, we could probably make this movie, Vin.” [Diesel has 46 million followers on FB] And he didn’t quite know how to respond to that. He was intrigued but I don’t think he wanted to put it on his fans to finance this movie. The difference is then it becomes very much a vanity project or what is thought of as a vanity project. And this ain’t that. This is us making a movie because we never stopped hearing from the fans that they wanted more Riddick, I heard it and Vin heard it and after about five years of hearing it to the point we were sick of it, we got together and said okay.
THE BEAT: The movie is a bit of a morality play or an immorality play in a way. Riddick is such an antihero. You have him doing awful things and then a bible clutching character. There’s sort of a range of faith.
TWOHY: We do dip our toes into faith in this series. In Pitch Black where Riddick was talking about God, a mom was wondering, assuming that he was an atheist, being such a merciless killer. He says “No, no, no I believe in God, I just hate the fucker.” So we started there. Certainly we didn’t shy away from religion and faith in the second movie. There were the Necromongers, a militarized theocracy. We never wanted to leave it behind. I’m always interested in why people believe in God and have faith. It’s something that’s if done well can help elevate a movie. If done not,well, it feels like pandering.
THE BEAT: How do you see the evolution of the Riddick character in the film? He went through a very unexpected transformation in the second movie. I love in this one where he says “It’s always the shot you don’t see coming that gets you.” What’s going through his mind in this film?
TWOHY: The evolution of the character is interesting because he is a guy who rather early on in this movie realizes he may have lost a step. That he got a little fat, a little complacent. That he may have, crime of all crimes, gotten civilized. And so even though he was basically shot in the back and left for dead, that’s his plight in this world. On this dumping ground, Riddick takes it to a different level. Okay this planet is going to be a proving ground, if I can master this world and survive it, then I can survive anything and I’ll be the man I once was. He fears that his years on the Necromonger throne and in the bed of the Lord Marshall and consorting with consorts, he fears all that has slowed him down and dulled his edge. He’s a man that wants to get back to what he was. That’s an interesting evolution for him. And it could be applied to the franchise as a whole.
THE BEAT: It’s a very unique history definitely, I can’t think of another movie franchise that fits into this model. You also have an interesting three-act structure. The first one is man against nature. Riddick in an almost wordless sequence fighting for his life by every means possible. Then a middle section where he’s Riddick as Predator with the bounty hunters fearing him as the threat. In the final act you bring all those factors together.
TWOHY: The scope of the movie is determined by our budget. We knew we wouldn’t haven’t the budget we had on Chronicles so we knew we had to limit it to one planet and we realized in this movie we wouldn’t have anyone fighting the legions of the undead and the Underverse. We quickly latched on to the Jeremiah Johnson opening where it was one man against the world. We both gravitated to that. But I said “This can’t be the whole movie, Vin.” [general laughter.] Even though he may have gone for it. “Just me?” So we had to, in a nod to Pitch Black, we brought back the Johns character’s dad.
THE BEAT: I really enjoyed that element.
TWOHY: My favorite scene in the movie is where Boss Johns has Riddick in chains and is just trying to get the last bit of information about his son out of him. I played the whole scene without music, the whole five-minute dialog scene. Vin was killing it and Matt Nable [Boss Johns] was killing it. Once in a while when you really get the good stuff you can clear out the music and let it go.
THE BEAT: Riddick is something different in each act.
TWOHY: He becomes almost a ghost, out there just killing them, almost a supernatural force. So it is an odd structure but look, if we’re going to do an independent movie outside the studio system and I don’t have to justify everything to the studio, where it’s “How can you have him be sympathetic in Act One and turn him into a killer again in Act Two.” It’s all about point of view and whose eyes you are seeing him through and what they’re feeling and I think I can do that. And then in act three it’s okay now we have a combined task to get from point a to point b and we’ll pressurize everything and see how they hold up and see if they crack or fold or not. All that is interesting, and I do it intuitively. I don’t want to have to explain to a studio and explain how it works together. I just want to write it and shoot it.
THE BEAT: This is a little off topic, but have you been following any of the discussion this summer about how Save the Cat has killed movies and led to the formularization of action movies especially?
TWOHY: Can you explain that a little more?
THE BEAT: There’s a book called Save the Cat which gives a very, very rigid structure—on page 25 this has to happen and page 46 this has to happen. People have taken all the summer movies and they almost all fit exactly to this formula.
TWOHY: Oh really? I didn’t know it was to that degree but I do know that some of these movies start to feel they are made by factories instead of hand made. I’d like to think that this movie Riddick, feels more hand made than factory made.
THE BEAT: You do have two more movies planned…or dreamed of, correct?
TWOHY: I think that is correct. [laughter] You never know but I think there are two more movies.
THE BEAT: Obviously a lot depends on how this movie does. Again everything has been so topsy turvy this summer. Nobody really knows. I couldn’t even tell you. I hope it does well.
TWOHY: I’m in exactly the same spot. I don’t know.
THE BEAT: Would you be able to talk Vin into Kickstarting it if you needed to? [laughter]
TWOHY: Interesting. What is the most a movie has been Kickstarted?
THE BEAT: I think Veronica Mars raised a few million.
TWOHY: Ah well we can’t make a Riddick movie on a few million. This movie has 850 visual effects in it and those people want to get paid. So I can’t do it.
THE BEAT: So what do you dream of in the next two movies?
TWOHY: One movie may well be a return to the Necromonger movie which I am laying the ground work for in the directors cut in this movie. I shot more than I included [in the release.] There was a bookend piece where Riddick goes back to the Necromonger empire, kills Krone, the guy who shot him in the back. He assumes that Vaako was behind it. So there’s more in the directors cut. There’s a lot more material between Riddick and Vaako and that would pave the way to a return to the Underverse, should we be able to afford that version of the movie. If not, then there is clearly the return to Furya [Riddick’s home planet], which is a different movie, a more grounded movie and one that I doped out first.
THE BEAT: I loved all the hints of Furya and Riddick’s longing to go home. I would love to see that movie so my fingers are crossed.
TWOHY: I think it’s a great finish to this franchise.
By: Genevieve Hayes,
Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Alden Ehrenreich
After India Stoker’s (Mia Wasikowska’s) father dies in a car accident on the day of her 18th birthday, her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), whom she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her mother Evie (Nicole Kidman). While Evie readily welcomes Charlie into their home and her heart, allowing him to fill the void left by her dead husband, India is not so sure of her feelings for this mysterious newcomer. Is he the charming traveller he purports to be or is he hiding something more sinister beneath his handsome exterior?
India Stoker exists in a strange world. Although she lives in the 21st century and attends an ordinary American high school, for India, going home at night is like stepping through a portal into another time. She lives in a big, old gothic mansion that is almost completely devoid of modern technology; dresses in clothes that are decades out of date; and her main interests are playing the piano and hunting game in the fields surrounding her house. Her father was both her only friend and hunting companion, so when he dies, leaving her with her mother who is more of a teenager than India is, India finds she is more or less alone in the world. Enter Uncle Charlie, a kindred soul for India, even if she refuses to admit it.
Writer Wentworth Miller (best known for his acting work in the TV series Prison Break) combines elements of Dracula and Shadow of a Doubt (both clearly referenced in Charlie Stoker’s name) to create a film that is something you would imagine Alfred Hitchcock coming up with if tasked with modernising Dracula and relocating it to the American South. Not that this movie is about vampires. It’s a psychological horror/thriller with a much more human evil at its core. Much of the suspense hangs on the questions of what Charlie’s motives really are and what India will do when she discovers them, and the answers become less and less obvious as the film progresses.
Although, with its teenaged protagonist, Stoker ostensibly fits the teen movie mould, this is no ordinary teen horror flick. It’s a teen movie made for adults. It’s very smart and makes you join the dots yourself rather than spelling everything out for you. There’s bloodshed and a body count, which will keep horror fans happy, but it’s not the over the top gore you’d find in a Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street movie. There are no machete wielding maniacs on the loose. It’s also completely bonkers. The more we learn of the Stoker clan, the more apparent it becomes that none of them are 100% sane, and as you would expect from such a family, their actions are completely unpredictable. This means the film twists and turns in ways you wouldn’t imagine and it is one of the rare films I've seen where I genuinely had no idea of what was coming next.
Stoker is Korean director Park Chan-Wook’s first English language movie. Park manages to extract incredible performances from his three leads, in particular Wasikowska, who proves she now has what it takes to break into more adult roles. He even outdoes Oldboy, the movie which brought him international fame in the first place. The film is beautiful to behold and reminiscent in style of the visually striking work of Italian horror director Dario Argento at the peak of his career (in particular, his masterpiece, Suspiria). I’m not sure what the Academy’s opinion of weird, twisted horror thrillers is, and I’m sure the Academy’s notorious conservatism will work against this film. However, when it comes to award season, it will be a crime if this film does not pick up at least one or two prizes.
Verdict: One of the best films of the year to date, Stoker is unlikely to be everyone’s cup of tea, but is well worth seeing for all fans of high quality psychological horror.
Wearing a peacock necklace–a little special swag I’ll be handing out at UtopYA this year
I’m thrilled to be attending UTOPYA COn 2013 this year. It’s a miracle that I’m able to make it. I know we’ve all had tough times. Honestly, everyone I’ve talked to about 2012 has said it was the suckiest year ever. Okay, I know that suckiest isn’t actually a word, but there’s no other way to describe it. I hope 2012 wasn’t that way for you. I have to give a shout out to the many, many people who’ve kept me on track despite the dark times this past year. There aren’t words to describe how much your encouragement and unwavering support has meant to me.
While shopping the other day, I found this card at Cost Plus that read “It’s the friends you can call up at 4 AM that matter” – Marlene Dietrich. Srsly, if you can count even one person in the “4 AM friend category” you are truly blessed! Take some time to thank your 4 AM buddies today. I can speak from personal experience that you probably don’t thank them enough. And in the middle of it all this past year, when I didn’t think I’d ever write again, I had some amazing 4 AM friends to kick me in the A$$ and say, there’s beauty in the brokenness….now f-ing write about it. Well, I have. I just finished editing my first adult title called The Storytellers, about a group of writers whose stories all come true for each other. The Storytellers will always have a special place in my heart because it brought me back to what I love. I have much to be thankful for, one of which is the nomination of SHADOW SLAYER for Best Book Trailer of 2013. Working on this trailer is the first thing I did to try and find my way back to writing. I’ve always loved expressing my stories visually. This was just a natural extension of that. Here’s to a wonderful time in Nashville and to ALWAYS remembering to count our blessings no matter how dark life seems! <3
By: Genevieve Hayes,
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Ignoring the warnings of a creepy gas station attendant, five college students: a jock; a blonde; a geek; a stoner; and a virgin; go for a weekend away to an isolated cabin in the middle of the woods. While there, they discover an old diary and recite a passage from it in Latin. This results in them accidentally raising a family of redneck torture zombies, who proceed to kill them all, one by one. Oh, and by the way, did I mention, all of this is being remotely monitored by a group of technicians in a high-tech control room, who are secretly influencing the outcome of the events.
2011 was certainly a good year for deconstructionist horror comedies. Along with the ultra-weird, low budget horror parody, Detention
, we also have Buffy
creator Joss Whedon’s higher budget The Cabin in the Woods
, which attempts to answer all of the big questions raised by decades of horror movies, such as why do the characters always split up when danger strikes; and why is the nice girl always the last survivor?
Because I watched Detention and The Cabin in the Woods reasonably close together, drawing a comparison between them was inevitable. Both provide an interesting and hilarious commentary on the cliché-ridden horror genre and are made better by knowing as little as possible going in. The Cabin in the Woods has, by far, the better cast (including a cameo, right at the end, by one of Hollywood’s sci-fi/horror legends) and the better special effects. The monster-filled finale was worth whatever it cost to make. However, story-wise, Detention wins hands down. Given that Joss Whedon is the rock god of the horror genre, I’ve probably just committed sacrilege with the last comment, so before my inbox becomes clogged with hate mail, let me elaborate.
The script of The Cabin in the Woods is typical Whedon and will undoubtedly please his legions of devoted fans with its trademark blend of scares and dark humour. While I was watching it, I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially not being able to guess what was going to happen next. Yet, afterwards, when I had time to think about it, I realized that it didn’t really make too much sense. In order to answer all of the questions raised by horror films past, Whedon had to create a set-up that raised more questions, which are even harder to answer than the first ones. Detention, on the other hand, is possibly the weirdest film I have ever seen, and is much more far-fetched than The Cabin in the Woods. Yet, in spite of this, it still managed to provide an explanation (albeit unlikely) for almost everything that happened in it. For this reason, it came out on top.
That said, anyone who likes Detention is probably going to like The Cabin in the Woods and vice versa. As the saying goes, if you only see one movie this year, you really need to see more movies. Watch both Detention and The Cabin in the Woods and have fun making the comparison yourself. You’ll never see horror movies the same way again.
Verdict: Joss Whedon makes a welcome return to the horror genre. Just don’t expect it to make too much sense.
By: Genevieve Hayes,
Stars: Julian Morris, Lindy Booth, Jared Padalecki, Jon Bon Jovi, Gary Cole
Having been kicked out of his previous school for bad behaviour, Owen Matthews (Julian Morris) finds himself at Westlake Prep, where he falls in with a group of students, led by the beautiful but manipulative Dodger (Lindy Booth), who meet up at night to play “the lying game”. In order to impress Dodger, Owen convinces the group to start a rumour that the recent murder of a local girl in the nearby woods was, in fact, the work of a serial killer, the Wolf, and that more deaths will follow. However, things take a frightening turn for the worse when the rumour starts coming true, with Owen’s friends the Wolf’s victims.
Back in 2005, I went to see Cry Wolf
at the cinema and hated
it. I went in expecting a blood and gore filled teen slasher in the vein of Scream
or I Know What You Did Last Summer
and came away disappointed. It probably didn’t help that it was one of the first “horror” movies I had encountered with a US PG-13 rating - the kiss of death among horror fans. After getting into Supernatural
a couple of years later, however, I decided to give Cry Wolf
a second chance, if only to see Jared Padalecki in an early role, and surprised myself by loving it to the point where I have now seen it five or six times.
The problem with Cry Wolf
is that it was marketed as a Scream
-type slasher film when it is really a very clever thriller more akin to confidence trick stories like The Usual Suspects
, Nine Queens
. The whole film is about a group of friends trying to con their classmates and each other. It just happens that the central premise of the con has to do with a serial killer.
As the title suggests, this film owes a lot to the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf
, and as with the eponymous boy, once the con is revealed for what it is, no one will believe those who started it, leaving them helpless when a killer arrives on campus. Yet, even when the Wolf does arrive and the bodies start mounting up, the focus of this film remains on Owen (and the audience) figuring out what is and isn’t real, rather than on gory set pieces. The ending, where everything is finally revealed, is great, and makes this film rank as one of my favourite con films of all time.Cry Wolf
was the independent first feature of writer-director Jeff Wadlow and his writing partner Beau Bauman, so it never received all that much attention on its release and has largely been forgotten in the eight years since then. Yet, the fact that an independent movie actually managed to attract a big name like Jon Bon Jovi (whether you like him or not, as an actor, you have to admit that you’ve heard of him) and get a mainstream cinema release as far afield as Australia is testament to its quality. Furthermore, since its release, both Julian Morris and Jared Padaleki have gone on to bigger and better things as actors, and Jeff Wadlow has gone on to become writer and director of the upcoming Kick-Ass 2
. They might have been nobodies at the time, but they’re much more than that now and this film contributed to that success.
If you go into Cry Wolf
expecting a high body count, then like me the first time I saw it, you’re probably not going to like it, but if you go into it thinking of it as one big confidence trick played by the writers on the audience, then this film totally rocks!Verdict
: Avoid suspicion, manipulate your friends, eliminate your enemies and watch this film.
By: Genevieve Hayes,
Shortly after arriving on an isolated island for a weekend-long party, a group of ten teenagers start dying one by one. Unable to find anyone else on the island, and with the body count rising, the teens are soon faced with the reality that the deaths are no accident and that one of them may be a murderer.
The book I’ve just described is Ten
by Gretchen McNeil, which is essentially just a teenage update of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None
. However, with a few minor word changes, I could just as easily have been describing Devil
(And Then There Were None
in an elevator), Legion
(And Then There Were None
in space), Harper’s Island
(And Then There Were None
on a larger scale, with 29 victims and only 4 survivors) or Identity
(And Then There Were None
with an even bigger twist than Agatha Christie first imagined), to name just a few. Let’s face it, since it was first published in 1939, And Then There Were None
has been adapted/paid tribute to/ripped off a lot of times, but that’s not really surprising since, in spite of its age, And Then There Were None
is still one of the best mysteries stories around.
In writing And Then There Were None
, Agatha Christie broke the traditional murder mystery mould and created the set-up that would later be used with much success for a significant proportion of the teenage slasher movies made from the late 1970’s onwards (think Scream
, right down to the ‘you sin, you die’ motive). Instead of a murder being committed and a detective being called in to solve it, there is no clear detective in And Then There Were None
, just a bunch of characters who are all just as likely to be the killer or his next victim, and who are too busy turning on each other and trying to stay alive to do any real investigating. Sound familiar? The constant stream of victims keeps the tension high and the story moving, while the lack of a detective within the novel makes the situation more dangerous. There is no saviour to step in at the last minute, just a bunch of scared characters and a killer. Christie also invented one of the great mystery plot twists with this book (at least, until it got used a hundred times and everyone saw it coming).
Getting back to Gretchen McNeil’s Ten
, although I had no difficulties in finishing the book, and quite enjoyed it (in spite of the fact that the writing’s nothing special and the main character’s best friend, Minnie, was so annoying I kept wishing the killer would choose her next), for those familiar with And Then There Were None
, it offers nothing new. All of the key plot points are identical and if you know the signature plot twist, you can guess the killer’s identity pretty early on. All that is left for the reader to do is to guess the order in which the murders are going to occur.
I don’t have any problems with Gretchen McNeil borrowing her plot from Agatha Christie, but her book would have been a lot better if she had been able to add something of her own to the mix. Harper’s Island
both managed to do that (and Devil
to a certain extent, although less so), and in the process, distanced themselves from their source material and became strong stories in their own right. By simply changing the age of the characters, McNeil’s novel is rendered little more than an acceptable homage to a much better classic. Read it by all means, but then read the original.Verdict
: An entertaining read, but if you’ve already read And Then There Were None
, don’t expect anything new.
By: Genevieve Hayes,
Stars: Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage
Inspired by comic books, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), an ordinary teenager, decides to become Kick-Ass, a masked vigilante and soon discovers he’s not the only crime fighter roaming the streets of New York, when he encounters the far more competent father-daughter team of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) and the ultra-flashy Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). However, when Kick-Ass comes to the attention of Frank D’Amico, a local mafia boss, he becomes drawn into a world far more dangerous than he ever imagined and must become the superhero he dreams of being or die trying.
In the last week, I have watched two superhero films: The Avengers
; and although Kick-Ass
didn’t make even a fraction of what The Avengers
made at the box office (at the time of writing, The Avengers
is the third-highest grossing film of all time), as far as I’m concerned, it is by far the superior film.
While all hugely successful, the recent string of movies based on Marvel comics has been rather hit and miss. Iron Man
was excellent (with one of the most memorable endings of a superhero movie ever), as was X-Men: First Class
, but some of the other films have felt more like extended television episodes than proper movies in their own right (I’m thinking of you, Iron Man 2
). The Avengers
sits somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
In spite of taking way too long to get going (largely due to the fact that each of the four main superheroes must be introduced one by one and given roughly equal screen-time – I’m guessing this was some sort of contractual thing), when The Avengers
does finally get to the point, the action scenes are pretty awesome, and there are a number of moments in Joss Whedon’s script that are laugh-aloud funny. Yet, in spite of the fact that Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk and Captain America are all fighting to save the planet on which I live from an alien invasion, at no point in the film’s 143 minute run time did I actually care as to whether or not they were going to succeed. This is because, in spite of having the greatest physical goal imaginable, none of the Avengers have anything at stake emotionally. Saving the world is just a job for them and they have nothing to prove or change in their lives. It’s the “why” that makes us care about a character, be it saving the world in order to ask out the girl/guy of their dreams or killing the bad guy in order to avenge the death of a loved one. You can have all the wisecracks and special effects in the world, but without a good “why”, a movie is nothing more than a hollow shell destined to be forgotten as soon as you leave the cinema. And this is why Kick-Ass
outdoes The Avengers
Part teen angst comedy, part ultra-violent superhero parody, with Kick-Ass
we are presented with a superhero it is impossible not to like. Unlike the Avengers, Dave Lizewski has no special powers or skills, but he still goes out and fights crime because of his twin desires to make a difference to the world and to get the girl of his dreams to notice him. Those are goals that ordinary people can understand and as such, we want him to win. In fact, every major character in Kick-Ass
is motivated by something more complex than “I’m doing this because that’s just what I do,” and as a result, we want them to get the happy endings that they so richly deserve.
That’s not to say that happy endings are inevitable for these characters. Mark Millar’s graphic novel upon which the movie is based is actually pretty bleak and depressing and does not deliver on this front, leaving some readers (i.e. me) feeling bummed out at the end of reading it. Nevertheless, bleak and depressing does not a successful Hollywood blockbuster make and screenwriter/director Matthew Vaughn (who, incidentally, also co-wrote and directed X-Men: First Class
) has the good sense to replace the comic’s loneliness and despair with optimism and hope, improving the story dramatically and turning it into a feel-good film that will leave you grinning for days after watching it.Verdict
: As well as providing Nicolas Cage with his best role in years, this tale of an underdog with good intentions is one of the best superhero films of the last decade and runs circles around mega-hits such as The Avengers
By: Genevieve Hayes,
It may have taken almost 10 years, but with the release of The World’s End, writer/director Edgar Wright, (writer/actor) Simon Pegg and (actor) Nick Frost have finally completed the last film in the so-called Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (the name being a reference to the fact that each of the three films features the popular ice-cream in some form, albeit of a different flavour each time around, and also being a play on the name of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy). Among the funniest films of the last decade, each movie takes on a different genre in a uniquely British way and together they prove that, in spite of the efforts of the makers of films such as Date Movie, Dance Movie and the like, the parody is far from dead.
This trilogy of surprisingly well-made films put Wright, Pegg and Frost (who had previously collaborated on the TV series Spaced) on the map, and while none of the trio has yet managed to meet the same heights on their own (although Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs the World comes pretty close and Marvel has signed him on to direct the upcoming Ant-Man), it bodes well for the future of comedy and British cinema in general.
Strawberry Cornetto: Shaun of the Dead (2004)
On the day of the zombie apocalypse, Shaun (Simon Pegg), a 29 year old store clerk with no future prospects, tries to reconcile his relationship with his mum, win back his ex-girlfriend and sort out his life, all with the assistance of his best friend Ed (Nick Frost), an even bigger loser than himself.
You know how, in many movies, ordinary people suddenly develop military levels of competency when faced with a crisis of epic proportions? Well, Shaun of the Dead
isn’t one of those movies. Shaun of the Dead
shows how ordinary people probably would really act when faced with a horde of flesh-eating zombies. With no survival skills to speak of, Shaun and friends arm themselves with the only weapons they can find – cricket bats, hockey sticks and the like – and head straight for the safest place they can think of – the local pub. Much of the humour derives from their utter incompetence, but if your idea of fun is watching people beat zombies about the head with heavy objects, then you’ll find it hilarious. The Deus Ex Machina ending is a little abrupt and highly improbable, but it’s still a nice change from the usual downer endings that the majority of zombie movies have these days.Genre
: Horror (a zom-rom-com)Best Moment
: Shaun and his friends attacking a zombie with pool cues in time to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now
: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy
Vanilla Cornetto: Hot Fuzz (2007)
400% better than anyone else, Sergeant Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is the most effective cop on the London Police Force. So much so that he is transferred to Sandford, a quiet village in the country, in order to stop making everyone else around him look bad. Partnered with PC Danny Butterman (Frost), an oafish local who dreams of being just like the cops in his favourite movies, Point Break
and Bad Boys 2
, Angel initially has difficulties adjusting to Sandford’s low crime rate, but this soon changes when he begins to suspect that a serial killer is on the loose in the village.Hot Fuzz
is not just my favourite of the Cornetto
trilogy, but one of my top 10 movies of all time. I’ve seen this movie five times now and I still enjoy it as much as the first time. What starts off slowly as a small town murder mystery comedy, much like a Miss Marple mystery with more laughs and a lot more (over the top) blood, builds up to a final half hour that beautifully pays off everything that has gone before it in a full blown parody of all the movies Danny adores.
The relationship between Angel and Danny that develops throughout the film is actually kind of sweet and it’s interesting to note that many of the scenes between these characters initially started off as scenes between Angel and a love interest who was dropped from the screenplay after the first draft. The love interest’s lines were simply transferred over to Danny in later drafts, often with minimal changes.Genre
: Action/MysteryBest Moment
: The entire final half hour and any scene involving the swan.Stars
: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton
Mint Cornetto: The World’s End (2011)
20 years after he and his four friends attempted a pub crawl through all twelve pubs in their small village, middle-aged loser Gary King (Pegg) rounds up his old friends Andy (Frost), Oliver, Pete and Steve for a second attempt. However, what starts of as an ill-advised reunion between old friends, soon takes a turn for the worse when the gang discover that their home town has been taken over by killer robots and the only way to make it out alive is to complete what they started and make it to the final pub, The World’s End.
Much higher in budget and more serious in tone than the previous two films in the trilogy, The World’s End
is less of a comedy (although it is still funny) and more a science-fiction film in its own right, in the vein of Invasion of the Body Snatchers
and The Stepford Wives
. With Pegg and Frost now in their forties, it’s certainly a more mature film than Shaun
or Hot Fuzz
and deals with characters at a different stage in their lives – all of Gary’s friends are married with jobs and kids. Yet that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s also got a lot more depth to it than the earlier films and part of the fun is watching these seemingly respectable adults regressing back to who they were at 17. The World’s End
is a very clever film; the sort that can only get better with multiple viewings. As with Hot Fuzz
, many of the seemingly minor details from the first half of the film are paid-off in the second half, and the names of the pubs provide clever tip-offs to what is going to happen therein, all of which are easily missed the first time around. I can imagine some people being disappointed with this film, in that it’s not the same as the two films that went before. Nevertheless, after making allowances for my preconceived expectations, I enjoyed it immensely. I considered it to be one of the best sci-fi films I’ve seen in a while; a film which manages to twist and turn in ways I often didn’t see coming; and in my mind, it provided a fitting conclusion to one of the best movie trilogies of all time. Genre
: Sci-FiBest Moment
: Gary and his friends discussing how many Musketeers there actually were.Stars
: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Rosamund Pike, Pierce Brosnan, Paddy Considine
By: Genevieve Hayes,
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Last summer, on their way home from partying, Barry, Helen, Julie and Ray hit a stranger with their car and left him for dead. Now it’s summer again, and someone has discovered the truth; someone who will stop at nothing in their quest for revenge.I Know What You Did Last Summer
will always have a special place in my heart. It was the first teenage horror movie I ever saw and was the film that got me hooked (no pun intended) on horror. As an added bonus, it also alerted me to the existence of YA suspense legend Lois Duncan, whose novel upon which the movie was based and got me to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, due to the Sarah Michelle Gellar connection. Not bad for a 100 minute teen film. But does that mean that it’s better than the book upon which it was based?
The Book (1973)Author: Lois Duncan
Having read a number of Lois Duncan’s books over the years, I don’t consider I Know What You Did Last Summer
to be one of her better efforts. Although it’s an interesting character study, not all that much really happens. The novel begins with Julie receiving a letter with the titular message, so the hit and run accident at the centre of the story is only ever described (briefly) in flash-back. With the exception of the hit and run victim (in this case, a young boy riding his bike home in the dark), no one even dies in the book. And worst of all, the ending is weak and rushed. After waiting for over 200 pages, the “final showdown” with the villain happens while one of the main characters is unconscious and we are merely told about what happened when she wakes up. I’m guessing that Duncan’s intention was to have the book’s focus be on the main characters learning to take responsibility for what they did (which – spoiler - they do), instead of on action and violence, but for readers who have spent years watching teenage horror films, it’s all rather disappointing.
Stars: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze Jr.
The Movie (1997)
Lois Duncan has made no secret of the fact that she hated this adaptation of her novel. Duncan, whose own daughter was violently murdered, didn’t like her novel being turned into a slasher film that sensationalized violence and murder. She believed that the only similarities between her book and the movie were the names of the main characters and the basic idea of teenagers being stalked as revenge for a hit and run accident. It’s true that major changes were made in bringing her novel to the big screen – most notably, in that the movie is more a hybrid of the source book and the urban legend of the guy with the hook, than a straight adaptation. However, there are actually more similarities between the book and the movie than Duncan seems to realise.
The majority of the key plot points from Duncan’s novel are still present in the movie, but in a more visually entertaining form. For example, the movie opens by showing us the hit and run accident and the main characters making their fateful decision not to call the police, rather than just hiding this away in a flashback. Furthermore, like Duncan’s book, for the most part, the film functions as a suspense thriller, with only one death (other than the initial hit-and-run) prior to the last twenty or so minutes of the film and even then, that one death had to be added in re-shoots to prove to the audience that the killer posed a tangible threat to the main characters. It’s only in the movie’s final act that it really becomes a true horror film, with Duncan’s story giving way to the hook guy on his murderous rampage, and given the lameness of Duncan’s own ending, that’s perfectly justified.
Overall, writer Kevin Williamson took a mediocre teen horror novel and transformed it into something much, much better. Although, it is not as well remembered as Williamson’s other hit, Scream
, it was successful enough to spawn two sequels (one OK, the other terrible), and I’m sure it didn’t hurt the sales of Duncan’s books, either.
Who says the book is always better than the movie. I admit that I’m biased when it comes to this one, but even allowing for that, the movie is still way better than the book. If you’re interested in reading a Lois Duncan book, try starting with Down a Dark Hall
or Gallows Hill