Monthly Archives: October 2010

Happy Halloween

To commemorate Halloween I thought I would compile a list of some of my  favorite scary movies.

I don’t see horror films as much as I used to, I find them too gratuitous and I am not into torture porn. From my list it seems I was really into scary films from the mid 70’s to early  80’s – the golden age of horror or should I say blood red age?

1. CARRIE

( 1976) My favorite scary movie by far. Directed in virtuoso style by Brian DePalma and based on a novel by horror writer Stephen King. I don’t find it particularly scary but it does have a shock ending that is still imitated today. Sissy Spacek plays a bullied schoolgirl with strange powers who gets her revenge at the high school prom. Her dominant religious nut mother (Piper Laurie) plays a big part in her tortured life.

2. THE EXORCIST

Pea soup, spinning heads and a foul mouthed child- what more could you want?  This 1973 film was a huge box office sensation. Linda Blair played a young child who is possessed by the devil. Based on a successful novel by William Peter Blatty and directed by William Friedkin it was a very serious horror film, realistic in approach which made it all the more horrific.

3. SUSPIRIA

Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic about an American ballet student (Jessica Harper) in Italy, who discovers that her new dance academy is staffed by a coven of witches. Argento assaults the senses and nervous system with mood, atmosphere, gore, garish set design, and creepy music. Operatic in tone it is an over- the- top masterpiece of horror.

4. THE EVIL DEAD

Sam Raimi’s 1981 controversial cult horror film. It has tons of black humour and has incredibly graphic gore and violence. The story of 5 college students on vacation in a cabin in the woods. They uncover an audiotape which releases some nasty evil spirits. It features some very inventive camera work and was made on a miniscule budget. I like it because it has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. It’s a lot of fun!

5. HALLOWEEN

This 1978 horror flick was a huge success and most probably paved the way for the new wave of horror to come. Directed by John Carpenter, it starred Jaime Lee Curtis who went on to earn the title “scream queen” after a succession of horror movie roles. On Halloween night a mentally disturbed man, who killed his sister 17 years earlier, escapes from his mental institution and heads back to his home town to wreak murderous havoc – preying on a young teenage girl (Jaime Lee Curtis). In the film the killer dons a white mask that has since become iconic. It has lots of scary jump- outta- your- skin moments.

6. THE INNOCENTS

An oldie but a goodie this 1961 film is more frightening because it uses lighting, music, and direction for its effect rather than gore and shock factor. It is just plain spooky.

Based on the novel “The Turn Of The Screw” by Henry James, it is the story of the governess of 2 children who becomes convinced that the house they live in is haunted by 2 previous employees. Deborah Kerr is excellent as the repressed governess and the cinematography by the great Freddie Francis is outstanding, Jack Clayton directed.

7. FRIDAY THE 13TH

This 1980 movie really delivered on the shock moments as I recall. A group of  hedonistic and careless camp counsellors gather at Camp Crystal Lake and are one by one killed off in gory and horrific ways. It had a surprise outcome and a “Carrie” shock ending that introduced us to Jason Vorhees (apparently an afterthought) which led to many sequels and a horror icon was born. It wasn’t particularly well made or stylish – just very scary. I think you recieved a certificate for surviving when you left the theatre.

8. DAWN OF THE DEAD

The ultimate zombie movie. George A. Romero’s 1978 follow up to his classic “Night Of The Living Dead” is a shrewd comment on an American consumerist society. Set entirely in a shopping mall – the zombies are drawn to out of instinct. I particularly liked the type of zombies – a hari krishna, a nurse etc… ordinary folks in an ordinary setting. Has its scary moments and its gory ones too.

9. THE BROOD

David Cronenberg’s creepy 1979 film tells the story of a woman (Samantha Eggar) who through a weird psychotherapy experiment gives birth to a brood of mutant children who act out all her negative emotions.

10.  ALIEN

A sci-fi horror movie from 1979. Ridley Scott directed the film about space miners who hear an SOS from another planet. They go to investigate and encounter some hideous and scary alien forms. Sigourney Weaver heads a great cast. It has some genuine thrills and had the great tagline -“In space no one can hear you scream….”. The face huggers and birth of the alien sequence were truly horrible. It spawned many sequels and made Sigourney Weaver a major star.

This is only a small sample of horror movies I have enjoyed, there are a lot more  good ones out there.

I hope you have a happy Halloween- watch a scary film tonight.

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With friends like these…….

Film Review:

THE SOCIAL NETWORK.


A film about a computer nerd with dubious social skills who created the internet sensation known as Facebook hardly seems riveting. Believe me it is, and more so.

An exhilarating movie experience, a story told simply and effectively, at once topical and epic in scope.

At the centre of the film is an anti-hero protagonist that is very unlikeable yet he is mesmerizing, no mean feat to pull off.

Directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac) with assured bravado, and with a fine screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (creator of West Wing) the film delivers on every level.

Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is a computer nerd attending Harvard University, and in a whiz-bang pre credit scene we see him in conversation with his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara), he is being an asshole and she dumps him. This leads to him going back to his dorm pissed off and frustrated. He starts up a site that rates girls in the campus according to their “hotness”. It causes a sensation crashing the Harvard computer system. Of course he is caught and reprimanded, this catches the attention of a couple of elite students who enlist him to help start up a new exclusive social network site. Zuck leads them on and creates his own on the side. With the financial help of his roommate and best friend, Eduardo Severin (Andrew Garfield) he creates Facebook. The rest is history.

The story unfolds with a flashback structure during a couple of hearings in which he is being sued by both his best friend and the college jocks he deceived. This way we get to see all points of view in the story and I guess prevents litigation against the filmmakers.

Director Fincher draws out excellent performances and avoids bogging the film down with too much computer screen action which could easily have been done. Every now and then he zips up scenes with his usual technical virtuosity but then reverts back to a simple way to tell the tale, this helps enormously to maintain interest and prevent one becoming bored. Aaron Sorkin’s witty screenplay has some great dialogue delivered at a quick pace, rarely seen in a mainstream studio film nowadays.

Back to the performances –  Jesse Eisenberg  as Zuckenberg has the difficult role of making this tricky character at all watchable, his cold detached look while not giving anything away inside still manages to make you care somehow. English actor Andrew Garfield (soon to be the new Spiderman) is a stand-out as the best friend and the films moral stance. Justin Timberlake as a sleazy Sean Parker- creator of Napster and the Faustian character in the saga proves he has good acting chops. Armie Hammer who plays the dual role of the identical twin jocks (handled with pure technical brilliance) is terrific and Rooney Mara as Erica makes her mark in only a few scenes – she will soon be seen as the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in the American remake to be directed by Fincher. Actually everyone in the cast even down to the smallest of parts do excellent work.

As per usual in a Fincher film technically it is flawless –  editing, cinematography, music, design are all first rate.

“The Social Network”  is a truly great contemporary movie that grabs you from the first scene and never lets you down till its ending. It is by far the best mainstream movie I have seen this year. It is sure to become a classic in the vein of “All The President’s Men” and other such films of their time.

I must say I will never look at Facebook the same way now that I have a bit of insight (whether true or not) into its creation.

The film is really one that will cause a lot of debate and discussion on many issues just what I like in cinema, another reason why I rate this film highly.

NB. I was a little worried about the misogyny portrayed in the film, but then I had to remind myself that the protagonists are all young men and in context it was necessary to include.

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a picnic in the park……

On the weekend I went on a lovely picnic in the park with friends. Lots of yummy food and wine. It was nice to have a good catch up.

It made me think about what films feature picnic scenes. Not so many that I can recall. Here are a few.

PICNIC

This 1955 film is based on a the successful play by William Inge. Directed by Joshua Logan it stars  William Holden & Kim Novak.

“Emotions are ignited amongst the complacent townsfolk when a handsome drifter arrives in a small Kansas community on the morning of the Labour Day picnic”

PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK

Peter Weir’s mysterious Australian classic was released in 1975 and was part of the new wave of Australian cinema that took on the world. Set in 1900 a party of schoolgirls disappear during a picnic in the Victorian countryside.

YOGI BEAR

Coming Soon – I bet you can’t wait!

A new 3D movie starring he popular TV cartoon character Yogi Bear who has a fondness for pilfering pic-a-nic baskets. Join Yogi and his pal Boo-Boo as they avoid the clutches of Jellystone Park Ranger Smith.

 

 

 

 

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Helen’s got a gun!

Film Review:

RED


What a curious film RED is. An action/comedy revolving around retired CIA operatives out for revenge.

It really is a lot of nonsense, has some so-so action sequences and a pointless plot, but it does have good characters, a great cast enjoying themselves, and it’s a lot of fun. If you enjoyed the hokum of “Salt” you should like this one.

Bruce Willis plays a retired CIA assassin who comes under attack from some unknown assailants who turn out to be the CIA. He has a flirtatious telephone relationship with a girl who processes his retirement cheques – the wonderful Mary Louise Parker. Because of their involvement it turns out she is in danger too. So off he goes and kidnaps her (to protect her) and the chase is on. Along the way he teams up with his old pals of yesteryear, and what a fine old bunch they are. Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich (playing kooky to the hilt), Brian Cox and Helen Mirren. It is Mirren’s character of Victoria that made me laugh the most. She now leads a quiet life flower arranging and baking but aches to kill again – even taking some hit jobs on the side.  She is thrilled to be back in action, and there is one particular shot where she is going for broke with a machine gun that is a gem. Mention should be made of the CIA agent pursuing them, as played by Karl Urban (Bones in the Star Trek reboot) he manages to make his mark with a cliched character.

It looks good, has excellent locations and detailed production design, but there is nothing at all original in the film. It is based on a popular series of graphic novels, so maybe that explains the silliness.

In the end, for me it was an enjoyable experience, I had a lot of fun watching the “oldies” in action, can’t complain about that.

RED opens in cinemas Oct 28.

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Ryan & Rocky remake – please no

Tim Curry as Frank N. Furter

Image via Wikipedia

My last post dealt with unoriginality and remakes, this one takes the cake – please don’t let this happen.

Ryan Murphy, the creator of the hit TV series “Glee” (of which Babs is a huge fan), is apparently in line to possibly direct a remake of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. He has dedicated an upcoming Glee episode to the cult musical.

Now I am an admirer of Mr. Murphy when it comes to his TV show incarnations (I am a fan of Nip/Tuck as well). So he is a good show runner/creator.

But he is not such a good director – especially when it comes to the movies.

His film adaptation of Augustine Burrough’s successful novel “Running With Scissors” was a travesty (how can you make Annette Bening act so bad?). “Eat Pray Love” ( another successful novel), although not a flop at the box office, was greeted by a lot of hostile reviews. I personally expected a real dog of a movie, but it wasn’t that bad – just instantly forgettable. He always attracts a cast that is worth checking out and his films have an appealing visual style. It is just his storytelling skills are nil. It is interesting that Baz Luhrmann is interested in directing an episode of Glee – like minds?

He is also slated to direct the film adaptation of Larry Kramer’s AIDs themed play “The Normal Heart” into a film – Mark Ruffalo in the lead role (good casting). The other Babs – Barbra Striesand wanted to direct and star in it many years ago, now I am wishing she had – just to keep Mr Murphy away.

Back to the Rocky Horror remake idea.

There are a lot of reasons to not remake this camp classic, but the only real reason for me is that there is no way in the world that the extraordinary performance of Tim Curry in the role of Franknfurter can ever be topped – and I mean ever!  So just leave it alone.

Mind you the rumoured remake a few years back that was to be directed by Stephan (Priscilla) Elliott was much less desirable, thank god that is not on the drawing board (or should I say slab?) anymore.

By the way, Mr Murphy is also in line to direct the big screen adaptation of the huge hit musical “Wicked” ( he sure is popular), he can have this one – the stage show was so awful surely it can only approve?

A message to Mr Murphy – stick to one thing for a little while – your baby “Glee” is suffering this season, Babs ain’t happy bout that!

 

 

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Baz and his unoriginal bone

Cover of "The Great Gatsby"

Cover of The Great Gatsby

Does Baz Luhrmann have an original bone in his body?  In my opinion the answer is no.

He did once I guess – when he co-created  the original production of Strictly Ballroom whilst at NIDA.

Don’t get me wrong, he does bring a touch of originality to the way he directs his movies.

“Romeo & Juliet” was a terrific update of the Shakespeare classic (his best film). “Moulin Rouge” was clever in its use of pop songs to enliven the movie musical. “Australia” was not so clever or original in his desire to bring back the old fashioned Hollywood epic – a la “Gone With The Wind”. It had the weakest of his story lines ever.

Baz recently had a workshop in New York for his proposed remake of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby“.

What will Baz do to this one? I can just imagine how over the top the party scenes will be. I can imagine just how much substance he will (not) bring to the Gatsby character – I predict a cardboard cut-out version. But this is his proposed new movie project, to be made after his proposed stage musical version of Stricly Ballroom – how original is that????

In the workshop Leonardo DiCaprio read Jay Gatsby, Tobey MacGuire was Nick, and Rebecca Hall was Daisy – not bad casting at least.

It is a pity that someone with his showmanship visual flair can’t come up with something 100% original. Vincent Minnelli he aint.

 

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an Albee afternoon.

It was a real treat on a cold ‘n’windy Sunday afternoon to attend a talk by acclaimed American playwrite – Edward Albee.

He of “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf” fame, not to mention quite a few others. He has won 3 Pulitzer prizes for drama amongst other accolades.

He was a guest of the Melbourne Theatre Company to give their 2010 John Sumner Lecture.

The Octogenarian was at times – naughty, pompous, funny, egotistical, profound, enlightening and delightful.

©Jane Murphy

His musings on the collaboration of all art forms was wonderful, and his tale of the Hollywood producer claiming screenplay rights to the film adaptation of his play “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf”, was a highlight.

Even down under we get to see the greats 🙂 on occasion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oscar Buzz – Best Picture.

Time to give a little bit of Oscar contender attention.

Some movies are emerging as front-runners and some are sitting on the sidelines. Some are yet to be seen but the trailers have created interest.

Of course now that there are 10 Best Picture nominations it opens up the field a bit.

But really it is the films that also pick up director and screenplay noms that are to be taken seriously.

1. The Social Network.

David Fincher’s film about the creation of Facebook. The film has had excellent reviews.  It has an Aaron Sorkin script that harks back to the 70’s dialogue driven films, and it is doing very well at the box office – it is a shoo in.

2. Toy Story 3.

The acclaimed animation from Pixar has such a great script, stellar reviews and a huge box-office take, it will be hard to ignore. It will win best animation but also should get a best pic nod too.

3. 127 Hours

Danny Boyle’s first film since his Oscar winner “Slumdog Millionaire”. The true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston who, after being trapped under a boulder for 5 days, cuts off his own arm to survive. It has had excellent reviews and James Franco should be up for an actor nomination – long overdue.

4. Inception.

Christopher Nolan’s mega hit film both popular with audiences and critics. It can’t be ignored with 10 slots to fill. It is an intelligent blockbuster film – how often does that happen? Everytime Chris Nolan helms a film I guess! The Academy will want to amend his much talked about lock out with “The Dark Knight” a couple of years back – some say the reason the list has been expanded from 5 to 10.

5. True Grit.

Unseen but with a terrific trailer, the new film by Oscar darlings – The Coen Bros is generating buzz. It is a remake of the 1969 western that starred John Wayne. Jeff Bridges takes on the role of Rooster Cogburn so he should expect another nom after his win last year. Apparently this version follows the novel it is based on more closely than the previous film.

6. Secretariat.

This years “Blind Side”? A film about a racehorse that wins the American triple crown. Diane Lane stars as the horses owner. This kind of feel-good movie always does well with the Academy, even if the critics are lukewarm.

7. Black Swan.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky who won favour with the Academy a few years back with “The Wrestler”. This psychological thriller set in the tough world of ballet stars Natalie Portman who has the critics raving. It could be a bit too dark.

8. The Kids Are All Right.

A critical hit and respectable box-office earner over the US summer, this little indie film should fill the “Little Miss Sunshine” slot. Annette Bening should also be recognised. It’s one of my faves so far this year.

9. The Kings Speech.

Photo courtesy of The Weinstein group

A hit at Venice and Toronto film festival. It could be this years “The Queen”. The critics and audiences seem to love it. Colin Firth & Geoffrey Rush look likely to nab a nom each.

10. Another Year

British director Mike Leigh’s latest, another kitchen sink comedy/drama – The Academy love him and he is yet to win. He has a couple of wonderful actresses Leslie Manville & Ruth Sheen who could join other previous ‘Leigh’ ladies on the Oscar trail.

 

Of course there are a lot more not on this preliminary list. As it develops I will update. In further posts I will look at other categories.


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Bruised Oranges

I am very much looking forward to the cinema release of the new English/Australian co-production “Oranges And Sunshine”.

Based on the book Empty Cradles by social worker Margaret Humphreys, who in the 1980s stumbled across the plight of around 150,000 children sent from care homes in England to Australia and other Commonwealth countries, into church run or other institutions, where many suffered years of abuse or even forced labour. Many of the children were told their parents had died. Recently both the British and Australian governments finally apologised for the scandal.

Directed by Jim Loach, the film stars Emily Watson in the role of Margaret. Hugo Weaving and David Wenham add support playing some of the abused children as adults. The film looks at the period when the scandal was uncovered. It focuses on the stories to come out of Australia and her relationships with the people she helps to find their families.

The title of the film comes from the promise one man says he was given as a child that in Australia life would be full of “oranges and sunshine”.

It recently premiered at the Pusan International Film Festival and will be competing in the upcoming Rome Film Festival. It will be released in Australia and England early next year.

Hugo Weaving & Emily Watson

©Matt Nettheim/SeeSaw Films

Variety gave the film a glowing review:

” this standout debut by British helmer Jim Loach, son of director Ken Loach, will make a strong claim for arthouse berths everywhere”

“the heartbreaking stories Margaret hears will bring tears to most eyes. Without a hint of sensationalism or manipulation”

It will be a powerful and moving film experience and it is a story that needs to be told.

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Mothers from hell.

Jacki Weaver in the movie Animal Kingdom is the latest in a line up of memorable movie mums from hell.

I thought it would be fun to look back at some others.

Angela Lansbury – The Manchurian Candidate. (1962)

Lansbury was nominated for an Oscar for playing the domineering mother of a soldier who has been brainwashed to carry out an assassination plot for the Soviet communists. Lansbury has a chilling scene where she is seen kissing her son (Laurence Harvey) directly on the lips – long before Jacki Weaver’s infamous kiss. Lansbury was 36 at the time, only 2 years older than Harvey who was 34.

Rosalind Russell – Gypsy. (1962)

The mother of all stage mothers. In this adaptation of the hit Broadway show  (from the memoirs of Burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee) Russell plays a pushy single mother trying to make a star out of her youngest daughter baby June – when June runs away to elope she turns to her other daughter Louise who eventually becomes the famed stripper. Ethel Merman originated the role on stage.

Piper Laurie – Carrie. (1976)

Piper Laurie was nominated for an Oscar playing the religious nutty mother of poor tortured teen Carrie,  Margaret White is very harsh on her child – telling her to cover up her “dirty pillows”, shoving her in a closet to pray and trying to kill her with a carving knife – she certainly gets her comeuppance in the end.

Betsy Palmer – Friday The 13th. (1980)

Playing the homicidal over-protective mother of the infamous Jason Voorhees, Palmer was decapitated during the shock climax. It was a very clever twist making her the killer – the surprise “Carrie” ending spawned many sequels.

Mo’Nique – Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire. (2009)

From the list this is probably the most real monster mom. Monique won the Oscar for playing Mary – the mother of Precious. She turned a blind eye allowing her husband to sexually abuse their daughter. She herself physically and mentally abuses Precious to cover up her own guilt. Horrendous!


Divine – Female Trouble. (1974)

Poor Taffy, born out of wedlock after her mum Dawn Davenport  is raped. Dawn is hardly the mothering type. She finds her child pesky and annoying and is constantly telling her she is hopeless and to shut up and leave her alone. Striking her with a car ariel, cutting up her skipping rope and knocking her unconcious with a chair (while being photographed like a fashion model). But Taffy does egg her on, playing car accidents in the living room and even becoming a Hare Krishna to torment her mum.

Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest. (1981)

Arguably one of the most infamous monster moms. After adopting her child Christina, film star Joan Crawford continually tormented her. She goes absolutely mental when she sees that Christina has been hanging her clothes with wire hangers, shouting out “no wire hangers ever”, making the scene legendary. In a very camp, over- the- top, brilliant performance Dunaway has never really recovered since.


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