Sunday, October 31, 2010
Director: Frank Capra (It's A Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
Cast: Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre
This Frank Capra classic is a marvelous semi-dark comedy with marvelous performances and it's marvelously entertaining. (It's also fitting that I publish this review on Halloween because it's a childhood favorite and watching this film with my family was an annual Halloween tradition.) Like other of Capra's films, this has a timeless quality and continues to entertain no matter how old I get or how many times I've watched it.
This film was based on a Broadway play and at times it really does feel like you're watching a live stage production. I really can't say enough how great the performances are in this, and the comedy and comic timing are impeccable -- heck, even the villain (played by Massey) manages to have some comedic moments.
Also noteworthy for voice actor fans is the performance by Edward Everett Horton -- narrator of Jay Ward's Fractured Fairy Tales (from Rocky & Bullwinkle) -- who appears in the film as Dr. Witherspoon.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Director: David Lynch (Twin Peaks, Dune, Mullholland Dr.)
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud
All the awards and accolades this film has received are well-deserved. It's not quite a perfect film, but it's perfectly cast, performed, and directed. While I'm not a fan of David Lynch's work, I believe this is his best film, and John Hurt's performance as the title character is amazing. This film may not exactly fit into the "horror" genre, but horror elements are certainly there. And I was surprised to learn from the production documentary that the make-up effects were based on a full body cast made from the real "Elephant Man," John Merrick, and this film offers just a glimpse of the literal horrors and terrors Merrick was subjected to throughout his life.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Director: Andrew Currie (who also co-wrote the screenplay)
Cast: Billy Connelly, Carrie Anne-Moss, Dylan Baker, Kesun Loder, Tim Blake Nelson
What if you could keep a zombie as a family pet? Wouldn't that be fun? And wouldn't that make for a fun movie too? Yes, it would! Fido is a genre mash-up of horror/drama/romance/comedy, and with a PG-13 rating is about as close as you'll find to a "family-friendly" zombie movie. The comedy's not too dark and it's not too gory, and it even has some emotional moments (and I would rarely say this of a horror flick) where you might just feel sympathy for a zombie. It's like Lassie meets Leave It To Beaver meets Night of the Living Dead meets Shaun of the Dead meets When Harry Met Sally. It's got a great cast, and it's refreshingly original and very entertaining. Highly recommended.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Director: Tony Giglio
Cast: Josh Randall, Brianna Brown, Nick Searcy
I might have given this one 4 asterisks had it not been for the tacked-on and unnecessary horror cliche ending. But this film surprised me. I was expecting a formulaic slasher flick, and then after the first 20 minutes it gets veeeery interesting and holds the suspense level high from that point on. It's still a little predictable and has some silly plot points, but it was pretty danged fun to watch.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Director: Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street series, Scream series)
Cast: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Paul Winfield, Conrad Roberts
While it's a little slow and the plot somewhat hard to follow at times, this is based on true events and is interesting as a non-traditional, "realistic" zombie film. At the time it was a risky departure for Wes Craven from his popular Freddy Krueger franchise, and in that regard, I enjoyed it. It's more of a cerebral horror movie and definitely has Craven's signature style balancing that fine line between reality and nightmares. Worth watching.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Director: Carter Smith
Cast: Joanthan Tucker, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey, Shawn Ashmore, Joe Anderson
At first the story and characters seem typical, and the movie's fairly boring until about 25 minutes in, but it turned out to be an entertaining approach to the survival horror genre. It feels reminiscent of Stephen King-style storytelling and the Creepshow movies, while avoiding most horror cliches and offers plenty of suspense which pays off by the end. Also noteworthy are the DVD's two alternate endings, one of which I actually liked more than the final "unrated" cut.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Director: Masayuki Ochiai (Shutter [original], Infection)
Starring: Joshua Jackson, Rachel Taylor
I'll save you some time and advise you to watch the original Thai horror version and skip this remake. While it's an okay flick and I liked the ending, it's too predictable and feels like you've seen it before. It's also difficult to watch because Jackson and Taylor fail to connect on screen -- they're just actors going through the motions and saying lines.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Director: Jonathan King
Cast: Nathan Meister, Peter Feeney, Danielle Mason
It's a silly premise: zombie, flesh-eating sheep terrorizing residents of a New Zealand countryside, but it's sheer campy, goofy fun. If you're a fan of horror comedies like Army of Darkness, Shaun of the Dead or Slither, you've got to see this one.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Director: David Twohy (Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Arrival)
Cast: Matthew Davis, Bruce Greenwood, Scott Foley, Olivia Williams
An underrated and fairly unknown gem of a horror flick about a haunted submarine. No kidding! It's like The House on Haunted Hill meets The Hunt for Red October. And what the film lacks as a low-budget production, it makes up for with suspenseful pacing, atmosphere, and a good cast. Also noteworthy is Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover, Due Date, It's Kind of a Funny Story) as "Weird Wally" in one of his first feature film roles, playing a quirky character who steals every scene he's in.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Director: John Schlesinger (Marathon Man, The Falcon and the Snowman)
Cast: Michael Keaton, Melanie Griffith, Matthew Modine
This film offers suspense in spades and Michael Keaton's performance is seriously creepy. On the downside, Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine lack on-screen chemistry and their characters aren't interesting, but at least they don't distract from the film's plot and pace. If you enjoy suspenseful thrillers, this is worth the rental. Also, if you own rental property or are considering buying into the market, you owe it to yourself to see this film. It's the ultimate bad tenant tale.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
I've been told by fellow collectors of Animaniacs/Pinky & The Brain memorabilia that my collection is possibly one of the largest in the world.* It's a stunning thought, but not something I brag about, nor was that ever a personal goal. It's simply a hobby I love about a show I love, and I've spent a lot of money showing my love for it. In fact, before I got married in 2005 most of my disposable income went towards cartoon memorabilia.
In hindsight, maybe I should have invested in important things like a college education, future career and food, but I digress. Also, it's too late for regret -- I must pay the penalty for having OCD. I'm not kidding -- remember in the movie Conspiracy Theory where Mel Gibson says he doesn't "feel normal" if he doesn't buy a copy of Catcher in the Rye every time he sees one? And he had hundreds of copies of the same book? I used to be like that with A!/P&TB memorabilia.
...okay, maybe my buying habit wasn't that bad, but it was eerily similar.
Anyway, so I've got a lot of stuff. So much stuff in fact that I enjoy it by storing it in boxes in the garage. Except for a selection of my favorite items (like my Pinky and The Brain resin statues, which my wife refers to as "giant rats"), the rest is packed away.
And my friends on The Warner Bros Club at toonzone.net have probably given up on my promises to launch an image archive site of my collection. It was a project I started back in 2000 -- photographed hundreds of items and uploaded them to my PC, and logged something like 50 pages of inventory and detailed notes in multiple MS Word docs. In 2001, I took a job touring with a music group and forgot all about the photos and Word docs, and unfortunately lost them all in The Great PC Crash of 2004.
In 2007, I again began the task of logging inventory and photographing my collection, only to lose it all yet again in The Great PC Crash of 2009.
It makes one wonder if I just wasn't meant to do this. (Or maybe I'm just a moron who doesn't learn from his mistakes.)
But I assure you an archive site will happen -- the project will move forward at toonzone at some point in the future as a fan-contributed database. And I shall acquire a better digital camera for my own contributions to the project, and maybe this time I'll be wiser and backup my files online.
In the meantime, I thought I'd share five recent additions to my collection. (And I should mention that my buying habits inevitably changed after getting married -- I now look for flea market/thrift store/yard sale finds rather than entering bidding wars on eBay. So these were all really cheap finds.)
Item #2 is a plush doll I've dubbed "Dr. Brain":
This was manufactured Play-By-Play Toys & Novelties, Inc., and was distributed by ACE in 1997. There was also a Pinky plush released in the same outfit (which I also own but it's in storage). If I had the ability to provide a hi-res image, observant fans like the notorious Ron "Keeper" O'Dell would note the "ACME LAB" typo on the labcoat logo.
This was purchased for under $2 at a thrift store in Winder, GA, and it's a rare find when you consider its age and that it was in a dump bin filled with dozens of other plush toys, and yet it's still in great condition. Also rare for a second-hand store item to still have the tag intact.
Item #3 is a clipping of a newspaper comic strip:
This is from Aaron McGruder's The Boondocks (circa March 2000, according to the archive strip at GoComics.com) featuring an appearance by Pinky & The Brain. My mother clipped this from The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, TN several years ago, but didn't send it to me until years later. I wish mom had kept the whole newspaper instead, but that's just my inner fanboy whining that mom damaged this by cutting it out.
This is official Warner Bros. apparel, manufactured in the good ol' U.S. of A. I found it at a yard sale in Lawrenceville, GA. Naturally, I asked the owner if he had any others, but sadly he did not. When I asked him how much he wanted for it, he looked at the Animaniacs shirt I was already wearing and said, "Just consider it a gift from one fan to another."
This handheld game from Tiger Electronics has two dates on it. On the front in small print there's a WB trademark dated 1994, yet on the back there's a 1990 copyright for Tiger Electronics. Since Animaniacs didn't premiere until 1993, I assume "1990" refers to when Tiger copyrighted the unit design style. Tiger apparently used that same design for many of their handheld games through the early 90s. [Thanks to astute Animaniacs fan "cognitofalcon" for pointing out the discrepancy in the date before I updated this post.]
Surprisingly, this game is still in working condition, and I may record video of the gameplay and post it on YouTube so you can see and hear how annoyingly repetitive it is. (I'm also not sure what the point is -- something about Yakko trying to catch flowers while trying to avoid being grabbed by Ralph the Guard. Over. And Over. And Over. And Over...) A big thanks to my brother Jon for picking this up for me at a thrift store in Memphis, TN.
Footnote: * It's my belief that diehard A!/P&TB fan Kane Leung (aka "Narfcake") easily has a bigger collection than mine just based on discussions we've had comparing notes. (Kane is/was the official maintainer of the F.A.B.O.O. aka the Animaniacs Merchandise List.) And he for sure has a larger T-shirt collection than I do. Kane, if you're reading this, I'm still looking to replace that Six Flags Animaniacs shirt I traded you at Comic-Con 2003. I was okay parting with it at the time since you basically begged me for it, but I've never seen another one like it since and it was my favorite.
Director: John Landis (The Blues Brothers, Animal House, An American Werewolf in London)
Starring: George Wendt
A near-perfect and fun little horror flick starring the guy who played "Norm" on Cheers as a serial killer trying to make a good impression on his neighbors. Of all the titles in the "Masters of Horror" series I've seen to date, this is my favorite.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Director: Stephen Bradley
Cast: Samantha Mumba, David Leon
This Irish zombie movie (yes, you read that correctly) ignores the all-important horror film rule that someone must be murdered within the first 5 minutes. And that's the film's main flaw: it takes far too long for the movie to get interesting. But once it does (more than halfway in) it's an entertaining, gory, dark comedy in the vein of Shawn of the Dead, Slither, and Black Sheep (although not as good as any of those movies). The title alone gives you enough plot that you could fast-forward to the good parts without missing anything.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Director: Fred Walton (When A Stranger Calls, When A Stranger Calls Back)
Cast: Deborah Foreman, Jay Baker, Deborah Goodrich, Ken Olant
I really don't understand how this came to be called a "horror classic." It's more of a campy B-movie slasher flick and not nearly scary enough to be a true horror film. Furthermore, the acting is campy and crappy, and the plot -- especially the ending -- is just way too predictable and contrived. While I could at least credit the director for effectively building suspense throughout, it's so ponderously slow you figure out the ending well in advance. This is a lame attempt at repackaging an Agatha Christie classic as a teen screamer. I suppose if you like vintage silly slasher flicks you might find this one interesting, but otherwise don't bother watching this or the 2008 remake which is only slightly less crappy than the original.
Monday, October 18, 2010
I was subsequently surprised to learn that Facebook allows a maximum of 5,000 friends for any individual.
When I mentioned this in my status post, friend comments came pouring in:
You can never have too many friends.
Having too many friends is better than none at all.
Facebook has definitely redefined the meaning of the word "friends."
I have 95% "acquaintances." True friends are few!
The last two statements caused me to speculate on what it would look like if Facebook allowed us to categorize our friends...
__X__ has 3 TrueFriends
DISCLAIMER: Actual numbers chosen at random.This is an attempt at humor. And if you are a friend of Craig's on Facebook please don't assume that you in particular would fall into any of his Facebook Friends Categories.
Director: Bruce A. Evans (who also co-wrote)
Starring: Kevin Costner, William Hurt
Entertaining psychological thriller offering an interesting fictional perspective into the mind of a serial killer. The top notch performances by Costner and Hurt are nearly overshadowed by comedian Dane Cook's lousy acting -- it's forced, unbelievable and really shows his inexperience. I just kept hoping his character would be killed quickly and put us out of our misery. But if you can tolerate Cook's performance, the rest of the movie is worth watching.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Director: Jack Clayton
Starring: Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Vidal Peterson, Shawn Carson
I've been a fan of Ray Bradbury since I was old enough to read, but this Disney-imagineered vision of Bradbury's masterwork of fiction is just too family-friendly. If there ever was a Disney-produced film that was actually worthy of a remake, this deserves a darker, more adult treatment. It's an okay film by Disney standards: it does achieve a suspenseful and atmospherically creepy drama, and James Horner's score is enjoyable, but it just lacks... oomph. Fans of Disney's traditional fare might enjoy this, but horror fans will be sorely disappointed.
Also disappointing for Disney/DVD collectors is that neither of the bonus features produced for the 1983 laserdisc (commentary and behind-the-scenes featurette) were included on Disney's 2004 or Anchor Bay's 1999 DVD versions. And either DVD release would have more value to collectors and fans if they had done a video interview with Ray Bradbury who also drafted the film's screenplay.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Director: D.J. Caruso
Starring: Shia LeBeouf, David Morse
Granted, it's a modern remake of a Hitchcock classic, but it's actually a GOOD one. I anticipated another formulaic teen horror/thriller, but LeBeouf's entertaining performance and the constant edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting type of suspense completely sucked me in. And David Morse is great in it too. I had the ending figured out long in advance, but it was still a fun ride all the way through.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Director: John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, The Blues Brothers, Animal House)
Starring: Brian Benben, Anthony Griffith, Cinthia Moura, Lisa Marie Caruk
In spite of the largely negative reviews this film has received I enjoyed it overall, although the ending is much too abrupt, awkward, and doesn't offer any sort of closure. But it has an interesting X-Files vibe and Landis takes a ridiculous premise and runs with it, even going as far to point out via Brian Benben's character how ridiculous it is. If you enjoy other of Landis' films you'll find reasons to like this one. And for Landis fans, this disc is a worthwhile rental for the featurette covering his films which includes interviews with Landis and other individuals he's worked with, and a bonus vintage interview with Landis circa 1979 when he was filming The Blues Brothers.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Director: Roman Polanski (who also starred and co-wrote the script)
(Polanski's legal troubles and alleged criminal activity aside...)
This was recommended to me as a "psychological thriller," and while I'll admit it was suspenseful and an interesting character study in paranoia and dementia, I just didn't like it. For a while, it seems like it might be a ghost story, but then maybe it's all in the guy's head? By the end, it all just feels confusing, frustrating, and pointless. The main character is a dull guy and his backstory is never revealed, so there's nothing to justify why he's slowly going insane. Having lived in a few apartments over the years, I identified with the annoyance of having weird, scary, and stupid people as neighbors. And they did drive me crazy... only not whacked-out, psycho-crazy for no good reason at all like the main character in this film.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Starring: Rachel Nichols, Wes Bentley
The whole film takes place in an underground parking garage and hence the "P2" title. I was expecting another formulaic horror/thriller, but it turned out to be surprisingly good with interesting plot twists and suspense. Also what helps set this movie apart from similar genre films is that you won't find any stereotypical screaming, frantically-running "damsel-in-distress" here -- the character Rachel Nichols plays is not one to be trifled with. While it does occasionally fall into formula and you can probably predict the ending, it's still a better-than-average horror/thriller that's worth the rental.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Director: Patrick Stettner (The Business of Strangers)
Starring: Robin Williams, Toni Collette
A decent (although slow) psychological thriller right up until the ending. The performances by Robin Williams and the rest of the cast are solid, but it's not enough to salvage the movie from the disappointing ending. The film is based on a true story which even Hollywood couldn't glamorize enough to make the ending satisfying. Only recommended if you're fascinated with character studies in human psychosis.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Director/Writer: George A. Romero
Starring: Ken Foree, Gaylen Ross, Scott H. Reiniger, David Emgee
Casual horror fans should be warned that this movie is slow-paced with the exception of only a few scenes. I'll grant that this film was groundbreaking in its day and its cult classic status cannot be denied. The subtle social commentary on consumer excess and greed are noteworthy themes for a horror flick, but they also cause the plot to drag -- the film's fairly boring up until the big finale at the end. So while there are moments of humor and horror fan-pleasing gore splattered throughout the film, the slow pace is a killer. My wife (who's also a horror fan) gave up on it after 15 minutes, and I put the subtitles on and fast-forwarded to get through several scenes that were so woefully boring I wanted to gouge my eyes out. But because it's a cult classic, I saw it through to the end and I'm glad I did because there are some scenes that are very satisfying to any horror fan.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin
While this film was generally received well by horror fans and film critics, I'm going to buck the trend and say that it was a little disappointing. I had higher expectations due to the hype from horror fans slobbering over it who apparently weren't bothered by Jesse Eisenberg's annoying performance or his even more irritating voiceover narration. But overall, I'll admit it's an entertaining flick and worth watching for horror fans.
Although I gave this film an average score and criticized the lead's performance, I must add that Woody Harrelson is great in this. He makes the film worth watching for his performance alone. Bill Murray's cameo was also very funny, and the film had some fantastic and hilarious scenes of crowd-pleasing zombie destruction.
But I just couldn't stand Eisenberg, the lead actor who played Columbus. I realize he was cast to play an "Everyman" type, but I just couldn't identify with him. His character was annoying and his voice even moreso -- his narration nearly completely ruined the movie for me. I wanted him to get violated by a zombie as soon as possible, but it never happened.
And except for the beginning and end, the middle was dreadfully slow.
It barely gets 3 asterisks out of 5 from me. On the upside, there's a 3D sequel in development, so maybe they'll fix the problems from the first film...like not casting Jesse Eisenberg, for starters.
And FYI: my 2003 Hyundai Elantra is also seen very briefly in the background. I spent a day in Extras Holding at the Atlanta Motor Speedway during the production of this film, napping and reading magazines while they sprayed fake dirt on my car and used it as an abandoned vehicle. Easiest $125 I ever made.
And in an ironic case of life imitating art, my car was totaled in an accident a few months later and spent 9 months in my driveway as an abandoned vehicle.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
I'll begin with one of my all-time favorites:
Director: Sam Raimi (who also co-wrote the script)
Starring: Bruce Campbell (no one else really matters, although this film does have a great supporting cast)
This multi-genre horror/comedy manages a balance between scary, silly and campy that's very entertaining to watch thanks to Bruce Campbell's performance, Sam Raimi's direction, the aforementioned strong supporting cast, and great make-up and creature effects. Highly recommended for horror fans, and required viewing for all Bruce Campbell fans.
Some horror fans contend that you should watch the first two Evil Dead films before seeing this one, but I think it recaps well enough in the opening to stand on its own. (But you should definitely watch the first two after watching Army of Darkness to see the series as a whole.)
Although the first two films are considered horror cult classics and are generally rated higher than Army of Darkness, I like the third film a lot more than the first two. I tend to favor horror comedies, and Army of Darkness is easily the most comedic of the three. Bruce Campbell makes the first two worth watching, and I also admire what Sam Raimi was able to accomplish with Evil Dead on a budget of only $375K.
But I love Army of Darkness. It's like a mash-up of the best elements of Jason & The Argonauts, The Three Stooges, and Night of the Living Dead. It's The Princess Bride of the horror genre: it contains multiple genre elements and entertains on multiple levels.
It's also one of few horror films which takes place in Medieval Times, which seems ironic when you consider that it was a very scary period in history.
And be sure to watch the alternate ending available on certain releases of the film on DVD and Blu-Ray, but I should caution that the 2009 Blu-Ray version was not well-received by fans, film critics or DVD/BR collectors due to the disappointing digital transfer.
Friday, October 1, 2010
One of the most-frequently-asked-questions at TSCC involves how TV/film roles are "billed" (or credited) on a resume.
The helpful thing to do would be to provide a link to The Actors Voice -- a blog published by author, producer and casting director Bonnie Gillespie. In February 2005, Bonnie published this excellent blog post on the subject -- a list of billing terms explained in detail, followed by an equally-useful Q&A post about billing terms.
But when the question about billing was asked again recently at TSCC, after it was answered I thought I'd have some fun and provide my own definitions for billing terms:
Usually someone who works the least on set, but earns the most.
Something you put your drink on so your TV tray doesn't get wet.
Something even Superman can't see through.
Someone who gets to be first in line when filming breaks for lunch. (Not interchangeable with "Principle" or to be confused with the person whose office you get sent to when you've done something stupid at school.)
Actors cast so the stars will have someone to talk to during scenes.
An actor who prefers not to work nights.
Not tall enough or old enough to ride this ride or see this movie.
An actor appearing regularly who just hasn't been replaced yet.
Someone walking/sitting/standing in the background who has as much chance of actually being seen on camera as someone sitting at home watching TV. (* See "Human Prop.")
NAE -- "Not An Extra."
And on that last note, I'd like to share a related anecdote.
One time an extra on a film shoot -- who claimed she had worked on other productions -- told me, "I don't normally do this background stuff. I'm usually featured."
Here's a healthy dose of reality: unless you have a speaking line in a production, you are still just an extra. The actors' unions and casting directors do not acknowledge uncredited, non-speaking roles as "featured." There is no such thing as a "featured extra," in spite of what extras casting agencies claim. That's like saying a piece of lettuce is "featured" in a salad.