It began with a lightning storm in space, and out of that storm was born James Tiberius Kirk, but it was J J Abrams who took that lightning and caught it in a bottle. Four long years later, the sequel has arrived amidst unprecedented secrecy and enough rumours to sink a battleship, not to mention the expectations of the fans, old and new, and a studio who have stated their desire to expand the appeal of Star Trek beyond its traditional stronghold, requesting Abrams to deliver a film that will appeal to audiences beyond science fiction fans and will also play strongly to an international audience.
Not many films can boast to have been written, produced, directed by and starring an individual, but with his debut feature Jeremy Gardner has managed that feat, and while his tale of two survivors of a low key zombie apocalypse trying to make the best of their lives as they trek across the deserted New England countryside is fortunately far from Ed Wood, nor will it trouble the throne of Citizen Kane.
The portmanteau horror is not new, a staple of Amicus Productions from Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors to The Monster Club, crossing the Atlantic to Romero’s Creepshow and King’s Cat’s Eye, and more recently V/H/S, an anthology showcasing a variety of different directors, and it is in that mould that The ABCs of Death has sprung, twenty six short films from twenty six directors, each unrelated other than they have been assigned one letter as inspiration and granted complete artistic freedom beyond that, with no linking strand between them other than the inevitability of mortality.
Like his music, the films of Rob Zombie are not to everybody’s taste; while undeniably knowledgeable in his chosen genre, his films are unconventional and draw influences from far wider than the mediocre horror cinema that has become prevalent over the last two decades - found footage, torture porn, sequels, barely post-adolescent casts and an obstinate refusal to challenge narrative and structural conventions.
There is something both magical and horrifying about the film trilogy. Asking anyone to name their favourite film in a trilogy, and it will rarely if ever be the third, very much more the exception than the rule. As a character, Iron Man has always been popular in comic book history, but in the realm of film has always been a bench warmer, whilst stalwarts like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and Hulk have enjoyed the lion’s share of screen time.
As Dead by Dawn director Adele Banks said in her introduction, it is unusual to see documentary entries in a horror festival, but this is a very unusual documentary, an extended interview with Daniel Lutz, son of Kathy Lutz and stepson of George Lutz, who on December 19th 1975 moved with his parents and two siblings to 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island, where they would remain only until January 14th 1976. The alleged events of that short span were the basis for the bestselling book The Amityville Horror, published by Jay Anson in September 1977 and filmed in 1979, spawning a long line of sequels and remakes.
Is there anything as frustrating as the missed opportunity of a vision compromised? Screening at the Dead by Dawn festival, writer/director David Cholewa’s Dead Shadows is a jigsaw puzzle where the audience are unfortunately missing several key pieces, leaving them with an incomplete picture whilst revealing enough to indicate that were the full work to be revealed it would certainly be a more promising and ambitious debut than that of many established directors, made all the more of an achievement by the fact that this is an independent picture.
The backwoods trailer trash family has been a staple of horror through inbred decades, with variations told in Deliverance, The Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn among many others, but all are seen from the outside looking in, the relatively sophisticated city folk who stumble in and are laid low by their country cousins. Not so with the directorial debut of Chad Crawford Kinkle, where the leafy dirt roads and dilapidated shacks are most definitely home.
As the clocks approached midnight on Thursday 25th April with a full moon hanging over the chill streets outside, Adele Banks, organiser of the Dead by Dawn horror festival, opened her twentieth season by telling the audience at the Edinburgh Filmhouse that they were in for “such a treat,” and that the four debut features to be screened over the weekend could herald new voices in the genre, and as she unveiled Rodrigo Gudiño’s The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, she made good on her word.
The opening frames of this film quote the profound wisdom of an acknowledged grand master of science fiction, Sir Arthur C Clarke - "Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying." This moment sets up the entire film, both in that it points the way to the two possibilities that face the troubled Barrett family, that they are being targeted by an extraterrestrial intelligence or that their problems lie entirely within themselves, and in that every single moment within the film has been taken from another source, with no attempt to disguise or personalise the appropriations.
It is March 2077, fifty year after the Earth was attacked, and though the invaders have been defeated, the cost was terrible, the Moon split in two, the population wiped out, the surface of the planet practically unable to support life, with formerly great cities buried under silt. With the survivors gathered in a vast orbiting space station before they prepare to leave for Titan, the last operatives tend the fusion reactors that gather and convert seawater into energy for the trip before the planet is abandoned altogether.
Writer/director Andrew Niccol once crafted a modern classic of science fiction cinema, both in the sense that is a film that has remained untouched by the years which have passed since release and remains as engaging, moving, enjoyable and relevant now as it was upon release in 1997, and in the sense that it seemed even then to have come from another time, an era of elegant sophistication, where perfectly spoken characters in fitted suits and evening gowns were conveyed by sleek electric cars.
For a feature debut by Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, Evil Dead serves all intents and purposes, and offers plenty of thrills and chills - just don't expect a reimagined cinematic horror masterpiece of original scares and innovative filmmaking. It does manage to capture the spirit of the original Sam Raimi/Bruce Campbell fightfest, even though it lacks the underlying humour that makes the original such a beloved blood drenched demonic gem to the horror genre. The script is as fresh and tight as any effort by the devilishly wicked and unparalleled word smith that is Diablo Cody, an Academy Award winner for Juno, and it certainly succeeds in delivering buckets of gore-galore, but gorier isn't necessarily scarier.
As we all know, Hollywood shuns originality and favours bandwagons, hence the production and release of the same kinds of films in cyclic patterns. At the moment European fairytales are back in fashion, and we have seen recent 're-imaginings' of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Hansel and Gretel amongst others. American television is also currently participating in the form of Grimm and Once Upon A Time. On the big screen Bryan Singer has brought us his mash-up of Jack and the Beanstalk and the eponymous Jack the Giant Slayer.
Barry Levinson is not a name normally associated with the horror genre, nor either of the two sub genres explored here, the eco thriller and found footage. Opening with a montage of news snippets of environmental crises, mass deaths of fish stocks and algal blooms, journalist Donna Thompson introduces her investigation into the events of July 4th 2009 in Claridge, Maryland, of which she was one of the few survivors.
“There’s no place like home,“ the immortal line from 1939’s classic The Wizard of Oz; maybe it should have been there’s no place like Oz, as it is arguably one of the most watched if not the most watched movie of all time. In the subsequent seventy five years, we have seen a slew of remakes and sequels, whether faithful or modernised, notable films in the list being Michael Jackson and Diana Ross in 1978’s The Wiz, 1985’s Return to Oz starring Fairuza Balk as the young Dorothy, or even 2005’s The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz.
The Brothers Grimm. The world of macabre fairy tales have had a special place in the hearts of children and adults alike for just over two hundred years, and their work has been told on the silver screen many a time in various guises, from strict adaptations of the books to modern translations, parodies and mash-ups, and 2005 became the lead characters in Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm starring Matt Damon and the late Heath Ledger. Growing up close to the Black Forest in Hanau, Germany, it’s not hard to understand the dark inspiration for Snow White and Rapunzel, but my favourite tale was that of Hansel and Gretel, a cautionary tale about trusting strangers, and living near woods as a child, when hearing the tale it was never hard to imagine the setting on an autumn night, so I couldn’t wait to see if this tale of grown up witch hunters would stand up against my fond memories.
A book and a film are fundamentally different; one the whispering of a single voice inside the reader’s head, progressed at leisure, sketching shapes and images and moods, inviting us to picture the situations and feelings and how they apply to our lives, the other a specific interpretation, a collaboration of talents that control how each moment is coloured, lit, performed, heard and experienced, from the fabrics chosen for the actors to the locations, wholly real or entirely imaginary, where the drama is depicted. Even if the meaning is ambiguous, the actual physical representation is specific, unfolding over a set timescale.
The name of Guillermo del Toro has become akin to a horror talisman, from his own work on the two Hellboy films, Blade II and most importantly Pan’s Labyrinth, but also from his championing of the work of others, Troy Nixon’s 2011 update of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark which del Toro wrote and produced, and this debut feature of director Andrés Muschietti, expanded from his own short, executive produced by del Toro. Unfortunately, on the basis of these two projects, the reputation of that talisman will very soon be tarnished.
The name of Gatlin would appear to be cursed; in 1984, the children of Gatlin, Nebraska, butchered their parents in the name of He Who Walks Behind The Rows in hopes of restoring their corn harvest, and now, in Gatlin, South Carolina, young adults are again worshipping a dark power, emulating it and following in its footsteps instead of finding their own voices and the empowerment of individuality. That dark force is the shadow which Stephanie Meyer casts over this film, adapted from the first book of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Caster Chronicles, which desperately wants to be the continuation of the movie franchise that sprang from Meyer’s Twilight books. A new saga is about to begin, and with it the nightmare starts over.
Science fiction need not be daunting, it need not be bleak, it need not even have a vast budget to tell a touching and charming story of how technology changes the lives of those who come into contact with it, and in this, the sun dappled debut feature from Jake Schreier, from a script by his former classmate Christopher D Ford, the unnamed robot does not wish to evolve or rebel in the manner of a Nexus 6 or a U-87 Cybernetic Lifeform Node. Capable of a range of behaviours, from maid to butler to home care and therapist, but despite the initial resistance of elderly divorcee Frank, the primary role is that of friend.
On first glance, there could be few dramatists further apart than the American television writer and producer Joseph Hill Whedon and the 17th century English playwright William Shakespeare, yet as with so much of the work of both, first impressions rarely carry the full truth; both deal with the complicated interplay of webs of characters, juggling multiple narratives, often against a framework of supernatural elements to highlight the obligations and choices they make (Buffy Summers had vampires, Hamlet had a ghostly father and Macbeth had witches), and both are regarded as the masters of their time at wordplay, the banter and insults their creations hurl at each other endlessly quoted.
Eighteen months is a long time in modern media, and that is how long it has taken this film to reach the Glasgow Film Festival since its premiere in September 2011, yet it was actually filmed a full year before that, at the July 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International. But does that mean that the message of this documentary, which lists legendary genre creators Stan Lee and Joss Whedon amongst its producers and was directed by Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame, is dated, no longer of relevance or importance? Far from it.
The story behind John Dies at the End is as bizarre as the film itself; an online story published under the pseudonym of the lead character David Wong who himself uses a pseudonym which became a book which became a film written, produced, directed and edited by Don Coscarelli, best known for the Phantasm films and more recently Bubba Ho-Tep, and currently seeking a well deserved UK distribution following its screening at the Glasgow Film Festival.
It would seem that the lines between children’s fairy tales, sleeping princesses woken by the kiss of a passing prince, and horror fiction aimed at more mature audiences, the seductive gaze of the vampire whose kiss brings eternal sleep. The teen, even preteen, audience is increasing sought after by studios eager to identify new revenue streams, and the booming young adult book sector has fed that need, packaging mature concepts into more palatable chunks, but what marketing executive nominated necrophilia as a suitable subject?
“D-J-A-N-G-O. The D is silent.”
“I Know.”And with that, the name and the torch of Django was passed from Franco Nero to Jamie Foxx in a typically indulgent, yet no less welcome, doff of the cap to the original 1966 spaghetti western as the self-confessed king geek of the silver screen once again pours his intrinsic love of cinema into another epic thrill ride. But does it live up to the hype, or is it more a case of blowing smoke than Gunsmoke?
Horror has become generic. What once was about the individual fears that prickle at the back of consciousness, be it needles or the dark, loneliness or sudden unexpected intrusion, is now about gore, gross physical violation and violent bloody death, over and over, a simplification as bland as the titles of parade of films who tout this as their sole ware, Saw, Hostel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre… How refreshing and ironic that not only does American Mary buck that trend, but that it is a film about expressing individuality which comes to us courtesy of a trio of women, so often marginalised and victimised in horror.
Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012, the debut film of director Colin Trevorrow has finally received limited British release at the tail end of the festive season heralded by a trailer that emphasises the science fiction element and a poster that boasts the critical praise it has received with the quote sources so diminished that it is difficult to read the origin of one is in fact Marie Claire magazine rather than the dedicated science fiction press.
It would be interesting to note how many of the modern, younger cinema audience would, if asked, recognise the name Ray Harryhausen. Certainly, a good amount of them would be able to recall the names Spielberg, Cameron, Lucas or Jackson, but it’s fairly safe to presume not many would be able to name the man responsible for igniting so many of the imaginations of those recently wowing cinema audiences with computer generated Na’vi, ring corrupted Hobbits and velociraptors. And yet those pixellated creations find their origins in, relatively speaking, simple rubber puppets, photographed and brought to life one frame at a time, by one man.
Life has always been a struggle for Piscine Molitor Patel, a story of challenges before eventual triumph. Yann Martel’s second novel, it struggled even to find a publisher, receiving multiple rejections before becoming a phenomenon, winning literary prizes including the Man Booker, translated the world over and adapted for stage. Then came the film adaptation, passed from M Night Shyamalan to Alfonso Cuarón to Jean-Pierre Jeunet before finally coming to Ang Lee. While those other directors are recognised for their fantastical output, The Sixth Sense, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The City of Lost Children, Lee is best known for his dramatic output, The Wedding Banquet, Ride With The Devil, The Ice Storm and the award winning Brokeback Mountain, but let us not forget that lurking within his resume are crouching tigers, hidden dragons and Doctor Bruce Banner.
The great British holiday. The staycation. Caravanning. A series of phrases as misleadingly optimistic as the hopes of the British film industry, yet in Sightseers all these things come together in a surprisingly effective package holiday that even the British weather can’t mar, seeing as it’s screening in the relative safety of the cinema.
It’s hard to guarantee a hit these days, so when a studio gets one, it wants to make sure that it ekes out every last nickel and dime it can. To split Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into two parts was justifiable; the source novel was over 600 pages long. To split The Hobbit into two, at just over 300 pages, is harder to justify, though perhaps with supplementary material from Tolkien’s appendices to The Lord of the Rings, Unfinished Tales, and so forth, the book can be expanded to two films. Whether the post production decision to carve a third film from the footage, The Desolation of Smaug, was an inspired creative move or greed worthy of a dragon will not be apparent for another two years. Certainly, at 756 pages, Stephanie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn has the word count to support two films, and the box office takings warrant the investment, but is there sufficient story within that text?
The success of the Silent Hill videogames, with nine releases since 1999 plus arcade and mobile versions, virtually guaranteed that it would be adapted for cinema. Set in the fog shrouded abandoned rural town of Silent Hill and its hellish alternate Otherworld, a realm akin to the work of Hieronymous Bosch, the mechanics of the game are a balance of exploration, puzzles, investigation and combat. With elements and motifs from the first four games, Silent Hill was released in 2006, written by Roger Avary and directed by Christopher Gans, capturing the atmosphere but with its own character and originality.
“It was a child's toy, a very small Matchbox vehicle. Rolled seven feet across a linoleum surface. The duration of the event was seven hours.”
“Seven hours for what?”
“For the vehicle to complete the distance. Of course, this would never register on the naked eye. But I have it recorded on a time-lapse camera. It's fantastic.”
Moving house is a stressful ordeal, even at the best of times. A forced relocation due to money troubles with two young children in tow where the husband is keeping secrets from the family is recipe enough for trouble, but when that secret relates to the murder of four of the previous occupants of the new house, the fifth body never having been found, one would almost imagine it were the setup for a horror film.
It has been a prolific period for Tim Burton, following the long gaps between 2007’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and 2009’s Alice in Wonderland, he has been involved in three major projects this year, as a producer on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, as director of the resurrected Dark Shadows, and now, as our Stateside correspondent Wes May reports, with another unlikely rebirth from the shadows.
Science fiction is regarded as the medium of ideas, but so rarely does that intention cross the fraught border into film, where collaboration and the need for broad appeal too often forces the compromise of dumbing down and easy explanations and linear storytelling to dilute any ingenuity or originality of a filmmaker. Fortunately, for his third feature, writer/director Rhian Johnson has managed to survive the challenge and construct a thoughtful and coherent film that satisfies both the intellectual and more primal members of a multiplex audience.
In a series that has now become one of an elite few to repeatedly perform better with every sequel at the box office, despite the critic and fanboy detractors looking for continuity from the video game source it came from, it appears a forgone conclusion that the latest Resident Evil movie will strike gold for Constantin Film, the celluloid equivalent of not letting the truth get in the way of a good story, you could suppose. But what of the latest instalment? Are we likely to see any changes from what we have become accustomed to in the world bio-engineered by Umbrella Corporation, or another stunt-driven “thrill ride” aimed at teenagers with short attention spans?
On September 3rd 2010, three walkers disappeared on Dartmoor, and now the footage from their abundance of cameras and recording devices has been edited together, though as any footage that would resemble an interesting plot is absent, perhaps it would have been preferable had the whole thing remained lost. As it stands, this “found footage” horror film written and directed by Richard Parry is utterly devoid of a single original idea.
"Somewhere in the Valley there is a woman living in a basement who claims she's from the future and she's amassing followers." This sums up the situation of Peter and Lorna, having infiltrated the cult of the woman known only as Maggie, never seen in public, her precise location unknown as they are blindfolded prior to being chauffeured to every meeting.
Karl Urban is Judge Dredd. It’s a simple as that.
He and the filmmakers Pete Travis, Alex Garland and Andrew MacDonald have now given us the most definitive take on the 2000AD character and crafted a film that, while it has its flaws, lays to rest the horrible memory of the 1995 incarnation of the character.As readers of the comic will know, the world lies in ashes. Humanity has fled to the Mega-Cities, walled in from the wasteland of the Cursed Earth, and corralled in huge numbers in gigantic City Blocks where outlaws and criminals have the opportunity to run wild and free. They would, that is, except for the Judges. Given the role of judge, jury and executioner, they carry out the law. They are the law.
Luxurious living in the heart of East London is the promise on the advertising boards, but for the residents of the Bow Bells Care Home, the future is less rosy, as theirs is one of the buildings due for demolition to make way for the new construction work. Plans change, however, when the excavation reveals a crypt sealed by the order of King Charles II in the year 1666. Two eager workers venture in, hoping for treasure; what they find is piles of skulls, rats, cobwebs, overgrown roots, and scrabbling in the darkness, hungry zombies.
The second feature from writer/director Peter Strickland is a long term project, having started life as a short feature in 2005, seven long years before the completed feature opened at the 2012 Edinburgh Film Festival, but in that time the concept has not diluted or lost any of its unsettling power, as a British sound engineer finds himself engaged in a nightmarish project in a hostile environment, the sounds he is creating becoming the soundtrack to the film we are watching.
From the outset it must be noted that Len Wiseman’s 2012 version of Total Recall is a direct remake of the 1990 Paul Verhoeven film, not another adaptation of the original Philip K. Dick short story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, and what we are left with is a pointless, soulless barrage of slow motion, explosions and bloodless gun battles, aiming squarely at a younger audience and omitting anything that made the original so much fun, directed by the filmmaker who castrated John McClane in Die Hard 4.0. We can’t say we weren’t warned.
Seven years after the Batman was rebooted and revolutionised in the eyes of the audience, Christopher Nolan’s saga of Bruce Wayne has come full circle, resulting in a spectacular and emotional finale that occasionally loses its footing, but what a finale it is. Breaking the supposed curse of the third film, Nolan and his team have given us something special.
The Amazing Spider-Man is preceded by an awful lot of presumption and cynicism, and it is also impossible to discuss without mention of Sam Raimi’s films. A “reboot” only five years after 2007’s woeful Spider-Man 3, it has caused much ire in fanboy and critical circles. Yes, it is true that Sony needed to make another film in order to retain the movie rights, but to go back to square one has upset a lot of people, which is a shame, as there is much to enjoy in Marc Webb’s film even if it does prove to be an ultimately frustrating experience. It gets a lot right, seemingly incorporating a little more of Ultimate Spider-Man from the comics, but also steps into the error arena and, after the bar has been raised by The Dark Knight and The Avengers, many decisions are questionable.
Director Timur Bekmambetov came to the attention of Western audiences in 2004 with his gritty, dark and stylish vampire thriller Nochnoy Dozor, perhaps better known as Night Watch. His first English language film was 2008's Wanted, an adaptation of the comic series by Mark Millar and J G Jones, starring James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie, and although he served as a producer on the 3D Russian set alien invasion film The Darkest Hour, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is his first 3D film as director.
He is not a well known name such as his fellow Spanish language directors Guillermo del Toro or Alejandro Amenábar, but Rodrigo Cortés could be a name to watch in the future. His previous English language film Buried, a claustrophobic thriller starring Ryan Reynolds, was well received with comparisons to Hitchcock, and on his latest venture he has gathered the considerable talents of Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy and Robert de Niro.
The biggest problem facing any modern horror movie is the burden of what has gone before. With the weight of decades of previous films bearing down on them, can an audience still be surprised and scared? Expanding his previous short film of the same name which featured Jewel Staite in the lead role, writer and director Nicholas McCarthy has opted for a different approach, and rather than striving for originality has instead blended a montage of elements, many of which have been seen before, but by adopting the maxim that if you must steal, steal from the best, he has created a fine telling of a simple story.
It is often observed that the media moves in the opposite direction to our times, that as our circumstances become increasingly strained, our entertainment becomes commensurately whimsical, and certainly fairy tales have been a trend of the last year, with both Once Upon a Time and Grimm finding success on television. Now, trailing the heels of Tarsem Singh's Mirror, Mirror comes the second film adaptation of the Snow White tale of the year.
Sometimes an idea comes along that is so outrageous that it begs to be made in whatever format best suits it, be it comic book, novel, or film. Iron Sky is unusual, in that rather than a major Hollywood studio or an established independent house instigating the project, the origins of the production, from inception through financing to filming, are firmly in fandom. This genesis is perhaps hinted at in the suitably fannish premise of space Nazis attacking from their secret moonbase, armed with a serum that will convert all humanity to Aryan perfection.
Sometimes disappointment is the result of expectation being set to high, and certainly it cannot be denied that Prometheus, the return of Ridley Scott to science fiction after a thirty year absence and the universe of his masterpiece, in a work hubristically named after the titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity, could have been the most important film of the year. Unfortunately, in this instance the disappointment is the result of a film that genuinely should have been considerably better than what has been released, with the frustration that the required improvements could easily have been made.
Johnny Depp is often looked on as the Tim Burton’s muse, the actor who has inspired many of his works and allowed himself to be moulded into the embodiment of Burton’s imaginings: Edward Scissorhands, his interpretation of the life and career of Ed Wood, his conception of Ichabod Crane and the Hatter from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Yet on this occasion the roles are reversed, and it is Depp, acting as producer and instigator, who has brought Burton to his own dream project, an update of the gothic American show Dark Shadows.
Zombies have been a theme in horror movies since the 1930’s, from White Zombie through I Walked with a Zombie to Plan 9 From Outer Space, but it wasn’t until 1968 that George Romero made the subgenre relevant with Night of the Living Dead and its sequels, Dawn, Day and Land, using the mindless hordes to comment on racism, consumerism and modern war, pushing deeper than any other director had. In recent years, perhaps reflecting the overwhelming population pressure and demands from the media to conform, zombies have enjoyed a resurgence; The Walking Dead in comics and on television, the infected of [REC] and 28 Days Later, the forthcoming World War Z. So how does a director find something new to say? Simple. Say it in Spanish.
Considering the controversy sparked by the novel The Monk upon publication in 1796 by Matthew Gregory Lewis, newly appointed to the House of Commons at that time, this latest adaptation has arrived with little brouhaha; perhaps times have changed such that the themes of corruption, cruelty and abuse within the church are no longer shocking, or perhaps those of us who watch foreign language films are already considered irredeemable.
The quality of a film can be gauged from how well the director, or in this case directors, care for their audience. Do they pay attention to details, or do they hope that any production and narrative corners they have cut can be hidden if the fill the screen with explosions and lens flare? Is it clear that they have made something they wish to be proud of, pushing for the best from themselves and their collaborators, or does it feel rushed and permeated with indifference? Unfortunately, it is too often the case that as long as the lowest common denominator of the audience is satisfied, there is no desire to achieve anything further.
Back in 2008, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) got home after his first bout of super-heroics and outing himself as Iron Man to find Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) in his house talking about something called The Avenger Initiative. And fans went justifiably wild. Four years and five films later and here we are with the highly anticipated release of Marvel Avengers Assemble.
And the verdict? The fans will be more than justifiably happy. In fact, most people will. This is up there with the very best of them.
As premises go, it would be easy to look on this as final proof that Hollywood is creatively bankrupt: a movie based upon a children’s board game. Yet behind the camera is Peter Berg, a man with extensive experience as writer, actor and director, and here the cast is strong, led by Taylor Kitsch, most recently seen as John Carter, Alexander Skarsgård, True Blood’s Eric Northman, Liam Neeson, the Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn himself, and… Rihanna? Hope has not yet abandoned ship.
Director Tarsem Singh has a history of reinterpreting the work of others, from the great works of art that inspired the music video of Losing My Religion and the sets of the Jennifer Lopez/Vince Vaughn thriller The Cell to the Greek myths of Immortals, even the obscure Bulgarian film Yo Ho Ho which he adapted into his masterpiece The Fall. Here he creates a skewed version of a more familiar tale, that of the exiled princess Snow White, banished into the woods by her wicked stepmother, where she finds safety and shelter with seven dwarves.
It began with "the little blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and gets killed in every horror movie." That was the stereotype that writer Joss Whedon subverted when he created Buffy Anne Summers; blonde, yes, but never the victim, for she was the latest in a long line of young women chosen to slay vampires. In the twenty years since Buffy’s first feature film appearance, Whedon has continued to break rules, cross borders and mash disparate genres together.
Without worship, the gods fade away, so we are told. By that token, if audiences refuse to watch bad movies, will studios stop making them? Universally panned upon release, 2010’s Clash of the Titans in no way warranted a sequel, yet assurances were made that lessons had been learned and would be addressed in the follow up, but like gods, studios are capricious, and those promises have proved worthless.
In 1973, director Robin Hardy, with minimal support from studio or distributor, created a film that would become a cult classic of British horror cinema, The Wicker Man. Not only an influence on many other films, that work has been endlessly referenced and analysed in books and documentaries on horror and British cinema, inspired the stage show An Appointment with The Wicker Man, a music festival, and even a song by Iron Maiden. Hardy himself created a thematic sequel in his 2006 novel Cowboys for Christ, and now he has brought that story to the screen, more commercially renamed The Wicker Tree.
Of all the weapons the dark lord possesses, his most pervasive and insidious is the found footage movie. Though not first, The Blair Witch Project was most famous, and its success spawned a multitude of devilish imitators riding the bandwagon to Hell, from Romero’s Diary of the Dead to the interminable Paranormal Activity films, where scares come from allowing the audience to fall asleep then waking them with loud bangs.
So while the devil may very well be inside the studio creative departments, has evil got anything new to offer, other than the sight of a dead nun covered in blood?
On March 3rd, 2012, Mars and Earth were on their closest approach, as Earth's faster orbit brought it between the more distant, slower Mars and overtook it on the next trip around the Sun, but that is still about 55 million miles, and for those involved in the long process of bringing Edgar Rice Burroughs tales of Barsoom to the screen, it must have felt that they have walked every step. Fortunately for them and us, the end result is well worth the effort.
On October 7th 1849, the American writer Edgar Allan Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore. He was taken to hospital, where he later died, aged forty years old. The cause was unknown, as were the meaning of the only words he spoke, the name “Reynolds,” over and over. Taking its name from Poe’s most famous work, from that mystery springs this film in which John Cusack plays the eponymous writer, forced to assist the police as they investigate a series of murders which take inspiration from his stories.
Sixteen years after the grand finale of the Star Wars saga, The Return of the Jedi, George Lucas decided to take us on a fantastic journey to a "galaxy far far away" one more time. After years of waiting and hopes, at last we were going to learn about the beginning of that fantastic story. Those hopes were elevated by an amazing trailer released by Lucasfilm, two minutes of joy and excitement - lightsabers and speeders, aliens and epic battles. On 19th May 1999, our dreams were going to come true.
Then that day arrived, and our collective childhood was over.
Sixty years on from their heyday, Hammer are fondly remembered as the hallmark of quality British horror, yet their output largely consisted of costumed potboilers constrained by the prevailing morality of the time, and much of their output is badly dated, particularly their limping creations of the seventies. Relaunched in 2007, they have ventured into new territory with the American set remake Let Me In, but with their highest profile release to date they have returned to the traditional period ghost story and confirmed their ability as slick purveyors of quality for a modern audience.
From Blair Witch through Paranormal Activity to Troll Hunter, "found footage" has become a become the genre of choice for low budget filmmakers seeking to make a splash, reflecting the ubiquity of cameras, from CCTV to Iphones, from You Tube to entire careers based on reality television shows. Wes May reports on Chronicle, feature directorial debut of Josh Trank from a screenplay by Max Landis, son of director John Landis, which combines the style with teenagers with superpowers, asking whether this is in the same league as the similarly themed show Misfits, or whether this footage should have remained lost?
It’s hard to believe only nine years have passed since Underworld first unleashed a leatherbound Kate Beckinsale as the Death Dealer Selene, fearlessly protecting her vampire clan against the Lycans, the cunning and deadly evolution of the primitive werewolf, and she is so associated with the series that it is surprising to realise it has actually been six years since she last played the role in 2003’s Underworld Evolution.
Timur Bekmambetov, the Kazakhstani director behind the epic Russian supernatural thriller films Nochnoy Dozor and Dnevnoy Dozor, Night Watch and Day Watch respectively, is a powerful force in the cinema of that mighty land, though his focus has moved to America with Wanted and the forthcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Serving as producer on this alien invasion tale, he facilitated filming in Moscow, but unlike those earlier films, the key cast of this are non-natives, a decision intended to encourage international accessibility which only serves to render the product generic.
If there ever was a challenge for the Impossible Mission Force, once led by field agent Jim Phelps and under the care of Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt for the last fifteen years, it was to forge a major studio franchise that bucks the downward trend of such movies by actually improving creatively and dramatically with each instalment.
An astronomical phenomenon causes a moment of inattention; as thought their fate had been in the stars, two people find their lives changed forever.Driving home from a day out at the beach with his family, John Burroughs’ car is struck; when he wakes from his coma to find his young son and pregnant wife died in the accident he sinks into depression and drink. The other driver, Rhoda Williams, is sent to prison for driving under the influence and loses her place at university, and with it her whole future. As she was a minor at the time, her identity is never revealed to the Burroughs family.
Why do we enjoy horror? Even if fear is a negative feeling, everybody likes to be scared. The modern world is a safe place where we don’t need to hunt for food, run from predators or fight for survival. But while we no longer experience the primal fears of our ancestors, we are still exposed to stress every day, yet without the resolution of a physical struggle that would ease the adrenalin. We need an external stimulus to provide that release.
Whether we choose extreme sports or prefer to watch horror films, the reason is the same. In the genre of “found footage” films, if [REC] is the rollercoaster and The Blair Witch Project is the ghost ride, Paranormal Activity 3 is neither the bungee jump nor the merry-go-round. It is more akin to the Sunday visit to elderly grandparents, an afternoon spent listening to the conversation of strangers waiting for something to happen.
A signal from a derelict vessel draws an isolated group of people into a conflict with an aggressive xenomorph, an alien with the ability to change shape. Swiftly overwhelmed, they know that if they allow the creature to reach civilisation it will trigger a domino effect in which humanity will be destroyed. Unable to call for help and ill-equipped, they attempt to destroy it armed with little more than flamethrowers, and as their numbers are whittled down, one woman stands forward to defend her planet.
Except this isn't a synopsis of Alien and the woman isn't Ellen Ripley, but this supposed prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 masterpiece The Thing, which has so little original material to offer that it can't even come up with a new title, has managed to take what little difference there was between the plot of those two divergent films and blend them into one.
A family man is plagued by escalating visions of storms and violence, loss of control and having his family turn on him. Are they premonitions of a forthcoming apocalypse, symptoms of his mental illness, or is it all little more than a storm in a teacup? "You got a good life, Curtis," he is told, "That's the biggest compliment you can give a man," yet birds swarm in the air like madness.
Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts star in this psychological horror from Jim Sheridan, multiple Oscar nominated director of In The Name of The Father and My Left Foot, as a bereaved husband untangles the mystery of the death of his family while coming to realise he may be their killer. With the snowbound house surrounded by trees and shadow, could this be a spooky Christmas tale for the long nights?
Congratulations are due to Stephanie Meyer. Global domination is at her feet. Not only the creator of the Twilight novel series that made “dark fantasy” a literary genre, she is now listed as a producer on the film series of the same name. So she is doubly responsible for the content of this latest instalment of her teen torn between vampire and werewolf love affair. Presumably this is the film she wished to make? The key to her success, apparently, is to ensure that none of her target audience are challenged or shocked. Rather, she will win them over with blandness.
There is something about a period setting that makes a ghost story more effective. In modern times, science has pushed back the boundaries of the unknown, consigning mysticism and spiritualism to the shadows, illuminating the truths beneath our primitive beliefs. Similarly, where once spooky goings on were sufficient anchor from which to suspend disbelief in a film, the last decades have seen a shift towards the body horror of Cronenberg and Carpenter and the tiresome gorn of Roth and Wan. Where does this film fit into the spectrum of the supernatural? Grab a candle and creep up the darkened staircase with Geek Chocolate as we investigate...
Tarsem Singh is not a well known name, yet the chances are you have seen his work, through either the video he directed for REM's Losing My Religion in 1991, or, if you are so privileged, his 2006 globespanning arthouse release The Fall. Both of those were strongly influenced by Tarsem's interests in the world of art, recreating or drawing inspiration from great historical works, and the visual template of Immortals is no different, with the director describing it as "hardcore action film done in Renaissance painting style."
The first twenty five years of your life are free. Beyond that, you have one year, and every day you must earn more time to keep the clock topped up. If you are fortunate, you can stay ahead of the game, buy, beg or steal more time. If your clock runs out, so does your life. Andrew Niccol, writer/director of Gattaca, S1m0ne and Lord of War has returned with a new film addressing his familiar themes of identity and social responsibility, and it's about time.
In just about every interview or article I’ve read in the run up to the release of the Tintin movie, there has been a mention of Herge’s statement that Spielberg was the man to do justice to a big screen incarnation of his creation, the iconic boy reporter Tintin. It’s almost if they’ve been making excuses in advance...’well it’s what Herge would have wanted...’
So does the motion captured, mainstream, Hollywood take on that most European of characters Tintin, need that excuse then?
A surprise trip organised for a birthday party turns to horror as the rising tide cuts off escape from the the town of Amen in this low budget horror. Pack supplies and prepare to defend yourself if you want to join Geek Chocolate on this road trip.
Hallowe’en is the time to revel in the scary stories of our childhood, and this year Guillermo del Toro is no different, producing a remake of a 1973 TV movie he described as “the most terrifying thing on Earth.” Join Geek Chocolate as we ponder whether we are brave enough to follow in his footsteps into the shadows.
The reconfigured contents of two hard drives recovered from the wilds of Western Norway, a year spent investigating. The conclusion: the contents are real.Well of course they would say that. What we want to know is - are the contents entertaining? Take a trip into the woods with Geek Chocolate and find out...
Naive teenagers go for a camping trip, take a wrong turn, and end up in the clutches of psychotic woodsmen? How many times have we seen that story play out? Is there really anything new to say in such a worn out setup? Join Geek Chocolate as we head into the wilds in the company of Tucker and Dale.
In the constant tide of remakes and reimaginings that wash up on the cinematic shores, is it any wonder that immortal vampires are among those most often resurrected? Join Geek Chocolate as we take a bite out of an old favourite and see if it tastes as good as we remember.
Summer blockbuster season is in full swing, but very few films actually do bust down cityblocks, and if any are going to do it, it's going to be the third Transformers movie. Join Geek Chocolate as we find out if it's worth seeing the action or not.
JJ Abrams has directed two major sequels based on television shows, Mission: Impossible III and the 2009 reboot of Star Trek, but this summer he will unleash his first original project, Super 8. Our American correspondent Wes May wants us to take a trip to see if it will stand proudly with those films, and who are we at GeekChocolate to ever say no to a night out at the cinema?
The summer movie blockbuster season is truly with us, and on a raft of ebullient studio publicity and less enthusiastic word of mouth, arrives Green Lantern. Does it live up to the promises of the studio and the other films on offer this year, or will it disappoint. Join Geek Chocolate as we investigate.
The oldest staple of the horror movie, from F W Murnau's Nosferatu through the many other adaptations of Dracula and The Hunger, The Lost Boys, Immortal Blood, and Interview with the Vampire - what more needs to be said? When the latest vampire movies are polar opposites of a remake of a Swedish arthouse movie or the fourth Twilight adaptation, is there room for a different style of vampire movie to shake things up? GeekChocolate certainly thinks so...
In all the blockbuster multiplex bravado, there is space for something altogether more unique and challenging. Join GeekChocolate as we experience the lastest film from Greg Araki, starring Thomas Dekker, best known as John Connor on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles as he counts down to Day Zero in this pre-apocalyptic thriller.
What are the odds of a director who walked out of a franchise being welcomed back by the studio to helm a later entry? Not something many directors have experienced, but perhaps for Matthew Vaughn, making Stardust and Kick-Ass in the interim helped his case. Let's face it, movies and comics are where tales of victory against the odds make us all believe our dreams can come true, so take a trip to the cinema with GeekChocolate as the Marvel superheroes make a welcome return to the big screen in epic style.
A Spanish horror film reteaming the producer and leading lady of The Orphanage, is Julia's Eyes worth seeing? We at GeekChocolate certainly suggest you take a peek from behind the blindfold - unless you happen to be squeamish...
Hanna is not your average teenage girl, nor is Hanna the film you would expect from director Joe Wright, best known for his earlier period pieces, Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. Hanna Heller is a very different beast, but beneath her ferocity, she is as full of humanity and need as the characters of those literary adaptations.
As the summer blockbuster season opens, please get ready to share your popcorn with GeekChocolate welcomes our new movie reviewer as we find out whether the god of thunder swings a mighty hammer or not.
Join GeekChocolate for a trip through the pyramids and turn of the century Paris in the company of intrepid adventurer and journalist Adèle Blanc-Sec, guided by the hand of Luc Besson, director of The Fifth Element.