It wouldn't be Halloween without at least one horror review. Luckily, it's not just horror we have, it's an actual Halloween season movie, Trick 'r Treat.
This movie has been through the distribution equivalent of 'development hell', as it was produced 2 years ago and only now released. Obviously, it has a time sensitive release window, not that stops Rob Zombie's summer release of H2. Having a first-time director probably doesn't help the release schedule, but it looks like WB only trusted it enough for a straight to video.
Instead of recent seasonal horror films that are more slasher/monster related, this follows the tradition of Halloween story telling and incorporating multiple stories around a common theme (Halloween, duh). Much like the pulp fiction horror flicks of the '80s like Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt, these stories start with an innocuous plot and end with a surprising twist.
Not only does it take place during Halloween, but it directly uses the traditions of jack 'o laterns, poisoned candy and monsters. Sometimes the traditions are treated as silly nonsense, but not following the rules can certainly lead to unfortunate outcomes.
There's no real famous actors in the film besides Dylan Baker and Anna Paquin, but that's a strategic move to avoid the pitfall of many recent failed horror flicks. Notable faces takes people out of the experience and they usually want to steal the show.
And yes, the scary child thing on the poster does make an appearance and even shows his face. It's kinda silly and hearkens to a particular Halloween horror film. More than just a scary character, he acts as the 'spirit' of Halloween that takes revenge on anyone not following the traditions.
This is one of the best actual Halloween movies made in recent years. It's low on violence and gore, but is full of suspense and even a few laughs (tricks and treats!). Good thing it's already on home video by now, so you can rent it and watch it with friends for your party.
We're not just getting one horror review, we're getting two. And next week, it's Paranormal Activity!
Don't worry, there's a long list of movies that I have to get through, but to appease the review gods, I'm tackling the romcom of the year, The Proposal.
The Proposal adapts the age-old American routine of marrying an immigrant to prevent them from being deported, while making the family believe it. Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) and his boss Margaret (Sandra Bullock) make a deal to defraud immigration law to keep her in the country. To add some variety, while Margaret is a rich New York executive who has never needed anyone, Andrew is a rural Alaskan blue-blood with "you can never go home again" issues. He knows everything about her, but she doesn't care to know anything about him. Imagine Captain Kathryn Janeway (ST:VOY) forcing Neelix to marry her so she can stay in Starfleet, but then he turns in to Tom Paris.
Most of these comedies play on the idea that the two don't actually love each other and eventually fall in love and this is no exception. Sprinkled throughout are encounters with Andrews ex-girlfriend to hint that he will actually have someone to go back to after the affair, but we all know how these end.
Aside from the painful "love dialogue", the awkwardness factor gears up when everyone's favorite gay accountant Oscar Nuñez makes a creepy John Turturro-ish appearance as the caterer/stripper/clergy. He certainly leaves room for Betty White to steal the real comic relief factor as the crazy grandma. Other than that, the other characters all but don't exist until the wedding.
This is one of the most perposterous romcoms of the year and includes its own moment of clarity that explains that Andrew really loves Margaret and didn't have the chance to tell her before she left. It's ingenious really, to explain something as it's happening. And they do it all with only a minimal amount of Apple plugging.
Oh yea, watch the credits. "Is this a game show?"
Neill Blomkamp, a South African 3-D animator who directed an excellent Halo short a few years ago, brings us what arguably "should have been the Halo movie." Instead of bringing us a Halo movie, Peter Jackson has produced a slightly different alien encounter movie with Blomkamp, District 9.
District 9 is an adaptation of a similar short film by Blomkamp called Alive in Joburg, which explores themes of apartheid in South Africa, using the allegory of extraterrestrials taking refuge in their slums.
It mainly follows Wikus van der Merwe, an agent with MNU (Multi-National United) who was chosen to by the director (and father-in-law) to oversee the relocation of the aliens. The relocation turns into a seige and eventually a manhunt. After an accidental encounter with some contraband, his objective changes and he finds out what he's really made of.
Many have been saying that this is in the style of Cloverfield for its shaky, diegetic film style. The film starts as a documentary regarding MNU relocating the aliens from District 9 to District 10 (no word on Districts 1-8), but quickly becomes a standard film, following separate characters and events (basically omniscient third person). The problem with the film's attempt to use diegetic footage is that is too distracting to be effective. Much like Cloverfield, the erratic camera can be sickening for the motion sensitive. Even putting that aside, the alternating between the documentary and security coverage to non-diegetic handcams and the awkard gun-cam (attached to guns to give a static perspective of soldiers). Any more diegetic film usage and it may have appeared like The Blair Witch Project, used entirely as a documentary, piecing together evidence footage.
The aliens, while introduced as insect-like soldiers with no motivation, seem suprisingly conversational (they understand English and some humans understand them). The design is well executed and most closeups seem realistic. As for the weapons and even the alien mecha (because what would alien combat be without mecha?) is a bit perposterous. Then again, realism isn't necessarily a key factor in such an allegorical piece.
All said and done, Wikus is an extremely sympathetic character. Much like in Cloverfield, we see scenes of his life interjecthed throughout the film, mostly portrayals of his affection for his wife. His physical matches his character transformation, as the soft-spoken office worker turns into a foul mouthed action hero. Pretty interesting, but one of the few actually compelling parts of the film.
District 9 takes the prize for most imaginitive marketing campaign of the year, using propaganda posters to warn of non-human activity. The problem with that is gives a slightly different impression of what the film is actually about. The intent isn't to kill the aliens, it's to coexist, if albeit with 20 km between the two people. Lesson learned? Not until Wikus is imprisoned indefinitely for philosophical reasons and then freed with the support of the minority.
A Christmas Carol
Audiences were treated to a short peek at Disney's new CGI interpretation of the Dickens Christmas classic, starring the voice(s) of Jim Carrey. Expect it to be more silly than serious, as the teaser shows that there will be a lot of physical/slapstick comedy and children's humor. The film is being produced in Disney 3D, so expect a lot of lame excuses to play with perspective.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Finally, a reboot of the famously outrageous horror series, having nothing to do with the creators and not starring Robert Englund as the iconic villain. Jackie Earle Haley (Rorscach) stars as Freddy Kreuger, sporting a much more horrific visage than ever before. Expect to finally be afraid of the Kreug, as the creators promise that nothing will be funny about this nightmare murderer. The closest Wes Craven ever reached to horror on the franchise was New Nightmare, but it shouldn't be hard to overcome that benchmark. Let's just hope that it doesn't suffer the same fate as the reboots for Halloween and Friday the 13th.
Alice in Wonderland
Tim Burton, master of all things unsettling, is having his way with the beloved Disney movie involving hallucenogenic drugs. As much as we'd imagine Alice being the star, it appears that Johnny Depp is headlining the film as The Mad Hatter. Expect similar effects as Willy Wonka, distoring reality and ruining yet another novel.
Ridley Scott has just announced that that he is attached to direct the new Alien movie, which will not be a remake, but a preqel. This is better news, as it should link the Alien/Predator canon together, even just implicitly. Definitely looking forward to more gut-busting horror.
The most anticipated press conference (aside from Twilight: New Moon, gah) at Comic Con was Jame's Cameron's Avatar. The futuristic sci-fi film will mix live action and CGI. Various 25 minutes of the film were screened, leaving the audience heavily anticipated the final release.
Writer/Director Christopher Nolan made no appearance at the Con, but at the Book of Eli panel, Gary Oldman answered a question specifically asking when a third Batman film will be made with the subtle, "filming begins next year." No story, characters, or release date has been set.
Book of Eli
The post-apocalyptic film stars Gary Oldman and Denzel Washington is quickly being called the Fallout movie, the trailer supports this.
The would-be makers of the Halo movie are almost finished with the interesting take on alien invasion. The aliens are harbored in South Africa and the military holds them for intelligence.
Formerly known as Tron 2.0, the surprise sequel to the 1982 precursor to The Matrix, Tron Legacy was briefly demonstrated at Comic Con 08 with a short VFX test. The teaser showed a light cycle battle that ends with an older Kevin Flynn overseeing a younger, virtual avatar of himself defeating another "program". It's no longer a game, says Flynn 2.0.
Alternate Reality Games have already begun at www.flynnlives.com
Plans are in the works to make a fourth film, but original director Gore Verbinski is not involved.
The Marvel Comics mini-series by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. is soon hitting the big screen. Kick Ass is about young teens who take it upon themselves to fight crime, without super powers of any kind.
The first starring role for fox Megan Fox, as seen bending over in films like Transformers, is finally getting the star treatment in the slasher expected to come out later this year. Notable scenes include Megan Fox naked. That's apparently all the creators have planned.
The Green Hornet
With the most unexpected film announcement at Comic Con, comedy star Seth Rogen unveiled the new version of The Black Beauty, the pimped out ride of TV spy hero Green Hornet. Rogen will produce and star in the film, which has no release date or reason to exist.
Iron Man 2
The heavy metal hero has wrapped filming and is currently on its promotion rounds. One of the most successful Marvel films and the flagship of introducing the SHIELD/Avengers cross-over. New characters will be Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen), with a new James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). Viral marketing has already begun at www.starkindustriesnow.com
May 7, 2010
The DC Comics western will star Josh Brolin and Megan Fox as a hooker. Hm.
Terry Gilliam's Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassass
The late Heath Ledger's partially filmed performance will be included, but the story has changed to involve his character changing appearance to that of three others, including Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell.
Where the Wild Things Are
The beloved children's book is being adapted into a live action film and is quickly becoming one of the year's most anticipated.
The orignal tagline says it best: "It rests on 13 acres of earth over the very center of hell..!" Unfortunately, it doesn't apply to either original or current film, but it does refer to The Last House on the Left.
This remake of the 1973 Wes Craven directorial debut is practically a spitting image of the original, adapted for modern times.
Mari, a teenage girl on vacation with her parents, heads up to the family lake house for the weekend. When she takes the car into town to see a friend, their search for a "good time" leads to being kidnapped by escaped prisoners. The criminals get the girls close enough to the lake house than Mari makes a run for it, but is severely injured with no hope of rescue. The gang of cons take refuge at the lake house with Mari's parents unwittingly offering assistance, but when clues of their identity begin to stack up, it's not the criminals that need to be feared.
Much like the original film, this is surprisingly graphic. Not that it shows a lot, but there is a rape and some of the deaths are pretty gruesome. In fact, the very last scene is downright shocking. The acting isn't great, which may be a nod to the type of film its trying to be. The score isn't epic, but gets me into the Sam Raimi kind of mood. I have a feeling that this didn't do too well in theaters.
In all honesty, it's really not that good. It's not a horror film, but more of a psychological thriller. It's definitely one of the better horror/thrillers of the year, but that's not saying much. Take a look if you're really into '70s cult thrillers.