For the non-geek filmgoer, the term “lens flare” will mean absolutely nothing. But they will know it when they see it.
It’s a photographic technique that causes light to flatten and streak out into a horizon-like pattern that fills the screen. Director (and producer of “Super 8”) Steven Spielberg used them religiously in his earlier films of the ’70s and ’80s, as seen in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T.,” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” among others.
“Super 8’s” director, J.J. Abrams, relied on them in his “Star Trek” reboot, but it wasn’t until this latest film that I realized how nostalgic that little cinematic trick made me. Continue reading →
Let’s set things straight at the top of this review: though it stars the duo behind the much-loved genre send-ups of cops (“Hot Fuzz”) and zombies (“Shaun of the Dead”), do not expect the exact same payoff for their latest outing, “Paul.”
“Paul’s” leads Simon Pegg and Nick Frost still posesses the same chemistry that helped cement “Shaun” and “Fuzz” in the modern comedic pantheon, but the addition of director Greg Mattola alters the equation. It’s not for the better or worse, he just brings with him a style that changes the scope, cadance and rhythm.
Science fiction and road movies are the genres up for ribbing in “Paul.” Pegg and Frost are Graeme and Clive, two good-natured nerds who are living their dream of attending Comic-Con, followed by a chaser of RV travels through alien “hotspots” throughout the Midwest. It starts off rather timid, as though Pegg and Frost (who also wrote the screenplay), were almost too cautious to sting the very crowd who bestow geek love on the pair in real life.
But the numerous obvious gags soon fade away once “Paul’s” eponymous star takes center stage, and things really ramp up. Voiced by Seth Rogan (and, for all intents and purposes’ is almost every Rogan comedic character), Paul is the stoner’s “E.T.” He’s randy (not above “pressing ham” against the car window), ribald, and does not need a spacecraft to “blast off.” In “Shaun” and “Fuzz,” both leads were at odds with one another, but are best pals here, so when Paul arrives, he delivers some much-needed conflict. And Rogan, content with becoming the Cheech Marin of this generation does more than his share to help stir the pot.
The film takes all the obvious routes — from eluding inept-but-persistent Feds and covert officers (Bill Hader and Joe Truglio, the former, and Jason Bateman, the latter), Paul’s ability to regenerate and heal with touch, but it does so with such affection for its source material (“Close Encounters,” “E.T.,” “Alien” etc.), it makes these scenes fresh with a knowing wink and grin.
For lovers of the genre, there are countless in-jokes peppered throughout to satisfy, and director Mottola manages to ground the film, even considering the film’s outlandish subject matter. The director, who helmed the sweetly nostalgic “Adventureland,” brings the same delicate focus on friendship and makeshift family.
Perhaps because the film is more singularly focused (the Speilbergian Mythology of aliens is the one to which this film most closely aligns), many may fault “Paul” for not broadening its net as widely as Pegg and Frost did with “Shaun” and “Fuzz.” But all feels right in “Paul’s” universe, right down to its final scene that is as touching as it is amusing.
“Paul” is a head trip with spaceships, and is accessible enough to let everyone on board to enjoy the ride.
Jason Statham, the reigning B-movie badass, has managed to kick out a career that has flirted with Bruce Willis-level prowess, while avoiding stepping in steaming piles of Steven Segal in the process.
Remake is a dirty word for many audience members repeatedly burned by bastardizations of youthful memories by high-gloss, empty remakes. But for marginal film’s like 1972’s ‘The Mechanic,’ a Statham-infused jolt of adrenaline is exactly what is called for.
Director Michael Winner’s original featured Charles Bronson as a monotone, unflappable executioner. His voice seldom raises above a grumble, and his turgid actions would be at home in a George Romero zombie film. He plays Arthur Bishop, a methodical assassin who shuffles through his job of contract killing with the enthusiasm of an accountant. When his assignment includes taking out his mentor, he barely blinks as he follows through. Continue reading →
The original ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ became the equivalent of a cinematic triple-dog dare for many a youngster growing up in the VHS age. When my friends and I got our grubby, teenaged, perverted paws on a copy, we made an event of it. Parents gone, basement viewing, lights out, feigned machismo: all was in place for this taboo screening.
As it progressed, one by one, we began to unceremoniously bow out, despite our lust for blood and boobies. We could endure hours of Jason plucking the limbs off campers or Michael stabbing his way through another Halloween, but this one just didn’t sit right with any of us. We ultimately decided to make a pact to just watch “the circumcision scene,” wince mightily, and be done with it.
We are about halfway through the year and on the cusp of a film and television show remake (The Karate Kid and The A-Team, respectively), so let us pose a question: Which remake being released in 2010 will suck the least? The most?
Here’s a quick rundown of what has been released thus far (and in the very near future), their budgets and grosses, and trailers of the originals:
Film: I Spit on Your Grave (aka Day of the Woman) Year of original: 1978
Remake release: 2009, 2010
We usually ask why when it comes to remakes, but this one is perhaps more perplexing than the average do-over. Known only in infamy, the pseudo-revenge-fantasy film is resoundingly viewed as a shallow, misogynistic slice of cinematic sewage known for a couple of creative kills, an excruciatingly long rape scene, the fact that it starred Buster Keaton’s granddaughter, and the film often cited by Roger Ebert as “one of the worst films ever made.”
It’s known more for an extreme example of era grindhouse and usually viewed more as a test of endurance than in appreciation. That has not stopped director Steven Monroe (he of “Ice Twisters,” “Ogre” and who can forget “Sasquatch Mountain?”) and Anchor Bay films for dredging it back to the surface for a remake.
The completed film stars Sarah Butler as Jennifer, the ax-tossing protagonist who exacts revenge on a gang of brutes who brutalized her in her remote cabin. Anchor Bay Films has picked up the rights, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which reports that a fall release in the works, followed by a 2011 DVD release.
For those who care to see the trailer for the original vile heap of bottom-feeding titillation, here’s the trailer:
Film: Deliverance (R)
Year: 1972 Writer: James Dickey Director: John Boorman Starring: Burt Reynolds as Lewis John Voight as Ed Ned Beatty as Bobby Ronny Cox as Drew
By: Gurn Blanston
Memories: There are a few things that pop into most people’s heads when you mention the movie Deliverance:Dueling Banjos, inbred hillbillies, squealing like a pig, pretty mouths, but after not seeing it for many years we may be in danger of forgetting what a powerful movie this was, and still is.
I’m not sure when I first Deliverance, it couldn’t have been at its release because I was still too young, but when I finally did have the opportunity to view it, on HBO I guess, because it was an uncut version, I remember being riveted by the whitewater scenes and the brutal portrayal of clashing cultures set in the Georgia backcountry.
Now let’s get some things straight. I am a hillbilly. Well, I am the descendent of hillbillies anyway. On a farm in North Carolina ,I have a relative we refer to as Aunt Mamie who once let me help milk a cow, and my father still crumbles his cornbread into a glass of milk and eats it with a spoon. When I was in junior high, I played the five-string bluegrass banjo, which I thought at the time made me cooler. It didn’t. With all this to consider I was pre-disposed to be forgiving of the backwoods denizens, after watching the movie, not so much.
In the movie, four buddies, John as Ed, Ronny Cox as Drew, Ned Beatty as Bobby and a rugged, outdoorsy Burt Reynolds as Lewis, their erstwhile leader, decide that instead of a golf outing they will take a canoe trip down the fictitious Cahulawassee River in rural Georgia, wanting to see the unspoiled land before a dam is erected and the entire area flooded. The group encounters the locals and takes a rather condescending viewpoint about them. For their part, the hillbillies view the group as a bunch of stuck-up city boys.
As they travel down the river they get separated, Ed and Bobby in one canoe, Drew and Lewis in the other. Ed and Bobby run afoul of two of the good old boys roaming the back country and end up being beaten, tied up, and in Bobby case made to “squeal like a pig” before being stuffed like a turkey by an obviously sexually confused brain-dead hick. Lewis ends up killing the offending Redneck with a bow and arrow, and then the boys take off down the rapids trying to make good their escape, pursued by the kin folk of the skewered sodomite they buried back in the mountains.
After Drew is either killed or commits suicide, I was never sure which, the three remaining friends manage to escape, but not before running into the local sheriff, played by the author James Dickey, who warns them to “Don’t ever do nothin’ like this again…Don’t come back up here”. Good advice.
Growing up I’m sure that most of us have made the “squeal like a pig” or the “you got a pretty mouth” reference in jest. Or maybe that was just me and I have some unresolved gender identification issues, either way, if you go back and watch this film I think you will be struck by the realistic brutality of that and other scenes that can sometimes make the flick hard to watch.
This was an important film of the time, it was nominated for three Academy Awards:Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing, (it didn’t win) and was seen as a dark representation of mans dangerous struggle with adversity.
The film has stuck with me, certain scenes more than others, but all in all this is still one of my favorite all time films.
Chris served as a technical advisor on the film, which he says is just a fancy word for “warm body,” but got to see his father’s words come to life directly in front of him. He also recounts the tumultuous legacy the film’s impact had on his father and his family.Chris’s books include With the Contras: A Reporter in the Wilds of Nicaragua (Simon & Schuster, 1986); Expats: Travels from Tripoli to Tehran (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990) and Innocent Blood: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, 1997). His most recent novel, The Sleeper, was published by Simon & Schuster in September 2004. The New York Times called it “a first-rate thriller.”
He has also written for Foreign Affairs, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Wired, Rolling Stone, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Republic, among other publications. He is a frequent commentator on CNN, MSNBC and National Public Radio, as well as other television and radio networks.
Chris is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, where he was formerly an Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow; of the Overseas Press Club of America; and of the Anglo-American Press Association of Paris. He is also a visiting professor at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom.