Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
Eli Roth's name may be the selling point, but the cast is what makes it work
It has become increasingly difficult to build a mockumentary that the audience accepts as "real" on any level, even as the format has become increasingly popular with filmmakers who often use the style as a crutch.
Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko could be considered pioneers of the format, and I published a piece a few weeks ago that repurposed some things I wrote about them and their earlier efforts in the field. Right away, people went nuts all over again, accusing them of being mean and cruel and damn near sociopathic, and you should read the piece I wrote so you get some sense of what it was they're alleged to have done.
The thing is, I never really "believed" any of their films, but I think they ring true in the way they tap the awful feelings many people have about family, or the way they feed into the things people suspect about fraternity hazing, or in the case of the very good "Mail Order Wife," the way they comment on the very nature of making a documentary and stepping into someone else's real life in search of something you can digest as "entertainment." They've always used the form to play with that tension between "I'm watching a film" and "documentaries are real," and it never seems like they use it as a crutch instead of making a "real" movie.
How did this freaky horror mockumentary come together?
I'll have my review of Daniel Stamm's "The Last Exorcism" later tonight, but first, I wanted to share with you a couple of interviews from the other day, when I sat down at the SLS Hotel here in Los Angeles to talk with producer Eli Roth and stars Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell about the movie.
Eli is a polarizing figure in modern horror, to say the least, but before I knew him as "the director of 'Cabin Fever' and 'Hostel,'" I knew him as "that dude from Butt-Numb-A-Thon who loves movies." And no matter what, he remains an arden supporter of genre film in general. He's using his powers for good, producing films for other people, genuinely doing his best to bring original horror to the bigscreen and supporting new voices. When I hear fanboys get upset because of who Eli's friends are, I think they assume that was always the case, but Eli should serve as an inspirational story for them. He's a guy who worked his way up, who got to where he is not because of his friends, but because he threw himself into his work and hustled and earned that firs shot. It cracks me up to see him as an actor in something like "Piranha 3D," and I would think his appearance in that film would be a treat for fans and non-fans alike. They kill him reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal good.
Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell are both new to me, which really works for the film. It's smart to put them together for the interviews, since much of the movie is a dance between the two of them. This is not a film with a big FX budget. 90% of what you will or won't find scary is simply performance, and it's almost disturbing how sweet Bell seems in interviews, because in the film, she's deeply, indelibly upsetting.
Ratings battle lines are drawn in last-minute skirmish
In a festival season where news is normally made at festivals in places like Venice, Toronto, and Telluride, it's not often that one of the most significant moments takes place at Film4 Fright Fest before any of the other fests even get underway.
And yet, that's what just happened.
The film, "A Serbian Film" will no longer be screened at the festival after the BBFC demanded over four minutes of cuts to the movie before they would certify it for screening.
According to the website "Screenjabber," FrightFest co-director Alan Jones released a statement to the press that included the following quote:
"Film4 Fright Fest has decided not to show ."
Oh, that's rotten.
As Marvel continues to expand their universe, Iron Fist gets his turn at bat
Back in 2005, I was at a party that was thrown for the premiere of "Masters Of Horror," and Ray Park was one of the guests. We talked about what was already at that point a longtime dream for him, playing Danny Rand, also known as the Immortal Iron Fist. He was first attached to the film back in 2001.
Will he finally end up playing the character? If I was a betting man, I'd wager it will not happen with him in the role. I just can't imagine Marvel Studios taking a chance on the film with him in the lead role at this point, and for a while now, it's seemed like a longshot that there would be a film at all.
Today, word broke that Marvel has hired Rich Wilkes to write the latest attempt at nailing down a film version of "The Immortal Iron Fist." Wilkes was the writer who created "xXx," and whatever you thought of the final film, the script was fun and the action in it was great on the page.
So who or what is Iron Fist? He's gone through a lot of different writers over the years, with a lot of changes to his basic character. He's a martial arts expert, trained in another dimension, who mastered the greatest skill of all, the Iron Fist, which gives his already-considerable physical power a supernatural boost.
Another amazing Rolling Roadshow event takes shape
A few weeks ago, I went to the opening night of this year's Rolling Roadshow tour, and it was lovely to sit out under the flight path of planes landing at LAX watching "Jackie Brown." I wish I'd had the time to follow the entire tour around. If I could have taken my wife to see the "Rocky" trilogy on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it would have been one of the defining movie moments of her life.
That's what the Alamo Drafthouse and the Rolling Roadshow have always been about... creating those amazing movie memories for people. With Fantastic Fest coming at the end of September, I can only imagine what sort of trouble the Drafthouse is planning for audiences, and with today's press release, it's obvious that they're already gearing up for an amazing experience for four lucky filmgoers.
Here's what they're planning:
"Fantastic Fest will host a Gala Screening of Buried at The Paramount Theatre on Thursday, September 23, with Ryan Reynolds and director Rodrigo Cortés in attendance, as part of their opening night programming of the festival.
Buried, which Lionsgate will release in select theaters on September 24th and wide on October 8th, stars Reynolds as a truck driver and family man who wakes up six feet underground with no idea of who put him there or why. Buried with only a cell phone and a lighter, his contact with the outside world and ability to piece together clues that could help him discover his location are maddeningly limited.
Hayden Christensen, John Leguizamo, and Thandie Newton at the end of the world
Brad Anderson is one of those filmmakers like Michael Winterbottom who seems to have escaped the normal trap of getting stuck working in only one genre. Anderson has a definite flair for horror, with films like "The Mechanist" and "Session 9" on his resume, as well as episodes of both "Fear Itself" and "Masters Of Horror." But he's also made films like "Transsiberian" and "Happy Accidents" and "Next Stop Wonderland," and he's directed a bunch of episodes of the trippy sci-fi show "Fringe" lately.
If you've seen his horror films, then you know that mood is incredibly important to him, much more than overt scares. His movie "Session 9" is one of the great slow-burn horror films of the 2000s, and it looks like his new film, "Vanishing On 7th Street," is going to be more of the same. Very good news indeed.
I can't believe we're just over two weeks away from the Toronto Film Festival. In a way, it's already begun, since today I saw my first Toronto screening, and I've got more this week and next week both. I intentionally did not watch the trailer for Aronofsky's "Black Swan" because I know I'm seeing it first thing first day, and I don't want to ruin any of it for myself. As with last year, I'm going to make sure to cover all of the Midnight Madness offerings for you, starting with "Fubar 2" on opening night, and then including titles like "Super," "Bunraku," James Wan's "Insidious," a new film from John Carpenter, and of course, Anderson's "Vanishing."
First Extended Look is Promising
Ok ok, officially this is not a film, and doesn't belong on Motion Captured, however we've decided to make an exception because the trailer that AMC released today for "The Walking Dead" is just so darn great we wanted you to see it if you haven't already.
Following, for the most part, the first few issues of the comic, we see Officer Rick Grimes wake up in his hospital bed to find the world overrun by zombies and his family missing. He travels to Atlanta by horseback in search of them.
The comic was conceived as a never-ending version of the Romero movies, and it falls very much on the side of "Team Slow Zombie" drawing scares not from imminent danger of attack, but from the slow, unstoppable and quickly overwhelming power of thousands and thousands of zombies. (Much scarier than running zombies in my book. Look at that tank shot!) The comic is also notoriously "talky," we will have to wait and see if this trait is passed on to the TV show.
The creators of one of the best English cult comedies engage in a loose, informal chat
It's no secret if you've read my work over the years that I am a rabid fan of British comedy. I think it's one of those things you develop a lifelong taste for when you're young, and in my case, it led to a lifelong hunger for the new.
One of the things that's been fun about being a fan of UK comedy since I was a kid was the way I would hear about things I should see. Word-of-mouth, worn videotapes passed hand-to-hand, years of searching... all par for the course. In recent years, DVD has finally become a real option for American fans, but even then, years can go by between first hearing of something and finally seeing it. Sure, there are uber-famous titles like "The Office" that make the jump quickly, but most titles remain cult items and can take much longer.
Case in point: "Look Around You."
There are few shows I can compare this to, and that's a good thing. The work of Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper, this mock-serious science show is surreal, silly, and desert-dry for every second of each ten-minute episode. It's not for everyone, but it's one of those shows that fans get protective about because it feels like it was made personally for them.
It's finally available in the US, where Adult Swim's been showing it for a little while, and where BBC Home Video has now finally released the show's first season on home video, and just before Comic-Con, I sat down to dinner with Devin (CHUD) Faraci, Jeremy (Ain't It Cool) Smith, Damon (Collider) Houx, and Serafinowicz and Popper to talk about the U.S. DVD debut. It's nearly impossible to separate who asked what, and the audio of the dinner was a hideous mess, almost impossible to transcribe. The conversation may have gotten away from us just a bit.
I think it's better for it.
Plus the animation genius discusses the future of Studio Ghibli
Hayao Miyazaki is one of the greatest working filmmakers.
Not just in animation, although that is what he's known for, but in all of film, in my opinion. Miyazaki has created a body of work that is both profound and artistically gorgeous, working in big mythological tropes. His work transcends age and language and culture. It is universal, easily understood by children but with enough depth to reward repeat viewings by adults. His world view is uncommonly human, and his films deal with themes about who we are, who we should be, and who we must resist the urge to become.
There are films of his that have become iconic, characters that have become immediately recognizable around the world, and there are other films that are not particularly well-known, but that are equally worthy and interesting. There are few filmmakers with the breadth of filmography that Miyazaki has, and when even your relatively obscure titles are fantastic, it's a sign of just how innate his talent really is.
"Porco Rosso" has never been one of the films I really hear people rave about when Miyazaki's name comes up. I know a few hardcore fans who appreciate the story of a fighter ace who, dehumanized by his experience with war, literally turns into an anthropomorphic pig. The film feels like a classic Hollywood movie from the heyday of the studio system, and it's one of the greatest expressions of Miyazaki's career-long obsession with flight. The lead is one of Miyazaki's most prickly and particular creations, which may be the reason people don't embrace him the same way they embrace characters like Totoro or Kiki or Ponyo. It's not easy to love Porco Rosso, but it's worth it. He is an amazing character, and just looking at the actors who have voiced him in different international dubs of the character (both Jean Reno and Michael Keaton have played him), you can tell he's not the typical lead for a "children's film."
Will flying fish be in our future?
In a move that may seem a tad contrived, Dimension Films has announced today they will be making sequel to bitey fish movie "Piranha 3D". The Film opened in 6th place for the weekend, making a little over ten million dollars, about half of its stated production budget of 24 million. But this was apparently enough to announce a sequel.
The reviews have been strong, and I'm sure the producers see it making its money back, especially once it opens internationaly.The announcement should fuel talk of movies with similar opening weekends, like say, Scott Pilgrim, and the miracle of well managed expectations.
For me it's great to see a full-on genre pic that wore its gore and zaniness as a badge of honor in all its publicity. I have not seen it yet so I cannot speculate as to any returning stars or the storyline. I hold the original in a special place in my heart, as I do most New World Pictures.