<p>Watching the new short film collaboration between Kanye West and Spike Jonze, you get the sense he almost saw the Taylor Swift incident coming.</p>

Watching the new short film collaboration between Kanye West and Spike Jonze, you get the sense he almost saw the Taylor Swift incident coming.

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: Kanye West in a new short film by Spike Jonze

A fascinating collision of music, film, the weekend's biggest movie, and pop's biggest ego

Okay, now this is just weird.

I remember when we got word that Spike Jonze was directing a short film starring Kanye West.  Spike said repeatedly that it is not a music video, and it turns out, he's serious... it's not a music video.  Since I'm not a huge fan of Kanye's music, I'm not even sure if the one song you hear is a new one or not.

The weird part, though, is that this was all shot well before the Taylor Swift incident that turned Kanye into a target for all sorts of outrage, and yet if you'd told me that this short film was a direct reaction to that incident, I would believe you.  It feels that directly connected.

So now here we are... it's the Monday morning after Spike's film finally opened, capping off a five year journey to get this thing onscreen.  And Kanye's still trying to recover some sort of public standing after making himself look like a drunken ass who picked on a little girl on the best night of her life.  And although this film actually premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival earlier this year, and there have been images from it online already, but this is the first time I've seen the entire thing available, and it's fascinating.  Kanye absolutely plays a miserable, drunken, egotistical version of himself, so obnoxious that no one can even maintain eye contact with him.

And after he heads into that bathroom, well... let's just say it is obvious that this is not just a simple music video.

So here we go... as Kanye West has to deal with what I can only interpret as his own Ego...

Read Full Post
<p>Is Babyface a new horror icon, or just the latest attempt?</p>

Is Babyface a new horror icon, or just the latest attempt?

Credit: Warner Premiere

HorrorFest 2009: 'The Hills Run Red'

Direct-to-video slasher films can't be good... can they?

Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.

When my first "Masters Of Horror" episode aired, reviews were generally pretty good, but there was a vocal percentage of the audience that immediately accused my partner and I of being "rip-off artists."  The particular sources I saw cited most often were Roman Polanski's "The Ninth Gate" and the Theodore Roszak novel Flicker.  Thing is, I hadn't read Flicker.  I'll cop to having read and admired Throat Sprockets, a great Tim Lucas novel, but even that is something I just admire in terms of taking film seriously as a source of horror, and not as any direct inspiration.  I've read Flicker since, and I think it's about two-thousand times more dense and amazing than anything we were trying to do with "Cigarette Burns," but I don't really think they're connected in any way.  And the "Ninth Gate" comparison works on a very surface level, but not really on any sort of beat-for-beat comparison.  I don't think our story for the show was something groundbreaking... it's a procedural, with supernatural and horrific stops along the way, each one advancing the mystery in some way.  Verrrrry basic structure.  We grafted on my experiences with the people in the print collecting community and the darkest underbelly of horror fandom, and we tried to figure out a way to tell a globe-trotting mystery on a $2 million budget and ten days to shoot.  You know?  We didn't create the supernatural mystery looking for an artifact any more than Polanski did, and both of us working in the same basic form doesn't mean one led to the other.

So I'm sensitive to the issue of being accused of borrowing from someone else's work.  That's why I didn't respond to any of the early e-mails or messages sent to me saying that there was a film coming out that sounded "just like" our script for "Cigarette Burns."  I know how easily stuff like that gets blown out of proportion.  And seeing the film, I can say with confidence that what they were trying to do is nothing like what "Cigarette Burns" tried to do.  Dave Parker's "The Hills Run Red" is indeed the story of a long-missing film, but aside from that, there's nothing that is similar to my film, and anyone trying to make that case is selling short a genuine attempt to subvert the slasher genre in interesting ways.

Read Full Post
<p>Jocelin Donahue, star of 'House Of The Devil,' obviously doesn't know what happens to babysitters in horror films.&nbsp; Silly babysitter.</p>

Jocelin Donahue, star of 'House Of The Devil,' obviously doesn't know what happens to babysitters in horror films.  Silly babysitter.

Credit: Magnet Releasing

HorrorFest 2009: 'House Of The Devil'

Ti West's '80s homage is effective and evocative

Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.

Ti West has been building a reputation among horror fans as an expert in the art of the slow burn, and more power to him for exhibiting something that seems to be increasingly rare in filmmakers in any genre:  patience.

"The House Of The Devil" is currently available via VOD, and on Halloween, there will be a limited theatrical run as well.  I think Magnolia is on the cutting-edge of distribution models right now, and if you want to know what the future of distribution looks like, don't look to the studios... look to Magnolia/Magnet and the way they have all but collapsed the typical windows of the past.  I saw the film at Fantastic Fest, and I thought it was a smart, slight, stylish film that plays some clever riffs off the "Satanic Panic" phase of the early '80s, paying tribute to '80s horror without being a broad, obvious exercise in nostalgia, which is what I was sort of afraid it might be.

If you weren't alive in the early '80s, you probably don't remember how much the mainstream media played up the idea of Satanic cults and human sacrifice.  Geraldo Rivera, for example, built much of his early success out of the exploitation of this sort of paranoia, and even then, I was amazed at how easily people swallowed such obvious nonsense.  Still, it crept into mainstream culture in such a pervasive way that even now, there are people who believe that there really were a rash of Satan-worship murders back then, and Ti West obviously remembers that moment with unabashed fondness.  His film, a period piece that never winks at the audience about when it's set, doesn't just recreate the era onscreen.  It actually feels like a film that was made in the '80s that just got lost somehow and rediscovered now.  There's an authenticity to the filmstock, to the visual zoom-friendly vocabulary of the piece, and West plays it all so straight, so sincerely, that I stopped thinking about it at a certain point.

Read Full Post
<p>Honestly... who hasn't had at least one date end up like this?</p>

Honestly... who hasn't had at least one date end up like this?

Credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

HorrorFest 2009: 'Night Of The Creeps' is resurrected on BluRay

Fred Dekker's '80s cult classic lives again

Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.

This almost never happens to me.  It's rare that I revisit a film almost 20 years after my first viewing and suddenly like it a lot more than I originally did, but in this case, "Night Of The Creeps" surprised me.

Fred Dekker directed two films in the '80s that have always had a fairly vocal fanbase, and to some extent, I've always been on the outside looking in on both.  I know people who are rabid about "The Monster Squad," and almost to a person, they're about five or six years younger than I am.  When the film came out, I was a projectionist at the theater where it played, and it left me sort of cold.  I was at that age where the mere whiff of something being "for kids" was enough to put me off.  With "Night Of The Creeps," I thought it was okay, but not great, and it was never something I felt drawn to revisit.

Over time, though, both films picked up a healthy cult, fed in no small part by their total unavailability on video, and a couple of years ago, "The Monster Squad" finally got its moment when it was released on DVD for the first time.  I gave it another chance, and while I think it's perfectly okay, it's still not really a film I feel a connection to, and more than anything, it reminds me of "The Goonies" in all the ways I don't like.  I know, I know... that's a sacred cow, and I am required by law to love and worship "The Goonies," but I don't.  I've always thought it was more noisy and frantic than anything else, and "The Monster Squad" hits me in the same way.  I can appreciate that they have their fans... but they're not really for me.

"Night Of The Creeps," though?  I'm onboard now.  I'm not sure what my initial complaints were, but looking at it now, with essentially fresh eyes since I have so little knowledge of the film overall, I thought it was a fun, inventive sci-fi horror film that demonstrates exactly what makes Fred Dekker's horror geek heart beat, and the new BluRay release from Sony is a gorgeous gift for longtime fans that should make the discovery of the movie for new audiences a pure pleasure.

Read Full Post
<p>How is it that people who look this happy all want to scare the crap out of you?&nbsp; From left, John Erik Dowdle, Drew Dowdle, and M. Night Shyamalan</p>

How is it that people who look this happy all want to scare the crap out of you?  From left, John Erik Dowdle, Drew Dowdle, and M. Night Shyamalan

The Dowdles and M. Night Shyamalan send Chris Messina to the 'Devil'

They finally pull the trigger on the first on the 'Night Chronicles'

It was inevitable.

I've long maintained that in his heart of hearts, M. Night Shyamalan wants to be Rod Serling when he grows up.  Which is a good goal for any writer to have, in my opinion.  Serling was a guy who never met a twist ending he didn't like, and who believed that every fantastic premise needed a kernal of moral truth at the center, and he was a prolific writer as well as a deeply influential producer.

When the announcement was made a while ago that Shyamalan was developing a branded series of projects called "The Night Chronicles," there was much eye-rolling and sarcasm, and he's certainly earned a bit of that.  But I like the idea of him using other writers and directors and giving them a chance to make something under the protective umbrella of the M. Night name.  In particular, I like the idea of him giving John and Erik Dowdle the chance.

I took a lot of heat for programming "The Poughkeepsie Tapes" at Butt-Numb-A-Thon a few years ago, and I regret nothing.  I know that horror is a very personal genre, and what you respond to depends on your own experience and your own personal fears, and I am of the opinion that the horror genre is frequently misrepresented by filmmakers and fans who don't like real horror.  They like the idea of watching a horror movie, but they don't really want to be horrified.  I don't believe that the notion of "safety" has any place in real horror.  When I'm watching a scene like the Girl Scout scene in "Poughkeepsie," it makes me deply uncomfortable precisely because I don't trust the filmmakers to steer me safely through the sequence.

Read Full Post
<p>This image has nothing to do with 'Everything Must Go,' the Will Ferrell project announced today, but it does scare and confuse me and I&nbsp;wanted to share that feeling with you</p>

This image has nothing to do with 'Everything Must Go,' the Will Ferrell project announced today, but it does scare and confuse me and I wanted to share that feeling with you

Will Ferrell thinks indie with 'Everything Must Go'

Adaptation of a Raymond Carver story gives the star a chance to stretch

Will Ferrell's at an interesting place in his career.

He's delivered enough studio-level hits consistently that he can pretty much get any film made that he really wants to.  I doubt there are many career goals Ferrell has that are out of his reach at this point.  He's paid a giant movie star salary on his giant movie star movies.  So really, the only thing left for a guy like that to do is have fun doing what he does, and to his credit, that's exactly what it looks like Ferrell is doing.

You know someone like Ferrell means it when they sign on for a film like "Everything Must Go," which is going to cost $10 million all in.  That's not Ferrell's salary... that's the entire budget for the film.  A movie like that gets a huge shot of adrenaline right to the financing when a movie star decides to do it, and it frustrates me that more genuine A-list guys don't use their clout this way.

Based on a Raymond Carver short story (off to a good start already, wouldn't you agree?), the film is set to be directed by a commercial director named Dan Rush.  It's the story of a guy who comes home after losing his job to find that his wife has thrown all of his things onto the lawn and locked him out.  He decides to stay there until he can sell every single possession, and the film traces the four days of this impromptu garage sale.  I'm sure there will plenty of opportunities for laughter, but it sounds like that source material could yield some really interesting returns.

Hey, wait... the script was on the Black List?  Really?  That means I may have it here on my computer.

Read Full Post
<p>Mr. Fox (George Clooney) begins to suspect that he's put Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep)&nbsp;and his family in terrible danger in Wes Anderson's new stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'</p>

Mr. Fox (George Clooney) begins to suspect that he's put Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) and his family in terrible danger in Wes Anderson's new stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

The M/C Review: 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' is cussing great

Wes Anderson delivers his best film since 'Tenenbaums' with this animated comedy

"Fantastic Mr. Fox"?  Is.

After all the hubbub this week about how this film was made, I guess I didn't know what to expect walking into the theater on the Fox lot tonight.  Now, having seen it, there is little doubt that this is a Wes Anderson film in every way.  You can absolutely feel his overall sensibility at play in every detail of what you see onscreen.  The script, co-adapted by Anderson and Noah Baumbach, is a delight, a very funny riff off of the original Roald Dahl source material, and the result is one of the most giddy comedies of the year.

But like "Where The Wild Things Are," my first question is:  can you really call this a kid's film?

In this country, there is are two things about the general attitudes to animation that drive me crazy.  First, animation is not a genre.  It's a technique.  It's a description of a general set of tools used to tell a story.  Second, animation is not for children.  Not by definition.  It's just that filmmakers have always been so restricted in what they've been able to commercially convince studios to let them make.  And still are, really.  Pixar is a brilliant company, a great collection of storytellers, but they carefully, shrewdly built their brand on children's films that don't pander.  They make films that a three year old can watch and understand, and that an adult can watch and enjoy.  The people who do make "adult" animation typically make it very explicit and make sure you know it's for adults, with uncommon exceptions.

I would call "Fantastic Mr. Fox" a sophisticated and hilarious example of the best kind of serious adult animation, where any younger audience that sees it is going to get about 30% of what's going on.  They'll understand only the broadest, funniest, silliest strokes.  Most of what's going on, the relationship stuff, the character interplay, is written squarely for adults.  It is just plain good writing, and the vocal performances are very natural and honest. It's not adult because it's dirty; it's adult because it's nuanced and smart.

Read Full Post
<p>Carol (James Gandolfini)&nbsp;realizes that they may not be alone on the island in a pivotal moment from 'Where The Wild Things Are'</p>

Carol (James Gandolfini) realizes that they may not be alone on the island in a pivotal moment from 'Where The Wild Things Are'

Credit: Warner Bros.

The Morning Read Returns: 'Wild Things' are everywhere this week

Plus Malick blinks, "New Moon" screens, and 'Paranormal' gets everyone hot and bothered

Welcome back to the Morning Read.

Man, getting back up to speed on this column has been tough.  I forgot how hard it is to put one of these together every day, and for the last week, I've been letting my days kick my butt instead of the other way around. 

But no more... even though I'm out of the house this morning and on my way to the Four Seasons to interview John Woo (we'll have that video for you soon), I'm determined to get these started again.  Too much great stuff has gone slipping by in the last month, and I'm tired of letting it happen.

I even promise to keep it 100% "Balloon Boy" free.

Let's start today's browsing over at Ain't It Cool, where Mr. Beaks has a fantastic interview with Spike Jonze.  I'm not sure how my schedule and Spike's failed to mesh, but it looks like I missed out on talking to the sensational Mr. Jonze at this end of the process.  Beaks does a great job with him, though, and considering how press-shy Spike can be, I think it's an illuminating chat.

There's a whole ton of "Where The Wild Things Are" coverage online right now, and some great tie-ins as well.

Read Full Post
<p>Quick!&nbsp;Someone replace this man before an audience accidentally sees the 'Red Riding' trilogy starring a bunch of icky English actors!</p>

Quick! Someone replace this man before an audience accidentally sees the 'Red Riding' trilogy starring a bunch of icky English actors!

Credit: IFC Films/Channel 4

Ridley Scott goes 'Red Riding' for Sony

You can see the original at AFI Fest in Hollywood this month

Earlier today, the full line-up for the AFI Fest in Hollywood was announced, and one of the things I'm most looking forward to seeing is the "Red Riding" trilogy.  The movies were originally produced by Channel 4 for the UK, but IFC Films picked them up for theatrical release.  They just played Telluride, and the buzz I've heard on them has been incredibly strong.

So, of course, they're going to be remade.

The remake's got a hell of a pedigree.  Steve Zallian is going to be writing the film, and Ridley Scott is set to direct.  Can't really complain about a eam like that.  I assume that Zallian's going to be using the four novels by David Peace that inspired the trilogy of films as his source. 

I'm just a little confused as to why they feel like they have to do it.  Is there something wrong with Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, or Anand Tucker as filmmakers?  Do we really have that little faith that American audiences can handle watching a drama starring people with English accents?

I've been excited to see these films for the last few months, and it looks like I'm going to see all three in one day next week.  But even as I watch them, I'm going to have it in the back of my head now that these are just speed bumps on the way to the Hollywood version.  I think that's what gets my dander up at this point... the idea that Hollywood is the last word on something.  It's no good until Hollywood's had their way with it, right?  Sure, I thought "Let The Right One In" was one of last year's very best films, and a fantastic example of how you adapt a film from a novel, but it doesn't count.  Nope.  Not until we get "Let Me In" with Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee next year.  They'll show those dumb Swedes what they did wrong.  Obviously, someone needs to remake "Red Riding" because the original stars nobodies like Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan.  I mean, Considine's just one of the best actors working in any language anywhere in the world right now... but who cares?  Maybe they can get Keanu!

Read Full Post
<p>Don't screw with Dad... especially when he's played by Mel Gibson standing on the 'Edge Of Darkness'</p>

Don't screw with Dad... especially when he's played by Mel Gibson standing on the 'Edge Of Darkness'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Watch: Mel Gibson gets reeeeeally angry in 'Edge Of Darkness'

Anyone else getting serious 'Ransom' and 'Taken' flashbacks?

Martin Campbell is pretty much the definition of the slick journeyman director.

I mean that as a compliment.  There are a lot of guys who are professional, competent, but unremarkable.  Campbell has proven throughout his career that he can turn in genuinely stylish work even when burdened with weak material, and when you give him a good script and a solid cast, he has a tendency to really let it rip.  There's a reason he's the guy that the Broccolis turned to not once, but twice, when they needed to reboot James Bond.

Mel Gibson hasn't made a movie star movie since his DUI arrest and he seems to be in the middle of some serious late career rehab at the moment, between this and "The Beaver," which is currently shooting.  I haven't seen the original BBC "Edge Of Darkness," and I'm glad.  I'll catch up to it after this, but I hate playing the comparison game, especially when I'm watching a thriller that looks to be dependent on a plot that twists and turns.  I'd like to see the film and judge it as a film, not as a remake.

I think it's telling that the film is set for release the exact time frame that "Taken" was released to great success this year.  There's always going to be an appetite for this type of revenge film done right, and the notion of losing a child and not knowing why or who is terrifying and maddening. 

Read Full Post