Friday, 20 April 2018 22:49

Super Troopers 2 stays true to roots

It has to be hard to be Broken Lizard. Like the Farrelly Brothers starting their careers with the comedy classic Dumb and Dumber (1994), Broken Lizard started their careers with a comedy classic of their own in Super Troopers (2001). But unlike the Farrelly Brothers, the members of Broken Lizard also act in their films, which has made it more difficult for them to find continued success as a film cooperative. Not only does the production company  have to deal with being pigeonholed as a low-brow, comedy specialist, but its members also have to deal with their own case of Jon Heder syndrome. Heder’s the guy who played Napoleon Dynamite and hasn’t been able to escape it since.

That’s why Broken Lizard’s follow-up to Super Troopers was so hard to watch. Before I knew Club Dread (2004) wasn’t any good, I had a hard time accepting the members of Broken Lizard in their new roles. By the time Beerfest (2006) came around, though, I had accepted the fact there might never be a Super Troopers 2 and could understand why. That’d be like asking F. Scott Fitzgerald to write a sequel to The Great Gatsby, or more on topic, asking the Farrelly Brothers to do a sequel to Dumb and Dumber immediately after its release.

It took 20 years for the Farrelly Brothers to commit to Dumb and Dumber To, so we should all be thankful it only took Broken Lizard 17 years to give us Super Troopers 2. Jay Chandrasekhar, Steve Lemme, Kevin Heffernan, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske are back where they belong, portraying Vermont Highway Patrolmen in a cop comedy that pokes fun at the state of the United States and Canadian culture.

The first rule of reviewing a sequel is not comparing it to its predecessor. Very few sequels are as good as the original, and Super Troopers 2 is no exception. Holding it to the impossible standard only realized by The Godfather: Part II and The Empire Strikes Back is unfair.

We can, however, compare Super Troopers 2 to similar films within the genre and subgenre. In the subgenre of buddy-cop comedies, Super Troopers 2 is no Hot Fuzz (2007), but it’s more enjoyable than The Heat (2013) and CHIPS (2017) and way better than Ride Along (2014) and Cop Out (2010). Super Troopers 2 probably falls behind The Other Guys (2010) but before Let’s Be Cops (2014).

As far as contemporary comedies go, since the release of Super Troopers in 2001, I’ve only seen a few that made me laugh out loud as much as Super Troopers 2. They are, in no particular order: The Other Guys, Tropic Thunder (2008), Jackass: The Movie (2002) (which shouldn't even count but has spawned Jackass Number Two (2006), Jackass 3D (2010)Bad Grandpa (2013), and now, Action Point, which will release June 1, and actually has a story), Shaun of the Dead (2004), Anchorman (2004), Step Brothers (2008), Old School (2003), Pineapple Express (2008), This is the End (2012), Office Xmas Party (2016)Grandma’s Boy (2006), Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004), A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (2011), Team America: World Police (2004), Your Highness (2011) and Beerfest (2006). That’s pretty good company for a list that you’ll notice includes just one sequel (unless you include the Jackass franchise).

You should definitely see Super Troopers 2. You’ll laugh enough to forget that you’re basically watching the same plot as the original except to the music of Eagles of Death Metal instead of .38 Special, which is a treat. You’ll get some laughs out of Rob Lowe playing a former, minor league hockey player turned mayor, and you’ll no doubt enjoy the pranks pulled by and on the Canadian mounties competing with the Super Troopers to keep their jobs. The story is far-fetched at best, but the situations created by the story are worth taking the leap.


If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk radio shows: The Karel Show, Erskine Overnight, The Lounge, The Debbie Nigro Show

Published in News & Information
Friday, 13 April 2018 17:58

MoviePass: Two month review

Update 4/20/18: MoviePass has updated their terms of service, which is explained below.

 

A few months ago I wrote Movie Pass: What is it (and is it too good to be true). At the time I wrote that piece I didn’t actually have  MoviePass but I had ordered one and was waiting for it to arrive.

 

Well, it arrived and I’ve since used it for two glorious movie filled months! For those not in the know:

 

When I bought MoviePass it was a subscription service where you pay a monthly fee (usually $9.99) and then you can use your MoviePass card to see one free movie every day but they have recently updated their terms of service. New subscribers are limited to one movie per week and a maximum of four movies per month. If you are a new subscriber you also receive a free subscription to iheartradio all access.

 

Wait, seriously? That sounds too good to be true.

 

Yes. Seriously. MoviePass is totally legit! Since I received my MoviePass card in the mail on Friday, February 16th, here are the movies I’ve seen with it:

 

Annihilation

Black Panther

Red Sparrow

Game Night

Thoroughbreds

Love, Simon

Tomb Raider

Unsane

Ready Player One

Pacific Rim 2

A Quiet Place

Chappaquiddick

Blockers



I even kept track of how much each ticket would have cost had I not been using MoviePass - $126. I actually bought a full year subscription which gave me a discount ($7.95 per month) and a one time sign up fee of $20. So my total cost up front was approx. $120. Alas, that deal is no longer available. The new deal is nice but just not as good as those of us folk who have subscribed for a while.

 

I have now made my money back and still have another ten months on my subscription.

 

But you don’t have to pay all that money up front. You can sign up for the monthly subscription at $9.95 per month and cancel any time. But you should know if you cancel you can’t sign up for MoviePass for nine months.

 

But, wait - how is MoviePass sustainable?

 

Fair question! The average ticket price across America is somewhere in the $8.50 range so if a typical MoviePass customer attends the cinema twice per month - MoviePass loses money! And they have been losing money this last quarter claiming a $150 million loss. If that sounds like a lot of money to you (it does to me) that doesn't seem to phase the CEO of movie pass who says that they have enough start up money to operate well into 2019 when they expect to be profitable. (Of course, what else is the CEO going to say?) I guess I am reminded of Amazon - which lost money for a staggering six years in a row before turning a profit. I don't understand how that's possible but there it is.

 

So, how does MoviePass plan to survive?

 

Well, they've already raised the money so they're not going anywhere - just yet.

 

Second, MoviePass has 2 million subscribers. Third - MoviePass is the only company that can tell theaters exactly who and when people are going to the movies. This is valuable information for theater chains to have and it has led studios to pay MoviePass to advertise specific films through the MoviePass app.

 

Finally, MoviePass will sell your data in some situations but they are very open about it on their website saying,  

 

“Except where outlined in this policy or otherwise communicated to you, we will not sell, rent or disclose your personal information to third parties without notifying you of our intent to do so. In such an event, Users will be notified in advance, giving you the opportunity to prevent your personal information from being shared.”

 

 

Finally, concessions. MoviePass, as of yet, does not get a cut of concessions but they are certainly pursuing that option.  It is no secret that theater chains make the overwhelming majority of their money selling concessions. For example, that $12 bucket of popcorn you buy at the theater cost the theater chain about five cents. That, my friend, is a lot of profit.

 

And if MoviePass can demonstrate that it is driving customers to the theaters, customers that would not normally attend - why not cut them in? I am proof positive that MoviePass is driving me to the theater. And I am proof positive that I will NOT go to a theater that does not accept MoviePass.

 

Of the thirteen movies I have seen with MoviePass I bought concession twice. Which, to be honest, is probably unusually low for a typical consumer. I suspect the average cinema attendee buys concessions closer to fifty percent of the time. Maybe higher.

 

MoviePass has already shown the theater chains that it is driving about 5% of moviegoers to the theater but when MoviePass promotes a specific film that percentage jumps up to 20%.

 

Studios and theater chains are taking notice. MoviePass currently has approx. 2 million subscribers but if they can get that number up to four or five million that will be a game changer for them.

 

What about their lousy customer service?

 

Yeah, I read all about that too. When MoviePass jumped from a few hundred thousand subscribers to 1.5 million (in the span of about a month) they had serious delays in meeting demand. I mean, they still have to produce and ship an actual card to your house. It’s not just an app.

 

They just didn’t have the manpower to keep up with the sudden demand. They also didn’t have the manpower to respond to emails and phone calls.

 

Mitch Lowe, the CEO of MoviePass sat down with CNN money and discussed this very problem. Basically he was like, “Yeah, our customer service sucked for a while but we’re working on it.”

 

And they did. I signed up for MoviePass and recieved my card in about a week. It takes me all of fifteen seconds to use the app and check in to the theater and access my free movie. The only minor hoops you have to jump through:

 

  1. MoviePass only allows you to see 2D movies - no IMAX or 3D movies.
  2. You can only use MoviePass to see one movie per day.
  3. You can not buy tickets in advance with MoviePass. You must be at the theater. (Though, there are a handful of smaller independent chains that now allow you to use your MoviePass to purchase online in advance but this seems to be an exception to the rule).
  4. You need to use your phone or tablet to access the MoviePass app so you will need internet access.  

 

These are very minor hoops and I have not had a single issue with MoviePass. It is a totally legit service and I will use it until the end of days!


To learn more about MoviePass and / or to sign up for the service, visit their site here.

 

Update 4/20/18: MoviePass has updated their terms of service. If you purchased a MoviePass before today's date you continue to receive your one movie a day plan. If you purchase a MoviePass starting today, their new plan allows one free movie per week (total of four per month) and comes with a free three month subscription to iheartradio all access. This is still a great deal but, sadly, not the awesomely phenomenal deal I wrote about when I put this story up last week. With the new change I would recommend you purchase the month to month plan and receive the free iheartradio subscription. You will be billed for the first three months and then billed quarterly. Hold off on buying the full year subscription. But for now - at $9.95 a month for one movie a week MoviePass remains a good deal!

 

Published in News & Information
Friday, 30 March 2018 19:54

Film review: Ready Player One

**SPOILER FREE**

 

Spielberg's new film, Ready Player One, is based on the once loved, now often ridiculed or outright disliked novel of the same name written by Ernest Cline. The novel is unread by me but I understand the premise. And I’ve seen the movie now which probably means all the good parts of the book have been spoiled for me.

 

The novel, from what I understand, is a nostalgic, geek lore Easter egg hunt oft criticized for being fun but not exactly a writing masterpiece, but whatever. The reader was bombarded with nostalgic, nerdy, geek references from the 80’s. And that nostalgic weight carried RPO on to the NYT best seller list for a long time.

 

And now Steven Spielberg, the man directly responsible for much of our actual 80’s pop culture and nostalgic geeky moments has his new movie! So what is it about?

 

From rottentomatos.com:

 

“In the year 2045, people can escape their harsh reality in the OASIS, an immersive virtual world where you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone-the only limits are your own imagination. OASIS creator James Halliday left his immense fortune and control of the Oasis to the winner of a contest designed to find a worthy heir. When unlikely hero Wade Watts conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends-known as the High Five-are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS and their world.”

 

Okay. Fair enough. Dystopian world - bad. Super cool VR world - good! That premise seems Spielberg enough. And, for the most part the movie is charming, nostalgic, good fun. With only a single swear word (one delightfully placed F bomb) the movie is standard Spielbergian Hollywood family entertainment and kids of all ages will probably dig it. RPO has at least two beautiful action sequences and one perfectly recreated set piece from a beloved horror film (which I suspect will go down as the one truly great scene of the film).

 

Anyway. I like RPO. To get that out of the way. I was hoping to love it, I was worried I was going to hate it but - no, I like it. That being said, despite all its stunning technical charm, the movie is a little shallow and the characters are poorly drawn and one dimensional.

 

Right now let’s focus on the good in RPO. Remember the scene in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King where Legolas kills the Oliphant? Well, the technology was there to … well … make it look like a CGI Legolas awkwardly bouncing around on a giant moving elephant and finally sliding down its trunk. Despite my dislike of the scene, the CGI isn’t quite capable of pulling that off perfectly. Things don’t look entirely real. It kind of gets the job done. I guess. We get what was going on. The oliphant looks good but the motion of Legolas is just - bizarre and not based in real world physics.  

 

Well, those days are gone! The CGI is now there and the work in RPO is stunning. Movement and motion of all CGI (and / or motion captured) characters are flawless. RPO effortlessly blends realistic looking monsters and creatures with virtual looking avatar figures and their realistic looking weapons, vehicle and gear.

 

The scavenger hunt / investigation portions of the film are as entertaining as the action. Nothing slows the pace of the film. The moments of humor all work and we easily understand the motivations off the lead protagonists, (Ty Sheridan and Olivia Cooke) and the story’s main antagonist (Ben Mendelsohn). If you are looking for beautiful looking family friendly action - RPO is your movie.

 

But it’s not exactly a sophisticated think piece - and it doesn’t have to be! But RPO is a bit hollow at its core for me to love it. Casting is a slight issue. Ty Sheridan plays lead Wade / Parzival. Sheridan was a fairly accomplished child actor and has turned into a totally adequate teen actor. He will not fuck your scene up. Nor will he take a poorly drawn character and breath true life into it. And Wade, as a character is … you know. Fine. Except for that one thing (which I’ll get to later).

 

Which is the polar opposite of wunderkind Olivia Cooke who wowed me a couple of weeks ago in Thoroughbreds. Watching that film I kept thinking, “Who the F is this incredible actress and where did she come from?” From many things it turns out, but most famously from Bates Motel. Cooke is great and watching the film I couldn’t help but wonder how fantastic a lead she would have been if they switched the genders of Wade / Samantha. (Imagine the nerd rage). Sadly, Cooke’s character, Samantha / Art3mis is a little underdrawn and mainly acts as a prize for Wade to win.

 

Of the additional three supporting cast - Aech gets the most virtual time with Daito and Sho rounding out the High Five (as they call themselves). But once we meet them in the real world they just kind of stand around. One of them drives a van. Not exactly the stuff of supporting cast legends.

 

But if you were to say, “But the story is about Wade! He is the only one that has to be a fully realized character!

 

Fair enough. But do we really need yet another tent pole Hollywood blockbuster featuring a white male lead who is backed up by his super hot white trophy prize girl friend with a couple of people of color in the background who don’t get to do much other than stand around and be people of color? Steven Spielberg virtually has the clout to do anything he wants in regards to his film. Perhaps he could have pushed a little on this point.

 

The other main issue I have is the lack of real world empathy our lead, Wade, seems to have. There is a brutal tragic event in the film (which I will not spoil) that should leave Wade, at the very least - affected!

 

With emotion.

 

But no. Not so much. The very next scene Wade is ready to Game On!

 

It seems to me that there is a great movie somewhere in RPO or maybe it’s all there on the cutting room floor. But  instead of delivering that, Spielberg delivered the safest movie possible.

 

And it’s a very fine safe movie. There are things I like. I honestly believe that most folks who see it will enjoy it. The visual spectacle is such an eye feast that I might actually see it again. Perhaps I will warm up to the supporting cast a bit more. Perhaps not.

 

Ready Player One is fun, energetic and totally Spielberg. I just wish it had been a little more, I don’t know - wiser.

 

Published in News & Information

Indie darling film director Steven Soderbergh officially “retired” from filmmaking in 2013 but since then has directed HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, Logan Lucky, and now the made in secret Unsane.

 

I mainly want to talk about Soderbergh’s process and less so review the film. This will be spoiler free for Unsane.

 

Soderbergh’s had a few mainstream hits like Ocean’s Eleven, Erin Brockovich and the Academy Award winning Traffic but mostly he works on under the radar indie experimental films like Out of Sight, The Limey and the Solaris remake.  

 

He’s actually been quite prolific in the last few decades since his debut feature film Sex, Lies and Videotapes wowed audiences at the Cannes Film Festival in 1989, winning multiple awards. He’s directed 30 something features since then and produced (which means he actually worked on producing the film) or executive produced (in where he “puts up the money”) another 30 something movies.

 

And he continues to experiment. Sometimes he uses non professional actors, sometimes he releases a movie without a marketing campaign, he was the first mainstream director (that I’m aware of) that released a feature film on the theaters and on VOD at the same time. He is often quoted in interviews saying he’s not a storyteller and he doesn’t make movies because he feels he has a story to tell. He makes movies as an exercise in storytelling form. And form is what he plays around with in many of his films, offering unconventional ways of telling his story.

 

Soderbergh’s 1999 revenge film, The Limey, starring Terrence Malick comes to mind. What could have been a fairly straight forward revenge thriller turns into something quite different with an extraordinary sound design / editing technique employed during the production. The film often uses dialogue clips from previous scenes or flash forward sound clips from future scenes, juxtaposed with the current scene you are watching. This is used primarily to punctuate a scene with emphasis but it also creates a rhythmic sound structure of the film which really has to be seen and heard to fully appreciate. Anyway, my point being - no one else had ever done anything like that and overwhelming critical praise suggests it was quite effective.

 

And, one would assume, if a director finds something that works, why not use the technique again? Because that’s just not what Soderbergh is interested in. He used his sound juxtaposition as an exercise in form for that one film and then moved on to other experiments.

 

Which brings me around to Soderbergh’s latest experiment, his newly released film, Unsane, starring Claire Foy (the Queen on Netflix’s The Crown). Soderbergh decided to shoot the entire feature film on the iPhone 7. Now, I know he’s not the first director to do this (but he might be the first "big name" director to do so). There are a handful of films I can think of shot on an iPhone in recent years, 2015’s Tangerine being the most popular, and also the Oscar winning documentary, Searching for Sugar Man.

 

Actually, Searching for Sugar Man wasn’t entirely shot on an iPhone. Some of it was shot on 8mm film but when the director ran out of film he used iPhone app called 8mm Vintage Camera to finish portions of scenes.

 

I can see the appeal of shooting on an iPhone. Inexpensive. No clunky rig set-ups, no apple boxes, no grip tape, no ten crew members just to track and push your dolly. Soderbergh acted as director, director of photography and camera operator. And he was able to just follow the actors around with relative ease.

 

The actors loved it, of course. Without all that excess gear and crew and Soderbergh allowing scenes to go on and on the actors were fully immersed in the scenery and the story.

 

Claire Foy talks about the process in an interview she gave for Entertainment Weekly:

 

"The thing I loved about it was that Steven was in the room, he was operating , so it really felt like he was there, watching everything, being part of it, which felt really amazing. I've never had that before … We shot it in 10 days, and it meant Steven had huge amounts of freedom in where he could put the camera, what he could do with the camera, what he could try and then get rid of … He was just experimenting all the time. We shot it entirely chronologically. It just moved. It just moved a lot. And it had an energy, and a rhythm, and a momentum to it that felt fresh, and unrehearsed, and full of life.”

 

Soderbergh was equally in love with the iPhone shoot telling appleinsider.com:

 

“I have to say the positives for me really were significant and it's going to be tricky to go back to a more conventional way of shooting. The gap now between the idea and the execution of the idea is just shrinking and this means you get to try out more ideas so I wish I'd had this equipment when I was 15."

 

Later saying that iPhone's 4K footage looks like "velvet" and calling the device a "game changer."

 

Well, I’m all for experimentation in art and storytelling. But experimentation doesn’t necessarily mean “good.” And, Unsane, for all its form experimentation - is okay. Unlike 2015’s beautiful looking Tangerine, which does not look like it was shot on an iPhone (but was), Unsane actually looks like it was shot … well … on an iPhone.

 

The Highlights: It certainly has a gritty, voyeuristic feel to the visuals. It’s almost like you’re watching this awful thing happening in real time on security footage. So, that’s creepy. Which, at times is effect since Unsane is a thriller.

 

The Lowlights: A standard iPhone doesn’t allow you to play much with deep focus. You can pretty much only create a flat space look. Another problem is that the iPhone lens can’t handle close ups, sadly, it “fish eyes” the edges of the screen rounding them out. Again, sometimes this works but most of the time it just looks ridiculous. The blacks all get crushed and the lights are overly pixelated.

 

So when Soderbergh says the final product looks like “velvet” I seriously don’t understand what he’s talking about. Unsane, quite literally, looks like your kid brother shot a movie in the basement using his iPhone.

 

Velvet it is not.

 

That being said, sometimes the crushed blacks and pixelated lights work in favor to the story. The movie is, after all, about a woman going insane (or is it?).

 

Unsane is kind of review proof. It’s experimental on so many levels that some folks will just like it for what it is, and some will not. I kind of like a lot of it but I also wish Soderbergh had just used a film camera. Super 16mm would have been perfect for the tone. But using super 16 would have been a story telling choice and not a “form experiment,” which is what Soderbergh wants.

 

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think the problems with Unsane have anything to do with what camera was used. The problems, like the problems with many, many horror films, is that there are too many dopey script choices.

 

And by dopey, I don’t mean silly because Unsane, to its credit, goes out of its way to be believable and I appreciate the tone of the film.

 

I could also say bad acting is a problem with many horror films but that’s certainly not anything Unsane has to worry about. All of the actors are quite believable. Even when they’re screeching ridiculous lines.

 

When “form” isn’t getting in the way, Unsane is as effective as it tries to be. And there are lots of things I admire about the film. But “shot on the iPhone,” isn’t one of them.

 

Unsane official trailer.

Published in News & Information

Seeing a lot more bad movies is to be expected when you become a MoviePass member. You’ll see more movies when you’ve got an annual membership to see as many movies you want, even if you only need to see one movie per month to make the membership worth the price. And most movies are bad these days. Gringo is one of those movies.

Having seen the trailer and read the synopsis, I had reason to hope Gringo wouldn’t suck. It’s a relatively original idea: dirty, pharmaceutical CEO doing off-the-books business with dirtier drug dealer needs the business with the drug dealer to stop in order to facilitate a merger. Conveniently, the business conducted with the drug dealer occurs in Mexico -- the kidnapping capital of the world -- and the CEO already has a patsy in mind, but his patsy doesn’t act as the CEO expects.

Despite quality casting, I didn’t laugh out loud once during Gringo. Charlize Theron (A Million Ways to Die in the West) produced the picture and plays the CEO’s business associate. The CEO is portrayed by Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby, Black Mass), brother of director Nash Edgerton. Edgerton was good for a few laughs, but Theron was easily funniest, and it wasn’t because of the dialogue written for her by Anthony Tambakis (who wrote Warrior and Jane Got a Gun, both featuring Edgerton) and Matthew Stone (Life, an actually funny film starring Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence).

Why Theron was willing to put up money for this heap of garbage is beyond me, but maybe it was a good script before David Oyelowo was attached. Oyelowo plays the patsy and wasn’t funny nor realistic. Spoiler alert: he’s clueless about his wife’s cheating on him with his CEO and “friend,” who treats him like a subordinate. What’s unrealistic about Oyelowo’s performance is that his character is too clueless to exist in real life.

But Jason Bateman is never clueless and always funny, and Game Night is another relatively original idea: a group of friends gather for their weekly game night expecting to solve a staged kidnapping and end up attempting to solve an actual kidnapping. Sure, it has its roots in The Man Who Knew Too Little, a brilliant picture starring Bill Murray, who thinks he’s portraying a spy in the “Theatre of Life” while actually thwarting an act of international terrorism. Game Night isn’t as entertaining as The Man Who Knew Too Little, but we can’t expect Bateman to channel Bill Murray. Like Theron, Bateman put up money for Game Night to be produced.

Game Night is also casted well, with Rachel McAdams (Wedding Crashers, Mean Girls) playing Bateman’s wife and Kyle Chandler (Super 8) his “cooler,” older brother. The screen is stolen, though, by Jesse Plemons (Paul, The Post), portraying the perfectly awkward neighbor, who loves his dog a little too much and wants nothing more than to be included in the group’s game nights after his wife has left him.

I laughed out loud throughout Game Night, and while it wasn’t The Man Who Knew Too Little, or even Horrible Bosses, the jokes are at least written and delivered well. Mark Perez (Accepted) wrote a quality script and Rich Delia (Dallas Buyers Club, The Help) put together a better cast than Carmen Cuba (The Martian) did for Gringo. if you’re looking for laughs, see Game Night, not Gringo.

If you need more reasons to avoid Gringo and see Game Night, Gringo has received a 39-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes while Game Night sits at 82 percent as of this writing.


If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk radio shows: The Karel Show, Erskine Overnight, The Lounge, Free Talk Live, The Debbie Nigro Show

Published in News & Information

"I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider."

 

Frances McDormand’s closing words to her Best Actress acceptance speech left many folks, including me, to wonder - what the F! is an inclusion rider? So I looked it up!

 

The idea comes from Stacy Smith during her 2016 TED talk. Smith is the founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the U of So. Cal and has studied data on diversity (and lack there of) in films produced in the US from 2007 until today. Her fifteen minute speech is well worth watching although the results will probably not shock you.

 

Diversity in US films is - well - doesn’t exactly represent the diversity of the country. In fact, it’s not even close. Her data shows that a very small margin of speaking roles, crew members and directors are women, people of color or members of the LGBT.  

 

From Smith’s talk:

 

Across the top 100 films of just last year (2015), 48 films didn't feature one black or African-American speaking character, not one. 70 films were devoid of Asian or Asian-American speaking characters that were girls or women. None. Eighty-four films didn't feature one female character that had a disability. And 93 were devoid of lesbian, bisexual or transgender female speaking characters.”

 

And later, talking about the ethnicity of the directors in the several hundred top grossing films from the last eight years,

 

“…800 films, 2007-2015, 886 directors. Only 4.1 percent are women. Only three are African-American or black, and only one woman was Asian.”

 

One of her solutions is to hire more women behind the camera and, as her data suggests - women are just better at hiring a diverse cast and crew. Another solution is to have A-list actors demand an “inclusion rider,” which is a clause in the actor’s contract that demands that the crew and the cast be more equally represented in regards to women, people of color and LGBT folk.

 

Smith’s exact wording on the inclusion rider stipulation:

 

“Second solution is for A-list talent. A-listers, as we all know, can make demands in their contracts, particularly the ones that work on the biggest Hollywood films. What if those A-listers simply added an equity clause or an inclusion rider into their contract? Now, what does that mean? Well, you probably don't know but the typical feature film has about 40 to 45 speaking characters in it. I would argue that only 8 to 10 of those characters are actually relevant to the story. Except maybe "Avengers." Right? A few more in "Avengers." The remaining 30 or so roles, there's no reason why those minor roles can't match or reflect the demography of where the story is taking place. An equity rider by an A-lister in their contract can stipulate that those roles reflect the world in which we actually live.”

 

And so that, ladies and gentlemen is exactly what Frances McDormand meant in her speech.

 

Published in News & Information

Movie Pass has been around for a few years but I’m just now catching on. It started out as a monthly subscription for $50 per month and with it you could use your Movie Pass card to see unlimited movies at your local theater. And by “unlimited” I mean one 2D (non-IMAX) movie per day. Most of your local theaters, including some of the big chains (AMC), accept Movie Pass.

 

It was an interesting idea, but it didn’t really catch on. So it took Movie Pass almost two years to get about 20,000 subscribers -- mainly, die-hard cinephiles.

 

Well, back in August that all changed when Movie Pass dropped the monthly subscription fee to $9.95 per month with the same deal: most of your local theaters accept Movie Pass, and you can now see one 2D (non-IMAX) movie per day.

 

Suddenly, Movie Pass is a lot more appealing, and since the August price drop, added 1.5 million subscribers, including me. I have only just signed up and have not even received my Movie Pass card yet. But when I do and begin to use it, I’ll write a follow up and let you know what’s what. But for now, after reading up on Movie Pass for a few days, here is the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

The Good: It will actually save you a lot of money … if you use it.  

 

CNN reports that the average cost of a movie ticket across the country is roughly $9, according to the trade organization National Association of Theatre Owners, which means you need to use Movie Pass about twice per month in order to save money. Obviously, if you see more than two movies at the theater per month you will save even more money. I usually see a movie once per week at about $10-$12 per movie. Which means an annual Movie Pass subscription will save me approx. $300 per year.

 

I like this deal already.

 

Here’s exactly how it works.

  1. You subscribe on the Movie Pass website.
  2. Download the Movie Pass App on your phone.
  3. Wait for your Movie Pass card to arrive in the mail (a few weeks)
  4. Use the Movie Pass App to check in to the theater you are attending
  5. Let the Movie Pass App know the movie and show time you wish to attend.
  6. Movie Pass App confirms you have not seen another movie today using your Movie Pass - if you have not, Movie Pass loads X amount of $$ onto your Movie Pass card where X = the exact cost of the ticket you have selected.
  7. Buy your ticket at the theater and use your Movie Pass as a credit card to pay.  

Okay, I see a few minor hurdles. You need the App, you need the internet, and you have to be within approximately 100 yards of the movie theater you are attending. These hurdles seem minor to me. But how is this sustainable? Movie Pass CEO Mitch Lowe had an interview with CNNMoney and answered this is exact question.

 

"MoviePass is kind of a movie insurance program. Our service is really low because we are going to use our understanding of you as a customer to be able to give you relevant suggestions that you might find valuable in your life. We might say there's a great restaurant across the street from the movie. If you go over there and show them your card, you're going to get a free appetizer."

 

Ah hah! There’s the rub! They sell user data to third parties to make money. Some might be bothered by the privacy concern this raises. Me -- not so much. If Movie Pass notices I watch all the sci-fi movies I can shake a stick at and then offers me Blu-ray, sci-fi movies and/or sci-fi soundtracks, I might be interested.

 

But then again, I might not. I don’t really buy concessions at the movie theater, so Movie Pass might lose a lot of money -- on me. But Movie Pass is counting on the “gym membership model,” in that folks might binge at first but eventually keep paying the monthly subscription for something they hardly use.  

 

Plus, Movie Pass is negotiating with theater chains for a sales percentage of concessions, since that’s where movie theaters make the majority of their money, and Movie Pass claims they are bringing people back to the theaters. (No, seriously, did you know that it costs a movie theater about four cents to make that large bag of popcorn that you just bought for $8?).

 

Movie Pass says that one in 35 movie theater customers are now using Movie Pass, and that number is rapidly increasing. It seems like fair leverage to get a tiny fraction of a percentage point for concessions. With the explosion in subscribers that Movie Pass has had in the last six months I expect (well, I hope) it doesn’t go anywhere soon.

 

The Bad: In order to get the best deal you have to pay for the full year membership - up front.

 

So, at $7.95 per month, plus a $19.95 one time processing fee you will be charged up front: $115.35.

 

Hrmmm. That’s a little obnoxious. But if you’re thinking, “Ah-hah! They’re going to grab your money and run!” Well, I too thought that for a moment. But then I saw their press release where they partnered with Fandor, which is a legit independent movie website (you should check it out) where they have some pretty great programing. I’ll reprint the full press release below.

 

The Ugly: Their customer service sucks. Like, seriously.

 

Via Movie Pass CEO’s very own mouth, he admits that the company didn’t expect to suddenly expand from 20,000 subscribers to 300,000 subscribers to one million and then, less than one month after reaching one million subscribers, exploding to up to two million subscribers. Their customer service department wasn’t able to keep up with their growth. Costumer service emails or calls went unanswered for months and months. He’s very aware of the problem and he speaks about it candidly in the CNNMoney interview linked above.

 

And, of course, they can print and mail cards to you only so fast. Customers are told to expect their Movie Pass card in five to seven business days, but it sounds as if the wait is more like two to four weeks. I find this annoying, but not so annoying that I will be passing up this deal.

 

The Final Skinny: Sign me up. 

 

Movie Pass was a good deal at $10 a month. Movie Pass + Fandor is a really good deal at $7.95 per month (but remember, that’s $115 up front). I suspect Movie Pass is right - people aren’t going to use the Movie Pass card as much as they expect. But I bloody well will!

 

Keep in mind, the Movie Pass + Fandor for $115 up front is only a limited time offer. If you don’t want to pay the full up front fee - wait until the limited offer is up and Movie Pass will return to a $9.95 per month deal. There will still be a processing fee of $20 but then your first charge will only be $30 for month one, $10 for month two, etc, etc.

 

Either way, I signed up. I have to wait a few weeks for my Movie Pass card, but I’ve downloaded the App and plan to start watching Fandor films tonight.

 

As a final note, you may cancel your Movie Pass subscription at any time, but then will not be allowed to re-subscribe for nine months.

 

To learn more about Movie Pass and / or sign up visit their site here.

 

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The Movie Pass / Fandor Partnership Press Release:

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--MoviePass™, the nation's premier movie-theater subscription service and a majority-owned subsidiary of Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc. (NASDAQ: HMNY) (“HMNY”), and Fandor®, the streaming service with the largest collection of independent films, documentaries, international features and shorts, are introducing a new annual subscription plan. This new MoviePass subscription plan will allow movie-goers to visit the theater every day for a year, and have access to the full Fandor content library for a year, for just under $116.

This new annual offer lowers the MoviePass monthly price from $9.95 to $7.95 and is coupled with an annual Fandor subscription. This combined offer is back after testing a limited time run in November 2017; it is now being reintroduced as a limited time offer nationwide.

“MoviePass is not only a phenomenon in the entertainment industry, but it has sparked a movement, now two million people strong,” said Ted Farnsworth, Chairman and CEO of HMNY. “With this new offer, we can make the movement even more accessible to movie-goers. I believe our annual subscribers will become influential movie consumers and an amazing asset and bellwether for the film industry as a whole.”

"Fandor is excited to be part of the disruptive wave redefining how audiences consume entertainment, making a broad range of movies available to our movie-loving subscribers," said Larry Aidem, President and CEO of Fandor. "We look forward to continued collaborations with MoviePass in the coming year."

MoviePass presently drives more than 5% of the total nationwide box office and continues to grow contribution as new subscribers join.

“We’re thrilled to continue innovating and reinvigorating the film and movie theater industries with MoviePass and Fandor,” said Mitch Lowe, CEO of MoviePass. “With more than two million MoviePass subscribers, and new ones joining every day, it’s clear that this is a tool moviegoers need and want. This new offer allows us to continue to reach more subscribers.”

Subscribers who sign up for this new offer will be billed $115.35 ($7.95 a month + $19.95 processing fee), and will receive one full year of MoviePass and one full year of unlimited streaming from Fandor.

 

Published in News & Information
Saturday, 11 November 2017 18:27

4 movies about veterans for Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day in the United States, annually recognized on November 11th -- in honor of the signing of the armistice which ended WWI hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918.

 

The United States previously celebrated “Armistice Day” and it was more a day of recognition to honor veterans that died during WWI. In 1945 a WWII veteran named Raymond Weeks led a delegation to President Eisenhower and proposed the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans and not just those who died in WWI.

 

Eisenhower supported the idea of a national veterans day but it wasn’t until 1954 that he signed a bill into law and shortly there after, Congress amended the bill to replace, “Armistice” day with a national “Veterans” day celebrating all veterans. It has been celebrated as Veterans Day ever since. 

 

Hollywood has long been enamored with war movies and there are far too many movies that do little more than exploit the deaths of soldiers in the name of movie excitement “fun.” Thankfully, there are also movies that attempt to recreate a soldier’s authentic experience and the toll such service, and war in general, has on soldier families and humanity.

 

Two feature films and two documentaries about war, exploring themes of loneliness, trauma, loss and hope.

 

Presented alphabetically:

 

Born on the 4th of July (1989): U.S. Marine veteran Ron Kovic (played by Tom Cruise) returns from Vietnam paralyzed from the mid chest down and is wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. The movie is based on Kovic’s autobiography and directed by Vietnam vet Oliver Stone. The first third of the film follows Kovic from childhood to enlistment to boot camp and into the vietnam war where, during a firefight with the enemy, he accidentally kills one of the men in his platoon. He is shortly there after wounded and paralyzed but comes home seemingly optimistic. The remainder of the film focuses on his PTSD and war trauma as Kovic becomes increasingly disillusioned with traditional patriotism until eventually becoming an anti-war activist 9much to the hatred of his fellow soldiers). Olive Stone read Kovic’s autobiography and was shocked to learn what Kovic had gone through and immediately purchased the rights to the book. Stone and Kovic met many times to discuss their experiences in Vietnam and eventually collaborated together to write the screenplay. The film was wildly successful and earned several Academy Award nominations.

 

Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision (1994): This Academy Award winning documentary profiles the career of US artist & Chinese immigrant Maya Lin, when, at the age of 21 she beat out more than a 1000 artists in a competition to create the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The documentary is short (a little over an hour) and chronicles her childhood and about ten years of her work before receiving the memorial contract. Lin was under extraordinary pressure to deliver and because she was a woman, and Asian, she was often overly critiqued and vilified. Lin herself comes off as soft spoken, a woman who chooses her words carefully but also, a bit distant -- like many an artist I know. As a production note -- the film is a product of its time and is therefore a bit slow paced even with its short run but is still well worth viewing. Despite the hardship Lin faced during the creation of the monument, today it is widely recognized as a magnificent and powerful piece of art.

 

The Men (1950):  Perhaps one of the first Hollywood films to focus on the life of a wounded soldier in a completely unsensational way. Very little screen time is given to war instead offering enormous time to focus on Ken (Marlon Brando) and his struggle as he is consumed with anger and self-pity. While this movie was not a commercial success, its themes will always remain relevant. As a production note -- This is Marlon Brando’s feature film debut.

 

Restrepo (2010): A documentary film that chronicles the lives of the men of Second Platoon, Battle Company in a valley in eastern Afghanistan. The Restrepo post -- named so after a fallen comrade (PFC Juan Sebastian Restrepo), was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. Military. The goal of the post was to clear the Korengal Valley of insurgency and gain the trust of the local populace. Nothing went according to plan. Two journalists, British photographer Tim Hetherington, and journalist Sebastian Junger spent one year with the platoon in the Korengal Valley. This film is truly one of the greatest depictions of the soldier bond and camaraderie between them while at times offering gut wrenching footage of tense combat. The late Roger Ebert wrote in his four star review of the film, “The location footage is intercut with debriefings of the survivors conducted soon after they've been flown out to Italy. They use understatement to express strong emotions. The deaths of men they fought with are almost impossible for them to speak of … The film is nonpolitical. It was filmed at great personal risk by the war photographer Tim Hetherington and the author Sebastian Junger. It raises for me an obvious question: How can this war possibly be won?” Tragically, a few years after completion of the documentary, photographer Tim Hetherington, while covering the 2011 Libyan civil war, is killed by mortar shrapnel.

 

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Born on the Fourth of July is a 1989 American biographical war drama film directed by Oliver Stone based on the best-selling autobiography Born on the Fourth of July by Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic. Nominated for numerous critical awards and several Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor (Tom Cruise) and winner of two Oscars for Best Director (Oliver Stone) and Best Film Editing (David Brenner and Joe Hutshing).  

The Men is a 1950 American drama film directed by Fred Zinnemann, written by Carl Foreman, and starring Marlon Brando, Teresa Wright and Everett Sloane. Despite the film's commercial failure, it marked Brando’s film debut.

*  Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision is a 1994 documentary film made by Freida Lee Mock about the life of American artist Maya Lin, whose best-known work is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  The film won the 1994 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

*  Restrepo is a 2010 American documentary film about the Afghanistan war, directed by American journalist Sebastian Junger and British photojournalist Tim Hetherington. The film won the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

 

Published in News & Information
Tuesday, 07 November 2017 19:34

Music in Movies: The 10 Best

Long before talkies, music was making movies better. It still is. What would Charlie Chaplin’s “Oceana Roll Dance” in The Gold Rush be without music, or Johnny Depp’s depiction in Benny and Joon for that matter? A more contemporary example would be how Daft Punk’s soundtrack for Tron: Legacy helped make “The Grid” a very real place for moviegoers. That said, here are the 10 best uses of music in movies, based on the lasting effect the music had in the movie and beyond the movie, the popular and critical success of the music and the legacy left.

10. Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” in Boogie Nights

This one might not be on a lot of people’s lists, but the first time I saw Mark Wahlberg, Tom Jane and John C. Reilly attempt to steal from a coked out Alfred Molina to the sound of Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” while a silent, house boy tossed exploding firecrackers around the room, I was mesmerized. It’s one of the most uncomfortable situations ever recorded, and the song makes the scene’s mise-en-scène a must-see.

9. Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Rudy

I used to think Rudy’s struggle to realize his dream made me cry every time I watched him succeed, but I’ve discovered the crescendo of the music when Rudy sacks the Georgia Tech quarterback has more of an effect than the images. I get emotional just listening to the score for Angelo Pizzo’s football masterpiece, and I’m not the only one. The music is now blasted at the stadium in South Bend during Fighting Irish football games. That adoption of the Rudy score from fiction and application in reality makes it one of the best uses of music in movies.

8. Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” in Rocky and Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" in Rocky III

Like the theme from Rudy, the theme from Rocky is blasted at Philadelphia Eagles games (and practiced by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra). It is immediately recognizable by almost anyone. The song features both uplifting highs and terrifying lows -- mirroring the conflict of Rocky’s life -- in and out of the ring. “Gonna Fly Now” was nominated for the 1977 Oscar for Best Original Song, but fell to Barbra Streisand’s “A Star is Born” from the movie of the same name. It hasn’t come close to becoming the pop culture icon that “Gonna Fly Now” has. The Rocky franchise is responsible for creating two iconic songs, and ranking which is more recognizable is problematic. People probably associate the music of both songs with the Rocky movies equally, but some couldn’t give you the title of “Gonna Fly Now.” Everyone knows “Eye of the Tiger.” Most of Rocky III was about Apollo helping Rocky get his eye of the tiger back after Mick dies. Sylvester Stallone should be glad Queen denied his request to use their song “Another One Bites the Dust” for Rocky III. While the song would have been fitting given the beating Rocky takes and then gives Clubber Lang, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” somehow cut through the cheese to become a movie classic. It even spent six weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and was the second-best single of 1982 behind Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical,” winning Survivor its only Grammy Award. The song was also nominated for the 1983 Academy Award for Best Original Song and has become the anthem of workout movie montages. You can’t even make a workout movie montage using another song without it being parodied with “Eye of the Tiger” laid over the top anymore. South Park went with Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best,” but even that was originally written by Allee Willis and Rocky’s Bill Conti for Rocky III, only to be replaced by “Eye of the Tiger.” “You’re the Best” got its chance to make movie history when Rocky director John Avildsen decided to use it in Karate Kid. It didn’t make this list, however.

7. The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

The best synchronized dance scene ever shot had more than the music to thank, but the music choice was so good that it actually influenced the shooting of the scene. The scene was shot during the Von Steuben Day Parade and on another Saturday in Chicago that saw more than 10,000 people attend thanks to radio stations inviting people to take part in the John Hughes film. Several of the people seen dancing in the scene, including the construction worker and the window washer, originally had nothing to do with the film. They were simply dancing to the music being played, and John Hughes found it so funny that he told the camera operators to record it. Those natural actions helped make Ferris Bueller’s Day Off the highest grossing film Hughes directed, with an adjusted gross of nearly $170 million.

6. B.J. Thomas’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and later, Spider-man 2

Written by Hal Davis and Burt Bacharach, the song won the 1970 Academy Award for Best Song, as did the original score. It makes for one of the most iconic movie montages ever in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The song is so great, it was one of the few redeeming moments of the Spider-man 2 movie. When a song can make a bad movie better, the song is objectively great.

5. Marvin Hamlisch’s “The Entertainer” in The Sting

No song is likely more often associated with a movie than Hamlisch’s version of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer.” Like a younger generation associates “Gonna Fly Now” with Rocky, and an even younger generation “Eye of the Tiger” with Rocky III, most people aware of The Sting can’t hear “The Entertainer” without thinking The Sting is on television somewhere. But unlike “Gonna Fly Now” and “Eye of the Tiger,” which were written specifically for movies and released as the movie did, Joplin’s “The Entertainer” debuted 71 years before The Sting was released. Hamlisch had a good year in 1974. He won the Academy Award for Original Song Score or Adaptation for The Sting as well as the Oscars for Original Dramatic Score and Original Song for The Way We Were -- another Robert Redford movie.

4. Cliff Edwards’ “When You Wish Upon a Star” in Pinocchio, and later, RocketMan

This gem written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Disney’s Pinocchio in 1940 was so popular it became the official song of The Walt Disney Company and accompanies the Disney logo prior to any Disney movie. My favorite rendition is performed by actor/comedian Harland Williams in RocketMan, who does a spot-on impersonation of Jiminy Cricket.

3. The Bee Gees’ “Night Fever” in Saturday Night Fever

The best opening credits ever recorded have The Bee Gees and John Travolta to thank. Saturday Night Fever producer Robert Stigwood even asked The Bee Gees to change the name of the song to match the movie. The Bee Gees declined because there were already too many songs with “Saturday” in the title -- including Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright” (For Fighting), the Bay City Rollers’ “Saturday Night” and Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park.” Saturday Night Fever didn’t need the name of the song changed to reach a massive audience, grossing over $237 million worldwide on a $3 million budget. It made back its budget and then some in its opening weekend.

2. Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O” and “Jump in the Line” in Beetlejuice

The scenes of Beetlejuice featuring Belafonte’s music are the two best scenes in the movie. The “Day-O” scene couldn’t have been done better using any other song. The lip syncing to “Day-O” in Beetlejuice is the reason why it’s such a popular chant at baseball and basketball games. I’m certain that wasn’t the case prior to the movie’s popularity. I specifically watch the closing credits to Beetlejuice for the dance scene with Winona Ryder suspended in mid-air while dead characters dance to “Jump in the Line.” I’m a fan of Harry Belafonte, whose album “Calypso” became the first LP by a single artist ever to sell a million copies 30 years before I was born. I now own that LP because of Beetlejuice and chant “Day-O” at Minnesota Twins games because of Beetlejuice.

1. Q Lazzarus’s “Goodbye Horses” in The Silence of the Lambs, and later, Clerks II

Quite possibly responsible for both the creepiest and funniest moments in movie history, Q Lazzarus’s “Goodbye Horses” is the best use of music in movies in two very different instances. The song was also used in Married to the Mob and the Maniac remake as further evidence of its number one status on this list. Firstly, I’ll forward this by saying I find the song to be objectively great, both musically and lyrically. The lyrics are wonderfully vague and require explanation. (The song’s about transcendence over those who see the world as only earthly and finite,” according to its writer, William Garvey. “The horses represent the five senses from Hindu philosophy, The Bhagavad Gita, and the ability to lift one’s perception above these physical limitations and to see beyond this limited Earthly perspective.") All things most certainly do not “pass into the night.” Secondly, besides maybe “The Entertainer,” there isn’t a song more associated with a movie than this one -- and this one’s associated with two magical movie moments. Most people are aware of the first. The latest use of “Goodbye Horses” in Clerks II helps a newly sober Jay overcome his urges. The brilliant choice by Kevin Smith to use it allowed the song to reach an entirely new generation, leaving a lasting legacy in pop culture.


 

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk radio shows: The Karel Show, Erskine Overnight, The Lounge, Free Talk Live, The Debbie Nigro Show

Published in News & Information
Friday, 27 October 2017 22:18

Underappreciated horror films for Halloween

Halloween is upon us and brings the holy trilogy of: trick or treaters, costumes and candy. And, of course, inevitable lists of horror films you should watch for your Halloween scares.   

 

Now, I love said lists but the problem with them is that you tend to see the usual suspects. Take your pick of a franchise film - Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play, Paranormal Activity, Scream, Friday the 13th, Saw, Halloween, Hellraiser, [Insert Random Name] of the Dead, etc., etc. Throw in obligatory mention of The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Shining, add another Stephen King adaption for good measure, class it up with a vintage black and white or three like: Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Frankenstein and toss in whatever is currently hip and popular with the cool kids, such as -- It Follows and Babadook.

 

Viola! Instant “Best Halloween Movies to Watch This Year” list!

 

Fair enough. But -- also -- Oh. So. Boring.

 

Let’s use some imagination here. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of movies in the aforementioned list that I adore. But there are a lot of great horror movies that have slipped under the radar. If you are a true horror film aficionado there probably won't be anything here you've not heard of. But for most movie folk this should be a nice list of under appreciated horror films you may dig. Also, I'm not really a fan of horror comedy so none of them made my list.

 

The trailers were meticulously screened to avoid spoilers. No, seriously. I watched multiple trailers for all of these movies and selected ones that were cool but vague and non spoilerific!

 

Some of my favorite underappreciated or forgotten horror films -- presented alphabetically:  

 

Coherence (2013): More of a dark psychological sci-fi thriller than traditional horror film. Coherence naturally evolves from a dinner party set piece into a mind twisting nightmare. Director James Ward Byrkit shot the extremely low budget movie without a script. Instead he worked from a detailed 12 page plot synopsis and each day passed notecards to the eight actors, outlining goals they had to accomplish with all improvised dialog. It’s one known star, Nicholas Brendon (Xander of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) had this to say, “...every day we had five different things we had to convey … since there was no script, I had no idea how it ended … to be quite honest, I never really knew what was going on fully until I saw the movie done.  When I saw the movie, I’m like, ‘Oh, Shit, this is awesome!’”  Coherence official trailer.

 

A Horrible Way to Die (2010): An indie darling the toured the festival circuit but never really got a wide release.  A Horrible Way to Die follows lead Sarah, played to perfection in a truly mesmerizing performance by Amy Seimetz. Sarah is in full recovery mode from … something. Something recent and very traumatic. The story shifts back and forth from her past to her present as we slowly begin to understand her horrific history. And then a friend of Sarah’s goes missing, in the present, and she realizes her past may have caught up with her.   A Horrible Way to Die official trailer.



House of the Devil (2009): Writer / Director Ti West’s loving recreation of 80’s horror films. Shot on 16mm film to preserve the retro look of 80’s horror and even co-starring horror film legend Dee Wallace and eighties great "go to" character actor, Tom Noonan. The story follows college student Samantha Hughes as she desperately searches for a way to make some extra dough to pay the deposit on a brand new kick ass apartment. Sam decides to answer a babysitting ad. A very strange, babysitting ad. House of the Devil official trailer.

 

The Loved Ones (2009): Robin McLeavy plays Princess Lola -- the greatest psycho woman to grace the silver screen since Angela Bettis was May Dove Canady in Lucky McKee’s May (later on the list). The Loved Ones finds surprising laughs and disturbing shocks in equal measure. Traditional “torture porn” movies offer visceral but generally artless visuals of cold blooded torture, usually in the form of misogynistic violence against women. Writer / Director Sean Byrne knows the worn tropes well, avoids the usual pratfalls and delivers a gender reversed twisted masterpiece. The Loved Ones official trailer.

 

Kill List (2011): Another movie on the list that is more dark psychological thriller than traditional horror. Two former British soldiers become hitmen. Gal is laid back and uncynical, Jay is still traumatized from an unspecified mission disaster during his soldiering days. Their newest contract spins their lives wildly out of control and leads to some very unexpected, very disturbing places. Kill List is a slow burn of a film and requires viewing patience, not least because the thick accents are, for a time, difficult to understand. Kill List official trailer.

 

Martyrs (2008): Oh, dear God. This movie is not for the faint of heart. You have been warned. Martyrs is the story of Lucie Jurin. As a young girl Lucie escapes from a slaughterhouse where she has been imprisoned and tortured for years. The perpetrators go uncaught and their motives remain a mystery. Lucie spends more than a decade in an orphanage and, while she has recovered physically, she is still plagued by nightmares and suffers debilitating visions of a ghoulish emaciated woman hunting her. Lucie leaves the orphanage and tracks down the family that captured & tortured her and begins to extract unbelievably violent, bloody revenge. But -- she might be in the wrong house. The family Lucie is brutalizing might be completely innocent. Martyrs, along with High Tension, Frontiers and Inside are widely regarded as the godfathers of the New French Extremity film movement.  A movement that refers thematically and stylistically to a wide range of French filmmakers that tackle taboo subjects and was once described by film writer Matt Smith as, “[a] crossover between sexual decadence, bestial violence and troubling psychosis." As you can imagine, most of the films within the New French Extremity movement are -- well, not worth viewing.  But Martyrs is. It is the only great “torture porn” movie I would ever recommend -- with reservations that it will still not be for most folks.  I believe I’ve given you enough information to know if this film is for your particular taste, or not. (Make sure to watch the original 2008 French w/ English Subtitles version and NOT the American Remake). Martyrs official trailer.



May (2002): Delightfully awkward, devilishly lonely May Dove Canady suffered from a rough childhood due to endless bullying because of her lazy eye. Her only friend -- a glass-encased doll named Suzie. But then May meets a boy. A real boy. Angela Bettis knocks it out of the park with her quirky awkward performance. May is Lucky McKee’s only good film. Seriously. If you see the name Lucky McKee attached to any other film not called May, immediately throw it in the garbage. May official trailer.

 

Pontypool (2008): The greatest zombie apocalypse film (that might not actually be a zombie apocalypse film) you have never seen. Shock jock Grant Mazzy and his producer Sydney Briar are front and center in their small town radio room when the world outside goes --- crazy. Both Stephen McHattie (Grant) and Lisa Houle (Sydney) are superb in the lead roles. Based on the Tony Burgess novel Pontypool Changes Everything  and inspired by Orson Welles' infamous radio broadcast of The War of the World's. Pontypool official trailer.

 

[REC] (2007): Probably the best known film on the list. [REC] is a found footage-esq masterpiece about a TV reporter and her cameraman following emergency workers into an apartment building and are quickly locked inside with -- something. Cleverly hiring real life TV personality Manuela Velasco to portray a fictional version of herself and using only cameras that would be available to a TV news show to shoot the movie create a uniquely realistic atmosphere. [REC] spawns a few unsatisfying sequels and there is even a decent American remake called Quarantine but the original version in Spanish is really the big boy on the block.  [REC] official trailer.



Triangle (2009): What begins as a very seemingly well acted but mundane ghost ship story quickly evolves into a mind bending, bloody journey of loss, regret and choices. Triangle is a movie that gets better and better with repeat viewings. This film, The Loved Ones and Pontypool are my three go to films when I am asked for a horror film recommendation. I was unable to find a trailer that didn’t spoil some of the film’s surprises so I didn’t attach one. Look it up if you want but Triangle is best viewed with a clean slate.



Who Can Kill a Child? (1976): Tom and Evelyn, two English tourists, arrive on a city island during the last leg of their vacation before Evelyn gives birth to their third child. But -- they can’t seem to find any adults. And the silent grim faced children that run in packs all over the town cast suspicious glances their direction but refuse to speak with them. A Children of the Corn esq narrative that actually came out years before King’s story (which first appeared in print form in Penthouse in the late 70’s).  Based on the Juan Jose Plans novel The children’s game, who adapted the screenplay under a pen name. This movie was widely unavailable for decades but finally came out on DVD in 2007. There is no Blu Ray edition. Who Can Kill a Child? official trailer.



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Coherence is a 2013 American science fiction thriller film directed by James Ward Byrkit.

 

A Horrible Way to Die is a 2010 American horror film written by Simon Barrett, directed by Adam Wingard.

 

The House of the Devil is a 2009 American horror film written, directed, and edited by Ti West.

 

The Loved Ones is a 2009 Australian horror film written and directed by Sean Byrne.

 

Kill List is a 2011 British crime drama psychological horror film directed by Ben Wheatley, co-written and co-edited with Amy Jump.

 

Martyrs is a 2008 French-Canadian drama horror film written and directed by Pascal Laugier.

 

May is a 2002 American psychological horror film written and directed by Lucky McKee.

 

Pontypool is a 2008 Canadian horror film directed by Bruce McDonald and written by Tony Burgess, based on his novel Pontypool Changes Everything.

 

REC (stylized as [•REC]) is a 2007 Spanish zombie horror film, co-written and directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza.

 

Triangle is a 2009 British-Australian psychological horror thriller film written and directed by Christopher Smith.


Who Can Kill a Child? (Spanish: ¿Quién puede matar a un niño?; also released as Island of the Damned) is a 1976 Spanish horror film directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador.

 

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