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October 27, 2010

Top 5 horror movies

The Descent

Eli Roth shared his Top 5 horror movies today--a good list, almost all 80's movies that upended or redefined the genre. On his list is Sleepaway Camp, Troll 2, Creepshow, Zombi 2, and Pieces. I've only seen a couple of those, but now Sleepaway Camp and Pieces are on the must-see list.

I suspect he partly included Troll 2 because now it's cool to be into that movie after last year's documentary Best Worst Movie. And sure, we all grew up watching Creepshow, but it wouldn't be on my list.

A couple of things I would add: Dario Argento is the perverse grinning granddaddy of Italian horror, and Suspiria is an obvious choice, but it's on my list. It's one to show the kids. David Gordon Green's remake has been on the radar for a few years now, but Argento apparently just released the rights over the summer. There's still no info about it on IMDb, but maybe now we'll get some action.

Peter Jackson's Dead Alive wins the prize for funniest horror movie. The gore is absolutely epic, but so surreal and goofy that it never gets stale, and those animatronic creature-monsters make it feel like some kind of grotesque Muppet horror. Two years later, he made Heavenly Creatures, which if you take them together might make you really glad you aren't Peter Jackson's mother.

And The Descent (photo above), one of my favorite movies ever. It starts out as an all-girl buddy movie, then becomes an adventure vacation gone awry, then becomes a gross-out creature-slasher movie. And works in some excellent scenes of breakdown of social order and whatever-it-takes survival. Plus features some of the toughest women in movie history, including Tarantino. I'm nuts about this one.

I hear that the French are doing the really truly sick stuff in horror these days, but I'm too scared to watch Inside or Martyrs. And I usually like the old stuff better anyway.

Here are all the movies AMC is playing for this year's Fearfest. Some pretty good stuff including 28 Days Later, the really great Dawn of the Dead remake, From Dusk Till Dawn, and They Live. Bad news is they'll all be edited.

Any recommendations of your favorite horror movies?

October 25, 2010

Original zombie programming

The Dead Set on IFC

Now that every cable channel feels like it has to do original programming, a couple of channels are introducing new shows this week. Two of them are zombie shows, which is a little odd: didn't the Great Zombie Revivification peak 3 or 4 or 8 years ago? I think of the publication of World War Z, Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, and the Halloween Parade of 2008 when about 10,000 people all seemed to be dressed as zombies as the high point of the new zombie revolution.

But it's only now that TV is catching up. AMC is going to premiere its new series, "The Walking Dead", on Halloween night (next Sunday). It sounds like a close relative of Night of the Living Dead or 28 Days Later, in which the main character wakes up in a hospital to find the world has been overrun by zombies. It's based on a comic series that launched in 2003, a good year for zombies. It looks like it should be pretty good, but might take itself too seriously (producer-director Frank Darabont wrote and directed The Shawshank Redemption and, even better, Nightmare on Elm Street III.)

IFC has its own zombie show, too, "Dead Set". This one starts tonight at midnight and runs for just five episodes. It's a British series that first aired in 2008 (again, a better year for TV zombies) and features a bunch of young telegenic people shooting a season of "Big Brother" while the world outside the studio is transformed by the zombie apocalypse.

This one sounds pretty funny: the fans of the show screaming outside the Big Brother house slowly turn into zombies that try to eat their idols' brains. From the Times article about the series: "One of the 'Big Brother' hosts, Davina McCall, plays herself. She does so quite convincingly, as both a sharp-tongued television presenter and a blood-caked angry zombie trying to take a bite out of her producer."

First Shaun of the Dead and now this: Why is it that only the British have succeeded in the zombie spoof genre?

In the non-zombie original programming category is a new series on TCM, "Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood", a 7-part show starting next Monday night about the explosive growth of the American movie industry. It starts in 1903 with nickelodeons and The Great Train Robbery, and ends in 1969 with Easy Rider.

I think this is TCM's first original documentary, and it looks great, even if no one's guts get ripped out of their bellies and devoured by a horde of fast-moving undead.

October 19, 2010

Bumping rails and stealing TVs with Dottie from Gone Baby Gone

Dottie from Gone Baby Gone

I've been on the road for most of the past month, so it's been pretty quiet around here. Now I'm back, so let's peer into the murky world of marginal fame, moral turpitude, and racist Boston lowlifes!

I've said before how, despite his shortcomings as an actor, Ben Affleck really knows how to cast a movie. His latest, The Town, centers on an unconvincing love story and has a few too many pointless scenes, but the supporting cast is so outstanding that Affleck seemed to actually run out of meaningful roles for all those fantastic actors.

He did a good job with his first movie, Gone Baby Gone, too, giving the wonderful Amy Ryan one of her first big roles, and dredging up some really impenetrable accents from the South Boston neighborhoods where the movie was shot.

The most memorable parts of that movie for me were the scenes with Amy Ryan as an irresponsible mother, Helene, and her hahhd-pahhtyin' best friend Dottie. Those ladies were phenomenal. Watching them sleaze around Boston in their jean skirts and sweatsuits, looking for a good time and free drugs, was my favorite part of the movie. I remember Emily saying she couldn't wait to see the sequel, Helene and Dottie Bump Rails.

Maybe Ben Affleck's casting skills are even better than we realized: today we hear (tx Em!) that Jill Quigg, the woman he hand-picked to play Dottie, got busted for breaking into a neighbor's apartment, stealing a TV and a printer, then telling cops she had seen "a black man" break into the apartment.

Cops said they became suspicious of what Jill Quigg, 35, and her alleged accomplice Georgios Keskinidis, 28, told them about an unidentified black man breaking into the South Street apartment ... Quigg and Keskinidis told cops they saw an unidentified black male run from the crime scene with a 32-inch television and a computer printer. Quigg also told cops the break-in was "drug-related," but could not explain how she knew that.

They also told police they took the stolen goods to Quigg’s apartment located across the street from the crime scene for safe keeping.

Oh, Dottie!

Maybe she took her inspiration from Charles Stuart, the Boston guy who shot his pregnant wife in the head, then told cops that "a black man" had done it. Everyone believed him and a random black guy was actually arrested for the crime, until Stuart's brother confessed to the cops what had really happened. Then Stuart jumped from the Tobin Bridge into Mystic River and killed himself.

It's a Boston Gothic story William Faulkner could have written if he was from Quincy.

Even if she made up the part about the black man, Jill Quigg probably had one part of her story right. In her IMDb bio, one of her quotes is: "I'd love to do more acting, absolutely, but right now I'm working on staying sober."

October 3, 2010

The Social Network and DFW

The Social Network bar scene

The Social Network is #1 this weekend, which is lucky for whoever decided to saturate the universe with ads for the last 2 months.

I don't whole-heartedly love David Fincher's movies, or rather, I completely love them for the first 1/3, think the second 1/3 is pretty good, and the last 1/3 either runs out of steam or falls off a cliff. But this one was a lot more even and consistent, and the movie's energy didn't start to flag until the last 20 minutes or so.

The acting is fantastic--Jesse Eisenberg is going to be Hollywood's biggest sweetheart, and Armand Hammer (really!), the man who was born to play the uber-WASP Winklevoss twins, is really hilarious. For some reason I hadn't been expecting much comedy, but these actors could handle Aaron Sorkin's po-faced earnestness and make it sound like how normal, funny people talk.

At the end of the opening scene when Mark Zuckerberg gets dumped, his ex-girlfriend's closing line went something like this: "You're going to think that girls don't like you because you're a nerd. And that won't be true. It will be because you're an asshole."

Anyone else think about David Foster Wallace's 1997 essay about John Updike and the other Great Male Narcissists when she said that? The essay presents a thoughtful argument about the weird sexual obsessiveness, loneliness, and misogyny in Updike's books, and then ends like this: "It's not that [Updike's main character] is stupid ... His unhappiness is obvious right from the book's first page. But it never once occurs to him that the reason he's so unhappy is that he's an asshole."

Maybe a little bit of unintentional DFW inspiration/lifting from Aaron Sorkin by way of Erica Albright, there.

At least it's not based on a Dennis Lehane novel

The Town

I watched the latest in the decade's glut of Boston crime movies, The Town. It wasn't too bad, and given how easy it would have been for it to get lost in the Shutter River Gone Baby Departed chowdah pot, it does OK for itself.

The biggest benefit of directing when you're already a movie star seems to be that you can assemble a phenomenally good cast. Ben Affleck was so good at casting this movie that he got a few more top-notch actors than he even needed. Pete Postlethwaite and Chris Cooper are two of my very favorite actors, and while it was nice to see them again, they're given basically nothing to do but get through their brief scenes without completely overshadowing everyone else in the room. Cooper was especially wasted as Ben's imprisoned dad--if his one scene had been cut, it wouldn't have made any difference to the story at all.

The movie goes for quantity over quality in some other ways too. After Ben and Rebecca Hall meet, their relationship has to progress to a certain intensity and seriousness pretty fast. But instead of showing any real passion or chemistry or reasons why they're so into each other, we just see them go on about 85 different dates. Then they kiss. Then they're in love. Because the screenplay says they are.

One downside of casting lots of exceptional actors, besides having to create needless scenes for them all to act in, is that they make the less talented actors stick out uncomfortably. Especially when those actors are also the director. There are a couple of fantastic scenes between Ben Affleck and his best friend and partner in crime, Jeremy Renner, but Renner is so far ahead of Affleck in focus and believability that he makes Ben look like he's just sitting there waiting his turn to say his lines. Almost everybody in the movie is more memorable than Ben Affleck, and he's in just about every scene. He's not terrible, he's just out of his league.

Here's another actor that did a better job than Ben Affleck: Blake Lively. I know! She plays a broken-down local girl whose hometown has chewed up and spit out. It's not at all a glamorous role, and she doesn't try to make it into one. I was impressed. Especially considering she was probably the weak link of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Plus: excellent action sequences! Sometimes I tune these out in heist movies, but these were fantastic. The car chase through those narrow, winding streets of the North End was my favorite scene. Nice camera work throughout.

OK, let's say something else nice about Ben Affleck. My favorite Ben Affleck acting jobs: Extract and Dazed and Confused.

About October 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in October 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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