Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Australia and a Happy Thanksgiving!

My review of Australia -- a great big, rich, overstuffed Thanksgiving dinner of a movie -- is here.

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

Monday, November 24, 2008

2008 NYC Horror Festival Reviews...

I've finally had time to start posting reviews of the nine films that were in feature competition at the New York City Horror Film Festival, starting with three of my favorites: Frank Henenlotter's Bad Biology, the thoroughly surprising Bonnie & Clyde vs Dracula (surprise no.1: despite the campy title, it's good) and the Spanish time-travel thriller Time Crimes. You can read them here, and there are more to come.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's Twilight Time...

The witching hour is approaching, and my review of Twilight is up.

Tell me what you think...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chuck and Larry go Bollywood!

My review of Dostana, an Indian comedy about straight guys pretending to be gay so they can rent a swanky Miami apartment, is now live.

Please check it out -- I swear, Bollywood movies aren't what you think!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Last House on the Left redux!

Hot off the presses: There's a new version of Wes Craven's Last House on the Left in the works and I can't wait to see it.

I first caught Last House back in 1972 in Times Square, where it shocked purportedly unshockable audiences and passed directly from trash movie to pop-culture icon.

MGM Home Entertainment is putting out a new DVD at the end of February 2009 and frankly, I can't wait to see it: It's one of those movies that change the way you see movie and even expurgated versions have the power to shock.

More later, as I uncover details...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Catch Me at the New York City Horror Film Festival

Tomorrow I'll be participating in a panel discussion on the last day of the New York City Horror Film Festival; other panel members include directors Bill Lustig (Manic) -- also the guru behind specialty DVD label Blue Underground -- and Jeff Lieberman (all I have to say is that if you haven't seen his deranged Blue Sunshine, you need to do so soon!), as well as Michael Gingold from Fangoria magazine.

It starts at noon at the Tribeca Cinemas, located at 54 Varick Street (at Canal). If anyone's in the neighborhood, please stop by!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quantum of Solace

My review of the new Bond film is up and I have to say, I liked a lot better than many other writers did.

I'm interested to hear what you think.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Set Your DVR: Ray Bradbury on TCM

I vividly remember the first Ray Bradbury story I ever read: It was The Small Assassin, about a toddler who decides to murder his parents. Elegant and creepy at the same time -- good stuff!

So I got a kick out of the fact that he's playing guest programmer for Turner Classic Movies on Novermber 20th. He's picked four films, and he'll be on air with TCM's Robert Osborne to explain why.

The films are:

The 1925 version of Phantom of the Opera, with Lon Chaney (8PM EST)
The Chaney version of Hunchback of Notre Dame, from 1923 (9:45PM EST)
Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 Rebecca 11:45PM EST)
Orson Welles' 1941 Citizen Kane (2AM EST)

I'll be interested to hear what he has to say about the first two: I'm betting he saw them in theaters when he was a child and they made a hell of an impression. And frankly, the look of Chaney's Phantom is a keeper -- I just saw it referenced a few weeks ago on the cover of the New Yorker (see above left), illustrating a story about the current economic freefall.

When an image more than 80 years old has that kind of potency, attention must be paid!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm a Judge at the New York Horror Film Festival...

...which pretty much defines the term "right up my alley."

The festival runs from November 13th through the 16th: Here's more detailed info. I was recently a judge at the New York Asian Film Festival, and it was a blast. So I expect this one to be even more fun, given my lifelong passion for the genre.

One film has already jumped out fo the pack of movies in competition for its sky high "what the f**k" factor, which was the gold standard to which old-school Times Square habitues like myself held grindhouse movies. High WTF factor didn't necessarily mean a movie was good... it just meant you had never, ever in all your born days seen that before. And this particular movie was a pleasant surprise because it was made by someone whose first feature (which ranked high on the WTF scale of the day -- no mean feat back then) was released more than 25 years ago. I love to see a mature filmmaker prove that s/he still has the power to make jaws drop!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

One seriously cool day...

I spent most of today coordinating a shoot at the Bronx Zoo and I have to say, the geek kid in me (the one who loved dinosaurs, herpetology and tales of ancient archeological digs) was in heaven.

Suffice it to say that the highlight of my day was having a hissing cockroach crawl across my hand and hiss in my ear.

Next up: Judging a festival close to my heart -- more info tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

When bad movies happen to good people

I recently supervised part of the second-channel commentary for a movie I thought was something of a disaster.

Listening to the director and one of the stars talk thoughtfully and in some detail about the various choices and decisions they made before, during and after shooting was a vivid reminder that not only do most people not set out to make bad movies, but they often invest an enormous amount of time, thought and emotional energy in projects that isn't necessarily reflected in the finished product.

Neither was slinging self-deluded, blowing-smoke puff and prattle. They're both talented, serious individuals and their reasons for doing particular things -- from the way certain lines were delivered to details of set design -- were all intelligent, interesting and made perfect sense. Make no mistake, I still have the same problems with the finished film, but I was reminded how hard it is to make movies, how many ways things can go wrong and how lazy and pandering lot of current movie reviewing has become.

There are plenty of movies out there that are made by committee and driven by market research. The people behind them aren't out to make bad movies per se, but they're also not trying to make good movies either, unless you define "good" purely as "could make a lot of money." I don't have much sympathy for them though, that said, I've been on sets where individual actors and crew members were doing their damnedest to make something they could be proud of, even though they knew the project they were working on was junk.

Ultimately what matters is what winds up on the screen, and no one likes feeling that the time and money they spent going to the movies was a total waste. That is, of course, one of the reasons there are movie critics.

But a lot of so-called movie criticism is flip and snippy and ignorant. There are all kinds of bad movies, and it's a critic's responsibility to differentiate -- an ambitious movie can turn out as badly as a formulaic cash-in on a popular star, timely theme or cynical cash in. That doesn't mean they should all be dismissed with the same snarky one-liners.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Maitland at the Avon Theater

No, I haven't vanished -- I've just been juggling projects.

Wanted to let you know that tomorrow -- yes, November 5, the day after election day, when the entire nation will be nursing a vicious post-campaign hangover -- I'll be at the Avon Theater in Stamford, CT, hosting a screening of Nicholas Roeg's 1980 Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession, complete with post-film Q&A.

If any of you are in the area, it would be great to see you