Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Horror Movies of the Decade

To be honest, this wasn't a great decade for horror.  We saw lots of trends - J-Horror, Zombie mania, Torture Porn, 3D, and endless, mindless remakes, but not many memorable installments into the horror movie hall of fame.

Here are the lone standouts:

Let the Right One In - the vampire tale finally told from a personal perspective.  Quiet, reflective and chilling to the bone.

The Ring - the best of J-Horror transferred to the states. A compelling ghost riddle with a great ending.

 The Devil's Backbone - Del Torro's haunting ghost story.

The Orphanage - another foreign language pitch-perfect ghost story.

The Host - the best monster movie in a long time.  Great characters - a fun ride.  What Cloverfield and Monsters wanted to be.

The Mist - best Stephen King adaptation since Shawshank.  Builds up gradual tension and then crashes you with a brutal Lovecraftian ending.

Drag Me to Hell - Raimi returns to his manic Evil Dead roots, but with a more toned-down approach.  Fun, funny, scary and always entertaining.

28 Days Later - Danny Boyle's brilliant zombie reboot for the 21st century.

Saw - yes, it launched a torrent of horrible torture porn, but as a standalone low-budget horror movie Saw remains as a great example of what you can do with minimal sets, a couple actors and one nasty idea.

Paranormal Activity - lots of haters with this one, but I loved the setup and bought most of it - except for the flaming Ouija board - ok, that was kinda silly.

Let's see, a top ten list where 5 out of the 10 are foreign made (remember, 28 Days Later is British), another one (The Ring) is a remake of a Japanese film and two of the American-made movies were indie films, far from the mainstream studio system.  Really, a pitiful showing from Hollywood, where dollar signs led them to blindly rehash old favorites in a desperate attempt to generate revenue - instead of developing great new horror talents.

It's obvious the foreign and indie markets will continue to drive this genre.

The best of the rest:

The Mothman Prophecies
Trick 'r Treat
The Last Exorcism

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best TV Shows of the Decade

I decided to skip over the Top 10s of the year and go right for the big daddy - the Best of the Decade.

First up - Television.
 This last decade of TV represents for me, the golden age of television.  Simply put, it is the best television has ever produced:

The Wire - The best. Ever. David Simon's brutally honest dystopian vision is the gold standard.


The Sopranos - The one that started it all - and relaunched Journey's career.

Breaking Bad - Fearless. Bold. Funny. Visionary. Brutal.

Mad Men - Tone-perfect subtle portrayal of the pivot point of a decade and a man's journey to find his authentic self.

Deadwood -  David Milch's foul-mouthed Shakespearean western is a multi-layered tour-de-force.

Band of Brothers - Epic portrayal of the realities of war in the mid-century.

Dexter - Puts all those CSI clone shows to shame.  Michael C. Hall carries the show with nothing but subtle facial expressions.

Curb Your Enthusiasm - Seinfeld synthesized into a crack-like addictive journey into Larry David's warped vision of ultimate social discomfort and humiliation.

Battlestar Gallactica - Sci-Fi told on an epic scale while maintaining its focus on character.

Rescue Me - Foul-mouthed.  Daring.  Brutally honest.  Went head-first into post 9-11 territory that no one else with a sane mind would touch.  Thank you Dennis Leary.

These brilliant and revolutionary shows easily match up against the best television of any decade - perhaps even the best narrative dramas of any medium.  If will be interesting to see if the next decade can live up to these achievements.  Clearly the most creative minds are now working in television - where the showrunners (usually writers) can maintain control of their vision.

Not one of these shows was produced by traditional network television.  And no one cares anymore - the era of the networks is dead.  My children couldn't tell a network from cable or pay tv or YouTube or hulu or Netflix.  It is all simply visual storytelling that comes to them from a box in our home - or on a mobile device on the go.  The revolution is already over.

The best of the rest:

Six Feet Under
The Office
Generation Kill
Friday Night Lights
30 Rock
True Blood
The Daily Show With John Stewart

Next up:  Best Horror Movies of the Decade

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Enter the Dark - Updates

The latest greatest happenings of my little bundle of spooky goodness known as Enter the Dark:

First, a couple of recent reviews:

Scary Film Review:  … a very surreal, scary and realistic depiction of a universal fear that all of us have... a sonic achievement of style and horror, but in a very psychological way.

Killer Reviews: of those short cool films that is efficiently produced and directed, well written and acted and a damn good use of a spare 17 minutes.

Be sure to check out these websites as they offer great insights and content on all things horror.

In other news, we were excited to find out that Enter the Dark received an Award of Merit from IndieFest!

From their website:  "Indie awards go to those filmmakers who produce fresh, standout entertainment, animation and compelling documentaries. The Indie is a showcase for cinematic gems and unique voices."

Woo Hoo!  While we're stoked to have received the recognition, I think we'll hold off on getting the actual trophy you see on the left.  You see, that little baby would set me back another $350 bucks, and while it would be nice to see it up on my mantle, I can live with the JPEG image just fine.

Also, congrats and a shout-out to my friend Elisabeth Fies for taking home an Award of Excellence at the same awards for Sound Overall Impact for The Commune.  Elisabeth and I, along with sound-recordist and mixer, Winter, spent a lot of time and effort on the sound design of that movie to really set mood, create tension, and emphasize plot points.  I learned a lot, which definitely paid off when it came time to think about sound for Enter the Dark.

No new screenings or festivals at the moment, but hopefully that will soon change as many of the festivals I have submitted to will be making their selections any day now.  Most of the recent submissions have been to short film festivals, or indie film festivals, so it will be interesting to see how the movie is received by a non horror-specific audience.  I hope it will do well, as folks who have seen it already who don't normally like horror movies (my wife included) have so far responded well to it. 

We shall see...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Teal & Orange Holiday Edition

Merry Holiday Festivus season boys and girls!  Today Santa's got a great present to share with you.  A brand new movie trailer just dripping with those classic holiday colors - Orange and Teal!

Can you guess what it is?  What's that you say?

Oh - Tron?  Well, no, that's an obvious choice - I mean it is absolutely drenched with those beautifully festive hues:

Just look at the amazing rainbow colors of those fireworks - I can taste every one of them: strawberry, blueberry, lime, raspberry.  It sure is remarkable how colorful the inside a computer can look!  Those Hollywood colorists sure had to get up early in the morning to dream up all of that!

I've heard folks say that this new Tron looks just like the original - that it HAD to be Orange and Teal 'cuz that's what it looked like way back when:

Hmm - but wait, what's that purple doing back there.  Here, let me waive my magic pipe, say three Ho, Ho Ho's and make it more Christmassy:

Ahh - now that's much better - That's how Santa remembered it.

Oh watch out for my new reindeer - they do get a tad restless when someone mentions the word "purple"!

Now wait a sec, those aren't reindeer - those look like hounds from hell from that new movie-

Yeah, The Tempest, that's what I wanted to show you.  A new adaptation of Shakespeare's great play.  You know...
Shakespeare... The Bard...
Ooh - now that's rather gloomy isn't it. Took the festive right out of festivus!  Let's give him a little holiday cheer shall we:
Much better!

Now let's take a look at this great new version of The Tempest:
What?... what is that?  Oh wait, that's the 1982 Paul Mazursky version - horrid, simply horrid colors with all that leafy green in there and that flesh tone looking all fleshy.  Let's update that shall we?

Oh... (sniff) now that's so much better (sniff) - brings me right back to my childhood - to holiday seasons past... Sorry, I'm getting too emotional here... just sit back and let the Christmas orange and teal spirit wash over you:

Ahhh - Shakespeare's work never looked better.  I couldn't have dreamed a more cheerful vision if my life depended on it.  Thank goodness these Hollywood art directors, colorists and directors continue to spread holiday cheer with their exquisite taste in color.

And damn what anyone else says. Eff those frigging other colors anyway - what did they ever do for me, eh?  I see you over there purple - yeah, and your buddy violet too - tell him and burgundy to get the frak off Santa's porch if you know what's good fer ya!  I got a sawed-off shotgun of TEAL and ORANGE with your name on it buddy!!  Awash!  Awash in ORANGE and TEAL my kingdom shall be!!  And all others shall shake in their puny pink boots!  SO SAYS SANTA!  SO SAY WE ALL!!  UNTIL THE DAY OF RECKONING WHEN THE OLD ONES WILL AWAKE FROM THEIR ORANGE AND TEAL SLUMBER BENEATH THE GIBBOUS MOON AND CTHULU SHALL SING THE SONGS OF THE COSMOS FOR THE GREAT NYAHJDGKJYEGKDYUAKS...Hdkjfhg...deakjkk...

Uh... Sorry Kids...

Santa had a bit too much egg nog there and all those beautiful colors kicked-off a sort of seizure (too much information, santa) Oh.. ok, anyway, thanks for sharing this holiday season with me and I look forward to seeing you all in 2011- forever spreading Teal and Orange goodness throughout the land.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter's Bone - a triumphant win of silence over car crashes

Winter's Bone is a movie that Hollywood could never produce.

They just couldn't.

It is a quiet, studied examination of the scorched aftermath of meth, and the determined spirit of one young woman who tirelessly fights for those she loves.

It tells the tale of a community ravaged by drugs, the dysfunction of the police to do anything about it, and the folks who are just barely hanging on. It is the type of storyline that you could easily imagine being one of the threads of HBO's The Wire, but this time, instead of a bombed out Baltimore slum, the story takes place in the cold Ozark mountains.

Director Debra Granik does a brilliant job letting her tale unfold naturally.  The cinema verite style allows the viewer to enter this world as a documentary viewer might - taking in the sights, gently getting a feel for these characters, until at around the eleven minute mark the plot point that propels the narrative is finally revealed.

17-year-old Ree Dolly, forced to look after her two younger siblings and her incapacitated mother, discovers that her wayward meth-cooking father is due to appear in court soon and has put the house up for collateral for his bail bond.  If he fails to appear in court, they stand to lose everything. Meager as it is, their house and property are the only thing holding this shattered family together.  Ree desperately tries to track her dad down through a series of tense encounters with the local community - most of whom are somehow related.  Round these parts it seems almost everyone is kinfolk.

If taken out of its rural surroundings and placed in a dark, nighttime urban environment, Winter's Bone could easily be seen as a classic Film Noir thriller.  Our protagonist stands alone trying to unravel a mystery while dangerous unknown forces thwart her at every turn.  She is met with indifference at best, and violence at worst and inevitably comes face to face with the shocking reality of what has become of her father, and what she must do to carry on.

A great movie of determination and will, Winter's Bone is not for those who need a car crash every five minutes to keep them awake.  Sit down, settle in and let the movie work through you.  Jennifer Lawrence's performance as Bree is both effortless and spellbinding and she absolutely deserves an Academy Award nomination, as does Debra Granik for her amazing pitch perfect direction.  I hope it will also receive a nod for best adapted screenplay as well, from the novel by Daniel Woodrell.  Granik and screenwriter Anne Rosellini do a tremendous job of letting scenes breathe and displaying the classic screenwriting ethos of "show,  don't tell".

Be sure to check out Winter's Bone - it may even soon be re-released into the theaters again when the Oscar buzz hits the beginning of next year.

4 stars! (out of 5)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Goodfellas - sort of

Ok, I couldn't help myself.  This dang xtranormal site is too dang tempting.
It's not my fault... really.

(not safe for work - unless you work for wise guys)