Friday, March 1, 2013

Welcome Back! And Warm Bodies (2013)

Hello film kids!

I know, right? It's been quite a while. I'll leave it up to film studies-related affairs that have kept me from you. As I look back on the blogs that I've written over the course of my awkward time on Blogger, it's easy to say that they revolved mainly around women in horror films. To be honest, I have no problem with this, as this is clearly a subject that I love. So, as it's 2013 now, I will be beginning my blogging once again.

I'll be starting things off with my brief reaction to the popular zombie-romance that is Warm Bodies. Equipped with a wonderful indie rock soundtrack, Jonathan Levine's take on Isaac Marion's novel (which I still have yet to read) is a film of sensitive moments that captures the awkwardness of young love, with brains, of course.

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Nicholas Hoult's R is a young zombie, who lives in an airplane, and who happens to have an extensive vinyl collection. Attacking a research lab, R sees plucky Julia through the bloody carnage and experiences a moment of romantic yearning. He rescues Julie from the deadly clutches of his zombie peers, and brings her back to his airplane for protection.

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Yes, this modern take on the classic Romeo and Juliet seems similar to the dreadful Twilight franchise, but that could not be further from the truth. Julia is actually a strong-willed individual capable of protecting herself, as seen in several instances. My favorite being the brief scene where she keeps a horde of zombies at bay with a weed wacker. Compared to the self-destructive Bella from Stephanie Meyer's poorly written saga, Julia serves as a great role model for you female viewers.

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Warm Bodies excels in practically every area that said vampire saga fails. R and Julia have legitimate chemistry that leaves other modern romances envious. Hoult is wonderful as R, and captures the zombie gait perfectly, while still maintaining the awkward charm of teen romantic lead. Teresa Palmer is wonderful as survivalist Julia, who's father is the leader of the human resistance. 

I know this review is a bit late, as Valentine's Day has been over for some time, but for those of you that have not seen this film yet, it is definitely worth checking out. 

Also, the Academy Awards were last weekend. Yes, Argo won. Yes, Silver Linings Playbook should have won. But at least Jennifer Lawrence did win. So, there's always that. And I'll just end on this note: Life of Pi won a few more awards than it deserved. 

Well, film kids, again I apologize for my absence. There will be more good things in the future.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Final Ultimate Woman of Horror!

It's finally that time, film kids. It's Halloween! And to celebrate, here is the final Ultimate Woman of Horror!


Along with her mother, Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee Curtis is horror genre royalty. With her legendary performance in Halloween (Carpenter, 1978), Curtis built her iconic status as the "scream queen." After the colossal success of Halloween, Curtis landed jobs in The Fog, Prom Night, and Terror Train. Laurie Strode is the ultimate final girl, in that she is one of the first young women to fight back against her slasher attacker.


In her classic take on the slasher genre, Men, Women, and Chainsaws, film scholar Carol Clover coined the term "final girl" and uses Strode as the main example. Strode's turn in Halloween 2 (Rosenthal, 1980) is disappointed when paired with the original. Where once Laurie was resilient and stood up to killer Michael Myers, in the sequel she spends the entire narrative running from and never confronting her killer brother. The action is left up to Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance).


It takes 20 years for Strode's character to get the renovation that she deserves in Halloween: H20 (Miner, 1998). H20 centers on the idea that Halloween 4, 5, and 6 never happened and that Myers has been lying dormant since his hospital attack on Laurie. Here we have a darker Laurie, one who has turned to alcohol led by constant paranoia that her killer brother will be back for her. Curtis' performance has never been stronger, and as she protects her son and his girlfriend from Michael's knife, she sheds the vulnerability from the second film to become Final Girl we all know and love.


I won't spoil the ending of this film, but I will say that Halloween: Resurrection truly ruins everything that H20 worked for. H20 is a contender for best Halloween film, in my book. Now, all of you horror fans out there are probably outraged at this notion, but the level of kickass-ness that Jamie Lee Curtis encapsulates on screen here speaks for itself. There is nothing like Laurie leaving the confines of the secure school, ax in hand, to confront Michael one last time. This is the stuff that horror legends are made of, and Miner executes the material perfectly.

Jamie Lee Curtis is the undisputed Queen of Horror, and as long as horror films are being made, the chances of her losing that title are quite slim indeed.

Happy Halloween, everyone! I hope you enjoyed this month's countdown as much as I enjoyed making it!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Janet Leigh- Psycho (1960)

There has always been a debate about whether it was Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960) or Peeping Tom (Powell, 1960) that gave birth to the slasher genre. For me, although I am a bit biased, Psycho has always been the stronger of the two. As the "penultimate" Ultimate Woman of Horror, Janet Leigh epitomizes the unlikely victim.


Leigh's career prior to working with Hitchcock was primarily sweet-hearted innocent roles that helped build her good girl image that defined her as an actress. It is with this irony, that screenwriter Joseph Stefano and Hitchcock built the entire first act of Psycho on. The audience assumes that they will be following Leigh's Marion Crane through the entire narrative.


As Marion goes from the somewhat innocent secretary to the woman on the run, the transition of her character is complemented by the change from her white undergarments to black.


Leigh may be considered innocent prior to her theft of the large sum of money from her place of employment, but she is in fact in an adulterous relationship with Sam Loomis (John Gavin). This entire plot line is abandoned once she checks into the Bates Motel. Here, after having an oddly casual conversation and meal with Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). The unexpected murder of a film's alleged star was something that had never been done before, and left an intense sense of uneasiness with the audience.


Leigh is the mother of Jamie Lee Curtis, the legendary final girl from Halloween (Carpenter, 1978) and the two appeared together in The Fog (Carpenter, 1980) and Halloween: H20 (Miner, 1998). Leigh's legendary performance in Psycho is celluloid perfection and will live on in the film history books as one of the finest female characters in the horror genre.


The whole month has led up to this: there is just one final Ultimate Woman of Horror left. The suspense is probably killing all of you, so check back tomorrow, for the final revelation. And, a Happy Early Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Danielle Harris- The Halloween Franchise

Halloween Weekend has always involved a marathon of sorts of the original Halloween franchise, and where would that marathon be without the often-looked-down-upon Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (Little, 1988) and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (Othenin-Girard, 1989)? These late sequels are generally hated by the public, but loved by a small group of hardcore Halloween enthusiasts. The main reason that these films succeed is the performances of Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd, alleged daughter of original Halloween survivor Laurie Strode, and the returning Donald Pleasance as the iconic Dr. Loomis. In honor of these fun films, the Ultimate Woman of Horror for the day is Danielle Harris.


As Myers' mask changed and began to look a bit ridiculous, as seen in this pic, the introduction of his niece as his prey provides a surprising amount of suspense as the young girl runs from him. Harris' acting is very impressive for such a young age, and her roles in these films have made her a convention favorite with the fans.


Unfortunately, Harris was also involved in the repulsive Rob Zombie Halloween remakes. Thankfully, Harris' roles in the 4th and 5th Halloween films was strong and despite being such a young girl, Jamie proved to be a true adversary for Myers for two films. A favorite moment of mine is when Loomis willingly offers Jamie to Michael in an attempt to stop him.


Celebrate Halloween Weekend the right way with a mini-marathon of these worthwhile Halloween sequels, featuring decent performances from Harris and Pleasance.

Check back tomorrow for another exciting addition to the Ultimate Women of Horror!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lina Leandersson- Let The Right One In (2008)

With Let The Right One In (Alfredson, 2008) and its American remake Let Me In (Reeves, 2010), the vampiric horror film has made its way to the top of the horror genre again, showing that vampires can still be scary despite Stephanie Meyer's attempt to strip them of all power. In honor of the resurrection of the epic vampire horror film, the Ultimate Woman of Terror of the day is the young Lina Leandersson from Let The Right One In.


Following in the steps of Kirsten Dunst from Interview With The Vampire (Jordan, 1994), Leandersson portrays a powerful vampire who still looks like a young child. Eli relies on her caretaker to supply her with blood from victims he kills, but ultimately takes the task into her own hands.


Brought over from Sweden, this gritty horror film raises the bar for vampire horror, a genre that has been stale for over a decade. Leandersson's performance, along with her co-stae Kåre Hedebrant, is daring and very impressive for such young actors. She truly captures the role and makes it her own, adding a level of vulnerability and violent innocence that make Eli so effective.


At first, I was worried about the American remake of this soon-to-be horror classic, but after viewing it, I was surprised to see that it almost lives up to the original. The cast may not be as good, but the story is just as effective. There was one scene that I was glad did not translate to the American screen, and if you've seen the Swedish film, you'll clearly know the one I'm talking about. Without giving anything away, the original would have been pitch perfect if one single shot would have been left out. But, regardless, Leandersson is a promising talent to be sure, and I greatly look forward to seeing where her advanced acting abilities take her.

Check back tomorrow for more Ultimate Women of Horror!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cathy Moriarty- Casper (1995)

Now, most of you film kids are probably scoffing at today's Ultimate Woman of Horror, saying that Casper (Siberling, 1995) isn't exactly a horror movie, and you might be right to some degree. However, as a child of the 90's, I will go to my grave defending this film with everything I have. I remember, as May of 1995 was rolling around. Coming off a solid kick of The Lion King in 1994, Casper would prove to be a film that I saw a total of five times in the theatre with various kids from the neighborhood. So, in honor of this childhood favorite of mine, I am adding Cathy Moriarty to the list of Ultimate Horror Women.


Here is a woman known for her classic performances in films like Raging Bull (Scorsese, 1980), adding a bit of credibility and class to this family horror comedy. Moriarty's Carrigan Crittenden is a down right bitch. She is vilified to such an extent that she has no interest in the death of her father other than the contents of his will. Moriarty gloriously personifies camp in such a gleeful manner that watching her onscreen is the highlight of the film for me. For most, the relationship between Casper and Kat (Christina Ricci) would be the focal point of the film. For me, even as a child, the role of Carrigan and her abusive relationship towards Dibbs (Eric Idle) took all of my attention.


True, this film is not the best made film of the 90's, but it is one of the classic staples of my childhood, and I am letting that emotional attachment earn Moriarty a place on this list. The presence of ghostly Carrigan is also incredibly entertaining. Casper is airing on pretty much every network at least once a week as Halloween is so close, so be sure to sit down with your Halloween candy and bask in all of its campy glory. Some of it is a bit sad, but what film from our childhoods doesn't at least one character dealing with the death of a family member. This, along with Hocus Pocus (Ortega, 1993) are always at the top of my list at the end of October.


Check back tomorrow for another exciting Ultimate Woman of Horror!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Natalie Portman- Black Swan (2010)

This gloriously shot, spectacularly acted, and wonderfully scored psycho-sexual thriller places Natalie Portman at the head of contemporary actors. With films like Hesher (Susser, 2010), V For Vendetta (McTeigue, 2006), and Garden State (Braff, 2004), Portman has developed her skills as an actress and her characterization of troubled ballerina Nina Sayers in Black Swan (Aronofsky, 2010) earns her the honor of Ultimate Woman of Horror.


With the classic ballet Swan Lake at its core, Black Swan features Portman at her finest as the young ballerina given the role of the Swan Queen. As the pressure of the lead role begins to get to her, Nina slowly begins to question her sanity. With a rival dancer gunning for the position and a mother regulating her life, Nina has a lot to deal with. Portman's performance is a prime example of the vulnerable dancer, willing to do anything to succeed in her first lead role.


The perfectly executed dancing sequences set the film apart from other pictures that live in the world of ballet. This on its own would provide the viewer with enough reason to watch the film. The eerie and ethereal nature of the plot push the film into even darker territory as Nina's internal struggle fills the screen and crawls under your skin. Portman clearly deserved the Academy Award given to her, and proved that the art of legendary performance is not dead.


While not the traditional choice when debating the possibility of a scary movie night, Black Swan proves that horror can also double as Oscar-bait. Aronofsky's film, which I have no doubt will become a classic, raised the bar for cinema in 2010. Portman, along with the supporting roles of Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder brings the characters the life in a way that is rarely experienced on screen. I would love to say that one of these supporting actors enhanced the film with their performances and gave Portman great material to bounce off of, but they all did. Every single minor role in this film was casted perfectly.


The final execution of Swan Lake at the end of the film is truly one of the greatest moments in contemporary cinematic history. Every step was captured perfectly, and as the score swells dramatically, one cannot help to be attacked emotionally as Nina performs on screen. So, to add a bit of cinematic credibility to your horror film screenings, pop in Black Swan and marvel at Portman's spectacular performance.

Check back tomorrow for another exciting Ultimate Woman of Horror!