Author Archives: CZombie

Cool Stuff – Mondo Back to the Future Posters

Great Scott! Cool, cool and thrice cool, with an extra helping of cool on the side and smothered in cool relish.

Mondo, purveyors of exquisite and ever-popular alternative movie posters, have just released these three posters for the Back to the Future trilogy. Designed by Phantom City Creative, they are designed to sit side-by-side, giving full view to the legendary time traveling DeLorean.

I would offer subtle hints to anyone who’ll listen about the date of my birthday but, knowing that these things usually sell out faster than steaks when Lady Gaga is looking for a new dress, I won’t waste my breath. Sigh.

Click on each poster to view it in all its geek-pleasing glory.

And the combined version…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seek them out at Mondo, although you may have to intercept a delivery, mug someone or just print these pics really big to have your own at this point. Good luck.

 

 

 

 


Review: Hugo

 This is why we love cinema

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee, Jude Law

Director: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay: John Logan (from the book by Brian Selznick)

‘I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.’ 

Orphan boy Hugo Cabret lives behind the walls of Paris railway station, keeping the station clocks going while attempting to fix a clockwork man found by his father. When he becomes involved with the old man who runs a toy booth, Hugo stumbles upon an old secret, and an opportunity to fix something long broken.

Martin Scorsese is full of surprises. The last thing you would expect from the man who brought us Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Taxi Driver is a whimsical children’s tale. And yet, Hugo turns out to be a movie that perhaps only Scorsese, the movie historian’s director, could have made. Indeed, it is glib to describe this a simply a children’s movie, since at its heart Hugo is nothing less than a love letter to cinema itself.

Adapted from the huge, heavily illustrated, book by Brian Selznick, Scorsese and his production crew work hard to faithfully bring Selznick’s words and pictures to life. Set in a fairy-tale Paris, and bathed in rich primary hues, Hugo is wrapped in a little bit of magic from the outset. Like the films of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, or indeed Georges Méliès, whose presence is central to the film, Hugo exists in a sort of hyper-reality. Scorsese has always been a master with the camera, but almost every shot in Hugo looks like it was cut from an Impressionist’s canvas. It is a beautiful piece of film-making.

At the movie’s core is Asa Butterfield, affecting if not always convincing as the titular orphan, scurrying around the station and watching its array of oddball characters going about their day-to-day routines. Surrounding him is an impressive gallery of predominantly British character actors, including Christopher Lee as the enigmatic bookshop keeper and Sacha Baron Cohen, restraining himself as the station’s oafish Inspector. Chloë Grace Moretz affects an impressive English accent as the Granddaughter of Ben Kingsley’s surly, embittered Georges Méliès and it is the relationship between Méliès and Hugo, both lost and waiting to be fixed, that forms the warm heart and soul of the movie. Scorsese is adept enough to never allow the film to fall into easy patterns of schmaltz or cloying sentiment, nor does he bring on darkness for its own sake, rather striking enough of a balance to make the moments of joy real, welcome and uplifting.

It was all going so well until Little Jimmy said, ‘I loved you in Star Trek’.

Where Hugo truly succeeds is in the way it skillfully weaves a fantasy tale around the reality of Georges Méliès, one of cinema’s earliest pioneers, and his elderly years. Those who know nothing of Méliès are nevertheless presented with a wonderful fairy-tale, brimming with the kind of childlike innocence rarely found in modern cinema, and those who are aware of his work will find a loving, poignant tribute to cinema’s adolescent years. Never is this more entertainingly realised than during those scenes where Scorsese recreates the shooting of some of Méliès’s best known films, such as A Trip to the Moon. It is impossible not to be carried along with Kingsley’s childlike enthusiasm for his dancing skeletons, insect-people and the very earliest of special effects. “Everybody keep still!”

Ultimately, Hugo is a tale of innocence lost; the innocence of a boy who has lost his parents, the innocence of a nation returned from the Great War, the innocence of a man who believes his greatest triumphs are behind him. But also the innocence of cinema, a medium which once embraced, cherished and inspired only wonder and awe.

In the words of Georges Méliès himself, “If you ever wonder where your dreams come from, look around. This is where they’re made.”

At last night’s Oscars most of the big awards went to The Artist, another movie which casts a fond eye over the beginnings of celluloid. A little bit of a travesty, really, because for me it is Hugo that is by far the superior movie.

5 Stars


Review: The Woman in Black

Harry Potter and the Stubble of Men

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer

Director: James Watkins

Screenplay: Jane Goldman (from the novel by Susan Hill)

‘Please don’t go to Eel Marsh House.’

When young lawyer Arthur Kipps is sent to the remote village of Crythin Gifford to settle the affairs of recently deceased widow Alice Drablow, he discovers a township gripped by fear. After spending a night in Mrs. Drablow’s Eel Marsh House, Arthur begins to unearth the truth behind a series of apparent child suicides and attracts the attention of a vengeful ghost.

Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black has enjoyed a wonderful shelf life since its publication in 1983.  An old fashioned ghost story in the spirit of M.R. James, it has spawned a successful stage play, now  in its 25th year, and numerous radio adaptations. In 1989 a British television movie was commissioned and broadcast on Christmas Eve which for many, myself included, remains one of the finest ghost story movies ever made. Now The Woman in Black has finally made it to the big screen, under the care of the newly reborn Hammer studios, with some big shoes to fill.

I was excited about this one since I am a big fan of the book, the play and the earlier movie. Of course, everyone else seems to be more excited about seeing Daniel Radcliffe without that stupid scar on his noggin and being all-grown-up-now, but whatever floats your boat or sells your movie. As someone left scratching his head on the dock while the great Harry Potter ship sailed off into history, I was able to enjoy The Woman in Black without that particular distraction. Unfortunately, I had a distraction of a different kind. My advice to you is go and see this movie in a cinema with good sound proofing. Or, failing that, go to a cinema that isn’t showing The Muppets in the adjacent screen. Nothing kills the atmosphere of a man quietly exploring an old, dark house like the distant sound of Gonzo’s singing chickens. Pretty sure they weren’t in the novel.

These days the simple ghost story is becoming something of an endangered species, mostly kept alive by Asian cinema and American ‘found footage’ movies, which is a shame. Modern audiences, happily fed on a diet of endless Saw and Final Destination sequels only seem to react to horror movies that beat them over the head, rather than something that takes the time to try and get under their skin. The YouTube generation aren’t interested in something that doesn’t shout or satisfy within three minutes. So James Watkins, whose previous effort, Eden Lake, had the far easier task of making teenagers scary, could easily have been tempted to betray the slow-build subtleties of the source material. Luckily, he hasn’t.

Daniel discovers that the stairs don’t move here and Emma Watson isn’t going to save his ass.

In a departure from the source material, Radcliffe’s Arthur is not a happy, eager young man with a loving family but a grieving widower, unable to let go of the wife who died giving birth to his son. It is a peculiar change but one that ultimately ties into the film’s resolution, also altered from the novel. It’s a bit of a stretch to accept Daniel Radcliffe as a father, no matter how much stubble he grows, but he wholeheartedly throws himself into a role which often requires little of him but to look miserable/tired/scared (*delete as applicable) at the appropriate moments.

The town of Crythin Gifford is smartly realised; small, gloomy and unwelcoming in the best tradition of the ghost story, and the central setting of Eel Marsh House is wonderfully spooky. It is within the confines of this house that The Woman in Black begins to do its work as Arthur is subjected to an escalating series of creepy encounters while he pieces together the story behind the haunting. Watkins builds the tension slowly, giving us only fleeting glimpses of the figure behind it all while never letting us forget that she is always present, if not visible. And, contrary to the novel, the apparitions are not limited to the woman herself, although this does sometimes seem a little like overkill.

Where The Woman in Black most falls down is in a third act that slips too much into needless sentiment, providing Arthur with a cosy, heart-warming character arc at the expense of what should have been the ghost’s unrelenting malevolence. In all fairness, it’s not a complete disaster and actually provides a pretty clever twist, but even so it stinks of a disappointing desire to provide the audience with a resolution to the story which won’t be too bleak for them. And I like my ghost stories with a sting in the tail.

All in all, The Woman in Black is a worthy attempt to bring the story to the big screen. However, my recommendation would still be to seek out the 1989 Granada Television version if you only intend to see the story once.

4 STARS

 

 


The Willing Suspension of Disbelief

As those of you who have been returning to Celluloid Zombie over the last few months might have noticed, my site has become something of a barren wasteland, starved of shiny new content and increasingly reliant on dusty old posts and hapless passers-by. Truth is I’ve been gut-wrenchingly busy lately and just haven’t been able to find enough of your Earth minutes to sit down and write new stuff. I need minions but unfortunately they’re too expensive. So, failing that, my good friend, fellow writer and proprietor of the entertaining Conjuring My Muse, Margaret Reyes Dempsey, has kindly offered to donate a blog post to the cause.

Enjoy!

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For many of us who read novels or watch movies in genres that are outside the realm of “this could happen in real life,” there is a willing suspension of disbelief before we enter the theater or open the cover of a book (or press whichever Kindle button). We’re excited. We’re ready to be entertained. And we participate in the experience by opening ourselves to what realists would call the impossible.

In an instant, vampires and zombies walk our streets. Strategic great whites have a place in our oceans. A writer and his guests encounter aliens at his cabin in the woods and we not only accept it, we’re chilled to the bone.

It seems so easy and natural to let go of reality and believe the incredible. Then, all of a sudden, some trivial detail rears its ugly head and we are blasted out of the zone. At least, that’s been my experience, but this is where the kind host of Celluloid Zombie and I disagree and begin yet another heated debate.

Case in point: I watched the first two episodes of The Walking Dead – Season 2 on Sunday night and was enjoying it. Their RV is stranded on the highway, death and devastation visible for miles in either direction. Still, the guy on the roof of the RV is using binoculars and that’s okay with me. You can’t be too cautious with hungry zombies roaming the earth. But then, he raises the binoculars to his eyes again and gasps. The camera angle shifts and there are 300 zombies in view…a mere 10 feet in front of him. Did 300 slowly shuffling and loudly grunting zombies materialize out of thin air? Did no one see them coming? Smell them? Hear them? Come on! I laughed out loud and threw a piece of popcorn across the room at the TV, which my cat gobbled and then coughed up with a hair ball. (Okay, that last part is just a bit of gory fiction.)

The fact is, the inattention to detail grabbed me right out of the moment, and the suspense that I had been enjoying up until that point lost some momentum. Some 3500 miles away as the crow flies, Rich is screaming over a static-filled Skype connection. “You have no problem believing in 300 zombies but the manner in which they show up is a deal breaker???”

I wouldn’t say it’s a deal breaker because I did enjoy both episodes. However, I’m unable to gloss over stupid stuff like that. Especially when it happens twice in the same episode.

Another example of things that can make me willingly unsuspend disbelief can be found in the movie Hereafter, a two hour and ten minute film that follows the lives of three people dealing with mortality. Despite wonderful performances by Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard (wasted in a go-nowhere role), and the McLaren twins, this movie could not be redeemed. Afflicted by bloated, plotless scenes and poor pacing, it is slow and sleepy. And pausable. Yes, I admit two-thirds of the way through, with nothing much going on yet, I paused to get a snack. But the moment that turned what was supposed to be a serious movie into a comedy was the opening scene. Oh no!

On vacation with her lover, journalist Marie Lelay steps out to buy souvenirs and gets swept away by the Indian Ocean tsunami. Just before it hits, she purchases a bracelet for a dollar from a woman and her young daughter. (We won’t question why the merchant requests dollars instead of, say, rupiah or why a French woman on vacation there would happen to have dollars in her possession.) Suddenly, there’s a deafening roar and palm trees snap in the distance. (For a moment, I thought I was watching an episode of Lost.) The impressive special effects result in genuine horror as the huge wave comes into view. The journalist grabs the little girl’s hand and they run, but the wave takes them down. She claws at the water and air with both hands, trying to recover the child but it’s no use. Seconds later, she gets caught on something underwater and rips herself free only to be knocked unconscious by debris.

All is working for me until Director Clint Eastwood decides to go for the nice shot and has her slowly open her hand as she sinks in the water, allowing the bracelet to float free. The bracelet? She was still hanging on to that bracelet? That meant when she was stuck underwater, minutes from drowning, she kept one hand tightly closed around the bracelet and tried to free herself with just the fingers of her other hand? Right. For this, Clint, you are unforgiven. As the bracelet floats to the surface, it’s as perfect looking as the moment she bought it. That’s one well-made bracelet and what a bargain at only a dollar.

Once again, Rich responded to my emailed rants with e-laughter and an e-shake of the head.

So, I ask, do any of you out there ever have challenges suspending disbelief and staying in the zone?


Review: Drive

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

“I drive.”

The life and psyche of a solitary, nameless man—stunt driver for the movies by day and getaway driver for hire by nights—begin to unravel when he becomes drawn to the woman who lives next door.

Ryan Gosling should be careful. If he doesn’t start making superhero movies soon, people might think he’s an actual actor and everything. Having impressed in a series of indie movies, happily skirting the borders of fame for years, Gosling seems to have finally caught everyone’s eye with this Cannes favourite. Which is odd because he has done a lot better.

Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest has won over many a critic with his stylish, deliberate exercise in cool. And there’s certainly no doubting the panache and gloss of Driver, which is more than accomplished visually. Refn clearly seems to have a particular time and place in cinema on his mind and with its retro soundtrack, sharp L.A. exteriors and central male enigma, Driver is more than a little reminiscent of 1980s Paul Schrader.

However, scratch beneath the surface of Driver and there is very little substance to find. In fact, it turns out to be a slow, pensive character study of a man seemingly without a character. Quite the challenge. The nameless driver is a strangely aimless, taciturn figure, almost to the point of being a vacuum. Occasionally he says something, every now and then he even smiles, but it is only toward the end, when his beguiling relationship with neighbour Irene and her son leads to tragedy, that the driver begins to show not just his true colours, but any colours at all. It’s a long wait.

It’s somewhat difficult to understand who Drive is aimed at. Fans of the usual car-based action movies such as The Fast and the Furious, or indeed the video games that many will find the movie resembling, could be disappointed by the paucity of actual driving scenes, although when they come they are impressively executed. On the flip side, lovers of more cerebral fare may find even their patience tested by the long silences and moments of sombre inactivity.

Ryan prepares for that superhero movie by lifting a car with one hand

Performances are almost all-round excellent, as far as they are allowed to go. Mulligan is quietly affecting as Irene and Cranston stands out as the driver’s boss and sponsor, Shannon. There is also a pleasing turn from Ron Perlman. The usually excellent Gosling, however, has centre stage and underplays it all a little too much. You neither like the driver nor dislike him, neither empathise nor really criticise (except perhaps toward the end when he finally snaps). There is simply nothing to work with in a character this banal. He’s like Rain Man but without the mumbling and amusing facts about air travel.

With some flashes of brilliance, there is an exceptional movie trapped somewhere in Drive but, ironically, drive is exactly what the end result is missing.

Rating – 2 Stars