Comedy Actors In Superhero Movies

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Most of the time, in comic book movies, we like our superheroes mighty and daring, but, also likeable and often witty. In our villains we want an evil calculated side whilst desiring a sense of humour that is smart and fiendish. Both of these traits suggest that there should be more comedy actors in superhero and villain roles. Comedy is often mentioned by great actors as being the hardest thing to do right. However, the past has proven that it can be an absolute disaster to hire a comedic actor to play your superhero or villain unless they are mocking and parodying.

The most notorious case of a villain being cast in a comedic role was Jim Carrey as The Riddler in Batman Forever. In 1995, Carrey could of been in whatever movie he so wished. He was unequivocal box office gold and producers knew anything he was in would make massive amounts of money. However, Batman Forever was a critical disaster and almost ruined the franchise before Batman and Robin plodded along to finish the job several years later.

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That’s not to say that Carrey was the worst thing in Batman Forever, the massive influence from the campiness of the 1960’s show that strayed away from the world created in Batman and Batman Returns by Tim Burton and the horrible chemistry between the leading actors Val Kilmer, Nicole Kidman and Chris O’Donnell, also has to take the blame somewhat. Carrey has a body of work that any actor would envy, both in comedy with The Mask, Dumb and Dumber and the wickedly dark and massively underrated The Cable Guy, and drama, for Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind and The Truman Show in which he should have won best actor ahead of Roberto Benigini in 1999.

However, looking back at Batman Forever, you see how miscast he was. It was like director Joel Schumacher let him do whatever he wanted on set and just rolled the cameras whilst he improvised continuously. His moments and jokes in the film go on too long and make The Riddler little more than a farce rather than a threat. The Riddler should be Batman’s psychological equal and challenge Bruce Wayne’s intellect with his genius and cunning. Instead, he just dances around the room with Tommy Lee Jones’ Two Face and doing weird accents whilst prancing and laughing.

There is a big parallel for me with Richard Pryor’s casting in Superman III in which director Richard Lester let him improvise for huge amounts of time which turned the film’s tone into something strange and centred the movie on the story of Pryor’s character as opposed to that of Superman. Superman very much became the second string character in his own movie because Richard Pryor was beloved by the American public and directors thought he could be shoehorned in to lend humour to the franchise. It would be like Kevin Hart or Rob Schneider being the sidekick to Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel in the upcoming Batman v Superman. Just writing this now, I remember, with regret that Rob Schneider already played a sidekick to Sly Stallone’s Judge Dredd…

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Other cases include that of Seth Rogen in The Green Hornet. Like Jim Carrey and Richard Pryor you could say that Rogen is also the comedian of his generation, he is always guaranteed to make a huge amount of money at the box office with his comedies and he is massively well liked, some would go as far to say he has been the era defining comedian of the past decade. Unfortunately, the move to a superhero film didn’t suit him. It’s a lot more likely that the disastrous outcome of the film was not because of Seth Rogen and his inability to be serious or understand the tone of the movie. It’s a lot more to do with the many production and personnel issues on the movie.

Rogen has stated in interviews that when he wrote the movie with co-writer Evan Goldberg they had an idea that started well and began to change as the budget escalated. The screenplay was often heavily scrutinized by studio executives, nipping needlessly at pieces of dialogue. This explains the confusing tone of The Green Hornet which is constantly changing. Director Michel Gondry, better known for his excellent independent films, had also never worked on a big budget movie before. Even though the same can be said of Jurassic World’s Colin Trevorrow, at least he had the support from Steven Spielberg and studio executives who knew what they could expect and just wanted to make the best film they could.

The Green Hornet was not Rogen’s fault, like Batman Forever wasn’t Jim Carrey’s, but they’re the ones who get left with the mess while the director’s, the writers and the rest of the cast go about their careers without any criticism by the mainstream audiences. Because they are actors more known for another genre, they are pinpointed and given the most criticism as clueless hacks tell them to go back to “what they do best”. Although not strictly a comic actor you could argue Ryan Reynolds got a similar treatment as both Deadpool in the abysmal X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which he is atoning for with his forthcoming standalone movie, and the perennially derided The Green Lantern.

Which brings me to Marvel’s newest offering Ant-Man. It’s been over a ten year wait as the baton of director has been passed from Edgar Wright to Peyton Reed but throughout the entirety of Ant-Man’s production history the lead actor has always stayed the same. Paul Rudd is an actor of immense quality and is known mostly as a comedy actor; it is the genre that he has appeared in most and if you were to think of three Paul Rudd films off the top of your head the chances are they would be comedies.

Both the filmmakers and Rudd are taking a huge risk with Ant-Man because if this film flops, it will flop hard, considering Marvel are currently on such a winning streak. Sadly is would be harder for Rudd to recover than Marvel, it won’t ruin his career but it will be a blot on an otherwise wonderful oeuvre. He will forever be known as Ant-Man which would always have those negative connotations and would be the face of the Marvel movie that didn’t quite meet the standards of the others. Some people survive the bad reviews, comedic actor or not (George Clooney in Batman and Robin) and some don’t (Brandon Routh in Superman Returns and arguably Halle Berry in Catwoman) we will see what the audiences think in a few weeks’ time.

What Marvel are great at doing in terms of casting is hiring actors who are deemed serious actors, and then add the comedy as opposed to hiring comedians and then writing the script to suit them. The Marvel writers make the characters witty and funny, and that is due to great writing and the charisma of the actors, especially the likes of Robert Downey Jr. But it’s fair to say Paul Rudd could boast the same amount of charisma as any of The Avengers.

These days you don’t see too many comedians in these films. When people like Kevin Hart, Adam Sandler, Ricky Gervais, Jonah Hill and Jason Segel are making millions and millions of pounds with their movies why would they want to risk sullying their career with a massive flop of a superhero film. They don’t need that grief, especially as the superhero movies now move into the deep echelons of darkness; there may not even be room for these talented actors within the genre.

I think Paul Rudd is going to excellent as Ant-Man, whether the film will be equally great is another matter. He can take a ray of light from the fact that before The Guardians of The Galaxy last year, Chris Pratt was primarily a comic actor with Parks and Rec, The Five Year Engagement and What’s Your Number, with only really cameo appearance in films like Moneyball and Zero Dark Thirty to flex his acting chops, but has now established himself into the go to action hero for casting directors in Hollywood.

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Summer 2013 at the Movies

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Here in the U.K the cold weather is still very much upon us, so, what better way to remedy this than by looking towards the summer, and more specifically the best of what the season has to offer in film. Nothing’s more exciting than the period between May and September where the big money Blockbuster’s fight it out in an attempt to entertain us. 2012 was a frighteningly amazing year for film with the likes of The Hunger Games, The Dark Knight Rises and, of course, The Avengers gracing our screen and making handsome profits at the box office. The jury is still out as to whether this year can emulate last year’s juggernauts. Here are some of the reasons why this could be the case:

Iron Man 3:

U.K Release Date: 26th April

U.S Release Date: 3rd May

This is probably the most highly anticipated Blockbuster this year after Jon Favreau’s entertaining last two instalments impressed pretty much everyone. Shane Black takes the helm this time, reuniting with his Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’s star Robert Downey Jr. as the franchise takes the customary move to darkness, pitting a world weary Tony Stark, after the events of The Avengers, against Ben Kingsley’s terrorist leader The Mandarin. Kingsley looks in magnificent menacing form with a truly haunting set of vocal cords and with Black taking over writing duties too we can probably assume a tighter script than Iron Man 2. Apparently, Downey Jr.’s Marvel contract expires after this film, and although he will likely appear in The Avengers 2 we might have to accept this shall be his final solo appearance donning the metallic suit and I’m pretty sure it’ll deliver.

Star Trek: Into Darkness:

U.K Release Date: 10th May

U.S Release Date: 17th May

In 2009, J.J Abrams delivered a spectacular new take on the Star Trek franchise that satisfied both die-hard fans and newcomers who couldn’t pick a Romulan from a police line up. The likable cast, kinetic action scenes and terrific script, that showed a great reverence to original creator Gene Rodenberry, was always going to have a sequel. Due to its explicit franchise potential it was more a matter of when rather than if. So, four years later we have Into Darkness. Benedict Cumberbatch is antagonist to the crew of the Enterprise, playing a former member of Starfleet, who has some scores to settle. I’m sure we can expect more intense action and, with Orci and Kurtzman returning as screenwriters, a light hearted humour that is missing from many other franchises. Many will be scrutinising this film intensely after Abrams was drafted in to direct the new Star Wars movies. Some say he can’t do both, but he disagrees. Could there be a war between the Wars and Trek fans over Abrams or will he continue to deliver great films with both franchises. Only time will tell…

Monsters University:

U.K Release Date: 12th July

U.S Release Date: 21st June

Pixar’s offering this year is a prequel to their 2002 favourite Monsters Inc, setting the action ten years before the original. Featuring Sully and Mike during their formative years at university it follows their rivalry and subsequent friendship as they clash while studying for their scaring degree. Although the trailer stinks of predictability, you can never write off Pixar. Despite some complaints of too many sequels and 3D re-releases as opposed to original ideas there will surely be lots of fun and laughs to be had. John Goodman and Billy Crystal are two of the strongest voice actors throughout the Pixar canon and to have just them reunite will be a joy. You also cannot fault the tireless work and playful attitude of the company, who composed an entire website of the University in which the monsters attend. With Finding Nemo 3D and Monsters is the same year the critics who complain about the lack of originality will still probably find that this second instalment will be the best animated film of the year.

The Great Gatsby:

U.K Release Date: 17th May

U.S Release Date: 10th May

Baz Luhrmann returns to cinemas this year for his take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. No doubt, judging from the trailer and Luhrmann’s autuerish qualities, we can expect a colourful, contemporary look at the glitz and glamour of 1920’s New York in 3D, with the director taking his first foray into the third dimension. Akin to his favourites Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet alongside the aesthetically staggering images will be a modern soundtrack to give Gatsby an edge that is apparent in all of Luhrmann’s movies. With a cast so A-List names that just roll of the tongue including Di Caprio, Maguire, Mulligan, Edgerton and Fisher, and based on one of the well known and well read pieces of literature from the 20th century it will defiantly visually and emotionally astound.

Man of Steel:

U.K & U.S release date: 14th June

If you need to reboot a superhero franchise, who do you call? Yes, Christopher Nolan obviously. The Dark Knight has rose and he hopes to make Superman fly. He has, however, left directing duties to 300 and Watchmen director Zach Snyder, one of the most stylistically exciting directors of his generation. The script is being penned by Batman co-writer David S. Goyer and the Man of Steel himself chosen as Henry Cavill. Everything seems to be falling into place and with a strong supporting cast including Amy Adams, Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner it could be this summer’s biggest earner. However, people are wary, having being stung by Bryan Singer’s less than sensational Superman Returns seven years ago. Man of Steel is moving itself far away from its overlong and overboring predecessor going back to Clark Kent’s upbringing, who is struggling to find his place in a cynical world. It promises to make the Superman a mainstay of cinema once again, and with Snyder also producing and co-writing 300: Rise of an Empire, will surely make him the go to director.

World War Z:

U.K & U.S Release Date: 21st June

Once again, we are being bombarded by sequels this summer and so it is refreshing to see a new idea. Well, kind of new. Zombies are hardly revolutionary and since 2004 bought us both Dawn and Shaun of the Dead we have been inundated with every possible kind of zombie film possible, whether it’s big blockbuster zombie movies or small independently made zombie movies no neck has been left unbitten. This new offering, based on Max Brook’s horror novel of the same name, stars Brad Pitt attempting to put an end to the zombie pandemic destroying the world. The trailer shows the global scale of an undead apocalypse and hopefully will add something new to the series.

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These are likely to be the big hitters along with the usual summer fare the likes of The Hangover 3, Smurfs 2, The Fast and the Furious 6, Despicable Me 2 and Wolverine which will no doubt do well at the box-office. There are also those films that perhaps boast a little less predictability. Kick Ass 2 now with added Jim Carrey, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim which boasts Idris Elba “Cancelling the Apocalypse!” and Neill Blomkamp and Sharlto Copley reuniting again after District 9 for Elysium, a sci-fi epic. There will probably be those films that have slipped under the radar that will give us a nice surprise. I’m sure we’re all looking forward summer 2013, and if the weather doesn’t improve, at least we can take shelter at the cinema with the huge variety of films on offer.

My Film Secret Shames

Well, this is my 29th entry in this blog and so I therefore feel that I have been writing long enough to share with my loyal readers my secret shame movies, well it’s that or I’m still waiting for all the films considered for the awards season to be released in the United Kingdom. There are those films I love but as a film studies graduate should, technically, not like. I’m no movie snob, I love an action blockbuster like everyone but there are some films that I have loved that I would not be forgiven by film academia for. Everyone has their own secret shames. So ashamed of relinquishing what they are they can hide the DVD under their bed or trash the film in front of others while talking about it and here are mine, my secret shame movies:

Armageddon

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I begin with a Michael Bay films which is an immediate no no for a lot of critics. People sometimes don’t watch his movies before berating him, as he has become the poster boy for non-intellectual and vacuous cinema over the last fifteen years. His films are often cited as being too loud, boisterous, attention seeking and ultimately corny to be regarded with any credibility. However, I have seen Armageddon more times than I can care to mention. Although critics have had much scorn for it since its release I still bond with the relatable characters, loving the heart rendering performances whilst emoting with the story every step of the way until the poignant ending.

I love Aerosmith’s ‘Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’, I love the schmaltzy relationship between Affleck and Tyler and I love Steve Buscemi being a pervert that predated Quagmire. I feel the pain that the crew feels when their colleagues perish at the hands of the journey to destroy the asteroid and become encapsulated by everything that is happening on the screen in front of me that I cannot stand to interrupt it.  Willis shows why he is a great lead and the sometimes over the top dialogue seems believable despite its delivery (“This is one order you shouldn’t follow and you fucking know it!” and “He’s got Space Dementia” come to mind). Although the critics may have had a field day with Michael Bay for this, I happened to love it and it will always be one of those Blockbusters that I will never get tired of.

Muppets From Space:

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The film they said killed the Muppet franchise before Jason Segel came along and resurrected it from the depths of the odd YouTube video, did not, in my opinion; commit the heinous act of killing the Muppet name in the first place. It was heavily criticised, like the ill fated Muppets Tonight that predated it by a few years. This being so, I thought the things people were sighting with being its weaknesses were its strengths. The story with Gonzo realising he’s from an alien world was a great insight into the character. Sure, it wasn’t in keeping with the format of the Muppet Show but after 125 episodes its nice having something a little different that isn’t a literary adaptation.  The fact that this plot was used showed that Brian Henson and the team could take an original idea and make it work. It was also hilarious with the opening ‘Brick House’ routine being one of the best musical numbers from the Muppets to date. The celebrity appearances are also wonderful with George Bluth Snr himself Jeffrey Tambor stealing the show as the film’s villain and David Arquette and Ray Liotta hamming it up nicely.

 

Good Burger

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One from my childhood here. Makes little to no sense. Has a plot thinner weaker than vending machine tea and has some of the most weird and baffling characters in film history but it just gets me. I don’t know why, I wish I did. Shouldn’t I be talking about the prestige of Citizen Kane or the depth of 2001 instead of celebrating this brightly coloured, saccharine infused craziness? Is it my loyalty to the 90s show Kenan and Kel? Is it the uplifting nature of the film? Is it its simplicity and sheer brilliance? I mean if we were studying this academically it encapsulates all the elements needed to make a great film according to unwritten laws of the cinema. I don’t know why but I love it and can watch it every single time it comes onto my television. Which, sadly, is not enough.

Batman Forever

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I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I was a kid when I first saw it or maybe it’s because it’s just hilarious. Although Val Kilmer isn’t a memorable Batman and Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise buried much of what was the previous films there is still a lot of fun to be had. And isn’t that what the original, Adam West Batman series was about. It was camp and silly but there were stories and fun. It doesn’t all have to be darkness and death and mirroring modern day America to be a good Batman film. Maybe, its watching the films done so differently that endeared me back to Batman Forever because it is so different. And while I absolutely love the Nolan flicks, Forever just does something for me too. Jim Carrey as The Riddler is dangerous and hilarious and he bounces around the screen, and as Nolan rejected the idea of The Riddler in his trilogy, this is how the character is still fundamentally seen and Carrey does a decent job of it. Tommy Lee Jones is another funny, camp villain as Two Face but seeing them work together just takes me back to my childhood. Now, I know this predated the disgrace that was Batman and Robin. ‘The Worst Film Ever’. But there wasn’t too much wrong with this one and I could watch it right now and still enjoy it for what is it.

Freddy Got Fingered

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Voted the 23rd worst film ever according to an Empire Magazine Poll and rated 4.2 on IMDB. There is so much wrong with this film, it’s sick, infantile, desperate and vain. Then why do I find it so funny. Why do I find Tom Green roaming about like an idiot and Rip Torn getting angry at him hilarious? Why do I laugh at this? If you are proud of your secret shames they wouldn’t be secret shames but I am always disappointed as myself when I find myself laughing at Green putting too much cheese on a sandwich and playing the sauasage organ. As Rip Torn gets furious and then you see how he acts in real life, robbing banks, thinking they’re his home. I should hate this film but its genius in a weird, stupid, idiotic way and I look forward to seeing it in the TV schedules.

Epic Movie/Meet the Spartans/ Superhero Movie, etc...

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Just kidding, the people who make these kinds of movies should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves and get some new careers lest they poison society to the point of total obliteration. Lazy, badly written with a load of pop culture references unsubtly rammed down your throat, if you find any of this stuff funny, you are probably on medication, or require it.

So there you have it, my shames that are not so secret anymore. Please don’t lose any respect or me as a blog writer or critic. Everybody has their shames and they are entitiled to them. It just shows how wonderfully subjective the gift of film is and how everyone’s opinion can differ. Although in these cases most opinion differed in the negative category.

How Christopher Nolan has saved the Blockbuster

After seeing the final instalment of the Batman trilogy I thought against writing a review for it. It quite simply is a masterpiece and that’s what pretty much every review is concluding anyway. For me to sit here and write a similar review would be like us all just saying ‘yeah, that Hamlet was a bit good’; we’re all pretty much agreed on the matter. Also, there is the risk of a spoiler, even without intending it and I am always 100% against evil spoilers. So, instead I decided to take a look at the main man behind it and how he invigorated and basically saved the summer blockbuster, just a few years after it looked to be sinking rapidly.

First, let’s take a look a few years back. The summer of 2007, a year before The Dark Knight wowed audiences and Inception was still a dream. The highly anticipated Simpsons movie had flopped, Die Hard 4.0 came and went without making an impact and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 didn’t make any sense to anyone at all. Not even the people making the movie. This was also the summer of Transformers. Although both the movie and Michael Bay get an insurmountable amount of stick the movie wasn’t so bad, although it did mean that the audience didn’t have to think anymore. And the times of narrative and compelling three dimensional characters had taken a back seat for a mess of CGI. Things were looking like they might stay like this for a while with scriptwriting a dying art. But Nolan in the following years with The Dark Knight and Inception took the notion that the audience could follow complex plots; and with the backing of the studios, that came from his successful indie career (Memento, Insomnia, etc) and the success that was Batman Begins, set to work reformulating the Blockbuster.

The reason Nolan’s films work is that he shows a respect to his audience. Like Shakespeare, who wrote his often complicated plays with the intentions that his audiences, whether they be rich or poor, work it out, so does Nolan establish his narrative and lets it flow without explaining it in a patronising manner. The Bard’s work was rich with political and historical subject matter that many of his audience members, then and now, wouldn’t be overly familiar with. But the quality of the story stood out. Nolan presents us with the modern equivalent. Inception especially is so filled with science, psychology and all sorts of theories that would be more in place in a university than a cinema. However, he never loses the audience because of the quality of the story and the characters. Many films struggle with finding this balance but Nolan has managed to do it, and not only this, but brought it away from the independent films and into the Blockbusters.

His ability to mix the special effects and emotional heart is unrivalled in modern cinema. The use of realism in the Batman films is something that all other comic book adaptations attempt to compete with but cannot at the same levels. The Amazing Spiderman was desperate to repeat this system in its ill fated reboot. As has the new Superman franchise, which Nolan has an executive producer title on. No doubt it will attempt to emulate its successful predecessor in the genre.  Every Superhero film wants to match Batman.

The Dark Knight Rises takes every successful element from the previous films and serves as the best conclusion possible. The cast is pitch perfect, once again a triumphant ensemble. Everything in Rises comes together so beautifully and precise. Nobody in the cinema would be thinking its dragging despite its marathon running time, which is almost an impossibility to achieve. Nolan and his team, that should not be forgotten, including Jonathan Nolan, Wally Pfister and Hans Zimmer who continues to captivate with his unrivalled epic scores have created one of the best and certainly the most consistent trilogies in the history of cinema while revitalising the Blockbuster and proving audiences deserve better. I think we all look forward to Nolan’s next venture, whatever that may be.

The Life, Death and Rebirth of the Teen Comedy

In 1999 a simple, $11 million teen comedy took the world by storm and 13 years later American Pie has finally come full circle with the final instalment of the series, American Reunion. The life cycle of the American Pie franchise has mirrored the whole teen movie genre itself and here I will assess the short lived but highly popular group of movies which American Pie inspired and where we are now.

The first American Pie could not have asked for a simpler narrative: Four Boys aim to lose their virginity before prom. However, due to the strong script, likeable characters and countless iconic scenes the film took the genre to the next level, giving birth to something completely innovative and original, while taking $235 million worldwide at the box office.

Sure, there were teen movies in the 1980s and earlier with Revenge of the Nerds, Weird Science and the wonderful films of John Hughes but American Pie was a movie that truly captured the zeitgeist and truthfully showed American teenage life without beating around the bush. It was the first teen film that didn’t seem like it was written by an adult. Needless to say its pastry humping, webcam filming and semen drinking caused a wave of excitement across Hollywood and it wasn’t long before studios everywhere wanted a piece of that pie. (I’m so very sorry, but I couldn’t resist.)

The genre took an unprecedented ascension with film after film making huge stars out of unknown actors and throwing as much gross out comedy at audiences as possible. Not a week went by without a new title being released: Loser, Van Wilder: Party Liaison, Dude, Where’s my Car, Roadtrip, Eurotrip, American Pie 2, The New Guy, Cruel Intentions, She’s All That, Harold and Kumar, etc. The teen comedy even got its own parody with Not another Teen Movie showing how quickly and ubiquitously the genre had taken over.  A lot of the actors and directors overlapped and the genre was becoming saturated. It was very easy and cheap to make these films and they were proven money-makers.

Something had to give and soon enough it did. By the time that American Pie: The Wedding was released, Hollywood and America had moved away for the most part from the teen comedy. It was veering closer to traditional rom-coms, the Frat pack films starring Stiller, Ferrell and the Wilson brothers and the R rated comedy of Judd Apatow which bought in the huge money and dominated the box-office. Productions such as The 40 year old Virgin and Anchorman were making huge sums of money and it started to seem that comedy had grown up, at least in terms of age as opposed to maturity.

A few teen comedies continued, there were the sequels to Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies and American Pie continued to produce five films that started to border on softcore pornography by American Pie presents Beta House. The only thing that associated the films with the American Pie franchise by this point were the title and Eugene Levy, even though they were American Pie Presents as opposed to American Pie. The most recent of the unofficial films have been shameless excuses to show as many breasts as possible. The plotlines are weak, the characters undeveloped and stereotypical to the extent they border on parody while the films resembling more a lads mag than a Hollywood production.

Despite all of this, it is still exciting to have a new American Pie with the entire original cast. Even though most of their careers declined as the genre did it is still good to see them all returning. The whole thing oozes nostalgia right down to the poster that mirrors the original and anyone who grew up with the films will be interested to see how the filmmakers approach the final instalment. Even though I doubt there will be a resurgence in the genre following the last piece of American Pie, I for one am going to enjoy the reminiscing about the films that dominated Hollywood at the beginning of the last decade and remembering the legacy that the original produced.

How Red State Resurrected the Horror Genre

 

The other day the good people at LoveFilm posted Kevin Smith’s newest film Red State through my door. A huge fan of all his other work I had heard this was a bit of a way off from Clerks and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Little did I know that this film would scare the absolute proverbial out of me and make me a nervous wreck for the rest of the night. Now, I am not a man who gets scared so easily; I did my university dissertation on the Video Nasties, I can watch any number of zombie films without flinching and I am the first to lambast the predictability of Hollywood horror at the moment, even finding Paranormal activity, the rather tame, although I liked the idea.

But this film did something different to the myriad of recent torture porn and splatter fest films. The film follows three boys, hoping to get lucky with an escort from the internet, but instead of getting laid are tricked into the church of extremist Christians in the South with ultra views and rituals. It doesn’t sound like the template for a film that will keep you up half the night, but believe me it is and it is because of how smartly it is executed. This is my definitive list of how to make a scary film in the mould of Red State:

Make it Real: With Red State it felt sometimes like it was being shot by a documentarian. The camera spends long amount of times within the church, sitting and listening to the sermons of the Preacher Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) before acting as a camera in a war report. Not only the camera is real though, the frightening thing is that these Christians are very real. They have groups of fundamentalist Christians protesting homosexual funerals and condemning people to hell, believing that their services to God will see them spend their days in eternal bliss. As Louis Theroux’s documentary, ‘The Most Hated Family In America’ showed, these people are very real and the inability to reason with them coupled with their strong beliefs make them a more evil villain than most.

Make Everybody Expendable: It has become a huge shame in Hollywood cinema that anyone with the basic grasp of narrative knows who will survive by the end of the movie. Even if this isn’t the case most people know it is whoever is garnering the biggest pay check. In The Expendables, none of the actors wanted to die, and none of them did, rendering the title obsolete and creating a relatively boring movie. If only more films had the audacity to kills off their main characters and make the story more unpredictable then the horror and action genre would stay fresh. Here, there is no knowing, and it is done so ruthlessly and quickly that your mind does not immediately grasp who’s been killed or why or by whom.

Give your main villain no weaknesses: Abin Cooper is one of the most terrifying creations on screen ever, his quiet, calculating demeanour allow him to seem harmless but he is full of passive anger and evil. He has no weakness like villains past because he is answering to God, therefore nobody is safe. The fact that you cannot reason with this man is somewhat terrifying. His sheer hatred for the decadence of humankind develops an unreasonable abuse of his holy powers resulting in him murdering everybody whose actions do not coincide with the word of the Lord.

Don’t make it glamorous: Many horror films make the fundamental mistake of having their lead teenagers look beautiful, even after being chased by a crazed killer and dragged through fields, they can maintain their perfect hair and escape with only a scratch to the forehead. Here however, everyone is bloody, no one’s really wearing any make up. Everyone looks normal, like they were just going to have a normal night before the film’s chain of events began. The verisimilitude creates an unnerving, unpredictable atmosphere, perfect for the film.

Finally, make a crazy alternative ending which is totally out the blue and sounds terrifying: This is the final part that really shook me up. After the film I decided to do some research about it on the internet and found an alternate ending that did not make it, possibly due to a lack of funds. If you intend to see the film I’d suggest skipping the next two paragraphs.

Ok, the film results in a huge gun battle between the Fundamentalists and some ATF Agents who have discovered that the church is dabbling with terrorism.  Many of the main characters are killed off throughout the firefight before a sound of thundering horns is heard. Abin Cooper leads the remainder of his procession out into the front of the house declaring it to be the apocalypse and their salvation. Instead in the film it is merely some eco warriors playing a prank before cutting to Agent Keenan (John Goodman) explaining what happened to some government officials before cutting to Cooper in prison.

Now, in the original this was truly the apocalypse, beginning with Cooper’s chest exploding before the rest of his family’s. The ground starts to open as Keenan covers his ears and eyes in fear. The final chest explosion reveals the an angel wielding a sword before putting a finger to his lips and saying ‘shhhh’ to Keenan before flying off as the film concludes with The Horseman of the Apocalypse descending. Now, that seems terrifying just for how random and different it is. No film would do an ending like that and leave the viewer stranded at the end of the world with no sense of closure, but they could of and probably for all intensive purposes should of. It would have shown what you could do with a horror film these days.

However it ended, the film was great and frightening in equal measure. It really puts a boost into the genre and hopefully more Hollywood movies try harder to try to escape the banality of narrative in a lot of mainstream cinema. It is just a shame that not every Red State is going to be made and it its purely economical which films do. There are going to be many, interesting films that will never see the light of day and that is merely down to funding, while Jack and Jill, recent recipient of the record ten Razzie awards will be shown in every cinema in the world.

Is 2012 going to be the best summer for movies in a decade?

 

Reading articles in magazines and websites about the highly awaited films coming this summer has filled me with a lot of excitement and impatient enthusiasm. It looks like one of the most monumental years for cinema in a long time, and seeing as the summer season in terms of film starts in about April and ends in September, it seems the ideal time to have a look at this year’s offerings. With The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games, I cannot think of a trio of more hotly anticipated blockbusters in the last decade. And, they are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, it was not since the summer of 2002 I feel that audiences have been treated to so much in one season.

Back in ’02 you have the best of the big blockbuster fare with Spiderman, Attack of the Clones, and Minority Report, which to a 12 year old boy, could just have been about the greatest triumvirate of films one could possibly imagine. Then you had a very strong contribution from Pixar with Monsters Inc when we started seeing how consistently brilliant these computer generated films were going to be.

The movies just kept coming with Signs from M Night Shyamalan at the height of his career and while his twists were still bold and unexpected. The sequels such as Austin Powers and Goldmember and Men in Black II also did the job. Then you have the lesser known films that took the cinema by storm such as My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding which kept refusing to get off the box office top ten list and One Hour Photo, a chilling, psychological thriller with Robin Williams which still haunts me to this day. It was a magnificent year, let alone summer for film. Although, the less said about The Adventures of Pluto Nash, the better.

Since then the summer offerings on the whole have been hit and miss. Sure, we have had fantastic offering in an individual sense, with Inception, Ratatouille and the Harry Potter franchise migrating from the winter to summer but there has not been a summer of cinema in terms of its consistently since 2002.

Now again we have the variety needed throughout the summer. Not just the big money blockbusters such as Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers but the non franchise films such as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Jeff Lives at Home which could turn into big hits. The latter especially considering there always seems to be some huge breakout comedies during the summer in recent years such as The Inbetweeners Movie and The Hangover.

As always a couple of sequels are thrown into the mix for good measure in Wrath of the Titans, American Pie: The Reunion and Men in Black III. There is the chance to see if The Amazing Spiderman reboot will wow us as the original did a decade ago and Ridley Scott returning to Alien territory with his prequel to the saga Prometheus.

Pixar’s offering Brave looks strong, and since the company seems to have been improving with age and continuing innovating it’s going to up there with the big hitters too. There is also the newfound enterprise of re-releasing classics in 3D with Titanic leading the way this year.

In terms of a summer of film this looks as strong and diverse as ever and although there are a few that might raise some eyebrows and fail at the box office such as a remake of Total Recall, another addition to the seemingly unending Ice Age franchise, StreetDance 2 and a sequel to G.I Joe, which although the original grossed $25 million under its budget has still been given the green light. Despite this, we could be pleasantly surprised.

However, none of these films have been seen yet and it is all just buzz, which we know from The Phantom Menace in ’99 can be a whole lot of hot air. With the Olympics and the European Championships dominating the television listing some of the films may not receive the acknowledgement and the box office numbers they deserve. Whatever the case, a large amount of the excitement comes from the anticipation, which is in no short supply this summer. And even if it is hugely disappointing, at least we have Skyfall to look forward to in October.