Monday, October 31, 2011

Bad Teacher

I hadn't intended on discussing Robert Rodriguez' 1998 teen sci-fi horror flick The Faculty (THIRTEEN YEARS OLD!!!), but having just rewatched it (part of my all time horror movie marathon, apparently - I really just had an urge to watch it) I just had to. What a peculiar movie! I remember enjoying it a lot at the time, but I didn't expect it to hold up so well. In fact, I'd say it's actually improved with age. It's Scream meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers, sure, but is that such a bad thing? Williamson's late-'90s knack for snappy teen dialogue and fun takes on slasher conventions (this was the last film of Williamson's successful run of Scream, Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Dawson's Creek and The Faculty before seemingly losing every once of talent in his typing fingers) with Robert Rodriguez' directorial skills that flourish under the film's blending of genre seems to work despite initially coming off as an awkward combination.

The Faculty proved to be a whole lot of fun. It actually reminded me of a far better version of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Go Fish" (s02e20). It features some great chase sequences (I particularly liked the one in the parking lot that ends with a wicked riff on John Carpenter's The Thing) and a refreshing bunch of teenagers. Williamson's screenplay is typically loaded with filmic references - obvious: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Puppet Master; less obvious: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, Blue Velvet, The Breakfast Club - but never offputtingly so. The cast are uniformly great, with special commendation going to the adults. Robert Patrick is able to do so many great things with his face and it's disappointing he doesn't get to give such physically varied performances more often. Piper Laurie (below) is fun, and so to is Famke Jannsen who gets a wonderful scene with Josh Hartnett that makes me thankful the boys at Dimension Films and Miramax decided this wasn't going to be a PG-13 teen flick. Bebe Neuwirth, too, is clearly having a hoot at the villainous principle who gets to wear short skirts and somehow managed to be the only adult actor credited on the UK blu-ray cover. I'm not entirely sure how that happened when the rest of the cast includes Salma Hayek, Jon Stewart and, hell, even Usher, but there you go.

Speaking of Hayek and Stewart, here they are sharing a scene with Harry "AICN" Knowles. Surreal, party of three.

I don't know how that happened other than corporate shilling, much like when Knowles' head appeared on Leatherface's sewing table (!) in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake of '03. Weird.

It's funny though how completely Miramax The Faculty is. Very much of that era, the film suffers from a similar problem to Halloween H20, which we discussed early today, in that at times it feels like it's trying to be Scream more than its own film. Whereas Steve Miner's 20th anniversary Halloween actually just flat out used Marco Beltrami's Scream music, The Faculty went and hired Beltrami to do his own soundalike score. If you'd asked me I would say it was the music from Scream in a scene or two, especially given the company's history of doing so, but since Beltrami is the credited composer on this film I'll believe that he just got lazy and did some minor tweaks to some old (yet excellent) music. I liked the unexpected nod to the bizarre gym shower scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, but thought so blatantly copying The Thing's blood test scene (but this time with... snorting no-doze? this film was curiously open about showing teenagers taking drugs) was lazy and sorta out of left field since the aliens don't seem to care about making the unchanged think there's nothing wrong with them. I did like the lack of CGI though, and particularly liked the climax sequence's use of shadow, which I thought marked a subdued note for this sort of film. Any dollar bet though that if made in 2011 it would be flying tentacle limbs all over the place!

Also: Shawn Hatosy? Total cutie. Ahem.

Whatever happened to him? What happened to most of this cast? I'm sure they're working plenty, but I haven't seen many of them (Clea DuVall, Famke Janssen, Josh Hartnett, etc) in a while. B+

Halloween: H20 and the Unofficial Scream Sequel

I was watching Steve Miner's Halloween H20 the other night for the first time in many a year - let's face it, John Carpenter's 1978 original is the one most people, myself included, would go to when wanting to watch Michael Myers going chop chop - and recognised that it's actually as much a pseudo entry to the Scream franchise as it is to Halloween. The backstory to Halloween H20's screenplay is somewhat murky, but I think it's known that Kevin Williamson, hot off of the success of Scream, and the in-production I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2 and The Faculty (still the Weinstein company's golden boy), was asked to write the screenplay, but that was thrown out except for the bare bones, but then he was brought back in to rewrite parts and... well, it sounds a bit complicated. Nevertheless, Williamson's influence on the film is unmistakable and, really, is far more obvious on the finished product than John Carpenter. In the end. instead of noticing the similarities between Halloween H20 and Halloween (of which there are indeed many: the classroom discussion about fate; "everyone's entitled to one good scare"; etc etc), I was noticing the similarities between Halloween H20 and Scream.

The obvious connections begin right from the opening scene which, besides adopting the new hot "opening victim" trend of the time, utilises Marco Beltrami's music cues from Scream! At first I thought it was just a comical bit of pay back since Wes Craven quite clearly appeared to be doing the same thing with Carpenter's classic score at various points in Scream, but as the film went on it just got more and more noticeable with Beltrami's score reappearing time and time again, and in very obvious ways. Even the way Beltrami's music weaves throughout the action is the same. Sidney Prescott goes to open a door? So does Joseph Gordon-Levitt at the same music cue. It's truly baffling. The long dormitory chase scene between Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett and (Young Artist Award nominee for Best Performance in a Feature Film - Supporting Young Actress) Michelle Williams, as well as the final van chase, is scored entirely to pieces from similar scenes in Scream. I also think I hear cues from Tatum and Cici's death scenes from Scream and Scream 2 respectively, as well as Gale's chase scene through the soundproof studio in Scream 2.

Add that to the frequent inclusion of Carpenter's original theme (or variations of it), more Beltrami score, but this time from Mimic, and even a moment of Bernard Hermann's Psycho score during the scene with Janet Leigh, and it's hard to pick up any original music by the film's supposed composer, John Ottman.

Apparently Ottman's music was sparingly used, but that the producers wanted music "more like Scream". I guess coming from the same studio made actually using the music from Scream much easier and probably cheaper. Still, disappointing considering Ottman's score is very good (it was eventually released under the name "Portrait of Terror" and is available on iTunes).

However, it's more than just the music that brings about echoes of Scream. Much like Kevin Williamson's screenplay for Scream has characters named after famous horror icons ("Loomis" for instance), Halloween H20 has characters like "Casey". There's even a line of dialogue where Jamie Lee Curtis' longtime victim tells her son and his girlfriend to "drive down the street to the Beckers". This, of course, reflects upon the opening scene of Scream where Casey Becker's father told his wife to "drive down to the McKenzies", which was of course a reference to the same line being spoken by Curtis' Laurie Strode in the 1978 Halloween. Sheesh, are you still with me? Furthermore, the characters played by Adam Hann-Byrd and Jodi Lyn O'Keefe are clearly photocopies of Stu Macher and Tatum Riley from Scream, plus a large part of the focus being on the more adult characters is similar. I mean, for crying out loud, they even watch Scream 2 here!

Perhaps even more obviously a Scream artifact is the appearance by Janet Leigh. About eighteen different jokes in one, Leigh's appearance alongside her daughter (duelling scream queens if you will) as a character named "Norma" - oh yes - who drives the same car from Psycho while that film's music plays in the background and she recites lines from the original Halloween. That's even more twisted than the opening of Scream 4!

Thankfully, the LL Cool J character is just an original travesty! No erotica authoring security guards in the Scream franchise as far as I can recall! Still, I like Halloween H20. Sure, it's more of its time than the original, which was revolutionary to not just the horror genre, but cinema as a whole. It reminds me of that period of horror that coincided with my own growing love for cinema. The era may be decried by horror enthusiasts, but I will always view titles like this and Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, Urban Legend and so on with a tad more of a forgiving nature. Scream 4's failure to revitalise the slasher was that film's biggest disappointment. As for Michael Myers and his butcher knife of fun? Well, a 3D sequel to Rob Zombie's reimagined remakes is on the way. I think I'll stick to H20.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: In Time

In Time
Dir. Andrew Niccol
Year: 2011
Aus Rating: M15+
Running Time: 109mins

Look, do you have some time to spare to read this timely review of In Time? I didn’t really have time to write it, but I found some time in my time-free schedule to type some words about In Time. Time is of the essence, you see, and while only time will tell if In Time was as timely a piece of filmmaking as it wishes, for the time being I found In Time to be a piece of ill-timed bollocks. In Time isn’t quite the good time that other bad movies can be, but from time to time it does get close – they can’t all follow the time-honoured tradition of, say, Abduction every time. There were times within In Time that I felt myself timing out, wanting the time to run down and counting down towards the time the end credits would role, whilst there were other times where I laughed in time with the ridiculously time-related hijinks on display from In Time’s team. Time after time I LOLed, time after time I rolled my eyes. That’s the sort of movie In Time is.

Madonna once sang that “time goes by so slowly.” Time does indeed go by so slowly, but so does In Time. Madonna’s timely chart-topping hit song about the tick tock of a time-taking clock was actually quite ahead of its time. Writer/director Andrew Niccol can only make a wish in time that In Time is as timely as that. Time and time again In Time fumbles its message of making the most of the time we’ve got. If we didn’t have much time left should be rob banks and rebel against the time-honoured traditions of society? That's a slippery slope of grey moral hypothesising. In Time suggests yes. How timely given the (some may say, waste of time) “occupy” protests.

In Time stars Justin Timberlake as a low class citizen who works in a factory manufacturing time. He lives in a future where time of the essence and people only age until they’re 25 years old, from which point they survive on time. Time is literally money here with people being paid in time (a day of time for a day of work) and pay for items with time (a bus ride costs two hours of time, a hotel room costs one week of time) and so on. The “haves” (they “come from time” not money, oh chortle) and the “have-nots” are divided by giant walls (another poorly played, yet timely, reference to modern day politics in Arizona nonsense, yes?) and it costs time to cross over. People in the ghetto rob people of their time, so when a suicidal millionaire (or is that a centuryaire?) decides to unload all of his time onto Timberlake’s lowly factory worker it’s about time for some timely rebellion from the ghetto.

Maybe more of this would make sense if I stopped trying to insert the word “time” in here as many times as humanly possible. Really though, it’s all In Time’s fault. Characters say the word “time” so often that it loses all meaning. “How much time do we have?”, “What time is it?”, “Give me some of your time!” and so on, time and time again. The word time loses all meaning. Maybe if In Time chose to explain it’s own time-centric science rather than having its characters perform ill-timed stunts (how does a convertible tumble roll down an embankment and not injure those inside? The somehow finds a way) then the end product would be better. Niccol seems intent on spending as little time as possible explaining his own ideas. Even down to the question of what time In Time is set in! Other than “the future”, there’s no answer given at any time. At what time did people start being born with these time codes embedded into their arms? Was this a failed time experiment? The ambiguity is maddening and ends up feeling like somebody was tinkering with too much time in the editing suite and it never comes together in any coherent way.

Elsewhere amongst In Time’s very hip, now cast (that’s the beauty of making a movie where people don’t age above 25, although that doesn’t explain Cillian Murphy, Johnny Palecki, Matt Bomer or Vincent Katheiser who look like time has not been kind to their 25-year-old faces) are the very dull-faced Olivia Wilde, as well as Amanda Seyfried doing her time-perfected wide-eyed, vague Scarlett Johansson impersonation. Seyfried’s character is particularly baffling as she, by film’s end, ends up in life-or death chase sequences on foot wearing stripper heels and corset tops. Bless costume designer Colleen Atwood for having an aneurism during that thought process. Justin Tim(e)berlake’s performance is, in conjunction with Friends with Benefits, surely makes him a Razzie frontrunner, no? Time will tell.

Niccol’s screenplay is full of far more clangers than time permits me to reel off. As it is, all I’ve gotten out of In Time is a bunch of time gags and time puns that I don’t have the time to mention. You probably shouldn’t waste your time on In Time. Time. D+

(and yes, I used a variation on the word "time" 101 times. yikes.)

Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene: SCENE 4 of Scream 3 (0:12:02-0:12:27)

In this project I attempt to review the entire Scream trilogy scene by scene in chronological order. Heavy spoilers and gore throughout!

SCENE 4 of Scream 3
Length: 25secs
Primary Characters: Sidney Prescott and "Female Reporter" (Nancy O'Dell)
Pop Culture References:
  • None

"Hollywood is reeling today from the news of the murder of controversial talk show host Cotton Weary. Weary had only recently finished shooting a cameo as himself in the film Stab 3: Return to Woodsboro, the third and final part of the famous horror series based on the famous Woodsboro and Windsor College murders. Before his rise to television fame Cotton had been imprisoned and was later exonerated for the murder of Maureen Prescott, his former lov-"

That's a whole lotta news reporting as exposition right there! And by Nancy O'Dell, featured in Scream 2, Scream 3 and Scream 4.

Meanwhile, I love that instead of having Sidney drop a plate or a bowl and have it shatter all over the place, they had her drop a bag of dog food. Does Sidney like doggy chow, too?

Intro, Scene 1 Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12, Scene 13, Scene 14, Scene 15, Scene 16, Scene 17, Scene 18, Scene 19, Scene 20, Scene 21, Scene 22, Scene 23, Scene 24, Scene 25, Scene 26, Scene 27, Scene 28, Scene 29, Scene 30, Scene 31 Scene 32, Scene 33, End Credits

Scream 2
Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12, Scene 13, Scene 14. Scene 15, Scene 16, Scene 17, Scene 18, Scene 19, Scene 20, Scene 21, Scene 22, Scene 23, Scene 24, Scene 25, Scene 26, Scene 27, Scene 28, Scene 29, Scene 30, End Credits

Scream 3
Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3

Review: Warrior

Dir. Gavin O'Connor
Year: 2011
Aus Rating: M15+
Running Time: 140mins

Let’s face it – Rocky has been done to death! And yet its simple underdog tale gets routinely trotted out due to its unwavering success at moving audiences, most notably big manly men, to tears. Director Gavin O’Connor tries sprucing up the material by swapping out boxing for mixed martial arts, but it’s still the same old story told the same old way. At least Real Steel had robots.

Read the rest at Trespass Magazine

And just in case that review doesn't make it clear enough? I'm on Team Edgerton. For everything.

Yes please.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Divine McMadness

Just yesterday I told you guys that I had done and interview with iconic director John Waters. The piece appears in the current edition (#392) and comes to the basic conclusion that it's not Waters who has changed, but the world that has caught up with him. I can't think a more prime example of this than one of 2011's breakthrough stars now doing a photoshoot inspired by the man and his muse, the drag queen Divine. Perhaps if Melissa McCarthy really wants that Oscar campaign for Bridesmaids to take off (I'd rather it didn't, but that's another story) then impersonating a female impersonator (?!?) probably isn't the way to go about it, but I love that she did it all the same. I love that a publication (is it still a "publication") like Entertainment Weekly did this in the first place, although they kinda skimped on the photos. The EW website only has two photos!

Of course, what this says about Melissa McCarthy and Divine is questionable. Divine was, after all, a man so having McCarthy in the part seems somewhat counter-productive (and did anybody at EW link these two for reasons other than their fuller figures?), but, on the other hand, how often does the image of Divine (aka Harris Glenn Milstead, by the way) get such big time exposure. Not just Divine, mind you, but Divine in Pink Flamingos. The same Divine in Pink Flamingos that licks her tongue all over a rival filth contender's house. The same Divine in Pink Flamingos that eats dog feces off the street. Yeah, that Divine. Let's be thankful McCarthy didn't recreate Pink Flamingos' "singing arsehole" moment. Sure, it wasn't Divine doing it, but it was divine all the same.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

John Waters and Carrie White Walk Into a Bar...

Just a heads up for any Australian readers that I have an interview with the one and only John Waters in this fortnight's edition of The Big Issue. Interviewing that man was like some sort of dream! He even sounded like John Waters. It was so crazy. We spoke about all things trash and queer, including Glee, Grindr, gay rights, Kathleen Turner, drag queens, Tennessee Williams, Lars von Trier, Nazis and eating shit. All of the finer things in life, clearly. Also up at The Film Experience I have just written a short piece about Carrie White burning in hell and on Oscar's night of nights. Feel free to waddle on down to your nearest Big Issue vendor to buy a copy and click on over to Nathaniel's blog to give it all a read. What fun!

Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene: SCENE 3 of Scream 3 (0:10:21-0:12:01)

In this project I attempt to review the entire Scream trilogy scene by scene in chronological order. Heavy spoilers and gore throughout!

SCENE 3 of Scream 3
Length: 1min 40secs
Primary Characters: Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox Arquette), Detective Mark Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey), Student (Richmond Arquette) and The Moderator (Julie Janney)
Pop Culture References:
  • None

And thus begins what will become a Gale Weathers ritual during Scream 3 in which we ruthlessly insult her horrible hair. This current version of her hair isn't even the worst of it! When he lets it out it just... well, yeah. This was the first image released, if I remember correctly, and we were all like "what has she done to her hair?!?" And it's not a Scream 3 specific wig, either, since she had the same hair on Friends. What was going on at that time? Why did she think this was good hair? And after her awesome red-streaked bob from Scream 2, too!

That young man right there rolling his eyes is Richmond Arquette, David's brother and Courtney's brother-in-law. In this franchise's ongoing desire to become the unofficial Arquette family album (remember Lewis Arquette was in Scream 3 and I fully expect Coco Arquette to be in Scream 12: Ghostface in Space!) we get another of the Arquette clan. Where was Alexis though? Could Scream 3 not fit in a hot transsexual anywhere in it's two hour runtime? What's Jenny McCarthy got that Alexis Arquette doesn't? ...Wait, don't answer that! Patricia Rosanna Arquette, on the other hand... well, she's probably still busy trying to find Debra Winger to make an appearance in this franchise. Wouldn't that be a hoot thought! Did Dewey have a secret sister he didn't know about? Ooh aah!

"Excuse me! So you're saying that we should be ready to go out and cut each other's throats because that's what you did?"

"Metaphorically, yes."

"So tell me Ms Weathers... was it worth it?"

There are so many red herrings thrown about in Scream 3 that they were even making the glorified extras into suspects! This little exchange between Arquette and Cox Arquette (...) is clearly meant to be a "ooh, who is this character? i bet they're the killer, ooh!" moment and yet this unnamed character (known only as "Student" in the cast list) never returns. Lovely.

Looking at Richmond Arquette's filmography, I'm actually quite surprised at the number of movie's he has under his belt including several David Fincher movies (Benjamin Button, Zodiac, Fight Club and as the delivery man in Se7en!) and Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween.

"That's quite an impressive resume."
"Thank you. I assume you're not here for an autograph."

I love that they make Gale Weathers' career a running gag by now. In each film she's worked for a different television news program and I'm sure when the detective says "impressive" he means "long and undistinguished."

Speaking of the detective, I love that Patrick Dempsey is in Scream 3. I like to think that if it weren't for Scream 3 then Dempsey's career revival wouldn't have panned out the way it did and without it Grey's Anatomy would've have become such the hit that it did (that show was very good for, what? two seasons?) Basically, Patrick Dempsey has Scream to thank for everything he has right now. ...okay, perhaps that's a bit of an overstatement, and he was quite good in his brief Will & Grace tenure, too, and I was certainly surprised to see him pop up in Sweet Home Alabama. I was secretly disappointed that he didn't return in Scream 4, but we'll discuss that later.

And, of course, I love the Scream 2 photo shot used on her press tour marketing. She'd never looked better!

"I'm here because Cotton Weary's been murdered."
"Someone killed Cotton?"
"And his girlfriend. Someone who left something he wanted us to see. I'll show you this because you're the Woodsboro authority and because you knew him. I promise you, if you share this with the world it's you I will be arresting."

"I swear on my Pulitzer Prize, which I plan to win one day, detective."

Oh Gale! Forgetting the lack of any sustained grief at the news that her early career pet project had been murdered (after Scream 2 I suspect they soured when his career get sky high and she had a failed gig at 60 Minutes 2), I do love her reaction here. In Scream she was going for the Pulitzer and she still is! We can never say that Gale Weathers rested on her laurels.

Also, gosh Patrick Dempsey's hair is amazing.

"This is Maureen Prescott, Sidney Prescott's mother!"


The Scream films were always much more interested in being a whodunnit than traditional slice-n-dice slasher flicks, but Scream 3 really took it to a new level. I've already noted the lack of traditional slasher movie chase and kills, instead choosing less gore and more exposition. The whole Maureen Prescott story... I ultimately don't think it works as well as they wanted it to, but it was a gallant effort at making a more grandoise stand for these films being taken more seriously, even they were always considered amongst the higher class of the teen horror craze.

Intro, Scene 1 Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12, Scene 13, Scene 14, Scene 15, Scene 16, Scene 17, Scene 18, Scene 19, Scene 20, Scene 21, Scene 22, Scene 23, Scene 24, Scene 25, Scene 26, Scene 27, Scene 28, Scene 29, Scene 30, Scene 31 Scene 32, Scene 33, End Credits

Scream 2
Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12, Scene 13, Scene 14. Scene 15, Scene 16, Scene 17, Scene 18, Scene 19, Scene 20, Scene 21, Scene 22, Scene 23, Scene 24, Scene 25, Scene 26, Scene 27, Scene 28, Scene 29, Scene 30, End Credits

Scream 3
Scene 1, Scene 2

Monday, October 24, 2011

Support the Senses

Hi everyone! Just a quick shout out to anybody who has even once in their life read Senses of Cinema and thought "gosh, I'd hate it if this intellectually stimulating and cinematically astute publication went belly-up!" You only have 12 more days to donate to their crowd-sourcing plea for funds! The team at Senses of Cinema are attempting to raise $15,000 after their government funding got revoked for reasons only logical to some Parliamentary nitwit. They're up to $13,000 and really need that last bit to get themselves over the line, and with lots of gifts of offer (Fassbinder, Jacques Demy and dozens of other DVDs/books/memberships) why not do it?

Senses of Cinema from Shane Timmins on Vimeo.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene: SCENE 2 of Scream 3 (0:08:21-0:10:20)

In this project I attempt to review the entire Scream trilogy scene by scene in chronological order. Heavy spoilers and gore throughout!

SCENE 2 of Scream 3
Length: 2mins
Primary Characters: Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell)
Pop Culture References:
  • None

Again with the gorgeous California location work. Whoever did the location scouting these films really did a great job. While Scream 3 doesn't make good use of these newfound open surroundings (remember in Scream when we saw Stu's house seemingly in the middle of nowhere and yet it was somehow more claustrophobic because there was nowhere to runaway to?), it's still nice to look at.

Aw, hi Sidney Prescott! Long time no see. Meanwhile, why does this movie dog get no credit?

I'm getting the sense that Sidney doesn't feel particularly safe anymore. What with the "Beware of dog" sign and the multiple security entry locking systems. How does the system work in that second picture? Is it electrified? What's to just stop a killer climbing over that fence? Hmmm. Meanwhile, the security password is 1-2-8-8... is that a horror reference? I feel like it must be. The address of a famous horror movie house? Something?

I like that she has The Fall of Troy poster on her wall. Probably a reminder of Derek and that her college drama department had really bad flyer-making skills.

Aw, she has Dewey on speed dial! Bless.

Ya know, despite all the killing and dead boyfriends and the raped mother and all of that, Sidney seems like she has a nice life. Beautiful surroundings, working as a counsellor helping women (albeit under the fake name of "Laura") and a pet dog. Stupid Ghostface, always with the calling and the killing.

Intro, Scene 1 Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12, Scene 13, Scene 14, Scene 15, Scene 16, Scene 17, Scene 18, Scene 19, Scene 20, Scene 21, Scene 22, Scene 23, Scene 24, Scene 25, Scene 26, Scene 27, Scene 28, Scene 29, Scene 30, Scene 31 Scene 32, Scene 33, End Credits

Scream 2
Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12, Scene 13, Scene 14. Scene 15, Scene 16, Scene 17, Scene 18, Scene 19, Scene 20, Scene 21, Scene 22, Scene 23, Scene 24, Scene 25, Scene 26, Scene 27, Scene 28, Scene 29, Scene 30, End Credits

Scream 3
Scene 1

Another Helping of Paranormal Activity

Having missed the local late night press screening of Paranormal Activity 3, I naturally went along to go see it at 11.20am on Friday morning. Really, what else was I going to do? As I sat in the cinema I got the worrying idea that I was going to be all alone for the screening. Not particularly surprising given the time of day I was seeing it, but an added layer of creepiness nonetheless that I wasn't sure I wanted. An older couple did arrive soon after, about five minutes into the film, which put me somewhat at ease, although it did mean I had to stifle a few surprised screams and gasps of terror.

I'm not going to talk about Paranormal Activity 3 much, simply because I find this sort of movie is the least likely to have audience members umming and aahing over whether to see it. Not much I say is going to effect whether you want to see it or not; either you're a sucker for this stuff or you're not and I, most certainly, am the former. I found the first edition of this franchise incredibly effective, trading in the sort of scares that send shivers down my spine rather than force me to cover my eyes with trembling hands. Looking back on it now and perhaps I should've seen everything that movie did miles in advance, but in the moment it worked and it worked excellently. The sequel, however, while still able to general a general sense of unease, wasn't quite as good. By giving audiences less interesting characters and using more traditionally manipulative scare tactics (babies in peril, barking dogs) it felt less like a new take on the original than a watered down copy.

The third film though is thankfully a return to form. Now being directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (yes, the men behind the is-it-real-or-isn't-it documentary, Catfish - make of that what you will), the film takes place in 1988 to look at the origins of the haunting that has followed this family for decades. It's remarkable how effective so many of the scares in Paranormal Activity 3 are; everything from the fake boo scares of a character jumping out of a closet to the sight of a gust of air being projected into the face of a character. How is this still scary? I'm not sure, but it does manage the best person-wearing-a-bed sheet scare since John Carpenter's Halloween, so that's quite something. I guess this is just the sort of stuff that I find scary. I love the way I actually have to work during these films and make sure my eyes navigate every inch of every frame at all times in the hopes of never missing a scare. The rotating camera featured in this second sequel is a particularly torturous affair as it makes the anticipation of a scare so much more of an endurance test. How many times can the camera swing 180 degrees around a room before finally capturing something you didn't notice before (a swinging light fixture, an extending shadow, etc)?

Meanwhile, I like that this film is the second haunted house movie of 2011 (the other being Insidious) to have the characters be smart enough to actually leave the bloody house! That the terror doesn't stop there is hardly surprising, but I have to admit that when Christopher Nicholas Smith's character enters the room I squealed out "Oh jesus!" Thankfully only two people heard me and not an entire cinema of texting teens (oh gawd, I never want to go to a public evening screening again after my experiences at Footloose last week, but that's another story entirely). Basically, Paranormal Activity 3 is just a really fun, scary time at the cinema. I'm not sure how much longer this franchise can continue to be made using the same motif of handheld cameras within this one particularly unfortunate family - I suspect Paranormal Activity 4 will go back to the future and follow the ghostly goings on of an altogether new family - but as it stands the Paranormal Activity franchise is back on top where it began. I'm sure many commentators will decry the lack of originality or what have you in churning out a third of these, but if they continue to scare me as much as this one did then I will happily keep watching. And if you have, like me, seemingly seen the trailer for this movie in front of every movie you see? Well, don't be too worried because the finished film features barely any of the material shown in the trailer! They're either very smart and brave, or very stupid and are going to annoy people. It worked for me! Just ignore the fact that a movie made up of 1988 home videos is in glorious widescreen and enjoy the ride. B+

I do want to bring this film's lead actor to your attention. His name is Christopher Nicholas Smith and he is a hottie (the women of this family have good taste in men it would seem!) Look, I don't care if it's frivilous or gratuitous to make mention of this, but he is and I was downright angry when I got home and googling him only to discover that there is only one image of him! How is this possible? It's a travesty, I tellsya. A travesty!

The internet has failed us yet again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

APRA Nominees Reveal Owls, Cane Toads, Mad Bastards & Kurzel's Snowtown

Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) have released their annual set of nominees and the film nominees are a good bunch. The big shining light of the film composition from Aussie cinema this year has been, for me, Jed Kurzel's hypnotic, thumping and utterly implosive score for Snowtown. Now, I didn't like the film at all, writing that it "[revels] in its lower class miserabilism like a pig in shit," but I admit to being in the definite minority on that one. Still, Kurzel's score is above and beyond one of the very best scores of 2011 and purchasing it off of iTunes (for a measly $11.99!) was as good of a decision as I made all week.

Brendan Fletcher's admirable Mad Bastards scored three nominations, as you would expect, for original score, original song (for "Won't Look Back") and soundtrack, and it was great to see Martin Armiger's music to Cane Toads: The Conquest nominated in the documentary category. Also nominated in the feature film category are David Hirschfelder for The Legends of the Guardian: The Owls of Ga'Hoole and Burkhard Dallwitz for The Way Back. I would expect to see Snowtown, Bastards and Ga'Hoole nominated for the same prize at the upcoming AACTA awards (The Way Back not being an Australian film means Dallwitz, despite being Australian, is ineligible). To see the nominees in all 12 categories (film and TV) do click over to the Screen Music Awards website, but I've included a few of the cinema-relevant categories below. Unfortunately, YouTube clips are scarce, but I've included a clip from Mad Bastards as well as a suite of Hirschfelder's wonderful Legends of the Guardian music.

Feature Film Score of the Year
Alex Lloyd, Alan Pigram, Stephen Pigram - Mad Bastards
Jed Kurzel - Snowtown
David Hirschfelder - The Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
Burkhard Dallwitz - The Way Back

Best Music for a Documentary
Martin Armiger - Cane Toads: The Conquest
Ash Gibson Greig, Petris Torres - Jandamarra's War
Matteo Zingales - Lachlan Macquarie: Father of Australia
Christopher Elves - The Silent Epidemic

Best Music for a Short Film
Mike Darren - Collision
Dale Cornelius - Polo's Robot
Paul Halley - The Maker
Kathryn Brownhill, Miles Nicholas, Jonathan Nix - The Missing Key

Best Soundtrack Album
Alex Lloyd, Alan Pigram, Stephen Pigram - Mad Bastards
Dmitri Golovko - Red Hill
Rafael May - Road Train: Road Kill Soundtrack
Michael Yezerski - The Lost Thing

Monday, October 17, 2011

Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene: SCENE 1 of Scream 3 (0:00:00-0:08:20)

In this project I attempt to review the entire Scream trilogy scene by scene in chronological order. Heavy spoilers and gore throughout!

SCENE 1 of Scream 3
Length: 8mins 20secs
Primary Characters: Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber), Christine Hamilton (Kelly Rutherford), Ghostface (voice of Roger Jackson) & "Female Caller" (voice of Beth Toussaint)
Pop Culture References:
  • Are there any? Only broad stuff like a similarity to The Shining in the knife/door sequence. Where are they all?!?

For all the talk of Scream 3 not adhering to it's own "all bets are off" idealogy - and, in certain respects (mostly those regarding the three lead characters) that's true - this film did quite a bit that was unexpected. Beginning with this opening scene, for instance, we have a male central victim, the new voice dynamic and a huge location change. By changing the setting from the original "return to Woodsboro" idea (after the Columbine shootings, Scream 3's return to high school killing spree idea was mooted) to Hollywood the filmmakers gave themselves a much larger scale upon which they could work their magic. Some people think that "magic" was a load of ol' tosh, but I happen to love Scream 3. As we'll see, Scream 3 is beloved by me for, at times, being a sort of bizarro world comedy that just happens to have a few killings in it (a few?), but there are times when this film is just as good as it's predecessors. We're back in the saddle, folks!

Oh hai, Cotton! The way I remember the lead up to Scream 3's release panning out is that we'd all kinda figured out that Cotton Weary was going to die and that it'd be great if he were the opening victim. I think all just Scream obsessives eventually (wait for it) cottoned on to the fact that he was going to get the chop very early since, for obvious reasons, all the clips and images of him seen in the trailers and stills featured him wearing the same costume throughout. It's just science.

"You sound a lot like that guy on TV. Uh... Cotton Weary."

The introduction of this new voice curveball was, for a while, quite great. They never really came through with a big payoff with it (unless you count the bed sheet mother scene, which I don't), but for something like this it works well. The only major problem is that by the third film in this franchise we know that whatever's going on on the other end of the line isn't quite right. The moment the switch happens isn't so much a surprise as it is a "yup! i guessed that" sorta moment.

"So, why don't you tell me who you are?"
"You're a naughty boy, Cotton. Now what would your girlfriend say?"
"What makes you think I have a girlfriend?"
"I know you do. I'm right outside her bathroom door."

Scream 3 takes all of one minute and 52 seconds to get to the ominous, threatening tone. Ghostface is clearly not as interested in playing cat and mouse this time. It's an issue through the entire film, actually.

I do like the parallels to the Casey Becker/Ghostface chat from Scream's opening scene. "Do you have a boyfriend?" "No, why? You wanna ask me out on a date?" and so on. Speaking of Casey Becker... I'll sure we'll discuss it at some point in the future, but I remember I and many others were very disappointed that Casey's house (or, more to the point, the Stab set of Casey's house) wasn't used as the opening or closing scene of Scream 3. It would've been perfect!

And here is Kelly Rutherford. She was a disappointing name for the Scream 3 opening scene then, but I have definitely warmed to her as I'll discuss a little bit later in this piece. Nevertheless, I think she does a good job in making the secondary victim more of an identity than either Steven Orth of Phil Stevens were before. In other news: Why don't Americans use the god damn fan in their bathrooms?

I like how cheesy all the billboards are in this film, whether they're this for Cotton Weary's television chat show or those for Stab 3.

As you probably saw at towards the start of this entry, under the "references" title, Scream 3's opening sequence actually doesn't use any outright. Instead, it takes most of its cues from the first two Scream films. Whether it's the similarity to Casey Becker's dialogue or this shot that mirrors the Heather Graham shower sequence in Scream 2. Thereby making Scream 3 an even more meta; it's referencing its itself.

Oh Hollywood, what the hell is this?


Okay, that Stab 2 tagline is incredible. I'm surprised nobody thought of it sooner for an actual horror sequel. It's stuff like this that makes this project endlessly fascinating; I'd never seen that (the tagline) before! It's so golden that I feel like it's wasted on a brief one second cut away shot. Still, I see it there now!

"Cotton, is that you?"

I like this little tracking shot of Christine. Craven was definitely trying to go with a more voyeuristic look during Scream 3's opening, I think. Trying to get under the same skin that the original did with that brilliant moment when you know Drew Barrymore's Casey is being watched. As great as the Scream 2 opening is - and boy, it is! - it did miss this part of the equation. Meanwhile, the shot of Christine's feet as she walks down the corridor is a reference to something, I am positive of it... I just can't put my finger on it. Can you?

"Okay Cotton, you know I don't like your 'stab' games."

I kinda love this line because of the images it alludes to. The idea that Cotton Weary, a man whose story was morphed into the series of fake slasher flicks known as the Stab franchise uses those very stories for roleplay sex? Does Cotton wear a Ghostface mask? Does Christine pretend to be Maureen Prescott? The mind boggles.

Bam. Helllloooooo Ghostface! It really didn't take long, did it? And, of course, Ghostface's theme song - the one that seems to play whenever he arrives at parties - is that improbably shwing sound effect that happens whenever the knife cuts through air. I don't think knives make that noise outside of being sharpened. I swear that knife gets bigger with each passing instalment, too. By Scream 4 it was positively machete-esque!