30 August 2007

What If Ratner Directed "The Road"?

What if Brett Ratner ended up directing the film version of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road"? The clever folks at McSweeney's have put together the director's notes for such a horrifying prospect, but with hilarious results:

Possibilities to play the father/son duo: Brad Pitt and Maddox Jolie-Pitt. If so, have them ride around on ATVs instead of walking. Walking is boring.

Father needs "buddy." See if Jackie Chan is available. If not, maybe Andy Dick?

In book, we don't find out how the world ended. Must show in movie version. Possible scenarios:

Alien robots
Girls in bikinis accidentally blow up nuclear power station by hitting self-destruct button with their big, round butts
Or boobs
If we go with robots as destroyers of Earth, robots should still be chasing the people. Also, maybe change name from The Road to The Robots.

If we decide to rewrite as comedy, see if Sandler is available for May production start. When the father and son discover the boat, boat should be loaded with machine guns and hand grenades.

In book, they say "carrying the fire" and it's some kind of abstract thing about carrying the spirit of humanity around in a time of hopelessness.

What if "fire" is a secret weapon that will restore atmosphere and kill the robots? Or it turns out at the end that boy can shoot fire out of eyes and mouth? He's like a messiah guy, but a fire-shooting-eyes messiah guy.

Read the whole thing here.

"The Mist" Trailer Now Online

It's hard to choose a favorite Stephen King tale, but die-hard fans are almost unanimous in their vote for his best short story, and that would be "The Mist", originally published in the 1980 horror anthology "Dark Forces", and reprinted (and being slightly rewritten) as part of the 1985 anthology "Skeleton Crew".

Some of the tightest, taughtest 133 pages ever penned in the horror genre, it tells the simple tale of a group of regular folks who get stuck in a supermarket in Bridgton, Maine, where a thunderstorm has brought a thick shroud of mist over the entire town. Within the mist lurk some very nasty and hungry monsters--all forms of Lovecraftian insects, crustaceans, arachnids, a pterodactyl (!), and combinations thereof. Its source is never discovered, but some suggest a rift between dimensions caused by something called "The Arrowhead Project" at a nearby military base.

Essentially one long real time tale of survival, the yarn ends on a "Birds"-styled note of ambiguity as a few of the survivors--lead by narrator David Drayton, a freelance artist--make their way from the supermarket to an uncertain future.

Frank Darabont, who wrote and directed the superb Stephen King adaptations "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile" (and began his career with his student short, an adaptation of King's "The Woman In The Room"), ventures outside of prison territory with this one, and the results look promising, based upon the just-released trailer.

The strong cast features Thomas Jane as Drayton, Marcia Gay Harden as the religious fanatic Mrs. Carmody, Andre Braugher as skeptical lawyer Brent Norton, and Toby Jones as Weeks, the store manager . And not only did Darabont have the good taste to hire the brilliant horror comics artist Berni ("Swamp Thing" "The Spectre", the "Creepshow" adaptation) Wrightston to design the creatures, but he commissioned Drew Struzan, arguably the finest movie poster artist of all time, to create the one-sheet poster.

The film comes out November 21, 2007 from Dimension Films. Here's the thrilling first trailer.

28 August 2007

(Review) "Demons 2": 20th Anniversary Screening

Lamberto Bava's lively 1985 breakthrough shocker Demons remains a fan favorite and probably the defining work of his uneven but efficient filmography. After an eerie setup in which various Berlin transit riders accept an invitation to the Metropol theatre from a strange figure in a metal mask, the film stumbles into a series of poorly-dubbed, 80s-metal-scored gore set pieces, but climaxing in a thrilling, apocalyptic ending that makes its soft second act worth plodding through. If you believe Roger Corman’s credo that if the first and the third acts are solid, then “what you do in the middle doesn’t matter”, then by generous accounts Demons is a success.

Demons 2, produced less than a year later, offers a near-identical concept, except here, the transmission device is a television signal and the location a high-rise apartment building. It more than satisfies Joe Bob Briggs’ patented rule that a sequel should be the exact same movie all over again, and should appeal to afficionados of The Twonky and Jerry Manders' "Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television".

In the first Demons' film with the film (keeping up?) the titular nogoodnicks entered our world—and human bodies—via the sharp prongs of a cursed mask that was unearthed in Nostradamus' tomb. In Demons 2, the fwtf features another group of clueless teens who have entered a quarantined disaster area where presumably the invasion was contained and eradicated. They happen upon a demon’s ashen remains where blood from one of their wounds triggers its resurrection. The creature then comes towards the screen, and out of it, entering its first victim’s body.

Several parallel plots—such as they are—collide throughout the ten floors of the apartment building “The Tower”: in one suite, there’s a birthday party in full swing for Sally (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni) and her senior classmates, who, without the distractions of the Internet, iPods, and Second Life, must entertain themselves by robot-dancing to some 80s alternative hits on the boom box while swilling down booze in paper cups, careful not to spill any on their feathered ‘dos and shoulder pads.

Sally’s a shrill one, and while her dialogue from screenwriters Bava, Dario Argento, Franco Ferrinni, and Dardano Sachetti is less than Hughesian (“My hair stinks! This dress stinks. This whole thing is disgusting! These sleeves on this go back and forth--what am I gonna do?”), the actress has an endearing presence reminiscent of her American teen scream queen counterpart of the time, Jill Schoelen. As the first to be possessed, Sally quickly mutates into a fanged, milky-eyed harpy who spreads the demon virus throughout the complex ala Cronenberg’s Shivers/Frissons/They Came From Within.

In neighbouring apartments, bookish George (David Edwin Knight) is concerned for the safety of his expectant wife Hannah (Nancy Brilli), a family with two young children (one of them a prepubescent Asia Argento) try to escape, a latch-key kid and his dog become possessed, and some truly dedicated fitness addicts, who under the tutelage of a returning Bobby Rhodes (who memorably played a pimp in the first Demons) enact a Howard Hawksian standoff in the underground parking garage.

First beastie to exit through Sally’s cathode ray tube makes for an impressive effect (more or less replicated in Ringu), albeit once based heavily on Rick Baker’s pioneering work on Cronenberg’s Videodrome, which was likely an unacknowledged influence here.

Lots of gloppy monsters follow, more akin to zombies really, all pustules and razor teeth and bloodshot orbs, anticipating “the infected” of the later biohazard-themed 28 Days Later than anything genuinely supernatural (there’s no internal story logic to these nasties, where they come from, what they want, what they do--other than to cause a lot of icky havoc—is left for the theatre of the mind…). Serious horror buffs will strain to find a metaphor in the television angle—perhaps Bava aspires to cheekily paraphrase McLuhan in that here, the medium is the massacre? (a reach, I admit...).

The momentum is dulled, somewhat, by the third-act emergence of a gawd-awful rubber puppet--of the John Carl Beuchler variety ala Ghoulies and laughably unconvincing even by 80s standards (and we all bought into “Yoda”, ET, and the Gelflings, didn’t we?).

Those of us of a certain age (read: those of us who first consumed Douglas Coupland and tingled: "that's me!") will enjoy the soundtrack: alt-rock staples The Smiths, The Cult, The Dead Can Dance, Art Of Noise, Gene Loves Jezebel, Peter Murphy underscore the KY jelly and karo syrup free-for-all that occupies much of what passes for plot in Act Two. It all oozes and splats to the requisite “the end?” coda that, to no one’s surprise, segued to a Demons 3 and a Demons 4.

Following the screening, presented by Rue Morgue Magazine and London, Ontario’s Vagrancy Films, the jazzed audience was treated to a Q&A with “Sally” herself, actress Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, who currently resides in New York (her home town, actually), and was in the GTA for Rue Morgue magazine's annual Festival Of Fear blow-out at the FanExpo convention.

The 36-year old actress, not looking a day older than she appears in the film, was clearly moved by the enthusiastic reception, and admitted she still feels a kinship with her character, who she says “makes her sad”.

Demons 2, like its preceding chapter, was shot in Munich. She recalled that the makeup took hours to apply, and that her contact lenses were quite painful—obviously, FX technology has come a long way. Bava, who cameos in the film as her father, didn’t give her a lot of direction, and hired her without an audition, based upon her other film work.

Cataldi-Tassoni went on to become something of a Italian scream queen, appearing in Dario Argento’s Opera, Phantom Of The Opera remake (as a child, she grew up in the opera scene, performing in “La Boheme” at the age of three!), as well as Andreas Marfori’s “Il Bosco/Horror Clutch, and Bava’s recent Ghost Son. When asked to compare the directing styles of Bava and Argento, she demurred “quantum physics…completely different universes…” and left it at that.

Extending warm regards from Lamberto Bava and FX supervisor Sergio Stivaletti, Cataldi-Tassondi was off to the Gladstone Hotel to perform numbers from her debut music CD “Limbo Balloon” accompanied by Maurizio Guarini of the prog-rock band (and frequent Argento collaborators) Goblin.

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni will next be seen in Dario Argento’s Mother Of Tears, the long-awaited sequel to Suspiria and Inferno, debuting in just a little more than a week at The 32nd Annual Toronto International Film Festival.

© Robert J. Lewis 2007

Breaking (Fox) News: If We Bust Hypocritical Republicans, The Terrorists Have Won!

Senator Larry Craig has turned to quoting Charo in "Airport 75", who said famously: "you miscon-screw me!"

I'm not a terribly political person--I pingpong between Liberal and Libertarian dogma depending on how it suits me--but with film news light (soon to pick up with TIFF 2007) I'm having a pretty good laugh over the Craig saga, and with Stewart off this week, perhaps some of you will find me a reasonable D+ subsitute.

Idaho Republican and moral high horse phoney Larry "I am not gay, and I never have been" Craig echoed Charo's sentiments when the coppers picked him up for soliciting...er..."favours" of the George Michaelian variety, in a men's room in Minnesota last June. Apparently, he only tapped the foot of the guy in the adjoining stall because he--and forgive me for the disgusting imagery--he has a wide stance when sitting upon the porcelain throne. He also maintained that the reason he repeatedly reached under the stall wall was to "pick up a piece of paper", even though the arresting officer said there was no such thing on on the floor and Craig didn't pick anything up.

Republicans are outraged of course--at the Democrats (with their stained dresses and their green bins and their Indigo Girls CDs) and anyone who dares to even question Craig's character (his sexual orientation is irrelevant--it's that he's a bald-faced liar and hypocrite that should have him packing his banker's box, pronto). After all, moral crusades are their job--Craig voted for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, against a bill allowing gay men and women to serve in the military, and against extending civil rights to gays in the workplace--but the GOPs collective capacity for denial, esp. in light of the Gonsalez, Libby, the continuing Iraq boondoggle, is astonishing by any sane person's definition,

So today, "Fair And Balanced" Fox News was this doozy from anchor Megyn Kelly: "The senator and the sex sting: Something happened inside this airport bathroom in Minnesota, but did it constitute a crime? That's coming up. But our top story this half hour is that new report we told you about earlier, saying that al-Qaida has an active plot to attack the West."

Cue that YouTube gopher!

More on this farce from Tim Grieve at Salon here.

Campbell Says "No" to "Ho Tep" Sequel

Damn! Sounds like there won't be a sequel to "Bubba Ho Tep" after all.

Bruce Campbell recently told Fangoria Radio the project "is dead to me. It sleeps with the fishes. Don Coscarelli is a very passionate filmmaker. We got to a few points that we couldn't reconcile. I want to keep our friendship, so we parted ways. So, I'm not part of that project."

Nor is he involved with any official "Evil Dead" sequel, or remake...

Last spring, I met Joe R. Lansdale at The World Horror Convention and he told me the project, entitled "Bubba Nosferatu and the Curse of the She-Vampires", was ready to roll "whenever Bruce is ready" (Lansdale, of course, penned the original short story and cowrote the screenplay adaptation with Coscarelli). And actor Paul Giamatti has said in interviews he was on board to play Colonel Tom Parker if the filmmakers were interested (and they were).

Coscarelli, who right now must be seriously debating yet another "Phantasm" sequel to pay the bills, has said that he's considering recasting the Elvis role, but realizes it''ll be "a challenge" to win over the fanbase for this film, which might be small, but fiercely loyal. Please, anyone but Jonathon Rhys Meyers!

I'm going to try to control my tears tomorrow night when I catch "Evil Dead: The Musical"...

You can read the bad news here, courtesy of Cinematical.

24 August 2007

"Demons 2": 20th Anniversary Screening Tonight

The distinguished folks at Rue Morgue magazine, Vagrancy Films, and The Toronto After Dark Film Festival (returning this October) are sponsoring a rare 35mm print screening of Lamberto Bava's "Demoni 2", aka "Demons 2", written by Bava and Dario Argento (who will be in town this weekend for The Festival Of Fear, and at this year's Toronto International Film Festival to premiere "Mother Of Tears"). The screening's tonight at 9:30 PM at The Royal Cinema on College Street, so if you're just reading this now, and live in Toronto, you've still got time to get there!

Costar Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni will be in attendance--perhaps Argento will show up as well?

Review and report to come.

23 August 2007

Happy 2nd Birthday Maggie!

Two years ago today, returning home from my birthday dinner at swanky Lee's, Lidia and I came upon our neighbours who were searching the tiny lawns in front of our townhouse. We were friendly with their two tortoiseshell cats, Daisy and Star, both of whom were preggers within weeks of them becoming regular daily visitors. Daisy had given birth a few weeks earlier, and on this very day, her daughter Star delivered. And apparently, couldn't find her litter!

I suggested Daisy would know best and that we should let her lead the way, and after she sniffed and prodded about the hedges, pointed us to the front porch of the unit two doors down. There, we found three palm-sized newborns: one ginger-hued, one a smokey grey, and the third, a beautiful tortoiseshell like her mother (and equally vocal too!).

We'd just lost our beloved tortie Molly, who developed a rare cancer at the age of 10, and while neither of us much believed in "cosmic" signs, who were we to question the universe? We put in our dibs on the tortie, I grabbed a box and a blanket for the kittens, and on Thanksgiving Day, we christened the six-week old handful "Maggie" and she joined our merry band--instantly making her older sister Minnie's life a daily ordeal.

She's two today, and while she's grown a little longer and is exhibiting some signs of her grandmother Daisy's contemplative nature (sadly, Daisy was killed by a car last month), she's just as bratty and spring-loaded as ever. So here's Maggie in a rare quiet moment (actually, she was in the middle of trying to tear my office curtains down), when I can actually capture a photo that didn't show her as a brown motion blur.

Happy birthday, dreamboat!