Sunday, October 31, 2010

Review: Wes Craven's My Soul to Take 3D

Weak Return for Wes Craven

It’s been five years since Wes Craven released his last horror film. Emerging from this hiatus is the director’s first 3D film, My Soul to Take. Mr. Craven’s new movie was a weak and formulaic thriller filled with non-stop perplexing dialogue. The movie emerges as a mere gap filler for audiences, who patiently await the highly anticipated film, Scream 4. The careless release in digital 3D seemed like another ploy to drag audiences back to cinemas.

The town of Riverton, Massachusetts is being terrorized by a serial killer known as the Riverton Ripper. Police immediately find the killer and shoot him. En route to the hospital, the ambulance crashes and the Riverton Ripper dies near the banks of the local river, where his body is never found. Sixteen years later, the film reveals that seven children, the Riverton Seven, were born on the same day as the death of the Riverton Ripper. One of the seven teenagers is Bug. Bug, portrayed by Max Thieriot, is a shy boy that begins to experience intense headaches and see visions of dead classmates. Now, one by one, the killer is hunting down the children born on the day of his supposed death.

Thieriot evolves from his usual straight-edge roles to deliver a fine performance as Bug, the neurotic teenager. At first glance it is hard to tell whether Thieriot’s is genuinely depicting Bug as a naïve boy or forcing the façade of innocence upon the character. However, it is because of this superbly executed tension that the complexities and disarray of Bug’s personality develops throughout the narrative; whether it is Bug’s inability to stand-up to bullies, talk to girls, and his psychotic episodes.

The dialogue is written with certain directness; a directness that imbues certain explanations for the sake of Bug and the audience. Brandon (Nick Lashaway) one of the Riverton Seven explicitly explains the significance of the teenager’s birthdays with the death of the Riverton Ripper. It is such an insult when Craven believes his character and audience is unintelligent to solve the mystery. The thriller looses half of its mystery in this blatant explanatory dialogue diminishes the film and becomes a bland experience.

Though the film was a great disappointment and catastrophe, there were certain moments in the film that reminded us why Wes Craven is the brilliant horror maestro that he is. In the first scene, Abel Plankov (Raul Esparza) stands in front of the mirror talking to his reflection. Craven uses an over-the-shoulder shot to focus on Abel’s infinite reflections created in the bathroom mirror. Unlike the explicatory scenes in the film, the never-ending reflections implicitly refer to Abel’s multiple personalities. And therein lies Wes Craven’s twisted genius.

Another brilliantly planned sequence was when Bug’s love interest, Brittany, (Paulina Olysnski) is killed in the middle of the woods. Craven opts for an extreme close-up shot of Brittany’s eyes as she calls for help and says “take me home.” Craven moves in closer with a close-up shot of Brittany’s white purse and slippers, which turn red from her blood as she is being killed. The red shoes, closed eyes, and the words “take me home” clearly alludes to Dorothy’s ruby slippers and her wish to return home. What was once an image of safetly and innocence has turned into a blood lust of horror. Only Wes Craven would parody a pop culture reference and contort it to suit his horror world.

Though the film pushes Bug to leave his innocent boyhood in order to become a man, My Soul to Take never graduates to becoming a full-fledged thriller. It is stuck with its innocent thriller principles and is never allowed to break free from these constraints. The poor story structure and dialogue does not allow the audience to connect with the film or characters. It’s is an awkward killing spree without any purpose. Perhaps this film blunder was made to lower the standards for Craven’s up-coming film, Scream 4.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Exclusive: Alan Tudyk reveals his character in Transformers 3

Alan Tudyk: Uncle and ‘Cyber Sleuth’

In my interview with Alan Tudyk about his film, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, I got the chance to ask the Firefly star about his current projects. Tudyk divulged information to me about his character in Beautiful Boy and Michael Bay’s new film, Transformers 3.

Tudyk was particularly passionate to talk about his recently completed film entitled, Beautiful Boy. “I have a new movie called Beautiful Boy that will be premiering at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival in September 2010 with Maria Bello and Michael Sheen. I’m interested to see that because it is very different from Tucker and Dale…It’s a quiet drama...It’s really harrowing in places,” revealed Tudyk. Beautiful Boy is about Kate and Bill Carroll, a couple played by Bello and Sheen, that are trying to glue the pieces of their life together after they receive news that their teenage son, Sam, commits suicide after being the shooter in a college massacre. The couple moves to live with Kate’s brother and his wife, played by Tudyk and actress, Moon Bloodgood. The film went on to win the International Critics' Award (FIPRESCI) Prize for the Discovery at the Toronto International Film Festival.

When I asked Tudyk about the character he plays in Michael Bay’s ultra secret film, Transformers 3, the actor confidently replied, “John Turturro’s character, who has been in the other two movies, Agent Simmons. I’m a fellow agent of his that is sort of his assistant and weapons expert, computer hacker, cyber sleuth.” Transformers 3 is currently being filmed in Chicago, which has closed down Van Buren Street till Wednesday, August 4. Bay's film is scheduled to be released in theaters on July 1, 2011.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blood, Horror, and Fantasy! Oh My!: Fantasia opens audiences to the world of genre films

Black apparel and tattoo covered arms blurred together into a single entity. It was from the fused streams of people outlining the Theater Hall Building at Concordia University in downtown Montreal on a scorching hot and humid summer evening of July 8, 2010.

The Fantasia Film Festival kicked off its 14th year with the Disney movie, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010). Disguised under Disney’s veil, the film seemed to be directed towards children. However, the dead-pan humor and repetitious jokes filled with sexual innuendos dominated the screen. Only a handful of children were present at the Canadian premiere of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Mitch Davis, the co-director of Fantasia, was ecstatic as he christened the opening of festival’s 14th year. Fantasia’s recognition and programming has evolved throughout the years. Davis called this evolution a “birthing process of Fantasia.” He went on to jokingly say “we’re gonna be throwing placentas at you,” as he whipped his wrist around in the air. Make light of the blood and gore that dominate the screens of the festival.

Though a star-studded premiere kicked off the festival, the essence of the festival was just about to start. Films from around the world (Denmark, Serbia, Hungary, Vietnam, Hong Kong/China, South Korea, Japan) including the U.S. and Canada have premiered at the festival. The Fantasia Film Festival is known to champion genre films (ie. horror, thriller, science fiction) that would normally not screen in cinema theaters.

New to the festival, in collaboration with CinéAsia and Korean Consulate, there is a special focus on Korean films. Most North American audiences are not familiar with the existing film industry in Korea. Kim Ki-yong’s 1960 classic, The Housemaid, Blades of Blood (2010), and A Little Pond (2009) are only a handful of titles present at Fantasia.

American and Canadian films, also, grace the screen with such infamous titles as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Tucker and Dave vs. Evil. On the opening day of the box office, both events sold out in the first couple of hours.

In an Eastern Canadian premiere, Fantasia will spur audiences back into time with the newly restored Metropolis (1972) from Fritz Lang, the most well known director from German Expressionism. The film will feature 25 minutes of newly found footage as well as be accompanied by a live orchestra playing a new film score written by silent film composer, Gabriel Thibaudeau. Metropolis will premiere tonight, July 28, 2010, at Place-des-Arts.

In the words of actor Jay Baruchel, a native of Montreal, “buckle your seats assholes” because this year’s festival is going to be one hell of a ride. Whether you have a penchant for horror or laughter, everything is available at the Fantasia. The festival ran from July 8-27, 2010. Please visit Fantasia’s website for more articles and photo galleries about the premiere events and the festival film lineup:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Viewing films in the Flesh

 New technology is bringing cinephiles away from their keyboards and into the theatres

In an age of illegal downloads and online DVD rentals, going out to view films seems rather pointless.
Nowadays experiencing art, especially film, is never further away than a click of a remote control or mouse pad. It may not seem like it, but art is slowly slipping from our hands. The public no longer appreciates the arts because they no longer experience it in the flesh.

Movies are readily available a few months after their initial release in theaters and the appeal of watching a film at home is obvious. Comfy pyjamas, cozy seating and no chair-kickers or crying babies are always a plus.

The reality is that the home environment does not contribute to exploring events directly in the flesh. The surrounding environment has distractions that interrupt the viewing experience. Phones, computers, friends and family cause frequent pauses throughout the movie and prevent the appreciation of the intricate artistic aesthetics of film.

But watching movies on the computer and at home may itself be a dying trend, especially with the use of 3-D effects, the newest craze in cinema. It gives viewers a sensational visual ride not found at home, whether to feel like they are riding a dragon with the Na’vi in Avatar or moving back to escape the grasp of Coraline’s evil button-eyed mother.

According to Variety, the film industry suffered a 5.6 per cent decline in ticket sales in 2005, losing approximately $400 million. But after the recent success of James Cameron’s Avatar, the end of 2009 saw a much better outcome. The Motion Picture Association of America stated that the ticket sales around the world rose 7.6 per cent in 2009. With the recent 3-D craze, film studios and theatres are drawing audiences from their homes and into theatres.

And when 3-D televisions become common in households, studios have found other options to keep cinephiles coming back for more. Two months ago, Variety published an article stating that a Korean company had added another dimension to the film experience. 4-D films in Korea use lasers, moving seats and 30 other physical special effects to amuse the viewers’ sight, sound, touch and smell. 4-D films sounds like the ultimate movie experience.

By attracting viewers back to the theatre, studios have allowed for the greater appreciation of the artistry of film. Downloading grainy bootleg films is destined to go out of style, because who wouldn’t want to see an Avatar sequel in 4-D?