A ghost story is for life, not just for Christmas….
Oct 2012 13

Okay I’ll admit it. When it comes to being spooked I’m a little old fashioned. With the onset of Autumn, I dust off a number of old books that sit my shelves throughout spring and summer and, whenever I have 5 mins to myself, will read ghost stories. Short or long, it doesn’t matter. Even better if it’s by an open fire.

There’s something about M R James, the classic ghost story writer, probably the most famous, that just conjures dread in his numerous short stories. They range from unhinged to terrifying and anything in between. As a Christmas treat in the late 1960s and 70s, the BBC produced adaptations of these tales (under the loose series title of Ghost Stories for Christmas) based in the works of MR James, broadcasting to terrified viewers each Christmas Eve. Auntie then briefly revived the tradition between 2005 and 2010. Imagine my delight at seeing that the BFI has decided to release all 12 dramas in a boxset, due for release later this month (nicely timed for Halloween).

These adaptations, which have a subtlety and style all of their own, have been a major influence on many contemporary British horror film makers and have garnered a reputation as being some of the most sought after British TV titles of all time by their legions of eager fans. They are:

Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968); The Stalls of Barchester (1971); A Warning to the Curious (1972); Lost Hearts (1973);The Treasure of Abbot Thomas (1974); The Ash Tree (1975); The Signalman (1976); Stigma (1977); The Ice House (1978); A View from a Hill (2005); Number 13 (2006); and Whistle and I’ll Come to You (2010)

I’d like to draw your attention to 3 of these productions, which stand out over all the others:

1) Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968), the original and best adaptation, starring Sir Michael Horden and Directed by Jonathon Miller is a masterpiece of the spooky kind. With sparse dialogue, and some breathtaking black and white photography on the shores of East Anglia, all anchored by a wonderfully bumbling and eccentric turn by Horden, this is hands down one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen. In truth, not a lot happens, but the atmosphere of dread is so well lifted from the original story that it permeates the whole production, until the numbing last few minutes. I guarantee you that, after the numerous shots of the lead character walking on lonely beaches in winter, you’ll begin to feel his very sense of not being alone. There is something just odd about what is following him….

2) A Warning to the Curious (1972), starring Peter Vaughan is a more conventionally recounted and scripted story. Loosely following an amateur archaeologist who rather foolishly removes an ancient crown from a Saxon burial ground, that local legend says is protected by a vengeful spirit, this production has two of the most terrifying and heart-stopping moments I have seen in film. I couldn’t shake its mournful effect for days.

3) The Signalman (1976), starring Denholm Elliot is as haunting a 60 mins as you will ever see. Low key, slow moving, wonderfully acted and with an unparalled atmosphere of desperate melancholy. This story was adapted from an original short by Charles Dickens and builds to a devastating climax.

The remaining productions range in quality, but are all unique in atmosphere. Check out the bizarre and downright weird Lost Hearts (1973), and the fantastic A View from a Hill (2005) as other highlights.

The original version of O Whistle and I’ll Come to You (it was remade in 2010 with John Hurt) remains my absolute favourite. For an idea of its unsettling atmosphere, click on the following link, and watch from 0:58 to 3:13:

O Whistle and I’ll Come to You

It’s fantastic that finally, all of these are being made available, and I would urge film fans of any genre, to get a hold of the boxset as quickly as possible (Official release date is Monday 29th October). This is a masterclass in old fashioned scares.

Eli Roth and Alexandre Aja eat your hearts out.

 

NP

 

 

The Trailer for the (Second) Hitchcock Biopic is Here!
Oct 2012 15

Alfred Hitchcock, that iconic film giant encased in the plump, unassuming body of an English boy from Leytonstone has already made his mark on the silver screen. Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window, North by Northwest, and many others have left indelible marks on the cinematic consciousness and inspired generations of filmmakers.

Such is his status in the film world, and with the notoriously strong link between his personal life and his professional output in mind, it’s perhaps surprising that it’s taken this long for a biopic to be made of the man. This is all about to change, with Anthony Hopkins’ star turn in Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock due to come out in February. As if that weren’t enough, this isn’t the only Hitch biopic coming to screens, oh no. With HBO’s TV movie, The Girl coming out in October, films about Hitchcock appear to be like the proverbial London Buses.

Where they differ, though, is in the fact that The Girl is adapted from Tippy Hedren’s account of making The Birds (and is probably fairly scathing as a result-they didn’t get on), whereas Hitchcock details the making of Psycho, and its success.

Not a bad likeness… even if he does look a bit weird

Both trailers have whetted my appetites for each piece, and I approve of the route of taking an episode from his life, rather than trying to tell the entire story. A mistake that has resulted in many an overlong, undercooked biopic. The trailer for Hitchcock is below, compare it to this trailer for The Girl and feel free to tell us (and the world) what you think in the comments section.

TA

Captain America Sequel Announced… But Who IS The Winter Soldier?
Oct 2012 16

It’s no surprise that, in the aftermath of the gargantuan box office business that The Avengers (Assemble) achieved, Marvel authorised the development of a spree of sequels to the origin movies of its protagonists. Coming to an overpriced multiplex near you within the next few years will be Thor 2: The Dark World, Iron Man 3, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

THIS (apparently) is the Winter Soldier

When Iron Man came out, waaaaay back in 2008, it successfully launched one of the lesser-known Marvel superheroes, paving the way, eventually, for The Avengers (via Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger). Although Thor was less well received, it still had its share of admirers, following on from that, Captain America got more of a lukewarm reception. Although I enjoyed itIndiana Jones-lite period stylings and found Chris Evans to be a likeable lead, there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement, provided they can give depth to a potentially one-note character. Captain America was never a comic I read as a kid, so my knowledge of his mythology is fairly limited (I imagine I’m not the only one). All this meant that when the sequel to Captain America was announced, like most people, I just shrugged and carried on with my life.

It’s pretty subtle, but I’m getting the feeling that they don’t like each other

But then IGN posted a short video describing the story of the titular Winter Soldier for comic neophytes like me, and I started to get more excited aout the film. With the new Thor film having an ominous title, Shane Black‘s involvement with Iron Man 3, and now this potentially interesting follow up to come out, I’m genuinely interested in how Marvel is going to achieve all this. A comic book studio effectively exploring their mythology in mainstream cinema is unheard of, and even if some will regard it as an abomination, I find it quite interesting. The link to the IGN video is below, check it out and leave us a comment.

TA

‘Two Kinds of People’ Movie Cliché
Oct 2012 17

Movie clichés. Everyone’s got their favourite. Maybe it’s when someone says “I’m too old for this shit”, or possibly it’s the fact that any character who mentions how close to retirement they are, or says that they’ll “be right back” will die before the end of the film. Sometimes, the clichés can be visual: in an action film, if there’s an explosion, there is an odds-on chance that the character who causes said explosion will walk away from it in slow motion. Usually wearing sunglasses. One of the most beloved clichés of film fans is the ‘Wilhelm Scream‘ a sound effect you can hear in films too numerous to name. Clichés aren’t always fondly remembered though; the ‘black character dies first’ trope has become  a pop culture meme, and is an example of the less obvious and sometimes unintentional racism still present in society.

One of my favourite screenwriting clichés is the ‘two kinds of people’ line. A character will, in an attempt to sound worldly and wise, confidently state that there are only ‘two kinds of people in this world’, before putting forth a binary theorem that could never encapsulate all of humanity. Maybe the very self-evident absurdity of this statement is what makes it work? Who knows. All I know is that an obscene amount of movies use it. See the below video by the talented James Chapman for yourself to get an idea of its overuse, and let us know what you think in the comments.

TA

“Elliott” From E.T.’s Audition Tape
Oct 2012 20

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a nostalgia film for me. You know what I mean by that, don’t you? One of those films that you watched so often that you wore out the video tape (for the kids: an even older way of watching films than DVD!). One of those films that is impossible to objectively assess, because your childhood love of it clouds your judgement at every turn. It’s one of those films you watched when you were at an age where it was more comfortable to be lie on the floor on your belly, than sitting on the sofa.

The kid’s got talent

So, to see behind the curtain, and watch “Elliott” (Henry Thomas) audition is still a novelty and effective experience. Often in Hollywood, kids’ acting chops are secondary as to whether they look right for the part (I’m looking at you, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), so it’s refreshing to see a child actor who can, you know, actually act. Check the video out below (credit to the talented folks at BoingBoing for the original source article), and let us know what you think:

http://youtu.be/hV0vYQcmWK0

Source Article

TA

The Evils of Movie Trailers
Oct 2012 21

It can be hard to get people to try new things. People as a group are difficult to influence, and, more often than not, would rather stay in their comfort zones and not experience anything new. ‘Why go visit a different country when my whole life is here?’, ‘sushi? That’s just raw finish, innit?’, ‘It’s easier to stay in and watch Transformers on DVD for the hundredth time than go and see Looper in the cinema, and I might not even like Looper, anyway’.

Why else would there be a whole industry (advertising) centred around getting us to be aware of new products if we didn’t need to be tempted, cajoled, and incentivised into checking out new things?

Most people think that they’re immune to this form of subliminal skullduggery, feeling so above the poor mindless minions who blindly accept what they see on TV, whilst still nonetheless displaying blind loyalty to brands of their own, who have more subtle ways of marketing. In short, we are constantly bombarded with messages, and they work on us subliminally. Turn on the TV, walk down the street, fire up your internet browser, and people are imploring you, charming you, shouting at you, just trying to get you to buy their products. The worst part? It sort of works.

Testify!

The movie industry is no different. A film can be made with a huge budget, but is not considered to be in profit until it makes back its budget PLUS the P&A (print and advertising) budget; influencing you to go see the film can sometimes cost more than the film itself. The film marketing process encompasses all sorts of methods: actors are ferried around the world from press junket to TV appearances, film posters with pornographic shots of the actos are slathered all over towns and cities, and film trailers are inserted in front of similar movies, on TV and on youtube. In short, the movie industry works really hard to f*%k with your mind.

The last of these ways of influencing you, the movie trailer, is perhaps the most obvious and well-known. I used to look forward to seeing film trailers, I saw them as an integral part of the move-viewing experience. Along with the sticky floors, the styrofoam popcorn, and the BBFC age certification, trailers were all part of the excitement and glamour of a trip to the cinema. Everybody’s had at least one moment in the cinema where a trailer has rendered them incandescent in excitement for a new film, or where the first trailer for a feverishly-anticipated film is first shown. An effective trailer is an art form all of its own, in much the same way that iconic film posters are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

The Terminator 2 Teaser: makes me excited to see a movie I’ve already seen over a hundred times

Only problem is, film trailers have changed. As the ongoing battle between commerce and art is waged in Hollywood, the pernicious influence of the great satan that is focus groups is starting to make itself known. You see, a film studio shows films to people from the general public deemed ‘normal’, who then grade a movie and have a surprisingly large say in the fate of a film. There are many films that have been re-edited into incoherence in the aftermath of a focus group wanting a happy ending or similar.

The same is true of trailers. Trailers are shown to focus groups, and the mindless drones that populate these things say that they want to see even more of the film. I’ll say it again: they want to see more of the film!

Well, go and see the bloody film then‘ is what the movie execs should say, but, with their view obscured by the dollar signs in their eyes, they obsequiously add in yet more footage, sometimes stooping low enough to include the final shots from the films they’re advertising. It used to be the case that you didn’t see anything from the third act, or in some cases nothing at all from the finished film and it would make you go crazy with excitement.

Double Jeopardy: A so-so genre thriller, ruined by its trailer

Unfortunately, now we’re living in an age where The Amazing Spider-Man had an astounding 25 minutes of preview footage released (edited together into one coherent narrative by Sleepyskunk). The best trailers do show you footage of the film of course, but they show just enough to leave the audience slavering for more, still with questions, counting out their cinema ticket money in anticipation of having those questions answered.

‘What can we do about this?’ I hear you ask.

Well, nothing really. The endless money train that Hollywood is intent on riding on at the expense of quality films doesn’t show any signs of stopping yet. All we can hope for is that the fan backlash changes some minds, or that the imaginationally-challenged (it is a word), film execs find a new plaything. In the meantime, we can rejoice in those few trailers that don’t resort to story-spoiling, and close our eyes and ears when the less subtle ones assault our brains.

*sigh*

Check out (what I think) is the best trailer ever, below:

TA

Oct 2012 21

I didn’t know anything about this film until I stumbled upon the Jack Reacher trailer on the IMDB app on my iphone.  It reminds me of True Lies for some reason and I can’t really put my finger on why.  The plot looks ridiculous as the budget looks huge.  Tom Cruises hit rate isn’t what it used to be although I thought Mission Impossible: Ghost protocol was highly entertaining.  Will I see this movie based on this trailer more than likely, will I see it at the cinema I highly doubt it.

First Iron Man 3 Trailer Hits
Oct 2012 23

After the muted reception to Iron Man 2, and the largely enthusiastic reaction to The Avengers, Marvel have begun pushing ahead with the further expansion of their cinematic universe by releasing the trailer for Iron Man 3.

Even though we’re not exactly hurting for superhero content here at RBT, we thought we’d post this, because it looks fairly promising. One of the interesting questions that comes up every time a new Marvel film is mooted, is how far can they push this? How much can they get people to buy in to their less mainstream, less marketable, lesser-known characters? Will they reach a point where the public have had enough? 

Trends come and go, and history would seem to indicate that eventually we’ll all get tired of superhero films, and they’ll go back to only being appreciated by socially-challenged nerds who live in their parents’ basement. But for the moment, there seems no end in sight for their time in the box office sun.

I, for one, thought saturation point had been reached way before The Avengers, but then it came out, and not only was it good, but it was phenomenally successful in a financially, bank-balancey sort of way. Marvel are on a roll right now, and they seem to be doing it their own way, without even compromising their (sizeable) geek factor.

Even dudes in super-powered suits can see the benefits of a good couch

With all that in mind, it’s true, though, that Iron Man 2 was not as good as Iron Man. Partially hampered by having to give over substantial amounts of its running time to Avengers setup, it had an under-utilised villain, a disjointed plot, and a forced air to it. It was fun in places, but had an inescapably disappointing conclusion.

However, before you let that you off, don’t forget that the films’ ace-in-the-hole, Robert Downey Jr. is still on board for this one. Shane Black, a director and writer who, in the criminally under-seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, showed that he could provide the cinematic ammo for R.D. Jr to hit the comedy targets is on megaphone duties. There’s also the impression of the character, and Marvel in general, getting a second wind. Now that the 20-ton elephant in the room that was The Avengers is out of the way, they can get back to making films that have their own satisfying and self-contained storylines. This is something that the forthcoming Thor and Captain America sequels will also hopefully benefit from. So, check out the Iron Man 3 trailer underneath; enjoy, scrutinise and critique, and feel free to let your feelings known in the comments below.

Iron Man 3 is currently scheduled for release in May 2013

TA

What if Mrs Doubtfire Was a… Horror Movie?
Oct 2012 29

In the run-up to Halloween, here is a truly terrifying titbit to have you screaming yourself to sleep tonight:

Mrs Doubtfire, that saccherine and ubiquitous holiday TV ever-present has always been a disturbing film. Disturbing because it begs several questions: why would somebody think it was a the story was a good idea? Why would anyone pick up the script and say “yup, I want this crap to define my filmmaking career”? and why would Robin Williams… oh wait, I know.

But this time, Mrs Doubtfire‘s most disturbing qualities have been laid bare by ‘Javid Power‘ in a faux trailer that cuts together footage only taken from the movie, and makes a passable and disturbing horror movie trailer.

Check it out. If you dare.

http://youtu.be/UMyp6fRRwr0

TA

Oct 2012 30

Following on from the Genius that was Mrs Doubtfire as a horror, here is The Shining, as a feel good, family movie.

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