Oct 2012 30

This is a masterpiece in my opinion as I always found Willy Wonka a bit sinister.

The RBT Top 5 Halloween Movies
Oct 2012 31

For this Halloween roundup, we’ve selected movies that aren’t necessarily the most pant-wettingly scary, the most gore-stained, or blood-tinged. Instead, we wanted to pick the 5 films that best define the Halloween Spirit… whatever that is.

1. Trick ‘R Treat

There’s no doubt about it: anthology films are tough to pull off. Plenty of films with full-length run times for one story struggle to to display likable and defined characters. Or believable, well constructed plots, for that matter. That Trick ‘R Treat manages this, should be reason enough to fire up the jack o’lanterns, but it also weaves several interesting stories (one of them starring Anna Paquin, another starring Brian Cox), into a narrative and world that seems to run the Halloween gamut. Malevolent spirits, plentiful candy, numerous trick-or-treaters, and Halloween parades all make an appearance, and if a film better defines Halloween, I haven’t seen it.

2. Halloween

The John Carpenter horror masterpiece. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the litany of inferior slashers that sprang up in the wake of this blood-spattered masterpiece are testament to its impact and quality. That it takes place on Halloween not only gave it further disturbing qualities, it also further camouflaged the central antagonist, adding to the drama. Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis made her name with this demure and innocent calling card of a performance.

3. Night of the Living Dead

A strong contender for a place in the top 3 most influential horror films ever. Halloween may have spawned imitators and a sub-genre, but Night of the Living Dead gave birth to a sub-genre, a pop culture meme, practically invented zombies, and used political metaphor to give further impact to its visceral and nerve-shredding visuals. A drive-thru staple, NOTLD is deservedly considered a classic.

4. Evil Dead II

With its hokey mythology, reputation as a video nasty, and DIY aesthetic, The Evil Dead brought a freshness and an impressive sense of humour to the table. What the original did well, the sequel did better, and when the original made you feel queasy, Evil Dead II made you feel worse.

Considered a remake by some, this film assumes no knowledge of the original, and, in a lot of ways, has an identical plot. With added humour (the Farewell To Arms visual gag is a classic), and higher-budget splatter, this film outshone its predecessor and launched Sam Raimi on his trajectory towards directing tentpole arachnid-superhero movies. The ‘pencil moment’ is bound to make you regurgitate your ill-gotten candy.

5. The Nightmare Before Christmas

When Halloween’s over, we’re all familiar with the sense of anti-climax, the sugar crash, the vacuum of the macabre that opens up in our lives. Until Christmas (and, for our American friends, Thanksgiving), at least. This is why The Nightmare Before Christmas makes perfect sense as a film to manage the segue from the sinister to the wholesome. Set in a world where each of the holidays is a world itself, and enhanced by Tim Burton’s stylised designs (realised in claymation), this musical perfectly encapsulates what’s so great about each holiday. Some great tunes get your feet a-tappin’, and your larynx a-shakin’, and a horrifyingly fun realisation of a world where it’s Halloween all the time, as well as a classic ‘be true to yourself’ message ups the ante.

If only all those self-pitying emo kids hadn’t adopted this as their flagship film, we’d all feel even better about liking it.

Honourable mentions:

Arsenic and Old Lace

 The Omen

 The Exorcist

 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Disagree? Too scared to shout? Leave a comment below.


Hollywood Movie Trailer Cliches
Nov 2012 01

Some time ago, I wrote this piece about trailers taking us all to hell in a handbasket… or something. Maybe it was more along the lines of trailers ruining cinema? I forget. Anyway, the point is: trailers bad.

Well, not really.

But all too often that is true. If they’re not showing too much of the film, they’re misrepresenting it, if they’re not copying other trails that have gone before, they’re featuring reviews from fawning, but clearly biased critics. While a well-made trailer can still wow you from time to time, after you’ve been to the cinema a few times, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’re going to see. So the good folks at Cracked put together a spoof video that is slightly mis-titled as “Trailer for Every Oscar-Winning Movie Ever”, when in fact, it’s a well-observed and executed lampooning of trailers in general. Check out the embed below, and feel free to riotously disagree in the comments.

“Accusation about your sexuality!”


Newsflash: Is Matthew Vaughn in Line to Direct Star Wars Episode VII?
Nov 2012 05

So, with RBT’s upcoming pieces for and against the Disney takeover of Lucasfilm coming soon, we had to report the latest, most ‘out there’ gossip to come of it so far. Collider are reporting that Matthew Vaughn (he of Layer Cake and X-Men: First Class directing fame) is in line to direct the first major motion picture out of the blocks. In lieu of our pieces on why this takeover is a good/bad idea, it has to be said that, first of all, this is absolutely batsh*t mental. Collider cite the fact that he has dropped out of the running to direct X-Men: Days of Future Past (The X-Men: First Class sequel) as reasoning for this, but other than that are very up front about it being only a rumour.

Since this is still early days and all, any decisions like this are probably a long way off, but it would be a very interesting choice. Although his background in gangster movies would seem to indicate he operates better in the real world, X-Men: First Class showed that he could direct large-scale action and believably render characters with powers. A better comparison from his filmography would be Stardust, his most underrated and under-seen effort to date. This film captures what Star Wars often reached in its early incarnations, and failed to ever reach in the prequel trilogy: it had high adventure, action, comedy, a great love story, and, perhaps most importantly: a genuinely threatening antagonist. If he were able to recreate the feel of Stardust while directing this new film in the Star Wars universe, why, I’d be first in line.



Using the Force, or Turning to the Dark Side? Two Views on Disney Buying Lucasfilm
Nov 2012 06

So Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars universe is complete, with the first of the next trilogy due for release in 2015. We’re told that movies will follow every 2 to 3 years, stretching into the distance like the iconic exposition crawl at the start of each film so far.

What are we to make of all this? Like all of the best opinionated schizophrenics, RBT has two voices to put forward a case for those for, and against, this fundamental shift of power. It’s time to pick a side, which will you choose?

THE DEFENCE (Why this is a good thing):

I love Star Wars. I was raised on it. I don’t recall seeing A New Hope in the cinema at the age of two, but have heard the tales recounted by my parents of how I sat open-mouthed at the spectacle for the entire duration without making a peep. Much like everyone else at the time.

For a reminder of the magic, Exhibit A (the original trailer from 1977):


But hang on a minute – I need to qualify this statement a little. I loved growing up with Star Wars, and it was such a fundamental part of my youth that I recognise the propensity to overstate the franchise’s greatness through nostalgia. So, let me make this clear. I love the original Star Wars Trilogy, which contains 2 truly great films (New Hope & Empire), and 1 good film (Jedi). I cannot imagine how many times I have watched them in my life, and can quote scenes over and over again, with unhealthy levels of detail. The imagination behind them, and scale of universe around them is staggering. But I do recognise that they are essentially big screen popcorn fodder, with corny scripts and some occasionally dodgy acting.

But in 1999, when The Phantom Menace was released, everything started to go wrong. George Lucas, was beginning to resemble a human version of Jabba, and his ego had become just as swollen – and fans of the original trilogy should have seen the warning signs when he began insisting on retaining pretty much exclusive control of the new trilogy as Director, Writer, Producer, Costume Designer (he personally designed Natalie Portman’s bust enhancing dresses inAttack of the Clones?!).

Lucas wisely gave away Directing responsibility on Empire and Jedi, citing the stress of directing the first movie. The on-set tales of his clashes with Irvin Kershner, who picked up the reigns for Empire Strikes Back are well known, but Kershner held out, and his vision remains by far the strongest, not to mention darkest of the 6 films so far – and is the most successful in introducing some of the more epic elements into the mix too. Richard Marquand (Return of the Jedi) is rumoured not to have been so lucky. By this time, Lucas was all over the production like a rash, always on set, and dictating what should and shouldn’t happen in every shot. Marquand had a subsequent nervous breakdown as a result. (I still love to dwell on the thought that David Lynch was 1st on the list to direct Return of the Jedi!)

Exhibit B:

The first sign that Lucas was capable of getting it wrong. Yep, I liked Ewoks when I was a kid, but their place in the original trilogy is mis-placed and comical. I still want the Stormtroopers to kick their furry butts in a sliding doors universe.

Exhibit C:

You get my point.

So when the prequel trilogy was released, Lucas had become Jabba, and the series was plunged into the kind of dystopian, dictatorial society that Emperor Sidious would have approved of. It also showed how dangerous Lucas could be without other voices in the mix. Old Georgie was hardly an actor’s director, rarely giving them guidance with performances (his favourite direction?: “do it again, but slower… and better”), means he gets a lot of credit for their consequently wooden performances. He was also involved in some atrocious casting decisions (Jake Lloyd, anyone?), and bogging the prequels down with endless ‘Trade Federation’ guff, whilst trying to appeal to kids with an annoyingly zany, patronising, and borderline racist character in Jar-Jar Binks. What we’re trying to say here, is that it would have been best to take George away from the trilogy sooner.

THE PROSECUTION (why this is a bad thing):

OK, so with all the positive feeling flying around about this takeover, this feels about as welcome as a bacon salesmen at a Bar-Mitzvah, but this must be heard!

Yes, George Lucas no longer having the reins of Star Wars is reason to celebrate, and yes there is potential there (particularly if there’s any truth to the rumours of Matthew Vaughn and/or Joss Whedon’s involvement), but just because it’s different, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be better.

Is it just me, or does George Lucas look like Emperor Palpatine in this picture?

Isn’t it time we stopped dabbling with the classics? The original trilogy is beloved of so many, and the fan culture that grew up with it, alongside the more film-based appreciation is unmatched, despite the prequel trilogy. The prequel trilogy, however, is exactly why this should stop, and stop now. Whenever I now watch the original Star Wars trilogy, I still get the old thrill, and can’t help but enjoy them. This thrill, is tainted though, by the knowledge, and memory of, what was to come. With largely forgettable animated TV series to accompany the flat, lifeless, unimaginative prequels, we have enough content out there that is unworthy of the Star Wars name. Do we need any more? What if they make another film, get Michael Bay to direct it, with Ashton Kutcher starring, Miley Cyrus alongside him, and Charlie Sheen as the villain? It would suck, right?

Brave: Evidence of Disney diluting the Pixar power?

What if Disney’s takeover of Pixar has resulted in their recent undeniable downswing in quality (Brave and Cars 2 weren’t terrible, per se, but do they match the transcendant beauty of Wall-E whilst also somehow still being children’s films? No). What if the impact of the takeover Disney of Marvel has not yet been felt? Cars 2 felt like an exercise in merchandise selling (a strongpoint of the Cars franchise, but also of Disney’s), and Brave felt more Disney than Pixar. What if Disney’s desire to sell merchandise means any film is geared towards toys rather than characters? Marketing and Mouseketeers rather than plot and characters? What if they make the franchise skew even younger, and thus move it further away from that magic mix of the adult and the child-like? Will they add MORE CGI?

I’ll leave you with one final thought:

The Mouse House already have Pixar, ABC, ESPN, Marvel, The Muppets Studio, and Touchstone Pictures under their remit. With Lucasfilm and THX representing such a huge chunk of the movie industry and popular culture in general, does the fact that they are reportedly even in talks to take over Hasbro not worry you? One message? One voice? One huge, supposedly nice and family-friendly company owning everything, and one day coming for us?

Why, it’s enough to make me want to join some kind of rebel alliance, and if that ever happens, we certainly will need A New Hope.

NP and TA

A Couple of Ideas for Walt and his buddies…
Nov 2012 07

As TA & NP have discussed the pro’s and the cons of the Disney buyout of the Star Wars brand I thought I should add a few words.  I’m not interested in debating if it is a good thing or not, I’m just excited for new Star Wars films!  I have a couple of suggestions for the magical kingdom.  Here are a couple of already existing stories that could make in my opinion excellent additions to the Star Wars legacy.

  1. The Han Solo Trilogy

The Han Solo trilogy is set before ‘A new Hope’ and tells the story of young Han Solo.  It is a ripping adventure and explains his relationship with Chewbacca, how he won the Millennium Falcon, how he upset Jabba the hut and why he wears imperial trousers when he is a smuggler (I wonder how many of you hadn’t spotted this previously and are now looking at Google images?).  Obviously you would have to find an actor with a mild resemblance to Harrison Ford to make this work, for god’s sake not Shia Lebeouf though Disney!  The three books place you perfectly at the beginning of a New Hope so it wraps it up in a nice little package.


  1. Death Troopers

This is a little more left field and pretty new to the Star War mythology.  Death Troopers is a zombie Star Wars novel written by Joe Schreiber.  Set roughly before ‘A New Hope’ a prison vessel discovers an abandoned Star Destroyer and all hell breaks loose.  It is a great twist on what you would expect from the Star Wars universe, but it is exactly this reason it hits all the right notes.  A real ripping yarn.


If either of these stories ever make it to the cinema I will be the first one in line, with my popcorn and my large diet Coke.  I really hope they don’t make them in 3D though…



Les Miserables Movie UK Trailer
Nov 2012 08

So far, we RBT-heads haven’t really covered Tom Hooper‘s follow up to his scientifically-engineered follow up to The King’s Speech; in fact, I don’t even think we’ve mentioned his forthcoming effort, Les Miserables at all. Maybe we don’t like musicals? I certainly don’t (with some notable exceptions), could it be that we don’t like period pieces (lies!), or it must be that, despite a gilded, respected cast, we just can’t get excited about it (bingo).

Having said all that, getting Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne in the same film is a heck of an achievement. At a rough guess, I make that to be about half of Hollywood. It’s not even that they got them all in the same film, they got them in the same film, and got them singingLes Miserables, that runaway Broadway smash hasn’t been adapted for the screen before, and if Hooper can bring his skill for sumptuous production design married to a well-paced and elegant narrative, we could be looking at a (potentially nauseating) Oscar contender.

Not excited, but likely to get stuck taking the family or a significant other to it in January? Maybe you can satisfy yourself with the fact that it depicts a bloody revolution where the bourgeoisie were overthrown, and while it probably won’t be as exciting as The Dark Knight Rises, it might be more coherent.


The World War Z Trailer is Here!
Nov 2012 09

… So after multiple reshoots, reports of internal wrangling, and a rumoured change to the ending, World War Z is finally (nearly), released. Its teaser poster dropped on the 6th November, although it would be better described as a teaser logo, and now we have the trailer.

For those who don’t know, World War Z is an upcoming movie starring Brad Pitt, directed by Marc Forster, depicting (you guessed it) a zombie apocalypse. Based on a novel of the same name by Max Brooks (son of Mel), the book took the form of an ‘Oral History of the Zombie Apocalypse’.

Developing a book that is essentially a set of first-hand accounts into a narrative movie is a hell of a challenge, and perhaps has resulted in being too challenging. Rumours of Brad Pitt not being on speaking terms with Marc Forster have emerged, as well as copious on-set rewrites of the script, and Studio intervention leading to a massive change to the ending. It begs the question: are we reaching saturation point on zombies? During the making of the movie, several other properties have emerged, into an already crowded zombie pop-culture horde.

I personally like zombie movies, and still have a relentless, zombie-esque appetite for the walking dead, so am somehow still looking forward to this. The controversy-tinged production though, should raise warning signs for the fans. The trailer follows, feel free to leave a comment below.


Nov 2012 21

I was a big fan of the original ‘The Host’  and had no idea they were planning a sequel.  This is clearly a bit of a tech demo but it looks like it could be another cracking South Korean monster movie.


Here is the monster attack from the original if you have never seen it.


Return to Oz: An Overlooked Disney Cult Classic
Nov 2012 30


With the forthcoming and highly anticipated spring 2013 release of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ prequel ‘Oz: The Great and the Powerful’ directed by Sam Raimi (Spider Man, The Evil Dead) it would be worth reflecting on Disney’s forgotten 1980’s predecessor ‘Return to Oz’ which was dismissed by audiences and critics alike when it was released back in 1985 but has since gained a strong cult following over the years from loyal fans of the L Frank Baum’s Oz books and of films from the 1980’s. It has since inspired the Scissor Sisters to write a song, ‘Return to Oz and numerous blogs and tributes have been written by fans all over the world. Here we look at how a film with such promise became a massive box office flop resulting in one of Hollywood’s greats Walter Murch never directing a film again and why it deserves to be considered a cult classic of the 1980’s.

The idea and for making another Oz film initially came from Murch himself in the early 1980’s who had previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Design in 1979 for Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’. Disney owned all the rights to the Oz books at the time and despite Murch never having directed a full length feature before Disney wanted to proceed and bought into the idea of making another Oz film.

Murch’s script was adapted from Baum’s books, ‘The Marvellous Land of Oz’ 1904 and ‘Ozma of Oz’ 1907 but his own ideas were clearly shaping the story. He saw his film as ‘one side’ of Oz and as un-official sequel of the beloved ‘Wizard of Oz’ and not a direct sequel and his Oz was a very different Oz to what Disney and film audiences had originally anticipated. There were strong connotations to the original Oz film such as the yellow brick road, the ruby slippers, Dorothy’s friend such as Tik Tok (Tin man) and Scarecrow, the Emerald City. However, Murch’s story was a much darker re-interpretation of Baum’s stories. Firstly it wasn’t a musical, this film was much more sombre in tone with much more dramatic realism throughout the film. Within the first twenty minutes we see Dorothy (played by 9 year old Fairuza Balk) unable to sleep as she keeps dreaming of Oz.  She is subsequently whisked off to hospital by her Aunt Em (Piper Laurie) for electric shock treatment by creepy Dr Worley to help her sleep and this was only the beginning! Once Dorothy escapes and is on her way to Oz, she finds the yellow brick road all destroyed and cannot find her friend Scarecrow who has been turned into an ornament by the evil Nome King so she sets out to find him. Making new friends on the way she encounters the nasty Wheelers who were simply petrifying for the average 8 year old at the time. Dorothy is then imprisoned by the wicked Princess Mombi who has over thirty inter-changeable heads in her castle so for young fans of the original Wizard of Oz this ‘sequel’ would probably be remembered more like a childhood horror film.

The film was marketed by Disney as a sequel and child-friendly fantasy but had been given a PG rating instead of a G. Essentially the film wasn’t suitable for very young children so for those who went to see it at the cinema and were expecting a sweet Disney fairy tale like the ‘The Wizard of Oz’  found it petrifying. Critics at the time were centering more on how sinister the story was given the age group that the film was targeting instead of focusing on the real quality of the filmmaking and screenplay so the film performed poorly at box office. Murch’s production was massively mismanaged and ended up so over budget eventually leading to bankruptcy and Disney made a massive financial loss.

Despite all the production troubles, financial woes, and criticism ‘Return to Oz’ is a hugely entertaining film for those who like their fairy tales a bit more spooky and should be seen as a stand alone film and not a direct sequel to ‘The Wizard of Oz’. The stop motion effects are excellent and deserved far more recognition at the time of release. It is hauntingly imaginative full of quirky characters, such as Pumpkinhead, Tik Tok, Bellina (the talking chicken) and Scarecrow who all have a wonderful friendship with Dorothy. It is full of energy and creativity with a beautiful melancholic score composed by Dave Shire. The costumes, the sets, and lighting also attributed to making this a compelling and irresistible fantasy. Along with other 80’s classics such as ‘Dark Crystal and ‘The Never-ending Story’, Return to Oz’ is highly recommended deserves the 80’s cult classic following which it has gained amongst older children and adults over the past twenty seven years.

Sara Seaton

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