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Tuesday, Oct 12, 2010
For all his ability with scope and eye for the epic, hiring Zack Snyder might not be the 100 percent right decision.

Last week, it was announced that Zack Snyder, the famed director of the Dawn of the Dead remake, 300, and Watchmen, was given the reigns of one of Warner Brothers most troubled franchises - Superman. Selected by none other than Batman guru Christopher Nolan and gifted with the almost impossible task of resurrecting the Man of Steel after the less than successful attempt by former comic book messiah Bryan Singer, Messageboard Nation has, naturally, been abuzz about the selection. Some see it as an assault to the sensibilities of superhero fans everywhere. Others suggest that Snyder just might be the one to revive the character’s failing film fortunes.

It’s a nice thought - but before we leap to commercial conclusions, let’s see what Snyder has to offer. He’s definitely had some hits - Dawn and 300 were huge for their type - and he’s proven he can tackle the genre (Watchmen had to be one of the toughest cinematic challenges ever). While his recent family film The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole was a technical masterpiece, it definitely had some narrative flaws. Luckily, the trailer and advanced word on next year’s Sucker Punch is that the director has once again delivers the combination of eye candy and excitement that made his reputation in the first place.

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Tuesday, Sep 28, 2010
Ten examples of pretend musicmakers who personify the Tinseltown notion of rock and roll as reality check.

For flame game rocker Aldous Snow, it’s been a bad few weeks. First, he crafts his musical “masterpiece”, a multicultural mess called “African Child” only to see it lambasted as the worst musical idea of all time. Then his equally famous gal pal, Jackie Q, leaves him, taking their child and running off to Italy to be with her new beau - Lars Ulrich from Metallic. Then, to make matters worse, the same old cravings for booze and pills come back, leading Aldous down yet another path toward public personal destruction. Enter industry intern Aaron Green. Hungry for his big break, he convinced his bosses that the broken down star deserves a comeback - perhaps at the fabled Greek Theater where he found his first big success.

Thus is the life of the fake rock and roll star, the man or woman who turns the world on with their whipsmart smile - and their symbolic sturm and drang soundscapes. As part of the winning, witty comedy Get Him to the Greek (new on DVD an d Blu-ray from Universal), the character created by British comedy bad boy Russell Brand is beyond redemption…and belief…and funny. Oddly enough, though, he is indicative of how most amplified music makers are viewed by the medium’s manipulators. In fact, looking over the ten celluloid examples listed below, you can see that Aldous is just one of many megalomaniacal characters who’ve taken an existence in service of their muse to ridiculous heights. Apparently, if you want to be a fake rock and roll star, these are the examples you have to live up to, beginning with:

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Thursday, Sep 23, 2010
How did he do it? How did Zack Snyder go from motion picture nobody to helmer of hits like Dawn of the Dead and 300?

How did he do it? How did Zack Snyder go from motion picture nobody (well, he did direct a Michael Jordan documentary short and a Morrissey video) to helmer of hits like Dawn of the Dead and 300? Even better, how did he become the kind of Hollywood heavyweight capable of getting the long dormant Watchmen movie out of development Hell and into theaters? Better men than him—Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky, Paul Greengrass—have tried and failed miserably, each one claiming that Alan Moore’s graphic novel was practically “unfilmable”. Yet here we are, 18 months removed from said movie’s release, and while less than a boffo blockbuster, he still managed to accomplish something few in the film world thought was even possible.

Now he’s flummoxing fans once again with his technically brilliant (if emotionally hollow) CG fantasty effort Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. Based on the book series by Kathryn Lasky, the story centers around a young bird named Soren, his tiny head filled with myths of a noble avian race of warriors. When he and his siblings are kidnapped by a power mad foul with domination and destruction on his mind, he escapes and flies off to find the elusive Guardians, taking a ragtag bunch of buddies along for the adventure. Using both the photorealistic elements of computer generated imagery and the latest cinematic craze, 3D, Snyder has once again forged something completely out of character and yet stylistically in sync with his eccentric oeuvre.

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Wednesday, Aug 25, 2010
Twenty examples of how Hollywood sees Hell - and the main Mangoat hanging out there.

From Faust to Futurama, silent films to CG spectacles, Satan has been a solid component of popular entertainment for eons. Want a simply symbol of evil? Call on Old Scratch. Hope to show how a life spent in selfish hedonism will lead to an eternity in Hell? Bring on Beelzebub. As much as the ethereal concept of God “seeing” and surrounding us has been left wholly to an audience’s imagination, the pervasive notion of iniquity has mandated a true flesh and blood manifestation. Apparently, good is easier to handle as a unseen ethos than bad. As the latest uneven incarnation of damnation hits theaters (The Last Exorcism on 27 August), SE&L looks at 20 Famous/Infamous illustrations of the Devil.  While visually diverse and uniquely different, one thing about visualizing vice remains the same - the dread is only as palpable as the person (or persona) playing the part.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

For fright fans, there is a hierarchy of Italian horror filmmakers. At the top is Dario Argento, the Mediterranean Master of Suspense who often rivals the brazen Golden Age Hollywood heavyweight he’s often compared to. Beneath him is an array of ancillary directors—pupils like Michele Soavi (Dellamorte, Dellamore), and rivals such as Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust), and Mario Bava (Black Sunday). Pulling up the rear are the ‘rejects’, the directors who have mastered few of the artform’s tricks, but brought their own slick—and sometimes sickening—sensibility to the medium. They include Bava’s son Lamberto (Demons, Demons 2) and the most infamous of them all, the architect of arterial spray, Lucio Fulci.

Though he dabbled in dozens of genres during his length career, the one time art critic turned gross-out auteur is best known for a series of scary movies in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. These efforts literally redefined the use of grue and blood-drenched F/X in dread—specifically a group that began with 1977’s The Psychic, and touched on cruel classics like Zombi, The City of the Living Dead, The Black Cat, The Beyond, The House by the Cemetery, ending with The New York Ripper. Though he would continue to make films until his death in the mid ‘90s, this string of sensational, sometimes surreal splatterfests proved that there was more to the middle-aged maestro than sloppy spaghetti westerns and weak-willed giallo.

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