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by Bill Gibron

29 Apr 2010

Jackie Earle Haley was a child star. He made a major splash in The Bad News Bears (the Walter Matthau/Tatum O’Neal version) as greasy pre-teen cool guy Kelly Leak and solidified his post-kiddie stardom with an amazing turn in the Oscar winning Breaking Away. Some may even remember him as the suave-lite sidekick to Tom Cruise in the tacky teen sex comedy Losin’ It. But after appearing in a couple of low budget horror films in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, Haley decided to drop out of Hollywood. No longer capable of playing the pimply loners with a simultaneously schizophrenic sweet/sinister side, he moved to Texas and became a successful director of TV commercial. Another tale of youthful aspirations undermined by adult realities.

Almost 13 years passed before Sean Penn suggested he be part of the All the King’s Men remake. It was a risky move, considering Haley’s mature celebrity was shaky at best. Taking the small part of bodyguard Roderick “Sugar Boy” Ellis, the actor re-announced his desire to be part of the movie mainstream - and then came on like gangbusters. Since then, he’s done nothing but definitive work. Beginning in 2006, Haley has given three Academy-worthy performances in high profile films, acting turns which illustrate how powerful this unassuming star can be. Taking advantage of his unusual looks and complex demeanor, directors such as Todd Field and Zack Snyder have recognized that when it comes to able anti-heroes, the brilliant bad guys we clearly love to loathe, Haley is absolutely flawless.

by Bill Gibron

28 Apr 2010

The original was a spark of creative fire in an era soaked in simplified slasher excess. It represented the best of its iconic director’s demented vision, and spawned a series of diminishing return sequels - each one forgetting the frights of the first to play up the comic angle of the main character. By the time its legendary status was cemented with a bad ass battle royale with a certain slaughter stalker from Camp Crystal Lake, audience interest had waned. They were no longer interest in the bastard son of a thousand maniacs, his deadly finger razors, the tattered striped sweater and a crumple fedora. What had begun in 1984 with an idea about “dreams that could kill” became the monster mythos of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and with it, the induction of molester turned mass murderer Freddy Krueger into the Horror Hall of Fame.

Writer/director Wes Craven could have never imagined the extended franchise life his creepy character would soon have when he stumbled across a newspaper article about young people dying in their sleep. The teens - refugees from Cambodia fleeing Pol Pot’s genocidal regime - where having such disturbed nightmares that they refused to rest. Some who did never woke up again. Taking that material and fusing it to his own interest in Eastern philosophy and a handful of childhood memories, Craven created the accused child killer who ends up the charred vengeance of some grieving parents. As Nightmare begins, Freddy Krueger has vowed payback of a perverse, paranormal design. Haunting the offspring of those who wronged him, he systematically enters their sleep, and with his deadly hand of knives, continues his accused crimes.

by Bill Gibron

22 Apr 2010

She started off as a fresh-faced newcomer, an acting unknown lighting up the New York stage with small but significant parts. She ended up becoming the ultimate post-modern cinematic symbol of feminist empowerment, a force with more estrogen than ego.  From bit parts in Annie Hall to the signature role as Lt. Ellen Ripley, alien fighter, Sigourney Weaver has been at the center of the sci-fi realm since hooking up with Ridley Scott back in 1979. Over the years, she’s appeared in numerous genre efforts, earning Academy Award attention for her work (in James Cameron’s brilliant revisionist war film sequel, Aliens) and the hearts of many a speculative fiction geek.

So what is it about the statuesque actress that’s turned her from a respected serious thespian to an extraterrestrial butt-kicker? How do you go from Off-Broadway to off planet, romantic leading lady and dramatic lynchpin to a comic reinterpretation of a Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future? The answer, oddly enough, can be found in her latest trip into orbit. As part of another Cameron epic, the mega-moneymaker Avatar (hitting home video on Earth Day, 22 April), Weaver turns what could have been a tired bit of pseudo-science grousing (she plays Dr. Grace Augustine, leader of the genetic “replacement” program on the distant Pandora) and reinvented it as the human heart of a very technologically complex tale.

by Omar Kholeif

18 Apr 2010

This Is England (Meadows, 2006), one of Warp Films’ most acclaimed releases, also happens to be film director Shane Meadows’ masterpiece. A potent political drama set in the summer of 1983; it documents the motivation behind the rise of the Skinhead culture, which came to prominence during Margaret Thatcher’s epochal governance. Yet, more than anything, Meadows’ film is about protagonist Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), his coming-of-age, and his search for some form of ‘identity’.

Based largely on the director’s own experiences, the picture doesn’t shy away from psychologising the young protagonist’s motives. He is small, weak, impoverished, and missing a father who has just died in the Falklands War. Meadows make this clear from some of the very first scenes, which find Shaun taking on a kid twice his age on the last day of school. Shaun is burning, searching for a sense of belonging.

by Bill Gibron

13 Apr 2010

Let’s forget for a moment that he played the reprehensible antagonist Jim Batten in the equally awful Jon Mikl Thor vehicle (and MST3K favorite) Zombie Nightmare, or that the rest of his limited acting resume is similarly shoddy. Let’s ignore his boob tube work, directorial efforts for shows like The Secret World of Alex Mack and The Famous Jett Jackson arguing for his limited skills behind the lens. His jump from the small screen to the big Bijou was facilitated by the luck of a prime time draw (2002’s Big Fat Liar featured flavor of the Fox month, Malcolm in the Middle‘s Frankie Muniz) and the restricted success of said family film gave him the chance to expand his creative wings.

The results? The horrid Just Married, the equally awful Cheaper by the Dozen remake, the nauseating update of The Pink Panther (poor Peter Sellers is still spinning in his grave), and the overblown high concept F/X farces Night at the Museum and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Now with Date Night, his deflating of TV titans Tina Fey and Steve Carrel, Shawn Levy has reached a kind of commercial crossroads. While it looks to be a modest hit (Hollywood has never gone broke catering to the ‘CGAS’ - “could give a shit” - demo), it does put this derivative hack demon in a very precarious spot. Until now, he’s been able to hide his Four Horsemen heinousness. But with this unfunny cinematic buffoon-cartoon, Levy has announced himself as the motion picture Antichrist.

//Mixed media

Hitchcock's 'Suspicion', 'I Confess' and 'The Wrong Man' Return in Blu-ray

// Short Ends and Leader

"These three films on DVD from Warner Archives showcase different facets of Alfred Hitchcock's brilliance.

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