Movie travel destinations

December 12, 2007

Are you a set-jetter? And nope, I didn’t write that wrong. With the seemingly endless need these days for one-word sound bites and catchphrases – the interminable celebrity “blended name” phenomenon (wasn’t that supposed to burn out, like, 2 years ago?) and the constant barrage of new e-words like bacn (hint: it’s not spam) – there is even a cute little term for film tourism: set-jetting. Like jet-setting, but, you know, backwards, where “set” refers to a film set, and jet … well, you probably got all that long, long ago. It’s people who travel to visit places where movies were shot or take place, okay?

Um, anyway, if you are a set jetter, or one of your Christmas gift recipients is and that DVD package just won’t cut it this year (if they have the original release and the collector’s edition of that DVD, they probably don’t need the ultimate director’s cut special edition in a collectible painted tin as well, but that’s just a hunch), there are plenty of great destinations for you to try out.

Of course, one option is to just travel to famous film locations like New York, Paris, London, and so on, and see the sights yourself. Apparently, UK’s film board is hoping that many people think that way after this movie holiday season and will want to soon set-jet off to see the locations prominently displayed in new films like The Golden Compass and upcomers like the new James Bond and The Dark Knight.

Here are some fun film location activities you can do on your own:

The real “Hogwarts Express” in Scotland

Hogwarts Express (Harry Potter) – aka, the Jacobite Steam Train, Scotland
Pictured above.
(Approx. £29 round trip for an adult, second class. Less than 6 hrs round trip. For dates of operation, fares, timetables, and more, click here.)

I’m very excited, because I’ve actually done this one and can, you know, speak from experience, which is always a bonus. Steaming its way from the small Highland town of Ft. William in Western Scotland to the very small port village of Mallaig (try the Smoked Haddock Soup at one of the seafood restaurants during your 2 hr break in the town; trust me, it’s worth it), and then back, the Jacobite Steam Train and its route were both used in the Harry Potter films as subs for the gleaming Hogwarts Express and its journey to the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Sadly, the interior is not quite Hogwarts material – and no magical candy cart! the indignity… – but the scenery on the ride is spectacular, and when else are you ever going to ride on a true steam train?

Bonus: Ft. William sits right next to the beautiful Glen Nevis, a location featured in Braveheart and also Harry Potter, among other films.

Cinderella’s palace (Ever After) – aka, Château Hautefort, France
Pictured below.
(Entrance fee is €8.50 for an adult. Click here for hours, directions and other information.)

Okay, while it’s not Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany or the (supposed Sleeping Beauty inspiration) Château d’Ussé in France, both of which helped inspire Disney’s original animated Cinderella, it does have the unique distinction of being the home of Drew Barrymore’s Prince Charming (Dougray Scott) in Ever After. Complete with drawbridge and turrets, the exterior and interior of Château Hautefort were used in many scenes in the film (that cool beamed room where Leo da Vinci paints? actually in the castle itself).

Not to mention the fact that it’s located in the gorgeous rolling hills and fields of the Périgord, kind of a lesser-known version of Provence if you will. Since it seems as if Périgord literally has a castle on every hill top, make sure to leave some time to see more than one, particularly the towering Beynac (a darn cool fortress built in the 12th century that was also used in Ever After) and the cute little village (used in Chocolat) that sits below the castle and along the Dordogne river. The Périgord area also has some pretty impressive caves (with cave drawings!), including Lascaux (or its replication anyway; the original is closed off to tourists, but the replication is startlingly authentic, minus that rubbery-style plastic floor, of course) and my personal favorite, Padirac (ever want to feel like you’re in that mythical boat that goes across the river Styx? now’s your chance!).

If you like this castle, you may definitely want to consider looking up Chatsworth in England, the Pemberley in Keira Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice (and rumored to be the inspiration for the original Darcy abode in the classic Austen novel). For a complete Pride and Prejudice movie tour in England, check out this tour provided by British tours. And if you happen to be in India and have some free time, you might want to look up the Golden Temple in Amritsar, which was featured prominently in Bride and Prejudice (title similarity to Austen novel definitely not coincidental).

The Beach (The Beach) – aka, Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Leh, Thailand
(I have no idea. Maybe Wikitravel knows?)

Enough with the cold places, I think. And for this one, I think I’ll let it speak for itself. Or rather, the pictures speak for themselves. It was the location of The Beach after all.

And I would recommend the so-called James Bond Island (from Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun), otherwise known as Khao Phing Kan, while you’re in Thailand, but I think that one may have already succumbed to mass set-jetting (i.e., tourism overload disorder).

Also check out other beautiful film locations, such as Malta and Tenerife, in Expedia UK’s Top ten film set locations list.

◊ ◊ Budget Travel does an excellent real world breakdown of various film spots and moments (including restaurants, shops, streets, mansions, trains, etc.) from 10 different movies released in ’07, such as The Bourne Ultimatum, Atonement and even Ratatouille (the more people-size side of things, though).

◊ ◊ At Ripple Effects: also make sure to check out Arti’s own beautiful photos of famous film locations like Petra (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade but without the Holy Grail), Lacock (Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice miniseries – remember Meryton?) and Bath (Austen again). Scroll down for the Petra photos, which are definitely a not-miss.

Chateau Hautefort

♦ ♦ ♦

But let’s be honest, why go to all that effort when someone can just do all that troublesome “finding” and “researching” work for you? Here are some organized tours that will take you through everything you want to see. And yes, I know the distinction between some of these and the items in the previous list may be a bit hazy, but what can I say, I like living on the edge.

Lord of the Rings – New Zealand

With the success of the epic trilogy, let’s just say it’s highly unsurprising (bordering on dull) that many New Zealand tour grips have developed their own specialized tours that guide your through the various (and quite breathtaking) sites used in Peter Jackson’s fantasy films. Activities could include everything from simply viewing the valley of Helms Deep to rafting the Anduin.

Here are a bunch of options. Costs, naturally, vary widely by trip and the trips last anywhere from half a day to over 2 weeks (for the truly dedicated fans, I’m guessing).

All things Dracula – Transylvania

Because nothing says “vacation” like a ritual killing of the living dead. Yep, that – along with a viewing of “Dracula’s castle,” a stop at Vlad the Impaler’s citadel and the consumption of something called a “Vampire dinner” (totally benign, I’m sure, this is Transylvania after all) – is included in Transylvania Live’s well-known Vampire in Transylvania: Dracula tour. Don’t worry, I’m, say, 86.5% sure that the ritual killing isn’t real.

Price is generally €1390 per person for a 7 day / 6 night trip (meals, entry fees, etc. included).

Steep? Well, good news, the site declares that the whole trip is available for free if:

You don’t have a reflection in the mirror,
You decompose when sun light strikes you,
You’re over 200 years old,
Can use your wings to fly to Transylvania,
[…] Come join your fellow vampires in Transylvania.
Blood treats not included

Transylvania Express (a railway tour company) also offers 4 and 5 day Dracula trips starting at €945 / €1994. They also offer special Dracula trips for groups.

Pirates of the Caribbean – Dominica, in the Caribbean Sea (appropriately enough)

I know what you’re thinking. Pirates? Really? Isn’t it time that someone finally pays attention to this film trilogy? Well, fortunately, at least the Tamarind Tree Hotel and Restaurant on the Caribbean isle of Dominica agrees with you! They’ve thought ahead of the curve to design a 7-day package that takes you to all those Depp-graced spots on the island.

For 2007-2008 rates and other information, click here.

Don’t want to stop there? Check out about.com’s look at some of the other Caribbean locales used in the Pirates film shoot.

… and much, much more – New York, San Francisco, Philly, and D.C.

Come to New York and you see a movie scene around every corner – isn’t that where Sally ate her (extremely) good sandwich? or where Sara ate her slightly-less-than serendipitous frozen hot chocolate? And sure, you can visit Katz’s Deli and Serendipity 3 yourself (and, well, brave the waits yourself as well – expect about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour wait at Serendipity on the weekends if you haven’t reserved, a little less if you have), but why not have a tour company take you to all the other sights you might not think of?

On Location Tours provides approx. 2 to 4 hour tours of movie (and TV) spots in the Big Apple (and Washington DC), with tours that specialize in everything from Sex and the City to just Central Park, for about $15 to $40 per person.

Washington Walks offers a Bus, Camera, Action! Reel Washington 3 hr tour for $30 of the national capital’s big movie spots, such as those seen in All the President’s Men and The Exorcist.

Not to be left out, San Francisco has its own handy tours, including these two Hitchcock-inspired tours (because what trip can really be fun without getting totally spooked out?) that guide you through those eerie (or they will be) sights from Vertigo and The Birds (which includes a Shadow of a Doubt sighting as well).

Also, while this is totally unguided (I know, I know, but this tour fits in so well in this section!), tourism organizations in Philadelphia and DC have banded together to produce a National Treasure guide to the two political capitals.

And for more of a fun list of sights in NY and the movies shot there (from the Central Park reservoir and Times Square to those oh-so-realistic, palatial Manhattan apartments – and just because you’re on TV, don’t think we’re not looking at you, Monica Gellar!), click here. For movie location mistakes in NY (that’s the NY subway??), and other cities, click here.

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The religious supernatural in film: they walk among us

December 6, 2007

With the release of the famously controversial The Golden Compass (the least religiously-oriented of any of the books in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy) upon us, what better time to look at the use of religion in film?

I’m not talking The Ten Commandments or The Passion of the Christ here – after all, that’s just obvious Biblical stuff. No, what’s more interesting is the real world reinterpretations of Judaeo-Christian religious mythology on the big screen that are not taken directly from holy texts; films that look at what religious mythology would exist or appear as if seen face-to-face, directly, in “real life.” More Stigmata, less The Nativity Story.

In other words, if it’s all true, and the battle between Heaven and Hell is right here beside us (as John Constantine might say), what could you see around the corner tomorrow, when you thought you were just coming home from work?

Not surprisingly, or perhaps very much so, horror is the key proponent of religious mythology in film. From The Omen to The Devil’s Advocate and Constantine (the latter two both with whoa-man Keanu Reeves, but more on that later), the devil, Hell and all that implies have been a goldmine for thinking man’s horror and non-thinking man’s horror alike – and classic and classically horrible alike. What better way to instill fear than to tap into what we’re already afraid of, or at least what we already recognize as being evil?

Christian religion is a whole mythos full of extremely recognizable characters and tales, from exorcisms to the ten plagues of Egypt, with which to terrify eager audiences. Satan himself, naturally, is the most popular target, portrayed in film as everything from a powerful guy in a crisp white suit to a Wall Street banker to… a lawyer in a crisp New York suit. Hmm, I’m sensing a theme here – but it could just be me. Perhaps filmmakers just take that whole “sell your soul” for money thing a little too literally.

Not to be outdone, of course, the good side has its say as well, with angels making a rousing play for the dominance of Good on the big screen. Apart from Tilda Swinton as Gabriel in Constantine and Emmanuelle Béart as Angel (just the one name, like Madonna) in Date with an Angel, celluloid angels also seem to be predominantly male. Nicolas Cage (who kind of goes the other way in Ghost Rider – man, you never can tell about someone), John Travolta, Christopher Lloyd, Denzel Washington, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and European actors Otto Sander and Bruno Ganz have all played angels. Wow, male actors do get all the fun… and I thought actors liked the evil parts (rogue angels don’t count, Damon and Affleck).

And then there’s the epic, all-encompassing look – because someone has to do it, and high fantasy clearly has a head start on the whole supernatural war between good and evil shtick. The genre definitely takes its share, both in film and in print (I’m on to you, Tad Williams. A martyr nailed to a tree and the Mother Church? Plus a king named Prester John? Very subtle.). The classic example of course being C.S. Lewis’s Narnia epics, but Philip Pullman is now jumping into the fray as well with his trilogy’s move onto the big screen.

In the end, what this probably all comes down to is our intense desire to know – what’s out there, what the world is, if there is a God of some kind. And movies have swooped down to help fulfill that need in a more visual way, bringing oral and printed tales of deep-seated beliefs and fears to life.

Ahem, well, with all that “deep” stuff out of the way, let’s get to the lists. Here’s a quick guide to religious phenomena in film, through horror and fantasy, and even into romantic comedies (intriguingly, angels are more prominent here). Not everything is here, I know, but this isn’t just a film + religion = here kind of list. Nevertheless, hopefully it’s somewhat of a good overview. And hey, it looks like that reading of The Divine Comedy I did in college will finally come in handy.

All hope abandon, ye who enter here.

– Dante’s Inferno

My personal favorites are marked with a *.

HORROR

Ah, the Devil, a principal character or idea in almost every movie in HORROR. Sadly, like all big stars these days, he’s decided to move on from the silver screen and star in his own comedy TV show: Reaper. And yes, he wears a suit in that one too.

Honorable mention achievement awards to Keanu Reeves and Gabriel Bryne, who both have two films a piece on this list. That Neo certainly likes films of biblical portent…

* Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – Starting off our trio of “um, I think there might be something wrong with my child” flicks, this Roman Polanski horrifier stars Mia Farrow as a mother suspicious that her unborn child might be, well, evil. Of course, they also live in a massive, Renaissance, anyone can tell I’m haunted apartment building in New York (the real-life The Dakota building in Manhattan), which can’t help.

* The Exorcist (1973) – Probably fairly obvious what this one’s about, if not from the title directly than from the impressive multitude of parodies, sequels, prequels, remakes, supposedly related films, mediocre comparisons, etc. etc. Infamously starring Linda Blair as the jointless possessed child, and directed by William Friedkin.

* The Omen (1976) – Finishing off the trio, this horror classic stars cute little Damien (Harvey Stephens) as pure EVIL. Ah, fun times. Also starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick as the child’s parents. Remade in 2006.

The Seventh Sign (1988) – Demi Moore is the only person who thinks the apocalypse is real. And it’s coming. Soon. Why can’t it ever be coming, like, 50 or so years from now?

* The Devil’s Advocate (1997) – Let’s just say that it’s not only an expression in this film. With Keanu Reeves as a newly hired Manhattan lawyer whose new boss might be a bit more than he seems – as he is played by Al Pacino, who do you think the boss really is? Also with Charlize Theron as the wife slowly going the Ophelia route (i.e., total insanity), and Gladiator‘s Connie Nielsen. Written by Michael Clayton director Tony Gilroy, who also wrote the Bourne films and the cult love story The Cutting Edge.

End of Days (1999) – In a world where the devil (Gabriel Bryne) walks among us, only one man can save us from eternal torment and he is… the governor of California.

Stigmata (1999) – Another Gabriel Bryne appearance in the same year (and, actually, this one was released a few months before End), but this time as a priest instead of Satan. Interesting. Patricia Arquette may be experiencing stigmata, or the physical manifestations of Christ’s wounds from the crucifixion. Determined not to be a one-note thriller, Stigmata was also a bit controversial with its none-too-positive view of organized religion (in other words, ever-popular target the Roman Catholic Church). If you know what The Golden Compass is about, same general idea, smaller scope.

The Ninth Gate (1999-2000) – Another Roman Polanski flick, but sadly, not quite Rosemary’s Baby. Nevertheless, it’s got Johnny Depp trafficking in mysterious rare books that may or may not (I’m going for “may”) summon the devil.

Lost Souls (2000) – Winona Ryder. The Antichrist. Mediocre entertainment unfolds.

* Constantine (2005) – I’ll admit it, I’m a closet Keanu Reeves fan. Scorn his acting abilities if you must, but he headlines a solid portion of my favorite films. The minimalism works for me. Plus, I clearly have a thing for Rachel Weisz horror, as I also have The Mummy on my repeat viewing list. And, okay, this isn’t exactly true to Alan Moore’s blond-haired antihero from the original comics, but it’s still cool thriller entertainment. Look for Shia LeBoeuf in his sidekick days (see I, Robot) as Reeves’s, well, sidekick. Also starring Swinton as Gabriel, Gavin Rossdale as Balthazar and Djimon Hounsou as Papa Midnite (that actually is his character’s name). Plot: Reeves is John Constantine, a chain-smoking cynic condemned to Hell who is trying to make amends by helping to send demons back where they came from. Weisz is a cop who doesn’t believe her sister really committed suicide. They cross paths. Coincidence? Ah… no.

The Reaping (2007) – Um, not the best… but it’s, ah, recent, and, um… about the ten plagues. With a 7% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Well, you can’t win ’em all, Hilary.

Other notable horror: Technically, The Mummy is about ancient Egypt, but it’s got a more interesting version of the ten plagues in it (sorry, Reaping), so why not. I would include Stargate as well, but I think that’s definitely stretching it. And it’s not really horror. Oh well.

FANTASY

The Chronicles of Narnia – With Disney’s release of the first installment in 2005 (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and Prince Caspian in 2008, C.S. Lewis’s Christianity-laced fantasy tales have been brought with much commercial success to the visual generation. Only five more left to go! Can’t deny I’m excited for a film version of Voyage of the Dawn Treader (est. 2010) with an actual budget… In any case, whether or not you like the religious layers in these stories, I have to say that when I read this series as a child, I had absolutely no idea of any religion at all (could the same be true for young readers of The Golden Compass?). And to be honest, I was disappointed and felt almost betrayed when I found out – my own little loss of innocence (things aren’t always exactly what they appear to be???) – although the last book in particular made a lot more sense.

The Golden Compass (2007) – The epic fantasy book gets a * but after an early glimpse at conflicting reviews for this film (UK’s Guardian vs. Times – may the person you agree with most win!), I’ll have to wait and see on the movie. For more on the plot, religion and controversy, click here.

OTHER COMICS-TO-FILMS

* Hellboy (2004) – Guillermo del Toro’s cult classic about a big red demon with horn issues who works for the government’s paranormal bureau – which, no, is not situated in Area 51 for once. Starring Selma Blair, John Hurt and Ron Perlman as Hellboy.

Ghost Rider (2007) – Well, if you make a deal with Mephistopheles, you gotta know weird things are gonna happen. Nicolas Cage gets to have a head that’s actually a skull which is constantly on fire (must be a burning bush kind of fire) and take people down. Doesn’t sound too bad.

COMEDY

* Wings of Desire (1987) – The Cannes award winner about two angels (Ganz and Sander) who wander unobserved through Berlin, this German film tells of Ganz’s angel’s growing love for a woman who can’t see him. Bonus points for including a character modeled on epic-maker Homer! Peter Falk (Columbo, The Princess Bride) also makes an appearance. If the plot sounds familiar to you but you don’t recall subtitles and/or German, see Angels, City of below.

Date with an Angel (1987) – This (literally) glowing movie stars Béart, Michael Knight and Phoebe Cates in a light (and regrettably dated) combo of Wings of Desire and Splash. Similar, at least in title: I Married an Angel, based on a play.

* Angels in the Outfield (1994) – A warm-hearted remake of the 1951 film of the same name, this Christopher Lloyd-starrer features a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young foster child who wishes his favorite baseball team, the Angels (get it?), would win the pennant. Angels, including Lloyd, respond to his request. Sigh, angels never respond to my requests.

Michael (1996) – As in, the Archangel Michael (John Travolta). With wings and everything, including a drinking problem. Also with William Hurt, Andie MacDowell (as the obligatory “expert” on angels), Bob Hoskins, Jean Stapleton, and Joey Lauren Adams. Directed by Nora Ephron of You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle fame.

The Preacher’s Wife (1996) – Another remake. An all-star cast (Whitney Houston, Courtney B. Vance, Gregory Hines, Lionel Richie) is featured alongside Washington’s turn as an angel named Dudley (played by Cary Grant in the original) who arrives to help “fix” the family’s problems. Unfortunately, the movie is not as good as the cast warrants.

Deconstructing Harry (1997) – A Woody Allen comedy that takes a detour into Hell, with Woody’s own unique vision of the levels in Dante’s Inferno. I think that pretty much explains the whole movie. Oh yes, and Billy Crystal is the devil with a devilishly sinister plan to ruin the world through air-conditioning.

* Dogma (1999) – Shockingly, another controversial one. And from Clerks auteur Kevin Smith? Who would’ve thought? No sailboats here, this comedy about some seriously annoyed angels on the warpath takes a bevy of stars (Damon, Affleck, Rock, Hayek, Carlin, Lee, Garofolo, Morissette, Rickman, Jay and Bob) and gives them lots and lots and lots to say about organized religion. Copious amounts of dialogue in a Smith film is odd, I know. Amid all the anger over its portrayal of Catholicism, and many thousands of hate mail letters, a disclaimer went up before the movie that, among other things, dissed the platypus (can you believe it? the nerve).

City of Angels (1998) – Wings of Desire, Meg Ryan-style. Cage shows up as the angel who falls in love.

Bedazzled (2000) – Besides Deconstructing Harry, this is the only comedy on the list that deals with the devil. Of course, Elizabeth Hurley as Satan isn’t exactly scary, or at least not in the typical horror genre sort of way. Brendan Fraser makes another appearance here as a schlub willing to sell his soul for the lively Frances O’Connor (Mansfield Park!). Without appearing desperate, naturally.

Down to Earth (2001) – Yep, it’s a remake. What a surprise. This one goes all out however, as it’s actually a remake of a remake of a play. Who said there were no new ideas. Chris Rock stars as a comedian who is accidentally killed and returns to earth as a loathed rich man. I have to say, Chazz Palminteri and Eugene Levy as angels? I’m a little afraid.

Bruce Almighty (not Evan Almighty, it’s just Noah’s Ark so I don’t want to hear it) – This 2003 film takes an amusing look at a few days in the life of God (Morgan Freeman), through the contortionist that is Jim Carrey. Jennifer Aniston also stars as the long-suffering love interest.

OTHER

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – If you’ve somehow managed to avoid this Frank Capra classic through countless holiday seasons, kudos to you. Either way, you probably know what this is about and, yep, that angels are indeed involved.

To see a more comprehensive list of angels in film, click here.

For more on Satan in pop culture, click here.

Pure and disposed to mount unto the stars.

– Dante’s Purgatorio


Halloween movies for the scared

October 31, 2007

Not the kids – but rather those (like myself…) who prefer to have the lights only, um, partially dimmed.

Now, I don’t want to say that I’m petrified at the site of a movie monster or anything; it’s more that I’m petrified at the thought of a horror movie at all. Don’t laugh, but even Scream can send me into nightmares for at least a week. I know, I know, it’s supposed to be a “humorous” film, but watching it for the first time in the empty, open suburbs of the Midwest, with lots of big windows, easily accessible garages, and, you know, telephones, and anyone could get scared. Or so I tell myself (and others, muffled from behind the pillow that’s covering my face).

In any case, as someone who has suffered (and I mean suffered) through many Halloween horror fests with friends, I have found it quite necessary to come up with some movies that I feel free to safely recommend to some horror-happy friends without gaining yet another reason to turn on all the lights at any hint at all of sunset. Think about it this way – watch these films, save the environment! I feel better already…

From ghoulies and ghosties

And long-leggedy beasties

And things that go bump in the night,

Good Lord, deliver us!

– Scottish prayer

“Do you know why I can stay in your spooky old room Mr. Olin? Because I know that ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties don’t exist. And even if they did, there’s no god to protect us from them is there?”

-1408 (not one of the movies in my list, I just like the quote – sorry Stephen King, but this one’s a little much for me)
(from imdb.com)

Shaun of the Dead – Without a doubt, one of my favorite movies ever. Perhaps surprisingly, considering the fact that some of my friends do think this a bit scary. Nevertheless, I find it the perfect antidote to being scared out of my wits by an actual zombie movie – I just think of disposable cameras and a “girl in the garden” and all the anxious jitters go away.

A spoof on classic zombie flicks (think Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Office meets George Romero), with a hero who at first thinks the walking dead are simply people who have had a bit too much to drink (an honest mistake), the film’s certainly got its must-have horror moments – bloody zombies attack, screams are screamed, people batter zombies with pool cues – but the humor is priceless. What other movie would have a victory against the zombies moment set to music by Queen?

Young Frankenstein – Also containing one of my favorite movie quotes, this classic comedy from Mel Brooks delivers all of the typical horror fare, including a dark and stormy castle, mysteriously creepy castle denizens, and Frankenstein’s monster him/itself, without any of the fright. And of course, look for a great performance from the late Peter Boyle as the monster (he sings!). Bonus (positive or negative still to be decided): it’s now a Broadway musical. It was inevitable.

Beetlejuice – The thrice-called ghoul played by Michael Keaton in this Tim Burton film (who went on to make Batman with Keaton as well – I personally would have immediately thought of Keaton as the Dark Knight after seeing this movie) wreaks cooky havoc on the Deetz home with fellow ghosts Adam and Barbara (Alec Baldwin, looking very young, and Geena Davis). Winona Ryder also stars as the black clad girl who befriends the couple. It’s odd and totally crazy and definitely a Burton film – with some clear disturbing/spooky moments, especially towards the end. Might not want to watch alone.

Ghostbusters – Because nothing heralds winter like a giant marshmallow terrorizing the streets of Manhattan. Extremely minimal horrors, but with plenty of otherworldly monsters and goings on (not forgetting Slimer, of course), it’s got the added bonus of being an almost universally loved comedy. With Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as the paranormal avengers, as well as Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, and Annie Potts.

The Nightmare before Christmas – I know, this is probably a bit standard and boring, but how can you have a list like this without it? After all, don’t be fooled by the name – the whole movie actually revolves around a place called “Halloween Town” and starts off with a bunch of sinister-looking animated characters chanting “This is Halloween!” Now that’s a Halloween movie. This stop-motion holiday film (now in 3D!), another one from Halloween maestro Tim Burton, is spooky and Halloween gloomy without being really scary. And with the additional inclusion of Christmas Town in the movie, you get two holidays in one!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Before it was a critically-acclaimed hip show, and way before it was touring as a sing-along, Buffy was a completely campy early ’90s flick from cult god Joss Whedon starring Kristy Swanson (Buffy), Donald Sutherland as “the Watcher” and Luke Perry as the boy toy. Not to mention Hilary Swank, David Arquette and, believe it or not, Paul Reubens (yes, Pee Wee Herman himself) in other roles. Now, I’m not saying it’s good, and in my mind, it’s definitely got its scary vampire moments, but it’s a lot of camp fun.

Other favorites with descriptions in other posts:

The Mummy – The mummy itself may be scary to some (although I don’t think anyone can argue that the beetles are pretty darn icky), but it’s light monster fun for the action set. Just turn away whenever the mummy or beetles attack anyone and it’s no problem.

Spirited Away – A beautiful and ethereal fairy tale for the indie lover, with an actual long-legged beastie, from Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki. You’ll never see another haunted house quite like this.

Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit – Just pure guilt-free fun.


Halloween movie fun

October 27, 2007

Why trick or treat out in the cold for mediocre candy (and with some very determined, sugar buzzed kids) when you can stay inside and enjoy Halloween in the comfort of your own home? For something fun (yet scaaaarrryyy….) as we head into the weekend before Halloween, check out this to do list:

READ

Cracked

  1. The 7 Most Easily Escapable Movie Monsters (think pretty much every major movie monster)
  2. The 5 Creepiest Urban Legends (That Happen to be True)

Entertainment Weekly (A whole page devoted to Halloween ’07! Most impressive.)

  1. I Will Survive: 13 Lessons from Watching Scary Movies
  2. 15 Sinister Satans

(and look: celebrities in embarrassing horror movies!)

Concierge.com

The World’s Creepiest Places

DO

  1. Cinematical’s Third Annual Costume Contest
    [WARNING: embarrassing pictures of man and son in Spider-man costumes follow]

BUY (or, um, pre-order anyway – but “buy” sounds so much more dramatic)

  1. Spider-man 3 Pumpkin Bomb Replica

?

  1. Solve the mystery of the flickering jack-o-lantern at The Dark Night‘s website. It’s slowly burning down – what does that mean??

WATCH

Cinematical

  1. Cinematical Seven: Best Horror Movies You Haven’t Seen Yet (Parts One and Two)
    [Be prepared for gory images – seriously.]

New York Times

  1. Joy of Fright: Old Chillers That Should Scare (but not terrorize) the Kids

(or, Epinions more blunt approach: Top Ten Best Halloween Movies for Wimps)


Best Movie Trailers

October 26, 2007

Sure, I’m actually there to see the movie. And yes, it’s often pretty good too. But somehow I just can’t help but get excited when that first green ratings sign pops up on the screen. Perhaps it’s something to do with the often unintentionally hilarious ratings comments (“rated PG for non-stop frenetic animated action” and sometimes the dreaded “thematic elements”). Or perhaps it’s something to do with the innocent promise inherent in movie previews – you have no idea what the movie is actually going to be like yet, but darned if it doesn’t look like fun from a few minutes of clips.

So here a few of my own favorites – or at least the ones that, you know, I managed to remember after I left the theater. You’ll notice many of these clips employ “The Voice.” If you don’t know what I mean, well… you will.

Comedian

Why spoof indirectly when you can go straight to the source?

Gymkata

There are no words. No. Words.

For another classic ’80s trailer, see this Entertainment Weekly post.

Superman Returns

Pure film nostalgia at its best.

Blair Witch Project

Yes, yes, it’s seriously cliché now, but no matter what you think of the film, you can’t deny that this trailer worked really, really well. And hey, who says you can’t indulge in a little cliché now and then?

Citizen Kane

Back when trailers were nothing but a news headline parade of flashy movie star clips set to booming voice overs, Orson Welles went a different route. Not exactly the older brother of the 300 trailer, but it’s got witty humor, “caught off guard” celebrities, and (perhaps cleverly? or tongue-in-cheek… ily?), a focus on Welles’s most infamous asset: his voice over the microphone.

(See War of the Worlds radio broadcast)

Sin City

Because it’s just so much fun to watch. Talk about setting the mood…

Honorable Mentions:

The Omen (the original one)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Chicken Little (guilty pleasure)

Jarhead (I’ll admit, it’s mainly for the Kanye West song)

And finally, you have to include at least one fake trailer in one of these things. It’s an oldie (by web standards), but always a goodie – the classic: The Shining

More trailer goodies:

Golden Trailer Awards – Yes, they do exist.

Best Fake Trailers

The Holiday – Finally, movie trailer makers get their due! Cameron Diaz stars as a woman who has made a (ridiculously wealthy) living off of making movie previews, and hears her life in “trailer format” (i.e., with “The Voice”) at particularly stressful moments.

Perhaps I spend way too much time watching TV (ok, not perhaps, that’s definitely true), but I always get a kick out of those TBS movie previews. Here are some for The Lord of the Rings.


Too much news to fit in print: comic book and video game movies

October 11, 2007

I like to think of it as a kill screen – eventually you get to the point where there’s just too much fun movie news of a certain type to handle it all, and you become confused and, well, okay, you don’t die, but serious writer’s block does become an issue. (If you’re wondering right now what a kill screen is, go see King of Kong immediately – or click on the “kill screen” link, but trust me, the first option is much more fun.)

My solution? Just provide the links in an easily accessible format so you can decide what you want to know. Lazy, you say? Perhaps. But what can I say, you get your news and better one okay post with many links, than many very mediocre posts with one link. I hope, anyway.

So here it is, what’s going on this week in comic book and video game movie news:

– In a big change of pace, Michael Gordon, of 300, Spider-man 3 and Ghost Writer fame is writing the EverQuest screenplay for the big screen.

– A movie trailer is available for the documentary Confessions of a Superhero. According to SlashFilm, it’s about “a group of people who make their money dressed as superheroes, taking photos with tourists outside the Manns Chinese Theater.” Awesome. What else is there to say?

Brandon Routh, the man of truth, justice, and all that stuff, is exchanging his tights and feel-good action for the role of Dylan Dog in the big screen adaptation of the popular horror comic books.

– The art director of Gears of War and other video games, Jerry O’Flaherty, will be directing the upcoming animated Thundercats movie.

– Director Xavier Gans has been fired from directing a big screen Hitman adaptation for making it too bloody. Yes, I can see how that direction for the film would be unexpected.


A movie about Harry Potter – no, not that one

October 10, 2007

A young boy named Harry Potter discovers one day that there is a whole magical world out there that he knew nothing about.

Nope, it’s not the Harry Potter you’ve come to know and love who inhabits a world full of Quidditch, blood-flavored lollipops and teachers who can turn into cats.

It’s actually the basic premise of a 1986 low budget horror film called Troll about a whole family of Potters and their young children’s battle with a troll taking over their apartment building. Certainly considered to be a classic by some, and it did well for what it was when it came out, there’s just something about that premise that seems to have captured the attention of fans outside of the horror genre…

On his site, creator Charles Band (who Cinematical.com calls “the most prolific filmmaker you’ve never heard of” – he’s worked on literally hundreds of lower budget horror films) says:

TROLL was a film we shot 20 years ago and aside from its similar story line the lead character’s name in the movie was HARRY POTTER!!!

As noted in Wikipedia, Charles Band also said in an interview that:

“I’ve heard that JK Rowling has acknowledged that maybe she saw this low-budget movie [Troll] and perhaps it inspired her. Who knows what the story is? Life’s too short for a fight as far as I’m concerned but, having said that, there are certain scenes in that movie, not to mention the name of the main character, and this of course predates the Harry Potter books by many, many years. So there’s that strange connection.”

Now that a remake of Troll is, naturally, in the works, Scotsman reports that:

JK ROWLING’s spokesman said she has never seen a 1986 film about a boy named Harry Potter who must battle magical forces to save the world from a powerful wizard.

Go here for the official press release of the Troll remake (2009), including the great disclaimer absolving them from any and all possible or remote connection to JK Rowling.

And who is the “other” Harry Potter (actually Harry Potter Jr.) in the original Troll? Noah Hathaway, also seen as Atreyu in The Neverending Story and, yep, that was him, Boxey from the original Battlestar Galactica. He has also been cast as the Troll (Turok) in the upcoming big budget remake.