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Sunday Matinee: Stan Lee

Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95 on November 12. Stan Lee for many was the man who created Marvel Comics – which he did with a lot of help from co-creators Jack Kirby and Steve Dikto (who also sadly passed away earlier this year).

When superhero comics first appeared in the late 1930s they took the world by storm but by the 1950s the genre was almost dead – only DC Comics were keeping the genre alive. Stan Lee started working for Timely Comics in 1939 for owner Martin Goodman as an office assistant. He would soon start writing back up stories for comics, he took the pen Stan Lee (his real name was Stanley Lieber) because he wanted to be a real writer and comics were looked down on.
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Sunday Matinee: Trilogy Of Terror

Original aired on the ABC channel in 1975 as the Movie of the Week, this little horror anthology from director Dan Curtis (Night Stalker) features three stories all from acclaimed writer Richard Matheson (I am Legend).

Unlike other anthology films there is nothing connecting the individual stories other than Karen Black stars in all of them as the various lead characters.
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REVIEW: That Never Happened, But It Did

A very dark chapter in Canadian history took place between 1914-1920. Supposedly driven by security concerns arising from World War I, the Crown made over 88,000 East European immigrants (most from Ukraine) register with provincial governments. Even worse, 8,500 men ended up imprisoned in camps across Canada, many of whom lost all their possessions.

The shadiness of it all doesn’t end there. These families were initially lured to Canada with the promise of farmland, a pledge that seldom materialized. A few decades later, in 1954, records of these internment operations were destroyed. Only in the ’80s did a concerted effort to reconstruct that history begin to take shape. Calls for recognition from the government and reparations would follow.

That Never Happened does a remarkable job researching the subject. The talking heads assembled by director Ryan Boyko — historians, archeologists, descendants — all have valuable information to share. Limited archival footage is complemented by location visits, where remains of these camps can still be found.

The documentary’s shortcomings are mostly technical. Clocking in at 78 minutes, there is plenty of room for the film to breathe. Nonetheless, That Never Happened bombards the audience with information without allowing enough time to absorb it. The uneven cinematography (not even the interviews are uniformly shot) becomes distracting after a while.

From a scholarly perspective, there is undeniable value in collecting and organizing the material. And the chronological approach gives the film a structure to lean on. But the human connection is lacking. In the rare instances where That Never Happened personalizes the consequences of the internment camps — unintended, yet severe — the film soars. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far in between. Two prairie dogs (out of five).

That Never Happened plays this Saturday and Sunday at 7pm at the Rainbow Cinema (Studio 7).

Sunday Matinee: 10 Years of Fear Wrap Up

Another 31 Days of Horror has come and gone and while I was doing a best of / my favourite list – I missed so many more films that I wanted to mention.

In fact I didn’t really list anything from more recent years or some of the bigger classics. There is just too many awesome movies from last 100 years of cinema to squeeze into a mere 31 days. Anyway here is a few more movies that are awesome too!
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REVIEW: Bel Canto Sings, but Doesn’t Hit the High Notes

 

Ken Watanabe and Julianne Moore share the piano in Bel Canto.

International casts present a unique challenge to both viewers and filmmakers. The absence of a unifying language can be distracting, as well as the actors’ different rhythms. An archetypical example is a terrible horror movie from 15 years ago called Darkness, for which Spanish director Jaume Balagueró cast Anna Paquin (Canada), Lena Olin (Sweden), Iain Glen (Scotland) and Giancarlo Giannini (Italy) as your average American family to hilarious effect.

Bel Canto knows better. The film uses the language barrier between the protagonists for its benefit, a challenge they have to overcome in order to survive. While the movie works well as a romantic drama, it doesn’t as a thriller, a bit of a problem when you are dealing with a hostage situation. Continue reading “REVIEW: Bel Canto Sings, but Doesn’t Hit the High Notes”

31 Days Of Horror: Psycho

10 Years of FearHappy Halloween! Here we are at the end of 31 Days of Horror: 10 Years of Fear. I decided to end this year with Psycho — the movie that got me hooked on horror as child.

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) has just stolen a large sum of money from her boss and is driving out to California to meet her boyfriend Sam Loomis (John Gavin). Sam has massive debts and can’t marry Marion, so she took the money to help them. Along the way she switches cars at a dealership and then continues driving into the night. Tired and in a rain storm she stops at an unremarkable little place called the Bates Motel.
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31 Days Of Horror: The Exorcist

10 Years of FearI had a lot of trouble trying to come up with a best horror movie list. The best I could do was just randomly list my favourites, although it feels like I’ve missed some — actually I’m sure of it. My other problem was coming up with a movie to end this year’s 31 Days of Horror on.

I was originally going to end with The Exorcist. It’s one of my favourites, it’s still terrifying and it’s universally considered one of the best horror movies of all time.

But… I thought of another movie so I moved The Exorcist to today.
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31 Days Of Horror: The Evil Dead

10 Years of Fear“We’re gonna to get you! We’re gonna to get you! Not another peep — Time to go to sleep!”

Ahhh, The Evil Dead. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s first film. Shot on a puny $350,000 budget, the film became a huge success and spawned two sequels, a 2013 remake and a recently ended TV series.

Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), his girlfriend, Linda (Betsy Baker), Ash’s sister, Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), their friend Scott (Hal Delrich), and his girlfriend Shelly (Sarah York) are heading out for the weekend. Their destination: a creepy-looking cabin way out in the wilderness. The only way to it is to cross a rickety bridge that’s off the main road. Hopefully nothing horrible will happen at this remote shack that’s so far away from any help!

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31 Days Of Horror: Jaws

10 Years of Fear“Duunnn-dunnn … duuuunnnn-duun … duuunnnnnnnnnn-dun… Dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun DUN-DUN DUN-DUN DUN-DUN DUN-DUN DUN-DUN DUN-DUN DUN-DUN DUN-DUN!!!!!

On June 20, 1975, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws changed the summer movie season forever. And yet Jaws is more than just the first summer blockbuster movie — it’s a genuinely scary thriller.

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31 Days Of Horror: Don’t Look Now

10 Years of FearJohn Baxter (Donald Sutherland) and his wife Laura (Julie Christie) are working in Venice after the drowning death of their daughter Christine. Their child’s death has hit the couple very hard and as they are dealing with it John is working on restoring an old church.

While having dinner in a restaurant Laura meets two elderly ladies, Heather (Hilary Mason) and Wendy (Clelia Matania). Heather claims to be psychic and can see their child. Laura faints.
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31 Days Of Horror: Halloween

10 Years of FearToday is the 40th anniversary of John Carpenter’s Halloween. The film helped kick start the slasher film craze of the 1980s and had has 11 installments – nine sequels and a remake that had it’s own sequel.

On Halloween night in 1963, six-year-old Michael Meyers murders his older sister. Fifteen years later on October 30, Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence) arrives at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where Michael is kept. Dr. Loomis notices that the inmates are loose. Michael Meyers has escaped and is on the loose.
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31 Days Of Horror: The Thing

10 Years of FearThe more I rewatch John Carpenter’s The Thing the more I love the film. It’s a brilliant horror film. A group of men isolated in the Antarctic find themselves being attacked by a mysterious alien creature that can make itself look like anyone of them. The film is terrifying.

Carpenter’s film is a remake of the 1951 film The Thing from Another World and both films are based on the short novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr.
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31 Days Of Horror: The Shining

10 Years of FearToday is the 23rd so let’s take a trip to room 237. Stephen King might not have liked this adaptation of his novel but Stanley Kubrick’s film has stood the test of time.

Released in 1980 The Shining stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic who has taken a job as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, a remote isolated hotel in the mountains. Jack brings along his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and his young son Danny (Danny Lloyd).
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31 Days Of Horror: King Kong

10 Years of Fear“And now, ladies and gentlemen, before I tell you any more, I’m going to show you the greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld. He was a king and a god in the world he knew, but now he comes to civilization merely a captive – a show to gratify your curiosity. Ladies and gentlemen, look at Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World.”

I love that speech in King Kong (1933) from Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) who introduces the beast to a captive audience, unaware of the horror that’s about to be unleashed.
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31 Days Of Horror: Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde

10 Years of FearThere have been a lot of adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. There are currently over 100 filmed versions and the best of the lot is the 1931 version.

I would hope that most folks would know at the least basic plot of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Good Dr. Jekyll has been experimenting trying to isolate the good and evil in all humans. His experiments bring out his inner evil side, Mr. Hyde who wrecks all sort of havoc.
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31 Days Of Horror: Eyes Without A Face

10 Years of FearA woman drives alone by a river and dumps a body into it. Later Doctor Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) is asked to identify the body. He says that it’s the body of his daughter Christiane Génessier (Édith Scob) who was in a car accident and disfigured. The death is ruled as suicide.

Following the funeral Doctor Génessier and his assistant Louise (Alida Valli), who happened to be the woman who dumped the body, continue their work. You see Christiane is still alive and the good doctor wants to restore her face – by using someone else’s!
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31 Days Of Horror: The Fly

10 Years of Fearjournalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) meets scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) at a party. Seth claims to be working on the greatest invention known to humanity — an invention that will change the world. Curious, Veronica goes to Seth’s home/lab.

Seth has been working on a teleportation device. His telepods take an object and transport it from one pod to the next. The only problem is that Seth can’t transport living things. Yet.
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31 Days Of Horror: Mystery Of The Wax Museum

10 Years of Fear Lionel Atwill stars as brilliant sculpture Ivan Igor. Igor has a wax museum in London that is sadly unprofitable. Igor’s partner, Joe Worth (Edwin Maxwell), decides to burn the place to the ground for the insurance and when Igor tries to stop him, Worth knocks him out and leaves him to die in the flames.

Twelve years later Igor shows up in New York with a new wax museum. He survived the fire but is now confined to a wheelchair and his hands were destroyed. As a result, he no longer sculpts but has “assistants”, including the shady professor Darcy (Arthur Edmund Carewe) and silent Hugo (Matthew Betz).
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31 Days Of Horror: Quatermass And The Pit

10 Years of FearBefore Doctor Who there was Quatermass, which started off as a 1953 BBC TV serial. The show’s success lead Hammer Films to adapt it into a movie, The Quatermass Xperiment, which I’ve written about a couple of times (here and here). Creator Nigel Kneale wrote two more TV serials — Quatermass 2 and Quatermass and the Pit — which were both made into films by Hammer. That’s a lot of Quartermass!

Quatermass and the Pit was originally released in the United States as Five Million Years to Earth.

Professor Bernard Quatermass was played by American actor Brian Donlevy for Hammer’s first two outings. It was felt that Donlevy, a recognizable supporting actor from dozens of films and TV shows, had the stature to get the film theatrical screenings in North America. Kneale, whoever, disliked Donlevy as Quatermass because Donlevy played the character as kind of a huckster instead of a brilliant scientist. For the third film, Quatermass and the Pit, Andrew Keir stepped into the role. He was a perfect fit.
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