Archives for Barry Wurst

Film Review: Attack the Block

Directed by Joe Cornish
Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker and John Boyega
Score: 4/5

It’s just another night in South London, when a nurse named Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is mugged by a teen gang, lead by the imposing Moses (John Boyega). As if things weren’t bad enough for Sam already, an alien invasion takes place just moments later, just outside of her apartment. Suddenly, everyone must work together to overcome a vicious attack from creatures whose mission isn’t initially clear.

While fan boys may note that this is from the producer of Shaun of the Dead, it isn’t a comedy. In fact, it’s kind of like An American Werewolf in London, which was also a horror film that just happened to be wildly funny. Writer/director Joe Cornish, who wrote the screenplay to Steven Spielberg’s upcoming The Adventures of Tin Tin, is a talent on the rise; this sleeper mixes genuine scares, pulse pounding excitement, social commentary, laugh out loud moments and really inventive monsters in a way I haven’t seen since Tremors.

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Barry’s Highlights of the 32nd SDFF

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Even with cold weather, guaranteed snowfall and the temptation to blow $10.00 to see Roland Emmerich destroy the world, audiences still flocked to this year’s Starz Denver Film Festival, and with a line-up of films this great, who could blame them? This is still the best way for movie buffs to get a fix of films they’ve never heard of before but will be raving about for months. You also get a chance to be up close with some excellent filmmakers on the rise and actors and actresses like Rachel Leigh Cook, J.K. Simmons, Hal Holbrook and the fest’s Achievement Award winner, Ed Harris. It also gives film fest junkies a chance to see an acclaimed Oscar hopeful, like Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, which was this year’s SDFF opener.

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Natasha Richardson: 1963 – 2009

It’s with great sadness that I write this, a brief mention that Natasha Richardson, a wonderful actress of film and and stage, the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and wife of Liam Neeson, died on Wednesday. As a stage actress, her work was astonishing, and she arguably received the most acclaim from her work on the London and New York theater scene. As a film actress, she is probably and sadly best known to American audiences as Ralph Fiennes’ annoying fiance in Main in Manhattan and the love interest in the remake of The Parent Trap. If you really want to see why she was such a remarkable actress, look at her playing the title role in Paul Schrader’s Patty Hearst, in which she embodied a complex and widely unloved public figure. Or, watch her in The Handmaid’s Tale, an equally controversial film that, like Patty Hearst, received mixed reviews from critics but her performances in both films were widely and deservedly praised. Finally, in the thriller The Comfort of Strangers, also by director Schrader, cast opposite Christopher Walken, Helen Mirren and Rupert Everett, Richardson is outstanding once again in one of the creepiest and most underrated cinematic mind games of the ’90’s. She is survived by her husband, Liam and their two children, Micheal and Daniel Neeson. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family.

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The Best of the Fest – Covering the 31st Starz Denver Film Festival

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Why does the Denver Film Festival matter? Two big reasons: the film selection and the people. Of the former, you get films as varied as Ray, Random Hearts and The Host getting their U.S. first looks, as well as the best documentaries, festival sleepers and soon-to-be-huge, break-out independent films getting showcased. Of the latter, you won’t find nicer or friendlier film buffs, both in the audience or behind the scenes. The people running the show are the most accommodating bunch I’ve ever come across at any film festival. The feel is very laid back, with attendance packed but never claustrophobic, and there are often multiple screenings, so you have another shot if your movie is sold out. The location is cool: The Tivoli, a former brewery in Denver, has a lot of character and enough access to the city (if you have time to kill in between screenings). How laid back is this fest? I often spot the actors and filmmakers of the movie I’m seeing roaming the halls before and after the screenings.  

Here are the cinematic highlights (in alphabetical order): (more…)

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Paul Newman, He Made a World of Difference. 1925-2008

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One of the great ones died today, and by that, I don’t merely mean one of the great Hollywood movie stars, but one of the great men and someone who made a difference. Paul Newman is so many things to so many people, even a list seems both inevitable and pointless. Yes, he was a huge movie star, with a career that lasted for decades, but this was only in a small part of his life overall. Newman was a film legend who could really act, took numerous chances with lots of tricky, complex roles and was enormously accomplished on stage as well as the big screen. Yes, he won an Academy award for acting in a Martin Scorsese picture, but he also gave dozens of other performances that were as good, if not even better, in films that range from excellent to being widely considered classics of American cinema. Yes, he had his own salad dressing, founded by his Newman’s Own company in 1982, but have you tried everything else that company produces (best chocolate-chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever tasted) and did you know the profits go straight to charity? Yes, Newman was an auto racer, but did you know that he won a race at the age of 70 (!) and that his introducing his friend and co-star, Tom Cruise, to the sport lead to Days of Thunder? Yes, he was the voice of a car in Pixar’s Cars, but did you know he acted for the Coen Brothers, Alfred Hitchcock, George Roy Hill, Sam Mendes, Sidney Lumet, Martin Ritt, Robert Benton, AND Robert Altman (to name just a few)? Here are a few other things that not everyone knows about Paul Newman:

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SG Cinema Flashback – Beetlejuice

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It’s no surprise that Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, one of the surprise hits of 20 years ago, not only spawned an animated Saturday morning series, but that the series was so well received and a ratings success. Burton’s film is one of the few that can deservedly be called “cartoonish” and have that remark taken as a compliment, and the animated spinoff was a perfect match for the already outlandish, wildly over the top material established on the big screen.

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Don LaFontaine: 1940-2008

In a world…where Don LaFontaine is The King of Voiceovers, movie trailers were always so much more exciting. Sadly, LaFontaine just recently passed away and left a legacy that exists in countless film and televison ads. His career, which spans decades and covers numerous projects, is best remembered for the wonderfully serious (and, occasionally, not so serious) voice over narrations he provided to hundreds, heck, THOUSANDS, of movie trailers. Fans of Coming Attractions previews know his voice all too well and, for a few highlights, check out his work after the break.

Terminator 2
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWutJqsk0IE[/youtube]

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Sequels I’d Like To See

In the next three years, we have a Jason Bourne sequel, a 300 prequel, a National Treasure three-quel and another shot of Star Trek, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, James Bond, The Transformers, John Conner, the Madagascar critters, the Toy Story action figures, the Ice Age dinos, Inspector Clouseau, Wolverine, Harry Potter, the Hobbits, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Robin Hood AND The Wolf Man in store for moviegoers. I’m all for Iron Man II, but do we really need another Night at the Museum? Dwayne Johnson in Race to Witch Mountain could be fun, and maybe Hoodwinked 2 will be better than the original, but do we really need Anchorman 2 or another round of those dull Narnia kids being upstaged by CGI creatures? Why would we sit through Jumper II or Wild Hogs Ride Again when the originals were, to be polite, less than classics? Here are ten sequels that AREN’T being made, but dangit, they should be!

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Trekkie Alert – Three Months Left for Star Trek: The Experience!

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It was confirmed on July 3rd on scifi.com that the long-running Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton will be closing September 1st. Having had the time of my life two weeks ago at The Experience, I can’t convey enough what a genuine shame this is. For die-hard or even casual Trekkies, this attraction is an absolute must and I urge anyone who knows what a Tribble is to make a weekend trip and check it out.

First off- what is it? The short answer is that, what Graceland is to Elvis fans, The Experience is for anyone who has ever been enthralled by Star Trek. There’s a thorough museum, with the history of mankind’s involvement in the space program that leads into Trek lore, and has every costume, animatronic monster, and random film and television prop you’d ever want to see (Kirk’s glasses from The Voyage Home? Check.  Spock’s coffin from The Search for Spock? Check.). You have the option of two rides, both of Disney caliber- Borg Invasion 4D and the Klingon Encounter. The former is the scariest 3D movie I’ve ever been assaulted by (you read that right- the movie goes to great lengths to simulate what being made into a Borg would feel like. Creepy stuff). The latter is as good, if not better, than Star Tours and the build-up to going on the ride, involving time travel, is a lot of fun (you even get to stand on the bridge of the Enterprise!).

There’s also the world’s biggest Star Trek store: everything from shirts, action figures, dvd’s, cards, stuffed Spock teddy bears, and the Sulu BBQ sauce I bought for SG Dave. Next to that is Quark’s Bar and Restaurant, with reasonably priced food, a slick sci-fi setting and the delightfully weird gimmick of characters dressed like Quark, a Klingon warrior or Sarek (Spock’s papa) walking around your table while you eat.

I went with my brother, Marty, and his girlfriend, Magan. Like her, I’m a fan of “old school” Trek, while Marty finds Star Trek fairly ridiculous and more a fan of The Force (make that “old school” Star Wars, without the New trilogy). That said, we all had a great time- Marty and I laughed non-stop through the intergalactic probing we suffered through at the hands of the Borg and Magan, like myself, took her time to enjoy the meticulously laid out Trek lore of the museum and, like the rest of us, cowered when an actor dressed like a Borg warrior stalked the hallways.

If you’ve gotten this far in the article and think this sounds like a great deal of fun, then seriously, get yourself to Vegas! Whether by bus or plane, when you initially arrive in Vegas, you’ll get a “24/7” magazine, a free listing of Vegas attractions that is flush with coupons; it contains a discount for purchase of two The Experience tickets that will allow you to return the following day, all day long and give you access to all the rides and attractions for as many times as you’d like. The Hilton is pricy, but there are a lot of cheap hotels and motels nearby that are accommodating to families and those with no interest in Vegas sleaze (the town has seriously cleaned up its act). Finally, for those who want a Vegas wedding but don’t want it to look like a picture of desperation (like in “What Happen in Vegas”) or a reunion of Elvis impersonators (like in “Honeymoon in Vegas”), you can get MARRIED at Star Trek: The Experience! They have reasonably priced theme weddings, complete with Federation and Borg attire (!).

That this Vegas attraction couldn’t make it until the opening of J.J. Abram’s new Star Trek next summer is a genuine shame. Yet, those who still want the ultimate in Trekkie fun, you have a few months! Live long and prosper.

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Remembering Stan Winston

Last August, Screen Geek Josh and I were wandering the endless corridors of Comic Con and we ran into Stan Winston. This was my first time at Comic Con and, in fact, it was during my first couple of hours there that, after growing glassy-eyed with geeky overkill, endless booths, movie promos and fanboy paraphernalia galore, Josh and I happened to spot the Skinwalkers promotion. In front of a tall booth (hidden by a black curtain and containing a mock-up of the film’s monster, for the brave who peeked inside) sat a friendly, older man with a lean, white beard and unassuming glasses. I said to Josh, “That’s Stan Winston!” I immediately began to bore Josh with everything I knew about Winston and Josh, keeping his cool, matter of factly asked me, “are you going to talk to him?” I said, “I can’t!” I was so taken aback by seeing him, I told Josh I needed a minute to come up with something to say, perhaps buy something for him to sign, and maybe ask him what the status of Jurassic Park IV was. We walked around the convention, came back a few minutes later and found Mr. Winston swamped with fans. I thought, oh well, I’ll get a chance to talk to him later. I never did.

Four years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Lance Henriksen. I told him that I loved his performance in Pumpkinhead; his eyes lit up and he said, “Thanks! You know, that was Stan Winston’s first film as a director!” It’s very telling that, of all the things he could have said about that film, the first thing that came to mind was Stan Winston.

Winston had that effect on actors, filmmakers and his countless fans. They LOVED him. He had a reputation as an approachable, kind and effortlessly inventive genius who loved movies as much as the work he put into them.

This was a man who made movie magic, time and time again. His work as a visual effects creator, designer and make-up artist are among the most iconic and convincing in film history. His contributions to The Terminator, Jurassic Park, Aliens, Batman Returns, A.I., Terminator 2 and Interview With the Vampire are classic and astonishing. Even the work he did on bad films, like The Island of Dr. Moreau, Heartbeeps, The Wiz, Invaders From Mars and Pearl Harbor, is so incredible, it makes the films worth seeing, if only to view his work (particularly Dr. Moreau, which has some of the best make-up I’ve ever seen).

Winston’s extensive filmography has titles that make you feel like you’re a kid and cause one to smile sheepishly: Galaxy Quest, Edward Scissorhands, Congo, Starman, Mousehunt, and The Monster Squad– all have Stan Winston's fingerprints on them.

I now know exactly what I should have said to Mr. Winston; I simply should have walked up to him, shook his hand and said, “Thank You”.

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