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10 horror comedies (that are more comedy than horror)

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You may think that the “horror comedy” is a relatively new phenomenon, now that we’re all post-modern and ironic these days, but the long history of B-movie schlock horror pictures are classics for all their campy laughs as much as for their ghoulish imaginings. If we were to list all of those, you’d be reading for days. Yet, comedy is an intrinsic part of the horror genre, necessary in order to keep these films entertaining and not so much like audiences are paying to revel in human suffering and terror. There are often comic elements at play in standard horror movies, but then there are those films which take the tropes of scare flicks – zombies, vampires, monsters of various stripes, stalkers, what-have-you – and swing the equation far over toward the funny side rather than the frightening one. The macabre in service of the guffaw. So here’s a list of ten horror comedies which are much more comedy than horror.


1. “Evil Dead 2/Army of Darkness”

We have to start here, with Sam Raimi’s enduring cult favorite saga, as it’s a perfect example of the progression from horror to horror comedy to comedy. The first “Evil Dead” was a straight-up horror film, creepy and disturbing. Then, Raimi went back and essentially remade it for “Evil Dead 2,” but made it more hysterical than skeevy with a man’s fight against his own possessed hand. Then came “Army of Darkness,” which was so over-the-top with Bruce Campbell’s chainsaw-handed S-Mart maniac Ash being thrust back in time and in the midst of undead magic wars that there wasn’t anything actively scary about it – except maybe the extent of Ash’s inner madness.


2. “Shaun of the Dead”

Edgar Wright’s film about a group of British slackers with enough personal problems to make a zombie uprising feel like an inconvenience was a breath of fresh air. Simon Pegg’s performance as the title character, oblivious to the zombies at first and then comically inept in his attempts to fight them off once he does notice them, is charming enough to make the fact that the whole movie becomes something of a dramedy in the third act work well enough to earn itself a deserved cult following. They’ve also been wise enough not to try and dilute its effectiveness with sequels (yes, we are mildly concerned about “Anchorman 2”).


3. “Fido”

You know you’ve got a solid yukfest on your hands when Billy Connolly is playing a child’s pet zombie. In a version of the 1950s where zombies happened, but are able to be controlled with special collars from the Zomcon company and used as household servants, nice fenced-off suburban communities thrive in a surreal way – that is, until Fido’s collar malfunctions and a fresh outbreak takes hold of the town of Willard. Exaggerated suburban satire and ridiculously inappropriate hijinks ensue.


4. “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil”

This Sundance hit is an ingenious turn-around of the whole ‘creepy yokels in the woods’ genre, making the standard group of attractive young roadtrippers into the paranoid bad guys, always assuming the worst of well-meaning country boys Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine). A series of escalating accidents surrounding the campers’ attempts to “rescue” their friend Allison (Katrina Bowden) result in increasingly gruesome deaths that serve to really freak out our hillbilly heroes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFFh25DmPNU

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Bourne

Bourne to Run

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Bourne Movies

Catch The Bourne Ultimatum this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

You know his name, as the Super Bowl teaser for the upcoming summer blockbuster Jason Bourne reminded us. In this era of franchise films, that seems to be more than enough to get another entry in the now 15-year-old series greenlit. And gosh darn it if we aren’t into it. Before you catch The Bourne Ultimatum on IFC, here are some surprising facts about the Bourne movies that you may not know. And unlike Jason Bourne, try not to forget them.


10. Matt Damon was a long shot to play Jason Bourne.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Coming off of Good Will Hunting and The Legend of Bagger Vance, early ’00s Matt Damon didn’t exactly scream “ripped killing machine.” In fact, Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe and even Sylvester Stallone were all offered the part before it fell into the hands of the Boston boy made good. It was his enthusiasm for director Doug Liman’s more frenetic vision that ultimately helped land him the part.


9. Love interest Marie was almost played by Sarah Polley.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon wasn’t the only casting surprise. Franka Potente, of Run Lola Run fame, wasn’t the filmmaker’s first choice for the role or Marie in The Bourne Identity. In fact, Liman wanted his Go star Sarah Polley for the part, but she turned it down in favor of making indie movies back in Canada. A quick rewrite changed the character from American Marie Purcell to European Marie Helena Kreutz, and the rest is movie history.


8. Director Doug Liman was obsessed with the Bourne books.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Liman had long been a fan of the Bourne book series. When Warner Bros.’ rights to the books lapsed in the late ’90s, Liman flew himself to author Robert Ludlum’s Montana home, mere days after earning his pilot’s license. The author was so impressed with his passion for the material, he sold the rights on the spot.


7. Liman’s father actually worked for the NSA.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Part of Liman’s fasciation with the Bourne series was that his own father played the same spy craft games portrayed in the books while working for the NSA. In fact, many of the Treadstone details were taken from his father’s own exploits, and Chris Cooper’s character, Alex Conklin, was based on Oliver Stone, whom Arthur Liman famously cross examined as chief counsel of the Iran-Contra hearings.


6. Tony Gilroy threw the novel’s story out while writing The Bourne Identity.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Despite being based on a hit book, screenwriter Tony Gilroy, coming off of The Devil’s Advocate, had no idea how to adapt it into a movie. He said the book was more concerned with people “running to airports” than character, and would need a complete rewrite. Director Doug Liman agreed, and Gilroy claims to have condensed the original novel into the first five minutes. Getting that out of the way, he then wrote his own story, based on a man who wakes up one day not remembering anything but how to kill.


5. Damon walked like a boxer to get into character.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Damon had never played a character like Bourne before, and was searching for a way to capture his physicality. Doug Liman told him to walk like a boxer to give Jason Bourne an edge. Damon took that to heart, training for six months in boxing, marital arts and firearms.


4. Damon broke an actor’s nose.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon’s training for the films is legendary, but mistakes still happen. While filming a scene for The Bourne Ultimatum, Damon hit actor Tim Griffin so hard, he shattered his nose. Apparently, the space the scene was filmed in was smaller than originally intended, throwing Damon off just enough to exert a real beat down.


3. James Bond visited The Bourne Legacy set.

Eon Productions

Eon Productions

Actor Daniel Craig stopped by the set of The Bourne Legacy to visit his wife, actress Rachel Weisz, who was starring in the movie. While having James Bond on a Bourne set must have been exciting, The Bourne Legacy was the only Bourne movie to not actually feature Jason Bourne, meaning our bets on who would kick whose ass would have to wait for another day.


2. The Bourne Identity was nearly a bomb (in the box office sense).

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

As reshoots began to pile up, and an all-out war between the studio and director Doug Liman spilled into the press, expectations were that The Bourne Identity was going to flop. Matt Damon told GQ that, “the word on Bourne was that it was supposed to be a turkey…It’s very rare that a movie comes out a year late, has four rounds of reshoots, and it’s good.”


1. Matt Damon wasn’t the first actor to play Bourne.

Warner Brothers Television

Warner Brothers Television

Aired on ABC in 1988, the TV movie adaptation of The Bourne Identity, while not exactly critically acclaimed, was a more faithful version of Ludlum’s book. Richard Chamberlain, of The Thorn Birds fame, played a much less ass-kicking spy, while “Charlie’s Angel” Jaclyn Smith played love interest Marie. If you like your Bourne movies heavy with poorly lit ’80s melodrama, this might just be the adaptation for you. Otherwise, you should catch The Bourne Ultimatum when it airs this month on IFC.

10 comedians in dramatic roles

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There’s a general opinion floating around out there that comedy is harder to tackle than drama, and it’s easy to give credence to that notion. Just think about it in everyday life – is it easier to make a group of people genuinely laugh than it is to just throw a self-righteous hissy fit that draws everybody’s attention to your duh-ramaaaaa? All you have to do is raise your voice and talk over people for the latter, but being truly witty is much harder to master. Timing, sensibility, word choice, delivery – it’s all a bag of tricks that it sometimes feels like magic. Thus, it stands to reason that if you’re talented enough to be funny on screen, you can find a way to pull off serious roles as well. Here’s a list of ten comedians who have proved their chops in notable dramatic roles.



1. Mo’Nique in “Precious”

It’s hard not to start with the recent and darkly powerful dramatic turn from Mo’Nique that one her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was famous for stand-up, sitcom work and hosting “Showtime at the Apollo,” but there was no humor in her performance as the broken, nasty, paranoid Mary Lee Johnston, the abusive mother of the title character. The soul-crushing darkness of her sickness made us squirm in our seats, and she deserved every accolade she got for that performance.



2. Jim Carrey in “The Truman Show”

Carrey was one of those guys whose comedy characters from “In Living Color” and movies like “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” were such crazily exaggerated caricatures that you couldn’t imagine him keeping the famous “rubber face” in place long enough to legitimately emote. But he proved the adage that it’s easier to get wild and crazy people to tone it down than it is to get more reserved folks to let it all hang out – although that’s not to say his performance as Truman Burbank, a man unknowingly raised on a reality television show who comes to realize his entire life has been a sham, was easy. See also: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” because you should.



3. Bill Murray in “The Razor’s Edge”

Comic actors do find it important to prove before long that they do have dramatic chops, and that’s one thing Bill Murray has proven over and over. However, it started with this 1984 adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s novel about “one man’s search for himself.” While this film didn’t really find an appreciative audience, it marked a turning point in Murray’s career – and a final dramatic scene that weirdly echoes his famous “It just doesn’t matter” speech in “Meatballs.” Plus, this is the movie he got to make in exchange for starring in “Ghostbusters,” so without this, we wouldn’t have that.



4. Patton Oswalt in “Big Fan”

Oswalt actually got some Oscar buzz for his supporting turn in the Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody film “Young Adult,” but his performance as the obsessive New York Giants fan who gets assaulted by his favorite player and has to suppress his own dignity for the sake of the team was a real testament to his talent. He transferred his real life dork passion into on-screen sports passion, showing just how similar devoted nerds in both arenas really are – complete with the single-mindedness and social ineptitude.



5. Mike Myers in “54”

Another comedian known for over-the-top characters like Austin Powers or… *shudder*… The Love Guru, Myers turned his talent for impersonation towards drama as well when playing Steve Rubell of the legendary Studio 54. The lead story in the mixed bag of a film is a love triangle between Ryan Phillippe, Salma Hayek and Breckin Meyer, but it was Myers proving he doesn’t have to be a silly gag machine which got the only positive attention when it was released, although a director’s cut of the film has gotten a much more favorable response – enough that it might qualify as a cult following.

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10 lessons learned from “Boogie Nights”

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“Boogie Nights,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s devastating look at the porn industry at the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s, has earned an enduring place in the zeitgeist. Also, I just like using the word “zeitgeist.” The story of dim-witted Eddie Adams’ transformation into porn legend Dirk Diggler, thanks to the mightiness of his immense wiener (I also enjoy using the word “wiener”) fulfills his dreams of becoming a star, but like any story of success in the bright lights of California, the crash and burn is never that far off. Anderson’s film is funny in spots, twisted in others, and when it veers into the truly dark, those are the scenes that really stick with you. Well, those, and Heather Graham on roller skates casually flinging her clothes off. It’s certainly a cautionary tale as much as it is a retrospective drama, so here are ten lessons to be learned from “Boogie Nights.”


1. Porn stars tend to come from bad parents

Chris Rock once said a father’s job is to keep his son off the pipe and his daughter off the pole. In this case, Eddie’s mother is so verbally abusive and alcoholically crazy that she drives her son to make a living off of his pipe/pole. The stories of those in the sex industry with histories of virulent, unconscionable mistreatment from their parents are omnipresent, although a goodly number of them claim to simply be exhibitionists. The odds are good, however, that if this is your child’s chosen field – however noble a cause it might be to provide vicarious release to the anonymous lonely folk of the world – you may have messed up somewhere along the line.


2. Porn stars also tend to make bad parents

It seems that Amber Waves was born a few decades too early. In the early 1980s, being a porn star with a history of drug abuse and trouble with the law meant that you would be denied custody of and probably even visitation rights to your child, forcing you to cobble together what family you could amongst the people drifting in the same morass of emotional wreckage that you are. These days, it would probably land you, your child and your entire extended family a reality show on E! for fourteen seasons.


3. Do not repeatedly cheat on your significant other in public

Marital fidelity is a tricky thing to navigate in the porn industry, naturally, but it’s perhaps not a good idea to treat your partner’s concerns like this, as if they’re nothing more than the inconvenient distraction of a noisy yap-dog watching you have sex with other people as a form of public entertainment. Sooner or later, your henpecked Little Bill may deny you the chance to experience the 1980s, or anything else ever again.


4. There has to be a better way to come out than this

It’s certainly never easy to let other people know that you like them, and it’s much less so when you’re gay and you have no idea if they are. Although Scotty had plenty of filmed evidence to the contrary, he nonetheless bought a car because he thought Dirk would like it, all as an excuse to try to force a kiss onto him. If that’s the way you choose to come out of the closet, it will probably leave you believing that you’re a fucking idiot, too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ydEMHcFGhU


5. Crime doesn’t pay the people it’s supposed to

The allure of the gun-toting, fast-paced world of crime is that it seems like easy money, but you can never underestimate the chaos of gunplay. Buck Swope just went into Dunkin’ Donuts to get his pregnant lady some bearclaws, and thanks to an inconveniently-timed robber and an inconveniently-timed vigilante resulting in an all-too-convenient bloodbath, the only person that crime wound up paying was Buck, who happened to need some stereo equipment store capital.

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