CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
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Obituary: Stan Winston (1946-2008)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • June 17, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


Stan Winston, a giant in old school special effects, has passed away. He is survived by Karen, his wife of 37 years, and his two children. Without his perseverance, imagination and the comradeship he had with those at Stan Winston Studios we wouldn’t have our Terminators, our “Stay Away From Her, You Bitch” Aliens, our Pumpkinheads, our Scissorhands, our Small Soldiers, and our Jurassic Park dinosaurs as we see them today. He won four well-deserved Academy Awards.

Winston on THE TERMINATOR (1984)

Winston on ALIENS (1986)

Winston on TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991)

At a time when practically all visual wizardry can be accomplished with a computer, Winston’s work makes a compelling argument for the you-see-what-you-see handcrafted effects that are taken for granted. For granted because those seemingly breathing creatures on the screen made us focus on the real gem: the story.

German filmmaker Werner Herzog actually hauled a 360-ton boat up a muddy 40-degree slope in the Amazon jungle when filming Fitzcarraldo (1982) because visual effects wouldn’t be able to express such a feat as completely. I think Stan Winston would’ve appreciated that.

Before his death he supervising the special effects for Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins to be released next year. The last completed film Winston conjured with his magic touch was the brilliant Iron Man (2008). With his passing, the world just got less awesome.

Movie Review: THE HAPPENING (2008)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • June 13, 2008 • 1 Comment


It ain’t happening.

How god-awful does M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller The Happening get? Marky Mark Walhberg actually talks to a house plant. I wish I was making this up. Now I realize Shyamalan’s intention for the scene and the film in whole — mankind has pushed Mother Nature too far and the planet uses mind manipulation to destroy its human inhabitants. A near-glib premise that holds enough weight to make a decent Twilight Zone episode circa 1950s, maybe even a successful M. Night Shyamalan feature. It could have worked had Shyamalan made wiser choices that don’t fall with a clunk like the one where Walhberg talks to a house plant.

The greatest failure on Shyamalan’s part is that he has stopped respecting the audience’s intelligence. Everything is spelled out in such agonizing exposition. Even the character’s motives are clumsily explained: “I don’t like to show my feelings too!” The talking points by key characters and news anchors going on about the environment’s biting cause have the subtlety of a running drill against the skull. It is very aggravating to watch a movie that has exchanged much needed ambiguity, menace, atmosphere and compelling characterizations for said exposition — even more so from a filmmaker who has proved himself a smart and skillful one more than once.

The premise is a compelling one: people, for some airy reason, are subject to possession and committing suicide. Scenes of the mass population being driven to inventivelykill themselves are disturbing for the tact strategy that goes into their execution. The blood letting is sparing, and kept to a minimum to maintain its effectiveness without going into overkill. Construction workers fall from a high rise with balletic grace before making sickening thuds. Much ado has been made about this being Shyamalan’s first R-rated feature, though anyone expecting to witness a holocaust will be attending a small-scale spectacle of human annihilation.


BAGHEAD is coming for you…

Written by Christopher Beaubien • June 09, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

BAGHEAD (2008) Trailer

This is a movie that excites me – it could be very good or very bad – there’s no middle ground here. Even the poster is arresting for its mundanity, repulsion, eeriness and quirkiness. I’ve always found paperbags to be rather ominous.

bagheadWhat gives me hope is that the premise of a half-naked man with a eye-holed paperbag over his head will not be delivered as a straight-up horror film. No, the Duplass Brothers are too smart for that. Baghead is described by the filmmakers as being “funny, truthful, (and) endearing”, which makes it much scarier. Usually the combination of comedy and horror looks good on paper but is a trial to execute successfully as a film. It requires a deft touch like a Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, 1999) or a Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, 2001).

Here’s the skinny: A bunch of would-be actors retreat to a cabin in the Necronomicon-filled woods to write an indie film over the weekend. The film has a light-touch when focused on the comradery and the wavering prospect of romance between friends. The proverbial bag-headed boogeyman that is penned by our heroes in their script materializes as a very human and intimate threat. This reminds me of the urban legend turned real in the underrated Bernard Rose (Paperhouse, 1988) film Candyman (1992).

From Mark and Larry Duplass, Baghead comes right after their whimsical The Puffy Chair (2005), which is on my To-See List after Jane Champion’s An Angel At My Table (1990).

Baghead will be shown in Austin, Texas June 13th. A limited release is still pending.

The Term “Nuke The Fridge” Is A Dud!

Written by Christopher Beaubien • June 06, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


There has been a very vocal outcry against an action set piece early in the film. I thought it was one of the film’s most inspired scenes. Indiana Jones has been deserted inside a small American town populated by eerie wide-eyed dummies made up as All-American suburbanites. The houses are outfitted with furnishings and plastic goods. The purpose of this crafted life-size Pleasantville is to test an enormous atom bomb that will detonate within a minute. Indy, taking a cue from the caped crusader from the episode Riddler’s Reform uses a housed refrigerator as a safe to protect himself from the blast.

Tension rises as he rips the metallic grills out of the icebox so he can fit inside. He shuts himself inside just as the manmade inferno blows everything to kingdom come. The refrigerator blasts off into the sky and lands ferociously to the ground miles away from the blast. Indiana Jones, never cooler, escapes his mini fall-out shelter with a few bruises. He is indestructible. The camera rises up to reveal a mushroom cloud swallowing the faraway landscape. Indiana Jones, silhouetted by the explosion, has entered the cold war. It is an awesome moment that unfortunately overshadows the rest of the film. I wouldn’t do without it.

Many people didn’t voice this favourable view, whereas a collective of disheartened curmudgeons found the magnificently preposterous sequence just preposterous. Back in Raiders, Indy’s body was dragged across a rocky terrain by the back of a Nazi jeep. He climbed up the car and fought the villains like he was in rare form. Now Indy’s fans are calling out the impossibility of Indiana’s Fridge stunt.

They wanted blood for this, even going so far as to burn an imprint of the scene as the movie equivalent to the television term “Jump the Shark”, which refers to a joyfully ludicrous stunt by the Fonz in Happy Days. The phrase had entered the lexicon, otherwise known as the Urban Dictionary, as “Nuke the Fridge”. For example, “Killing off all the surviving characters from Aliens (1985) sans Ripley at the beginning of Alien3 (1992) really nuked the fridge”. Nuked the Fridge. I just want to rake my tongue with a fork every time I say that. It is a clumsy catchphrase that ridicules a film sequence that doesn’t qualify for this degree of prejudice venom.

How about this instead: “Souring the romance between Peter Parker and Mary Jane in Spiderman 3 just killed off Newt”.

“Killed off Newt” — sharp and to the point!

Besides, “Jump the Shark” has always worked as classics often do.

New Poster for Oliver Stone’s “W” (DUB-YA)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • June 05, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


The typographer in me is doing jumping-jacks over this Bell-font teaser poster for Oliver Stone’s W. I hope to see them lined up across the marquee walls soon. The Bushisms are also a great send up of the commander in thief.

Do you think this type of all-type movie advertisement sheet could set a trend for future movie posters? No pictures, but with more font-laced words dedicated to more than just the film’s title and a tag line.


You can download the font regularly used for movie poster credits here.

w_1Distributed by QED International and Lionsgate Films, Oliver Stone’s W. is starring Josh Brolin – George W. Bush (In the Valley of Elah, 2007), Elizabeth Banks – Laura Bush (Catch Me If You Can, 2002), James Cromwell – George H.W. Bush (The General’s Daughter, 1999), Ellen Burstyn – Barbara Bush (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, 1974), Thandie Newton – Condoleezza Rice (Flirting, 1991), Jeffrey Wright – Colin Powell (Syriana, 2005), Scott Glenn – Donald Rumsfeld (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991), Toby Jones – Karl Rove (Nightwatching, 2007) Ioan Gruffud – Tony Blair (Black Hawk Down, 2001), and Richard Dreyfuss – Dick Cheney (Jaws, 1975) will be released this October.