CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
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Columbia Pictures Gives Us GOOSEBUMPS!

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 15, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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Columbia Pictures and Neal Moritz, the producer of Cruel Intentions (1999) and I am Legend (2007), have secured the rights with Scholastic Media’s Deborah Forte to make the R.L. Stine penned Goosebumps franchise into a theatrical feature. It’s like Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone targeted to kids. Executive Producer Andrea Giannetti (Vantage Point, 2008) will oversee the production. The release date is set at 2010.

The popular Goosebumps book series, much of it written and sold throughout the 1990s, holds second place as the most financially successful in the young adults demographic. It was published in over 32 languages and has sold more than 300 million copies worldwide. It was beaten by another youth-oriented serial written by some Brit named J.K. Rowling who specialized in wizards or something (supposedly 5 out of 8 blockbuster films were also adapted).

goosebumps2My reservations on an adapted Goosebumps movie is that it will be based on a Horrorland revision (unread by me) that includes many characters from previous plots. Between evil ventriloquist dummies, a preordained picture-taking camera, possessed Halloween masks, plant zombies, mutating green blood, and a summer camp that enslaves children to wash down a blob with teeth; I hope the filmmakers don’t bloat the film with too many creatures.

Why the invested interest? As a kid, I had difficulty being engaged by less than compelling material outside of Beverley Cleary’s Ramona serial. Unless the characters were personable and a real sense of doom was preordained, my mind drifted to more haunted thoughts of my imagining that proved more enticing. At the age of 7, I was introduced to the Goosebumps series, the closest in horror literature I could obtain at the time, by an antique dealer who I never saw again. As an early reader, I am in debt to R.L. Stine. Throughout grades four and seven, I read front to back over seventy Goosebumps novels. My father used to bribe me with a new Goosebumps book ($5.50 each) every week I completed all of my homework.

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A Retrospect on Robert Altman

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 14, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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On November 2006, the world of cinema lost a giant. Director Robert Altman (1925 – 2006) was a maverick in Hollywood, a daring artist whose films captured the messiness and wonderment of human nature. Like John Sayles, a hero to independent film, Altman’s portrayals of community were personable, vast, and generous. Altman could juggle multiple story lines populated with dozens of characters and still make each one distinct and memorable.

Altman was popular in the 1970s, churning out great movies like M*A*S*H* (1970 – Altman hated the toothless TV show), McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), Nashville (1975) and Three Women (1977). After the success of Jaws (1975) and Star Wars (1977), the powers in Hollywood deemed that audiences — desire for worldly-conscious character studies had staled after being dazzled by pyrotechnical melodramas. Respectively, those blockbusters were just as compelling in their function in terms of character development than what we mostly get today. Suddenly studio heads wanted to make The Most Profitable Blockbuster™ instead of The Great American Movie. The revered Golden Age of Cinema came to a close. Enter the 1980s, the “Greed Is Good” decade, and Altman the Artist became an outcast in an industry that once embraced him for nearly a decade. Altman described his situation as being a shoemaker in a company that wanted him to make gloves.

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Movie Review:
STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE (2008)

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

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How We Look At It

The price of freedom is tarnishing the moral upstanding of the United States of America. The Bush Administration may not have advertised that so broadly, but that’s what they were selling. Its president outright denied it: “We don’t torture.” They did and the American people bought it unaware what was happening behind the heavy curtain hiding the actions of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Had the American soldiers confined by their government to torture the prisoners for tainted information not taken a few hundred snapshots, we never would have known what was really going on. When the pictures were released around the world, America had to choke it down. Perhaps the photos were a blessing in disguise, everyone must become humbled before evil atrocities in their name.

Standard Operating Procedure follows the best examples of documented journalism from last year from Charles Ferguson’s No End In Sight to Tony Kaye’s Lake of Fire. The film has also won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Detective-Director Errol Morris (Gates of Heaven, 1978 and Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leutcher Jr., 1999) examines the shocking exposé of the Abu Ghraib torture-photography scandal with a dogged determination to simply analyze and discover the limited truth of the photos themselves. It also works as an apology from Morris, an American citizen. By taking the photographs, former MP Ken Davis figures that (the soldiers) weren’t trying to hide anything.” G.I. Javal Davis reasons that “if you consider yourself dead, you can do all the shit you have to.” Upon the release of the photos to the American public, the government, its military and the people felt worse about this exposure than the actual crimes themselves. The soldiers were to blame while their superiors back home strolled back into the shadows.

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Movie Review:
BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD (2008)

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

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A New Simple Plan

Watching (May You Be In Heaven Half an Hour) Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead again, I was reminded what an inciting filmmaker legend Sidney Lumet is. His directorial resume strikes me with awe: 12 Angry Men (1957), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Network (1976), Q&A (1990). In 2005, the Academy Awards honored Lumet with a Lifetime Achievement Award after being nominated for five awards in the past. Three years later at the age of 83, Lumet just makes another masterpiece as if it were easy.

Now I have to tread carefully here because there are many revelations you should discover for yourselves. The film stars Philip Seymore Hoffman (Happiness, 1998) as Andy, a dominating businessman over Hank, his feckless brother played by Ethan Hawke (Before Sunset, 2004). They both need money desperately. Andy is caught in a vicious grip of drug use to cope with his rocky marriage and the money he is embezzling from his company to feed his habit. Hank, a pretty boy gone to seed, is way behind on alimony payment and is paralyzed by fear that his little girl will despise him as much as his ex. Marisa Tomei (Slums of Beverly Hills, 1998) plays Andy’s wife Gina who displays her body vindictively and suffers from personal demons.

In his office, Andy just about towers over Hank as he proposes a way to get some easy money by robbing a jewelry store, “a mom and pop operation”, one Sunday morning. In one of many chilling moments, Hank is hunch-shouldered and all twitches as he points out, “Andy — that’s mom and dad’s store”. Andy smiles, “it’s perfect.” They know the combinations to the safe. The woman opening the store is practically blind. Get in and out. Their parents are insured. No one gets hurt. It’s perfect!

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Scene To Be Seen: MATINEE (1993)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 06, 2008 • 3 Comments

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Some movies have one great scene lost in a bunch of not so great ones. Then there are some movies where it is a challenge to pick one over the others. Matinee falls in the latter category. It was directed by Joe Dante (Yes! I made three references to Gremlins all in one week!) who specializes in unveiling very dark things under the guise of campy B-movies. This is perhaps the most idealistic autobiography that Dante has ever realized.

Set in Small Town America – 1962, the film affectionately follows Lawrence Woolsey played by the versatile John Goodman as a schlock independent filmmaker who showcases gimmicky monster movies with great bravado. He is a low-rent version of William Castle, the mastermind behind Vincent Price vehicles like House on Haunted Hill (1959) and The Tingler (1959), a movie that shocked theater patrons with electric buzzers in their seats courtesy of Castle.

matineeWoolsey’s next science fiction film MANT!, a loving homage by Dante to Kurt Neumann’s The Fly (1958), uses the Tingler Effect and other tricks to offer his audience a unique experience. Releasing an exploitation film about atomic radiation mutations when Americans feared the dropping of the bomb at the peak of the Cuban Missile Crisis is to Wollsey’s mind (“What better time to release a horror movie!”) Wollsey is not a cynical man; he genuinely loves making movies and entertaining people, within the confines of his capacity as a showman (the term ‘hack’ should be reserved for Michael Bay).

The Trailer for “MANT!”

Profiled like Alfred Hitchcock, the cigar-chomping Woolsey presents his preview for his cheerful creature feature titled Mant with the same dry humor and zest that The Master of Suspense did with his trailers. The way Woolsey presents the magazines that prove his cheap horror film is based on scientific fact is priceless. Watching this scene, compared to the bottom-line advertising tactics of films over the past few decades, one realizes filmmakers like Woolsey, whose gusto approach to making movies fun, are a dying breed. The only recent example I can think of is Rodriguez and Tarantino’s Grindhouse (2007). Dante never condescends but celebrates Woolsey the same way Tim Burton did for Ed Wood (1994) — Ed D. Wood Jr., director of Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) and Necromania: A Tale of Weird Love (1971), was recognized as the “worst filmmaker of all time!”, which does deserve some reverence.

“You see, people come into your cave with a two hundred year old carpet.”

When I wrote that some films with great scenes are hard to choose from, case in point, here’s another one. Woolsey is accompanied by Gene, a young man not a mile away from myself, and learns some of the showman’s philosophy of movie-making. I still remember by heart the story told by Woolsey about the caveman who paints a Woolly Mammoth on his wall and figures: “Wait a minute! People are coming to see this thing! Let’s make it good!” A prime motive for how going for the jugular is more effective than subtlety (sometimes). The scene continues as Woolsey projects the point of view of any enthusiastic filmgoer’s journey through the matinee lobby and into the movie theater. Sometimes when I open the doors of a movie house with great anticipation I am inclined to call out, “Here I am! What have you got for me!”

For me, Woolsey represents a life path that is in considerable reach: an enthusiastic moviemaker touring far and wide in the pursuit of entertaining people. Another bonus is being accompanied by a sexy dry-wit like the one Woolsey takes along for the ride played by Cathy Moriarty (Raging Bull, the REAL Best Picture Winner of 1980). Other idealistic life paths include being a productive yet reclusive painter living in a New York apartment I could barely afford, or becoming a womanizing journalist who drinks too many highballs. This charming comedy about young love and B-Movies is highly recommended. Though I have been deprived of the experience for now, I believe, like Lawrence of Arabia and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the classic Matinee would benefit viewing on the big screen. Or, at the very least, a deluxe Criterion release.

“Matinee” Trailer