Joe Dante

Dick Miller in THAT GUY DICK MILLER

The movies are filled with familiar faces with seemingly forgettable names. They’ll never see themselves on a marquee or win an Oscar, but people like Bob Gunton, Paul Gleason, and Brion James always make their brief moments onscreen count. Their presence often raises the level of a film, if even for a few minutes, but while most viewers would agree with the sentiment the actors go unsung in the general consciousness. Dick Miller is another one of those guys. He’s been in over 200 films, and while a couple of them saw him in a major or even leading role the vast majority found him simply as the clerk, the man behind the counter, the cop, the [insert generic occupation here] guy. If you’ve seen a Joe Dante movie then you’ve seen Miller in action, and the odds are almost as good if you’ve ever seen a Roger Corman film. Miller is pictured in Webster’s dictionary beside the word “ubiquitous.” That last one’s not actually true, but the guy gets around. That Guy Dick Miller is a new doc that shines a light directly on Miller and his career, and it offers an affectionate and loving look at the man through his own words as well as those of the people who love him. His wife, brothers, and numerous actors and filmmakers share thoughts on what makes him stand apart even in the tiniest of roles.

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the burbs femur

Joe Dante‘s The ‘burbs, which turns 25 tomorrow, was a nice way to end a decade filled with a nostalgia for the simple 1950s idea of suburbia as well as a trend towards uncovering terrible things amidst the modern ideal of perfection of the new suburbia of tract house developments. In the latter camp, there’s Poltergeist and Gremlins, both produced by Steven Spielberg (whose own E.T. nearly fits) with the latter helmed by Dante (who’d go on to make another suburbia tale almost 10 years later with Small Soldiers). The ‘burbs is, more than its ’80s brethren, a satirical leveling of the former camp, particularly the early TV sitcoms re-introduced to a new generation through Nick at Nite and update spin-offs like Still the Beaver/The New Leave It to Beaver. The movie, fittingly, was shot on the same cul-de-sac neighborhood lot at Universal Studios as that Leave It to Beaver sitcom sequel and co-stars Corey Feldman, who’d played the Beaver’s son in the pilot TV movie of Still the Beaver. The ‘burbs also features TV sitcom staple Gale Gordon, a regular fixture in Lucille Ball series including The Lucy Show (there are photos of him and Ball in the movie) and a main cast member on Dennis the Menace as the second Mr. Wilson. That the movie’s plot revolves around Gordon’s character going missing, seemingly murdered by the new neighbors, is a great metaphor for the loss, again, of that era. At the hands of the unknown strangeness of the Klopeks, […]

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Mary Poppins Behind the Scenes

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yelchin

A good horror movie protagonist has to be able to do two things. They have to be likable enough that you actually care about them when they’re put in danger by whatever horrific threat they’re facing down, and they have to project enough vulnerability that you really believe they might not come out of the other end of the story all in one piece. Being a great protagonist in a horror comedy is a little bit more complicated of a job though. Not only do horror comedy heroes have to accomplish both of those tasks, but they also have to be funny, and they have to be able to make the transitions in tone from scary to funny without having the change feel jarring to the audience or without making it feel like these two different aspects of the film are at odds with each other. Horror comedies need a talented actor. A talented actor like, say, an Anton Yelchin. Yelchin proved that he was likable in his first big break starring role, Charlie Bartlett, he proved that he could project vulnerability in his attempt at a romantic drama, Like Crazy, and he even showed that he could mix everything together and be a relatable anchor for a horror comedy in the Fright Night remake he starred in for Craig Gillespie. If there’s one thing that remake did well (and there was), it was casting Yelchin as its protagonist. When you break down the film as a whole though, the […]

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Tarantino

Though rumors had been running for awhile now that Colin Firth would be stepping into the role of Roger Corman for Joe Dante‘s biopic The Man With the Kaleidoscope Eyes, Corman decided to casually mention in a profile with the Telegraph that Quentin Tarantino would be portraying him instead. Like that’s not news that would rock our worlds or anything. The mention of Tarantino is just a blip in the interview that also reveals that Corman will have a cameo in the film that chronicles the making of The Trip, his 1960’s film starring Jack Nicholson about LSD. Corman’s cameo, hilariously, will be the studio executive who didn’t want him to make the film. As “The King of the Bs,” Corman has had insurmountable influence on countless filmmakers and actors who worshiped his lo-fi masterpieces like The Little Shop of Horrors, Swamp Women, and  Attack of the Crab Monsters.

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blu howling

1981 was the greatest year ever for fans of werewolf cinema. Bold statement? Possibly. Plain silly in light of Sybil Danning’s 1985 entry into the genre? Most assuredly. But if you were to make a list of the top five werewolf movies of all time it’s a near certainty that two of them were released in 1981. Late summer ’81 saw the August release of John Landis’ classic horror/comedy An American Werewolf in London, and just four months earlier Joe Dante‘s The Howling tore its way onto screens across America. While the two films are often spoken of in the same breath thanks to their chronological proximity and successful mix of laughs and terror, they’re also bonded through their unique but equally mesmerizing werewolf transformation scenes. A very young Rob Bottin handled the effects for Dante’s film, and they’ve never looked better than they do on Scream Factory‘s brand new Blu-ray of the film.

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1968HowardJohnson2001-20

No, those kids aren’t watching Star Trek Into Darkness or Oblivion. It’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was being marketed to children by Howard Johnson’s! Welcome back to another Reject Recap, where I highlight the best movie news and feature stories of the past week as posted on FSR (and sometimes other sites). Think of it more as a curation with which to review recent film history as opposed to a set of reruns (we have enough of those starting around this time — on the big screen as well as on TV). It’s not just about catching up with what you missed but also catching on to where we are in movie culture. Also in television culture, as you’ll see in the bonus 11th slot below (spoiler: Landon likens The Office to a Michael Haneke film!). Also, I’ve included the full trailer for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end. Enjoy. This week’s theme, if there should be one, seems to be a mix of agelessness and timelessness. Words that may pertain to debates on remakes, reboots and reworking old cult classics so they’re more kid-friendly. Also to what Baz Luhrman does with retro-placement of modern music. Doesn’t it all make you want to get inside a human time capsule in the form of deep sleep stasis and wake up in a century to see what’s lasted, what’s been redone and what history and culture has been retroactively rewritten? Something to think about. Start your weekend right after the jump.

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Gremlins Gizmo

Vulture has a super vague rumor that Warners is attempting to coax Steven Spielberg into giving his blessing for a remake of Gremlins. It’s not the first time, it probably won’t be the last, and so far there’s no reason to believe that this trial balloon will soar where others have failed before it. But if the studio really wants to recapture a bit of Amblin magic, they’re going to need drop the eternal sticking point that kept Joe Dante from making Gremlins 3: the insistence of switching to CGI (a point succinctly argued by Quint in his open letter to Spielberg). Quints main parallel is perfect — how would audiences react if the new Muppets movie was going to feature a CGI Kermit? Regardless of whether technology has made fantastical leaps and bounds, Gizmo and the gang are rooted in that practical puppet look. On the fan side, making them CGI will be heresy. From a business standpoint, if you’re going to trade off the name-recognition of the characters, you have to respect the iconography, or you’re ultimately just launching a new unknown anyway.

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Over Under - Large

Sometime around fifteen years ago, A Christmas Story was something of a modern cult classic. It was kind of amusing and kind of off-beat, and you could make a connection with someone if you mentioned it and it turned out you both liked it. Or, at least, that’s how it was where I grew up, which was the area of Northwest Indiana where the story was set. A funny thing happened in the late ’90s, though. TNT started playing the movie on cable for 24 hours straight during Christmas, the concept caught on, and now, thirteen years later, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know about Ralphie, his Red Rider BB gun, and Scut Farkus. But another funny thing happened, too. After so many years of repetition, the movie has started to feel a whole lot less quirky and fun. At this point, it’s probably the most overrated holiday movie ever, and all it takes is one person dropping quotes from it at a Christmas party to get me to make internal noises of frustration. Joe Dante’s Gremlins has had almost the exact opposite lifespan. It came out a year after A Christmas Story, was a pretty gigantic hit right away, and established itself as one of the iconic ’80s blockbusters quite quickly. But, over the course of the last couple decades, its influence has faded a bit. Despite the fact that the movie is set during Christmas, and is about the perfect Christmas present just as […]

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Joe Dante

It should be a cause for celebration any time horror legend Joe Dante gets a chance to bring his unique blend of chills and chuckles to a new project. Over the course of his lengthy and awesome career this guy has brought us gems like The Howling, Gremlins, The ‘burbs, and Eerie, Indiana, and though he still stays busy keeping the horror love alive over at Trailers From Hell, it’s a shame that we haven’t been able to see more feature work from him over the last decade or so. Heck, his latest film, The Hole, sat on the shelf for three years before most of us even got the chance to watch it. That’s just not enough Joe Dante. The world cries out for more. Good news! Ask and you shall receive. New Films Cinema has announced [via ComingSoon] that filming is scheduled to start soon on a new project they’ve put together for Dante called Air Disturbance. Taking place on a transcontinental flight between Los Angeles and Toronto, Air Disturbance tells the tale of a recently widowed man who must protect his children and the other passengers on a plane once the aircraft starts becoming affected by strange atmospheric phenomena.

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31 Days of Horror - October 2011

They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge, so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy! Synopsis: Two American friends backpacking through the UK are attacked on the moors by a werewolf. Jack (Griffin Dunne) is mauled to death, but David (David Naughton)survives the attack with bite and claw wounds. Dreams where he runs naked through the woods tearing into animals with his teeth hint that something is wrong, and visits from a decomposing Jack seem to confirm it. Something is very wrong indeed. Thankfully, it’s also very very funny.

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All throughout October, we’ll be hearing from horror filmmakers about their favorite scary movies. First up is the legendary Joe Dante, whose new movie The Hole is available on DVD/Blu-ray and VOD. He’ll spread a little love to Val Lewton, talk about a movie with a very specific meaning to Catholics and explain how he makes horror work for ages 6 through 96. Download Episode #151

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The Hole Movie

With a family-friendly return to the kind of filmmaking Amblin did best in the 80s, Joe Dante‘s The Hole earns a strange honor as a horror film. It’s pleasant. A pleasant, scary movie. It builds from a standard coming-of-age tale: the single mom (Teri Polo), teenage son Dane (Chris Massoglia) and younger brother Lucas (Nathan Gamble) move from the big city to the small town complete with the tough transition. That change of pace (at least for Dane) is softened by the cute next-door neighbor Julie (Haley Bennett), but it’s made a bit more difficult by the bottomless hole in their basement that brings their personal fears to life. Apparently that wasn’t in the real estate listing.

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The Hole Movie

A family moves from the big city to a smaller town, and the children aren’t happy about it. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The opening idea of Joe Dante‘s The Hole definitely isn’t an original one, but usually the kids meet pretty girls or teach the community how to dance or something. In Dante’s movie, they find a bottomless pit in their basement that brings their fears to life. It’s true that the Gremlins director’s film has been without a distributor for a long time even though it received healthy praise when hitting festivals in 2009, but all of that is behind it now that it’s getting a limited release on September 28th. The trailer (which has been around a while as well) boasts a YA adventure with hopefully some trademark Dante bits. Plus, Bruce Dern plays a character named Creepy Carl who looks like Doc Brown’s somehow more hyperactive cousin. Can’t go wrong there. Check it out for yourself:

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31 Days of Horror - October 2011

We continue our journey through a month of frightening, bloody and violent films. For more, check out our 31 Days of Horror homepage. Synopsis: People probably know Joe Dante best as being the guy who directed Gremlins, that movie about goofy little green monsters that still managed to be pretty creepy. But a couple of years before Gremlins got big he made a full-on creepy werewolf movie called The Howling. The main character is a news reporter named Karen (Dee Wallace). When we first meet her she’s trying to help the police in a sting operation meant to catch a serial killer. The cops plan to use Karen as bait in order to flush the killer out, but things don’t quite go according to plan and she ends up seeing something that leaves her traumatized and experiencing a slight dusting of amnesia (hint: the serial killer is a werewolf). In order to get over the traumatic experience, her psychiatrist advises that she and her husband spend some time recuperating out at this hippy commune in the woods named The Colony. That doesn’t quite go as planned either though, as the members of The Colony all have their fair share of dangerous secrets (hint: they’re all werewolves). Once things really start going south, Karen finds herself faced with the daunting task of hacking, slashing, silver-bulleting, and burning her way out of there; making her probably the most put-upon news reporter since Lois Lane or April O’Neil.

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For those of you new to the column, I am revisiting formative events in my life that have made me what I am today: A Special Effects Make Up Artist searching for relevance in the 21st Century. I left my home in a suburb of Gretna, Louisiana, traveled to Valencia, California where I attended the California Institute of the Arts. I am nineteen… Being in college, in California, in 1981, was like being in the front seat of an incredible roller coaster. Unlike how it was in New Orleans, where I would be lucky if I was able to get a hold of a genre magazine like Cinefantastique because it was not consistently available in news stands, now I felt like I was closer to “the hub” than ever. Magazines, trade papers, Hollywood poster stores, all were up to date with what was happening in motion pictures. There was also the benefit of being in one of the two (or three) “preview” cities for new films. Altered States, for instance, had opened in late November rather than at Christmas time when it opened wide, nationally. This, for a fan and initiate to Make Up Effects, was like being at ground zero.

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Movies We Love

“Ricky Butler says they’re nocturnal feeders.” Tom Hanks became pretty much the biggest actor in the world once he turned to dramatic roles, but I’ve always preferred him back when he was goofy. The ‘burbs represents the pinnacle of his goofy period for me, as collaborating with a great filmmaker in Joe Dante allowed him to craft a unique, outstanding performance that anchored a unique, outstanding horror comedy. In this movie he drinks a glass of orange juice better than anyone has ever drank a glass of orange juice on film. He traverses a set of stairs after being blown up more artistically than even Wile E. Coyote in his prime. He owns his character and the screen. The ‘burbs tells the story of a sleepy, suburban cul-de-sac that gets disturbed when a new family moves in. You see; they’re a creepy group of three men. They never come out of their house. There are weird lights and smells coming out of their basement. Their name is Klopek. What is that, Slovek? Sure, we don’t know exactly what they’re doing down there, but it isn’t normal. At least when the Knapps lived there they mowed their lawn. So, all things considered, it’s up to Ray Peterson (Hanks) and his cadre of suburban sleuths to find out what’s going on, and what they’re keeping down in that cellar.

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Another one of those teen monsters in a doomed relationship movies is in the works and has found a director. This one has the very utilitarian title Monster Love. It is written by comic book writer Greg Pak (of “World War Hulk” fame), and is the story of a young werewolf boy and a young vampire girl who fall into a doomed romance. Or as a hilariously on the nose press release puts it, “It’s Romeo and Juliet with fangs.” Well, I guess that makes sense. You can’t really describe it as being “Twilight with fangs” or even “Buffy and Angel with fangs”. But this one looks to have more to offer than just forbidden love. It seems like it will have a bit more action than the other monster melodramas. The same release goes on to say, “ … when some mangled bodies are discovered in the woods, Pete and Maggie must fight for their lives while grappling with the awful consequences of loving a monster.” Mysterious murders, fighting for your life, script written by a comic book guy; this might not be as bad as it sounds at first. Especially when you factor in that the director they got to put it together is living legend Joe Dante. Yes, that Joe Dante. The guy who did Piranha and The Howling. The genius behind Gremlins and The ‘burbs. Heck, he even did a few episodes of Eerie, Indiana. I would go as far as to call him the undisputed […]

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Horror anthology films used to be a common sight in US theaters with films like Creepshow, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Cat’s Eye, and others scaring and entertaining audiences with short tales of terror, but somewhere along the line they disappeared. Asian filmmakers still crank them out (ex. Phobia, Three Extremes), but US audiences have been unable to catch one in theaters for many years now. Trick ‘r’ Treat came close… but we all know how that turned out. Well things may be about to change for the better… Paris, I Kill You is scheduled for production next year, and the film will consist of ten story segments exploring the horrific underbelly of the city of love. Several directors have already signed on including Joe Dante (Gremlins), Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury (Inside), Xavier Gens (Frontiers), Joern Heitmann (Rammstein), Ryuhei Kitamura (Midnight Meat Train), Vincenzo Natali (Splice), Paco Plaza (REC), and Christopher Smith (Severance).

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema: if you’re calling to complain about the noise, it’s just our hearts exploding. If this internet movie column were any healthier, you’d need a chainsaw and a daytime talkshow host to get it out of its house. Each week I throw refined tastes to the wind and rip the world wide web a new schlock hole. I will dissect one terrible movie every Friday to prove scientifically that it is in fact a terrible movie. But since science is mostly boo-hockey, I also spend more time than allowed by law singing the film’s dubious praises and pinpointing exactly why it holds a special place in my almost completely clogged heart. Speaking of clogged hearts, I will also pair each film with a disgustingly delicious snack food item in the hopes that your bodies may suffer as much as your brains; both from watching the film and being forced to read my writing. In honor of the remake being released today, that I totally did not see at midnight even though I totally did, I thought it pertinent to dive into one of my favoritest bad films of all time: Piranha. The plot? Genetically altered piranha eat people…screaming…credits.

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