John Landis

Spider-Man with Green Goblin

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coming to america club

Despite its arrival two years after the surprise success of ‘Crocodile’ Dundee, the similarly premised Coming to America hardly seemed like a knockoff. Sure it is also about a strange foreigner who visits New York City and experiences a comical culture clash, but the 1980s were actually so full of movies of this nature (see also Moscow on the Hudson, Splash, Brother From Another Planet, Big Business, both The Muppets and Jason Take Manhattan and maybe even Big, which along with ‘Crocodile’ Dundee II had just recently come out ahead of this), so it wasn’t a big deal. Besides, with Eddie Murphy at the peak of his career at the time there was no way this thing could fail. This weekend is the 25th anniversary of the release of Coming to America (specifically yesterday), and although a lot of obvious parts are dated (some of which actually make the movie funnier now), it remains a rather timeless metropolitan fairy tale. It’s still one of the top three Murphy comedies (the other two being Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop, of course), features some amazing make-up work by Rick Baker that would be still be worthy of its Oscar nomination if done today, excellent African dance choreography from little known Paula Abdul and in recent years it provided tons more laughs via the meme in which any dialogue spoken by James Earl Jones is dubbed over scenes of Darth Vader. As ripe as the plot would seem for a remake, hopefully it […]

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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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Science fiction has long been considered by some experts to be a lesser genre than traditional dramas and character studies. Because it lends itself so easily to exploitation, science fiction isn’t always given the respect it deserves. Sure, it tends to be a box office winner, as evidenced by the fact that more than half of the all-time domestic grossing films fit easily in that genre (with at least two more – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Shrek 2 – marginally related as genre films). Still, some still consider science fiction something not to be taken seriously. It is for this reason that “legitimate” film directors might shy away from science fiction in lieu of more important or significant projects. However, many directors got their start or their earliest fame from working in science fiction and other allegedly exploitative and pulp genres. This week’s release of Prometheus reminds us that even though Ridley Scott has directed historical epics (Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven), military action films (Black Hawk Down), crime thrillers (American Gangster) and straight dramas (Thelma & Louise), he got his start in science fiction with Alien and Blade Runner. Scott isn’t the only director to begin a successful career in science fiction. Here are seven other directors who started out or received some of their earliest success in this genre.

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Drinking Games

Do you have your taxes done? The clock is ticking away to midnight on April 17th to file. If you don’t, you might end up owing $5,000 to the government, and unlike a certain Chicago orphanage, you can’t rely on “Joliet” Jake Blues and his brother Elwood to raise that money for you. Although released more than 30 years ago, The Blues Brothers still strikes a chord with audiences around the world. Revisit the classic SNL-spawned musical from the days when SNL films were actually good. Kick back and wash down your dry white toast and four fried chickens with blue-collar beer from a honky-tonk bar. Just make sure you fill out those tax forms before you’re done with the game, or you might not remember to mail them.

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If you’re “too old” to skulk around all hunch-backed in your own yard looking for the painted eggs your little cousin hid for you, why are you holding that remote with the Pause Button at the ready? We all love hunting. It’s in our nature. Just like we love discounted Criterion titles, free scotch and foot massages that don’t mean anything sexual. So here are some Movie Easter Eggs to hunt down. Bonus one? They involve movies, so you have a solid excuse to just watch movies all week. Bonus two? If you can’t find them, they won’t smell rotten after a few days. And be sure to add your favorite in the comments section for fellow hunter/gatherers:

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Over Under: A New Perspective on Films New and Old

College kids are very much focused on and engaged with the present. They know the hippest music that came out this month, they’re passionate as hell about whatever social issue was being talked about on the cable news channels this morning. Talk about something new, and a nineteen-year-old’s eyes light up. But talk about their dad’s favorite music or the social issues the world was going through twenty years ago, and they glaze over. So why can you go in any dorm in the country today and still find someone watching John Landis’s 1978 comedy Animal House? This film is an everlasting staple of college life. The Deer Hunter won Best Picture in 1978, but good luck walking into a college party and trying to get anybody to watch that. But if you tell them you’re popping in a copy of Animal House, they’d be totally cool with it. To a college kid 1994 seems like ancient history. Yet, comparatively, the stuff that was made in 1994 feels much more contemporary than stuff from 1978. So why is it that if you asked a college kid what his favorite line from Animal House is he would probably have an answer, but if you asked him what his favorite line from the 1994 college comedy PCU is, he would look back at you with a blank stare (trust me, I manage college-aged employees at my day job, I do these tests)? PCU resembles current comedies much more than Animal House does […]

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With Burke and Hare, John Landis has marked his return to the world of feature filmmaking. He’s kept busy the last few years, albeit not in the way his fans would prefer him to be, but still preoccupied nonetheless. However, this dark romantic comedy brings him back to the genre he once mastered. Like many of the director’s acclaimed comedies, Burke and Hare is about the unlikeliest of leads. The murdering duo (played by Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis) could easily slip into being nothing but despicable, but that has always seemed to be a fun challenge for Landis. The Blues Brothers, the Animal House gang, and so on, are not particularly “good” people. In most films, they would be the villains. Landis, on the other hand, always sets out to make them the heroes. Here’s what the personable John Landis had to say about how this isn’t his return, following antiheroes, being in the intimidating presence of Charles Bronson, and why he didn’t direct The Wolfman:

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Seeing as he is the man responsible for such seminal comedy classics as Animal House and The Blues Brothers, there is a chunk of the population at large that considers John Landis to be a comedic director. I mean, this is the guy who made Coming to America; clearly he’s the master of the chuckle. Horror fans will tell you different, however. Not only did Landis first cut his teeth on a monster movie called Schlock, he’s also the man responsible for one of the greatest horror movies of the 80s An American Werewolf in London. Why was that movie so good? Because it took Average Joe characters that we could relate to and put them into genuinely horrific circumstances, because it used top of the line practical and makeup effects to bring its creature elements to life. It didn’t show off with how much it could do using computer animation like modern horror; it stuck to giving us things that felt real and consequently made our skin crawl. For my money the monster and gore milieu never got any better than when directors like John Carpenter and John Landis were making gross movies with practical special effects, so of course horror fans must be wondering if Landis ever plans on dipping his toe back into the genre. Well, turns out, he does.

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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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With the Andy Serkis and Simon Pegg led film Burke & Hare, John Landis appears to be fusing the two things he has done well in the past 35 years of filmmaking: silly comedy and blood-spilling horror. Based on this first trailer though, it would appear as if the pendulum is swinging more to the side of silliness than it is to violence. It certainly fits into Landis’ filmography somewhere in between the gnarly nature of An American Werewolf in London and the ridiculousness of Three Amigos, telling the true life story of William Burke and William Hare, a pair of intrepid wanderers who take to the business of collecting bodies. But when the well of fresh ones run out, they find a way to make their own. Of course, the film itself (based on this first trailer) is far sillier than the actual act of murder. If you don’t find murder to be fun, that is…

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American Grindhouse

American Grindhouse was my most anticipated film of SXSW 2010. I have studied grindhouse and exploitation cinema with the fervor of a doctoral candidate. But my research has been limited to simply getting my hands on as many of the films as possible so it’s all based on knowledge of the product. So the documentary American Grindhouse seemed gift-wrapped for me.

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Considering the essence of Austin, and the large segment of its movie-loving population that really gets into this kind of film — we see them every week at the Alamo Drafthouse on Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday — this seems like the perfect doc for SXSW. And that’s an assumption made on premise alone. Wait until you see the images and trailer…

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Several new images have emerged this week from the set of John Landis’ upcoming horror comedy Burke and Hare, starring Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis. The film is described as a “black romantic comedy” about two bodysnatchers in 1828 Edinburgh.

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simon-pegg-header1

Word from Dread Central is that John Landis is returning to horror. I’m going to give everyone a second to finish howling with delight. No, that was not a werewolf joke…….yes it was.

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americanwerewolfremake

John Landis has sold remake rights for An American Werewolf In London to the Weinsteins. The worst decision he’s ever made (that didn’t involve helicopters).

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An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London was far-and-away the best of a bumper crop of lycanthropic flicks to emerge in the early ’80s. Now AAWiL’s writer and director, John Landis, says he’s keen to remake his own horror/black comedy classic.

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Now that Mark Romanek is off the project, Uni is stalking directors left and right.

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