Monsters

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Gareth Edwards is hard at work demolishing most of Hawaii for his upcoming Godzilla reboot, but it was his first feature, Monsters, that gave him the monster movie street cred to earn a shot at Japan’s premiere giant lizard. And it seems that Monsters is continuing without him. What made the first Monsters so special was Edwards’ deft touch with the beasties that bear the film’s name. Shot with less than $500,000, Monsters used that shoestring budget to accomplish the feat all creature features aspire to: the alien menace (in the form of glow-in-the-dark space octopuses) was rarely ever glimpsed onscreen, but its presence was felt throughout the entire film. And though Edwards will only contribute to Monsters: The Dark Continent as an executive producer, the film’s first teaser trailer demonstrates that his sparing use of monster madness will live on. All we see here is a single shot (which is impressive in its own right), giving us a slight glimpse at the space octopus menace, and illustrating that even the most hardened of combat troops are seriously freaked out by whatever was left in their wake. Check it out after the break.

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Despite its slim runtime (93 minutes) and bare bones cast (it essentially starred just two people, including rising star Scoot McNairy), Gareth Edwards’ remarkable 2010 indie, Monsters, didn’t balk at crafting a mythology that’s primed for expansion (and, in Hollywood-speak, primed for sequels). And though Edwards will not be returning for the film’s sequel, Monsters: The Dark Continent, his structure and ideas appear to be quite present in the new film. At least, if the project’s first synopsis is to be believed. ShockTillYouDrop (via ComingSoon) has reportedly gotten a hold of the official synopsis for Monsters: The Dark Continent, and it tells us in no uncertain terms that the film will see a return to the “Infected Zone.” The first film introduced us to the area – nearly one half of Mexico bordering the United States – as our protagonists journeyed through it, encountering terrifying creatures who apparently came to Earth six years prior, thanks to a NASA probe that went awry. The film ended, however, with (spoiler alert!) both our heroes and the electricity-hungry creatures reaching American soil. So, if our “monsters” have broken free of their zone (and, indeed, they have), why head right back into the place it all began?

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Consider this a bit of friendly advice – get on the Scoot McNairy train now. The actor has been steadily working in Hollywood for over a decade, with roles in film and television projects as varied as Herbie: Fully Loaded and The Shield, but he’s best known for his break-out role in Gareth Edwards’s 2010 indie gem, Monsters. Since then, McNairy has collected a series of interesting roles from a variety of filmmakers that should (and, if Hollywood has any sense, will) make a household name out of him. McNairy will next be seen in Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly (the project formerly known as Cogan’s Trade) and Ben Affleck’s Argo. Not too shabby, right? Let’s just go ahead and add two more high profile roles to McNairy’s resume – Deadline Mexico City reports that he’s signed on for a supporting role in Gus Van Sant‘s Promised Land and the lead male role in Lynn Shelton‘s Touchy Feely. All aboard the McNairy Express.

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Boiling Point

In the cinematic world, protagonists face a lot of challenges. It can be Sasquatch or Yeti, German thieves or vaguely ethnic terrorists, zombies, aliens, werewolves, or vampires, and that’s just the exotic list. Our heroes might face down against a redneck hillbilly, a couple of gangbangers, or some cracked out carjacker. Simply put – it’s hard out there for a pimp. To combat these varied dangers, a hero must go armed. The proper choice of weapon depends on the threat faced, availability, and the environment. I’m not sure anyone has ever fought a hillbilly without the aide of a bow or crossbow, stopped a robbery without a pistol, or put down a zombie apocalypse without the use of a shotgun. In the face of such great dangers, you’d think that the protagonist would make sure that he and his companions were always well equipped to face adversity. But you’d be wrong.

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Boiling Point

Previously, on Boiling Point… I bitched about Hollywood not releasing enough horror movies in October. This week, I’m taking aim at them for not releasing any monster movies – pretty much ever. I’ve come to ask where all the monsters have gone. Monster movies have a special place in any horror fan’s heart. Whether you’re a fan of giant mutated ants, hybrid beasts, strange aliens, or any crazy old weird thing someone dreamed up that crawled out of a swamp and raped a cheerleader, monsters are awesome. The bigger, badder, and bloodier the better. It seemed for years that even if you weren’t looking for a monster, one would come out of the darkness and tear your face off. Nowadays, you’re hard pressed to get your shit packed in by a mythical beast even if you go defecating on Native American burial grounds.

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Anyone who has ever had to keep a secret knows staying mum is more chore than awesome. It’s one of those things that, as I’ve aged, I’ve grown to hate more than anything. I understand and respect the importance of secrets. I just don’t understand the drama behind them. Or, for that matter, the sheer thrill when one finally unravels. I’ve learned from both personal and filmic examples just how when you keep something scandalous inside you for so long, eventually it will eat you from the inside out. Nothing has driven my absolute disgust for secret relationships more than this year’s Something Borrowed,a film that causes both our own Kate Erbland and myself to want to punch babies. In the face. While there is more than one reason to hate the vile, troubling nature of a film pitting two supposedly best friends against each other, what I always come back to when the horrible, PTSD-like flashbacks of the film hit is how difficult it must be juggling so many lies with people one should care about. Even worse is that the lies involve having sex with someone you shouldn’t and then secretly hoping another person finds out. The thrill of the tryst is the same thrill of exposure. The film’s plot has been well-documented. Based on the Emily Giffin novel of the same title, Something Borrowed follows the mousey, “smart” girl Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) and her frienemy relationship with Darcy (Kate Hudson) as they both navigate their newly minted 30’s and prepare […]

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Nearly anyone can do something once. Repeating an experience for a second time, in some ways, is more daunting than the first time. When you are new to a situation, everything is potential. Possibilities. Every result is either positive or a “learning experience.” However, shouldering an experience for a second time, it is easy to let negative questions and self-doubt wander into your psyche, especially when that second experience, in comparison to the first, appears grander and more demanding. Confused? Let me explain. The Supernaturals was a “friendly experience.” Mark Shostorm and his small crew bonded quickly over a challenging but manageable amount of work. We all parted friends and remain in touch (except Ed Ferrell – Where are you Ed?). After the wrap of the show, I had returned home to New Orleans to spend the holidays with my (then) girlfriend Tracy and my family. I had no idea when fortune would take me back out to California to work on another film, but somehow, I knew it was going to happen. I knew so positively that I didn’t run out and get a job. As fate would have it, I was correct.

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In one of the best panels in recent memory, Guillermo del Toro and Nicholas Winding Refn chose to combine their allotted time in Hall H (for Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Drive respectively). What resulted was a rare conversation from two unique filmmakers who transcended the normal marketing mechanism of Comic-Con to deliver some insight and information about their processes. There were many different facets to it, and they talked about their movies some of course, but ultimately it became a master class in making films. So here’s a little bit of free film school from two visionaries.

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For those new to the column, I am revisiting important events in my life that have made me what I am today: A Special Effects Make Up Artist seeking relevance in the 21st century. You start at the bottom, right? You pay your dues. You put in the hours and the effort and experience the pain and frustration of being a novice. Yep, that just about sums it all up. It was September of 1984, and I was in South Pasadena working on a project for Mark Shostrom entitled Ghost Soldiers*. The plot seemed simple enough: A group of young inexperienced soldiers, led by a seasoned drill instructor, is taken to a remote, rural area for a training exercise. They aren’t prepared to face a small battalion of resurrected Confederate, Civil War soldiers intent on killing them.

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For those of you new to the column, I’m recounting key experiences of my life that made me what I am today: A Special Effects Make Up Artist looking for relevance in the 21st century. I’ve dropped out of CalArts after my sophomore year and have moved in with up and coming Make Up Artist Mark Shostrom, who was seeking a roommate. I am nineteen years old… I had never experienced a Motion Picture dry spot before. In fact, I hadn’t worked on a film yet. My friend, James Cummins had left and returned from Canada with Margaret Beserra, Brian Wade, Bill Sturgeon, and Henry Golas after executing the alien effects for a film entitled Strange Invaders. Although I asked to accompany them and work on the film, James told me that he didn’t feel comfortable hiring me with no professional experience. Now, back in Los Angeles, James wanted to focus on his screenplay writing and wasn’t pursing any creature effects jobs. Clueless how to get hired at any other make-up effects studio, I stayed in Pasadena, setting up in Mark Shostrom’s apartment. Mark bid on a few small projects. One job in particular was to produce a life-sized statue in the Greco-Roman style for a commercial. We even went so far as to sculpt a maquette (a small scale model) of our proposed design, but did not land the job. Mark had also been developing some creature effects for an independent film entitled The Last Resort (which has nothing […]

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California Institute of the Arts or CalArts as it was known, informally, was set on a hill just off of the 5 freeway in Valencia, California (NOTE: It is still there, I toured it four years ago as a potential college choice for my daughter, but I’m telling a story here, right?). In 1980, when I arrived, CalArts was basically two buildings: The Main School building, and a set of dormitories. Inside the Main building, the schools were cordoned off like “Delos” in Westworld, but instead of “Westworld,” “Medievalworld,” and “Romanworld,” CalArts had the Music School, the Drama School, the Fine Arts School, the Dance School, and the Film School. The Film School, then, was subdivided into three departments: The Disney Animation School, The Live Action School, and The Film Graphics Department. I was in the last of those three. Keep in mind, that there was very little in the way of consumer computers in 1980 and there might have been some people messing with digital graphics at CalArts in 1980, but it was nowhere near what is being produced today. The Disney School was the most structured of the three film schools from what I could tell. Every day, lines of students holding drawing boards and carrying plastic Art Boxes would go through the wooden double doors to attend classes in Life Drawing, Design, Animation, Color Theory, etc. And folks, that is where the structure at CalArts seemed to end.

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Special effects master Shannon Shea continues his trip down memory lane in an attempt to find relevance in the 21st century world of movie-making… There was something I had known since I had seen Star Wars: I was going to leave the state of Louisiana to go to college. My older brother, who was a fellow film-nerd/fan/geek/whatever, had graduated in 1977 and gone to the Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and was pretty much just miserable. True, there was a lot of drinking to do, but aside from his joining a band (he was much more into music than I was), he didn’t share his taste for genre pop culture with many of the other students. And, as a historical note, the drinking age in Louisiana at this time was 18 so being drunk on a college campus in Louisiana was as required as “Introduction to English Literature,” and the grades were easier. Needless to say that by the time I was a High School Senior, he had dropped out and worked for a salvage company. We both attended an all-male, Catholic High School in Marrero, Louisiana: Archbishop Shaw High School. It boasted being a “college prep” school, however, unless you were training to be an engineer, or a geologist, or some vocation that would keep you in a local oil field, Shaw had little to offer in those days. It did have football, which was a major focus for both the faculty and students. Not being from what […]

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For those of you who are new to the column, I’m revisiting formative events that have contributed to what I am now: A Special Make Up Effects Artist seeking relevance in the 21st Century. So, I’ve learned about liquid latex, got my camera, am hyped up on Star Wars, and ready to move up to the next level. I am sixteen – When the box appeared at my house, I was surprised at how heavy it was for its relative size. The shipping label was yellow and red, and in the upper left hand corner it confirmed that my order had arrived. “R&D Latex Corporation, Commerce, CA” it read. Finally, after a decade I held in my hands a box that contained the mystical material, the magical substance that turned actors into apes, had aged Dustin Hoffman to over 100 years old, and was the stuff of Ray Harryhausen Stop Motion Models! As you may remember, I read about R&D Latex Corporation in an article about building Stop Motion Models in “Super 8 Filmmaker” magazine, and I had sent in my fifty dollars (forty-five dollars for the one gallon kit plus five dollars shipping). By today’s standards that seems fairly reasonable, but in those days, when you worked at a grocery store and took home about $100 or less, $50 was quite the investment.

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There’s nothing better than hearing news of Guillermo Del Toro getting a new movie off the ground, especially when it happens to involve giant monsters and regular-sized humans in giant robotic suits doing battle. Since he couldn’t make it all the way to the coldest part of the world with Lovecraft, Del Toro is, of course, heading to the Pacific Rim, and it looks like he’ll do it with Charlie Hunnam. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the star of Sons of Anarchy is signing on to star in the film as one of the pilots of a giant robot “who needs to climb back into the driver’s chair.” Why he’s fallen out is anyone’s guess, but it probably involves the safety regulations on those seat belts being pretty lax. Have you ever test-driven a Mecha-Bot 3000? Vinyl was a poor choice for seating. This is a break-out chance for a great actor to prove his salt with a big budget and a visionary director behind him. Not much more needs to be said than that. Hunnam crushes in Sons of Anarchy, and as long as the melodrama is reigned in for someone struggling to face his giant robot-driving past, he could truly take this opportunity and fly with it.

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For those of you new to the column: I’m retracing my personal history, recalling formative events in my life that made me what I am today: A Special Effects Make Up Artist looking for relevance in the 21st Century. I have learned about liquid latex and at this point, I needed a camera. These are between my 15th and 16th years… Growing up in the late ’60s and early ’70s was a challenging time for burgeoning filmmakers. There were no consumer video cameras, no computers with editing software, and certainly no digital cameras. I recently heard someone describe this as the “Photo-Chemical Age” in an attempt to make it sound horrible and archaic. After all, now we can shoot, edit, and post our films more easily than sitting through 80% of what Hollywood has to offer these days. Well, it was the opposite back then. Motion Pictures were fantastic, and the theater experience was a tremendous joy, but making your own movies required a level of commitment that certainly would discourage anyone with a mild interest. Equipment wasn’t cheap and it had its limitations as well. Call it what you will, but the Photo-Chemical Age was glorious as well as frustrating.

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For those new to the column: I’m tracing the formative events in my life that made me what I am today: A Special Effects Make Up Artist, searching for relevance in the 21st Century…At this point in my life, I am fourteen years old… Just off the corner of Royal Street and St. Ann Street in the French Quarter, there was a white building with green shutters framing tall windows. Stacked in the windows, peering out like eyeless sentinels were rows and rows of Don Post Monster Masks. No longer just two dimensional, black and white images in the back pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, they were there, in three-dimensions, painted in their garish colors. I was at the right place, alright: The Vieux Carre Hair Shop. Inside, two gentlemen greeted me. The first one was roughly thirty; he had a fringe of dark hair circling his baldpate and was mustached. This was Bob Saussaye. The other was a dapper older gentleman with a kind face; this was the owner of the store and Bob’s father, Herb Saussaye. Herb was more than the owner of the best-known theatrical wig and make up store in New Orleans. He was more than a knowledgeable make up artist. He was Willy Wonka, and I had just stepped into his factory.

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Earlier in the day, I typed a news post while standing up because I’d jumped out of my chair for joy. At the Mountains of Madness was finally set to go into production this summer. The record is now being corrected, and it turns out that it was false joy and pipe dreams put forth by producer Don Murphy trying to pressure an answer from Universal. That answer is no. It’s unclear why, and I’m checking with Universal for their side of the story, but the assumption seems to be that the R-rating and cost were a bit too much for them to handle. Instead, Guillermo Del Toro might move on to deliver a PG-13 big-budget piece of work called Pacific Rim that was written by Clash of the Titans writer Travis Beacham and deals with the world defending itself from alien monsters in the future. Del Toro and monsters is a good fit, and it’s set up at Legendary, but its high concept sounds eerily familiar. Like, say, Battleship. Or Battle: Los Angeles. That’s a shallow assessment, but that doesn’t mean it’s incorrect.

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s newest late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray is back again with a massive slate of releases. You’d think that it’s about to be Christmas time around here with the amount of quality Blu-rays spilling into stores. Everything from a beautiful edition of a Disney classic (seen below in the new Pick of the Week section) to another institutional Criterion release, combined with a chance for home video buyers to see some of last year’s more interesting indies. In column news: I’m taking your comment section silence to mean that you like the new format, so I’m sticking with it. But enough talk, lets make with the recommendations. Alice in Wonderland: 60th Anniversary Edition Call me a victim of nostalgia — or a man of taste — but the bitterness of seeing Tim Burton take the care of a baby rhinoceros in a chandelier shop with the story of Alice in Wonderland this year made me sad. Someday, much to the benefit of movie lovers everywhere, that guy will realize that you can’t just take Johnny Depp, some pastels and a little bit of weird and make a good film. Especially if you do it in mind-numbingly bad 3D. Which brings us to the point — Disney has released their now 60-year old Alice in Wonderland tune on Blu-ray. And like many of its animated catalog titles, the color and detail of the hand-drawn tale is brilliant in high definition. It’s supplemented with great extras, new and old. Among the new are two interactive […]

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This Week in DVD

This is a busy and full week for DVD releases with a common theme… many of them are movies you’ve probably heard of over the past year, but judging by their minuscule box-office you most likely didn’t see any of them. The other common theme? Pretty much none of them are as good as the internet told you they were. I know. It’s shocking. But sometimes the internet does in fact tell lies. Titles out this week include The Tillman Story, Conviction, Let Me In, Hatchet II, Welcome To the Riley’s, Never Let Me Go, Monsters, and more.

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