Seattle Cinema Survey – Brad Pitt

Turkey Time is here, as is, so it happens, is this week’s collection of film critics’ replies to my inane questions known as the Seattle Cinema Survey. As the latest movie featuring Brad Pitt is here in the form of Allied, I asked our troupe; What’s your favorite Brad Pitt performance?

Brad Pitt’s gone through some odd changes, in a manner all successful careers do. There were the early breakout years, followed by some bland starring turns and then finding that balance of charisma, cool and confident, along with all of the shaded to be played within that. For me, his best take on that is still as Tyler Durden in 1999’s Fight Club (previously discussed in a Was I Nuts?). There is definitely the charisma, as our narrator played by Edward Norton falls for the casual way Durden dismisses everyone else’s attempts at impressing people. The cool comes via swagger and spitting out random, seemingly useless knowledge, but in a non-showboat-y manner. Finally comes the confidence, as declarations of rules, from when to fight, how to follow and where to take society, seems like a natural set of marching orders when delivered with such gusto. That said orders tend to include blowing up lots of stuff, bloodshed and selling women’s own fat asses back to them; that’s just part of the Pitt magic.

Adam Gehrke of EVERYWHERE IN SEATTLE

Ooooh this one’s a particularly tough one given the semi varied plethora of odd ball characters Pitt has chosen throughout his career; how he’s always been able to find the curious balance between dashing lead and psychotic cult leader continues to amaze me. That being said, one of my all time favorites, and perhaps the one I love to quote the most is Mickey O’Neil from Guy Ritchie’s 2000 release, Snatch. The gypsie-esque bare knuckle boxer, a veritable one punch machine gun with a sense of humor and dark revenge just the same. Brilliant!

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing See @BrentMMcKnight

My favorite Brad Pitt performance, by miles and miles, is his supporting turn in Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. Up until that point, I always thought of him as flat, bland, and handsome, but with little substance. It was around this time, thanks in large part to roles like this and his turn in Seven, where, for me at least, he started to prove he was more than that reductive set of character traits; where he started down the path that led to fantastic, varied turns in the likes of Fight Club, Inglorious Basterds, Moneyball and a slew of others that show his real range.

But rich kid mental patient Jeffrey Goines in 12 Monkeys is the performance where I started to see the possibilities. He’s so totally unhinged and chaotic and so damn much fun to watch. That was the moment where I sat back and said, “Okay, I think I get this whole Brad Pitt thing.”

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @filmjabber

That’s a tough one. Pitt has been so good in so many movies, but my mind immediately gravitates towards his zanier roles (i.e. Fight Club, 12 Monkeys, Inglorious Basterds). While there’s a part of me that wants to say Se7en, I’m going to go with his deliciously over-the-top performance in Inglorious Basterds.

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Seattle Cinema Survey : Teenager Films

Hello all and thanks for joining us for another Seattle Cinema Survey.

In this week’s edition, we look to the years of youth, though not innately our own. With The Edge of Seventeen hitting theatres and garnering quite a few raves from critics, I posed to our collective of film fanatics; what’s your favorite film about life as a teenager.

Easily my favorite film that centers on teenagers is Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused; a piece of perfection that echoes the highs of having a summer of nothing to do, as well as the quiet that comes amidst the chaos. However, I must say that Stephen Chbosky’s adaptation of his own book The Perks of Being a Wallflower speaks to more of the theatrics of those years where finding yourself is a daily war. A work with flaws, Perks gets the little things right, from the random faces you see at every party that mean nothing to you, to the joy of finding the song for that moment and, of course, discovering comfort in your fellow freaks.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @ BrentMMcKnight
I thought this was going to be super easy, until I started thinking about it and that hope evaporated quickly. Like many folks my age, I grew up on bittersweet John Hughes high school comedies like Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the rest. Then came the likes of Say Anything, which is still my favorite Cameron Crowe movie. To this day I lament my high school experience didn’t have more musical numbers like Grease. Kings of Summer is a great modern teen story, and I adore Pitch Perfect more than is probably appropriate for a dude pushing 40. Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You are my favorites from the ‘90s revival wave that picked up the Hughes mantel (I also have a deep love for Stick It—they don’t call it gym-nice-tics).

It’s hard to argue against movies like Rebel Without a Cause, Boyz n the Hood, The Last Picture Show or The Outsiders. Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Craft, Pump Up the Volume and Dazed and Confused, are all in the running. I didn’t think of Hoop Dreams immediately because it’s a documentary, but it’s one of the most compelling stories of teenage life I’ve ever encountered.

Now I’m just listing movies I’ve seen, but I think I’ve got it down to two finalists. Rick Rosenthal’s 1983 Bad Boys—not that Bad Boys—about gritty Chicago street kids in prison, starring a young Sean Penn, transcends its exploitation trappings to tell a powerful, unusual story. But maybe I’ll go with the most obvious choice, George Lucas’ American Graffiti. I’m a sucker for a good one-night-changes-everything narrative. And Toad has my favorite ‘60s hair style—short on top, long and slicked back on the sides, which just looks silly when it gets disheveled.

Jason Roestel of Harsh Realm @filmbastard
This one was easy. Dazed And Confused. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off would come in second, followed by nearly every other film John Hughes made in the 80’s, but Linklater’s Dazed And Confused captures the single best aspect of being a teenager – hanging out.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber
I’m inclined to say The Breakfast Club for the obvious reasons, but in all honesty it’s been so long since I’ve seen it I don’t remember much of the details. So I’m going to say a more modern one; Mean Girls. The movie breaks down cliques in an exaggerated but highly entertaining manner and is easily one of the funniest teen films out there. The best to capture teen life? Probably not. But it’s the first that came to mind.

Seattle Cinema Survey : Aliens on Earth

Hi all, and thanks for joining us for the latest edition of Seattle Cinema Survey. In this week’s round, with the arrival of…um…Arrival, with it’s intergalactic visitors hitting our planet’s shores, I asked our motley crew of critics, bloggers and writers; What your favorite aliens on Earth film?

 There really are so many options aka I’m going to need to put some parameters on this thing for the second week in a row to come up with an answer. This time, said parameter will be that the alien has to be a real character in the movie. The creature from a different planet can’t merely be the baddie or something on the periphery.

My gut reaction is to pick yammer on again about Under the Skin, but I’ve written a lot about that work lately. So, I’m giving one of its clear forebears a shout in the form of Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth. Starring the late, great David Bowie in all of his weird charm, Roeg’s adaptation of the Walter Tevis features an alien seeking to transport water from Earth to his oh-so-distant home, succumbing to the joys, troubles and excesses that all of us deal with on a daily basis in the process.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @brentmmcknight

Maybe even more than horror and Red Dawn, alien invasion/aliens among us narratives informed my life from an inappropriately young age. You’ve got classics like multiple versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The War of the Worlds, The Blob, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, and tons more. It’s nice to see Night of the Creeps getting widespread love after floundering away in obscurity for years; I still think of Predator anytime I set foot in the woods and we’ve apparently got another iteration of Alien Nation on the way from Jeff Nichols. Hollywood continues to churn out fantastic alien encounter movies that I adore, like Attack the Block and Edge of Tomorrow (and hopefully Arrival, haven’t seen it yet, but I have high hopes).

But as far as favorites go, John Carpenter is the man, and because I feel like The Thing may well show up elsewhere on this survey, I have to go with They Live. Carpenter’s 1988 slurry of B-grade sci-fi camp, anti-consumerist subversion, and the late, great Rowdy Roddy Piper kicking ass and chewing bubblegum, stands as a paranoid classic that was equally prescient at the tail end of the Cold War (when shit got real weird) as it is this week in particular. Not to mention it has the most delightfully overboard fight scene in cinema history. If you haven’t read Jonathan Lethem’s book-length essay breakdown, it should be required reading.

 Tim Hall of The People’s Critic @peoplecsrtic

Ok my pick is Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the 1978 version not the crappy Daniel Craig remake and all the wannabe movies that followed.

The aliens were innocent plants that cocoon’d our loved ones and turned them into mindless beings. Plus, much like The Thing, you don’t know who to trust. The final scene with Donald Sutherland seals the movie for me. A great ending to great alien movie.

Seattle Cinema Survey – War Films

Good day all, and thanks for joining us on another edition of the Seattle Cinema Survey, home to me bothering local critics and bloggers about various movie related subjects.

This week’s topic is a tie-in to the much discussed new war drama by Mel Gibson called Hacksaw Ridge. Now, asking about the greatest war film of all-time may be a bit too broad. However, two lauded works of the genre did come out in 1998 in the forms of The Thin Red Line and Saving Private Ryan. With those two landmarks as the starting point, I inquired…what’s the best war film post-98?

For my selection, parameters were necessary. It couldn’t be a war-time film itself like The Pianist, or a movie with battle scenes here and there as a smaller part of a larger narrative ala Steven Sodergbergh’s truly underrated Che. The trenches needed to be prominwnt. With those structures set for my pick, I’m going with Clint Eastwood’s 2006 work Letters from Iwo Jima.

A companion to the oh-so-inferior Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima is a haunting marvel, as we witness the preparation for and eventual fight at the titular destination from the viewpoint of that battle’s losing side. Ken Watanabe is mesmerizing, inspiring and melancholic as the Japanese general who sees a troop in shambles, emotionally and in terms of readiness, and does what he can to keep morale and humanity alive amongst it all.

Matt Oakes of Silver Screen Riot @SSRdotcom
There have been some sleeper hits and awards-geared war films since the turn of the century but the stretch has hardly been as prolific for war films as say the 70s with the Vietnam War or the 80s with the Vietnam War or … you get the picture. Kathryn Bigelow owns two of the best war films since 1999 with The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty earning their right as strong contenders for the title. Peter Berg’s more recent Lone Survivor was a gritty showstopper that framed heroism against physical brutality. Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down is a visceral, ugly and totally memorable wartime clusterfuck. I’m even a sucker for Mel Gibson’s vengeance-fueled The Patriot. The scene where he’s grunting, hacking red coats to filets? Priceless. But no one can top what Quentin Tarantino himself referred to as his “masterpiece” ; Inglorious Basterds. A series of tableaus that sees a rogue outfit of angry American Jews crunch, punish and brutalize their way through the enemy Nazi ranks, Inglorious Basterds revels in its revisionist retelling of the events of WWII and QT manages humor and surprising humility amongst the chutzpah of his offerings, which of course include plowing Hitler’s face with machine gun rounds in a hellish torrent of cinema fire. Though Christoph Waltz never really amounted to much outside of Tarantino’s wheelhouse, his role here was a revelation and it’s easy to see why Tarantino himself considers Colonel Hans Landa his best written character.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber
That’s a tough one. There haven’t been a lot of great, legitimate war movies in the last 15 years. There have been some fantastic holocaust movies (The Pianist), but I view that as a sub-genre that your typical “war movie” fan wouldn’t call a war movie. Zero Dark Thirty comes to mind, but aside from the climax, it’s not a war movie in the traditional sense. And I’m sure some critics will point to Inglorious Basterds, but even then, I’d call that more of a Tarantino film than a real war film.

So my answer is… The Hurt Locker. I remember watching that movie for the first time and barely breathing. The movie is superbly constructed and exciting as hell, and a rare exception to the “modern war movies sort of lack that special something” feeling I generally get when I’m watching a story set during the Iraq or Afghanistan wars.

Seattle Cinema Survey : First Horror Love

Once more with feeling, it’s the last Seattle Cinema for Horror Month, as I am a Halloween nerd.

So far, I’ve asked our collection of movie critics and bloggers about the best horror pic of the century, scariest moments outside of the genre and underrated sequels. To round things out for the month, we are discussing; the first horror film you fell in love with.

I’ve discussed mine in the past, but a refresher. I’ve never been a gore person. Even Python’s Holy Grail freaked me out as a kid when the Black Knight, that stupid bastard, received a barrage of “fleshwounds.” Eventually I could stomach that, but was more than a little hesitant to view a movie my older brother kept raving about: Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. He’d mention the picture being funny, but all my brain could focus on was the idea of a person severing their own hand via rusty chainsaw.

Somehow, he convinced me to watch it with him. Dread consumed my body, as possessions occurred, heads were chopped off and yes, a hand was removed with blood. Lots of blood. I was still creeped out, until the single hand began spewing a firehose level of crimson, which then began to change color and relentlessly cover our hero Ash.

I was hooked for life.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber
The first horror movie I remember watching, and the first one I remember having lasting psychological impact, was Candyman. Seriously, I wouldn’t go into the bathroom with the lights off for like two years.

But to answer your question, I have to say Scream. I was in junior high and hadn’t watched many horror movies up until that point, and I didn’t even understand many of the references the film makes, but boy did I have fun. I love every aspect of that movie, and still do.

Also, I went and saw the movie with my mom—surrounded by older kids and dates—so that wasn’t awkward at all.

Matt Oakes of Silver Screen Riot @SSRdotcom
Nothing can top my experience watching The Shining for what must have been the third time. I was in high school, had not historically been a horror fan, and sat down with two friends to what would become one of my most memorable movie watching experiences. What makes The Shining so terrifying is not the supernatural elements swirling throughout but the very real, very urgent dangers of domestic violence and alcoholism. Jack Torrence’s swift transition from questionable patriarch to dead-eyed nutter remains the gold standard for mind-melting metamorphoses and something clicked in me that time watching. The visual nuance rushed from the screen. The dread was amplified beyond belief, my speakers cranked as my mom’s not-so-hot box TV would allow. My eyes were wide and tear-stained from dread. There is a visceral quality to The Shining that leaves a hush over a room and it was in that fear that I discovered my love for the genre.

Tim Hall of The People’s Critic @peoplescrtic
The first scary movie I fell in love with is Halloween.

The entire story is fascinating. A young Michael Myers kills some family members and goes to a mental institution and is planning a murder (and learning how to drive) the whole time. He gets out and goes after his sister who has no idea he’s coming.

Dr Loomis is a madman and completely out of control. He’s also the only person who knows what Michael is capable of.

Michael Myers actions in the first Halloween is eerily close to a real killer. That’s what makes the movie so chilling.

Great scares, creepy plot, and an amazing score. It’s worth a watch every Halloween.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @BrentMMcKnight
More than any individual movie, I fell in love with horror as a whole at early age. When I was little, probably inappropriately young, my family used to go to this video store/ice cream shop. I’d wander around the horror aisle, check out all of the VHS covers, and scare the living shit out of myself. And I loved it. I gave myself wonderful nightmares just imagining the monsters and slashers and blood covered serial killers on those boxes.
My parents let me watch pretty much whatever I wanted. So, starting as early as I can remember, I consumed a steady diet of Universal monster movies, old Hammer joints, gothic horror yarns, ghost stories, Edgar Allen Poe adaptations and all of the classics.

I was seven when Nightmare on Elm Street came out, and watched it shortly thereafter. That kicked off a whole new endeavor that led to the likes of Friday the 13th, C.H.U.D., Texas Chain Saw Massacre and more hardcore, gory titles. By the time junior high rolled around, I was the kid expounding on Nightbreed (which led me down a deep, dark, Cronenberg hole—he didn’t direct it, but I don’t know that any human being has ever been creepier on film) and extolling the virtues of Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and George Romero.

Now I’m rambling and I should actually answer the question. It’ll likely change tomorrow, but for now my answer is The Blob. The 1958 Steve McQueen movie, though the 1988 version also rules.

Sara Michelle Fetters of MovieFreak/The SGN @moviefreaksara

The first horror movie I ever remember watching was James Whale’s 1935 classic The Bride of Frankenstein. I was with my grandparent’s farm for a couple weeks during the summer, and one early afternoon, after competing against my grandmother in more games of cards than is likely humanly possible, this glorious gothic masterpiece randomly came on television. “We must watch this,” she said matter-of-factly. “You will love it.”

She wasn’t wrong. I was amazed by the film, so much so I made it a point to try and seek out other early B&W classics as soon as I returned to Spokane, including Dracula with Bela Lugosi and, of course, the original Frankenstein. I was particularly taken with The Wolf Man, this tragic, deeply romantic tale of loss and sacrifice captivating me body and soul. In fact, it’s doubtful I’d have marveled at the wonders and delights of John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London had I not been so rapturously found of that 1941 sensation, same going for its fellow 1981 lycanthrope counterparts The Howling and Wolfen.

But the movie I think I fell completely head over heels for had to have been 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon. First time I watched it was during a summer series for kids at Spokane’s local art house theatre, The Magic Lantern. Not only was it the only one of that year’s series that my parents attended right alongside with me, it was also screened in its original 3-D presentation. From the moment that first boney hand came thrusting at me from the center of the screen, to the eerie scenes of a smitten Creature swimming underneath a clueless Julie Adams, to the final moments in a cave where hero and monster battled to the death, this Jack Arnold directed classic had me in such utter rapture that feeling of clutching my mother’s arm while my dad gently chuckled one seat over has stuck with me to this very day, and it’s likely why I adore the genre as I do as well as another significant reason as to what lead me to become a working film critic.

Seattle Cinema Survey :Best 21st Century Horror Film

Hi to all and thanks for joining us for another edition of the Seattle Cinema Survey, where horror month rolls along because Halloween is the best dammit!

This week, I’ve asked our crew of local critics, bloggers and people with awful, just awful opinions; What’s the best horror film of the 21st Century?

A rather straightforward question, I’m somehow torn by my own query. That is due to one fact, which would be Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. A basically perfect film, that manages to create engaging, complex characters in a zombie comedy, before going full-horror in the last act, Shaun of the Dead remains a member of both genres. As such, I’m going to pick a movie that is a full-tilt scream factory.

That selection is Danny Boyle’s marvelous 28 Days Later. An update of the zombie-genre, where our infected bunch rush you with the intensity of Black Friday shoppers, Boyle’s work crawls through the veins quite uncomfortably. The concepts aren’t altogether new, with a confused individual stepping into a dystopian world. What makes the project so gut-churning is how on-your-toes the whole endeavor manages to be throughout. Along with the previously discussed former-humans longing to tear you limb from limb, it’s the rampant nature of the turn into such a creature that lingers. The sequence where one of our crew begins to rage and flail after an errant drop of blood into HIS EYE gives me chills at the mere thought.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See
This is a damn hard one. All the people griping and grousing about how horror is dead haven’t paid attention for the last 16 years. Cabin in the Woods deconstructs and inverts horror tropes in unique and inventive ways, 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead helped redefine the zombie genre for a new generation, The Descent is pure claustrophobic nightmare and throws in a curve when you least expect, Kill List obliterates traditional genre boundaries, I Saw the Devil is a vicious revenge masterpiece, What We Do in the Shadows reinvigorates both vampire movies and mockumentaries, Shaun of the Dead pulls off that most difficult feat—a horror comedy that is legitimately both funny and scary, The Devil’s Backbone still stands as Guillermo del Toro’s best movie and a marvelous modern ghost story to boot, Trouble Every Day may be the artsiest cannibal movie ever made, and Piranha 3D has everything I want out of a schlocky, 3D exploitation movie.
Dammit, I don’t know.

My pick could easily be any of these movie, or countless others. Maybe teetering on the verge of an all-out Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic collapse or a potential fascist dictatorship means horror has plenty of primal fears to tap into. What the hell, I’ll go with Bong Joon-ho’s 2006 creature feature The Host for my pick today. It’s certainly the best monster movie in recent memory, and manages to be funny, harrowing, and legitimately moving. Coupled with some of the Weta Workshop’s best effects work (sorry, Lord of the Rings and Black Sheep—another potential choice), it’s one for the ages.

Tim Hall of The People’s Critic @peoplescrtic

This answer can change for me every month. For now, I’m going with 2007’s The Mist. I was locked in during the first few minutes when Dan runs in and screams, “There’s somthing in the mist.” All these people stuck in a store and they’re told there are unspeakable horrors in the mist. Without even seeing what’s out there, the group starts to take sides. When the monsters do show up, Mrs. Carmody forms a tiny cult of survivors and starts “sacrificing” people. At times she’s scarier than the monsters outside.

The premise is simple but effective and the monsters are out of this world terrifying – even the ones you can barely see. My favorite scene is the group trip to the pharmacy next door. The scene is so tense as you’re waiting for something to happen and it all hits the fan at the same time.

The ending of The Mist makes it a must watch every October.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber
I typically don’t get scared by monster movies, but I remember being scared shitless when I went to go see The Descent. So that’s my answer. And after being scared in such a way, the theater informed me I wouldn’t be allowed back, if you get my meaning.

Matt Oakes of Silver Screen Riot @SSRdotcom
This century has been an absolute showstopper for horror films and being a horror fanatic, I could go on and on and on. Off the top of my head: The Loved Ones, I Saw the Devil, Martyrs, Session 9, The Mist, The Descent, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, 28 Days Later, Kill List, The Babadook, The Descent, The Conjuring, The Cabin in the Woods, Let the Right One In, Shaun of the Dead. But though some listed above may be superior none are to me as utterly rewatchable and insanely enjoyable as Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell. Simple, scary and hilarious, there is not a tedious moment in Drag Me To Hell. From the first time Christine Brown is practicing pronunciation in her car mirror to the showstopping train tracks finale and all the ooey, gooey junk falling into her mouth along the way, Drag Me To Hell is amazeballs through and through.

Sara Michelle Fetters of MovieFreak @moviefreaksara
Neil Marshall’s 2005 stunner The Descent is a masterpiece. An absolutely horrifying excursion into the bowels of the earth, it isn’t so much a darkly lit, unbearably claustrophobic monster movie as it is a fearless examination of grief, courage, friendship and solidarity. The saga of a group of close-knit female friends with an adventurous streak reuniting for the first time since one of their members, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), has suffered unimaginable tragedy, the movie’s an unfathomable nightmare of tension that’s as unrelenting as it is emotionally complex.

Not that the creatures these six spelunking women end up encountering aren’t terrifying. They are, Marshall utilizing their lithe, limber carnivorous forms as if they were the shark from Jaws, only showcasing them at just the right moment in order to provide maximum impact upon the viewer. But it is always the human dynamic that is the most startling, the way Sarah must deal with her ravenous grief while the other women reveal their inner strengths and weaknesses as they attempt to survive their ordeal.

The U.S. release version of the film, which is admittedly amazing, softens things a little bit, allowing the tiniest ray of light to shine inside this seemingly impenetrable darkness. The original cut, however, is a thing of deranged, unsettling beauty, building to a denouement that’s up there with the final moments of something like Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Diabolique or Takashi Miike’s Audition. It’s a quiet, unsettling final scene that overwhelms in its serene madness, Sarah discovering a form of peace that comes at a cataclysmic cost.

Jason Roestel @filmbastard

As I ponder this most excellent question various interior personas would each like to submit their candidate. The aged cinemaphile in me says Pascal Laugier’s outstanding existential slaughterhouse Martyrs, with its bipolar plot swings and catastrophic violence, all of it driving toward a finale more metaphysical/spiritual sucker punch than standard genre showdown. Laugier has yet to top the feature that made him a known entity in the American horror industry. Same goes for Neil Marshall, who I believe made one of the best horror films of any century (well, the two centuries in the contest) with 2005’s The Descent. Neil never made another film on that level. As far as the inner child who grew up on Ridley Scott’s Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing, and who developed a taste for the creepy crawly side of the film industry, that kid would go with The Descent for his choice. It should be noted how estrogenic my selections are. Riot grrrls unite and all that. And since we’re on the topic of gore girls, Lucky McKee’s May is not to be ignored in this category.

Seattle Cinema Survey : Unappreciated Horror Sequels

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Seattle Cinema Survey, home of me bothering local critics, writers and nerds about various movie related things. As Halloween is but a few weeks away, it’s all things spooky-scary, with horror getting the spotlight this month.

In this round, we take a peek at something horror cinema provides a lot of; sequels. There is an endless supply of follow-ups to beloved, and definitely not beloved, horror work, with the great ones (Evil Dead 2, Dawn of the Dead, The Bride of Frankenstein), being universally lauded. However, with so much to pick from, I asked; What’s the most unappreciated horror sequel?

Three answers sprung to mind for me. The first is The Exorcist III, which a contributor later in this survey gushes about with precision. Second to jump out for me is Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II, the direct sequel to Carpenter’s masterpiece that is assuredly inferior to that original and nonetheless superior to most slashers. Strangely, my pick is also Halloween II, but in the form of Rob Zombie’s sequel to his own – not especially good – remake of the Michael Meyers classic.

Where Zombie’s initial stab at the world of Haddonfield was too closely tangled up in reworkings and throwbacks, his Halloween II managed to be its own gnarly, gruesome beast. Still featuring a flash of the terrific hospital sequence from Rosenthal’s sequel, here Zombie messes with the terror that’s crawed into the daily psyches of those infected by the mayhem of round one. The dirt and grain of the 16mm filmstock enhances the skewed reality of it all, as the polish of too many Halloween pics is unseen.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @BrentMMcKnight

I maintain that all the Friday the 13th movie are good, or at least watchable, up until Jason Takes Manhattan (Jason X is also fun, though I hesitate to use the word good as a description); Gremlins 2: The New Batch doesn’t get as much love as it should, especially as a satirization of sequels; Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is bonkers and misunderstood, though it has its defenders and I feel like it’s star has rightfully been on the rise in recent years. But it’s another franchise that’s home to the most underappreciated sequel.

While The Exorcist is one of the greatest horror movies of all time, the first sequel, The Exorcist 2: The Heretic, is, well, not good. 1990’s The Exorcist III, however, is pretty boss. Written and directed by William Peter Blatty, who wrote the original novel, The Exorcist III takes a step in a different direction, though keeps the general supernatural ambiance and creep factor. The story follows Lieutenant Kinderman (now played by George C. Scott) from the first film as he investigates the Gemini Killer, a Zodiac-style serial murderer. It stands on its own, has aged well, and though it doesn’t top the original, The Exorcist III is a sturdy, underrated horror joint that honors what came before.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber

A couple that come to mind are Paranormal Activity 2 and 28 Weeks Later. The first Paranormal Activity gave me nightmares, and while it relies heavily on gimmicks, those same gimmicks (and some added ones) still work surprisingly well with its sequel. I don’t remember exactly what happens in the movie, but I also remember walking out of the theater saying, “That still made me jump.”

28 Days Later is considered one of the best zombie movies out there, though you can tell Danny Boyle intended it to be a standalone movie. On the surface, the sequel, with a different director, feels like a cash grab, but it’s still a super exciting and suspenseful cash grab.

But my selection for most under-appreciated horror sequel will go to Psycho II. It’s a movie that shouldn’t exist and has no right to be any good, but it’s a legitimately well made movie that extends the story of Norman Bates in a realistic way. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but I bet many, many people have dismissed it outright–that’s why it’s my choice.

Seattle Cinema Survey :Scariest Non-Horror Movie Scenes

Hello all and welcome to the Seattle Cinema Survey, home of the area’s critics, bloggers and nerds responding to my weekly queries.

With Halloween around the corner, I’m making October all-things-spoooooooooky. We’re kicking that theme off with: What’s your favorite scary scene in a non-horror movie?

In my eyes, it almost has to be a Disney scene, for they remain the source of countless terrified children, especially in their earlier films. As much as people moan about modern kid’s pics growing uncomfortably adult in their displays, I can’t help but thinking of the pure creepiness of Pinocchio, in particular the moment where our titular wooden boy chugs beers and smokes cigars with his newfound buddies on their way to Treasure Island.

As Pinocchio and pals await new joys, we have the evil Coachman tricking these desperate youths and making them slave labor, as the freshly inbided beverages transform the kids into literal donkeys. The eeeeeps kick in as the recently turned, still wearing their clothes, bellow in fear, with a few strays that can still speak being hauled together to scream in pain as one. Seconds later Pinocchio realizes what’s happening as his best mate’s mug molds long-ears and fingers crumple into hooves. The remaining evolution is shown via shadows and even louder howls of confusion and panic. It is unnerving to this day.

Adam Gehrke of Fox 13/Cinema Squabble/Most Things Seattle @AdamGehrke
While I’m not sure this qualifies as my favorite all-time horror scene in a non-horror pic, I think the first one I fell in love with was the Large Marge sequence in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, it’s something that gives us a glimpse of what Tim Burton had in store for us just a few short years later, and it continues to scare the pants off of unsuspecting kids to this day. Good times!

Tim Hall of The People’s Critic @peoplescrtic
It has to be my favorite scene from 2002’s Signs. When people aren’t sure if there are really aliens or not, Merrill is watching a found footage clip from a kids birthday party and you can see the alien.

The scene works because they delay showing the alien that’s camouflaged in the bushes. After the reveal it’s a shot of Merril’s reaction and he looks frightened. Then for good measure they show the alien again but this time in slow motion. It’s a fantastic scene.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber
This is a tough one to think about without doing more research than I’m willing to invest–I’m sure there are much scarier moments out there–but a few scenes come to mind:

– That random moment in The Fellowship of the Ring where Bilbo, desperate for the ring, momentarily turns into a monster. The transformation really makes no sense when you think about it, but it certainly makes me jump.
– In Se7en, I still hold my breathe when the police pull back the sheet to reveal the nearly dead but not quite victim who has been locked in his apartment for months, chained to his bed.
– That drug trip scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where Mr. Wonka takes his guests on the boat ride from hell. I hated that scene as a kid, and hate it to this day.
– Baby. Ceiling. Trainspotting.

But if I think about a scene that would freak out my non-existent child, it would be that face-melting scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yummy.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @BrentMMcKnight
The psychedelic boat scene in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is straight up nightmare fuel; the entire withdrawal scene in Trainspotting wrecks me every time, especially the ceiling baby; Large Marge in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure still makes me jump; John Goodman losing his shit and screaming, “Look upon me, I’ll show you the life of the mind,” against a hell-scape backdrop in Barton Fink; the incinerator scene in Toy Story 3; opening the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the beating heart scene in Temple of Doom (at seven-years-old that messed me up to the point where I got a tattoo of it); and any scene where someone gets buried alive. They may not be horror in the strictest sense, but every single one of these moments brings me to my knees.

But my scariest scene in a non-horror movie has to be Joe Pesci’s entire, “I’m funny how? I mean funny like a clown? I amuse you?” speech from Goodfellas. Maybe I’ve known too many unhinged folks who can turn on a dime like that, who can go from laughing and having a good time to shitting-my-pants terrifying in a blink. But the transition from fun to awkward to uncomfortable to sheer terror is so damn visceral and real. He plays it off, but that’s the moment we get a peek at Tommy’s true psycho tendencies, and the glimpse is horrifying.

Jason Roestel of HarshRealm.Us @filmbastard

Scariest scene in a non-horror movie? Lots to choose from, but I’m going to go with the card game in Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day. Ethan Hawke’s rookie, Officer Hoyt, sits down for a truce game of cards between factions – law and disorder. Disorder being represented by a gang shotcaller named ‘Smiley’ (Cliff Curtis in one of his best roles) and his crew of tat’d up soldiers. Still caught between being the wolf his boss, Detective Alonzo Harris, (Denzel Washinton, who won the academy award that year for this film) wants him to be to tackle the streets of East Los Angeles, and the sheep he’s trying to grow out of, he abruptly finds himself without his shepherd, as Harris tells his underling he needs to use the bathroom and to hold tight. He then disappears for an extremely long, agonizingly tense stretch of time. As the gangsters and the single cop play poker it becomes apparent that these killers have no respect for Hoyt, or his office, their comments go from passive aggressive to straight up aggressive. At one point they ask to see Hoyt’s gun, and as much as we want to scream to the kid not to surrender his firearm in this environment, he gives it over. Our one comfort left is the faith that any second Alonzo, criminal cop heavyweight, will step back into the scene and save the rookie from this quagmire. It’s just then that it dawns on us. Harris, always nine steps ahead of the game, has set his partner up. He’s not going to swoop in and save the doomed rookie. A rookie who’s now unarmed and hopelessly outnumbered in a fortress of gangbangers and killers. That sickening feeling we’ve been feeling for the last five minutes in our stomachs suddenly becomes a kick to the guts.

Sara Michelle Fetters of MovieFreak/Seattle Gay News @moviefreaksara
There were many moments in a number of films I can think of when I ponder this question, but only one came to me in the immediate seconds after it was asked. To save her son Timmy, Mrs. Brisby must go seek out The Great Owl to learn how to make sure her home isn’t destroyed by the farmer’s ploy. Into his nest she must go, a small, meek little mouse, and in looking this fearsome predator in the eye, hopefully discover the courage to make sure her family doesn’t meet with unfathomable devastation.
There is something about Don Bluth’s The Secret of NIMH, an adaptation of Robert C. O’Brien award-winning novel, that has allowed it to slowly but surely withstand the test of time and become something of a moderate animated classic. This 1982 marvel is filled with visual delights, honest emotions and thrilling sequences of action and adventure. But it also tackles some fairly adult themes, not the least of which is this terrifying journey inside The Great Owl’s homestead. It’s a stirring sequence, one that sent shivers down my spine as a child and continues to fascinate me now as an adult. In a story filled with more than its fair share of thrills and chills, this one, to me, stands out above just about any other, and as such is a deliriously giddy fright the kid in me has loved revisiting again and again in the almost 35 years since the film’s original release.

Seattle Cinema Survey : Live-Action Disney Films

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Seattle Cinema Survey, home to where critics, writers and allegedly frozen heads are asked film related questions by yours truly.

This week, with The Queen of Katwe getting excellent reviews, some of the best for a non-animated Disney product in years, I asked this crew; What’s your favorite live-action Disney picture?

I’m personally going with the glee given life that is 1964’s Mary Poppins, a favorite in childhood and adulthood. Full of feminism, fantastic songs, and a properly legendary performance by Julie Andrews, this adaptation of the P.L. Travers series of books is one of cinema’s sweetest confections. It’s a family film that entertains all audiences without resorting to gags for the adults only, pop culture references or characters coming to unearned breakthroughs on being good to one another. It’s a kind, warm piece of love that is practically perfect in every way.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber
I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, so the vast majority of live-action Disney films I watched were from those years. There are a lot of solid films to choose from–including Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, The Rocketeer, The Mighty Ducks and even Angels in the Outfield—but I’m going to have to go with the Disney-produced musical Newsies. I don’t know why, but I remember just loving this movie as a kid, with the poor bastards (led by Christian Bale) revolting against their rich employer.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @BrentMMcKnight
Disney’s made so many fantastic live-action movies that it’s hard to choose a favorite (and mine’s definitely a favorite, I won’t argue it’s the best by any stretch of the imagination). The Rocketeer still kicks all of the ass, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea is one of the great cinematic adventures of all time, and Never Cry Wolf was a weirdly huge part of my childhood. Then there are classics like Mary Poppins, and I’m not even going to mention Old Yeller (sniff), but the more I think about it, the more my entry has to be The Black Hole.

Though it’s gathered a modest cult following, Gary Nelson’s 1979 sci-fi opus, then one of the most expensive pictures ever made, has a reputation as a flop and a failure. And sure, it’s way silly, wasn’t a hit, and doesn’t hold up like some of its genre compatriots, but I can still watch this damn near any time. Its influence was so great on me personally that the first time I watched Psycho when I was a kid, my reaction when I saw Anthony Perkins was, “Hey, it’s the guy from The Black Hole.”

Brian Taibl of Brian the Movie Guy @MovieGuyBrian
Mary Poppins (1964), hands down. Nominated for 13 Academy Awards and winner of five (including Julie Andrews’ legendary performance), it’s rightfully considered a classic by all who have and have not given it a go.

In deftly, effectively and masterfully employing humor, drama, music, animation, special effects and an overall urgent sense of wonderment, Mary Poppins is transcendent in its ability to entertain.

It’s irresistible. It’s charming. It’s accessibly energetic. It’s a toe-tapping, gleefully unrestrained and immensely inventive romp that challenges you to experience many of your human emotions in one fell sitting…and if it doesn’t succeed (?!), you need to go sit and watch it again (which you should be doing anyway).

Mary Poppins is indeed supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

Seattle Cinema Survey : One-Hit Wonder Directors

Welcome to another round of the Seattle Cinema Survey, where I give local critics and writers the opportunity to look like fools by giving terrible, terrible replies to the various movie-themed questions I ask them.
This week, the inspiration is one Antoine Fuqua, whose remake of The Magnificent Seven arrives Friday. With a steady career, Fuqua is still often cited for directing Training Day, the sole project to his name that’s generally beloved. Which got me wondering; What’s the best cinematic one-hit wonder?

I offered no limits to our contributors, though I’m putting some on my own reply. For one, it can’t be the sole great work due to early retirement/death/etc. Secondly, it had to be made a person whose filmography is relatively deep, be it a journeyman or a hack like, say, Brett Ratner.

As an elitist prick, I had to go with someone Dutch who began his career as a notable cinematographer, before making one amazing piece of cinema and then having a career spiral into a cobweb of bad sequels and remakes. Yes, I’m going with Mr. Jan de Bont and a little slice of heaven that is assuredly playing on TNT right now; Speed.

The middle chapter of Keanu’s 90s action masterpiece set (bookended by Point Break and The Matrix), Speed had de Bont going full Die Hard on a bus, a fitting move since his hand was a significant reason that Bruce Willis classic remains so beloved. Speed is a thrilling collection of awesome stunts, likeable characters and a pure popcorn premise of bus slow down equals bad. Followed up by the not awful Twister, de Bont then did Speed 2: Cruise Control (ludicrous woof), an update of The Haunting (awful woof) and the second Lara Croft (boring woof). Having his own playground of toys only made for excellence once with de Bont, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.

Tim Hall of The People’s Critic Blog @peoplescrtic
It has to be 1991’s Straight Out of Brooklyn by Matty Rich. Rich went on to direct 1994’s Inkwell but nothing compared to how raw and real Straight Out of Brooklyn was. SOB was such a masterpiece, everyone thought Rich was the next Spike Lee. He was on the same trajectory John Singleton was on after Boyz n The Hood.
SOB is a great story about a young man planning to rob a drug dealer. It stars The Wire’s Lawrence Gillard Jr as the film’s main character. He gives a phenomenal performance in a story that’s real and grounded. At the time, people saw crime and criminals in the inner city as people who were savages. SOB showed a young man who was desperate to change his situation and didn’t have too many options other than to rob.

Dennis’ story is as humanizing as it is doomed from the start.

SOB and Matty Rich are easily forgotten despite the film being a staple for cinema in the early 90’s. It’s well worth a watch.

Drew Powell of Queen Anne News/Drew’s Movie Blog @
Antoine Fuqua and Training Day is an obvious choice for this question but I’m going with the dreamy The Night of the Hunter, the one and only film directed by British acting legend Charles Laughton. Part film noir and part surrealistic nightmare, The Night of the Hunter is one of the weirdest, most beautiful (the movie was photographed by Orson Welles collaborator Stanley Cortez in gorgeous black and white and its visual design was heavily inspired by German Expressionism) film’s I’ve ever seen. And major props goes to Robert Mitchum–giving a truly menacing, spine-tingling performance as a charismatic but psychopathic preacher. Due to poor box office and lackluster critic reviews at the time (it has since been rightly reevaluated as a classic) Laughton didn’t direct again. It’s a shame but at the same time making one great film is a difficult task. Laughton can at least be proud (in cinema heaven) that his solo directorial effort is a bona fide masterpiece. And one that firmly sits in my personal top ten of all time.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @BrentMMcKnight
There are so many one-hit-wonder directors to choose from, this is going to be tough. Shit, if I were Charles Laughton and made The Night of the Hunter, I might never make another movie either. Tons of actors have tried their hand behind the camera once. Jack Lemmon’s Kotch wracked up a bunch of Oscar nominations, James Cagney delivered an effective film noir with Short Cut to Hell, and I can’t be the only one who saw and loved Bill Murray’s Quick Change in the theater in 1990, can I? Kinka Usher’s Mystery Men, his only feature directorial effort, is a movie I’m still surprised isn’t one of the premiere cult movies of this generation. All things considered, however, I have to go with Trent Harris’ Rubin and End.
Saying Trent Harris had a “hit” with Rubin and Ed is, admittedly, a stretch. It’s also not his only feature (The Beaver Trilogy and Plan 10 From Outer Space are his other most notable titles, though he never had much more of a career), but it’s his opus. It’s a goddamned wing-nut masterpiece that everyone should watch at least once in their life.

A delightfully bizarre road trip buddy comedy about two republicans wandering the desert looking for a place to bury a cat, Rubin and Ed is endlessly quotable, weirdly gorgeous, more moving than you might expect, and flat out fucking strange.

More myth than movie, in college I watched it three midnights in a row at the old UA theater downtown. They showed Harris’ personal print, which may or may not have been the only one left in existence. Pre-Ebay, I spent months tracking down an original VHS copy (still one of my prized possessions, made even more so with a Crispin Glover autograph—the only autograph I’ve ever sought out), which was no easy feat since the distributor supposedly rounded up and destroyed as many as possible.

Mike Ward of Should I See It @ShouldISeeIt

Tony Kaye and American History X, although perhaps an asterisk should be added next to his name because to this day, he disavows the final cut that made the film famous and saw Edward Norton give arguably his career-best performance.

The production was completed in mid-1997 and Kaye turned in a final cut of AHX. Although New Line Cinema was impressed with the film, they gave Kaye a long list of suggested edits and alterations. Kaye agreed and turned in a shorter, far more truncated version of the film, more than a year after the studio requested the changes! This frustrated everyone, including Norton, who Kaye was already angry about having to work with when his choice for the lead, Joaquin Phoenix, declined the project because he felt the script was distasteful and unacceptable.

Kaye also fought with his screenwriter David McKenna during the course of the production and initially warmed to the idea of Norton’s becoming so invested in the project because he liked Norton’s ideas on how to improve the script. However, Kaye’s second cut made everyone frustrated and New Line circumvented Kaye and gave all the footage to newly hired editor Jerry Greenberg and Norton, allowed to assist in crafting the final cut of the film. The film was released on October 30, 1998.

Prior to release, Kaye was outraged, claimed the film was stolen from him and applied for an Alan Smithee credit. When the DGA denied his request, he demanded he be credited as “Humpty Dumpty”. That didn’t happen either.

Ultimately, Norton earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination and the film has been viewed as a controversial, polarizing screed on racism. Elements of it are ever so pertinent to this day. Kaye, however, has largely been shunned from the industry. His second film, the 2007 documentary Lake of Fire, took him 16 years to complete and served as a graphic, unflinching look at abortion, which included footage of an actual procedure amidst its black-and-white, 152 minute running time, Kaye has all but vanished. His legacy of music videos preceded his foray into feature films, but the bridges burned are legendary and American History X stands as his one (and likely only) great film.
Matt Oakes of Silver Screen Riot @SSRdotcom

Mr. Dan O’Bannon met and collaborated with John Carpenter at film school and wrote a treatment for what would eventually become Dark Star. For a short while, he worked as an animator on the original Star Wars and later banded with Ronald Shusett to write Alien, for which he would also supervise computer effects. But O’Bannon only stepped behind the camera twice and the world is a lesser place for it. His debut, Return of the Living Dead, was a shocking strike; a horror-comedy that spawned an instant cult following and has aged immensely well since its 1985 reveal. Return of the Living Dead is a personal favorite, an absurd, irreverent addition to an absurd, irreverent genre with an instantly iconic cast of punk rockers and ill-favored company men and some of the best practical effects in any horror movie ever (Tarman FTW!). O’Bannon later returned behind the camera in 1992 for The Resurrected, an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft novella, but was not quite able to capture that same lightning in a bottle. He would never direct again.

Sara Michelle Fetters of Seattle Gay News/MovieFreak @moviefreaksara
There are so many great answers to this question, not the least of which would be 1955’s The Night of the Hunter directed by actor Charles Laughton, shockingly the ONLY movie he ever stepped behind the camera to helm. Others that come to mind include Erik Skjoldbjærg’s Insomnia with Stellan Skarsgård, George Sluizer’s terrifying 1988 version of The Vanishing, Adam McKay’s astonishingly good The Big Short, George Clooney’s superb Good Night, and Good Luck. and Hugh Hudson’s Chariots of Fire (although, admittedly he also made Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, so maybe Hudson had more than one, but that’s open for debate).
But I’m going to go off the beaten path a little, and while Chopping Mall is hardly a “great” movie, per se, it’s so manically entertaining, so much unadulterated B-movie fun, director Jim Wynorski’s 1986 gem leapt to mind before just about any other title. The story of a group of amorous twenty-somethings trapped in a L.A. mall after hours with a trio of malfunctioning security robots intent on hunting them down, this film epitomizes the 1980s underground horror craze to perfection, its ingenious VHS cover art beckoning a generation of intrigued viewers who have gone on to make it a cult favorite that has more that stood the test of time.

For Wynorski, a filmmaker who has spent three decades closely associated with Roger Corman, this is without a doubt the pinnacle of his long, seemingly unstoppable schlock career (he just directed Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre and CobraGator, I kid you not). His script for Chopping Mall, co-written with Steve Mitchell, is surprisingly nimble, playing with genre tropes and clichés in a variety of imaginative ways that are as amusing as they are effective. More than that, he presents characters who are actually worth caring for, and while none of them would ever be considered “complex” or “multidimensional” that does not make them any less worthy an emotional investment.
Throw in arguably the greatest head explosion of all-time (Scanners probably edges it out, but not be near as much as you might think), three sensationally designed robots (created by Oscar-winner Robert Short) and playful performances from Night of the Comet’s Kelli Maroney and Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton (just to name the two most familiar names; the entire cast is pretty terrific), this movie is a total sensation that just gets better and better with each passing year. Considering its from the guy whose only other noteworthy features are Deathstalker II and a Not of This Earth remake, to call Chopping Mall Wynorski’s best is a decided understatement. Thank you…and have a nice day.

Brian Taibl of Brian the Movie Guy @MovieGuyBrian
There are a few solid, near-respectable choices in this survey category…

…but if any critic here chooses something other than The Empire Strike Back (from director Irvin Kershner) then that critic is not to be trusted.

If you need me to explain my choice then you’re not to be trusted either.

Trust me.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber
Donnie fucking Darko.