27 October 2011

Shaun of the Dead

From left, Nick Frost, Penelope Wilton, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Kate Ashfield and Simon Pegg are shown in a scene from "Shaun of the Dead."

There are many signs "Shaun of the Dead" (2004) is a step—or two or three or four steps—ahead of its zombie movie counterparts: the wit of its screenplay, the performances, the filmmakers' reverence for classic zombie movie tropes.

But the real reason? It's flat-out better made, with its filmmakers' technical skill on full display, and real thoughts and ideas behind its undead hordes.

The movie, directed by Edgar Wright, who also co-wrote with star Simon Pegg, reaches its pinnacle with a pair of long Steadicam shots following Shaun (Pegg) on his morning walk from his London flat to the market across the street.

The first shot follows Shaun, a 29-year-old electronics salesman, through his normal, brain-dead routine, buying a can of Coke and returning home.

07 October 2011

The Ides of March

Ryan Gosling is shown in a scene from "The Ides of March."
"The Ides of March" is a political thriller that concerns itself more with issues of loyalty and trust than advancing a particular agenda. That's a surprise considering the presence of George Clooney, known for being a liberal political activist, as director, producer, co-screenwriter and co-star.

With this movie, which is based on a play by Beau Willimon (who also shares the screenplay credit with Clooney and Grant Heslov), Clooney keeps his politics mostly in check, shying away from making any grand, new statements. The thought he leaves us with is politics is a dirty game, which you probably know even if you have never watched a minute of CNN or Fox News.

Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) is a hotshot press secretary for the presidential campaign of Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney). It is the eve of the Ohio Democratic primary, though winning the support of an influential North Carolina senator (Jeffrey Wright) virtually will ensure the nomination for Morris. That support, however, will not come without a price—a price the rival candidate appears willing to pay.

06 October 2011

Interview: Trick 'r Treat writer-director Michael Dougherty

I conducted this interview about a year ago. You can find the feature story I wrote then on this blog, but this seems an appropriate time to post the entire interview.

I know your birthday is very close to Halloween, so how much did that influence your interest in the holiday, growing up?

Michael Dougherty: I think it played a massive part in my interest in Halloween. October just kind of became a magical month. A lot of times my birthday party and Halloween pretty much merged. They still do today. I've been having a Halloween party for the last 10 years, and it kind of doubles as a birthday party for my friends who know. But even as a kid, it was, “Let's go trick-or-treating and then come back and have birthday cake.” So the importance of the holiday kind of doubled for me as a kid.

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What was Halloween like growing up in the Dougherty household?

It was really traditional. One of my earliest memories was carving a jack-o-lantern with my dad, which is partially where the Dylan Baker story comes from. It was very much a father-son tradition. I remember seeing my dad carve it and thinking it was the neatest thing in the world but not understanding it or understanding what he was doing. And then you put the jack-o-lantern in the window and you light it, you step back from the sidewalk and you look at it, and it's magic. You just look at it and go, "Wow, we made that." Yeah, it was as simple as carve a jack-o-lantern, hand out some candy and then hit the streets with the parents and my sister. I think it was great to have a very traditional Halloween upbringing. Charlie Brown found his way into the mix. It evolved as I got older, but it just got better.