Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dexter’s back for Season 5

With a lack of promotion – hey, it didn’t have a new poster on imdb, until today – it was easy to forget that “Dexter” is indeed returning for season 5 this weekend, September 26 to be precise. The creepily silent comeback of our favorite maniac evokes the memory of Michael C. Hall’s very recent battle with cancer, but it also feels like the premonition of the next’s season’s mood, which, judging by Dexter 5 Comic Con trailer, is going to be decidedly grim.

As the season 4 ended with, quite literally, a bloodbath – with Dexter’s wife, Rita, in it – the new chapter starts out dreary. Dex is overcome with a quite new sensation – guilt, his adopted teenage daughter hates him and he is the main suspect in the investigation of Rita’s murder.

For me, the main question is, will Dexter keep or lose his sharp witty ironic tone, or will he get totally depressing and sad. I certainly hope not. After all, while Rita’s death was quite shocking, it was somewhat expected. As a character she was completely exhausted, and after she showed us Dexter as a struggling family man, there was nowhere else for her to go.

But now her death will become another test for Dexter’s ability to keep things in order. Especially that he finally caught the attention of police – ironically, for the only crime he didn’t commit.

Monday, September 20, 2010

“The Walking Dead” to invade TV this Halloween

With vampires now thriving on television (“True Blood,” “Vampire Diaries”) it was just about time for their main horror universe rivals, zombies, to strike back with their own TV-drama. And so they did – “The Walking Dead” series (see trailer here) created by Frank Darabont are set to hit the screens in the US (and accordingly, torrents worldwide) on the most fitting date – October 31.

The beginning of the series (as seen in the trailer) is an obvious déjà-vu – a guy waking up in a hospital to find a post-apocalyptic world outside its walls, was previously seen in a few literary and film works, including the classical “Day of the Triffids” by John Wyndham and British zombie feast “28 Days Later.” In “The Walking Dead,” the central character, a policeman, gets hit in a firefight, falls into a coma and wakes up in the world overrun by zombies. Having quickly recovered from a shock, he will bond with other survivors (some nice folk, some not) to daily withstand the constantly multiplying enemy. None of it is especially new. The main question is where the story will go from there. Darabont did some great work in his time, bringing us some of the best Stephen King adaptations ever – “Shawshank Redemption” and “Green Mile” – so we may expect him not to fail us this time either. In a way, all Darabont needs to do is draw inspiration from the true master of the genre – George Romero, who managed to keep his zombies “alive” even in the 21st century.

When zombies were first introduced in literature (notably by H.P. Lovecraft in “Herbert West-Reanimator,” 1921) and in films (“White Zombie” and “I Walked with a Zombie,” 1930s), they were either products of a mad scientist or deceased humans coming back to life to take revenge. In either case, it was the pure horror of the idea – an undead monster rising from the grave – that made the story. Nothing else. It wasn’t until Romero, admittedly inspired by “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson, created “The Night of the Living Dead” in 1968.

Romero gave birth to the popular culture image of zombies as mute, slow-walking, dumb creatures, only driven by desire to feed on human flesh and increasing their army by biting regular humans. But, Romero was also the first to employ the zombie not as the scare in itself, but as a way to expose the darker side of human nature as well as the possible fatal side-effects of scientific experiments and government’s ineptitude to deal with the consequences. Starting with a rather claustrophobic “Night” – a small group of people hiding from a zombie outbreak in a country house, Romero continued with “Dawn of the Dead” – a consumerism society satire in which characters take refuge in a zombie-filled mall and “Day of the Dead” set in a bunker filled with mad military men and scientists – just as dangerous as zombies themselves.

Some of the best zombie-style films to follow the success of Romero was the “Evil Dead” series. Pre-lord-of-the-rings Peter Jackson’s “Brain Dead” (1992), offered a trashy and comic though ultra-gory take on the subject. But it wasn’t until the 2000s, that the zombies experienced a new wave of popularity with freshly modern and packed with action, “28 Days Later” and “Resident Evil.” Zombies also proved great satire material, both in pure comedies “Shaun of the Dead” and “Zombieland” and clever trash horror imitations “Planet Terror” and Norwegian “Dead Snow.”

So addressing the zombie-informed audience, “The Walking Dead” is better be smart, catchy, reasonably unpredictable, psychological and not without humor. Good acting will also be a plus. Or else, we’re coming to get you, Mr. Darabont!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Watching Lost: Part 1

So after even the people closest to me fell for Lost, I just gave up. I decided to watch it, but not just watch - analyze. Cause when the series cause such mad following worldwide - there must be something wrong with them. So far I've seen about 6 episodes, so here are first impressions.

No ugly people survived the plane crash. Or if they did - they are just extras, walking around in the background and get no screen time. I'm not saying everyone is a knockout, but surprisingly many are rather good looking. All men are in pretty good shape. Most of the folks are 25-35 years old, and the few oldies there are - are also pleasant to look at.

As one could expect from a movie with multiple characters, it filled with very particular types. Doc - savior and leader, rockstar junkie, dude from Iraq (which translates from American as terrorist), an Asshole without moral principles, father and son pair, a lovable fatty, and a Miracle Man - likely to become Lost's own priest, philosopher or prophet or smth. With women it is way easier: there is a sweetheart babe, a femme fatale and a prissy bitch. Plus - two freaky Koreans (still cute).

But now about major faults. Prissy always looks like she's just out of the beauty salon. I mean, at some point Babe was asking Femme Fatale about a comb! Prissy seems to have it all, complete with a hairdryer and a hairdresser. She's always wearing visible makeup - from the very first day, before anyone had time to rummage through suitcases. Femme Fatale seems to have a set of clean t-shirts in her pocket - also from the very first day. They fit her perfectly - so it looks like they're hers.

The (potential) Terrorist is always wearing a spotlessly white t-shirt - either he must clean it and bleach it every day, or he has a stash of them, likewise in his pocket. Fatty also has a change of clothes and considering his enormous size, only his own stuff could fit him. Well, its good to know that even if you're Lost and stranded on an island - there is still a better chance to get your luggage on time than on a regular flight.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Baby, I need fresh blood

“True Blood” is returning for season 3 tonight (see trailer here). The two previous seasons rocked, so I’m hoping I’m in for a treat once again. And if you aren’t yet addicted to “Blood”, here is why you should be.

First of all, I’m no vampire junkie. I don’t give a damn about “Twilight” and I often found vampires rather dull as characters – mirrors, silver bullets and coffins apply in every case. You can’t really go far from there. But in case of “True Blood,” – it’s not what the story is about, but how it’s told. Its opening credits alone got me hooked. It’s cool, addictive, thrilling, stylish and … veeeery sexy.

The invention of the synthetic blood substitute – True Blood – allowed vampires to live out in the open among regular mortals, since they no longer need to use them as food. Two years on after the sensational discovery, humans are still rather uncomfortable with their nocturnal neighbors. So when vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) walks into a small town bar in Louisiana, for a bottle of Red, he’s less than welcome.

However, he immediately catches the attention of story’s main character, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) – a cute little barmaid with a gift for reading people’s minds. It’s not that she has a thing for vampires (though some of her fellow humans do), but the ability to read minds is quite a drag when it comes to men – their thoughts quickly repulse you. Mysteriously, Bill’s mind is closed from Sookie. Must be love.

Like Sookie and Bill, every character of the series deserves attention. There is Sookie’s brother, Jason, constantly getting into trouble, by being in the wrong places at the wrong time and, usually, with his pants down. There’s Sookie’s friend, Tara – a brute of a lady, who cannot contain her temper and thus cannot keep any job or man.

Sookie’s boss, bar owner Sam, seems like a nice guy, hopelessly in love with his mind-reading employee, but he has his own weird secrets. The bar’s cook, Lafayette, is one of the coolest gay characters ever seen onscreen. He's intelligent, with great sense of humor, and, despite wearing makeup and fancy bandanas - a total badass.

On vampires’ side, new characters are being introduced one by one over the two seasons. But the most notable of them is Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) – perfectly sinister and obviously dangerous, but still likeable. In the end of season 2 we also get to meet gorgeous vampire queen played by redhead Evan Rachel-Wood. The fact that the gal used to date Marilyn Manson adds special charm to her character

“True Blood” is part mystery, part a classical Stephen King novel. The plot smartly mixes sex, drugs, racism, violence, ancient beliefs and religious fanaticism. But what makes a real difference in “True Blood” is that unlike common vampire stories, the bigger evil here comes from humans. It’s not about people vs. monsters. It’s about dark creatures who find it hard to fight their animal nature against rednecks - some of them good, others – driven by hate for everyone who’s different.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Movies to look forward to in 2010

This is a shortlist in a true sense of the word - 8 movies only, including two with unknown release dates. However it's just the beginning. Most of the films are American, with an exception of a few British ones, and there surely is a lot to explore in Europe. But let's start here.

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World"

Release date: August 6 (UK)

I have several reasons to believe this film is going to rock. First: It's directed by Edgar Wright - creator of some of the best modern comedy: "Spaced" TV-Series, "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz." Second: It stars Michael Cera ("Juno," "Superbad," "Youth in Revolt") - one of the most talented young American actors. Third: its going to be an action/adventury/romantic/comedy about a guy who must win his girl by defeating her seven evil exes. Don't know about you, but to me it sounds totally awesome. View trailer here

"The Last Airbender"

Release date: July 2 (USA)

Even though M. Night Shyamalan's last film "The Happening" was a complete disgrace, I still have a good feeling about this one. Unfortunately I haven't seen the original anime series "The Last Airbender" is based on, but the plotline - a wonder child who must stop Fire Nation from enslaving nations of Water, Earth and Air - sounds like a perfect fantasy adventure. Judging by the trailer, the visual part is pretty damn good. And finally I'm anxious to see Slumdog Millionaire's star Dev Patel in a very different role of an evil Fire Prince. View trailer here.


Release date: July 15 (Ukraine)

When I first saw the trailer for "Inception" at a movie theater, I was instantly curious to see it. Probably because I was still under impression of DiCaprio in "Shutter Island." Upon the second look however, the plot description and even its poster made me think of similar sci-fi flicks like "Minority Report" and "Surrogates." Still I'm hopeful that director Chris Nolan managed to make a decent thrilled based on a concept of lucid dreaming and power of the mind. Plus there is cool cast: Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Michael Kane and DiCaprio leading the way. View trailer here.


Release date: September 3 (USA)

I'm totally convinced this is going to be delicious! At least for anyone who loves Robert Rodriguez and masterfully shot trash-parody. "Machete" started as a joke - a fake trailer made as an opening to "Planet Terror." The real "Machete" trailer features some of the original fragments with the main star - Danny Trejo - as well as a bunch of fresh faces: Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan, Robert De Niro, Don Johnson and ... wait for it ... Steven Seagal! Now you can't beat that, can you? View trailer here.

"You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"

Release date: September 23 (USA)

I know he's no longer as good as he was and repeats himself a lot, but I'm still not giving up on Woody Allen. His previous, "Whatever Works," was not great, but pleasant, entertaining and still a lot better than the majority of the mainstream American produce. "Dark Stranger" premiered at Cannes and very few reviews are out so far, but the cast: Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Freida Pinto, Anthony Hopkins and Naomi Watts among others - sounds quite promising.

"The Rum Diary"

Release date: September 24 (UK)

Is it really coming out? Or if it does - when do I get to see it, unless I go to London for the premiere? The reason I ask is because the production of "Rum Diary" has tortured and haunted Hunter S. Thompson's fans, myself including, ever since it was first announced in 2004. Thompson himself was quite excited about the filming of one of his earliest novels, but then nothing was heard of it for a while. After Thompson's suicide in 2005, the talk about the movie began again... But it wasn't until 2010 that "Rum Diary" was finally set for release. The delay had a lot to do with the busy filming schedule of Johnny Depp, who had to reprise his role as Hunter S. Thompson's alter ego. In "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" he was Raoul Duke. In "Rum Diary" he is Paul Kemp, a journalist who goes to work for a run-down newspaper in the Caribbean, meets a number of unusual characters and goes through a critical point in life.

"Paul" and "Burke and Hare"

Release date: Unknown

Both movies star my personal favorite - British comic actor Simon Pegg. He co-wrote and co-starred in "Paul" with his best pal and longtime collaborator Nick Frost. The story is about two geek friends travelling across the U.S. to meet an alien. Black comedy "Burke and Hare" stars Pegg and Andy Serkis as 19th century grave-diggers who make money off providing cadavers for a medical school.

Monday, May 24, 2010

'Fantastic Mr. Fox"

This is the case when the name says it all – this stop-motion animation truly is witty, funny and, absolutely fantastic. Based on Roald Dahl’s novel and directed by Wes Anderson, "Fantastic Mr. Fox" works for children just as well as for adults. For the first – it has the fun adventures of talking animals. For the second – it has allegory, good jokes, familiar family troubles and free spirit, an injection of which we all need from time to time.

Mr. Fox steals chickens for a living, until one day he’s forced to give it up for a family life. Seven years (twelve fox years) later, Mr. Fox leads a quiet living and works at a newspaper, but has bigger dreams. First of all, he decides to move from a traditional hole in the ground to a potentially dangerous tree house. Secondly, he decides to go back to his old ways at least for one last time and rob three big nearby farmers.

The farm jobs turn out successful, however … now the farmers are enraged and going after the whole local animal community. But of course, Mr. Fox, as fantastic as he is, will find a solution.

The animation may look freaky from the first glance, but it perfectly serves its purpose, at times painting extremely vivid images, and at times – absurd. The cast of actors voicing the characters is just gorgeous. George Clooney is instantly recognizable as Mr. Fox, Meryl Streep is gentle but firm as Mrs. Fox, while their son, a troubled teenager Ash, is voiced by Jason Schwartzman. There is also Bill Murray as Badger and Willem Dafoe as Rat – you get the picture.

The main message of the story is as clear as it is genius. Mr. Fox does what he does because he can’t help himself. Even though he wears pants, lives in a house and has a job, he still is and always will remain a wild animal. Same as all his palls. Aren’t we all?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Robin Hood" vs. "Gladiator": Find 10 differences

At last, 10 years later, director Ridley Scott released a sequel to his "Gladiator." In this one, Russell Crowe fast-forwards quite a few centuries and lands in England where he gets an upgraded weapon - a huge bow and a set of arrows!

"Robin Hood" (2010)

"Gladiator" (2000)

"Robin Hood" (2010)

"Gladiator" (2000)

"Robin Hood" (2010)

"Gladiator" (2000)

"Robin Hood" (2010)

"Gladiator" (2000)