Archives for October 2017

Romero honored at special screening of ‘Creepshow’

An indie director before the term was widely used, George Romero carved his own niche in the horror genre by brilliantly marrying over-the-top blood and guts with sharp social satire.

He broke new ground with his first effort, 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead.” Dismissed by critics, his low-budget film was a huge hit with audiences and grossed more than $50 million. Romero went on to direct these sequels: 1978’s “Dawn of the Dead,” 1985’s “Day of the Dead,” 2005’s “Land of the Dead,” 2007’s “Diary of the Dead” and 2009’s “George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead.”

The Bronx-born maverick moviemaker died on July 16, 2017; he was 77.

Comic book fans will no doubt appreciate Romero’s “Creepshow,” a 1982 black comedy shot in Pittsburgh, as were many of his other flicks. (Romero graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 1960.)

Starring Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson and E.G. Marshall, the film was Stephen King’s first script. King also plays a part in one of the five stories, which are inspired by the EC and DC comics of the 1950s.

You can see “Creepshow” on the big screen on Wednesday, October 25, at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. The Alex is hosting a tribute to Romero with a preshow reception and Q&A.

Happy Halloween, zombie people!

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‘Jane’ documentary is a joy to watch

A review of “Jane” might seem an odd choice for a site that focuses on film noir. But here at FNB we also celebrate strong, independent women and anthropologist Jane Goodall, the topic of Brett Morgen’s National Geographic documentary, is certainly that.

Goodall and Morgen appeared on-stage at a lovely screening Oct. 9 at the Hollywood Bowl with live orchestral accompaniment by Philip Glass. The event, which was open to the public, drew celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Judd Apatow, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jane Lynch, Kate Bosworth and Ty Burrell.

Goodall received hearty applause when she said we humans need to do a better job of taking care of the Earth. Morgen gave a shoutout to his mother because the screening date is also her birthday.

Speaking of mothers, Goodall probably would not have achieved as much as she did had it not been for the steady support of her mom. In the film, Goodall explains that, as a young girl, when she expressed her desire to study animals in their natural habitats, her mother didn’t flinch; she encouraged Jane to pursue her goal. Later, she joined her daughter in Africa and helped out in their day-to-day living.

The world’s top expert on chimpanzees, Goodall spent more than 50 years observing and documenting social interactions of wild chimps in Tanzania, starting under the guidance of Louis Leakey in the late 1950s.

In the early 1960s, Dutch filmmaker Hugo van Lawick shot more than 140 hours of footage of Goodall’s work, documenting it for National Geographic. From this filmic record and original interviews, Morgen weaves together his subject’s fascinating life story, both public and private.

With no college degree, Goodall tells us, her job qualifications were a love for animals and an open mind. (She later earned a PhD at Cambridge University.) As a leggy young blonde, she also courted a fair amount of media attention and not surprisingly caught van Lawick’s eye. They eventually married and had a child.

“A lot of people have extraordinary lives, but not a lot of people can articulate those lives, and even fewer have had that entire life photographed on 16mm by one of the world’s greatest photographers,” Morgen told The Hollywood Reporter.

Morgen, whose other credits include “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” “Crossfire Hurricane,” and “Cobain: Montage of Heck,” seamlessly captures Goodall’s passion and commitment, her gentle pragmatism, her quick wit and warm humor.

“I wish I could embrace every single one of you. I want to thank you for being here,” Goodall said at the Hollywood Bowl. “I hope you had a wonderful time.”

We did, indeed. This wonderful film is a joy to watch.

‘Jane’ opens in Los Angeles on Oct. 20.

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Highly anticipated ‘Snowman’ turns out to be mostly slush

Looking at the billboard posters for “The Snowman” (2017, Tomas Alfredson), I had the feeling that if I paid close attention while watching the movie, I might see a red flag or perhaps spot a clue that the police miss in a complex and carefully constructed story of a serial killer on the loose.

And since it’s set in Norway (haunting snowscapes, frozen lakes and austere mountains abound), I figured this tipoff to patient viewers would likely be a visual one – the Scandinavians being a tight-lipped crowd for the most part.

But about 45 minutes into this film, in which Michael Fassbender plays Detective Harry Hole, I realized that hanging in there was not going to pay off – that this was a complex and sloppily constructed story that was probably going to leave me feeling disappointed and frustrated.

Despite Alfredson’s success in 2011 with the multilayered “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” he seems out of his depth and overwhelmed with “The Snowman.” The narrative is confusing, the flashbacks don’t connect well with the present, the characterizations are haphazard. A case in point: Early on, we see Harry lying on a park bench shivering. There’s no explanation and the rest of the time he seems calm, measured, decisive and compassionate. Eventually, we learn he is an alcoholic. Oh, OK.

Similarly, his colleague Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), despite showing ingenuity and fierce determination, in the end, must resort to time-worn feminine wiles to land her suspect. Good thing she’s gorgeous!

Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character doesn’t have a last name but at least she’s elegantly dressed. Whatever.

Most vacant of all: Chloë Sevigny’s two characters (she plays twins) – one of whom is a dour-faced chicken slaughterer. ’Nuff said.

Considering, too, that the film was based on Jo Nesbø’s best-selling series of novels, there was reason to hope for a well made, intelligent, engrossing movie. Maybe there were too many screenwriters? (Peter Straughan and Hossein Amini lead the list.)

Or maybe this would have been better off as a TV series, where the serpentine storylines could play out and the characters could have more time to develop. Unfortunately, “The Snowman” we ended up with is mostly slush.

“The Snowman” opened Oct. 19 in Los Angeles and is now on general release.

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