Horrible Beginnings: George Melies’s The House of the Devil.

Many consider George Melies’s 1896 three-minute short, Le Manior du Diable (The House of the Devil), to be one of the first ever examples of a ‘Horror’ film.

The film opens in the courtyard of a mansion with a sinister looking bat circling. Said bat quickly transmorphs into a man: Satan! The Devil proceeds to conjure up a plethora of demonic spirits with impunity. That is until our noble warrior arrives to ruin the party. He battles heroically with the haters of all that is Holy; dispensing his own brand of justice with his trustly crucifix, sending them all back to the firey horror whence they came.

Although the intended meaning was one of mild humour rather than terror, nevertheless the signifiers of what would later become staple horror generic are present: gothic architecture, supernatural figures, the fight of good versus evil.

Is the film scary? Not a chance. Interesting? Yes. Because it is worth considering that maybe the fundementals of the Horror genre haven’t strayed that far, and in the case of movies, the complexities of human fear are largely unchanged.

Watch it below and see what you think.

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Review: The Social Network

The Social Network (12) 121 mins

Dir. David Fincher

Cast. Jesse Eisenberg,Andrew Garfield, Rooney Mara, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer.

Screenplay. Aaron Sorkin

5 stars

REVIEW

Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is sat in a busy Harvard bar in the autumn of 2003. Positioned opposite him is the delectable Erica (Rooney Mara) who is just about to dump him, but not before a conceited verbal joust ensues concerning the nature and importance of the university’s elite ‘Final Clubs’ and their ability to, in Zuckerberg’s words, “lead to a better life.”

Having had her fill, Erica gifts a few stinging words to our protagonist: “You’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a geek… that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”  She then leaves. The scene, perhaps the best in the film, is expertly shot, wonderfully acted and masterfully edited.

Two things became apparent to me when I heard that David Fincher was directing a “Facebook movie.”  Firstly: if Fincher wasn’t directing it, I wouldn’t care a lick at all. And secondly: even though he was, I was still quietly unoptimistic about the whole thing.

As it turns out, there was no reason to worry, because The Social Network has turned out to be a genuinely outstanding piece of filmmaking that proves that Fincher knows what he’s doing in any genre.

Based upon the not-so-flattering book by Ben Mezrich, The Accidental Billionaires, The Social Network charts the rise and subsequent legal battles that enveloped the internet phenomenon that is Facebook.com, and social enigma that is co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

The crux of The Social Network’s portrayal of Zuckerberg is one that couples a painful social ineptitude with academic genius.  Not exactly a rare sight in film, agreed, but therein lies the rub: the man who will co-create the most ubiquitous social networking tool in history, fails miserably in the basic skills required to connect with those around him in any meaningful way.

In the spirit of heartache and revenge, Zuckerberg creates a program that allows his Harvard contingent to rate on the attractiveness of their female peers. And when said program crashes the Harvard server, he realises the potential of a more personalised online social experience. Thus, ‘The Facebook’ is invented. Though, as you may guess, the tale has nothing to do with money or greed or power – at least not for Zuckerberg- it has to do with impressing a certain, soon-to-be dragon tattooed, girl.

The ensemble cast all perform admirably under what were no doubt difficult and trying circumstances imposed by Fincher.  Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg with a careful balance of sardonic wit and near autistic characteristics, and although not considered as handsome as some of the director’s previous leading men, nevertheless he holds the screen with ease. Rooney Mara boast beauty and confidence as the girl that got away – two traits she’ll need to keep with her if she’s to pull off the lead in Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo remake, currently filming in Sweden.

The part of the best friend, Eduardo Saverin, went to British-American actor Andrew Garfield who exudes a lost-little boy charm from start to finish. Justin Timberlake depicts the mildly Machiavellian Napster hero Sean Parker: all smooth-talking and rock-star arrogance. But much of the films humour is provided by the Winklevoss brothers.  Actor Armie Hammer’s performance in both roles, aided by some seamless cutting and pasting, apparently delighted their real life counter parts.

Of course many of the tales that make up the film are factually inaccurate, which is unusual for the normally pedantic Fincher, but none of that really matters here. Aaron Sorkin’s script is impeccable from start to finish and we never feel as though the 49-year-old writer, famous for the likes of the West Wing and A Few Good Men, is out of his depth with these Harvard kids.

Fincher makes the camera live and breathe in the way he always has, and each frame pulses with shades of Fight Club and Zodiac; there is no sense that this feature is in any way filler in his CV. The 48-year-old director has an unrivalled gift for technically masterful storytelling and character complexity that few contemporary American filmmakers can match.

It is a moody and stylish film that manages to transcend its seemingly glib subject matter and present an intriguing and complex view of the origins of one of the most significant social developments of a generation.

The only real negative critique is that in the rush of it all, I was left wanting more, which in retrospect may not be a bad thing anyway… The first rule of show business is: always keep them wanting more.

Warners dumps 3D from new ‘Potter’ film.

Warners have changed their tune for the up-coming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1, the penultimate in the series, and decided against releasing with retrofitted 3D.

According to Thompson on Hollywood, the studio is citing time contraints as the reason for the decision, but goes on to say that ‘retrofitting’ the 3D elements have “actually hurt the film’s quality.”

Now, i don’t particularly care for 3D, or Harry Potter for that matter, but it appears that finally a studio is getting wise to the fact that 3D isn’t quite the proverbial midas touch the world has been led to believe.

For the original article, click here.

Film News

Here’s a collection of the film news from The Hudd, the Bad and the Ugly‘s first broadcast.

Sam Raimi to direct Wizard of Oz prequel

The Spider-man director is working on a prequel to the 1939 Judy Garland classic. Broadway writer and Pulitzer prize-winner David Lindsey-Abaine is rewriting a pre-existing script.

Hollywood hot stuff, Robert Downey Jr. is in talks to star in the project, which is remains very much in the early stages.

Ghost Rider 2 is in the works

Not sure if anyone cares about this to be honest, but  Idris Elba is in set to co-star with Nic Cage in the sequel to the 2007 comic book flick Ghost Rider.

British actor Elba is developing a fairly respectable career with performances in the likes of American Gangster, 28 Weeks Later and 5-star TV show, The Wire. He’s also in Takers… but get too excited about that.

Kathryn Bigalow is courting Johnny Depp and Tom Hanks for Triple Frontier, aka Sleeping Dogs

There are very few details flying around about this project. We do know that allegedly Bigelow wants Depp and Hanks in two of the five principal roles.

It is anyone’s guess what the plot will be, but the ‘triple frontier’ is the tri-border between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, and is known as a hotspot for South American organised crime. So I’m guessing it’ll run along those lines.

It will also be interesting to see Hanks and Depp on the same screen.

Speaking of Depp…

Depp is currently filming Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides around London, then he will start principal photography on Dark Shadows in February. Dark Shadows is based on a melodramatic TV series from the 60s about vampires, zombies, werewolves, monsters; all set around an old mansion..

Still with J. Depp…

This is by far the sexiest news I’ve heard in some time, but rumour has it that Depp is also interested in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter !!

The movie is to be based on a book by Seth Graham Smith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  The plot centres on a young Abe Lincoln, who develops a thirst for vampire-stomping after his mother gets chewed up and spat out by a bloodsucker.

Tim Burton is attached to direct, so Johnny’s chances of starring are greatly improved.

And that is some news.

Ben Affleck and a response to Dave Bailey

Last week my peer and fellow film student, Dave Bailey, posted to his blog a comment defending the acting endeavours of one Mr. Ben Affleck.

Dave’s gripe -available here– came as a result of a feature that appeared on the Moviefone website entitled, Seven Actors Who Are Better Directors: a self-explanatory blog post that uses Affleck as its reason d’être.

Essentially, Dave claims that the charges levelled at Affleck as an actor are unjustified; this is not so.  Affleck’s early career was indeed very promising, but he took the path of least resistance and opted for the paycheque, like so many others before him.  No one doubts the Bostonian’s ability to hold the screen and deliver fine performances, but if it’s in a film like Gigli or Surviving Christmas, who gives a shit?

And if you also consider that during Affleck’s ‘dark time,’ friend and collaborator, Matt Damon, made a the likes of The Departed, Syriana, The Good Shepherd, The Brothers Grimm and a two-thirds of the Bourne franchise, it puts things into perspective a little more.

Ultimately, these “bad films” (as Bailey Puts it) taint the legacy of a man who is an Oscar-winning screenwriter and who may, one day, receive the same recognition as a director.

Still, after viewing Gone Baby Gone and The Town, there is a very bright light at the end of the tunnel for Affleck, but we ought not to forget that we all had to wade thru some shit to get there.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows trailer released.

The trailer for the for the latest in the Harry Potter saga, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, has been published online.

The internet is buzzing with anticipation for what will be the penultimate episode in the series which began nearly 10 years ago with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The film catapulted young actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint to instant stardom.

Thus far there have been six feature films, with two remaining in the the pipeline. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, directed by David Yates, is set to be released 19th November 2010; Part II will follow in 2011.

The slightly less talkie trailer can be found here

The one with Bill Nighy’s weird accent is here: Is it welsh? Is it West Country? Who the fuck knows?

BFI London Film Festival Releases Programme

The BFI London Film Festival has announced its programme for the forthcoming festival, due to take place across London from 13th October 2010.

According to the BFI website the 15 day event is scheduled to present over 300 films from “established and emerging talent from around the world.”

It is difficult, and a little unfair, to project undue focus onto just a few of the 300+ films showcased, but I’m going to do it anyway.

A couple of initial highlights on the roster include Matt Reeves’s cautiously anticipated, Let Me In, the US remake of Swedish cult vampire classic, Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson), and Palme d’Or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul), a film that shone at an unusually lethargic Cannes Film Festival.

Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go and Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours –which has reportedly caused a few faint-hearted patrons to collapse during screenings- head the British contingent this year and are supported by the likes of northern based indie film, The Arbor, a portrayal of the life of Bradford sweetheart and writer of Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Andrea Dunbar.

George Clooney’s Italian-based assassination thriller, The American will have its UK debut at the festival. It is directed by Anton Corbijn, responsible for the accomplished and tender biopic of Joy Division front-man, Ian Curtis.

The other films set to provide the familiar faces include Derek Cianfrance’s, Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams and Dan Rush’s Everything Must Go, which sees comic actor Will Ferrell pull a Robin Williams by ‘doing serious.’  There is also a ‘Surprise Feature’ due to be announced closer to the event.

Of course, the above features are only a narrow taster of the programme; Jean Luc Goddard’s  Film Socialsme appears, as does Howl (Robert Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman), a film about Ginsberg’s epic poem of the same name starring James Franco. There are to be some 112 short films, several classics (from David Lean’s The Bridge On The River Kwai to GW Pabst’s silent classic Pandora’s Box) and plenty of ‘talks’, ‘masterclasses’ and ‘special events.’

The festival will also feature, for the second time in as many years, the BFI London Film Festival Awards.

To take a look at the guide visit the website

Alternatively, download a full calendar

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