It is often be the case that great things can come in small packages. In the realm of cinema, this translates to under 10 minutes. There is a distinctive artistry in short filmmaking. One could make the illusory coloration that the job of a short film director or writer is somehow easier, given the brevity of their resulting creation. The reality, however, is that the stunted time-frame requires the filmmaker to become adept at the economy of storytelling, and therefore to actually work harder to develop a narrative in a more concise framework.
It’s not a frequent occurrence, nor is it exceedingly rare that a short film will be picked up for adaptation into a feature film. This week, the wonderful Spanish horror short Mama sees its full-length iteration hit theaters. The Guillermo del Toro-produced Mama centers on two young girls found living alone in squalor, in the middle of the woods. When their new adoptive parents bring them home, it becomes clear that something terrifying has come along with them. Andres Muschietti, who also wrote and directed the short, helms the feature version. This got us thinking about some other short films we’ve seen over the last couple of years that would also be ideal for full-length big screen treatment.
The Legend of Beaver Dam
John Landis would be proud of this horror comedy short from writer/director Jerome Sable. It’s the story of an awkward young outcast, out on a camping trip with his scout troupe. As the night’s activities turn to ghost stories, which in turn accidentally awakens an evil monster, unlikely hero Danny is called upon to save the day. What is so outstanding about The Legend of Beaver Dam, and what we’re aching to see more of, is the spectacular musical element, and how this feeds an imaginative narrative structure. It would be great to see Sable team with Darren Lynn Bousman and Terrance Zdunich (the twisted minds behind Repo! The Genetic Opera) to turn Beaver Dam into a large-scale theatrical horror musical.
A carjacker witnesses a shooting, and inadvertently becomes the only one who can help a dying man. His conscience will not be the only thing tested. Marko Slavnic’s gritty crime drama is fairly simple in its construction. But within these few moments, we are presented with a probing, brooding character study that takes a phenomenal turn in its final act. It would be fascinating to see this twist altered to serve a running, tension-fostering conflict. Slavnic clearly has the directing and screenwriting chops necessary to hook an audience, and it would be great to see him expand this tale into a dark crime thriller somewhere in the neighborhood of Headhunters.
This is a bit of a cheat, we are not afraid to admit that. Directed by Phil Joanou (State of Grace, The Gridiron Gang), Dirty Laundry centers on a familiar skull-tee-clad comic book vigilante who, in this adventure, stumbles upon a nasty assault while he’s just trying to do his laundry. Yes, we’ve already had two Punisher films, and yes one of them already starred Thomas Jane, but Dirty Laundry is a sterling example of how the right director, and the right tone, can make all the difference. Dirty Laundry is edgier than 2004’s Punisher, and yet more grounded (if only a hair less violent) than 2008’s Punisher: War Zone. Hopefully, the overwhelming response to this fan film will earn Jane another shot at the role of Frank Castle. Gotta love that Ron Perlman cameo, too.
No Way Out
Even abstract shorts films can provide a compelling appetizer for a potential feature; more than any other type of short, they leave us wanting more. If there is one short that left us ravenous, it was 2011’s No Way Out. Directed by Kristoffer Aaron Morgan, and co-written by Eric Vespe, No Way Out is a violent, cruel descent into madness wherein a man, House of the Devil’s A.J. Bowen, is pushed to his breaking point by hideous monsters in the dark. The production design, the cinematography, and the ghoulishly delightful practical effects make for a superb and haunting Lovecraftian nightmare that begs to be expanded.
Portal: No Escape
It would be impossible to construct this list without mentioning what is conceivably the best fan film ever made. Dan Trachtenberg’s ode to Valve’s sci-fi video game was artful and immaculately shot, tantalizingly hinting at the potential for a feature-length Portal movie. No Escape was so exceptional that it actually just netted Trachtenberg a gig directing New Line’s movie version of the graphic novel Y: The Last Man. Our guess is that if Trachtenberg were to also then direct the cinematic Portal adaptation, something for which we are all crossing our fingers and toes simultaneously, Guillermo del Toro would produce. That may seem like a stretch... unless you happened to notice the voice of GlaDoS in the Pacific Rim trailers.
[Photo Credit: George Kraychyk/Universal Pictures]
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The wait is over! At last the nominations for the least authoritative awards show of all, the People's Choice Awards, are here. 93 million votes were tallied by phone, Interwebs, and even in-person polling at Walgreens (seriously), to determine the contenders for the 2013 kudos fest. It turns out that these guys Adam Levine (six nods), Channing Tatum (four), and Justin Bieber (five) are really popular. I have a Y chromosome, so I wouldn't have known. 2013 People's Choice Awards host Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory) announced the nominees this morning in Los Angeles at the Paley Center for Media, along with country star Jason Aldean, Anthony Anderson, Casey Wilson, Jason O'Mara, and executive producer Mark Burnett. Check out the full list of nominees below, and, remember, if you object to any of the picks, you only have America to blame.
PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARDS 2013 NOMINEES:
The Amazing Spider-Man
The Dark Knight Rises
The Hunger Games
Snow White and the Huntsman
FAVORITE MOVIE ACTOR
Robert Downey, Jr.
FAVORITE MOVIE ACTRESS
FAVORITE MOVIE ICON
FAVORITE ACTION MOVIE
The Amazing Spider-Man
The Dark Knight Rises
The Hunger Games
Men in Black 3
FAVORITE ACTION MOVIE STAR
Robert Downey, Jr.
FAVORITE FACE OF HEROISM
Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises
Emma Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man
Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games
Kristen Stewart, Snow White and the Huntsman
Scarlett Johansson, The Avengers
FAVORITE COMEDIC MOVIE
21 Jump Street
What to Expect When You're Expecting
FAVORITE COMEDIC MOVIE ACTOR
FAVORITE COMEDIC MOVIE ACTRESS
FAVORITE DRAMATIC MOVIE
The Lucky One
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
FAVORITE DRAMATIC MOVIE ACTOR
FAVORITE DRAMATIC MOVIE ACTRESS
FAVORITE MOVIE FRANCHISE
The Dark Knight
The Hunger Games
FAVORITE MOVIE SUPERHERO
Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man
Chris Evans as Captain America
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Christian Bale as Batman
Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man
FAVORITE ON-SCREEN CHEMISTRY
Emma Stone / Andrew Garfield, The Amazing Spider-Man
Jennifer Lawrence / Josh Hutcherson / Liam Hemsworth, The Hunger Games
Kristen Stewart / Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman
Rachel McAdams / Channing Tatum, The Vow
Scarlett Johansson / Jeremy Renner, The Avengers
FAVORITE MOVIE FAN FOLLOWING
Potterheads, Harry Potter
Ringers, The Lord of the Rings
Rum Runners, Pirates of the Caribbean
Tributes, The Hunger Games
FAVORITE NETWORK TV COMEDY
The Big Bang Theory
How I Met Your Mother
FAVORITE NETWORK TV DRAMA
Once Upon a Time
FAVORITE CABLE TV COMEDY
Hot in Cleveland
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Melissa & Joey
FAVORITE CABLE TV DRAMA
Pretty Little Liars
The Walking Dead
FAVORITE PREMIUM CABLE TV SHOW
Game of Thrones
FAVORITE TV CRIME DRAMA
FAVORITE SCI-FI/FANTASY TV SHOW
Once Upon a Time
The Vampire Diaries
The Walking Dead
FAVORITE COMEDIC TV ACTOR
Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Neil Patrick Harris
FAVORITE COMEDIC TV ACTRESS
FAVORITE DRAMATIC TV ACTOR
FAVORITE DRAMATIC TV ACTRESS
FAVORITE DAYTIME TV HOST
The Ellen DeGeneres Show: Ellen DeGeneres
Good Morning America: George Stephanopoulos, Josh Elliott, Lara Spencer, Robin Roberts, Sam Champion
Live with Kelly & Michael: Kelly Ripa & Michael Strahan
The Today Show: Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, Natalie Morales
The View: Barbara Walters, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd, Whoopi Goldberg
FAVORITE LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST
FAVORITE NEW TALK SHOW HOST
FAVORITE COMPETITION TV SHOW
America's Got Talent
Dancing with the Stars
The X Factor
FAVORITE CELEBRITY JUDGE
FAVORITE TV FAN FOLLOWING
Little Liars, Pretty Little Liars
Oncers, Once Upon A Time
TVDFamily, The Vampire Diaries
FAVORITE NEW TV COMEDY
Ben & Kate
Guys With Kids
The Mindy Project
The New Normal
FAVORITE NEW TV DRAMA
666 Park Avenue
Beauty & The Beast
Emily Owens, M.D.
The Mob Doctor
FAVORITE MALE ARTIST
FAVORITE FEMALE ARTIST
FAVORITE POP ARTIST
FAVORITE HIP HOP ARTIST
FAVORITE R&B ARTIST
FAVORITE COUNTRY ARTIST
FAVORITE BREAKOUT ARTIST
Carly Rae Jepsen
“Call Me Maybe,” Carly Rae Jepsen
“One More Night,” Maroon 5
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Taylor Swift
“We Are Young,” Fun. ft. Janelle Monáe
“What Makes You Beautiful,” One Direction
Believe, Justin Bieber
Blown Away, Carrie Underwood
Overexposed, Maroon 5
Some Nights, Fun.
Up All Night, One Direction
FAVORITE MUSIC VIDEO
Boyfriend, Justin Bieber
Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae Jepsen
Gangnam Style, Psy
Part of Me, Katy Perry
Payphone, Maroon 5 ft. Wiz Khalifa
FAVORITE MUSIC FAN FOLLOWING
Beliebers, Justin Bieber
Directioners, One Direction
KatyCats, Katy Perry
Lovatics, Demi Lovato
Selenators, Selena Gomez
What do you think of the nominees?
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: WENN (3)]
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The best way to go into Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is to think of it as the first film in a brand new franchise; a franchise in which mermaids love men zombies won’t eat you and a Fountain of Youth exists but all laws of logic reasoning and competent storytelling don’t. Although screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio were smart enough to sever the narrative ties to the first two sequels in their franchise’s fourth outing the latest swashbuckling adventure in the series shares most of the same faults its predecessors faced.
Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) steps in for Gore Verbinski in On Stranger Tides but you’ll be hard-pressed to find his contributions to the already-flashy film that finds our hero Capt. Jack Sparrow (the inimitable Johnny Depp) on the hunt for the fore mentioned fountain. Of course he’s not the only one looking for eternal life: also in tow are nameless stereotypical Spaniards the English crown headed by a reformed Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Blackbeard a ruthless pirate who looks and sounds a lot like Ian McShane. Their paths cross on numerous occasions as the story scrambles across the map culminating in a splashy battle in a magical meadow where Ponce de Leon’s greatest discovery lies.
Less a cohesive story and more a collection of individual set pieces linked together by nonsensical dialogue and supernatural occurrences the film isn’t all that hard to follow if you don’t strain yourself doing so. The sequence of events collide so conveniently for the characters you can’t help but call the screenplay anything but the result of complacency while the film itself sails so swiftly from point to point it’s actually a waste of time to dwell on plot holes and motives. Disrupting its momentum (which is one of the few things the film has going for it) is an unwatchable romance between Sam Claflin’s missionary Philip and Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) one of a handful of murderous mermaids who do battle with Blackbeard’s crew. Their bland courtship will have you begging for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley to return to the high seas and that’s saying something.
The all-female fish people are one of a few additions to the Pirates world but their effect on the film is negligible outside of being the impetus for the coolest action sequence in the picture and perhaps the most unnerving of the series. The others include Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard’s busty daughter Angelica and Stephen Graham as shipmate Scrum. The former feels out of place among the cartoony happenings but provides much needed sass while the latter fills in for Kevin McNally’s Gibbs for much of the film and is a pleasure to watch for some hammy comedic moments.
As always however this is Depp’s show and he continues to put a smile on my face with his charisma and theatrical presence. Even though he’s operating on autopilot throughout you can’t help but marvel at his energy and enthusiastic output as he literally fuels the fun in the film. The same can be said of Rush who’s given a meatier and more significant arc this time around. He trades quips with Depp as if they were a golden-age comedy duo and they remain the most appealing attraction in the franchise. Though he brings an undeniable sense of danger to the picture I was sadly underwhelmed by McShane’s Blackbeard a character with such a domineering reputation and imposing look he should’ve been stealing scenes left and right. Instead I felt he phoned his performance in though that could’ve been the result of Marshall’s indirection.
No better than the genre-bending original but a slight improvement over Dead Man’s Chest and At Worlds End On Stranger Tides suffers centrally from lack of a commanding captain. Marshall’s role is relegated to merely on-set facilitator or perhaps liaison between legions of talented craftspeople that make the movie look so good. Whatever vision he had for this venture if he had a unique take at all is chewed up and spit out by the engines of the Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster factory rendering the film as mechanical as the ride from which it is based.
Richard Riddick (Vin Diesel) has a really bad rep and with good reason: Five years ago convicted killer Riddick escaped the galaxy's law enforcement during a botched interplanetary prison transfer and has been on the lam ever since. As The Chronicles of Riddick picks up our antagonist finds his relative freedom has been compromised when mercenaries out for the $1 million bounty on his head discover his location and hunt him down. Riddick escapes their clutches steals their ship and sets off for Planet Helion to find Imam (Keith David) the Muslim cleric he rescued in Pitch Black and the only person who could have squealed his location to authorities. But while Riddick's hunch about Imam are correct the cleric has a reason for luring the mammoth murderer out of hiding: Helion is falling to unholy armies of Necromongers--warriors who conquer by force in the vein of Star Trek's Borg. Of course Riddick doesn't give a damn about the Helions or their plight--until he gets wind that the Necromogers want to kill him because of an old prophecy that foresees their end at Riddick's hands. Like it or not Riddick is left with no other choice but to battle the Necromongers.
The character of Riddick is unquestionably what made Pitch Black one of the most sequel-worthy sci-fi films in years. And Riddick would not have been one of sci-fi's most intoxicating characters if it weren't for Diesel. Like his Dominic Toretto in the 2001 actioner The Fast and the Furious Riddick is a villain of few words but when he speaks his carefully chosen words have impact--even if the dialogue is at times overly theatrical. Riddick is the perfect antihero; a cold-blooded and indifferent being who somehow evokes more compassion than the film's so-called good guys. Joining Riddick are some recurring characters including David as Imam but Riddick benefits the most from the addition of some new characters particularly Colm Feore as Lord Marshal the Necromonger leader whose goal is to rid the universe of all human life. Feore channeling nuggets of Julius Caesar into his role makes for one of Riddick's most thrilling foes. Another prominent addition to the cast is Judi Dench who has a surprisingly small role as Aereon an Elemental captured by the Necromongers and used for her special powers including ESP.
Writer/director David Twohy took his horror pic Pitch Black which gained a cult following since it was released four years ago and managed to successfully turn it into an sci-fi actioner of epic proportions. Everything is grander here which is almost a given considering Twohy shot Pitch Black on a dime in Australia using colored filters. In Riddick the director distinguishes the film's different environments--the Necros' mothership Crematoria's cavernous prison and Helion--using warm to cool tones that are dazzling yet more subtle than its predecessor. The CGI effects get a little gamey at times but production designer Holger Gross' gargantuan sets are impressive and help craft Twohy's otherworldly vision into a plausible one. And although Twohy jumps genres from Pitch Black to its sequel his storyline evolves logically from the original premise. But while moviegoers unfamiliar with Pitch Black will be able to follow the story easily enough they may have a difficult time grasping what makes Riddick such a big deal; the film explains the legend but never fully captures its quintessence. This could hurt Riddick's chances to broaden its Pitch Black fan base.