31 January 2009

Halloween Franchise

The movie, HALLOWEEN (1978), inspired many filmmakers, not just the ones making horror movies, but directors shooting other types of films, too. It inspired me because it was an independent movie made for a small amount of money ($320,000 US) by enthusiastic individuals who were fairly recent film school graduates, was a box office success ($55 million–one of the most successful independent films of all time), and people still talk about it today. Millions of fans showered affection on this film, and its legacy still lives on.

HALLOWEEN was successful because of its very talented crew and cast. The story, written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, about a six year old boy (Michael) who killed his 17-year old sister (Judith) one Halloween night was good: as a result of the murder, his parents had him placed in a sanitarium. Fifteen years later, he escaped and returned to his hometown: Haddonfield. His psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis, knew exactly where he was going and followed him because he believed he was evil.

In addition to a good story, the technical aspects were excellent. The directing (Carpenter), music (Carpenter), lighting, cinematography, sound, editing, etc. were above average. And this was the feature film debut of Jamie Lee Curtis. She was wonderful in this movie. Overall, everyone in the cast was likable and believable, especially Donald Pleasence who played Dr. Loomis.

A movie like this had never been done before, so it was extremely frightening and other filmmakers imitated it. It even imitated itself, because there have been seven sequels, a remake, and in August a sequel to the remake will be released. I saw all seven sequels. They were entertaining, but not excellent like the original. The sequels had graphic violence and gore, which were absent in the first movie, and critics dismissed them. On the other hand, the original HALLOWEEN received many critical reviews (both good and bad).

Another problem with the sequels is the lack of story continuity. I guess since there were various writers and directors, this should be expected. HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH is an exception. It, like HALLOWEEN and HALLOWEEN II, were written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, and was a totally different story not involving Michael and Dr. Loomis. I like it, but missed seeing the two main characters. Many people, including the producer and owner of the franchise Moustapha Akkad, have said that the movie should have just been called SEASON OF THE WITCH, and not associated with the HALLOWEEN franchise because it is a good movie.

I like the documentary, HALLOWEEN: 25 YEARS OF TERROR, because it takes viewers behind the scenes of the entire series. Also, there are interviews with cast and crew, and footage from the October 2003, 25-year Anniversary Convention – Return to Haddonfield held in Pasadena, California (one of the filming locations of the original HALLOWEEN), including panel discussions with cast and crew. In addition, there is art, videos, and music from the fans.

This franchise certainly has some dedicated admirers, and I think that is wonderful. I have not even mentioned all of the other products, including fan films and comic books, which have been created by many people who love this franchise. As a filmmaker, I hope and pray that I will have such a following some day. It seems like it would be nice having so much support from people all over the world who would encourage me to keep doing what I enjoy, especially during the times when things may not be going so well.

I still watch these movies, especially around Halloween (October 31), because they are fun. I like suspense, and want to follow the series. I have even seen the 2007 remake directed by Rob Zombie. I am not sure what to say about the remake, but I remember after the movie was over people silently exited the theatre. Usually people talk, and I like to stay in the theatre to read the credits and listen to the music, but not this time; I walked out right after the movie ended with everyone else. I am not sure if I am going to see “remake part two.” Maybe curiosity will take over.

26 January 2009

Slumdog Millionaire Wins Again!

Of course I was thrilled last night when SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE won a SAG Award for Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture! I especially liked how Freida Pinto took the time to acknowledge the young actors in the movie. They were stupendous and deserve recognition. Dev Patel also deserved his nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

In addition, I was excited that Richard Jenkins was nominated for Best Actor in THE VISITOR, but disappointed that he did not win. His performance was superb. See my December 10, 2008 entry to read more about THE VISITOR.

I want to see DOUBT and THE READER. These are two movies I have not seen yet that seem extremely intriguing. I like both Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet, so I know I will enjoy seeing them in their award winning performances. I am glad they were honored last night, just as I like seeing the very talented Sally Field win for her role in television’s “Brothers and Sisters” and James Earl Jones receive the life achievement award.

Unfortunately, Brad Pitt has not won an award for THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. I think he was magnificent in the movie, and really hope he wins an award for it. Another movie that has not even received award recognition is GHOST TOWN. It is a comedy/fantasy that “marches to its own drummer,” if you will. The movie provides laughter and some romance. If you get a chance to see GHOST TOWN, do not pass it up. The movie is fun to watch and stars Greg Kinnear, Ricky Gervais, and Tea Leoni. To learn more about GHOST TOWN, visit the official Web site: http://www.ghosttownmovie.com/#/home.

High Tension and You Better Watch Out

I have watched some horror movies on FearNet recently. For the record, I like horror, not “gorer.” I prefer films that offer suspense, as Alfred Hitchcock accomplished so well. And as a friend of mine has said, “horror is whatever makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.”

One of the movies I watched that absolutely terrified me was HIGH TENSION. Oh my goodness! It certainly provided high tension. I was petrified as an insane man entered a farm house killing each member of an unsuspecting family. However, for some reason he did not kill the daughter, and her college friend, who is visiting, manages to hide from him. It was frightening seeing him drive away in his truck with the daughter and her friend, who willingly got in the back of his truck without him knowing it. She did not want to separate from her friend. The ending was definitely unexpected, and is a bit disturbing, but I would recommend HIGH TENSION to horror fans. There was graphic violence, but the story kept my interest so I sat through it. For more about this movie, visit the official site: http://www.hightensionmovie.com/.

Another movie I watched was YOU BETTER WATCH OUT, also known as, CHRISTMAS EVIL. This independent movie was released in 1980, and is a psychological thriller about a man who is obsessed with Christmas and being Santa Claus. Apparently this movie was popular at Drive In movie theatres. I liked it because I actually laughed at some things, that were probably supposed to be taken seriously, but it was hilarious seeing this grown man have Christmas decorations up (probably year-round), take special care in sewing his Santa suit, drive a van with a sleigh painted on the side and while driving it he shouted, “Go Rudolph, Prancer, Comet,” etc., and to top it off, work at a toy factory. He killed a few people and decided which kids had been naughty or nice. He did not kill any children. Instead he gave them presents. But when adults made him angry, he killed them. This might sound crazy to you, but it was a fun movie to watch, and apparently is a cult classic.

12 January 2009

Slumdog Millionaire is a Winner

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE deserved each of the awards it won at the Golden Globe Awards last night: Best Screenplay (Simon Beaufoy), Best Score (A.R. Rahman), Best Director (Danny Boyle), and Best Motion Picture Drama. I stated in my December 10, 2008 entry here that I thought SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE was very unique and refreshing, which is why I am so excited for everyone who worked on the movie.

While watching the Golden Globe Awards, I enjoyed seeing the cast and crew celebrate as each award was given. I particularly liked how presenter Freida Pinto (“Latika”) said that the movie has made her country (India) proud. Later when the Best Motion Picture Drama award was received, producer Christian Colson said that now the premiere in India will probably be a celebration.

To the cast and crew and anyone else who had anything to do with making SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE: Congratulations!!

10 January 2009

Nash Bridges

Nash Bridges is back on television. Thank you WGN America! I have not seen this show since the 90’s, and am now able to DVR episodes and watch on a regular basis. I remember being full of anticipation, rushing home in time for the premiere episode, turning on my television just in time, having the first scene hold my attention, and being impressed with the opening sequence. San Francisco is a beautiful city and the perfect setting for the action comedy series.

Don Johnson is excellent as the twice divorced police inspector, “Nash Bridges,” who accumulates more vacation time than anyone else on the force. He is determined to work around the clock fighting crime and seeing justice is done. Besides, he is down on luck with women so why not spend every minute on the job? Speaking of women, Nash’s ex-wives could not be more different. Annette O’Toole plays his first wife, “Lisa,” who is also the mother of his daughter, “Cassidy,” played by Jodi Lyn O’Keefe. She and Nash communicate well as long as they do not get too intimate or spend a lot of time together. On the other hand, Serena Scott Thomas plays Nash’s second wife, “Kelly,” who is a passionate romantic; one wonders why they even divorced because they are very intimate.

For the second season, Cheech Marin begins playing Nash’s partner, “Joe Dominguez.” Marin’s comedic timing and chemistry with Johnson are incredible and give the series a special quality, setting Nash Bridges apart from other series’ like it. Also, with the character “Joe” viewers are introduced to his wife, “Inger,” played by Caroline Lagerfelt. “Inger” is Swedish and when her mother comes to live with her and “Joe” in San Francisco there are some funny things that happen such as Inger’s mother getting romantically involved with Nash’s father, “Nick,” played by James Gammon.

I could go on more about the cast, because throughout the series’ six seasons there was always a great one. Jeff Perry is amazing as “Harvey.” Perry is an actor who I wish I could see more; visit his official Web site at http://www.geocities.com/saxon777/Jeff_Perry.html. He is so natural and believable as a San Francisco police inspector. He is an actor with wonderful comedic and dramatic ability. We see him in most episodes providing the show’s special comedic moments and being a reliable co-worker, but also in episodes when a relationship did not exactly work out right and he is not such a good father to his child where he is given the opportunity to show he is also a dramatic performer. My other favorites throughout the series are Jaime Gomez as “Evan,” Mary Mara as “Bryn,” Cress Williams as “Antwon,” Yasmine Bleeth as “Caitlin,” Wendy Moniz as “Rachel,” Daniel Roebuck as the very goofy “Richard Bettina,” Kelly Hu as “Michelle,” and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa who I wish could have played “A.J.” for more than just nine episodes. There are also many other actors who had recurring roles that provided some interesting and fun storylines, including the WWE wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin and Tracey Walter as “Angel” who really thought he could fly!

Each episode of Nash Bridges is like watching a movie. The realization that you are watching a television show only becomes apparent when a commercial breaks in. The series can be formulaic but is not serialized. And, thank goodness, not all episodes end with a car chase. Uniquely, throughout the hour Nash visits (or calls) his daughter or one of his ex-wives, letting viewers know he is not all cop.

Nash Bridges is an entertaining and intelligent series. I like seeing Johnson on Miami Vice as “Sonny Crockett,” and was uncertain whether I would adjust to seeing him in another weekly television series. Several years later I see the Nash Bridges character is very different. Not only does Nash wear socks, but he is older, wiser, and calmer. It is nice seeing Don Johnson on television in a successful series. I truly enjoy watching Nash Bridges, and look forward to seeing him on another quality show.

09 January 2009


I recently watched the movie MEATBALLS on The Movie Channel. It had been many years since I saw the 1979 classic comedy, starring Bill Murray in his feature film debut, and I still laughed a lot. The movie was so well done and hilarious.

MEATBALLS has inspired three sequels and several comedy movies with a summer camp setting. The setting is certainly a highlight. The music makes it clear with the children’s choir singing, “Are you ready for the summer. . .”

Bill Murray was working on television’s Saturday Night Live when he was cast in this movie. His performance was excellent, and while watching I was quickly reminded how much I enjoyed him playing these types of roles. His character, “Tripper,” was very funny, even silly, but Murray made him likable. I especially liked how he helped “Rudy,” played by Chris Makepeace, feel accepted. “Rudy” was a kid ready to leave camp because the other kids made fun of him, making him feel like an outsider.

My favorite scene in MEATBALLS is when “Tripper” lets the campers and counselors know that since they were defeated on the first day of the Olympiad against Camp Mohawk, “it just doesn’t matter if we win or if we lose.” He quickly gets everyone to clap and chant “it just doesn’t matter!” It’s funny and in a special way very inspirational for everyone at Camp North Star.

Watching this movie today, there is one more thing that is funny, which was not funny in 1979, and that is the music. It is very 70’s! I am a product of the 70’s so I am not making fun of the music. It just sounds funny listening to the soundtrack and remembering things about the songs. For example, during the social the song Makin’ It by David Naughton is playing. Do you remember him performing that song on Solid Gold or maybe American Bandstand? I think I do, and I also remember Makin’ It being a popular hit on the Billboard charts and in roller skating rinks! Sing along: “Makin’ it. . .I’ve got the chance I’m taken it. . .no more, no more fakin’ it. . .this time in life I’m makin’ it. . .whoa, whoa, whoa. . .” If you want to hear the song, go to the following Web site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyn2HnvKcjw.

Lastly, there is apparently a remake in the works. I am not sure what to think about it. Today we should probably be used to movies being remade because it has become so common. I guess movies made in the past are so good and/or well-liked that they have to be either imitated or remade.


My new novel, THE TWO SISTERS, is available for purchase:  The Two Sisters by Terri Dawn Arnold . The story has crime, drama, and mystery. L...