Tag Archives: horror films

It’s Time For Women in Film!

So last year, I did a two part essay called “Death of the Female Movie Star? We’re Just Getting Started” that got a bit of attention (more than 2 people read it!) That essay has come back to me in relevance several times over the last year and a half, especially Part 2 about the 2012 current involvement of women in action films and leading films. And now that we’re firmly into the summer blockbuster season of 2013, I thought I’d take the temperature of what’s going on in Hollywood again.

Now that we’ve hit Memorial Day weekend in the States and are chugging into the blockbuster summer movie season at full steam, how are things going in the film and action film arena this year in regards to women?

Clearly this year we are having a bit of a testosterone festival, dominated by Marvel (who still needs to learn to make better use of their great female characters,) by aging male action stars often paired up with younger male would-be action star actors, returning male-dominated action franchises and big SF set pieces that unlike last year don’t seem inclined to have women in the leads.

So have we gone backwards, after the surge of feminine power in 2012? Not really, if you look closely and remember that the widening of female roles in film tends to be a sneaky cultural trickle rather than a canon boom. Like last year, women are solidly in major supporting roles in many of the big action flicks, and those supporting roles see them often playing action divas as important parts of the team, not just damsels in distress. In Iron Man 3, for instance, even smart but violence averse Pepper Potts got her fight on not once, but twice, while Robert Downey’s Tony Stark had panic attacks. Fast & Furious 6 may be as macho as they come with its two male leads, but Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Gal Gadot and Gina Carano helped power the movie as major and active players, and that happening was a deliberate choice by the franchise. The idea of having a woman soldier, thief, spy, scientist, superhero, etc. on an action team has become routine, which means it’s going to continue and in steady numbers. Even in the Expendables franchise, whose purpose is to feature male action legends, they had to have a feisty female activist (Gisele Itie) in the first one and a female combat specialist (Yu Nan) in the second.

But how is it stacking up in action films where women are more in the lead position? It’s a mix and often in movies that get less media attention, but it’s not a bad roster in a year of Marvel, Star Trek, Will Smith and Brad Pitt.

Horror films, mostly low budget, continue to do fairly well and be female friendly. (Well, female threatening too, but that’s a whole other subject.) Women have had the lead role or co-lead role in films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D, Mama, Dark Skies, The Last Exorcism Part II, The Lords of Salem, and Black Rock; and will continue to do so in the up-coming  The Purge, The Conjuring, Random, Haunt, The Devil’s Rapture and Paranormal Activity 5.

The launch of Evil Dead in a new chapter for the beloved cult franchise starred Jane Levy and turned an extremely nice profit, ensuring more Dead movies that fans have long awaited. Another big reboot horror film is the up-coming Carrie remake, starring Chloe Grace Moretz in the title role and Julianne Moore (who wins the Gene Hackman award for being in tons of movies this year, including the lead in indie drama The English Teacher.)

On the somewhat cheesier side, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, powered by hot commodity Jeremy Renner and action heroine Gemma Arteton as titular brother and sister, did middling domestically but scored big globally. (The film got scolded for making females evil, ugly villains, which is in line with the two evil queens of the Snow White movies last year. That’s a valid point, but the other point is that all these movies are using female villains instead of the traditional male ones, where female villains were usually absent or only in supporting roles.  Like women becoming established as part of action hero teams, so too are female villains getting more play. So again, attrition towards improvement rears its head in strange places.)  Gemma Arteton is back later this year in Neil Jordan’s vampire movie Byzantium, with co-lead Saoirse Ronan, (who wins the young runner-up Gene Hackman award this year.)

The Host, from Stephanie Meyer’s SF novel (again starring Ronan,) and Beautiful Creatures from the YA series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, both came out early in the year and basically flopped. The books were bestsellers with passionate followings, but not all in those followings were happy with the adaptations and the movies were marketed to highlight their romance elements rather than their action ones. This was presumably on the erroneous belief that the audience for the Twilight movies had little interest in action, even though emphasizing its action scenes is what helped the Twilight franchise sell. Without enough global box office (though Beautiful Creatures got most of their money there,) the films didn’t go anywhere. (And again, female villains!)

But up next in this vein is The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, starring Lily Collins of successful Mirror, Mirror last year, from the bestselling YA series. Mortal Instruments has a very big fan base and it’s chockful of horror action which has been used in the marketing so far. So it will be interesting to see how it does. Even if it doesn’t do great, expect Hollywood to keep being interested in female led YA and YA fantasy adaptations, meaning the women get a chance alongside similar male led films like Percy Jackson.

In SF, Sandra Bullock’s delayed film Gravity about a female astronaut in trouble will be coming out with all the backing of George Clooney’s production machine behind it. And November brings us the next Hunger Games film, Catching Fire, the biggest female action lead of the year with Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence.

On the less speculative thriller front, low budget film The Call starring Hallie Berry also turned a tidy profit and the crime indie Spring Breakers did extremely well. (Yes, the women in that movie were in bikinis – cultural trickle, trickle.) Up later in the year are The East, starring Brit Marling who co-wrote the screenplay, following the craze for movies about undercover work in cults, Violet & Daisy about a pair of female assassins starring Ronan again and Alexis Bledel, and the second crime spree film The Bling Ring, about a mostly female gang of teenage thieves, from female director Sofia Coppola. The female gang of thieves movies are in fact becoming a staple over the last fifteen years or so, again establishing that you don’t necessarily need Clyde to do a movie about Bonnie and have it work.

In animation, the enormously successful The Croods made use of Nicholas Cage and cute animated animals, but the story was a father-daughter bonding coming of age film, rather than the more traditional father-son film. Next up is Epic, based on the William Joyce novel, The Leaf Men and The Brave Good Bugs, which actually has a female lead, though you wouldn’t know it from the commercials for it.

In the action comedy world, Identity Thief shifted from the usual male-male dark comedy buddy tale to the chemistry of Melissa McCarthy with Justin Bateman and made a killing. McCarthy plays comic buddy again this summer and this time it’s with Sandra Bullock as two cops paired up together in The Heat. If The Heat does well, expect Hollywood to try more female buddy action films. (And not even necessarily in bikinis.)

While it would be nice to have a better showing this year for the females as leads,  (and to not have Captain Kirk sexually harass his gratuitously lingeried female scientist  underling  in Star Trek: Into Darkness or the producers of the film be obnoxious in their apologies about it,) there definitely doesn’t seem to be a backwards drift. Women still only make up about 11% of the movie leads while making up 52% of the North American viewing audience (and likely as much of the foreign audience one day soon.) But no matter how reluctantly for reasons we’ve discussed before, Hollywood will follow the scent of money and that means women are still getting more and more active seats at the table.

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Death of the Female Movie Star? We’re Just Getting Started, Part 2

So let’s look at the current landscape:

Women’s roles in action movies have been sporadic in their type and prominence over the decades, often depending on economic issues of the time. While big budget projects featuring women have been rare, on the small and mid-size budget front, women have made significant progress. Often these action films are in science fiction, fantasy and particularly horror, a direct result of a shift in the 1980’s – which includes Terminator and Alien – to bring the female slice and dice victims more regularly front and center and also able to strike back at the monsters instead of just being rescued or killed.

Resident Evil, the zombie franchise based on the popular game, has become the venerable reliable of this on the B-movie action front. Starring Milla Jovovich, the first film had a decent budget cost for 2002 of $33 million and earned $40 million in the U.S. and over $100 million worldwide. The sequel increased the budget and did even more in the U.S. and $129 million worldwide, the third movie upping that to $147 worldwide. The fourth movie, which also increased the role of female sidekick Ali Larter, got a budget increase to $60 million, and did that in domestic sales with a whopping $236 million in foreign box office for a total take of nearly $300 million. The fifth movie, Resident Evil: Retribution, is due out this year.

Joining RE was Underworld in 2003, starring Kate Beckinsale. The elaborate vampire-werewolf film cost $22 million to make and took in $52 million in the States and $95 million worldwide. The sequel built on that for a $111 million world take. The third movie in the franchise, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, was a prequel and did not star Beckinsale in the main role. That movie had a bigger budget of $35 million. It made a healthy profit, but the domestic take was only $45 million in the U.S. and $91 million worldwide. So they brought Beckinsale back this year to star in Underworld Awakening with a much bigger budget invested — $70 million. In the only two weeks it’s been out in theaters, the film has earned over $48 million in the U.S. and a world take of over $88 million.

It’s tempting for many people to ignore these numbers and to dismiss these franchises as unimportant and small impact in the sea of testosterone action films, their budgets not large enough to value and their appeal credited to the hormones of young men for sex and violence and the special effects. But this is exactly how the war of attrition is waged – films that get made on easier, less risky terms, create profit and establish having a female action lead as perfectly normal, even desirable. The numbers aren’t unimportant to Hollywood, especially when merchandising is factored in. Replication occurs and so in the strange but successful low budget mash-up Alien Vs. Predator, for instance, the lead character is a non-white actress named Sanaa Lathan, something that is not seen as remarkable at all. Even when women aren’t the leads, they have become a requirement for team characters in bigger budget films.

And Hollywood is then willing to increase the risk somewhat by trying female leads on martial arts thrillers, with less of a safeguard of merchandising, the cult followings of SFF and game adaptation profits than something like Underworld. We saw that when in the dog days of last summer when they drop the small fry action films, we got Colombiana, starring Zoe Saldana, a non-white actress again, cashing in on her Star Trek capital, a revenge thriller that cost $40 million to make. It grossed $10 million in its opening weekend, almost made its budget in domestic take and made a respectable if not exciting profit of nearly $61 million worldwide. Also in 2011, the film Hanna, starring Saoirse Ronan, made a splash. It cost $30 million, took in $43 million in the U.S. and nearly $64 million worldwide. Recently, we then had Haywire, starring Gina Carano in the quiet release zone of January-February. The spy film, coming from venerated auteur Steven Soderbergh, had a $23 million budget and in its first two weeks has made over $16 million in the U.S. and over $19 million worldwide with a long lead time to earn more. And then there is One For the Money, a throwaway film adapted from the bestselling mystery series and starring Catherine Hegel. While not likely to be a real success, given its poor marketing support, that the film managed to get made at all after over a decade in development hell shows an interest, and the film did take in a solid $11 million its opening weekend. Individually, you might not notice these films much. Collectively, they mark a sea change.

The real fun, however, is set to come over the course of 2012. In the up-coming months, including in the blockbuster summer, we’ll be getting films like Gone, a low budget kidnapping thriller starring Amanda Seyfried as a kickass former victim saving her sister; Brave, Pixar’s first animated feature with a female lead (by which they will make up for the disastrous male-centered ad campaign for Disney’s Tangled; ) and Gemma Arterton sharing the spotlight with Jeremy Renner for Hansel and Gretal: Witch Hunters. We’re getting two highly talked about views of Snow White – the comic Mirror, Mirror with Julia Roberts and Lily Collins, and the dark war epic Snow White and the Huntsman starring Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron.

Chris Hemsworth, bringing his appeal as the star of Thor, plays the Huntsman in that film, but he doesn’t even rate an appearance on the main poster, which features the dwarves behind an armored and besworded Stewart, whose Twilight following is expected to be the bigger draw, and media publicity has concentrated on playing up Theron as the evil queen. While Stewart shared the spotlight in Twilight with boy candy Robert Paterson and Tyler Lautner, her Bella was still the woman in the center of the action and the financial success of those films has led to a keen interest in Hollywood on making YA adaptations and teen friendly films with female leads.

snow-white-huntsman-movie-poster-kristen-stewart-01

 

The big movie, however, is The Hunger Games, adapted from Suzanne Collins’ bestselling YA series. The film, starring Jennifer Lawrence (already a big contributor to women’s action through the acclaimed Winter’s Bone thriller and a key role in X-Men: First Class,) is probably going to be seen by many – and sometimes marketed as such – as another Twilight romance, and thus, as the property of teenage girls, dismissed as important. In reality, The Hunger Games is a post-apocalyptic SF war epic with a substantial following of young male readers. With a more substantial budget of $75 million and already a fairly extensive marketing campaign, it’s a bigger gamble, but early response to the trailer by largely happy fans suggests the film is going to do well, generate a ton of media over its Mad Max: Thunderdome set-up and vault Lawrence up the casting lists into at least Stewart territory.

With women also having sizable, if not lead, kickass roles in action movies like This Means War, Battleship, The Avengers, Prometheus, Batman 3 and World War Z, the up-tick has been enough to get media attention pondering a “new” trend of women in action, rather than just expressing the routine astonishment that an individual woman-led picture makes any money. And the process is set to continue with future movies like John Carpenter’s Darkchylde, based on the comic series, Dorothy of Oz, J.J. Abrams’ The Invisible Woman, Sandra Bullock in the SF film Gravity, and James Cameron – who arguably has contributed substantially to increasing the power of female actresses in action and female filmmakers – will do so again in the SF Battle Angel, based on the graphic novel about a female cyborg – a project that may have put more of the kabash on Shepherd’s film option chances. And outside of action, women will be prominent in films as diverse as What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Anna Karenina and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, hitting more markets than just male driven films and following in the wake of The Help’s so far $200 million plus grosses and likely Oscar boost, plus the usual slate of horror films which are still gaining business.

When Tomb Raider came out and made Angelina Jolie a star in 2001, the common belief was that the film had not done spectacularly enough for the hype, because, after all, she was a girl and video game movies don’t do well. But Tomb Raider made nearly $275 million worldwide, quite good for the time, and its weaker, less supported sequel made over $156 million. And nine years later, Salt starring Jolie raked in nearly $300 million. Even Sucker Punch, which drew Shepherd’s ire — a complicated, surreal, Inception-like movie criticized for over-sexualizing its largely female cast in ways that were little different from your average Bond film — managed to break even worldwide. Women led films are bringing in regular revenue and have absolutely no societal problems attracting diverse audiences.

And in television, watched by millions more regularly than films, women have become a staple of action and suspense, helming more and more shows as more cable channels develop original programming, as well as taking prominent roles in ensemble casts and finding more opportunities for female directors and producer/screenwriters. Some shows tank, some soar, just like all shows, but the slow attrition that began way back with shows like The Mod Squad, Police Woman and Charlie’s Angels – happy female form exploiters all – has developed into too many shows to comfortably list. Such gains are sometimes dismissed as making women the second class citizens given t.v. but denied movies, but that’s the sneaky envelope pushing once again. T.V. is becoming an effective launch pad and career enhancer. Just ask the cast of the hit Bridesmaids.

It is a slow and patient slog – a gliding Titanic iceberg if you will – but women do slow and patient well. And the newest generation of young actresses aren’t interested in just doing romcoms and selling fashion and perfume. They are also making their mark in action, from Hermione Granger to a militant Snow White, they’re producing indies, and the holes in the glass ceiling they’re carving are getting substantially larger. Does Hollywood want this? Not particularly, as then they have to share in a wider pool. They certainly don’t trust it. But the money is there and the audiences will happily watch. In an uncertain yet growing world of entertainment, Hollywood will try anything a few times, even if it complains with old excuses. And once they do, women will jam open the doorway, wearing a catsuit, and there’s no going back.

https://katgoodwin.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/death-of-the-female-movie-star-were-just-getting-started-part-1/

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Death of the Female Movie Star? We’re Just Getting Started, Part 1

Joel Shepherd is a young, smart, male SF writer from Australia. His Cassandra Kresnov series features a female soldier android in a planetary future society and is worth checking out. Back in the summer, Shepherd did a guest post essay for SF Signal about how the over-sexualizing of actresses in badly wrought action pics he felt had created the myth that a female lead action film couldn’t sell. I’ll be honest, that essay made me chuckle. A producer optioned Shepherd’s series and has been trying to get a deal in Hollywood for a film adaptation. Shepherd recently announced that the producer had given up for now because studios and other producers weren’t interested in a female action lead unless there was an A-list actress attached and not only is it hard to get access to them, but A-list actresses hardly ever get to do action pictures themselves, which keeps them from climbing up the A-list further. He announced his film news in a blog essay: “Death of the Female Movie Star?,” wondering if the self-defeating ways of Hollywood refusing to make big budget action female star pictures meant less and less women featured and a cycling disaster for female movie stars.

http://joel-shepherd.blogspot.com/2012/01/death-of-female-movie-star.htm

While I’m sorry for Shepherd that he didn’t get a movie or t.v. deal and hope that a new one works out for him later on, I have to say that the answer to his question: Death of the Female Movie Star? is at this point: No, they’re just getting started. In fact, 2012 is shaping up to be the year of the female action star at this point. Certainly in the last two years, we’ve had a significant increase in females taking center stage in action films. So lets take a look at this in two parts:

Why did I find amusing parts of Shepherd’s first essay for SF Signal:

http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2011/06/guest_post_joel_shepherd_on_the_secret_to_successful_female_action_hero_films/

Well, while I didn’t entirely disagree with his reasoning, I laughed because of passages like these:

“But if Hollywood makes a movie about a ‘female hero’, they’ll focus upon the word ‘female’. They’ll lose emphasis upon the hero story, and focus on sex and gender instead. Our female hero will be dressed in ridiculous outfits, and will have action scenes dedicated less to showing how kick-ass she is, than to how many teenage boys she can give erections while kicking ass.”

This first paragraph made me chuckle first off because it shows how normal it is now for people like Shepherd to view women characters in action films kicking ass. So normal that he’s focused on the sometimes ridiculous outfits. Only twenty years ago, though, women characters kicking ass in action movies was a rarity. You could count the examples on two hands, and most of them were horror films. When Sharon Stone kicked Arnold Schwartzenegger’s ass in Total Recall, the visual so shocked audiences as novel that it kicked Stone up the casting list into stardom and then to the film Basic Instinct where Michael Douglas looked positively scared of her and her ice pick. Mostly in action pictures women were expected to be “the girl” – to wear skimpy clothes and get dragged to safety by the manly hero, screaming or gasping all the way. One of the advantages of SF films was that you could say that in the future, women kick butt, and have that in the picture, but it took a long while for there to be as many opportunities for actresses to shoot guns and jump kick, whether they were the lead or not, as we have today. Now, when a female character in an action film doesn’t kick ass, we find it kind of strange.

And then there was this one in the essay:

Action heroes don’t wear suspenders and high heels, male or female. Period. Remember Ripley in the first two Alien movies? (the only ones that count) Absolutely no overt focus on sex appeal. Ditto Sarah Connor (and ditto about only the first two counting). Those were heroes, who just happened to be female.”

The fact that Shepherd fondly remembers Alien and the Terminator movies as having no overt focus on their main females’ sexuality, (Hamilton was not actually the star in the Terminator movies, Schwarzenegger was,) is, well, kind of endearing. Sure, Sigourney Weaver wore non-clingy jumpsuits in Alien – and then climbed out of them in her underwear. The entire last scene of Alien has her doing a striptease:

alien

 

And yes, Hamilton didn’t have high heels on her combat boots in Terminator 2. She just wore tank tops with no bra and pj’s that revealed her navel while she did chin-ups:

lindahamilton2

 

 

And in the Lara Croft movies, the gold ring so far for female-helmed action pictures, they lovingly try to get Angelina Jolie as near to naked as they can for most of the time while she portrays a videogame character whose chief attribute is that she looks like Adventure Barbie:

It’s progress that guys like Shepherd can be so enamored of a movie and its female character that they may not consciously notice the over-sexualization and fetishing of the actresses if there isn’t an elaborate costume and if the movie’s a hit. Women, however, do notice, but we tend to look at it as still the cost of having the women in the picture. When Paula Patton strips out of her sexy evening gown to reveal sexy underwear so she can change into a sexy leather mission outfit in a moving sports convertible in the recent Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, with Tom Cruise grinning beside her, it just elicits a guffaw. The big change is that now her character Jane Carter is the second most valuable member of Ethan Hunt’s team, has her own major emotional story arc, and is played by a black actress. Only a short time ago, any of those things would have been remarkable.

So it isn’t, as Shepherd first hypothesized, the female focus that’s a big issue as there is never a time when that femaleness is not emphasized in action pictures – certainly not in the age of the Internet and its obsession with the female body. And it’s not a dislike of women kicking ass, which is now the standard. So why are Hollywood executives so convinced that audiences don’t want action pictures with female leads? The answer is, it has nothing to do with the audiences at all.

Here’s what happens: Hollywood occasionally, at the pushing of producers, directors and heavy hitting actors, makes a film with a female lead and also sometimes with what they term female subject matter. And they always express astonishment when these movies make them money. They’re astonished by Erin Brokovitch being a hit. La Femme Nikita, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Help. At a certain point from all this, as Entertainment Weekly columnist Mark Harris often points out, you have to accept that either the people who run Hollywood are suffering from short term memory brain damage and are the most incompetent folk ever or that there’s something else going on.

What that is, is an institutionalized, deeply suspicious, counter-factual prejudice from the people who control the purse strings. Hollywood executives don’t want to give women in the industry any more power than they have to. They don’t want to have to pay female movie stars as much as male ones and deal with their pet projects and demands for higher budgets. They don’t want to have to pay female screenwriters as much or give female directors the most lucrative or prestigious gigs or acknowledge them as such. (Witness Kathryn Bigelow being the first woman to win an Oscar for best director all the way in 2010.) They don’t want to have to broker with female producers or have female studio executives giving the green light. (And the same goes for non-whites.) This prejudice is not always personal. Including women (and non-whites) more fully means more competition and less resources and control for the already favored. It’s felt as an encroachment and it’s resisted, with the highly lame excuse that really, they aren’t bigoted; it’s the public’s fault.

Yet, there is money to be made off of women, their judgment and their talent, and the industry knows this. Audiences, despite the claims, are incredibly quick to adjust to females in major roles, and studios can no longer bank on the teenage boys and young men who’ve partially deserted them for videogames and the Internet (and who are perfectly comfortable with kick ass women warriors anyway.) So it’s been a war of slow attrition, waged over decades, with women and their male allies seizing what opportunities they can get, accepting limitations to get in the door and then trying to inch the goal posts forward to both success and failure. Shepherd is right that the big budget, big money making films are the most heavily guarded, but the reality is that female movie stars’ movies earn better in aggregate and more reliably than male ones, (for one thing, the women are cheaper, improving potential profit margins.) The war of attrition for action has been well under way and there are numerous signs that women may have already passed a tipping point.

https://katgoodwin.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/death-of-the-female-movie-star-were-just-getting-started-part-2/

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Movie Trailers For A Lovely Sunset

Since the summer movie season officially begins in March now, kicked off with Sucker Punch and Paul, April is kind of like the way that  May used to be long ago and belongs to the comedies and less big action films. Besides the very dark, quirky superhero Super, starring Rainn Wilson, April brings us:

1) An Arthur remake. Okay, yes, first initial question is why do this, but by gender switching the butler and handing the role to Dame Helen Mirren, and letting Jennifer Garner explore her crazy side, the new flick manages to make some yucks on its own. It’s not Shakespeare, but it is his clowns:

2) Ceremony, a quirky comedy about a young guy, played by Michael Angarano, trying to break up the wedding weekend of his older ex-girlfriend, played by Uma Thurman, gets a wider release in April. The supporting cast looks like it runs away with this one, particularly Lee Pace as the groom. (We still miss Pushing Daisies, Lee.)

3) There have been many movies about high school proms, but this one may be the whackiest of them all, and from Disney no less. Prom, starring the next group of young ones to keep an eye on:

4) Hoodwinked was a terrific animated movie and a big hit across a wide age group.  It took them awhile to get the sequel off the ground, and so Anne Hathaway, who voiced Red Riding Hood, has been replaced by Hayden Panettiere, but the rest of the voice cast is back and joined by people like Joan Cusack, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, etc. The gang, who have a cool new headquarters, have to save the fairy tale world from disaster when Hansel and Gretel are kidnapped in Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil:

5) The Scream franchise has gone through its ups and downs and the Scary Movie satire franchise, but now they’re back to end the thing properly in Scream 4, in which Sydney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, returns back to her hometown ten years after her ordeals, where her pain has become a lucrative tourist trade. And a new Ghostface Killer goes after younger stars like Hayden Panettiere (there she is again!) Emma Roberts and Kristen Bell, apparently not remembering that all the other Ghostface Killers met grisly ends. And yes, it is more fun watching David Arquette and Courtney Cox relate to each other as characters in the movie with an unraveling marriage, than in real life.

6) Dylan Dog is a famous comic book series from Italy that was set in London. This new film version adapted from the series moves the locale to Louisiana, characters have been changed and there’s still plenty of horror, but they’ve added a lot of comedy. Old fans will probably hate it, but for the rest of us, it actually looks rather fun with decent special effects for a B-level supernatural thriller. Brandon Routh, like a lot of actors, got a raw deal being cast in the weird Superman reboot and forced to stiffly channel Christopher Reeve. Since then, he’s shown more of what he can do in cameos in things like Chuck and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and here he plays Dylan Dog, a “nightmare hunter” private eye in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night:

7) Keanu Reeves plays a slightly dazed man who accidentally ends up in prison for a bank robbery, meets James Caan in prison, and when he gets out, decides to actually rob the bank he was accused of heisting in Henry’s Crime. It looks silly, in a good way:

8) Historical drama thrillers can vary, but The Conspirator, about the woman accused of being part of the assassination conspiracy of President Lincoln, looks kind of interesting and has a great cast:

9) I watched The Fast and the Furious and enjoyed it, but didn’t bother to watch the rest. But since they’ve now brought Vin Diesel back into the franchise and are upping the ante in the cast each time, the fifth one in the franchise, Fast Five, is looking kind of good. Watch the Rock deliver the killer line in the trailer:

10) I read Water for Elephants and it’s a lovely novel, but I’m not sure what made it special will translate well to film. Robert Pattison and cast attempt it, however:

11-13) Trailers I’ve shown before which have settled into April release dates: Rio, the animated comedy about parrots, a new trailer for that; Hanna, the thriller about a teenage girl who may be a secret government experiment trained to be an assassin by her father; and Your Highness, the stoner comedy gone medieval fantasy with a great cast:

And that’s April, a little something for everyone.

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Movie Trailers to Cheer Us Up in the New Year

There is sad news in the world today, and so we turn for a brief respite to movie trailers, because I don’t want to think anymore about the other stuff:

1) First up, this month in January, Thandie Newton and Hayden Christensen discuss how they have funky first names while starring in a supernatural horror post-apocalypse movie called Vanishing on 7th Street. The lights go out in Detroit, most of the population disappears, leaving clothing and objects behind, and then the sun doesn’t show up and the few survivors realize the darkness is eating people. Think Pitch Black meets the collapse of the U.S. auto industry and only those car headlamps can save us. Actually, it looks creepily kind of interesting:

2) Next, James Cameron is doing something weird in February producing the film Sanctum, and when Cameron likes to get weird, it’s often worth checking out. An adventure thriller about a cave expedition team who are in a really big, scary, largely submerged cave system:

3) Also in February, Ed Helms revisits Hangover territory in a comedy about an incredibly sheltered, messed up  insurance salesman who goes to  Cedar Rapids, Iowa to a convention to save his company and gets taken on a wild ride in the big city in the comedy filmCedar Rapids:

4) In March, Bradley Cooper takes the leading man role in the SF thriller Limitless, about a blocked writer who takes an experimental brain boosting drug and finds he can see every which way he’s in trouble with Robert DeNiro:

5) Also in March is the animated kids comedy Mars Needs Moms, which has Joan Cusack voicing a mom who looks scarily like Joan Cusack. Seth Green voices the boy who strives to get his mom back from the aliens and Dan Fogler, the Tony-winning singer who is fast becoming one of my fav character actors, plays a guy helping the boy out:

6) April brings us Hanna, a spy thriller about a rogue agent who trains his daughter to be an assassin, and he may have done that because of a secret experiment. Think The Professional meets Species. The teen girl, Saoirse Ronan, is another one of these scarily brilliant kid actors. Maybe they are breeding those in experiments. And Cate Blanchett does her ice queen best:

7) Also in April, on the other side of the axis, is a talent-loaded, very odd trash comedy, Your Highness from the folks who did Pineapple Express. It features Danny McBride as the ner-do-well brother in a fairy tale kingdom to James Franco’s more heroic prince. When Franco’s bride, Zooey Deschenel (yay! More funky first names!) is kidnapped by wizard Justin Theroux who wants to take over the world, McBride’s Thadeous has to saddle up and help his brother with the aide of an uber-competent warrior woman played by Natalie Portman, shaking off her ballerina blues:

 

 

 

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Movie Trailers — Because We Must Have Some More

First up is Colin Farrell’s selkie romance thriller Ondine, which is out now in various places:

Next is Passenger Side, an award-winning Canadian comedy set in L.A. that looks to be both funny and poignant:

And lastly for today, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead, coming out in June, which must be seen because I always see the funny horror pictures and this one looks like a good one, plus Shakespeare:

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What Women?

Horror writer Maura McHugh, on discovering that women were practically absent from the special issue of SFX Magazine covering horror films and books, contacted the editor of the magazine and got a reply that was even worse than the magazine itself. Worst of all was the assertion, related by a woman acquaintance of the editor’s who supposedly works in horror, that horror doesn’t have a lot of women fans really. Once again, we’re faced with the cultural myth that women don’t like certain things, which ignores the cold, hard statistics that women buy most of the fiction out there and make up the majority of film audiences, including for the popular areas of science fiction, fantasy and horror.  You can check out McHugh’s encounter at her blog, below:

http://splinister.com/blog/?postid=586

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