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Showing posts from October, 2011

Empire List #327: The Nightmare Before Christmas

You know you have a cult hit on your hands when a movie inspires fashion. Walk into a rock or a Goth clothing store and odds are you will find hats or t-shirts with motifs from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Leave it to that Vincent Price obsessed director to come up with a movie where the monstrous citizens of Halloween Town take over Christmas. Each of his creations are animated not by computer but via stop-motion, the process in which objects are moved inch by inch and then recorded to give the illusion that inanimate objects are moving by themselves. It also works as a musical, with music and lyrics provided by long-time Burton collaborator Danny Elfman.
Released in October of 1993 as “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas,” despite being directed by Henry Selick, the film worried Disney executives because of it might be too scary for young children. I guess my parents thought the same thing since I had to discover that nightmare by myself. It wasn’t too diffi…

Empire List # 430: Big Trouble in Little China

Among the great partnerships between actors and directors you can count Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese, John Wayne and John Ford, and my personal favourite, Kurt Russell and John Carpenter. Together they made an Elvis Pressley biography, a horror movie (“The Thing”), and a post-apocalyptic action movie (“Escape from New York”). With “Big Trouble in Little China” (1986) they tried a mash-up of three genres: comedy, martial arts, and action. The result is a blend of Chinese legends, monsters, kung fu fighting, and Kurt Russell trading quips with Kim Cattrall in the San Francisco underworld. Man, movies were crazy in the 80s.
I saw this particular genre mix back in 2009 while spending the summer in Vancouver as a summer student. Wonderful beaches, but since I only had three courses and didn’t know a lot of people in town I had a lot of free evenings. Always count on iTunes to have a large variety of titles at low prices if you want some home entertainment. Rather appropriate, since th…

Empire List #289: John Carpenter's The Thing

For my personal taste, most horror movies today have a lot of gore, but little suspense. In 1982, horror master John Carpenter made “The Thing,” a frightening story that had a lot of gore, very suspenseful scenes, a scary setting and memorable characters.

This being October and the weekend when the prequel to Carpenter’s version is released, it seems like an ideal time to revisit the 1982 version. The first time I saw this movie was in a basement, by myself, during one of those horror marathons they have on the Space channel during Halloween. The only thing missing was a rainstorm outside and scratching sound on my bedroom windows.  It’s one of those movies that are scary to watch by yourself, but of you watch with other people it’s kind of funny. When I watched it as part of a double bill at the film club at my university (with David Cronenberg’s “The Fly”) we would laugh at some of the film’s more shocking moments, and also at the somewhat dated special effects. My ideal scenario: se…

Empire # 432: X-Men 2

Among the dozens of comic-book movies that have come out in the past twelve years, “X2: X-Men United” is one of the best of the bunch. It has awesome special effects, an army of original characters, a menacing villain, and a strong plot. Like all of the movies in this particular franchise, it touches on themes such as racism, civil rights, and fear of the unknown. Only instead of people of different skin colour, it is people with mutant abilities who are being persecuted by fearful government agencies. Cheesy, but it makes great action scenes.
Ideally I should have seen a big comic-book movie like this with friends my age at some major multiplex in Canada. Instead when it came out in 2003 I was still living in Santiago, Chile, and on that particular occasion my dad wanted to spend some more time with me since he was home from work. I am the movie geek, so I get to pick the movie. Unfortunately, during the previews he asks me if this is a spy movie, meaning he had no idea what X-Men was…

Empire List #433: Good Will Hunting

Gus Van Sant’s “Good Will Hunting” is a very effective dramatic film that could appear in one of those “Before they were Famous” specials. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who were both supporting actors at the time, wrote the screenplay. Their words and individual performances earned them both Oscar nominations in 1997 before they went on to become major movie stars. Casey Affleck, brother of Ben, has a supporting role, and he also would eventually move on to bigger things.
I remember seeing the Oscars in 1997 and knowing this movie was a big deal, but I never got time to see it. I was probably too busy adjusting to living Chile, having recently moved from Newfoundland. About ten years later I finally rented it and watched it in my off-campus room near the University of Sherbrooke. I was studying English, not math, so I couldn’t really indentify with a main character who is a closeted math genius. Yet on some level, I think there is something for everyone in this story.
Matt Damon plays th…