Friday The 13th: Ashtray Dirt

Apologies for being quiet for a little while but here’s the latest round-up of stories that have been floating around the past 6 weeks…

To start, the first trailer for Gareth Edwards 2014 Godzilla has landed. A moody piece, its predominantly visual with little plot details given away (even though we’re all pretty sure we know what the story will be right?) but looks like it’ll wipe the floor clean of Roland Emmerich-related memories. The film has a UK release date of May 16th next year…

Insidious: Chapter 3 hasn’t started shooting yet but has had a release date announced of April 5th 2015. Leigh Whannell is reportedly on screenplay duties again, however it’s unclear as to whether or not anyone else involved with the first two films will be joining him or where the story will go…

Death Waltz Recording Co. will release the soundtrack to Slumber Party Massacre next year, with cover art by Luke Insect and sleeve notes from director Amy Jones…

A trailer has dropped for The Strange Colour Of Your Body’s Tears, the new feature from Amer director/writer duo Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani. The film, which has been a festival darling, has no theatrical or home entertainment release date as of yet but that should change soon…

Eureka Entertainment have announced a few of their 2014 home format releases; Computer Chess (Jan 20th), Kiss of the Damned (Jan 27th), Wings (27th Jan), Roma (17th Feb), John Dies At The End (17th Feb) and Serpico (24th Feb)…

One Way Static Records latest release, the soundtrack to The Hills Have Eyes, is now up for pre-order from their website

The new trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has dropped, with a hidden easter egg for the viral website Electro Arrives and a countdown to something. Sony have also announced today that two spin-off films focusing on Spidey’s foes Venom and The Sinister Six will be made, but no word of initial release dates yet…

Sharknado – The Spinning Terror

Brendan tried to avoid the treacherous waters, but no luck, they came to land to find him.  

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Jaws is correctly revered as a classic of the disaster/horror movie genre and rightly credited as the first high concept blockbuster movie. Jaws’ singular premise – a giant monster shark – that neatly translated into one single marketing image, and transformed the way in which films were made and sold in Hollywood to this day.

No one who was certifiably sane would say that Sharknado is destined to have the same homunculus impact on the world of modern filmmaking. However, it is undoubtedly a high concept project (sharks meet tornadoes), it is undoubtedly a disaster film and it has undoubtedly achieved a new and very modern type of success with contemporary audiences.

After amassing several million views on YouTube for it’s trailer, Sharknado’s premier on the Syfy channel accomplished something unprecedented for a made for TV movie by becoming a trending topic on Twitter. Websites and blogs have since collated the best and most amusing of Sharknado’s tweets, while the wave of social media interest in the film secured a limited US theatrical run, again another first for a “Syfy original film”.

Sharknado is a slick example of how low budget filmmaking can leverage social media platforms to generate positive word of mouth and reach new, incremental audiences. The problem for some critics with Sharknado, however, is the nature of the film itself.

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The premise of Sharknado doesn’t require much in the way of thought or explanation. A waterspout brings all manner of man eating sharks in-land to downtown LA, where they wreak all kind of havoc on an assorted cast of b-movie actors. Interestingly this ensemble includes the semi-credible presence of John Heard, he of The Sopranos (Ed: or for our purposes – Cutter’s Way, CHUD and Cat People etc)  and other far more legitimate screen roles. One can only assume John badly needs a paycheck right now.

It is willfully silly, escapist nonsense that pays homage to a host of cheesy pop culture references. The issue and where Sharknado proves to be so divisive, is that it is a project that is designed to be mocked. Unlike say the efforts of Ed Wood or Tommy Wiseau or even some of the movies distributed by Lloyd Kaufman, the makers of Sharknado certainly have no artistic hubris about the highfalutin merit of their work.

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That’s not to say Sharknado is a bad film as such. For my sins I actually enjoyed it. Honest. Production values are better than expected, pacing and narrative move quickly enough and among its truly memorable sequences is the sight of Ian Ziering first being swallowed whole by a badly rendered, flying CGI shark only to then see him cut himself out with a chainsaw and simultaneously rescue his love interest (Cassie Scerbo) from inside the same creature! Wow. Intense.

Sharknado is terrible, self consciously cheesy, deliberately camp fun brought to life purely for the commercial gain of the backers and producers at the Syfi channel. It’s safe to say that with Sharknado, the sharks of this film are not just limited to those in front of the camera lens.

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Sharknado is out on 7th October

Click the image for Amazon action

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Sheffield’s Celluloid Screams have announced the first films playing at this October’s horror festival. Taking place from Friday 25th to Sunday 27th, Screams will play host to the UK premiere of Brian Netto’s Delivery, as well as screening Jeremy Gardner’s The Battery, Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s Big Bad Wolves and a selection of work from claymation filmmaker Lee Hardcastle. Passes go on sale September 20th…

The line up for this years Toronto International Film Festival has been announced, with highlights including The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, Ti West’s The Sacrament, Lucky McKee’s All Cheerleaders Die and the world premiere of Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno. The full line up can be read on the official website

A poster and trailer have dropped for Marvel’ s Thor: The Dark World, which is released in the UK on October 30th…

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The line up for this year’s nationwide Scalarama month is now up over at the official website

Arrow have announced release dates for a Blu-ray version of Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce, out on September 30th, and a dual-format release of Squirm, out on September 16th…

Sam Rockwell is rumoured to be in talks to star opposite confirmed lead Rosemarie DeWitt in the Poltergeist remake…

A new international trailer has dropped for James Wan’s Insidious: Chapter 2, which hints at the troubled childhood of Patrick Wilson’s character Josh Lambert…


The live action remake of Akira is back on with director Jaume Collett-Serra (Taken) attached, a rumoured much lower budget and a shooting date of the end of 2014…

Paul Greengrass’ latest feature Captain Philips has been announced as the opening film for this year’s London Film Festival

Hot off the announcement of its world premiere at this years TIFF, a set of pictures have been released for Eli Roth’s latest directorial effort The Green Inferno. The film is described as ‘a group of college students take their humanitarian protest from New York to the Amazon jungle, only to get kidnapped by the native tribe they came to save: a tribe that still practices the ancient rite of cannibalism, and has a healthy appetite for intruders’. The Green Inferno currently has no release date…

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Ashtray Dirt Part 8

First up, the first theatrical poster for Israeli revenge thriller Big Bad Wolves has dropped. The film will be closing this years Film4 FrightFest in August…

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Hot on the poster news comes the first one sheet image for Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake. Not quite the poster I’m guessing many fans were expecting (it does look rather like a Robbie Williams album cover, no?), the image is apparently an actual shot from a film and not a composite image. This week also saw the first red band trailer for the film released which you can see below and judge for yourselves on whether you think it’ll stand up to the original film. Starring Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L. Jackson and Elizabeth Olson, Oldboy is released in the UK in December…

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Eli Roth’s year round haunted house attraction Goretorium has filed for bankruptcy…

Manchester horror festival Grimmfest have announced this years festival dates and two of the films they are playing. The festival will run between 3rd and 6th October and playing so far will be Hansel and Gretel Get Baked (starring Lara Flynn Boyle and Yancy Butler) and Jugface (starring Sean Young and Larry Fessenden, exec produced by Lucky McKee). The festival’s full line up will be released soon…

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Arrow have announced they will be releasing Brian De Palma’s Dressed To Kill on Blu-ray on July 29th. Restored Blu-ray editions of Sisters, Phantom Of The Paradise and The Fury will follow later this year and early next year…

The Barbican have announced two Live Live Cinema events for October 20th this year. Herk Harvey’s zombie classic Carnival Of Souls and Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13 will be screened with live music and sound effects courtesy of New Zealand musician Leon Radojkovic and his band of actors and musicians. Tickets are currently on sale and can be bought here

A trailer has dropped for documentary Birth Of The Living Dead. Directed by Robert Kuhns, the documentary will follow how director George A. Romero gathered together a bunch of people in Pittsburgh and made the legendary Night Of The Living Dead, drawing on ‘immersing audiences in the singular time in which Night was shot‘. No word yet as to when the film will be released…


The National Theatre of Scotland have adapted Swedish novel and film Let The Right One In into a stage play. The production will open at the Royal Court in December prior to a West End run. What will no doubt be an interesting experience, tickets can be ordered here

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EEFF: Generation Um…

Alex Cassun has bravely embarked upon an indie film featuring everyone’s favourite Dude, not that one, the other one

Undeniably, not the sort of thing most folks would volunteer for. 

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Mark Mann‘s Generation Um is a challenging, deliberately-paced film about introverted and mostly unlikeable characters doing questionable things. It isn’t a mumblecore movie (as some are calling it), but it is a movie about misunderstanding, so it seems fitting that critics have miss-categorized it. (I’m looking at you, Variety and LA Times.) If you don’t like slow moving character studies then you probably won’t find much to love about Generation Um, but I do, and did.

John (Keanu Reeves) just celebrated his 40th birthday. He lives in a slummy New York apartment with his obese cat and his 20 (or so) year old cousin Rick (Jonny Orsini). He spends his time with Mia (Adelaide Clemens) and Violet (Bojana Novakovic), a couple of hard-partying ladies in their early 20s, and he avoids pretty much everyone else, including his fretting mother who only wants to wish him a happy birthday. John wanders the city drinking coffee in the day and booze in the night. He has a million mile stare and doesn’t talk much, and when he does it tends to be nonsensical pseudo-philosophical mumbo jumbo**. New York is expensive and John relies on a variety of means to pay the bills, some of which are probably illegal. He mopes because he doesn’t know how to break the mindnumbingly repetitive cycle. Hell, not even the occasional blowjob in the local pub’s bog can put a smile on his face, for fuck’s sake! John drags his sad-sack face around the city, eating cupcakes and milling about his bedroom until we get to the first turning point, about 30 minutes in, when he follows a crowd of balloon-toting weirdos to a park where they perform a Country Western cowboy hoola-hoop dance… thing. Some idiot sets his camera on the ground and walks away. John, being an opportunist, gets himself a new video camera and narrowly escapes the Cowboy mob in the movie’s one and only action sequence.

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John proceeds to record squirrels in the park before turning the camera first on himself and then on Mia and Violet, roommates and BFFs who prance around in their underwear and stare deeply into mirrors as though trying to conjure the deeper meanings of the universe. They’re also really into sex, drugs and rock and roll. John follows them around their house as they take turns telling stories that may or may not be true. They’re the stars of their own reality TV show, and they reveal details of their lives with an un-bashfulness that can only have come from growing up with the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo instead of mindful parents. The characters seem to exist by floating from one moment to another, stuck in a big swirl of bland repetition, and the audience is tugged along for the ride. John doesn’t seem too interested in breaking free. If this was rehab, he’d be somewhere between recognizing he has a problem and dwelling on potential ways to escape the cycle, but still miles away from any meaningful action. John, Mia or Violet are lost souls who love and need each other despite getting to this point from vastly different avenues. None of them are keen to rock the boat, but I don’t get the sense that any of them are particularly afraid of drowning, either. It’s a fragile balance, and one which requires a lot of trust.

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A few small surprises arise as the histories and relationships are revealed, and there is even a twist ending of sorts. It’s quite a bit lower on the whoa! scale than, say, if John revealed he could see dead people, but it’s impact on the story is no less important. What the final 5 minutes does is give new context to everything we’ve seen. What had felt like a loose, rambling story suddenly tightens and you realize, looking back, that everything is in the movie for a reason and it builds to the only logical conclusion. The best endings are those which are both surprising and completely obvious, and the finale here was an expertly executed maneuver which I fear the subtlety and beauty of was lost on the critics who dismissed the movie as aimless.

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Mann‘s experiments with blocking put the focus less on the characters and more on the details of their surroundings — in most cases, those spaces tell us more than any movement or dialogue could. The editing is nicely done with humorous moments coming on the back-end of shots that are deliberately held for a half-beat too long. The movie isn’t quite linear but it’s not quite non-linear, either. Mann deliberately dislodges the audience from time and space, and if you feel a bit lost well then welcome, brother. It isn’t a stretch to think the audience should have been given Hello My Name Is… stickers upon arrival.

Reeves has played similar characters in the past but not to this degree and his performance holds the film together. Bojana and Adelaide are promising young actors who buy into their roles and give wonderful and completely unglamorous performances. As with the characters they embody, there is a lot of trust going on here, and it pays off.

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Generation Um might be in my favorites list at the end of the year, or it might not. Who knows. At times we are treated to well-lit sets and nicely composed shots, and other times the camera shakes like we’re filming a Bourne movie and some of the dialogue comes across like first year university students who’ve just discovered Nietzsche. But what I do know is I want to watch the movie again, and I’m going to tell my film-loving friends to do the same.

*: Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
**: One of my favorite scenes is when John is in a cafe with military buddy Charles (Daniel Sunjata). John’s musings about his apartment building’s left and right turns reminded me of the scene in The Dreamers where Michael Pitt is fascinated how his lighter fits perfectly on the table cloth.

 

 

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Up first is the new trailer for Israeli release Big Bad Wolves, which was announced last week as the closing film for this years Film4 Frightfest festival. Directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papusahdo, the revenge-thriller looks intriguing, brutal and brilliantly shot and will no doubt be a hit at the festival in August…

Arrow have announced their latest limited edition steelbook release, Lucio Fulci’s classic The Beyond, which is exclusive to Zavvi and available to pre-oder now…

Another psychedelic trailer has dropped for Ben Wheatley’s new picture A Field In England. The film is released across all platforms next Friday, July 5th…

Director David Lynch is reportedly collaborating with Trent Reznor on the next Nine Inch Nails release, Come Back Haunted. Lynch will apparently direct the music video for the new single, the first time the pair have worked together since the soundtrack to Lost Highway

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Actor James Gandolfini sadly passed away this week from a suspected heart attack. The star who was most notable for his lead role in television series The Sopranos, also played a string of supporting characters in films as diverse as True Romance, Zero Dark Thirty, Where The Wild Things Are and The Man Who Wasn’t There…

Birmingham’s Shock and Gore festival have announced their line up for this summers series of events. Running from the 19th to the 15th July, events include screenings of films both new and old from an Evil Dead double bill to recent offering John Dies At The End. The full lineup can be found on the website

More new pictures are emerging from the set of the new Godzilla remake. An underground bunker and a giant crater tease the presence of the titular creature in Gareth Edwards feature slated for release next year…

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Second Sight have revealed the sleeve artwork for their next Blu-ray release, Possession, which is released on July 29th…

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MGM have released an official press release this week confirming many of the rumours surrounding the new Poltergeist remake. The film will be directed by Gil Kenan (Monster House), produced by Sam Raimi and Bob Tapert and will be adapted from a screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire (Oz: The Great and Powerful). According to the press release, the plot will revolve around ‘a family struggling to make ends meet relocates to an outdated suburban home and is confronted by an angry spirit who kidnaps their youngest daughter and challenges them to band together to rescue her from the clutches of evil’

A set of new images have been released for the next James Wan feature The Conjuring, a creepy tale of paranormal investigators helping out a family living in a haunted house…

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Lastly, author and screenwriter Richard Matheson passed away this week aged 87. Prolific in the horror and science-fiction genres, Matheson wrote the novels I Am Legend, A Stir of Echoes and Hell House, the screenplays for The Devil Rides Out, The Legend of Hell House and The Incredible Shrinking Man and numerous teleplays…