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Best Halloween Movies: Six Flix To DIE For

Halloween is the prime time for terror, and few experiences are more visceral than being scared out of our wits by a great horror film. This Halloween, check out one of the following movies. You won’t be disappointed. Scared out of your wits, yes, but not disappointed.

Warning: Some of the movies are not recommended for younger viewers. 


“Did someone say, ‘Halloween’?” You know we couldn’t leave Michael Meyers out of our Halloween round-up.

Setting Up Your Theater
Granted, there’s no trick to loading up a DVD or streaming a movie, but your viewing conditions do matter. Aside from the popcorn, in order to get the most out of a horror movie, try the following tips:

1. Lights out! Getting the room completely dark helps you concentrate on the screen and sets the mood.
2. Silence those cellphones! just like a public movie theater, turn off all those electronic devices. Horror movies are all about sustaining a mood, which you just can’t do it if you’re busy Tweeting your friends.
3. Make sure everyone’s onboard. Make sure your pals actually want to watch the movie. Wisecracks and tweets don’t add to the movie experience.

And now, our feature presentations…

1.  Buried (2010)
(Stream Buried tonight.)


Ryan Reynolds faces one of man’s basic, primal nightmares — waking up in a coffin — in Buried.

Many of the best horror movies tap into our most basic fears, and one of the most frightening is being buried alive. That’s exactly the predicament that Ryan (The Green Lantern) Reynolds’ character faces in Buried, as an American contractor working in Iraq who is kidnapped and drugged. When he comes to, he’s underground, in the dark, in a big wooden box. All that’s keeping him from a slow and terrifying death by suffocation are a butane lighter and his cell phone. It’s an exercise in mounting tension, as Reynolds frantically tries to contact somebody who can scrape together the ransom money his kidnappers are demanding…before the lights go out for good. Buried is a thriller that excels because of its basic and horrible premise, proving that terror doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. It only has to be terrifying.

2. The Body Snatcher (1945)
(Stream The Body Snatcher tonight.)


Bad Boris Karloff gets down to business in The Body Snatcher.

Proving that old horror movies really can be scary, The Body Snatcher boasts a chilling (and true) story by Robert Louis Stevenson about doctors who need cadavers (in order to further medical science) and the creepy criminals who supply them with dead bodies. But the real reason this film makes our list is the casting of Boris Karloff in the title role. Karloff may be best known now as the voice and narrator of the classic cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas, although he rocketed to international stardom decades earlier as the first actor to portray Frankenstein’s monster. (He also was the first actor to play the Mummy.) Karloff is horrific here: in his first scene, he’s all fake smiles and good cheer, helping a handicapped girl into a wheelchair. Scenes later, as he prepares to dig up a freshly buried corpse, the smiles are gone and he’s using a shovel to kill a dog standing watch over his dead master’s grave. Karloff’s sinister voice was an instrument of pure terror — maybe the most frightening in film history.

3. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1991)
(Stream Bram Stoker’s Dracula tonight.)


You’ve never seen a vampire (or vampire movie) that looks like this: Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

One longtime staple of the horror genre has been the vampire movie, which routinely gets updated for new generations of audiences. Recently, the Twilight series has leaned toward romantic themes, making for a kind of teenage, vampire soap opera. Meanwhile, the screen vampires of old (going back 80 years now) are usually not scary enough for modern audiences. So what’s a vampire fan to do? Try this curiosity from Francis Ford Coppola, which stars Gary (The Dark Knight Rises) Oldman in a more faithful retelling of the original vampire novel, which is why author Stoker is mentioned in the title. Rounding out the cast is Keanu Reeves, Anthony (Silence of the Lambs) Hopkins, Winona Ryder and others. The movie has great special effects and a rich, gorgeous look to it, thanks to Coppola, who uses some of his same Godfather tricks to make us root for a villain…whether we want to or not.

4. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
(Stream Night of the Living Dead tonight.)


Daylight provides no escape from the zombie onslaught in Night of the Living Dead.

Another mainstay of horror movies are zombies, and although the undead had been featured in horror films dating back to the 1920s, the category really began with a cheaply made “drive-in” movie that contained no stars and only crude special effects. Despite these weaknesses (which may actually be strengths, given the genre), George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead  is among the most influential of all horror movies; it’s spawned a flood of sequels and remakes. The plot is as simple as dirt: Zombie hordes have arisen from their graves and are slowly lumbering across the landscape, desperate to feed on human flesh, while a group of survivors holed up in a farmhouse tries to remain sane and off the zombie buffet. If you’ve only seen the later versions, do yourself a favor and tune in to TCM on Halloween night (9:30 pm, EST) and see where filmdom’s zombie fest began.

5. Halloween (1978)


Turn out the lights: The original Halloween makes more use of shadows than special effects.

This one’s really a no-brainer, given the movie’s title and setting. However, be warned: There’s a hefty difference in quality between John Carpenter’s 1978 film and the many inferior slasher movies that it’s spawned over the years — both within the Halloween series and all the other popular maniac-with-a-knife franchises (i.e., Friday the 13thNightmare on Elm Street, etc.). And while villain Michael Meyers has legions of fans — in fact, it’s more appropriate to say that he’s the hero in the Halloween movies, considering that he’s the character that many (if not most) audience members are rooting for — the real star here is director Carpenter, who relies on traditional horror movie elements (such as expert use of spooky lighting and shadows) to get his point across. Does the original still deliver the goods? One viewing will give you the answer.

6. Below (2002)
(Stream Below tonight.)


What if you were trapped with ghosts? And what if you were six hundred feet underwater? Below takes you there.

Yeah, haunted houses are great for giving us shivers, but ghost stories can happen anywhere — such as onboard a claustrophobic U.S. Navy submarine during World War II. In Below, an American sub rescues some sailors from a sinking ship. The Americans quickly learn that no good deed goes unpunished as things start getting super-strange, with all kinds of paranormal activity taking place. Before long, the sub’s crew starts to crack up. The situation becomes so haunted and intense that in one amazing scene, one of the crewmen becomes completely unhinged and runs through and out the sub’s torpedo hatch while the vessel is still submerged. The sailor is so terrified by the ghostly visions he’s just seen that he doesn’t even pause to consider the watery fate waiting for him. Below is consistently tense and delivers a powerful underwater punch…maybe because it was written by Darren (Black Swan, The Wrestler) Aronovsky, who may just be the best American director currently working.

Gotta Have Horror
Horror movies start with an idea, but require the talents and skills of many creative professionals before they hit the big screen. For aspiring film directors and editors, it’s a thrilling time to prepare for a career in the digital arts. The key is receiving expert instruction from trained professionals, with the latest technological tools and cutting-edge software, such as Final Cut Pro. At Digital Media Academy’s summer computer camps, the emphasis is on hand-on training, delivered on some of America’s greatest college campuses. If you want to be there when the cameras start rolling, start learning the industry with DMA.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Total Recall Remake & The 5 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012

With just a couple of months left in 2011, moviegoers are already looking toward 2012. And why not? 2012 looks to be a banner year for big-screen blockbusters. Not only do superhero fans have The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man to look forward to, but sci-fi fans are anticipating the remake of an Arnold Schwarzenegger classic too.

1. The Avengers (May 4, 2012)

Featuring a comic-book store full of A-list actors, fans are counting down the days until The Avengers premieres.

What do you get when you take the world’s hottest superheroes and assemble them for a film? The Avengers, of course! This spring, Marvel Studios will release a superhero action flick that has been in development for years.

Written and directed by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog), The Avengers will bring together the superhero talents of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner),  and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.


On the set of The Avengers with Robert Downey Jr., Joss Whedon, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans.

The superheroes are assembled to defeat the extraterrestrial invaders led by the super villian Loki, who has come to earth to destory it. The first film to be distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, The Avengers is the culmination of years of groundwork by Marvel Studios. Even the actors know the importance of the film in the Marvel movie mythos and stepped up their game too: Actor Jeremy Renner took archery lessons for his role, while actor Chris Hemsworth maintained his two-chickens-a-day diet for his Thor psychic.

Shot in locations around the country like Albuquerque, New Mexico, Cleveland, Ohio, and New York City, the film promises to blow audiences out of their seats. Need more proof? Check out the official Avengers movie trailer.

2. The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3, 2012)

If  The Avengers doesn’t satisfy your appetite for Marvel superheroes, The Amazing Spider-Man will.

Spider-Man is no stranger to movie screens, especially after a trio of well-reviewed, record-breaking, big-budget action flicks, which starred Tobey Maguire as the world’s greatest swinger. Now Sony, the studio behind Spidey, are hoping to reboot it for a whole new generation.

The Amazing Spider-Man stars Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and this time around Marc Webb is directing the film. The rest of the cast includes Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Sally Field as Aunt May and Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben.

Garfield, who made an appearance in costume at Comic-Con 2011, is a longtime fan of the comic book; his turn as the web slinger is hotly anticipated by not only screaming 16-year-old girls but by longtime Spider-Man fanboys. Mainly because, like The Avengers, this film will return to the roots of our favorite web-head and will focus more on Parker’s high school experience. Accordingly, the grumpy Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson will not appear in the new movie.

Someone who will be making an appearance, is Marvel Comics genius Stan Lee, who probably created (or co-created) more big-name superheroes than any other comics giant. SPOILER ALERT: “Stan the Man” will have a cameo in the new film as a librarian plugged in to his earbuds and is oblivious to a battle between Spider-Man and arch foe, The Lizard. The Amazing Spider-Man will be released in 3D and IMAX 3D.

3. Total Recall (August 3, 2012)

Collin Farrell takes over Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role in the new Total Recall.

Easily the most anticipated sci-fi flick of 2012, the much-rumored remake of the 1990 sci-fi/thriller Total Recall casts Colin Farrell in the role of Douglas Quaid, originally played by Arnold Schwarzenneger.

Not a lot of info has been released about the film, but that still hasn’t stopped fans from speculating about why Ethan Hawke makes a cameo. The original film was well ahead of it’s time, from full-body X-ray video machines to wall-sized televisions; the technology alone made it a cult classic. The latest version will continue that trend, with a futuristic look at a nation-state called New Shanghai. The film also stars Bryan (Breaking Bad) Cranston, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale.


On location in Toronto, Canada, this futuristic police cruiser gets a little help chasing down Quaid. 

What won’t be appearing in the new version, which will be directed by Len Wiseman, is the planet Mars, which was the main location of the original movie. Instead, this Recall will take place on earth in nation-states called “Euromerica” and “New Shanghai.” As before, the plot will involve a factory drone (Farrell) who comes to believe that he’s being used as a spy, although at this point we don’t know much more than that.

4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (December 14, 2012)

Martin Freeman plays Bilbo Baggins in the prequel to The Lord of The Rings.

It’s time to return to Middle Earth with director Peter Jackson and the characters you fell in love with in The Lord of the Rings. Hobbit Bilbo Baggins must journey to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim a treasure taken by the dragon Smaug. Bilbo is joined by a group of dwarves, while appearances by new/old friends, Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Frodo (Elijah Wood), and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) will keep fans riveted to the screen.

The film itself is eagerly awaited for several reasons, in part because it was in limbo while producer Peter Jackson and the rights were sorted out in a high-profile Hollywood drama. Director Guillermo del Toro (HellBoy, Pan’s Labyrinth) will helm the film.

5. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20, 2012)

Batman takes on Bane in the latest Dark Knight saga.

Following hot on Spider-Man’s heels in July is Batman – that is, Christopher Nolan’s version of the caped crusader. In what many have said may be the final chapter in Nolan’s Batman series, Batman takes on Bane, another comic-based villain.

With an estimated $250 million budget, The Dark Knight Rises is rumored to be best of the bunch. Two new characters are introduced: Anne Hathaway plays Catwoman, Tom Hardy plays the unstoppable Bane, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays John Blake. The formula must be working, because this is the first Batman trilogy to have the same director and actor (Nolan and Bale, respectively).

Making Movies Super
What other movies can we look forward to in 2012? How about a Star Trek sequel, the 23rd James Bond film and Men in Black 3? Movies are still greatest America’s cultural export, and next year’s crop of blockbusters reflect how important digital filmmaking techniques have become to modern cinema. Learning to use powerful editing software such as Apple’s Final Cut Pro is key to getting a foot in the door at today’s hottest film studios. Creating comic book characters isn’t easy either, and neither is digital filmmaking, but the crop of 2012 films listed here seem ready to take on the challenge. What do you think? Are you looking forward to these films?

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog and have No Comments

Original Ghostbusters Returns to Theaters: Ghostbusters 3D on the Way Too!

While Hollywood is still abuzz with rumors about the upcoming Ghostbusters 3 (and who’s likely to star in it), Sony announced last week that the original Ghostbusters will be re-released in theaters. Ghostbusters will be shown in approximately 500 theaters across the U.S. starting October 13th, 20th and 27th. In locations where the 1984 comedy classic will be shown, it will be presented in 2K digital with 5.1 surround sound, and will only be shown one time each day.


Dan Aykroyd once revealed in an interview that Slimer the ghost was modeled after his late friend John Belushi.

“We’re delighted to be bringing Ghostbusters back to the big screen. This is a special celebration of the movie, giving the fans a chance to see it on the big screen in perfect digital presentation,” said Rory Bruer,  the President of Worldwide Distribution for Sony Pictures.

Who Ya Gonna Call?
The original release of Ghostbusters did extremely well for filmmakers, so a re-release definitely makes sense. For a period, Ghostbusters was the highest grossing comedy of all time. Starrring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, the film follows the adventures of three paranormal scientists in search of proof of ghosts, while simultaneously trying to rid the New York City of specters and spooks. The film and franchise still have an incredible connection and ongoing love affair with fans. This includes a best-selling video game, a Ghostbusters Twitter feed and action-figure line (not to mention a reproduction of the EctoMobile by Hot Wheels).


Licensing Ghostbusters is still a multi-million dollar business. Example A: The Ghostbusters EctoMobile Hot Wheels

Spurred in part by the recent success of The Lion King: Diamond Edition in 3D, which grossed almost $30 million its opening week, the Ghostbusters re-release embraces an ongoing trend in which young parents (who made the film a box-office champion when it was originally released) are now eager to share classic original 80s and 90s films with their own children. Giving blockbuster classics like The Lion KingStar Wars and Top Gun the theatrical re-release treatment, in particular through a 3D re-release, is all the rage these days.

3D has reinvigorated the businesses of movie studios and theater owners. George Lucas is converting Star Wars to 3D. It’s not cheap to convert a film though; the planned 3D re-release of the Star Wars films (all six) will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 per minute. 2012 will see the theatrical release of James Cameron’s romantic disaster epic, Titanic, which held the all-time box office record as the biggest moneymaker in film history, until Cameron himself shattered the previous mark with his sci-fi epic, AvatarTitanic 3D will capitalize on that film’s sweeping vistas and thrilling visuals.


James Cameron’s Titanic will re-release on the 100th anniversary of the ships sinking. 

Ghostbusters 3 in 3D
Rumors about the upcoming Ghostbusters 3 are true; the film is in production. And when the film releases next Christmas 2012, it looks like it will also be in 3D. That means when ghosts fly out of the screen toward the audience, they’ll really fly out of the screen.

3D technology gives filmmakers another weapon in their fantasy-making arsenal. For both new feature films and established Hollywood favorites, technology is always changing the ways that films are made and marketed. It’s now changing how people learn filmmaking at a digital media academy. Interested in creating cutting-edge 3D animation or designing special effects for live-action movies? Just remember that the filmmakers of tomorrow are getting started today.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have Comments (2)

Coppola’s Twixt: Using Technology to Re-invent the Movies

He’s acknowledged as one of the greatest directors in film history, and now he’s back with a wild new movie. Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) has always been a bold filmmaker. His latest film proves once again that he’s not afraid to take chances: Twixt is a 3D movie, with a twist.


Oscar-winning filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola made the 1972 classic,  The Godfather.

Val Kilmer (Top Gun, Batman Forever, The Doors) plays Hall Baltimore, a down-on-his-luck horror novelist, who specializes in books about witches. Baltimore is touring the West Coast on a self-managed low-budget book tour. When he stops in the small Northern California town of Swann Valley, he realizes he’s wandered into a twilight zone that’s populated by odd happenings, menacing Goth teenagers and other strange characters. He becomes haunted by the ghost of a young girl (played by Elle Fanning, from Super 8).


The ghost of V haunts Hall Baltimore.

Dynamic Cinema
Coppola previewed Twixt at Comic-Con 2011, where he gave out Edgar Allan Poe Masks (with 3D glasses inserted in the eyes) to convention attendees. The preview was one of the highlights of Comic-Con.

Coppola teased the film as a “dynamic cinematic experience.” Basically, his vision is that depending on where and when you see the film, the version of the story you see could be completely different than someone else’s. It’s an interesting take, but one made possible with technological advances, “How dare anyone think all (cinema) has got up its sleeve is 3D. Of course we’re going to see wonderful innovations,” Coppola remarked.

The director went on to demonstrate how scenes might be “remixed,” as Coppola created a couple of different versions of the trailer. The crowd watched as Coppola used an iPad to edit on the fly. Basically what he envisions – to some extent – is what the final film presentation might offer.


The trailer for Twixt is remixed for the audience at Comic-Con.

Poe Show
Cranking the weird meter to eleven is a surprise “cameo” by no less than the godfather of horror, Edgar Allan Poe. Poe died young and mysteriously in 1849, but only after defining American horror with stories and poems like “The Raven” (which dealt with insanity), “The Cask of Amontillado” (where a character is buried alive) and “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” (which includes cannibalism among its many horrors). Given the overwhelming weirdness of Swann Valley, Poe, it seems, finds himself right at home.


Strange encounters are the hallmark of Twixt, including this one with long-dead, horror icon Edgar Allan Poe.

Twixt had its world premiere Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival, and the famous director talked about the movie’s origins during a Q&A session with festival attendees. Coppola got the idea while visiting Istanbul and after a night of drinking a potent Turkish liquor. The film’s concept came to him in a dream. Upon waking the next morning, Coppola immediately preserved his thoughts by using his iPhone to capture the idea.

Because of his legacy, anticipation greets every new Coppola film. And even though he’s made horror films before (most notably, 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula), this is Francis Ford Coppola’s first film to use 3D. (However, the 3D effect is only used in two scenes, and the film signals the audience members about when to put on their 3D glasses.) No release date has been set for Twixt just yet; Coppola is still shopping the movie around and trying to find a distributor.


Coppola, Kilmer and…Edgar Allan Poe (played by Ben Chaplin) on the set of Twixt.

In the Final Cut
It’s no surprise Coppola used an iPhone and iPad to preview his latest creation at Comic-Con. In addition to making some of the cinema’s most important and beloved movies, Francis Ford Coppola has always been a technical innovator. Like many of today’s most celebrated filmmakers, Coppola has been using Final Cut Pro to edit movies for years. Twixt showcases the director’s vision in a way that pushes the cinematic experience to new heights, and we can’t wait to see the results.

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog and have No Comments