Tag Archives: George Romero

20,000 Leagues of Cinema and Literature: An Interview with C. Courtney Joyner by Kent Hill

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C. Courtney Joyner is a successful writer/director/novelist. He was a zombie in a Romero movie, he hangs out with L.Q. Jones and Tim Thomerson, he was once roommates with Renny Harlin and made the breakfasts while Harlin got the girls. It makes me think of Steve Coogan’s line from Ruby Sparks, “how do I go back in time and be him.”

Truth is we are the same in many instances. We’re just on different sides of the globe and one of us is in the big leagues while the other is at the scratch and sniff end of the business. But we both love movies and fantastic adventures. We both wrote to the filmmakers we loved long before the director became celebrity. We both longed for more info from behind the scenes – long before such material was in abundance.

He grew up in Pittsburgh, the son of a doctor and a reporter. He came of age in the glory days of monster movies and adventure fiction. Then he headed west and after college it wasn’t long before his writing caught the attention of producers and thus a career was spawned.

Spending those early years working with Charles Band and his company, Empire, Joyner was prolific, and soon the writer became a director. All the while he was working on a dream project, a work we all have in us, that he was fighting to bring into the light.

It was a love of Jules Verne and the “what if” type scenario that gave birth to the early version of the story that would become his current masterwork Nemo Rising; a long-awaited sequel, if you will, to 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

His story would go through several incarnations before finally reaching the form into which it has now solidified. Swirling around him were big blockbuster versions which never quite surfaced. Names like Fincher and Singer and stars like Will Smith were linked to these big dollar deals.

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Unfortunately even Joyner’s long-form TV version came close, but didn’t get handed a cigar. So at a friend’s insistence he wrote the book and his publisher, in spite of the property being linked at that time to a screen version that fell apart, agreed to still put the book out.

Thus Joyner’s Nemo has risen and at last we can, for now, revel in it’s existence. I believe it is only a matter of time before it shall acquire enough interest – and the new major playing field – the field of series television may yet be the staging ground for Courtney’s long-suffering tribute to the genius of Verne and the thrilling enigma of a character known as Captain Nemo.

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Long have I waited to chat with him and it was well worth the wait. So, here now I present my interview with the man that director Richard Lester (The Three Musketeers, Robin and Marion, Superman II)  once mistook for a girl that was eagerly interested in film.

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . C. Courtney Joyner.

 

The Day of Reckoning: An Interview with Andrew David Barker by Kent Hill

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Andrew David Barker was born in Derby, England in 1975. He grew up with a love of films and writing. I suppose this is a common thread among those of us who seek to express ourselves through these mediums. Hoping against hope that it will be either one or the other that strikes first – one or the other that shall propel us out of obscurity and into the stratosphere in which we are allowed to create for a living.

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It was horror films (the Video Nasties), but also the bombastic, high concept and blockbuster works of the 80’s that further fueled the young Barker to carry on his quest. Spielberg, Lucas and Scorsese, but also Romero and Raimi fed him with images and blasted on the big screen the seemingly endless possibilities which lay in wait, destined to be unearthed by the daring dreamer.

Like all those that had come before, young Barker cut his teeth making short films and writing books and short stories – at times with friends. Then the time came – the time which calls to the fledgling auteurs and beckons them into the fray – time to put all accumulated knowledge to the test, and make that first film.

Thus A Reckoning was born. But through no fault of his own, young Barker was forced to sit by and see his film languish in obscurity. So, he took up the pen, and began to tell his stories on the printed page. Soon, he produced two fine works (see pictured above) and interest from the film industry power brokers soon came knocking.

Andrew is an eclectic storyteller whose visions are at once personal and profound. To talk to him about his journey, his influences and aspirations was a thrill. He is definitely a talent to watch, and, I for one, will be watching with great anticipation as to where his journey will take him next.

HE IS NED: An Interview with Max Myint by Kent Hill

2015 was the year. I was in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia at our version of San Diego’s Comic Con: SuperNova. I was there peddling my books but, in the booth next to mine, something amazing was afoot.

A giant banner held the image of the famous, or perhaps infamous Australian bush-ranger Ned Kelly; transformed and repackaged as vigilante, looking battle-damaged and bad-ass holding the severed head of a zombie in one hand and a loaded pistol in the other.

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That image invoked more than history and cultural iconography. It spoke to me as a concept so simple, yet compellingly cinematic. He is one of our country’s most treasured pieces from the past in a fresh guise and pitted against a dark, futuristic dystopia where the undead have evolved and formed a society in which humanity is not only a minority, but is being systematically wiped out.

Max Myint leads the creative team, spearheading, if you will, the rise of this epic saga of the man called Ned. A talented writer, sculptor and world-builder, the gutsy, gritty dark realm that he has helped usher in is about to explode on November 10. In the midst of the stench of rotting flesh and the searing of metal is something that commands attention. I for one can’t wait to see Ned’s rise and rise continue, and Max and his talented team blast this thing out into the masses . . . and watch it catch fire.

The living have surrendered…

Except for one man…

They call him Ned!

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https://podcastingthemsoftly.com/2016/08/04/not-yet-a-major-motion-picture-but-hopefully-one-day-an-interview-wit-the-creators-of-the-man-they-call-ned-by-kent-hill/

SEASON OF THE WITCH (1973) – A REVIEW BY RYAN MARSHALL

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George A. Romero is – or at the very least once was – the kind of socially conscious filmmaker the horror genre is in dire need of these days. His early films are the most blunt, angry, and effective in his oeuvre; though few would deny they are rough around the edges, their energy and ambition is nonetheless infectious. Sandwiched between NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Romero’s little-seen sophomore effort (1971’s THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA, a romantic comedy), and 1973’s THE CRAZIES is SEASON OF THE WITCH (known as JACK’S WIFE when it was in production, and before the distributor excised half an hour from its run-time), a surprisingly thoughtful musing on contemporary witchcraft, repressed sexuality and the patriarchy; an endlessly fascinating, mostly successful marriage of talky, sleazy soap opera aesthetics and surreal psych-out horror.

Joan Mitchell is a bored housewife facing a mid-life crisis. Her husband Jack has little time for intimacy, there’s a considerable distance she feels between herself and their daughter Nikki, and she has recurring nightmares in which Jack aggressively pays her no mind and she envisions herself as a pale-faced old hag. The psychotherapist she’s been regularly seeing feeds her the same old crap in response to her attempts to understand these dreams (“The only one imprisoning Joanie…is Joanie.”), Nikki’s seeing more action in her week than Joan surely has in years, and things are just overall rather drab.

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If nothing else, Joan’s got her circle of friends – a tightly knit community of fellow housewives who seem to share many of her anxieties. One evening at a dinner party, there’s talk of a new woman on the block that practices witchcraft. Joan, along with her closest friend Shirley, seeks her out and gets a Tarot reading, which surely opens up a couple of doors for them both. As Jack goes away on business, leaving her to her own devices, and terrible nightmares – in which a masked assailant breaks into the house and rapes her – continue to plague Joan’s mind, she dabbles in the occult as a way of reclaiming her sanity.

It wouldn’t be revealing too much to say that this is a film about – many things, but most importantly – a woman transcending her role in the household and discovering a new identity that has, in fact, been with her all along. Sexual identity, as is the case when Joan starts an affair with a teacher at Nikki’s school who had previously seduced her daughter as well and finds solace in the young man’s spirit, and personal identity go hand-in-hand. There’s also an emphasis on the pointlessness of the so-called “necessities” of life when one doesn’t truly believe in them, and at the beginning of this tale, Joan doesn’t believe in much of anything.

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As evidenced in the opening dream sequence, Romero gives it you straight in regards to what the themes are here – to a fault, it could be argued, as Joan wearing a leash and collar, led on by Jack, and being locked inside a cage is a bit much – but regardless of how obvious they may be, they remain as relevant now as they were then. There’s a lot more dialogue than action, to be sure, but this is the kind of film where all the talking somehow manages to get us somewhere in the end, somewhere that feels on a whole satisfying and even intellectually stimulating. Audiences didn’t embrace the film upon its initial release, though Romero can hardly be faulted; marketed as some of kind of softcore porno in its severely cut form as HUNGRY WIVES, it would be difficult to make something this smart and genuinely challenging seem exciting to purveyors of provocation. Romero’s original 120-minute version may have been left on the cutting room floor but what resurfaced in 2005 with the help of the good folks at Anchor Bay seems like a damn fine representation of his intentions in its own right. We’ve changed with the times, and the time for SEASON OF THE WITCH is now. Better late than never, as they say.

At the very least, this is an ambitious cinematic cocktail, and for the most part it works. No doubt most people won’t find it to be all that visually stimulating, but if it really is about what you do with what you’ve got, Romero is a miracle worker. As cinematographer and editor as well as writer/director, he establishes an intoxicating rhythm early on that luckily remains consistent throughout – there are some really neat tricks employed during the post-production stage, as well as some creative camera movements which keep the proceedings from becoming mundane, even when the story doesn’t seem to be moving forward. This is a chilly film, perfect for viewing during the Fall season, and once Donavan’s titular song blares over an occult shopping spree, Romero’s unique alchemy has all but won you over. It’s very much of its time – the fashion, the unquestionably ugly décor, the hep terminology – and appreciation may vary based on one’s tolerance of this kind of stuff, but a thoughtful viewer will surely find plenty to chew on here, if not even more to swallow.

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LAND OF THE DEAD – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

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The 2000s saw a resurgence in the zombie film with the good (28 Days Later), the bad (Resident Evil) and the funny (Shaun of the Dead), but all of them pale in comparison to George A. Romero’s trilogy of zombie films. The first two have been remade already, most significantly with Dawn of the Dead (2004), and both failed to build on or even recapture what made Romero’s films so great in the first place. They seem to only be in love with the gore and miss (or just didn’t understand) the socio-political message of them. Romero returned with a zombie movie that was years in the making and was well worth the wait.

As with his other zombie films, Land of the Dead (2005) is a stand-alone story but looks like it could exist in the same universe as the others. The zombies have completely taken over and the dwindling human population tries desperately to hold onto what little land they have left. A small, heavily armed group venture regularly into zombie territory to scavenge whatever supplies they can find and then return to an island complex known as Fiddler’s Green. The island has been heavily fortified by the military who rule with complete control with rich businessman Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) as their leader.

Society has degraded even further since Day of the Dead (1985). The wide gulf between the rich and the poor is even more pronounced. In the slums of the city people can get their pictures taken with captive zombies or shoot them with paintball guns. At one point, they even throw a woman (Asia Argento) into a steel cage with two zombies for sport. The rich people aren’t much better as represented by Kaufman who is corrupt and amoral enough to make money off of and sacrifice his own people. It’s as if Romero’s saying that it wouldn’t be so bad if the zombies wiped us out. Look at what we’ve become.

The glimmer of hope is represented by Riley (Simon Baker), the leader of the scavengers and his sidekick and ace sharpshooter Charlie (Robert Joy). Like the protagonists in Romero’s Dead trilogy and Knightriders (1981), Riley is a reluctant leader who is tired of this corrupt world and is quietly planning an escape route to a more natural way of life. However, this is disrupted by another member of his group, Cholo (John Leguizamo), who represents the dissenting voice. He’s only in it for the money and has a secret pact going with Kaufman. However, when Kaufman rips off Cholo, the mercenary goes rogue and takes off with Dead Reckoning, the island’s heavily armored vehicle. So, Kaufman cuts a deal with Riley to find Cholo, kill him and bring back the vehicle.

To make matters worse, the zombies are getting smarter as exemplified by Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) who not only learns how to use a gun but is also able to organize legions of the undead. It’s nice to see a return to the slow moving zombies that we all know and love, but with a definite upgrade in the intelligence department while the humans continue to regress, embroiled in more bickering and in-fighting. After all, the zombies are the ultimate have-nots in this world. They are clearly tired of being shot at and exploited by the living. It’s almost as if Big Daddy is some kind of zombie Che Guevara leading an undead revolution that wants to take down corrupt, rich capitalists. In fact, Land of the Dead can be read as Romero’s critique of the George Bush administration with Kaufman as a Donald Rumsfeld stand-in.

Romero has crafted a very smart horror film, which is something of a rarity these days what with all of these lames remakes littering the landscape. Land of the Dead has all of the requisite gore (and the unrated version has even more) while actually trying to say something. There are plenty of powerful images, like the undead rising out of the water at night (a nice nod to Carnival of Souls, one of the films that inspired Night of the Living Dead) or zombies crashing through the posh apartment complex and feasting on the wealthy. Like with his other zombie films, Land of the Dead is a commentary on the times in which it was made. And for that alone, his movie is a refreshing breath of fresh air.