3D boom that launched the decade is in its dying days. While many blockbusters still open with 3D versions, and James Cameron’s upcoming Avatar sequels should give the format a major boost, the numbers back up the decline. Eye-popping images aren’t the sell they were in 2009.
What’s lost as 3D fades into cultural irrelevance? Numerous directors, from Martin Scorsese to Wim Wenders, extolled the virtues of the visual gimmick, but the format also reshaped actors — or could have if given the room to evolve. In the first decade of 3D blockbusters, big names like Will Smith or Sandra Bullock were strapped into what were essentially theme park rides, the technique more of a marquee attraction rather than a lens through which to navigate around performances. We never got to the moment where 3D became a tool for actors.
There is a notable exception, however, and it concerns two films that exist in a specific subgenre: Nicolas Cage driving dangerous vehicles after escaping from hell…
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If his 2010 debut feature Beyond the Black Rainbow established Panos Cosmatos as a director whose filmmaking style is hard to define, follow-up Mandy pretty much cements it…
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Panos Cosmatos doesn’t make films that are easy to define. This may seem a bold statement concerning a filmmaker who currently has only two features to his name as a writer-director, but those movies are so singular as aural and visual experiences, quite unlike anything else contemporary, and, though they share a through line with some other media of the past, difficult to group together with much that’s come before them. And ‘experience’ is an apt description. “What I’m trying to make with these two films is an immersive audio-visual experience, more than just a traditional narrative,” Cosmatos tells us over the phone. “Every decision is weighed in a qualitative realm of creating this dream state…”
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“My relationship with my parents was great. I never felt like they wanted to kill me. They disguised that very well.”
Although the above may sound like we’re acting as a therapist to American filmmaker Brian Taylor, who’s speaking to us by phone from Los Angeles, the question of his relationship with his parents is a fitting one. It’s central to the premise of his new horror comedy Mom and Dad starring Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair, which is concerned with a mysterious mass hysteria that breaks out across the USA, causing parents to turn homicidal towards their children. Not all children, but specifically their own kids…
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For fans of a certain brand of cinematic maximalism, it’s been much too long – six years, in fact – since the directing duo known as Neveldine/Taylor (the Crank series) brought to the screen a dose of their signature high concept madness. Mark Neveldine went solo with religious horror The Vatican Tapes in 2015, but Brian Taylor’s partner-free return to the directing chair, Mom and Dad, is much more in line with the duo’s earlier collaborations.
And what a high concept he has here. A mass hysteria of unknown origin breaks out across the USA, causing parents to turn violently on their children. Not all children, but specifically their own kids; unless one is actively trying to prohibit their attempts at murder, a rampaging parent will generally leave any young person who’s not their progeny well alone.
It’s George A. Romero meets the modern family, and, crucially, Taylor (also the writer) skips any gradual escalation for the chaos. Hostility is always at the heart of the family unit, it’s just usually covered up with a veneer of performative benevolence…
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Released in 1999 to generally positive reviews but a poor box office, Bringing Out the Dead remains one of Martin Scorsese’s most overlooked films. His fourth collaboration with screenwriter Paul Schrader (here adapting a novel by Joe Connelly) acts as a fusion of the pair’s earlier efforts Taxi Driver and The Last Temptation of Christ. It is a frequently horrific odyssey through nocturnal New York, tinged with a desperate grasp at grace from a man teetering on the line between life and whatever lies beyond.
Instead of Christ, though, Bringing Out the Dead’s hero is Frank Pierce, a graveyard shift paramedic played by Nicolas Cage, an actor who probably qualifies as a deity to certain subsets of online fandom. The film follows Frank over three consecutive nights, at a point where he’s not managed to save any dying patients for months. During these hectic nights, he befriends the daughter (Patricia Arquette) of a heart attack victim he’s brought in and works in a two-man ambulance team with a slew of different partners, each as unhinged as him but in their own ways…
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