Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ireland 2006

As some of you know, I have just returned from yet another rejuvenating visit to the Emerald Isle. This time, however, I explored Dublin and its surroundings (a special shout out here to my friend Judy O'Goldman for taking me about). Here are a few glimpses of what I saw...

To the North of Dublin, along the Boyne River in Co. Meath, is the oldest man made structure on the planet. NEWGRANGE. Newgrange pre-dates the Pyramids by 500 years. Its construction may have been for burial or may have been tied to the stars.

The markings on this stone may refer to those very heavens. Of they could refer to the interior structure of Newgrange. So precise was its construction that the Winter Solstice sun shines perfectly through an opening above the entrance to bathe the interior with golden light.

Newgrange is not the only mystical structure of the Boyne Valley. A few kilometers to the West is the Hill of Tara.

The rings of Tara are better seen from above, but this should give you a sense. Most of Ireland's history and legend is tied to the hill and its sacred mounts. Author Michael Slavin wrote an illuminating work on the hill called THE BOOK OF TARA. If you go there, you can buy this book from the author at his antique bookstore at the base...

... right below St. Patrick's church. (Yes, that St. Patrick)

In the city of Dublin, it seems as if the people have put the legendary aside. That doesn't mean they don't display their history with pride. Here is the old square of Trinity College...

... Dublin Castle...

... and a statue commemorating Molly Malone outside of Trinity's wall. Also known by the Dubs as "the tart with the cart".

Down South in Co. Wicklow, there is Devil's Glen National Park.

The lush forest is also an art museum. Many artists were commissioned to create wooden exhibits that you find along the forest path.

Further South, in Co. Wexford, is Tintern Abbey. The abbey is under renovations so I can't tell you much about ut till I read the book I bought.

One thing that struck me, especially in the town of Kilkenny, was the limited amount of public advertising compared to here in the States. Of course this ice cream truck in front of Kilkenny Castle had a slogan... one that may give off the wrong idea.

Oh, well. Those Irish can be a little cheeky.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

OVER and Under-Animated

Sometime ago, a super genius in Hollywood declared that 2D animation was dead. They said this based on the overwhelming success of Pixar and SHREK at the box office.

Now that we get a new 3D animated extravaganza every other month, it becomes more and more clear that dimension does matter. Dimension of STORY. Whether rendered on the computer or by hand, an animated film is only as good as its story. Walt Disney knew this. Pixar follows his example today to great acclaim. Now if only Dreamworks, Sony and God knows who else out there would get in step. Even Disney Studios is about to reverse its Eisner-bred decision to nix hand drawn work (Way to go, John Lasseter!)

Consider OVER THE HEDGE. My review over at M&C points to problems no computer can fix (BTW, I gave it 2 1/2 stars. Our new movie editor is... well, new).

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What's In My Name?

As sent to me by my "bored at work" friend, Jim Myers:

"Much as we would like to have blue blood running rich in our veins, it must be considered that the name WOODWARD was rampant in England and also came from those many, many people early appointed as "wardens of the woods".

These were people employed as guardians of private timber stands and game preserves. There is even an amusing Woodward crest in County Kent showing three grasshoppers on the traditional shield."

And did you know that singer Tom Jones' real name is Thomas Jones Woodward?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Now that I've grabbed your attention with a bizarro title... allow me to present you with reviews of two new films you'll probably never see. In the case of KEEPING UP WITH THE STEINS, you won't be missing much. DEAD MAN'S SHOES, on the other hand, may be worth a peek. You decide.



Thursday, May 04, 2006

And Now A Word From Mick Garris

"To everyone at IDT and Anchor Bay--

I can't tell you how happy I am with the job everyone has done with the production of the MASTERS OF HORROR DVD. They were obviously made with a great abundance of expertise, enthusiasm and skill. I know everyone has seen the remarkable reviews we've been getting on the discs, but it has taken me a while to actually check out the extras, and they just knock me out.

This looks like the jewel in the Anchor Bay crown, and that's saying something. Thank you so much for all the time and attention and detail. The fans are noticing, and so am I. Great, great work, everyone.

All my appreciation,


And this sentiment was echoed by Industry's Keith Addis...

"My grateful thanks as well! Best, K."

And Andrew Deane...

"Ditto..... Amazing job. It's greatly appreciated. Best, Andrew"

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Horror Channel Interview by Johnny Butane

Johnny Butane: How did you first get involved in MASTERS OF HORROR?

Frank H. Woodward: I first started producing features for Anchor Bay in May of last year; before that I was a location manager for all sorts of films. I think the first thing I did for AB was MAN WITH THE SCREAMING BRAIN, which was kind of fun, meeting Bruce Campbell right off the bat.

At the time I was assigned to MASTERS OF HORROR, I had just started doing the interviews for THE EVIL DEAD 25th Anniversary Edition DVD that's coming out later this year. My supervising producer, Perry Martin, along with Bo Altherr at Anchor Bay, had both done the DAWN OF THE DEAD box set together, and since MASTERS was another big package like the DAWN set was, we were considered for it.

They knew they were going to be doing a lot of behind the scenes material for the discs, and one of the things they began discussing was doing a tribute piece for each director. At the time they really didn't know what the tribute piece would be about, they just knew they wanted to talk to the people who had worked with these Masters in the past. So I was assigned the tribute pieces, as they were called, Perry was set to handle the individual director's pieces, and Bo supervised the on-set features.

JB: What an amazing way to start off working with a company like Anchor Bay!

FHW: Yeah, it was very cool! I was very, I don't want to say honored cause that sounds weird, but for a guy who went to film school and moved out to L.A. to work in the industry, to meet all these directors who have inspired you to even bother trying was an amazing experience. Just to know that I’d be talking to them and all the people who worked with them... it was a bit of head rush! (laughs)

It still is, to be honest, but now it's a little less intimidating, and the more you meet these people the more you realize that they just really nice individuals. Very giving, very fun to talk to, and all of them are movie nuts! John Landis can go on for hours talking about films, and you just sit there mesmerized listening to him. You'll see when his disc comes out (June 27th); his son Max describes him as a "fountain"; that he surely is!

JB: I know it's probably unfair to ask, but do you have a favorite so far? Or maybe one that turned out particularly well?

FHW: The people or the pieces?

JB: Both.

FHW: I have to admit that Stuart Gordon was the most fun director for me so far. At the time we did the piece, even though I was familiar with RE-ANIMATOR and CASTLE FREAK, I have to say I wasn’t as familiar with his entire body of work; I had not seen films like DOLLS or DAGON until I started doing research for the piece. So seeing all these other films that he's done, you really realize that this guy is just a fantastic filmmaker!

So for me, the discovery of what a well-rounded filmmaker he is still holds a spot in my heart. That, and the fact that he's just a fantastic guy

JB: Yeah, he really is a nice guy!…

FHW: He is, yeah, and he was really helpful with the piece we did on him, too. I was able to go over to his place, he had storyboards from FROM BEYOND that he had scanned and stills from his days with The Organic Theater out in Chicago...…

JB: That part really impressed me, because I can't recall seeing much, if anything, from the Organic Theater in any previous retrospectives on the man.

FHW: What was really cool, and I'm not sure if you noticed it in the "Working With a Master" piece, but there's a still with Stuart, Dennis Franz, Joe Mantegna and David Mamet was heavily involved back then too; these are the things you find out about these directors doing this kind of project. I went into it knowing about these directors and their work, but this really gave me a better look at their whole career.

JB: How layered they can be...

FHW: Exactly. So yeah, that piece holds a special place for me; it was just so much fun to discover him a new way all together.

JB: Was there anyone who had worked with one of the Masters who you were really happy to have on camera?

FHW: I was very happy that we were able to get Dan Aykroyd for the John Landis piece, actually; he was very, very helpful working with us, too. He was just a trip!

So far we've been very fortunate in the sense that a lot of the people we approached we've been able to get in. Obviously there were some omissions that were just by virtue of timing, like Bruce Abbott for Stuart Gordon. We would have loved to have him in, but because of the production schedules of these things, which are very tight, we weren't able to get it scheduled in time.

JB: Speaking of that, how much time do you actually have to get one of these done?

FHW: Well, right now I'm working on the Joe Dante/Larry Cohen pairing (editor's note: those discs are due out in July, this interview was in early April) Really, for all intents and purposes we have a month for each pairing for me and Perry Martin, who'’s doing the director's interview. So that's quite a lot of stuff to pull together in one month...

JB: When did you do the first ones?

FHW: I believe it was October or November if I remember correctly, but that could be inaccurate since they come one after the other so it's a bit of a blur (laughs).

When the original idea came up we knew basically what we wanted to accomplish, but we didn't really know how it was going to all come together. We knew that, in the director's interviews, we'd be discussing the director's pasts and why they're considered "Masters of Horror", but we weren'’t sure how detailed the tribute pieces would be. Ultimately what I decided was that we'd have to talk to the people who worked with them in the past. It gives you a different perspective on their work so it was important we do it right.

So as you're thinking about it all of a sudden these pieces become bigger; now not only do you have to schedule people who are sometimes all over the world, but you also have to find out who owns what clip, who has the stills... it just becomes a lot of work to get done, but I loved every minute of it. We have two great guys who work with us, Jim Myers and RJ Gallentine, who help find the clips and the stills and schedule the interviews...

JB: I always wondered what kind of job that would be; it seems like it’d be pretty daunting to get all those materials together and put it all together like that.

FHW: Yeah, it's like an archeological dig sometimes! A lot of studios don't have that stuff so you have to search all over for it. We’re also lucky with, for example, directors like Stuart, Don Coscarelli, Joe Dante, who all have their own personal stills and photos that they've collected and they'’re all very giving with them, so it fills in the blanks. It helps to make these really special pieces, especially for those who are fans of these different directors.

JB: The ones that I’ve seen were both really well done and I can'’t wait for more.…

FHW: Thank you for saying so! They're a lot of fun to do, that's for sure, and a lot of work that goes into them.

JB: Now, I have to ask; have you done the Miike one yet?

FHW: I have not, no. Miike asked that his featurettes be produced in Japan, so unfortunately for me that's the one Master I won't get to do, it was be done by an outfit already in Japan.

JB: I figured that was the case, I couldn’t imagine them flying over all those stars.

FHW: Right, and plus that piece was done while they were shooting it, too.

JB: Have you seen his episode?

FHW: I have not, no, and to be honest I'm a little scared! (laughs) I know some people who have and said it's quite an experience, but at the same time very beautiful...

JB: That's just how the man works...

FHW: Right, he's always had beautiful cinematography.

JB: Do you have any real parameters for these segments?

FHW: Not a lot, no... Bo (at AB) has been really great, giving us free reign to put together the pieces in the best way we see fit. They've been very liberal in letting us do what we feel is right.

JB: So how may pieces do you have left?

FHW: Including the ones I'm working on now, for Dante and Cohen, there are six left. After this is the Argento/McNaughton, then Malone/Hooper...

JB: The Malone one should be interesting...

FHW: It should be, as I'm familiar with the man'’s work but not so much with the man himself...

JB: Plus he's only has the two horror features to his name...

FHW: Right, as well as some TALES FROM THE CRYPT and FREDDY'S NIGHTMARES stuff, but I know what you mean; it was the same sort of thing that came up for the Lucky McKee segment, but I tell you I think people are really going to enjoy it. He just loves film in general so much, and he's just great to listen to. MAY is just a fantastic film, very disturbing, but we managed to get some footage from some of his earlier work, as well, so you'll see that even though he has a few films under his belt, he brings a lot to the table.

Lucky, again, was another great guy to talk to; I was finally able to understand what the whole to-do was about this guy, you know? He doesn't have the same body of work as some of these other directors, but he definitely has a love for horror, which shows through May and the films he has been involved with like THE LOST, which just did really well at South by Southwest. McKee's not afraid to mix his horror with some romance and drama, too, which make his work very different.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

PROMISE fulfilled

I have a review for Chen Kaige's new film THE PROMISE (Wu Ji) up on Monsters & Critics. As you can see from this still, it is a beautiful film full of rich mythic, mysticism. It may not be the best of the wire work fantasies from Chine (HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS), but it is a delight nonetheless.

You can read my review of THE PROMISE HERE