Book Review: Bruce Campbell's Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor
In 2002, Bruce Campbell - who needs no introduction to horror fans - released his first memoir, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor.
The best-selling autobiography details his arduous journey to becoming a
cult actor, with a heavy focus on the beloved Evil Dead franchise and
the knowledge of low budget filmmaking he acquired along the way. In the
15 years since the book’s released, Campbell has continued to traverse
his way through the Hollywood system, including a supporting role on the
hit show Burn Notice and returning to the Evil Dead universe with Ash
vs Evil Dead.
Needless to say, Campbell has garnered more than enough life experiences to fill a second memoir. Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor chronicles
the last decade and a half of Campbell’s life, from movies to TV, from
Hollywood to independent, from conventions to home life. Unlike his first book, Campbell shares the byline with Craig
Sanborn. Campbell lovingly refers to the co-author as his “indentured artist,” as
Sanborn handles all of Campbell’s graphic art needs - including many of the
images that accompany the text in the book. A longtime friend and
collaborator, Sanborn is the perfect person to help put the actor’s storied career to
The woman behind the fashion, the great and powerful Oz of Clueless style, Mona May, is still as enthusiastic about Cher, Dionne and the rest of the Beverly Hills gang now as she was then. Here, the costume designer talks Alaïa, high-low style, sourcing vintage and what life is like on the other side of creating of a fashion phenomenon.
Star Wars Ep. 1 & 2 Miniatures | Sequences by Trevor Tuttle
Trevor Tuttle is a visual storyteller with over 15 years of art department and visual effects experience for film and commercials. Combining art direction, production design and VFX expertise, he collaborates with clients to create dynamic moving imagery using cutting-edge visualization tools and proven leadership skills.
Trevor specializes in direction, camera layout, previsualization, physical models and digital mock-ups. Out of college, he was hired as a practical modelmaker in the modelshop at Industrial Light & Magic, soon transitioning to digital artistry and the opportunity to work with such directors as George Lucas, Robert Zemeckis, and Sam Raimi. In addition to his work as previs supervisor for Disney’s Oz: The Great & Powerful, Trevor’s notable projects include contributions as senior layout artist on Alice in Wonderland, project lead on Indiana Jones 4 and a concept set modeler and layout lead on Beowulf. Trevor’s mastery of both traditional and digital filmmaking techniques lends a unique perspective in this day and age, one that he successfully applies to help create compelling and visually dynamic stories.
Maleficent, and why Hollywood doesn't get fairy-tales
Now, before I make my first key point I want to make one thing clear: Maleficent was fun. It was incredibly flawed in almost every respect, but it had good elements (Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning, in particular) and I’m glad I saw it.
However, it made me realize something important: Hollywood needs to stop trying to adapt fairy-tales until it learns to understand them.
There has been a proliferation of fairy tale/whimsical fantasy movies in recent years, including (but not limited to) Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), Mirror Mirror (2012), Red Riding Hood (2011), Oz The Great and Powerful (2013) and Alice in Wonderland (2010). All of them have been variable shades of bad, and in my opinion there is a clear reason for that: all of them, without exception, over explain.
These films all treat the viewer like a brain-dead child who needs to have their hand held, and they all try to tell a ‘logical’ (I use that word loosely) story that draws superficially from a fairy-tale or a well-established fantasy story. By throwing in numerous superfluous elements (generally battles for a crown, complete with literal LOTR-style warfare etc. etc.), these films have only succeeded in making once powerful and memorable stories bland and forgettable.
Let’s take Maleficent as a case study. The film has been trumpeted as a 'dark’ take on Disney’s Sleeping Beauty which adds depth and complexity to the most famous villain in the House of Mouse’s history. Instead of adding complexity, it creates a painfully simplistic and generic back-story (fairyland = good, men = bad) and suggests that Maleficent is only 'bad’ because she was betrayed by a loser. As it turns out, the film is patently terrified of having Maleficent display any kind of 'evil’ behaviour at all; she curses baby Aurora, sure, but regrets doing so almost instantly. Even worse, she doesn’t curse Aurora to death (as she does in the fairy-tale and even in the 'U’ certificate Disney film) only a positively innocuous “sleep like death”. The character cannot be described as evil in any sense of the word, and is simply 'misunderstood’ (a label Hollywood is extremely fond of applying to female former villains in its fairy tale adaptations/re-imaginings). Ironically, the film’s attempts to make Maleficent complex only succeed in making her bland.
Now, I’m not saying they should have made Maleficent 100% evil ™ and entirely irredeemable - there is a middle-ground, which is perhaps best embodied by Loki from the Thor movies. Loki does many evil things, but he has great fun with his tricks and isn’t repentant or ashamed of what he is. Equally, you understand why he’s malevolent and even feel sympathy for him. By striking this balance, the Thor movies succeed in creating a villainous character that the audience, perhaps despite themselves, can actually root for. If we have to have a 'misunderstood fairy-tale villain’ movie, why can’t the said villain be presented more like that?
Essentially, Maleficent misses the point and fails to understand what made the character memorable in the first place - she was evil, and she revelled in it. The moments in the film where Maleficent tricked characters or meddled with their lives just for the fun of it were, by far, its best.
Now, I’m sure that some people are confused. I’m criticising fairy-tale films for their simplicity, but surely the 'original’ fairy-tales they’re based on are the most simplistic stories you can get, right? Well, yes and no. Fairy-tales are simple, sure, but more importantly they’re evocative. They contain archetypes and follow stiff formulas, and we understand them and their plots primarily because fairy-tales are embedded in the collective consciousness. They are strange and often illogical, but we can accept that because we understand that they don’t take place in our reality; if they have a reality, it’s a psychological one shaped by our most primal fears and desires. This is why most of the Disney fairy-tale films work; they are simple, and they aren’t ashamed of that. But simplicity shouldn’t be confused with childishness or a lack of substance. By leaving gaps and allowing the viewer to imagine, successful fairy-tale films linger in the mind and subsequently remain interesting. The Company of Wolves (1984), Labyrinth (1986) and Blancanieves (2012) (which is, by the way, head and shoulders above all of the afore-mentioned modern fairy-tale films) don’t feature epic wars or warrior princesses, but that’s because they don’t need them; they are confident about what they are and continue to appeal because they are strange and resonant in the manner of the best stories.
To sum up: Maleficent is superficially enjoyable, but is only propped up by the mighty planes of Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones. Next year, it will be forgotten. It’s a sad waste of potential.
DISNEY ANIMATION - Ralph Breaks the Internet, Gigantic, Frozen 2, Mickey Mouse, King of the Elves, 2 untitled movies
LIVE-ACTION REMAKES - Beauty and the Beast, Cruella, Mulan, Peter Pan, The Lion King, Jungle Book 2, Tinker Bell, Maleficent 2, Dumbo, Aladdin, Chip n’ Dale, Winnie the Pooh, Nottingham and Hood, Genies, Night on Bald Mountain, The Sword in the Stone, Prince Charming, The Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, Rose Red
PIXAR - Cars 3, Coco, Toy Story 4, The Incredibles 2, 2 untitled Pixar movies
MARVEL - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel, Avengers 4, 3 untitled Marvel movies
LUCAS FILM - Star Wars episode VIII, Han Solo, Star Wars episode IX, Indiana Jones 5, untitled Star Wars spin-off
OTHER LIVE ACTION - Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Disenchanted, Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Mary Poppins Returns, Artemis Fowl, A Wrinkle in Time, The Haunted Mansion, It’s a Small World, Something Wicked This Way Comes, James and the Giant Peach, Jungle Cruise, Wild City, Don Quixote, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, Tower of Terror, The Rocketeers, Splash, Captain Nemo, Oz the Great and Powerful 2
lex calls the unearthed kryptonite “emerald city.” you know, the city that worships a man who says he can help until he’s exposed as a fraud, a man who poses as a great and powerful being who’s really just a yokel from kansas.
lex has it backwards, though. clark isn’t oz. clark is dorothy. “where does he go? clicks his heels three times and goes back to kansas, i suppose.”
after all, what does clark want, more than anything? a home.
a brain? bruce. a heart? lois. the nerve? diana.
honestly, pick any reference this film makes–literary, mythic, pop–and you can follow it through five layers of intentional imagery and thematic allusion. that’s why the analysis for this film is so rich; it rewards close reading and makes sure each little gesture or line of dialogue contributes to a deeper understanding of our characters and their place in the narrative. this is only the shortest, simplest example.
“Almost Home” is the main track from the 2013 Walt Disney Pictures film Oz the Great and Powerful. Commissioned by Disney, Simone Porter, Justin Gray, and Lindsey Ray wrote the bulk of the record. When Carey signed on to sing the song, she and Stargate’s Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Eriksen would later change it a bit and ultimately, complete it. On February 6, 2013, it was announced that Mariah Carey had recorded the song for the Disney film with production team Stargate, and that it would be released through digital download on February 19, 2013. Mariah Carey’s vocal range spans 3 octaves from low note of Bb2 to the whistle note of F#6. It reached #1 on the US Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart (Billboard)
the mc chris top ten movies of the year list. because you need more lists.
this list will make you angry. you will disagree and shake your fists at the screen, but keep in mind, just because i loved it doesn’t mean it’s the best ever, it just made me happy that day. it might not stand the test of time, but these films were still, nonetheless, a great day at the movies.
10. evil dead - my zombie aficionado friends dismissed it, but i loved it. i think this is what every reboot should be. you hit the notes of the original and then you take it some place different. i think my only qualm was the mc5 shirt because that’s the kind of urban outfitters punk shirt that doesn’t make you as punk as you wish you were, but maybe that’s what they were going for. in that case kudos. i can’t believe sam raimi produced this and the great and powerful oz, which was one of the worst movies of the year if not my life. raimi, please return to horror. drag me to hell can’t be the end of it.
9. mama - sometimes when my wife and i are stressed we will watch a horror movie to release some steam. and the less we know the better. horror movies are great much like pizza and sex because even when they’re bad they’re good. but this was just good. it was a del toro production and like luc besson, if i see their name i’m game. i was beginning to think del toro, like jackson and raimi, who all had roots in horror, were losing their touch, but this felt like a return to form. we had no idea what to expect and had a great time.
8. before midnight - this movie was hard to watch. but it was one of those movies that helps you live life after you leave the theater, which is what all great movies should aspire to. my wife and i fought and agreed and thoroughly discussed this movie up and down. it felt true, it felt real, and we hope these movies keep going as long as these three people are alive. watch them back to back like we did and blow your mind to pieces.
7. gi joe retaliation - everyone hates these movies, but i have a great time, most likely because i was obsessed with gi joe as a kid. read the comic, watched the show, and bought just about all of the toys. since the last one wasn’t so hot, this one could only be an improvement. and it certainly was. it really felt like a gi joe movie this time, with tons of ninjas and also ninjas. the scene where they fight with snake eyes and jinx on the mountain ruled hard. yes there were tons of stupid bits, but overall i was so down with this. and i can’t wait for the sequel.
6. thor the dark world - i loved the first thor and even though my friends didn’t like it i thought the sequel was pretty great. when luther runs up the bridge i was maybe the happiest i could be at the movies. i just love these movies that you don’t expect much from and then you get more than you could have hoped for. everything made sense to me. it wasn’t perfect but it was better than the first, and it gets me excited for the next captain america, avengers 2 and guardians. although that was maybe the worst sting marvel’s done so far and i thought it couldn’t get worse than schwarma. i understand why the director of this movie (who didn’t directed the post credit sting) hated it.
5. the lone ranger - this movie is on everyone’s worst list, but i think it wasn’t as bad as all that. yes it was violent and weird, but i liked that. i found it to be a perfectly acceptable origin story, where the hero starts totally different than how he ends up. and the last half hour, the last act was absolute perfection. when the william tell overture starts up and the train leaves the station i was in absolute heaven and even cried with joy. maybe it was because i thought my dad would have loved it, maybe it’s because i thought the music and the visuals were perfectly synched. i don’t know, i just completely disagree with the general consensus on this one.
4. hobbit the desolation of smaug - i loved the first one. maybe it’s because i watched it on my computer over three days. when the second one came out i watched it in a double feature. no one wanted to sit through 6 hours of hobbits so we had the theater pretty much to ourselves. i love the filler. i love radagast. i love the exploration of middle earth lore. gimme more i say! and they definitely did. it’s different than the book. there are invented characters, i know, but who cares? the book is its own great thing. why do we need movies to be checklists of what we already know? i love peter jackson, i always have, ever since i saw heavenly creatures. i want to see his interpretation of these books. the barrel chase was a great thing. i just marvel at these movies with my jaw dropped. i feel lucky to be able to see them. why wouldn’t you?
3. the wolverine - this movie was just about perfect. superman and wolverine can be boring sometimes because they’re unstoppable so this movie really made it interesting. and gave logan more depth, more challenges. i loved it. every fight left me breathless and the sting was the best sting ever. i didn’t see it coming. if only they had kept the costume reveal in the movie then i would’ve lost control of my asshole and mind all at once.
2. mud - what an awesome discovery! i watched jeff nichols other movies immediately, take shelter and shot gun stories. both great. this director is one to watch. he keeps his movies small and big at the same time. i loved the set up in mud, loved the pay off. loved the biblical allegories, the symbolism. it felt like a great short story, like all of his movies. i loved being surprised by small things and this one surprised me. i feel like it talked about life and how hard and shocking reality can be as you become a man. it made me think. it made me agree. i loved it.
1. the worlds end - favorite movie of the year. i saw it twice while i was on tour this summer. and both times it was a highlight of my year. i stopped feeling like i was watching a movie, and started feeling like i was hanging out with old friends. i loved how tidy it was. the entire plot is delivered right away within a flash back. the cornetto trilogy plays like a puzzle and it’s fun to watch it and then go back and watch it again and catch all the clues and hints. please please please keep making movies together. spaced, hot fuzz, shaun and now this, i love it all. like linklater’s before trilogy and the films of jeff nichols, i hope it never ends.
runner ups: frozen, the conjuring, fast and furious six, die hard five and spring breakers. all great but i guess just not good enough. movies still continue to enthrall me. they make me laugh and if they’re really lucky, even cry. here’s to next year!
ps. it should be said that i have NOT seen 12 years a slave, all is lost, blue jasmine, gravity, philomena or nebraska, but i plan to. i’m sure they’re all great.
Because Time Warner owns the rights to certain iconic elements of The Wizard of Oz MGM film, including the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland, Disney was unable to use them nor any character likenesses from that particular film in Oz the Great and Powerful. This extended to the green of the Wicked Witch’s skin, for which Disney used what its legal department considered a sufficiently different shade called “theostein” (a portmanteau of “Theodora” and “Frankenstein”). However, the studio could not use the signature chin mole of Margaret Hamilton’s portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West.
Let me tell you something: James Franco simply does not care. He doesn’t care that you’re tired of seeing his leering visage on books, magazines and movie screens. He doesn’t care that you’ve grown exponentially weary of hearing about his latest interests, be they directing, painting, earning a PhD. in multiple disciplines, writing fiction, or attempting to pick up underage girls via Instagram. He likely doesn’t care that you are largely unimpressed with his ever-growing body of work, including his most recent film roles, in which he’s stretched his artistic limits in both unfortunate, would-be blockbusters (Oz The Great and Powerful) or sad-sack indie showcases (As I Lay Dying, which he also directed), or that he currently has no fewer than a dozen upcoming films in post-production at the moment. He probably also doesn’t care that you actually thought he was really good in Spring Breakers, playing a cornrowed white-boy drug baron who lives to impress the nubile ladies of his harem.
Franco doesn’t care because, for all his irritating industriousness, he’s not about success, at least in the strictly critical/financial sense. He’s too busy removing the creative filters and blockages that plague the rest of us and pursuing any damn thing he can conceive of, which, frankly, is exactly what any of us should be doing if we were ever lucky enough to be in his position of fame and opportunity.
Given that, we can at least be mollified by the fact that he didn’t actually direct the film of his own collection of short stories from 2011, thankfully, that job went to Gia Coppola, who has composed an interesting if somewhat flawed teen lament.
It’s a familiar tableau: A well-to-do community, comprised of fractured families, whose children are disaffected, damaged and, in some cases, downright dangerous. In short order we meet April (Emma Roberts), a sweet-faced girl whose hunky soccer coach (Franco, ironically the least convincing of the actors) begins to romance, not entirely against her wishes. April is good friends with Teddy (Jack Kilmer, sporting River Phoenix’ unhinged locks), an amiable stoner, who nevertheless gets himself into trouble when he hangs around Fred (Nat Wolff), the aforementioned dangerous kid, so filled with pompousness and egocentrism, he puts everyone around him at risk. There’s also unfortunate Emily (Zoe Levin), a sad girl given to finding love by any means necessary, often at the cost of her own self-worth, sliding between bathroom doors and servicing boys like the hateful Fred at his whim.
The film skips around the lives of its myriad characters, looking in on them as they make fateful decisions and attempt to live with the results– April hooks up with her coach, only to find she’s not the only young player he’s had his eye on; Teddy gets in a car accident while wasted and has to do community service as a result; Fred goes further into self-destructive madness, a result, we are given to suspect, that comes from his father’s sexual abuse; Emily finally seems to disavow Fred, perhaps to move onto bigger and better things.
The thing is, for all the (largely deserved) grief Franco takes for being such an artistic gadabout, there’s actually a lot to chew on here. In that, Franco’s work is aided greatly by the surprisingly assured debut of writer/director Coppola, Francis Ford’s granddaughter. The 27-year-old proves skilled in the family business, getting strong performances out of her young leads and getting the right pitch for her scenes. In a sex scene between despondent, lost Emily and the irascible Fred in her childhood bedroom, Coppola has her camera focus instead on the ceramic figurines, dried flowers, and mossy stuffed animals that still surround Emily’s bed: a painful call-back to a time when she was shrouded in hope and innocence instead of the gangly arms of a puerile emotional predator. It’s a note the film gently hits throughout, the happy innocence of the characters’ younger siblings (or, in April’s case, her coach’s son, whom she routinely babysits) in direct contrast to the lost, jaded adolescent souls they will eventually become.
But rather than continually soak her audience in the briny flush of total nihilism, Coppola is wise enough to find a range of notes in her characters. Teddy, for one, can be every bit as aggravatingly callous and irresponsible as his bud Fred (one appreciates his mother warning her son to stay away from that terrible influence), but in the same breath – as when he draws an endearing portrait of an elderly woman at the rest home he’s been assigned – he still shows signs of a residual sweetness. In teen-dirge tone we’re somewhere between the pitiless grit of Larry Clark and the sunny sweetness of Amy Heckerling.
Coppola has also culled an interesting cast – calling in some family favors, one suspects – including a fey Val Kilmer as April’s writerly stepfather and Talia Shire as April’s guidance counselor – amongst her young charges. If Franco is indeed the cast’s weak link, she smartly steers clear of him as anything other than a basic plot device for April. Like the other adults in the film, he lies far out on the periphery of the teens’ lives, a distant narrative provocateur with little direct sway in their lives.
The teens swerve around from house party after house party (implied: not a great deal of fully invested parents protecting their precious children from themselves), drink great gulps of booze, do whatever drugs they can get their hands on and fool around indiscriminately with one-another, but there are still enough signs of hope – at least for everyone other than Fred – to keep from total despair.
So disparage Franco all you want, roll your eyes at whatever new scheme he’s concocted (a documentary!), and tweet about it unmercifully. Just understand that in this he couldn’t care less about your opinion: What he does, he does for reasons other than our validation, which is annoyingly commendable.
The more I think about it, the more the hate and scorn that have been poured upon Jupiter Ascending anger me. The film is beautifully made, remarkably imaginative and, for the most part, well-realised. It radiates passion and you can see the Wachowskis’ fingermarks all over it - it’s probably the most personal and eccentric mega-budget sci-fi film ever made.
Although JA isn’t perfect, I’d argue that its imperfections make it more interesting than your average film - characters drop out of the film entirely (Kalique and Titus being particularly noticeable examples of this), sure, but that only sends my imagination into overdrive. What did they do next? Will Jupiter ever encounter them again? The editing is abrupt and crude in a few places, but that only makes me want to see a director’s cut (it’s an irrefutable fact that a longer version of the film exists, though exactly how much longer it is is disputed). Most of the criticisms I’ve seen levied against the film (which usually revolve around particular scenes or plot points being ‘ridiculous’ or 'stupid’) have in-film explanations that make sense in the context of the crazy, expansive world set out for us.
I really like Jupiter as a heroine, and she behaves exactly as you would expect a poor immigrant housemaid elevated to interstellar queendom to - she’s completely overwhelmed and confused but she does what she needs to do to survive, even though she makes mistakes along the way and occasionally trusts the wrong people. Ultimately, she proves herself to be kind, compassionate and brave - she puts the greater good ahead of the well-being of her immediate family, and she takes the moral high-ground by refusing to cave Balem’s skull in with the crowbar. She’s flawed and genuine, and while I certainly wouldn’t have minded her being a more active participant in her own story you can tell that she’s got bags of potential and will become something more given time. Although Jupiter goes back to cleaning toilets at the end of the film, there’s absolutely no reason to believe she remains a maid for long - she only resumes her duties with gusto because she’s relieved and grateful to be returned home, just as Dorothy was at the end of The Wizard of Oz.
The 'villains’ are bizarre, mad (literally, in Balem’s case) and unique to the film. While you get great space dynasties in books like Dune etc., Balem, Kalique and Titus all come across as fully formed characters with their own distinct histories and complex motivations. Heck, I’d kill to watch a film (or films) of the backstory of Jupiter Ascending: I want to see what went down with Caine attacking an entitled, and I want to see how Seraphi evolved from all-powerful queen to a defeated, ruined woman who begged her own son to murder her.
The criticisms that the film is 'derivative’ because it has clear outside influences are ridiculous. If anything, it’s astonishing that the film takes as many influences as it does (Gnostic theology, the Wizard of Oz, Jacobean revenge tragedies, the Matrix, Snow White, Cinderella, Dune, Brazil, anime - I could go on and on) and blends them into something like a coherent narrative. The audacity of it is to be admired, not mocked.
This is a bit rambly and unfocused, but I’d like to sign off with this: Jupiter Ascending is not trash. Sure, it’s bombastic, corny and silly at times, but that does not make it trash. Jupiter Ascending is a rare, rare film, and we should consider ourselves lucky that it even exists.