Tag Archives: Universal Studios

The Amateur-ville Horror

IMG_3048It may not be to the level at, say, Universal Studios with their Halloween shenanigans but my brother certainly does take time and scare over his Halloween spook-tacular.

The front of his house and garden (the rockery horror picture show?) was transformed into a mysterious mist heavy graveyard complete with listing headstones and accompanying ghouls and fiends…all of which stands between would-be trick or treaters and their candy…if they dare!

IMG_3044Fittingly it all took place in the last house on the left (before the school) and this year visitors had to dodge the likes of uber scary clowns (are there any other type?).

There was also a dapperly-suited Jigsaw (yours truly) that kept children and adults guessing if it was real or not.

Well, of course I wanted them to play a game of real or not real as I hid among the tombstones Baron Samedi-style.

Then there was an illuminated cloaked devil figure (my brother’s guise for this year) that was one part Ghostface and one part Darth Maul.

IMG_3038And then there was Iz, otherwise known as spooky speedy pumpkin (I have no idea, that’s the name Iz gave herself), a black and pink striped cat (must be a pedigree with that name) as played with much relish by Isabelle.

She gave the likes of Nicole Scherzinger and Michelle Pfeiffer a run for their milk money with her zeal, which started out as domesticated friendliness  before ending the evening as feral claws and hisses.

Iz was a whisker above Claudia Winkleman, who’d chosen a frightfully feline outfit for this week’s Strictly Come Dancing as well.

IMG_3516Not to fear though if any of the intrepid visitors needed medical attention though as there was a member of medical personnel on hand, feet and torsos in the form of a sinister psycho surgeon complete with death-oscope,

Sarah here channeling her inner Incredible Hulk with those eyes! Is it me or do they follow you round the room?

IMG_3549With such a menagerie of monsters on display you’d have thought that perhaps the neighbours might have stared, not to matter as Shona would stared right back at them and right through them.

Beyond the front door a world of the macabre awaited Halloween party guests in the form of Ringu figures on the stairs, a river of dry ice emanating from a cauldron across the food (of the gods) that put Top of the Pops to shame and curtains of cobwebs aplenty.

Isabelle loved it, merrily swishing the hubbling and bubbling mist, although I think Isabelle must have thought that the food was on fire judging by her reaction.

IMG_3563It was also the night of the living dad and mum as my parents showed they weren’t too cool for ghoul arriving in full costume and make-up, here caught it the kitchen which was full of its own devilish delights.

There was also no sanctuary to be found the other side of the house either as those escaping through the back door were met by a baby complete with spinning head and and creepy lullaby.

IMG_3559Reeling in horror from that you are then faced with a body bag and shovel amidst more graves to make your (Burke and) hairs stand on end, before being chased from the property by a cackling head hidden in the wall.

It certainly was an evening of high spirits where a good fright was had by all and nobody could deny that it was a real scream.

Perhaps most frightening of all though was when I removed my mask (steady) and wore it on my head as I became less Jigsaw puppet from Saw and more Max Wall!

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Jaws – still top of the blockbuster food chain

Jaws is released on Bluray for the first time in the UK on Monday 3rd September, I look back to my first viewing of this newly spruced up print of the classic Spielberg thriller on the big screen back in June. And yes, I’ll be buying it again, adding it to my pan and scan VHS copy, my widescreen VHS copy and both the 25th and 30th anniversary DVDs.

My journey to see Jaws, my all time favourite film, has been 10 years in the making and after all that time, all those viewings, it didn’t disappoint. Put simply it was Jawsome.

It is somewhat fitting that Jaws has been re released as part of the centenary celebrations of Universal Studios in June, smack bang in the middle of the summer blockbuster season, as Jaws is the grandaddy of them all, the first film to have such a large (at the time) opening, and the first to hit that magic $100 million mark. In more ways than one it is the big fish.

37 years have passed since Jaws first swam onto our screens but it still more than holds its own against today’s output, in fact it is the filmic equivalent of what Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) calls the shark, ‘the perfect eating machine’.

As a piece of cinema Jaws was always the near perfect piece of cinema and now, cleaned up frame by frame and looking like it was practically shot last week, this lean mean thriller machine became the closest to cinematic perfection it has ever got.

Put simply, you can forget your Star Wars, forget your toying with special effects, nipping, tucking or even adding here and there (yes you Mr Cameron, Mr Lucas – sounds like Are You Being Served – and Mr Scott), this is cleaned up but otherwise untouched, and still has the same shark and still has that primal fear in buckets, along with the chum.

Spielberg has clearly learnt from his ‘walky talky’ medling with E.T. and left Jaws exactly as it was, save for giving it a fresh lick of paint and thankfully modification free.

It may sound obvious but never having seen the film on the big screen the first thing that hit me was that it all looked so big, from the (thankfully) old fashioned Universal logo to each and every character introduction, counting the fictional Amity Island in that.

With such a large canvas, that had also expertly been cleaned up, we are able to feel even closer to that (really rather sunny and bright for the most part) world and see and notice so many small things in the background that I hadn’t done before. It was practically like seeing the film for the very first time.

Jaws still packs a punch (or should that be bite radius) of a juggernaut. The opening Chrissie attack sequence has never looked so uncomfortably clear, her nakedness making you almost feel voyeur like – making it even closer akin to the shower scene it Psycho in that respect – right up until that moment of impact when the John Williams score and sound effects really kick into high gear. If anything its heightened more than ever with the Alex Kitner lilo attack, which in many ways seemed even more powerful. They both form part of my article, Death Becomes Them, charting the ‘best’ death scenes in the Jaws series.

It’s not the 25 foot shark, all three tonnes of it, that dominates the film though, each and every piece of the film he is in is dominated by Robert Shaw as Quint. Scheider and Dreyfuss are no slouches for sure and the way the threesome ping off each other is a joy to behold (the script coupled with the beauty of the extra rehearsal time due to operating problems with the shark et al – read Man vs Beast for my take on the making of) but Quint has never been so dominant, so alive. He chews scenery like the shark chews his boat, the Orca, at the end of the film and his eyes, his eyes are just so piercing a blue that they make Daniel Craig’s look practically dull in comparison. It confirmed to me that more classic Shaw films should be viewed on the big screen but also left a genuine feeling of loss, for the man, Shaw died only three years after the release of Jaws, and for cinema generally as he carved such an impression up their on the big screen, seen as he should be and not on a box – no matter what its size – in the corner of the room.

Jaws never puts a foot wrong, it still has fantastic pace, still thrills and scares a little in all the right places and also makes people laugh in all the places that it is meant to do. Rubber shark or no rubber shark it, like Alien after it, which after all was pitched as Jaws in Space, still taps into that primeval fear and when each and every person bringing that to life is working at the top of their game you can’t go wrong, critically,commercially or for longevity.

The decade wait was well worth it, and I’m pleased that Bruce, as the shark was nicknamed by Spielberg, came back for his noon feeding to mark the hundredth anniversary of Jaws,it mattered not that most of us in that small screening room had seen it hundreds of times, knew exactly what shot or line of dialogue came next we were all in awe of the remastered Jaws and to paraphrase Chief Brody at the end of the film as he blows the great white shark out of the water as it races toward him, we were all smiling like sons of bitches. 

 

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour has sets appeal Part 1

In three parts, unlike the eight  films, join us as we experience the Warner Bros Studio Tour London and The Making of Harry Potter…

Friday 13th, unlucky for some and you don’t get much unluckier than Harry Potter whose parents were killed when he was a baby, he then found himself living with the despicable Dursleys and even had his mentor die. The same can’t be said for Daniel Radcliffe of course, whose just been announced to be worth £48 million, lucky chap.

We were lucky though as well, not that lucky, but we did have tickets for the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour, only two weeks after its official opening.

The Tour is based at Leavesden Studios, Watford, just off junction 20 on the M25 and is the filmic home of the Harry Potter series, so although Florida may have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this is the place where the magic actually happened, where people actually stood, where the bespeccled boy wizard became a man.

I guess you could call it a pilgrimage of sorts as for me, with tickets bought by my mum and dad for my birthday, it was akin to visiting Universal Studios in LA, and the place just came with a sense of history and following in the footsteps of a multitude of stars. As an added bonus it was also at these studios where Bond was resurrected in the guise of Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye.

When you first arrive you really get the feeling that you could be in Hollywood as you are greeted by massive images from the Harry Potter films, which really helps set the scene and get you all excited, and that is even before you enter under the WB sign and the familiar Harry Potter insignia

Once inside the lobby giant images of the main characters from Potter look down upon you as you get your bearings, it’s an impressive room with all the hustle and bustle of the Ministry of Magic, with only a Starbucks interrupting the Potterness of it all, I don’t remember those appearing anywhere!

Toilets, initially it wasn’t clear where the baby changing was but we were told at the info desks that it was the far cubicle at the end of both the gents and ladies (bonus), although happy to report that there was no Moaning Myrtle awaiting Sarah and Isabelle

Being a little early, thanks to the lack of traffic and indeed incidents on the road etc, it gave us plenty of time to peruse the shop, which looked impressive to say the least and was home to pretty much everything you could think of, and then some, from the Potterverse. For me, it reminded me of why I missed the Warner Bros stores so much, although I did find it rather odd that there wasn’t one Potter book, audio book, DVD or Bluray in sight.

It was also a surprise to see a distinct lack of mugs, minus those in the shape of Hedwig; I at least expected them with the house crests on. The shop was very expensive (as you would expect you had to pay a little over the odds) but lots of it was high end stuff – such as prints in frames, marauders map in frame (a shame they didn’t do cheaper kid friendly versions as they would have flown off the shelves),  the usual clothes (robes, hats, scarves) and of course broomsticks (nearly £300) and more wands than you could shake a wand shaped stick at (for around £25), which all seemed to be made out of a plastic resin, same with the broomsticks, with the former coming in proper looking wand boxes.

There was a nice assortment of key rings and I did rather like the Prisoner of Azkaban photo frame and we did plumb for an £8.95 box of Bertie Botts every flavour beans, including ear wax, yum!

Of course, Isabelle took a liking to the assortment of cuddly toys and it was a close call between Crookshanks and the three-headed dog, Fluffy, both of which she clung to as long as she could in the store. In the end she went for the moggy, which has hardly left her side since.

Not that the prices put people off, basketsand arms were piled high, and it was no different than if you were visiting Disney or Universal Studios, so people were taking the opportunity whilst they could, especially with many of the items looking to be unique to the Studio Tour.

Queuing for the entrance 30 minutes before our allotted time, as clearly instructed, we slowly shuffled past the cupboard under the stairs where Harry would often find himself shut away during his time at Privet Drive. Finally we found ourselves at the front of the queue…we would be the first people in our group to enter into the world of Harry Potter…