When movie fans think of Sam Raimi, they most likely think of Evil Dead or Spider-Man. Raimi’s name has become inextricably linked with these two franchises, the former of which he created and which launched his career as a feature filmmaker. As it progressed, the original Evil Dead trilogy leaned from splatter into slapstick horror. From Darkman onward, even Raimi’s superhero films toggled between moments of horror and comedy. Think of the “horror hospital” scene in Spider-Man 2, where an operating room turns into a scene of shrieking terror as the sentient, serpentine arms of Doctor Octopus come to life and kill the surgical staff (including one doctor who utilizes a bone saw as a weapon in a callback to Ash Williams). It’s pure Raimi: funny but scary all at the same time.

The mid-to-late 1990s marked a transitional phase in Raimi’s career. As the cult director went mainstream, he ventured outside his usual genre wheelhouse and made a series of films that were less distinguishably Raimi-like than their predecessors. Sandwiched between a western and a baseball drama was a neo-noir thriller set in the snowy fields of Minnesota. More than just a foray into Coen Brothers territory, that thriller — A Simple Plan — is perhaps Raimi’s most mature, meaningful film to date.

On December 11, 1998, A Simple Plan went into limited release theatrically, allowing it to qualify for the Academy Awards. Of all the titles in Raimi’s filmography, this is the one that’s the most straight-faced, the most grounded in some semblance of pseudo-reality. It’s a character-driven, small-town crime drama that zeroes in on the human horror lying beneath the veneer of seemingly good people. What would you do if you and your friends found a bag full of money? Who would you kill to protect it?

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Endings are natural. In its zeal to depict a post-apocalyptic world where no one is safe, The Walking Dead has killed off a lot of characters, so on the surface, it would seem to understand that idea very well. With its revolving door of cast members and showrunners, the show has superficially embraced change, all the while maintaining a certain underlying status quo.

When news broke this summer that the show’s star, Andrew Lincoln, would be leaving The Walking Dead in its ninth season, we didn’t know what the fate of his character, Rick Grimes, would be. It was probably too much to hope that he would ride off into the sunset. Yet while it might seem like common sense that Rick would simply be fed into the meat-grinder, there was always a chance that the show would find a way to write him off without killing him.

If so, he wouldn’t be the first character to disappear and be kept on hand for a later possible comeback. Other Season 1 names like Morgan, Merle, and Morales (remember that guy?) had exited the show, only to reappear seasons later as guest stars or even full-fledged recurring characters. Following last night’s episode, “What Comes After,” we now know how that squares with Rick’s fate. Let’s dive into heavy spoilers about Rick Grimes and how his 120-episode arc reflects what is arguably a fundamental flaw in The Walking Dead: namely, its early mission statement to be the “zombie movie that never ends.”

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In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Double-time it to Universal if you want to add some new Fantastic Beasts wands to your collection.
  • Soon we’ll all be nursing a Halloween Horror Nights hangover as this year’s event comes to a close.
  • There’s no better time than a 25th anniversary to ride the Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland.
  • Mark your TV calendars for a Christmas parade and preview of the new Cars attraction in Florida.
  • Captain Marvel and characters from Ralph Breaks the Internet have meet-and-greets on the way.
  • One talented tiki bird is about to spread her wings beyond Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room.
  • And more!

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One Cut of the Dead

Shinichiro Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead is the little zombie movie that could. Made on a shoestring budget of about $27,000, the Japanese film turned worldwide festival favorite has since earned back a whopping 1,000 times its budget. Its box office numbers would be a victory by any measure, but they’re especially vindicating for a movie that initially opened in just one small Tokyo theater for a six-day run. They’d also have to be vindicating for Ueda, a 34-year-old first-time feature filmmaker who assembled a cast of unknowns for this project and only spent eight days shooting it.

In late September, One Cut of the Dead took home the Audience Award and the award for Best Director (Horror Features) at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. /Film’s own Jacob Hall was there and he called the movie “the best zombie comedy in years.” Others have mentioned it in the same breath as Shaun of the Dead. I was curious to see this film because of all the buzz surrounding it, so I jumped at the chance to be in the theater when One Cut of the Dead made its homecoming at the 2018 Tokyo International Film Festival.

It seemed like the perfect venue. The only catch? The movie was screening on Halloween night, when Tokyo turns into a street party on par with Times Square, New York City, on New Year’s Eve.

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Netflix’s anime Godzilla trilogy has suffered in some ways from the staggered method of its release. The installments have been spaced out about six months apart from each other so that the movies could enjoy a theatrical run in Japan before their worldwide Netflix release. In retrospect, this is a series that might benefit more from a binge-watch.

The concluding film, Godzilla: The Planet Eater, vindicates the trilogy in a way that manages to stay true to it while also being true to the franchise and what fans have come to expect when they sit down for a Godzilla movie. If the name Ghidorah isn’t on your radar, it should be. He’s Godzilla’s arch-nemesis, the fearsome three-headed dragon who will be making his live-action Hollywood debut next year in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. In The Planet Eater, Ghidorah makes his first appearance in animated form, where he and the cult of death surrounding him prove themselves to be the trilogy’s secret weapon: capable of plumbing great thematic depths through kaiju action and character intrigue.

On Godzilla’s 64th birthday, November 3, 2018, The Planet Eater will make its world premiere as the closing film of the Tokyo International Film Festival. The film screened for the press this week in advance of its festival premiere and we’ve got an early review of it for you right here.

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Tim Burton’s best movie might actually be one he didn’t direct. As a filmmaker, Burton’s strength has always been in his visual storytelling, the eccentric look and phantasmagorical feel of his characters and story settings. Since 1990, a parade of peculiar, pale protagonists, led by the grand marshal of Edward Scissorhands, has formed up in his long string of collaborations with Johnny Depp. His early collaborations with Michael Keaton also gave us the iconic Beetlejuice and two rich, operatic, “dark deco” Batman movies that are a triumph of music, makeup, and costume design.

Before he became a big-time Hollywood director, however, Burton worked as a concept artist, storyboard artist, and animator. His sketches (some of them on bar napkins) have even toured the globe in the “World of Tim Burton” exhibition. Walking through that exhibition is a bit like stepping into Halloween Town in The Nightmare Before Christmas. The film is celebrating its 25th anniversary today; it originally hit theaters on October 29, 1993.

Directed by stop-motion whiz Henry Selick, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a movie that gives three-dimensional life to Burton’s sketches, distilling his unique visual sensibilities down into a 76-minute burst of animated joy. Freed from the restraints of live-action, the film goes all-in on the gothic fantasy, foregoing the sight of Burton’s usual stable of human actors and plunging us into a deeply imaginative world full of skeletal pumpkin kings and living burlap sacks. The creepy-crawlies in this movie aren’t just limited to what you see on screen. They also include Danny Elfman’s musical earworms, which have helped this movie stand the test of time as the Burton brand’s greatest feat of originality.

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In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • You can now use the Play Disney Parks app to unlock the availability of special ride trading pins.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios is about to implement a new entrance route for automobile traffic.
  • Don’t read the foodie guide to Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays on an empty stomach.
  • Human ashes at Disney: they’re there, they’re real, and Cast Members have to clean them up.
  • Why take the kids to the local shopping mall to trick or treat when you can do it at Universal?
  • Are you ready to take a lights-on, daytime tour of Halloween Horror Nights’ Strangers Things maze?
  • And more!

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On October 25, 1978, John Carpenter’s Halloween, the original Golden Age slasher movie and greatest of them all, hit theaters. It’s been four full decades now since audiences met Michael Myers, whose reign of masked terror has spanned eleven films. The most recent sequel, also titled Halloween, is the best-reviewed installment in the franchise since 1978 and last weekend, it broke the box office record for slasher movie openings.

Part of what makes Carpenter’s original so great and keeps us talking about it forty years later — even in academic circles, where it’s been analyzed in much depth — is that it’s not just simple sadism for genre fiends. The Library of Congress doesn’t usually select those kinds of flicks for the National Film Registry. Halloween, conversely, was inducted in 2006. Subsequent outings in the long-running, albeit poorly received film series it spawned (not to mention many off-brand imitators) have replicated the teen slasher formula. Too often, perhaps, they muted the subtext of Carpenter’s foundational genre film.

If Halloween were a literary work, you might call it a bloody Bildungsroman, one whose traumatic coming-of-age centers on a girl named Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis. This is a movie with some meat to it, so unearth your knives from the kitchen drawer and let’s incise John Carpenter’s Halloween on its 40th anniversary.

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In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • What’s the best guess for when the Florida version of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open next year?
  • See a preview for the first-ever Christmas overlay in Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • One daring couple has traveled across time zones to visit six Disney parks in the same 24 hours.
  • Find out about the reopening of the World of Disney store and some concurrent Funko Pop! releases.
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is celebrating a major milestone in butterbeer sales this week.
  • And more!

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Find out about the major update that will knock Spaceship Earth out of commission for 2½ years.
  • Disneyland Resort will not restart its new hotel project … which is awkward for Downtown Disney.
  • Get a look at some creepy cotton candy themed to Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
  • Learn where you can screen 12 minutes of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms before its release.
  • Calling all pirate fans: Captain Jack Sparrow is now available to meet at the Magic Kingdom.
  • And more!

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