Latest Entries »

Lucy — April 2000 – December 2011

I know everyone who owns a pet feels that their pet is the best ever.  Fact is, they are right.  Pets bring us so much joy and unconditional love that they put our human ability to give and show love to shame.

Lucy was quite frankly one of the best people I have ever met.  Yes, I said people.  I don’t care that she had four legs and fur, she had a smile that could light up a room and a capacity to show love that makes calling her a person almost a dig on her.  She never stopped wanting to give that love and trying to do so, even when she was afraid or hurting.  Whenever I had to descend into a dark, scary place (like the basement), she always went first even though she was just as afraid as I, and she bravely lead the way into the unknown.

There was no human or animal that she didn’t love — I even caught the mailman petting her over the fence one day.  Whenever other animals in the neighborhood came by she always ran to greet them, her size surely scaring their owners.  However, as fast as I ran to intercept and allay their fears, she was faster — not wanting to waste one second to play and say “hi” to the animals and their owners, who then invariably looked at me like I was nuts for trying to stop this ball of love from getting to them in the first place.

She was also the peacemaker, always ready to charge in between two angry cats to break up a fight.  When she did this (and she did it often) she never barked or showed anger herself.  Instead, she simply walked between them, gave each cat a loving look that said “Come on guys, enough okay?” and just like that the brawl was over.

So today, as those who love her say goodbye (for now) to Lucy and worry that maybe we missed a little treat we could have given her, just one more ear scratch when the thunderstorm scared her, or one more dip in the bay, it behooves us to remember that we surely must have done something right, for God gave her to us for a time and she chose to stay as long as she could.

We love you pumpkin, and thank you for everything.

Hellraiser:  Revelations

My initial instinct after watching this movie is to tell you to run far, far away and not to look back.  However, I realize that nothing I can say or write  is going to stop a true Hellraiser fan from watching this flick, even if it’s out of pure curiosity.  Nope, the best I can do is give you a glimpse of the plot in order to keep your expectations managably low.

So, our story centers around two pals, Nico and Steven who take a road trip to Mexico to do what teenage boys do best in Mexico — get drunk and have sex with hookers.  Well, okay have sex with and then kill hookers, but same difference really.  Just kidding, only Nico kills a hooker.  Anyway, after that Nico and Steven are somehow still in the same bar where Nico committed murder when they are approached by a very bad version of the derelict who offers them a puzzlebox.  Nico, being the total whackjob that he is, accepts the box and forces Steven to videotape him opening it.

At this point we jump forward (well, the movie jumps back and forth, but for ease of understanding just go with me here) to Nico and Steven’s parents, along with Steven’s little sister (also Nico’s girlfriend) as they lament (ha, ha) the loss of Nico and Steven who have gone missing apparently some time ago.  Steven’s little sister (Emma) finds the Lament Configuration (puzzle box) in Steven’s room and starts to try to open it, seemingly causing Steven to show back up.

The parents are all agog at Steven’s return and begin to question him about Nico’s whereabouts.  Steven tells a story (hence the jumping back and forth mentioned earlier) about the box and the cenobites, and expresses fear that the cenobites are coming back.  Lots of things happen after this, but to tell you would ruin the whole damn movie and frankly, if you’ve invested this much time it seems best to just let the movie do that for you.

Now for the overview.  While the movie is filmed in that low-budget direct to DVD style that I loath (you know it when you see it), I did get used to it pretty quick and promptly forgot to obsess about it.  This is mostly due to the fact that the acting in Revelations is actually pretty good.  Also, although I had an idea where the plot was going, the jumping back and forth did manage to take a mediocre story and force you to follow and therefore be interested in the goings-on.  I even understood the pseudo-pinhead character (not to be confused with the not-Doug Bradley Pinhead) and I believe his presence in the film was to explain (sort of) this new pinhead since Doug Bradley did not reprise his iconic role in this installment.

In a nutshell, Revelations is nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it is also not even close in caliber to the original films (especially I and II).  I know, I am biased because any Hellraiser just doesn’t feel right without Doug Bradley.  However, I did keep thinking that (minus a few hokey pinhead lines) if Doug Bradley had signed on and the budget were bigger, this could have been a pretty decent installment.  Yes, it’s pretty much a bad re-do of the original Hellraiser plot, but if you can get past that, you probably won’t want to kill yourself for investing an hour and a half of your time watching it.  Probably.

The Howling:  Reborn

I admit it, when it came to watching this movie I hesitated.  See, it has been a long time since I saw the original Howling, so I assumed that there would be some plot line I didn’t remember and/or it would fall prey to the dreaded horrible “it’s crap, but let’s make  it anyway for some quick dough” re-make curse.  I was wrong on both counts — it’s not a re-make and you don’t need to know anything about the first film to like this one.

The film immediately has you guessing — who is that woman on the phone?  Why is someone following her?  Who is this teenager telling us to kill him?  All questions that the movie lovingly takes it time to answer.

We follow teenager Will (Landon Liboiron aka “Josh” in Terra Nova) as he prepares to turn 18 and graduate from high school.  By all accounts, Will is a normal, geeky, good kid with a loving father and crush on the cute, but dangerous girl in school.  Pretty soon however, Will starts wondering (and you do too) if he might not be so normal after all.  Once the movie has you firmly thinking you have figured everything out, it takes several twists and turns that the most astute horror movie fan won’t see coming — a rare treat.

What I liked about this film is that it’s a fun, thinking fans film, although it’s obviously directed at a younger audience.  Yes, it’s got blood and guts and werewolves but it’s also got a neat little plot to enjoy as well —  leaving the door open for a new, interesting franchise on an old classic.

So, if you were thinking of skipping this one do yourself a favor and give it a watch — you won’t regret it.

RATINGS RANT:  I just don’t know what to do with IMDb these days.  The user rating for this film is a 4.1, contrasted with Wrong Turn 4’s 4.4.  No way these two films should even be close in ratings, much less WT4 being higher.  Ugh.

Wrong Turn 4, 2011

Yup.  It’s as bad as you thought it would be.  Although I will never write a review that begs you not to watch a movie or read a book, what I will try to do, is help you determine whether it is worth your dime and/or your time to do either one.  Personally, I watch and read a lot of frogs knowing that eventually the prince will be worth it — even if someone else told me not to.  That said, Wrong Turn 4 is definitely no prince.

If, like me, you were happily surprised by the first film, you have probably been hoping that eventually they would get around to figuring out what worked in the first film and gee, I don’t know, try to use the same formula or something.  Alas, that is not the case with Wrong Turn 4.  Instead, this movie felt like some studio executive let his 14 year old, barely literate, horny nephew write this screenplay (actually, it was Declan O’Brien, but close enough).  Yes, it’s really, really that bad.

So okay.  The film is a prequel, starting off in 1973 in a sanitorium (which according to the movie should not be confused with a sanitarium, but whatever) in West Virginia where our cannibal friends are incarcerated as teenagers.  Not much happens here except, wait for it… they escape and let all of the other criminally insane patients out of their cages.   Flash forward 30 years later to 2003 and some teenagers just itching to go skiing (which in teen-speak means drinking, drugging and having sex) but instead get lost (hence their Wrong Turn) and end up at the supposedly now abandoned sanitorium.

It is at this point that things start to go even further downhill than just bad acting and rampant clichés.  First, you have two semi-normal characters (Daniel and Kenia) who seem to sort of have their shit together (meaning, they weren’t high and actually noticed that something bad might be going on).  The rest of the cast was completely and totally expendable to the point where, once again, I found myself rooting for them to die.  Painfully.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted the cannibals to die too, as they totally should have once the group had them locked in a freaking cell.  But noooo, 50% of my semi-normal character team (Kenia) had to go and get all preachy about the evils of killing, so naturally the cannibals eventually escape and kill everyone.  For this reason alone, I spent the remainder of the film thinking up creative ways that Kenia should bite it, but unsurprisingly her death was way too quick and painless.  Unlike this utter horror of a movie.

RANKING NOTE:  IMDb users ranked this steaming pile of manure 4.4.  No offense, but anyone who thinks this film deserves more than a 1.5 is either high, a horny teenager themselves or more likely, both.

The Exorcist, 40th Anniversary Edition by William Peter Blatty

For those of you who read my earlier post about the 40th Anniversary version of the 1971 novel The Exorcist, you have probably guessed by now that I crumbled like a cookie and bought the book.  Yes, I caved but it should be mentioned that I did at least wait until it came out on Kindle, so that’s something I suppose.

If you didn’t read my earlier post, a few months ago I was in a bit of a tizzy over the fact that I could not get the original Exorcist book on Kindle, but the 40th Anniversary Edition was available for pre-order and I’m no fan of pre-ordering anything.  So, I bitched and moaned about it, but in the end, once the damn thing was available I paid $9.99 for a book that I had seen the “based on the book” movie of at least 25 times and the directors cut at least 5 (seriously, after so many viewings I lose track of exact numbers).

First, if you have seen the director’s cut of the Exorcist movie, you have pretty much read the 40th Anniversary Edition book with a few (at least one notable) changes.  There is the addition of a new character, who in this readers opinion was a positive change.  It’s not that the story depended on this new character in any real way (because it didn’t), but it’s still an interesting and atmospheric change that definitely adds to the creepy factor, which is a good thing.

One change that really stood out for me, was the Regan crab-walk scene, not seen in the original but is definitely a standout in the director’s cut.  In the director’s cut, Regan crab-walks upside down/backwards down a flight of stairs.  Honestly, it’s one of the freakiest moments in movie history — ever.  The idea it could possibly be even more disturbing truly seemed impossible to me, until I read the 40th Anniversary Edition.  Now, based on the fact that this scene was in the movie I can only assume it was also in the original book (which I didn’t read).  However, either way the scene in the movie — as awesome as it is — pales in comparison to the scene in the book.

The biggest difference for me, however, was Regan’s mother, Chris MacNeil .  In the movie, although you could probably argue casting, her character was just not very sympathetic to me.  I was clearly aghast at what was happening around her, but she came off as snarky and well, sort of a self-involved bitch.  Her character in the book is much more of a real person and therefore, more relatable.  So, the film portrayal notwithstanding, I actually gave a damn about her.

Anyway, if you are one of the myriad of people who has seen the movie but has never taken the time to read the book, now is your chance and I recommend you seize it.  You really do find not only some gems of details you simply can’t get out of a movie, but you also get the benefit of a newfound appreciation for one of the greatest horror stories ever told.  Mr. Blatty may disagree with my overall opinion of the differences and that’s okay.  Regardless, I still must say thank you Mr. Blatty, thank you very, very much for keeping me awake too many nights to count.

The Walking Dead, Season 2 Premier 9pm EST

Took long enough, but it’s finally here!  If you haven’t seen it yet and are planning to watch it later via DVR, TiVo or whatever, skip this update and check in afterwards.  I don’t want to ruin anything for you, so you have been warned.

<

Our Season 2 The Walking Dead premier (1.5 hrs) opens with Rick atop a building speaking into a walkie-talkie.  For those of you new to the series (or just forgot, like I did) Rick regularly gives his status and various updates to the walkie-talkie in the hopes of reaching Morgan Jones.  Who is Morgan?  Morgan saved Rick’s life in Episode 1 of Season 1, when Rick woke up in the middle of zombie armageddon.  However, when Rick set out to find his wife and son, Morgan and his son Duane decided not to travel with Rick.  Rick tells Morgan to check his walkie-talkie everyday at dawn, so if he ever needs help or wants to join Rick, he and Duane can do so.

So, the gangs all there, minus of course, Jacqui, who decided to stay behind at the CDC when it exploded in the final episode of Season 1.  Since the major players are there, so are their issues from Season 1.  Rick still has no clue that his wife Lori was er, “intimate” with Shane while Rick was presumed dead.  We also have Andrea — who was going to stay and get blown up also at the CDC until Dale threatened to die with her — and she is none to happy with Dale for in effect, guilting her into living.  We also see Daryl, who in Season 1 was an awful lot like his racist, psycho big brother, save T-Dog’s life and risk his own life in doing so.  So in essence, we had a lot of interpersonal catching up to do here for a much-needed reminder for Season 1 fans and a solid introduction for newbies.

As you might have guessed, all of this didn’t happen while they were sitting around waiting to be zombie chow.  Nope, rather while on the road to Fort Benning, they first run afoul of a “herd” of zombies headed for, well, no one knows really.  As the herd is almost past them, little Sophia gets attacked by a zombie and bolts into the woods.  Most of the episode has the gang looking through the woods in search of her, interspersed with personal issues of course, and ends with Rick’s son Carl getting shot and no still sign of Sophie.  We don’t see how badly Carl gets shot or by whom, but call me an optimist — I am willing to bet little Carl survives.

All in all a great opener, even if a lot of it was for the purpose of playing catch up.  The tense atmosphere is just as awesome as last season, as is the acting and special effects.  As for the special effects, there is even one scene that is so visceral I almost got a little nauseous.  In other words — it was perfect.

The Walking Dead, Season 2 Premier 9pm EST

 

DON’T FORGET!!  Only 5 hours left until The Walking Dead Season 2 Premier!!!  To get in the mood, why not check out the all-day marathon running right now on AMC?

 

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, 2010

Any fan of Guillermo del Toro can’t help but anxiously await for the release of his new films and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is no exception.  If del Toro somehow missed your notice (I don’t know, perhaps you live under a rock) he is well known for such visual masterpieces as Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II and the two Hellboy films.  It also doesn’t hurt that he has been nominated for an Oscar and won a slew of other awards.  For this fan, however, it is del Toro’s stunning landscapes and intricate imagery that usually has me salivating in anticipation of his next flick.

So yes, the imagery in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is beautiful.  The old mansion in which most of the film takes place, along with its grounds, is something you are more likely to see in your imagination than in real life.  Also, as is his style, the use of contrasting color and interwoven collages always have your eyes noticing things in the background that otherwise would be just another prop.  To sum it up, although del Toro didn’t direct this movie — he wrote and produced it — he has once again done his job and done it well.

The plot centers around Alex (Guy Pearce, Memento), Kim, Alex’s girlfriend (Katie Holmes Cruise) and Alex’s 8 year old daughter, Sally (Bailee Madison).  As Alex and Kim are restoring an old mansion, little Sally comes to live with them in the mansion as the renovation is under way.  As kids are wont to do, Sally investigates the grounds and finds a basement not yet unearthed by Alex and Kim.  It is in this basement that bad things originate and soon Sally has a very real reason to fear for her life, but naturally dad and Kim aren’t so believing of Sally’s tales.  For all of its beauty and wonder by way of the scenery, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is little more than  a dark twist on the tooth fairy; think the tooth fairy meets Gremlins and there you have it.

First let me say that this is a good movie.  However,  (you knew it was coming, right?) I believe the biggest downfall of this film is how it was marketed.  I only saw references to it here and there before viewing, but nowhere did I see that it was a children’s horror movie.  It’s a really good children’s horror movie, but your average adult will find little to make them jump and certainly isn’t going to make them leave any lights on.  That being said, I can see this movie scaring the crap out of the 7-12 year-old range of kids and most likely, ruining the tooth fairy for them for quite a while.  If I had children I would love to sit and give them their first taste of a horror movie with this flick.  But since I don’t and was expecting an adult horror movie, the movie fell short for me.  Nonetheless, I still recommend giving a watch, and breaking my rule of not knowing anything about a movie before viewing.  In this case, if you want to enjoy this movie, it’s definitely a good idea to keep in mind what you are in for before hand and make sure you take the time to enjoy del Toro’s outstanding visuals.

SCIENTOLOGY ALERT:  We all know that Katie Holmes is the poor child who got herself married to Scientolo… er, Tom Cruise, and it does rear its ugly head in this movie.  However, it is only a very small (and unnecessary really) part of the film, and happens to be the one area I agree with the Cult, I mean “Church” of Scientology — doping our kids up with drugs is not the best decision in the world.  I’m not a cult member, so I do believe that in some cases it is necessary, but let’s be real — we do tend to over medicate our kids these days.  Anyway, like I said, the anti-drug message is in there, but it’s pretty small and if you don’t loath Scientology like I do, you probably wouldn’t even make the connection had I not done it here.  I only mention it because I like to make sure we are all aware when a real monster tries to insidiously enter the picture.

**Also, in case you weren’t aware this film is a re-make (of sorts) of the 1973 movie of the same name Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.

Terra Nova, Fox 8pm EST Mondays

Hopefully, if you were interested in Terra Nova you watched the season premier this past Monday (9/26/11).  If not, keep in mind that this review will give away a lot of the plot so if you don’t want spoilers, just skip to the last paragraph if you want the up or down vote.

I decided to watch the 2 hour season premier of Terra Nova purely out of curiosity, as the idea of starting civilization over again by going back in time definitely appealed to me.  What tempered my enthusiasm, however, was that sinking feeling that producers were going to use a really good idea and turn it into two hours of telling us how we are mucking up the Earth and eventually we will destroy it.  However, now having actually watched the show, I have to say it was pleasantly light on the “people suck” messaging .

Now, there is an element of “the Earth is doomed and it’s all our fault” in the very beginning of the show, but it doesn’t last long and that is not the focus.  Rather, the show follows the Shannon family in the year 2149, struggling to deal with living in an overpopulated world (they even have limits on how many children you can have, in this case 2 — which unfortunately isn’t a new concept) and where the air is so bad, people have to wear small gas masks when outside.  Sounds a little preachy so far, I know, but the thrust of the first third of the show really is on the family and the fact that they get caught having violated the child policy.  Anyway, off dad/Jim (Jason O’Mara) a former cop, goes to prison for the child law violation.

The rest of the show picks up 2 years later with dad still in the clink, and with mom/Elizabeth (Shelley Conn) and the two approved children having been picked by the government to go to Terra Nova.  They don’t get into what Terra Nova is explicitly (you have to hear the announcements in the background) but you figure out that somehow they have found a rip in time which allows people to travel back in time to Earth (before all the planet-ruining people came along) but in another time stream.  I won’t belabor the whole normal time steam versus new time stream thing because I have a feeling we will hear a lot more about that in future episodes.  As for the third, unapproved child and dad, well yada, yada, yada, he escapes from prison and manages to get the entire family onto/into Terra Nova, from which there is no way to get back to 2149.

I was surprised — in a good way — to see that a large portion of the premier takes place in/on Terra Nova.  This is important because they needed to and did set some expectations for potential trouble in their new-found utopia.  Problems on Terra Nova include, but are not limited to:  man-eating dinosaurs (some of which didn’t exist in our real past, but remember, this is a different time stream so they can really make up whatever they want), big ass bugs, another settlement of people (called Sixers, that also came from 2149) that for some reason (the premier didn’t explain it yet) are at odds with those living within the gates of Terra Nova, and some mysterious etchings on some rocks outside the gates of Terra Nova.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable and solid premier.  The characters are likeable, the sets were beautiful both in 2149 and on Terra Nova, and the story is engaging.  These days, it gets pretty hard for me to enjoy shows and movies that spend most of their (and my) time preaching about one issue or another and don’t spend enough time on the characters and the story.  I am happy to say that is not the case with Terra Nova and I am glad I watched it.  Sure, the entire concept is built around people being the cause of the Earth dying a slow and painful death, and I am pretty sure we will hear some more of that in future episodes, but it’s not so over the top that I couldn’t enjoy it.  I mean, after all, all doomsday scenario shows and movies have to have a bad guy, and I can live with it if it’s us once in a while, so long as the story is a good one, and in this case it is.

Tech Note:  There are a few technical flaws with the show, such as a few windmills and solar panels being able to generate LOTS of electricity for their futuristic medical equipment, the entire village and whatnot, but again, I can overlook that.  In fact, I giggled quite a bit during one scene, when you first see a windmill (it’s literally one lonely windmill in the background) and I imagined it crying “Help me!  I can’t do this all by myself you idiots!”  Anyway, it’s Sci-Fi and sometimes you gotta let fiction be fiction and just enjoy the show.  

CONTAGION, 2011

First, let me start by acknowledging that technically, this isn’t a horror movie.  However, since it does have elements of horror in it (sort of), as well as some Science Fiction (note the science part of that phrase) it qualifies to be reviewed here.  Plus, I just love end of the world movies, especially the kind with icky viruses.

The film’s premise is that an unknown virus makes its way into the population and starts killing off anyone who comes in contact with it — and by contact I mean any contact.  If you touch an infected person:  blammo.  You touch something an infected person has touched:  peace out.  If you breathe the air of an infected person:  well, you get the picture.  To add to the scare factor, you can’t really tell if someone is infected until they practically drop dead, so let’s just say you might want to stay home or encase yourself in plastic wrap — your choice really.

To add to the xenophobia instilled in you after about 20 minutes of the movie (and the distracting conscious effort to not touch your face), you are also treated to pretty inept governments and leaders who are virtually in absentia while millions of people are dying, looting, getting robbed, etc.  Which governments you may ask?  How about, oh, just all of them.  The movie may have made it seem like all of 12 people were working on the problem worldwide, but at least they didn’t just portray America as completely heartless and dumb this time, so that’s a plus.

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the absurd amount of high-profile actors in the film because there are loads of ’em:  Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bryan Cranston, Jude Law, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  Now don’t get me wrong here, I like a lot of the actors in the movie and felt that pretty much all of them did a great job in the film.  Notable exception being Matt Damon, who, true to form, seems to be totally incapable of showing any emotion — ever.  Even Gwyneth Paltrow who I would probably want to throttle in real life, put in a great performance as (I am loath to admit) she usually does.

So to re-cap here’s what we have so far:  great premise, great cast and surprisingly (and thankfully) no overt Hollywood message.  So what’s not to love?  Well, just a few things actually.  First, from only seeing the previews of the movie, I was kind of hoping/expecting that they would take a bit of a broader approach to the threat of infectious diseases.  There were a few mentions of Bird Flu and such, but in terms of getting the point across about how serious of a threat we could really face, the film  came off a bit understated, even while they are throwing numbers of infected and dead at you like hot cakes.  I dunno, maybe I just need more gore.  Second, I’m not really sure what the point of the movie was.  Other than the fact that some freaky virus could wipe out tons of us pretty easily, I really didn’t get much else.

In the end, the movie felt like a documentary about an outbreak of horrible proportions, rather than an end of the world movie and I believe that was the intention.  There wasn’t a whole lot of human drama in it either, other than Matt Damon’s role and thanks to his “acting” style, he doesn’t elicit a lot of empathy.  I kept imagining his character as Gary Sinise though, and that got me through it okay.

So if you’re one of those people (like me) who is aware that the next plague could literally be right around the corner, this film will give you the heebies-jeebies. However, even the most hardened epidemiologist knows that while something like this is pretty likely at some point, life must go on — and unfortunately, it isn’t very easy living it in bubble wrap.  Therefore what I took from this movie was this:  sure, you might get some nasty killer virus from that Starbuck’s Mocha Frappuccino cup, but then again, you might not.  So what the hell, drink up.

STUPID NOTE:  Although I love Gary Sinise, I will never quite forgive him for making Mission:  Space at Disney World seem cool to ride.  After wishing for death on the ride, I learned the hard way that it is very not cool to feel like your brains are in a blender and set on ultra-puree.  Thanks for that Gary, I appreciate it man.  (Note #2 — this was before they opened the namby-pamby green side.  There was only one ride, and yes, I wished for death — albeit only briefly.)

%d bloggers like this: