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Ashes

boxdwashes-movie-poster-elias-matarI’m not sure Ashes shoud really be considered a zombie film…it certanly dosen’t WANT to be one.What it really aspires to is a medical drama with some dire overtones. What it ends up being, is a melodrama with medical overtones and a zombie tmen tacked on to the final ten minuets (and considering this thing is a full hour and a half, that’s a BAD balance).

We have a doctor who comes on a stunnning new cure, but is it really the cure it seems? We have long pontificanting discussions and grim scenes involving microscopes and blood tests. It’s just far too ovverblone with such poor pacing, you’d lose me altogether with a lesser cast.

Our actors are good and the film has a polished professional look. I can see that they are going for more of a “Fear the Walking Dead” type of prequel. Most zombie films leave the origin of the virus a mystery, while this one it’s the entire focus. Sadly, it’s not more engaging. If you have subtitles and fastforeward, this might have some appeal. But know going in, it’s a slow, hammy and there’s no zombies until the very, very end.


Angels Brigade

directorsg220px-angelsbrigadeI don’t know what it is about this film. Graydon Clark has the ability to turn just about any script into a passable film. It wasn’t exactly spinning gold out of thread but he certainly could make things fun. Angels Brigade looks cheap. I mean, it IS cheap, most of Clark’s films were. The difference with this one is that it LOOKS cheap.

I get a real TV movie vibe for this thing, and that makes sense sense – later on down the road it would be recut and re-edited into a television film – but this thing started life as a theatrical feature. In a lot of ways it was like the A-Team, a female version of that – and has a lot of the tropes and characteristics of an 80s TV action show. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, the pacing keeps engaged and the action is certainly passable. Perhaps this is me speaking from a post-modern, generation X viewpoint. Perhaps I’m just more used to action films that are absurd with huge pyrotechnics and ridiculous amounts of bullets and explosions, but it seems to me even in the context of the period that this is a little restrained…like they were relying more on the jiggly exploitation aspect to the film then they were on the hard-hitting action side.

One of the more interesting revelations during the film was my sudden realization why this concept feels so familiar. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was watching Fox Force Five. Perhaps you remember this name from Quinton Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction – it’s the pilot that Uma Thurman’s character supposedly did. The characters aren’t exactly dead on, there’s a few in different positions and some missing, but it’s eerily similar and going into it with this in mind actually makes it a bit more fun for me.

It’s a hard one to find by the way, it goes by couple of different names and the one that is probably going to be the easiest and most accessible will be the MST3K version of it. I’m not sure I can recommend it though, because according to Graydon they cut a lot out of it to the point where this re-edit doesn’t make nearly as much sense – some of the beats are gone, and some other plot development vanishes.

Still it’s worth a go if you can find it for around or to stream somewhere.I don’t know that I goes far as to say it’s a buy, but it certainly is good late night movie host fodder.


The Extasy of Order :The Tetris Masters

gamerindexI’m going to come right out and say it. I am such a sucker for all of these video game documentaries. I mean seriously, I am sucking these things up as fast as they can make them!

The Tetris Masters is an interesting film. There is a universality to Tetris – even more so then games like Pac man and Mario Bros. It seems like everybody’s played Tetris at one point to another, it’s as ubiquitous at Solitaire. I skipped the whole 8-bit age, I never owned an NES, but I still played Tetris – it was the demo game on every GameBoy display at every toy store, Department store and electronics store in Ohio. Walking over to the GameBoy display and going a couple rounds of Tetris was always a great way to kill some time by your mother shopped in other parts of the store. I got okay, I never got great. I remember sitting on the floor at my friend Mike’s house, while his brother Jeff was showing me the trick to sliding in one of those pieces at the very last moment. Yeah, Tetris is pervasive in our society.

Still, it seems like a strange subject for a film – unlike other video games, it lacks a story. There are no characters, yet there is a community of Tetris players, as engaged and devoted else there is to any other video game out there. This is really what the movie really focuses on.

Unlike the King of Kong , there is a broader focus here – half a dozen main characters are really being followed through in this story. But even more so is the looming competition. The tournament was present in King Kong, but it was the McGuffin – where as in Ecstasy of Order, the tournament is almost character itself, and most definitely a driving force as well as the background. It is always present.

What’s really interesting in the Tetris Masters, is these little break-ins that they throw out once a while, describing the technical aspects of Tetris play and illustrating them for all to see. It’s always done on a classic NES – that’s considered the definitive version of the game, and obviously you need some sort of a control for uniformity. I found it surprising that the NS was the choice, for me the gameboy always felt like the definitive version, but then again perhaps that’s just because that’s the one I always saw everywhere – admit it, it’s a port and not the sort of far more colourful game that the NES version is.

The film brings us back to the old Nintendo World Championships as well, bringing in the ultimate winner. It’s an interesting twist – because you’re familiar with this idea from films like the Wizard, but to see the actual thing… It’s an almost bizarre time capsule for me.

Ecstasy of order is one of the better docs out there and I recommend getting out to see this one. You will come away with a greater appreciation for Tetris and spent some time in that wonderful retro gaming era.


Mortuary

boxdwMy first thought when I saw this, was “cool! Denise Crosby is in this! ”

mv5bmtq1mdu3nzy2ov5bml5banbnxkftztcwntuznzizmq-_v1_uy268_cr50182268_al_I wonder if anybody ever asks her about this one? Her inclusion in the movie actually makes it feel a little bit more like pet semetary– and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I guess Mortuary is basically a stylised zombie story? There is a findish sort of moss that turns people into the walking dead – you don’t necessarily have to be bitten either. I almost feel like we also have a kind of Lovecraft story going on with a vast monster hiding behind the mortuary itself.  This is a solid fun horror film – it’s not going to win any awards and the 90s CG I is actually looking pretty dated, but it’s forgiveable because of the period and because they’re trying to create something that looks otherworldly done kinder in the way that stop motion is forgiveable on monsters because we knows? Maybe that’s just the way they move down there some fun make-up choices here as well – green beans on action faces things that point back to the plant-based nature of this infection doesn’t think kind of the Stephen King segment show. I like this that it’s probably one that upload again or have running at a Halloween party… I’m not convinced that it’s the best offering in this sad, but it certainly one of the highlights.


Hatchet 2

directorsa220px-hatchet_ii_posterI really enjoy Hatchet 2. A lot of it has to do with the cast. In the first film we had a quickie cameo from Robert England (and really what’s up with that? I realise it’s just the name recognition, but it’s the most useless scene in the film ). This film really stars Tony Todd. I’ve always got a soft spot for voodoo Masters, and Todd is doing a great job chewing the scenery here, we get a much better feel for this character.

Todd is at reprising his character from the first film (which was basically a cameo). This time he is in the thick of it, front and center – leading the chase back into the bayou to discover Victor Crawly.

Danielle Harris shows up in this one as well, taking over the role of Marybeth. I realize that in a lot of ways this role was written with her, or at least with her in mind, but scheduling conflicts prevented her from starring in the first film, this time Green was delighted to be able to bring her in . Maybe it’s just the conservative in me that doesn’t like change, but I actually find I prefer the previous actress – Harris is a little more confrontational and for some reason the little bit less likeable in the role. Danielle is a lovely person, and a lot of fun, but I’m just not a huge fan of her in this role. Still, it’s a return to familiar stopping grounds, as Kane Hodder hacks and slashes his way through the cast, again giving a stellar performance as Victor Crawley and actually flexing his acting muscles in the flashback scenes. There is a real sense of terror and peril every time you go back into that bayou. It’s also amusing to see Perry Shen back as a completely different character – this will be a running joke in the series and one that I really enjoy, but we’ll talk about that more next time as we explore Hatchet 3.


Autumn

boxdw096009173043On to our next set – also a zombie collection with a very Walking Dead cover.

Autumn has some good ideas. I genuinely like the concept where we see the evolution of the Zombie.

It starts off in urban England which gives it an initial 28 days later feel, but soon moves out to the country and we gt far more of a Night of the Living dead vibe. Forget the cover art by the way, it’s not the sci-fi epic about a plague that the cover would suggest. We don’t really see alot of it, we see more of that first shelter that the survivors are huddled in. We see the first zombies, wandering aimlessly…not eve noticing other people…..not hungry. Not yet.

As the film goes on, we se the zombies start to develop senses, becoming  triggered by sound and light. as time passes, the hunger kicks in and they become the real threat autumn_xlgwe’re used too. The progression is original and fascinating.

If this movie has a real problem, it that it’s too long, and WAY too talky. It’s a melodrama in the extreme and would really benefit from some judicious cutting of some of those dialogue scenes. I understand how we got here, the film is based on a book and there’s a LOT of ground to cover. From everything I’ve heard, it’s really true to the source material. Still I think it could have been streamlined into something a bit better paced. This is definitely one to watch, but you need to be prepared for a long somewhat PBS style zombie film and be in the mood for more philosophy than horror.

 


AllAmericon 2017

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I made one final check of the car before I headed out to pick up Ken. Scissors, Duck Tape, Half a tube of Velvet Crush color paint, extra velcro and elastic, Giant Lego Joker, a DC converter for the cigarette lighter in the car and a hot glue gun. Perhaps it’s just because it’s the height of summer, but something ALWAYS breaks when I head to Youngstown for AllAmeriCon.

For years I’ve been saying I wanted to keep an eye on this show to see what it grows into. I think this year it’s happened. They leveled up and it’s become the next incarnation it was desperately trying to achieve. Moving into the much larger Covelli Center in downtown Youngstown was a necessary move and it definitely had me wondering what the show would look like this year. 19875188_10207817841922905_3495307836499246435_n

19731908_10154752266492285_7738501242095122651_nThe truth is, things have not really changed that drastically, indeed, the layout is VERY familiar, almost as if someone had downloaded the con into photoshop, and then stretched out the size until it was bigger. It looks very much the same, but there’s more of everything and more room in those isles where we struggled shoulder-to-shoulder last year. I dig this because I really do feel like I’m still attending the same show I’ve come to enjoy over the last four years, rather than it feeling like a whole new con (which I genuinely feared) The strategy seems to be the same as well, bring in one or two amazing comic guests to focus on while maintaining a great selection of vendors and artists. There was a renewed focus on programming this year, with a couple of panels complementing the massive costume contest.

Did I mention the ginormous costume contest? All Americon has always brought out the 19274907_10212212191673044_528473784201797061_nbest in cosplayers and if you compete here, you definitely want to bring your A game, but this year the scope expanded disproportionately to the con size. According to Miss Procrastination Cosplay, it went from 30 or so last year to a whopping 80 contestants this year. Seriously, they give Akron Comicon a run for thier money this year! The highlight was the amazing Cinderella who transformed from rags into the ballgown in a twirl. A well deserved best in show. There was a marvelous Bane with curious foam muscles under a zentai suit and purposed Hulk hands ending at a venom meter on his writs. Star was characters arrived, five nights at freddys, a beautiful Pokemon hunter and a surprising amount of furries, as well as a couple of Deadpools. I ran into Wolverine from last year (a bit more bloody this time around….influence of the Logan film I imagine) and his son who was Star-Lord (MAN I wish I had finished Yondu in time for this!) instead of Spidey this time 19895064_1624543774247003_834777055824598295_naround. One guy did a great Doc Ock with pool noodles and a backpack (FINALLY! Someone else doing Ock! I love it!). There was a stunning ice knight, as well as a beautiful Iron Man suit that was just about perfect in every way (except for the fact that he only arrived twenty minuets before the costume contest – so unless you attended that you probably didn’t see him)

I finally managed to get my Lego Joker done just in time for the show.Almost predictably, the elastic on the right leg snapped as I was getting it on. I duck tapped it into place as a temporary solution – we arrived later than expected and I didn’t want to wait for the hot glue gun to warm up before going in. I planned to take a break mid-day and fix it then. I’d tested the suit out in the tight corridors of my home, but I didn’t count on the wind…a section of velcro ripped, but the remaining ones kept my head on. Still a slightly gimpy leg and wobbly head didn’t deter me.  By the way, speaking of Jokers…MAN there were a lot of Jokers here. I spotted at least five others, two 19959218_1598862850158132_4663665255998497811_nof them women, all of them different. It’s weird, I’m very used to seeing tons of Harley Quinns, but not so very many Jokers.  I was definitely in good company. Still, I was happy that mine was different from the other ones. Children would spot me from across the room and their eyes would light up. I don’t think I’ve ever had a costume that excited as many kids at this one.

Catching a Lego Batman was the best part of the day.

I made my way around the floor and while I missed Knightmage’s Cosplay 101 panel, I did slip into an elevator and snuck through the back way in the offices and managed to catch the Star Wars panel. There was a large trash can in the back that I was able to rest my arms on as I stood lurking in the back, chuckling at the stories of midnight showings and first times seeing the films. Occasionally someone would turn around and notice the giant Lego Joker hanging in the back and do a double take.

Panels. I was pleased to see a little more than last year, but I’d still like to see a couple more added in, especially as this show is trying to grow as a two day con. Two panels and a costume contest is still a little light on programming considering the size it’s swelled to

19875624_1598880090156408_4744379326818595858_nNevertheless, I got my panel fix when I headed over to Bob Layton’s table. Layton is a well known Iron Man alumni, as well as being one of the head guys over at the classic Valiant. Bob will talk for hours if you let him, and I personally was inclined to let him!
“We may not have had the best art, but we had storytelling”.
I mentioned how much I loved the old Gold Key characters they used.
“That was something we did for the retailers,” he replied.”We needed something recognizable for them to latch on to, and Jim ad a relationship with those guys.”
It’s sad to hear him talk about the fall of Valiant, and the transfer to Acclaim after Triumph investors pulled out. He describes Acclaim as “The biggest group of scumbags out there. And I was a VP, so I was in those meetings with all these scummy people.” He described leaving about half of his severance on the table – 1.2 million, because six months was just too long to keep putting up with it. “I saw where the industry was going and I got out.” But still he has hope, and believes the future of the comic industry is in the European model.
“I walked into a comic shop in France and it was beautiful. All wood bookshelves, these hardback volumes – not like the single issues we do. They last forever, and you don’t have 19875606_1598880096823074_7473435924055930848_nto put them in a plastic bag!”

One table down, Rags Morales is the exact opposite of Layton. While Layton exudes energy, Rags oozes a laid back attitude – with a relaxed and lazy charm that makes you instantly like him. I could only find one book from my shelves for him to sign (which turned out to be serendipitous as he was charging five dollars a autograph). He looked over the Nightwing cover and grinned.
“This cover made my dizzy,” he informed me, pointing to the background rather than the figures grappling in the image. “It’s supposed to be a fight in mid-air, but if you look closely….it’s upside-down.”

It was a good day. My shoulders hurt from being in Lego Joker for four hours, but I can’t complain. It was possibly the best year yet for All-AmeriCon. Can’t wait to see what they do next year!

 

 

 


Hatchet

directorsa220px-hatchetmposterHatchet is the film that Adam Green made a name for himself with. Around this time the film itself was being rejected by every distribution outlet because it wasn’t a remake or a Japanese horror film…which is what became the tagline. Green embrace everything about 80s horror that the fans love. Back in that time period this would probably fall into the category of slasher, but then again Freddie Krueger falls into that same category – and I’ve never really thought it was correct for him. He is a monster, a Demon, something supernatural and spooky. In that same way, Victor Crawley is more than just a slasher – he is in unstoppable force of nature, risen from the dead in a supernatural way. He is the living, walking embodyment of the forboding swamp and he NEVER stops coming back.

Hatchet is bloody and funny and exciting and I do love it. This film was on my radar for years before I actually get a chance to watch it, indeed it was only after meeting Green himself that I moved this thing to the top of my list and really dedicated some time to it and it sequels. It pays to sit down and watch them all straight through – it’s a brilliant run and we’ll be looking at some of the others later on.

Of course Netflix has its head up it’s tuchas as usual and never has all three listed – the third is frequently up and occasionally you’ll see the second, but never at same time. You’re going to have to buy the DVDs, all of which are available at Greens store up at http://ariescopemerchandise.goodsie.com/ Go grab those and come back next time and we’ll chat a little bit about Hatchet 2.


Fatal Femmes part two

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Time for disc two of this set. *Sigh*, let’s do this.

I was actually looking forward to the Cutting Room. I expected a bit more though. This is one of those micro budget affairs you see at horror cons – the kind of film a bunch of people get together and make just for the love of it. It kicks off with a fun cameo from Lloyd Kauffman, but quickly goes downhill from there. We have a director killing off 0683904660022her cast and crew to make the film infamous. I’ve seen this before (most notably in Amy Lynn Best’s Splatter Movie : The Director’s Cut). After a fairly pornographic solo scene with one of the starlets, the gore begins – and there is plenty of it. These folks revel in the blood and torn flesh, keeping the film fun, despite the dreadful lack of polish.

Next up : The Parasite is probably the most professional looking film in this set. They’ve obviously populated this movie with real actors and quality equipment and staged it in a very authentic looking university set.

We have a professor who is approached by a friend to investigate a psychic/hypnotist. This quickly devolves into a “Basic Instinct” situation when the psychic falls for the professor and uses her mental control to destroy his life. It gets points for a nice twist at the end and for being one of the better produced films in this set, but there’s very little here we haven’t seen before.

Finally there’s Up For Rent. Would you actually believe there’s an anthology film in this set?? (and the only one I could find an image of….) Three stories of murder, loosely tied together by the fact that they are happening in the same apartment at different times. The first is Push, a straightforward “woman scorned” story, as the spurned wife takes an unimaginative and bloody revenge on the cheating vlcsnap-2011-07-30-02h26m23s120husband. The second is Eye to Eye, a simple slasher story with no real plot (sorry, I want to like this, but you have to give me SOMETHING to work with). The final tale, Wannabe Deadly is a satire I hope – the story of an aspiring serial killer.

At the end of the day this is comfort food for me, it makes me feel like I’m in the darkened film rooms of Cinema Wasteland watching trash…but I can’t in all good conscious recommend it. If you see it in a dump bin at a con for a buck or two, and you have a fondness for these kind of movies (the kind some people wouldn’t even dare to call “films”) then you may want to pick it up, but if Best Buy is still foolish enough to have it on thier shelves, pass.


Monster Bash 2017

Every year I say this, but I really wish Bash was closer….I’d be there all day all three days. As it is, I always feel I miss too much because I have to leave before 9 – those PA roads get dark and treacherous at night! Still, where else are you going to see the original Blob or Edison’s Frankenstein (from 1910!) on the big screen in a room full of people?