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Posts tagged “Argo City Movie Night

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and 12 hours of Terror

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12141728_1049693461741743_384673542609489693_n12 Hours of Terror was a blast this weekend, just as always.Got a late afternoon nap, got my coffee and my superman blanket and  headed out to the Capitol theater in Cleveland with The monster mash blaring full blast out of my car speakers. Parking was nuts. Got in late and the place was packed. And I mean PACKED. I got the last seat in the last row and as the first film of the night went on, I saw people sitting on the floor. I figured I’d be stuck in the back until people start to bail – only a handful of folks last the entire night. First film up was night of the living dead…had a commentary running on Amy’s iPod. I mean no disrespect, it’s just, I’ve seen this now like FIVE times in the theater in the last three years. I’m a little burned out.

Still it’s amazing what a high quality print on a huge screen with a receptive audience can do for the movie. It still passes the watch test and remain a fascinating character piece. the fact that I’ve met most of the cast doesn’t hurt any either.

Turns out I wasn’t stuck in the back the rest of the night either, one of my friends found me and brought me down to the middle of the theater with a few of her buddies she had brought along. On to the next film of the evening. Man, I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I saw creepshow! I didn’t know Ed Harris or Tom Atkins was in it….

Tom Atkins without his mustache is the real monster here.

We’ll talk about the surprise screening in the middle a little later. I was actually looking forward to seeing the Descent on the big screen, but that mid-marathon fatigue hit and I managed to doze a little during the very beginning. Let’s face it, the first fifteen minutes are a lifetime movie….
The descent really loses a lot of its ability to scare on repeat viewings. This was my third time seeing it, though the audience was reacting very strongly. I suspect a lot of them had never seen it before. One nice thing about the big screen look, you can see a lot more detail on the crawlers.
While I was standing in line for coffee . They had the Vincent price episode of the muppets playing during the intermission. That was a new twist – indie movies and short features during the breaks between films. I like it but I also missed the old movie trailers they’ve done in years past.

Pumpkinhead surprisingly doesn’t get any better or worse on the big screen. No noticeable improvement in quality, this is a film made for direct to video. I’d also question the wisdom of playing Madman next to last in the marathon. Madman is NOT a good film. There’s no story, it’s just a  set up for random kills and the single most awkward love scene in all of 80’s and 70’s cinema. Sleepyness was in full force here, and I suspect a better film would have kept my attention better. By the way, would you believe they are actually doing a reunion for this movie at The Chiller Theatre convention this year?1madman
tumblr_ly4qlnCdQK1qla11zo1_500I’m not even sure if Cinema Wasteland would bother with that one….

American Werewolf in London was as good as it always has been. One thing that always strikes me about it though, I didn’t see this untill I was an adult, but I was very familiar with the creatures in the dream sequence from having “Fright Flicks” trading cards as a kid. It’s always weird to me to see those masks on screen and it always bothers me how they aren’t articulated at all…I always imagined they would be. Sadly I had to leave a little; the films were running behind and I had to be on the other side of Cleveland at 9:30. But that’s alright, the Capitol has actually screened this in the past (one of the reasons I was surprised to see it in the mix here)

Anyhow, lets get to the secret film;

12107228_1055599751151114_8057408519980357327_n It turns out that the surprise movie at 12 Hours of Terror this year was an advance screening of Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse! The full review is up on the Kreepy Kastle!



Ghost Rider : Spirit of Vengance

defenseHalf Price books had a sale last week, and I found a bunch of Blu Rays for $1.00! I picked up Spirit of Vengeance because it’s one I’ve been meaning to see but putting off. Truth is  I wasn’t a big fan of the first one and I haven’t heard a SINGLE good thing about this one. Still, I was ready to give it a try so Saturday while the girls were at dance I popped it in the PS3 and settled in with a pizza.

It starts off with a surprisingly good action scene featuring the rider himself. Easily as good as anything from the first film and it was good to see the character again. I could see some differences, no spikes (extra animations and cost I’m sure), and a skull that was darker – the entire suit seemed more consumed by Ghost Rider’s  hellfire than previously. That’s cool, costumes change with every movie.

It was about half an hour in when I started yelling at the screen. “I thought this was supposed to be a BAD movie!”. It would be my mantra fro the next hour.

Seriously, I’ve heard nothing good bout this, yet I found myself liking this far better than the first one. Nicholas Cage isn’t doing nearly as much of his manic Nicholas Cage thing….it’s more tormented and driven. Danny Ketch shows up and I went nuts! Edris Elba was marvelous as usual and I thought the cuts to the comic style images for backstory exposition to be really effective – it was a look that just appeals to me. Despite the soft-reboot feel (not even that really, or they would have replaced Cage) I really loved the direction they took and the different tone and style really worked for me.

A few things I’ve been told.

“Ghost Rider barely appears in  the film.”

To be  fair, he appears just as much as he did in the first movie – and we see more of him in this film that we do of Iron Man(in armor) in any of the Iron Man films. I’d like to see more, true, but really, I was led to believe he’s in this way less than the first and that’s just not true.

“It should have been rated R!”

That was never going to happen. Seriously, this isn’t the Punisher and they always said this would be PG-13 and if you were expecting anything else you deceived yourself. Despite the dark nature of the character, the comics I’ve read have never been particular gory or full of language. There’s violence, but it’s comic book violence and the film still manages to be just a violent than most of the comics I’ve seen. Even more violent than many  of them. The action was perfectly satisfying to meant this film delivered exactly what it promised.

“I was filmed on location because  they had no money!”

Yes, it was. The  implication is that this  makes it look cheap I guess. Well it looks  anything but cheap to me. They build a logical reason for Johnny Blaze to be  on the run and they used the foreign locals to great effect. I can’t argue with this choice one bit.

“Christopher Lambert isn’t in it enough.”

Lambert is in semi-retirement. That he’s in it at all is a shock, and a pleasant one  at that. I love his character – I love the look, the attitude, everything. Why are we complaining that he’s not in it enough when we should be cheering that he appears at all?

I love this script, I love this style and I kind of wish there was more of this – I still consider Drive Angry to be the spiritual third part to this unfinished trilogy, indeed it would really finish the arc, but sadly that’s not to be. Now that it’s back in Marvel’s hands, if we ever see more Ghost Rider, it’ll be a significantly different version, and that’s not a bad thing, but I’m still happy that I finally got to see this one and I suspect I’ll be spending a lot more time defending this in the future.

Jodorowsky’s Dune

Movie bannerOver the weekend I caught the Alejandro Jodorowsky Dune documentary. It was not what I expected. I had thought I was going to be overwhelmed with this visionary film concept. Instead it felt overblown and over important. And that’s really curious. I think that people get caught up in the concepts that were presented here, and the beautiful concept art. The problem with the concept art, is that it bears very little resemblance to the finished product. We frame these images in the context of modern film. But I remember film from the 70s, I remember science-fiction from the 70s. A great time capsule is the making of Star Trek Phase 2 book that came out many many years ago, chronicling the attempted launch of the first Star Trek sequel series. The look of the ship, the concepts that we see, They all change significantly from page to screen. They just do. There’s a look in the 70s that wasn’t quite Star Wars yet, with it’s modular, busy, liney look up on the hulls of spaceships. There is still a soft pastel, white, silverish look to them. Not quite the forbidden planet of the 60s, but certainly not the Millennium Falcon of the 80s.

I imagine this film would’ve ended up looking for great deal more like Dark Star then 2001. Once run through the filter Jodorowsky’s madness, it would not have ended up looking as slick or as fantastic as we really imagine. We’re dazzled with names like HR Geiger, and Dan O’Banion, and Mobius. But those names alone do not necessarily mean success. They do not necessarily mean quality, and the degree of their involvement is really hard to say. It makes for great documentary fodder, but in the real world with all these different artists, and different visions, how involved with they really be? Would they be there all the way from page to screen? I doubt it.

My end analysis is that this is a good documentary. It’s a fun film and a fun way of wondering what might’ve been. But it doesn’t inspire the longing that I get from something like say, Harlan Ellison script for I robot (Another hopeless cause). No I don’t see how this film ever really would’ve gotten made. And the sort of underdog that this documentary tries to paint it as seems forced. I definitely recommend a watch on this, and make sure you got subtitles involved because there is a lot of French going on here. Judge on your own and I’ll be interested in hearing what conclusions the rest of you draw from this film!


The Prometheus trap

Movie bannerThe Prometheus Trap can be summed up in a very simple way. It wants to be Triangle (Imdb referance here) in space. We have a very standard time loop kind of story where the crew is unaware that things are changing .Over all, this film lacks the power of script that Triangle had. Triangle attempts to elevate the above subject matter, and really gives us a sense of dread, playing with the atmosphere and the timeline itself . You’re not really aware that you in some sort of weird time loop period until well into the film. Prometheus on the other hand, wears it like a badge of honor on its sleeve.

The Prometheus Trap has a great poster,now I know you cant judge a book by its cover, in the same is true of any movie, however I checked out the screen grabs insight in arresting costumes nice-looking said and some good-looking ships. That elevated it above a lot of sci-fi dreck that we run into from time to time. The production values are good, and the look is standard that stylized. The real problem here is the script in areas it almost feels like it wants to be terribly philosophical, however it doesn’t have anything to say (Though, I’ll admit I liked the bit about being programed to know your creator – there some Christian philosophy in there somewhere…) and the plot is just threadbare.

This is a problem because it doesn’t justify the 89 minute running time. One almost gets the impression that the screenwriter figured that because it  going to be repeating events over and over and over again we don’t really need that much plot and character development. This is where the film largely fails and possibly is the starkest contrast to Triangle which is all about character development. I suspect this would have worked better as a short subject rather than a feature film There’s some clever bits here, like the androids being able to perceive the time loop because thier memories are cloud based, stored outside the bubble, but it’s just not enough.

In the end I’d say don’t waste your time on this one. It’s rare that I say completely pass on something but this one just isn’t worth the time to watch. If you’re flipping channels and find on SyFy  hang out for half an hour or so you’ll get the basic idea and then move along.

Don’t forget, there’s new Violent Blue today!



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This weekend I caught a sneak preview of Exists, a new found footage Bigfoot movie, as part of the Capitol Theater’s 12 hours of Terror marathon.

“New found footage Bigfoot movie” kind of says it all doesn’t it?

The movie is directed by Eduardo Sánchez, and if that name seems familiar it should. This is the guy who did The Blair Witch Project – the film which really made found footage a thing. He understands tension and atmosphere. I’m an apologist for Blair Witch, a film that kept me squirming throughout the running time until hitting me with a disturbing image that stayed with me for months at the end.

It seems however, that he may be a one trick pony. Exists is cut very much from the same cloth as Blair Witch, with one harrowing rescue scene in particular that feels like it was cut straight out of  that film and dropped into this movie with only  the names changed to protect the innocent….

There are some significant differences here from Sanchez’s previous attempts though. The conceit of the go pro cameras and advancements in consumer electronics really make  things a bit more plausible. It also caters to a specific type of personality, the kind of guy who HAS to film everything going on…and we get that kind of personality in droves.

Really,  the personalities are a big part of  the problem. I don’t like any of these people. I find it hard to be sympathetic to them and their plight, and I’m not alone. I could hear rumblings in the audience about “I hope she get’s it first!”. This is normal in a slasher. You pretty much get presented archetypes and then proceed to knock them down like dominoes. A found footage movie is different. It’s supposed to be a slower burn, driven by character development. I don’t really feel that here. Almost all the characters are unlikeable, and when we get the reveal of the bigfoot’s motivation for attacking them, you don’t get the mixed feelings of sympathy and anger the story needs.

Another big difference is the reveal of the monster, and this I really like. The bigfoot is really well realized, and surprisingly scary. To this day I still hear people say their biggest complaint about Blair Witch is that we never get a reveal of the monster, never any clue as to what is really going on. Never fear, Exists gives us plenty of the monster and uses the shaky came to it’s best effect in concealing it and distorting it to make it scarier. The deaths are violent and frequently at least partially on screen. It works in a way that mysterious off screen deaths would not have played here.

All in all, it’s not a bad film. It’s actually a good take on the bigfoot film – if you like those kind of movies (alas, I don’t). It’s far better than most SyFy originals or any of the dreck the Asylum keeps pumping out – though that’s a ridiculously low bar to clear.

Exists will be getting a limited theatrical run in a couple of weeks (One of those fifty screen one weekend kind of things so they can say it was theatrical in the marketing). It probably won’t be hitting Cleveland, but it will be available on VOD and streaming at the same time, and really, that’s where it belongs. I’d be a little disappointing if I plunked down my $9.00 for this at the multiplex, but if it shows up on netflix and you’re into this genre, it’s defiantly worth checking out. In the meantime, while you’re waiting, don’t forget to check out new Violent Blue strips up today!

Stitches and Grabbers

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MV5BMTgyNzE0MzYwOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzgxOTA2OA@@__V1_SY317_CR103,0,214,317_AL_I spent the weekend watching foreign films – which sounds so much better than I watched a bunch of irish horror movies…..

Stitches is one of those films I’ve seen listed a million times on Netflix. I’ve passed it by again and again simply because I don’t find clowns scary. That combined with a distrust of Netflix (which has consistently proven it knows NOTHING about horror) has kept me from this film for quite a while, but after hearing a friend recommend it I decided to finally give it a chance.

It’s not an asylum film (so many of the horror movies on Netflix are. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some kind of agreement or sponsorship, much like SyFy has with the Asylum), and I was surprised that it was an irish film. It has a very 80’s feel to it. a ton of practical effects and a standard plot – undead killer returns to murder the group of teenagers who caused his death. In this case it was a clown who died accidentally at a child’s birthday party.

They never explain why he waits a decade or so to return, but the how is touched upon in an interesting way. The film introduces the idea that all images2clowns are part of a secret cult (ironically, I was a clown and in fact WAS inducted into a secret order…no, I’m not joking.) and each has a connection to a weird painted egg – an avatar or something, it doesn’t get more specific than that. We don’t really learn what the magic is, but we do get the impression that the only way to destroy the clown is to destroy the egg. This is a great plot point and the sort of thing we don’t get enough of these days. There’s still a quest like element here , not just a bunch of set pieces.

The set pieces are great by the way. There’s a surprising amount of gore, combined with the tropes and whimsy that you would expect from a clown movie. It stops just short of being a horror comedy, but we certainly reach Hatchet or Evil Dead levels of absurdity in the violence.

It’s a fun movie and they very much leave room for sequels.  I honestly hope to see more of these at some point, but Ireland note images3being Hollywood, I’m not so sure I will.

My second feature was Grabbers. I’d heard this mentioned a year or so ago on the Horror Ect. podcast and it was one of those titles I just kept meaning to get to but never did. Stitches brought it back to mind and I’m glad I finally got around to it.

Curiously enough, this film plays it straight. It’s a stark contrast to Stitches in that, and really surprised me. The concept is that sea monsters are attacking a small Irish coastal town, and they attack people to untitleddrink their blood, but alcohol is poison to them. If ever there was a concept you’d expect to be played for laughs, this is it!

The first act is a bit slow. They take their time introducing the characters and actually try to create some back story here. When we finally see the creatures, they’re striking, but sadly also very CG heavy. The second act is heavily involved in detective work, trying to figure out what these things are and more importantly, where they come from.

The movie really does kick into high gear at the third act and it’s worth seeing. It’s a good film, but watching it I very much get the impression that it really would be better watched with a group.

I’m really enjoying what I’m seeing coming out of Ireland actually. These are both WELL made films despite the absurd premise. It’s refreshing and they really seem to remember what it’s like to make FUN horror. I’m curious to see more from the IFC and think I’ll be keeping an eye on these film makers as time goes by.



Movie bannerMV5BMTM0NDc3MDExMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDEwOTU4NQ@@__V1_SY317_CR12,0,214,317_AL_Doing a strange marathon this weekend. I started with 11-11-11. mostly because I’d just heard an interview with the director Darren Lynn Bousman  and I really wanted to see exactly what the film he described looked like. He talks about it being far better before the studio cut it, and I suppose that’s possible, but I’m not sure. You can see where some of the creatures effects had issues, and quite frankly, the demonic figures at the end are too well lit and poorly conceived. It’s irrelevant. That’s not actually the movie(s) I want to talk about.

The Asylum is a film company that has built their business around the “mockbuster”. Cheap knockoffs of high profile films and 11-11-11 was one of their targets. Around the same time it was in the theatres they came out with 11/11/11. Seriously, that was the difference in the titles. a “/” instead of a “-“.  was curious as to whether or not they even tried to emulate the film so I puled it up on Netflix. They had the entire series…though curiously enough they didn’t have 11-11-11.

11/11/11 is a straight off Omen clone. It actually could stand on it’s own, it’s compentantly enough made, though the acting is a little MV5BMTkxNTcxMzgyMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTQyNTA5Ng@@__V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_AL_wooden. The up side is if they are going to plagerize, it’s going to be from the best. We have a new family moving into a new house, just as their son is about to turn 11 on 11/11/11. If he sees that birthday he’ll become the antichrist. We have impalement on a fence and a nanny controlled by a cult that wants the Devil to come into the boy. No representitives of the Church is really the main thing that seperates this from the Omen. Still it’s a pleasantly average film, a step up for the Asylum. A pity that it’s a rip off in every way, as that kind of taints it.

Next up is 12/12/12. This one is a very different film and that’s a strange choice. There is obviously a DTV franchise being created here with a definite design language to the artwork on the packaging but no cohesive identity in the movies themselves. It’s a very different movie with Tarantino levels of F-Bombing and as much nudity as they can cram in (I’m fairly certain the lead actresses were chosen primarily for their more exhibitionist qualities) both things that 11/11/11 largely avoided in favor of trying to tell a better story.  We start off with a bang though,  with a cult overseeing a woman to impregnate her and later her demonic baby being born. I found myself wondering if this one would be a knock off of “It’s Alive” like 11 was an Omen remake, but other than the monster being a baby, there’s not much similarity. It’s power seems mostly hypnotic, making people do horrible things to themselves. That’s not clear right away either, it takes far too long for me to get that.

MV5BMzM0MDE0MjQxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzAzMTQ4OA@@__V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_AL_The first kill is a great one, taking place at the birth with the doctors being strangled by the umbilical cord…though it looks more like an intestine. It’s kind of ruined by the flashes of the failed vaginal birth though….quite frankly even I don’t want to see that. When both of my daughters were born I was there, holding my wife’s hand and looking into her eyes, and making quite sure I didn’t glance anywhere near down south. ugh. The birth is eventually accomplished caesarian and that IS a great image “it’s almost like it’s trying to get out….”.

There’s a lot to like about this film. The cultists here evoke the feel of old Hammer films and the gore is nicely done. But again the acting is wooden and the film feels rushed. It’s another one of those 14 day shoots, or at least it feels like that. One more week would help this movie immensely.  You can see there’s not time to light properly, no time to rehearse or really build chemistry and I really wish there was, because there’s a good horror film in here somewhere. I think Full Moon would have gotten this right, with better colors, tones and heart.

The biggest problem here if  course is the baby itself. It’s mostly the third act. Until then it’s seems in glimpses, ashen gray features, evil eyes. Occasionally though it’s just a baby doll lying there and the actors don’t know how to handle it to make it look like it’s alive. A lot of POV shots and all of it makes you really want to see what that baby looks like.

Well, in the third act we do. In spades. It’s in full light and moving around, but it looks like hard plastic, not soft rubber. There’s not belief in it’s movements. They just don’t seem to know how to puppet this thing and the static face only makes that a worse problem.  I’ve seen better demonic baby dolls at Cinema Wasteland and I’m honestly tempted to grab one and redo those scenes MV5BMjM2MTY1ODc5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTg3ODc0MDE@__V1_SY317_CR28,0,214,317_AL_myself, just to show them how it’s done. A moveable face draped in shadow with evil fx eyes, it could be done in a day or two ( and that includes the opticals).  It’s almost as if they are determined to make bad films the way they hamstring themselves like this.

Finally there is 13/13/13. The idea is that because of leap year, we eventually accumulate an extra month and by some arcane calculation the day this film takes place in is actually 13/13/13. On this day everyone goes crazy and anarchy ensues(much like “The Purge”). The only ones not affected are people born on Leap year.  Again, we start off with a bang, a great scare and aseriously disturbing bit of gore, but a mere five or ten minuets into the film, it’s just unwatchable.

The cover is a lie. Yes, there is an adolescent girl in it, slightly older than the one on the cover, and the film ISN’T about her. she appears on one scene only and it’s just another set piece to display the crazy. There’s no story here. It’s all just about filming violent crazy scenes. We spend a bout a third of it at a hospital which is wonderfully creepy and atmospheric. The violence occasionally gets to squirm inducing levels of transgressive cinema, but there really is NO story. It’s just the camera  drifting from one set piece to the next, a great disappointment from a series that the producers just don’t care about. Best to skip this one and read todays new Violent Blue instead.



Not a review of Guardians of the Galaxy

Movie bannerI was aware of the movie of course, because of all the buzz, but it wasn’t one I was just waiting on pins and needles for.

In many ways I think I’m the target audience for it. People who might have heard something about this, but arn’t really familiar with it. I tried an issue or two of the comic when Bendis rebooted it a couple years ago, but nothing really grabbed me. I like the idea of the talking raccoon (a smart mouth funny animal character is one of my elements for a perfect sitcom formula) and I like Sci-Fi, but had nothing invested here.

There’s a million reviews for Guardians. There’s nothing I can add to those really. I  took my kids, Lydia’s favorite character was Groot – mostly because he spends the entire movie saying nothing but “I am Groot”. And Maddie loved Rocket. Yeah, nothing new here.

What I want to explore is why  this movie is important.

I like this because it’s sci-Fi without being SyFy. It’s not Star Trek or Star Wars. It’s not the gritty or nilistic attitude that we’ve seen in Sci-Fi for the last ten years or so (thanks for nothing Battlestar Galactica). It’s not Gravity or Edge of Tomorrow. It’s fun. It doesn’t take itself to seriously while still going all in to the genre – and this is where you can see Gunn’s Troma roots. Say what you will about Troma, (and I hate ’em) but it’s one of the last places you can go in as nothing and truly advance by merit.  You can start off as a PA or a grip and end up a script supervisor or editor. That’s not an exaggeration, Joe Lynch did JUST that on Terror Firmer. It’s like New York, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Much like Roger Cormans studio, Troma is actually forging a generation of professionals despite (or perhaps because of ) working on drek. Gunn knows where to be serious and where to go completely zany, and if he can make you tear up at the image of a raccoon staring down at the charred branches of a tree – that’s something worth noting. This is original. Like nothing else in film today, because they remembered this is supposed to be a good time. They remembered that they cans still make you feel, when you’re having fun, it doesn’t need to be bleak and heavy to get that reaction.

It’s also a game changer.

There has been much written in reviews of how the Marvel brand is a proven one. Sure it is. But only with Superheroes.

Thor was a Sci-Fi movie, but with Superheros. So was Iron Man. And even though they were second stringers at the time (remember in the 90 and early 2000’s if it wasn’t an X-book or Spider book it was back bench), they were recognizable enough. Guardians is pure Sci-Fi. A shrew eye can catch the comic book dynamic – charismatic leader, sexy girl, smart mouth, a warrior, and a tank. Even so, it’s very Sci-Fi, with more in common with Firefly than the Avengers. It’s proof Marvel can do other things. What could happen next? Marvel Horror? Marvel Mystery? We’re getting a very Crime based set of shows hitting Netflix and it’s obvious Marvel want’s it’s brand to encompass more than just superheros. Guardians is the proof it can do so, and may be the key to surviving when the market gets oversaturated with superhero movies and the bubble inevitably breaks.

It’ll be interesting to see where we go from here.

Over at Violent Blue by the way, Steve took Jen to see the movie. We’ll be exploring their relationship against the backdrop of the film all week. Check it out here!

Fright Night 2 : New Blood

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I’ve always made a point to state that  I don’t hate remakes just for the sake of hating remakes. I was reasonably positive about Fright Night three years ago here : This time not so much.

First and foremost, let’s get this out of the way. Just because it has “2” in the title, that means nothing. This is not a follow up. It’s a remake. You don’t get to remake a film two years after the last remake! It’s not even a BETTER remake. I think I would have liked this a great deal more if it had been a sequel. It’s DTV horror. It didn’t NEED to have the same actors and it isn’t too much of a leap to make this a follow up. Evil Ed is better realized here, but that’s it. Amy is completely wasted here. She’s always been a damsel in distress, but she was practical in the original. She imageswas stronger in the remake. Here’s she’s just a walking prop. Vincent simply isn’t interesting here…in fact he far less likable than in the 2011 remake and again, he doesn’t actually appear until around the halfway point.

One of my real pet peeves is taking a remake in name only. They use the names and maybe some subject matter, but tell a story that not only has nothing to do with the original but doesn’t even feel like the original (A big reason I never liked the Battlestar Galactica reboot). Again, it wouldn’t have taken much script doctoring to make this a sequel. Simple replace Ed with images3someone else or find a way to humanize him again. State that Vincent has a new career doing reality TV and he pulled some strings to get Charlie and company in on this trip. The Bathory angle would have fit much better like that – especially if Geri Dandridge was somehow related to Jerry Dandridge.

It’s frustrating because this does have some good set pieces, and frankly some brilliant uses of the cross to ward off Vampires. My favorite is a tie between the picture on the cell phone or the full chest tattoo on Peter images2Vincent. The ocular damage scene is nicely squirm worthy as well and the sonic location is a surprisingly original touch. But all of it simply isn’t sufficient to make this a good film, and the “2” in the title just pisses me off.

If you see it on netflix and need something to watch as background at a party or while you are cleaning the house or something it’ll work, but don’t go out of your way to rent it and definatley don’t buy it.


How to train your dragon 2

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indexRemember this picture? Well the girls got out to a sneak preview of the film today, thanks to Jonna Belshaw who hooked us up with the passes.

Funny, it reminds me of Aliens – a sequel that take the form of an action film, more dragons – including the Alpha (or queen), greater peril and greater stakes.

As Hiccup tries to avoid his destiny as the future chief of the village he stumbles upon  a group of dragon trappers building an army for our main villian. Along the way, Hiccup finds his long lost mother who has basically become the Jane Goodall of dragonkind.

My girls really connected with the mother. They told me repeatedly that she was their favorite character, and her four winged mount was Lydia’s favorite dragon in the film.  Indeed, thier favorite scene was when they entered her Dragon habit. Not only did they tell me this was thier favorite sceen, but I also watched them as it played. Their eyes were wide open, jaws agape as dozens, possibly hundreds of dragons swirled in an ice covered sky.

The main battle is intense, and a little scary for kids. Eight year old Maddie climbed up on my lap during it, a little nervous. Don’t let this keep you away though, this really is basiclly an action film for kids, and done well enough to appeal to both girls as well as boys.

One last note, skip the 3d. The film dosen’t hinge on it, and other than possibly the beginning scene – a dragon race – it dosen’t really use it.

A fun movie for this summer, catch it with you kids!

SpookShow live presents Night of the Living Dead


Movie bannerIMG_20140510_233438Headed out to the Apollo for the Spookshow screening of Night of the Living Dead.  It’s always a fun movie, but this time, local Horror Hosts Dale Kay and Mr. Maniacal were trying to give more of a live presentation spin on it.

Zombies showed up for atmosphere, and there was some schtick and giveaways before the movie. I actually got up and did a bit with Dale and the skull-faced Ms. Ginger Rose. It wasn’t a packed house, but it was a first time for this event, and it was a respectable crowd for a midnight movie. I’ve attended Late Shift movies over at the Cleveland 10288769_515864095192206_7066554261162984369_nCinemas with far fewer people.

A very late night (and of course that night my back decided to go out…) but a nice night with me going a little overboard with my makeup (not entirely happy wit it either… it look a little too…..puffy). The guys from the Kreepy Kastle say they would like to do more of these shows, and now, with some experience under their belt, I can’t wait to see what they try next!


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The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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So yesterday we ran this strip over at Violent Blue.

Amazing Spider-Man 2

I don’t want to hate this movie.

1I really questioned whether I would review it because the problem is this can not possibly stand up on it’s own. This is  the second film in the Amazing cycle and it’s inevitably going to draw comparisons from the Rami cycle. The second Rami movie is the best of all the Spider-man movies ever. More to that point, I have no problem saying it’s one of the greatest Superhero movies ever made. In fact it was just on TV over the weekend (capitalizing on the release of the new film) and it absolutely holds up.

I liked Garfield as Peter Parker in the first film. I thought Toby was a better Spidey though. More light hearted and fun. I hoped Garfield’s Spidy would grow on me, especially since they got the costume right this time. Sadly, it was the opposite. His Peter has gotten more grating and that stupid Bronx accent (is it meant to be queens? It doesn’t sound queens to me) really gets ramped up here and drives me nuts. Not as bad as the Dancin’ Toby sequences in 2 and 3, but not fun.  Peter is too moody. Too brooding. This isn’t Batman. Spider-Man looks best in the sunlight and happy.

2I also don’t buy the Peter/Harry relationship. This needed to be addressed in the first movie. Harry belongs with Peter from the word go, bringing him in cold in the sequel just feels tacked on. What a coincidence Peter just happened to be friends with the richest kid in New York….

Harry’s completely unlikable in this by the way and that’s a shame. The tragedy of Harry Osborne is that he’s not a bad guy, he’s been twisted. If you’re not rooting for him to rise above it, then it doesn’t work. And I’m not. I don’t like this Harry.

He’s not alone though. I HATE Aunt May here. God she’s useless in this series. She’s pathetic…nothing more than a dialogue delivery system. May is supposed to be a dichotomy – old and frail with a shocking amount inner strength that can’t be measured. I mean, they couldn’t even be bothered to put a white WIG on Sally Field!

Look, I have issues with the Rami cycle. I never liked his casting of Kristen Dunst and never really liked his version of Peter Parker. I think his inexplicable need for every villain to have some sort of relational connection with Spidey was ridiculous. But for the most part….for the most part he got it right. Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson looked like they stepped right off the comic page, and their characterization was so dead on that they stole the show. Even though he didn’t have the right look, everything else about the Green Goblin rung true. Norman and Harry Osborne were perfect updates (and they LOOKED related by the way). Rami got  the relationships right. He understood the characters. Most importantly, he loved the source material. He loved the comics. Everything else comes from that.

3I don’t think the current producers love the comics. I don’t think they get it. In fact, more and more of this feels like film by committee. Everyone has input. This movie in particular drops so many names it’s transparent that it’s just designed to be a springboard to other things…and that fails to entertain.

I want to like this. Remember what I said about them really understanding how to use effects? It’s still true in this entry, but this time it’s par for the course. I don’t see anything that really blows me away. They don’t have the goodwill of everything being shiny and new. They had to deliver a great story, but they are trying to do too much to achieve that.

A lot of what I had a problem with the first time around is still there. Actually most of it has been kicked up a notch, such as treating Spidey like a grim avenger. Instead of repeating it all here, I’ll just refer  you to my post on Amazing here :


If you haven’t seen it, wait for it to hit redbox or Netflix. Better yet, just pop in the Raimi films and go from there.

Captian America : The Winter Soldier

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cap1I finally got around to seeing Captain America this weekend. I know I’m lat to this party, but you know me, I don’t visit movie theaters that are less than 70 years old. The Lorain Palace was showing it in 3d for 5.00 (as opposed to a 2d matinée  at a normal theatre for 7.50 at least).

Here’s the thing. The Winter Soldier isn’t a superhero movie. Sure they try to fool you with some big set pieces in the beginning and the end, but make no mistake, this is not a superhero movie. It’s a political thriller – and really, that’s exactly what you would expect from Robert Redford in this role. With SHIELD infiltrated by Hydra, there’s far more intrigue than simple action here. I almost wonder if it’s too elevated for the subject matter.

cap2I was really complementary about the first Cap film. I stand by my opinion that it was the best Superhero film I’d seen in a good decade. I revisited it recently and found it’s not as rewatchable as I had hoped. It’s still as good, but I can’t return to it again and again like I can with The Avengers. It makes me wonder if this film will have a similar feel. It’s an awfully complicated story for casual viewing.

Speaking of The Avengers – I’m having some issues with Scarlet Johansson and the way she plays Black Widow.

It’s not that I don’t like her in the role, I’m perfectly fine with the casting, but it seems like she never plays it the same way twice…does she just forget how the character is played every time? I also wonder if that’s part of the act….that she has so many faces, so many identities that all of them are false. If that’s the case then it really should be a little cleared. perhaps I am just over cap4thinking this, but in her third time out it’s beginning to get to me. In the end she just comes off as really bland.

They also try to play up her dark past in this film. it seems a little late to be getting to this. We kind of acknowledge it in the Avengers, but it’s just in one line. Here it’s far more explicitly stated but feels like it’s too little too late – either tacked on for the fans or an afterthought to try and enhance what has always been a secondary character.

There’s a LOT of Cleveland in this film. This always takes me out of the movie a bit, I’ve spent a lot of time downtown professionally and I recognize so much of what we see here. That is one of the greatest car chases ever, but I know some of those streets. The scene in the mall is crazy. I take my daughters to those fountains. I buy coffee at that stand! I’ve done work in that building cap5they’re keeping the Winter Soldier in….

Falcon is a nice addition in this film by the way. It’s a good origin story for him and he really has chemistry with Cap. I’m actually looking forward to seeing him in the next film…and let’s face it, they telegraphed the sequel. Then again, the commercials really gave away a lot of plot points, and I found myself waiting for stuff to happen. On the other hand it also let me know that I WAS going to see the familiar red white and blue costume for part of this movie and not just the slick blue and silver Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-Cap-Golden-Age-versionone. I was pleased that it was a full third of the film.

Interestingly enough, all the commercials and memes and internet chatter I was sure Nick Fury was going to really die in this. It was interesting that all of the spoilers actually hit me in reverse…

I really liked this film and can’t wait to see the next one.

Well, you know,  after I see Superman vs. Batman.


By the way, we’ll be spending the whole week over at Violent Blue celebrating the new Cap film. Check it out! the first strip is up here :



Muppets Most Wanted

Movie banner   untitledTo be fair, they warned me.

It’s right there in the first song – “We’re doing a sequel! That’s what we do in Hollywood and everybody knows the sequel’s never quite as good”

I think Disney is having a problem balancing callbacks (fanservice) with trying to be fresh. In the last film it was all about being new, with a hint of nostalgia, this time around they really crank up the homages – perhaps too much so. They acknowledge it though, pointing out in one line that the last film spent an inordinate amount of time on the new Muppet Walter, perhaps at the expense of other beloved characters (seriously, that’s a line Rizzo delivers). At least Rizzo and PePe both have a line in this one.

It’s not badly done.  The duplicate frog has been done before on TV, though I don’t remember it in film. It may be a little too goofy of a concept for a film, probably imagesCAMUTUN9would have worked better as a direct to DVD story. I’m amused though, from now until the end of time, Every time John Constantine is introduced in a Hellblazer story I’m not going to be able to resist thinking “the most dangerous frog”?

The sequences with Kermit trapped in the Siberian prison feel tacked on, like they didn’t know what to do with him -a shame because its some of the best stuff in the film…but more on that in a moment.

I think my biggest problem in this film is Ricky Gervais . I know it’s kind of his schtick, but really it feels like he just doesn’t want to be here. He kind of sleepwalks through the entire thing. Everyone else in this movie is obviously having the time of their life. All you have to do is look at Tina Fey (who I normally despise) to see how imagesCAL7F6GJmuch they want to be there, and it’s a huge contrast against Gervais’ performance.

Fey’s role is mostly confined to the prison camp…though she still manages to have a chic look with those gorgeous boots and the soft fur and big buttons on her coat. She’s vamping it and really makes it work. I’m not sure what Ray Liotta is doing here. Cashing a check I suppose. He’s kind of wasted in the role. Danny Trejo on the other hand….

If you’d asked me a year ago I’d have said it was ridiculous to have Trejo in this film. He doesn’t belong here. But after meeting the guy, it’s a different story. He fits here. He really does. You may actually be seeing more of the real Danny Trejo here than IMG_0138in any other role he’s ever had.

The world needs more of Danny Trejo singing Broadway. It really does.

The main characters are used really well this time around. Animal (traditionally a tangential though popular character) has some good moments and Sam Eagle has one of his best characterizations ever. The idea of making him a CIA agent just ….fits. It plays perfectly into his character and really lets him show his intellect without it being the butt of a joke.

Speaking of the agents, Jean Pierre Napoleon as the French Interpol agent is a revelation. I mean it. He is absolutely brilliant. Why was Steve Martian in the last imagesPink Panther movie when THIS guy is around? Seriously, it was like watching Clouseau interact with the Muppets. Someone needs to give him a shot at that role. He was another of the best things in the film.

For the most part, I’ve been supportive of Disney’s handling of the Muppets. Despite my initial reservations, it’s been a good home for them. The slick Disneyfied packaging never bothered me. I like Muppets in OZ (Made sure to see it when it was broadcast on  TV, recorded it, then bought the DVD anyhow). A Very Muppet Christmas is one of my favorite Muppet movies ever, defiantly my favorite of ALL the Christmas ones. I kind of wish they would jettison Walter, but the way they brought the Muppets back to the big screen was very wise.

This isn’t a bad entry (It’s better than Muppet Christmas Carol) but it’s far from the best. Better songs would have helped…especially after the musical triumph of Frozen. There’s a couple that are clever like the opening “We’re Doing A Sequel” and the closing “Together Again, Again) but those are more interesting because they are homages to previous films and probably wouldn’t stand on their own any better than any of the others which are all forgettable. A shame, there were some stand outs in the last film like “Me Party” and I wonder why we didn’t see that kind of thing here. Still, I’m grateful that I can take my kids to see a new Muppet movie over at Amherst Cinema and you can bet we’ll be back for the next one!

RPG films

Movie bannerI miss my gamer days. I actually do, but the problem is I was never a true gamer, but more of a casual player. I just wanted to run a game once a month or so, and it’s hard to find a group like that (even the guys I would play Heroclix with were always way more into it hat me, playing a couple times a week as opposed to me playing a couple times a month). I never did D&D (I know it’s fantasy, but I don’t dig having to deal with other deities. I have one God and he’s sufficient.) but would regularly play Earthdawn, Night Life ( Like Vampire the Masquerade, but less pretentious) and Star Trek (Which turned into the most popular one amongst my group). We even did a game night for one of my three bachelor parties.

I’m sure I mentioned the Gamers 2 on this blog a year or two ago, but I can’t seem to find the post to link to it. In any event, it’s a fun movie that captures the spirit of gaming, moving back and forth between the players sitting at the table playing, and shifting into the scenario itself, showing up the adventure they are having. It’s funny, and has a lot of heart – and despite being a sequal, is actually a superior film to the less than memorable The Gamers.

This weekend I watched Zero Charisma, a crowdfunded take on gamer life which originally screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. The main character is the archtype of the loser gamer –  the one who lives with his parents (or in this case grandmother) feels entitled, the rule lawyer and obnoxious type. It’s not a bad film. The direction is good and there really is a story here. The main problem is having someone totally unlikable as the protagonist (and in certain ways antagonist). We don’t see much of an arc with him…he might have grown just a teensy bit at the close of the movie but I’m not sure. I feel I can cut him some slack when I see his mother (who abandoned him at an early age) and the truth is, as obnoxious as he is, he’s right about a few things. That doesn’t save his life from falling apart though, and in the end, you really can’t say he doesn’t deserve it. We spend an hour and a half laughing with him and cringing at him. It manages to be beautifully sad in the end.

I also hit up Knights of Badassdom. This one takes place at a LARP and ask the question what would happen if a bunch of gamers used a real spell book by accident and summoned a real demon? It’s directed by Joe Lynch, who I’ve been enjoying on Holliston and was recommend by Ted over on the Horror Ect podcast. It’s great. A fun time in gamer culture, with some outside characters to ground us. Peter Dinklidge  is amazing here by the way. This is before Game of thrones, but he is an absolutely brilliant warrior in this. It manages to be tense, funny, bloody and fun all on a budget about equal to what you might pay for a happy meal at McDonalds. This, by the way is exactly my beef with the SyFy channel. They constantly put out soulless boring, stupid films on shoestring budgets with lousy CG on budgets about the same as what we see here. If this were the kind of movie SyFy was running on Saturdays, I’d be glued to the TV. Find some filmmakers with passion and a hook like this and give me some good films and you could win me back I and second. In any event, Knights is a high recommend along with the Gamers 2. Zero Charisma isn’t bad per se, but go in knowing its going to be a little depressing…there’s no rewatchability on that one.

I really have to run and get some Violent Blue done. I’m trying to do a topical series this week, but I can feel the window closing on me before I have to dip into the buffer and post a different strip. Still, before I go I’m going to throw a fun little music video in here. Also well done, though I’m not sure if gamer culture is being celebrated here or satirized…

A Christmas Story

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1425796_675027932541633_1816864993_nYou know, the Christmas Story is really more my wife’s thing, but that’s okay. She helps put it in perspective for me. Sometimes you need someone else to help you realize why something is cool.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the film and here in Cleveland we love it because parts of it were shot here. I’ve been to the house before, in particular to meet Ian Patrella (Randy, the little brother) but this year the people who run the house and museum decided o throw a small convention. It was scattered around town unfortunately and that made it a little hard to find at times. I hit the cast meet and greet over at the renaissance hotel in Public square and got my poster all marked up. I’d sent it to Peter Billinglsly (Ralphie, the main character) several years ago and he’d signed it through the mail. Ian had already autographed it as well. But there were still some fun cast members there including the evil elf from the Santa visit, the bullies and Ralphie’s friend Flick (who got his tongue stuck to the flagpole). I was especially excited to meet Zack Ward, the bully 1425796_675027939208299_1096394837_nFarkus because he also has a small part in “Freddy vs. Jason”. He was charming, funny and extremely friendly.

Last weekend, they were screening the film in Cleveland. There were showings at both the Capitol and at the Cedar Lee. The Capitol is always my preferred venue because it’s closer and parking is free. It’s also a nice theatre. It’s not the palace, but it tries. The Cedar Lee is a bit of a dive (that’s not a bad thing by the way. You expect theatre that show Rocky Horror, or art and foreign films to be a little grimey!)

Usually I hit these theatres alone. Amy isn’t into a lot of the kinds of movies that they show at these places…but this time I packed her up and we headed out for a morning screening of A Christmas Story! $5.00 tickets and about a half full house.  The snow was keeping some people away I think. It’s also possibly that it just wasn’t promoted enough. I’m not sure.

1463000_682566698454423_600504286_nThere’s a reason I like going to the theatre to see films…even ones I’ve already seen. It’s a wonderful collective experience and you always see things on the big screen that you miss at home. Like this for instance. Randy falls asleep amid a mass of presents….one of which IS A FRANKENSTEIN MASK! Who gets a Frankenstein mask for Christmas??? You know… besides me….

We hope it’ll show somewhere next year so we can take the kids, and perhaps make this a part of our Christmas traditions just like tomorrow when we watch it play for 24 hours on TV!

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And a quick reminder, we’ll be taking this week off for Christmas, not only here at Argo City, but also over at Violent Blue. There’ll be some “lost” strips up for the vacation week, and regular comics and blogging will resume after the new year!

Wreck-It Ralph

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IMG_20130413_141438Wreck-it Ralph was one of those movies I kept meaning to get around to. It made it on to my radar during the Halloween season because my daughters got stickers at one of the trick or treat events we went to  and I liked the concept. I was reminded about it a couple months ago when I met Kyle Herbert, who does voices for Street Fighter – one of the cameos in the movie.

My older daughter is totally nuts for video games and she loved this movie. The story is told from the perspective of the game characters living in the games itself and has it’s similarities to things like TRON, but in a more lighthearted Pixar way. What’s interesting is that the games in the movie’s arcade run the gamut of game periods, from the things that belong firmly in the Donkey Kong era  through the 16 and 32-bit fighters to slick modern 3d racers that we8-bit Wreck-It Ralph game see today. Cameos are shoehorned in every chance we get, making games created for the movie  like Fix-it Felix (a weird combination of Donkey Kong and Rampage) or Sugar Rush (a candy themed racer) feel legitimate standing next to Q*Bert and Street Fighter and Sonic and Pac Man.

With CG cartoons increasingly aimed at children and not their parents, this works really wellimages giving both grown-ups and kids something to look for an enjoy. It’s also one of the rare roles for Sarah Silverman that doesn’t make me want to punch her in the face. I think the biggest downfall for the movie is the lack of tie-ins. Sure they released a Wreck-It Ralph video game, but what I want is a Sugar Rush racing game like in the movie! There’s a buggy flash version on the film’s website, but that’s not the same as me plugging it into my Wii Wreck-it-Ralph-wreck-it-ralph-33985804-1920-1200and racing in one of those candy cars on my big screen.

This one is definitely a buy for any gamers out there raising little gamers. Probably still a buy for anyone with primary school kids, and a rent for absolutely anyone who ever played a video game or used to hang out at the mall arcade.

Satan’s Bed

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aka Batas Impian Ranjang Setan
Directed by H. Tjut Djalil

Also known as “Indonesian Nightmare on Elm Street.”

Normally I’d do a detailed review with my impressions of the film. However, I don’t think I can do any better justice to this movie than my posts to Facebook as I was watching this film.

  • Matthew Skelly there’s the little girls in white jumping rope (not singing theSatansBed19843 song but it’s definately them)…..OH MY GOD….they’re doing the bathtub scene almost shot for shot!!!
  • Matthew Skelly ” I had the same dream…a devil came out of my bed with razor sharp nails…” OH LOOK! It’s the Johnny Depp character and the tape player!…oh and here come the jerk boyfriend making noises outside…..
  • Matthew Skelly Okay…Indonesian Tina and Indonesian rod just went upstairs. I gotta say, Indonesian Nancy is a lot prettier than Heather Langenkamp…..If they actually do the rotating room I’m going to plotz.

  • Matthew Skelly Indonesian Freddy just cut off one of his fingers…..
  • Matthew Skelly No rotating room, but they did lift Indonesian Tina up on wires….they did the skull gag too….only it was Indonesian Freddy’s entire head that came off…..
  • Matthew Skelly COOL! It’s Indonesian John Saxon!
  • Matthew Skelly Indonesian Freddy walks like Frankenstein. Shame. SatansBed19842It’s probably because he’s cold. he needs a hat and sweater.

  • Matthew Skelly okay…bizarre….. Indonesian rod escapes from Indonesian john saxon and is lured away by Indonesian Freddy pretending to be the ghost of Indonesian tina…..SO Bizarre. Still get’s hung though.
  • Matthew Skelly Alcoholic mother..check. Shaman….huh? I think someone got their poltergeist mixed in their NOES……there’s that lady in lavender again to…a little Phantasm influence?
  • Matthew Skelly Why is Indonesian Freddy throwing his head at the shaman?Oh. So he can bite him. Okay.

  • Matthew Skelly There’s the staircase gag….only it’s tar….
    man, this movie really turned int Indonesian poltergeist for a minuet SatansBed19845there….
    This really is a high recommend for any Nightmare fan. It’s just a really strange remake….and a better one than the from 2011…..
    There are a couple odd bits. Freddy has a sidekick…a succubus in lavender which is what I’m referring to as the Phantasm connection. Also by the end, it really does turn into Poltregiest, complete with the skeletons bursting out of the ground and attacking. Indonesian Freddy is after these people not because he was torched alive but rather because the house was built on a graveyard.  But definately, check this out if you can find it.

Ender’s game

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I actually wasn’t planning on going to see Ender’s Game. Not that I was avoiding it, It just wasn’t real high on my list of priorities.

I changed my mind when I got the invitation to the sneak preview at Reagal Cinemas and I’m glad I went. The screening was in IMAX and this movie was absolutely designed for that format.  There are lots of antigrav sequences (imagine weightless Laser Tag) and tons of space scenes – not only shots of stations or ships passing by, but a great many POV shots. It takes fullest advantage of the IMAX format and I imagine it’s a trip in 3d as well.

The score was a pleasant surprise as well. Full and unobtrusive when necessary, but rousing during the action sequences and very memorable. Thematically it was very reminiscent to 2001 to me.

Harrison Ford is…well, he’s Harrison Ford. The same character he plays in every movie. The good thing is we like that character.  Ben Kingsly gives this film far more gravitas than even it’s very well thoguh out subject matter could have achieved on it’s own. Asa Butterfield is extremely good as the title character, and pulls off a very difficult role. We see years worth of maturity develop in a relatively short span of time. We see him become a very different person, far older mentally and emotionally than he ever reaches chronologically.

It’s actually the problem of time that is the films single flaw. It feels like it’s happening over a week or two (though I realize it’s longer). The pacing is a little fast, though I can understand why, any slower and this could have easily been a three hour movie – and while the subject matter  could definitely have justified it, I’m not sure it would have survived public perception (cool sci-fi action flick)

Definitely catch this in the theater. Catch it in IMAX or 3d because there’s no way this will ever look this good on a TV no matter how big a screen it is.

The Sleepaway Sequels

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sleepaway-camp-iiThere are some movies that benefit from sequels. Nightmare on Elm street, while a good movie on it’s own right, slides in line nicely with the rest of the sequels. I don’t think Evil Dead and Friday the thirteenth can’t really exist without their sequels, they NEED to be series.

There are other films where the sequel actually diminish the source. I can’t abide any other the TCM sequels, even though I do like the remake.

I’m not sure what to do with the sequels for Sleepaway  Camp. For the longest time, it was really just #2 and #3. In fact, my first exposure to this series was when my friend Mike got me the box set (the one with the red cross on it that was quickly pulled from shelves) which included the first three movies.  Even then though, I sleepaway-camp-3-horror-movie-dvd-coveralways tended to watch the first movie separately from 2 and 3. It’s a totally different film, with a giallo edge and a twist at the end that could never be replicated in this series no matter how hard you tried. It would be like attempting to get that same shock from the twist at the end of the Sixth Sense – you can’t make a sequel for that stuff.

Still they tried, going down the standard slasher route, and maintain a tenuous connection to the original. Unhappy Campers and Teenage Wasteland are light, bloody fun, but not even in the same class as Sleepaway Camp.

The box set also came with a fourth disc, unused footage from an aborted fourth film, tentatively called  “The Survivor”. It looks like they got a day’s worth of shooting in with little or no script and realized they didn’t have anything or any funding and just imagesCAWGBP9Tgave it up. I recently became aware that this  footage was cut with footage from the other movies into a full feature, essentially a film version of a clip show. Amazon was printing these on demand for a while, but the response was overwhelmingly negative. I can see why, if you don’t know what you’re getting into, especially if you are hoping for this “Survivor” movie to have finally been completed, this could easily be a huge let down.

I rather enjoyed it. It’s kind of like watching the three movies condensed into a little over an hour instead of spending over four hours on it. It makes good background and good party viewing. On the other hand, it’s really the lowest point this series could sink to….or is it?

wsc89There’s a short film out there called “Judy”. You can find it on the Sleepaway camp website. The premise is the mean-spirited antagonist from the original film didn’t die at the killers hand –logical considering all we saw happen to her was a brutally creative use of a curling Iron. Traumatic, but not fatal.  The short has a slightly too amateurish feel to it, it’s main credibility coming from the fact that they got the actress from the original movie to reprise her role as Judy. It’s cool as a curiosity, but that’s all. (you can find it here

That leaves us with possibly the most “official” sequel and one that ignores all the others.. Return to Sleepaway Camp takes the material the most seriously of all the sequels, trying to recreate the mystery and throwing red herrings around to keep you returntosleepawaycamp_dvdguessing. The problem is, like I said above, you just can’t recreate that twist from the original and really, the whole movies hangs on that. The last thirty seconds of Sleepaway camp are what make it more than just another horror flick and keep it memorable. They try in Return, but honestly, every  potential twist, every misdirection, all of it can be seen a mile away.  It’s a nice reunion with some of the original cast,  but it fails to recreate the shock and suspense of the original, and for that reason, I’m more likely to watch 2 or 3 (or now, possibly the clip-show-lie #4) for the lighthearted nature of it. In the end though, none of it is Sleepaway camp, not really. It’s a movie that should stand alone, and any kind of a franchise is just a bad idea.


The Resident Evil series

Movie bannerI finally decided to sit down and watch the Resident Evil series this weekend. I’m not a gamer so while I am aware of the source material, I don’t have any real experience it or any connection to it. I totally get it when my buddy Jason says “forget the movies, just play the game….” but that’s not quite as viable of an option for me! Besides, I liked the first one. It was fine for what it was…..

Hmmm. There’s a question in that statement – what exactly IS this move anyhow?

This is the first thing you have to understand. Resident Evil and all of it’s sequels are not horror movies. I hear “Zombies” and I think “monster movie”. But much like in the Walking Dead, the zombies aren’t really the main antagonists. They’re background. They’re waking props. Resident Evil is far more about the people, and the evil Umbrella corporation. Once you’re past the first film, the Zombies -they’re always there but they really fade in to the background for the most part.

Resident Evil is a sci-fi action series. If you go in expecting a scary movie you will be disappointed. If you go in to see punches and kicks and gunfire, you’re in the right place. Once I realized this it changed my expectations and how I was going to view this series (it also made Milla Jovovich’s casting in the Expendables 3 make a lot more sense). You don’t go into Rambo relooking for great cinema. The quality of these movies across the board is still better than anything I see on the SYFY channel (in fact, if SYFY would just rise a few inches to this level, I’d probably be a fan again)

The thing that surprises me about this series is how uneven it is. What makes that odd is the fact that every one of these films have been written by the same guy. Resident Evil on screen is Paul W.S. Anderson’s baby, without a doubt. You can see it in the continuity and it benefits from having that guiding hand.

However, the second film is just SO BORING. I ‘d swear there wasn’t a scriptwriter here, just story by committee (It was what prompted me to check who the writer was. I was surprised to find it was still Anderson). In fact story is pushing the description a little bit. RE2 just drifts from set piece to set piece, encounter to encounter. Lot’s of action, some nice makeups but no development or plot. The series really isn’t expanded by this movie other than to point out that Umbrella really is evil….a point that one might be able to kind of argue in the first movie. A lot of people will blame this on the director – a newbie on his first film. I’d be quick to jump on him myself, but honestly, the direction is perfectly serviceable. There’s just nothing here for him to direct. RE2 really makes me wonder how RE3 ever got made.
I suspect the answer is two words: Ridley. Scott.

I’m not saying a RE movie is BENEATH Ridley…..well, yeah. Actually that’s exactly what I’m saying. It actually makes NO sense to me why he took this job, but he does a fine job with it. We go post-apocalyptic in this edition and it makes sense. He may have taken in it a little far though – suggesting the entire earth is one big Mad Max-like desert wasteland. That seems to be contradicted a bit in later films (but seriously, who in their right mind was expecting to milk this series for six movies?). Ridley was adamant about setting this one entirely in daylight. It’s an interesting turn, but perhaps not as noticeable as you might expect. These are, after all, action movies. Not horror.

The addition of elements like zombie crows and a chance to really showcase the main character’s powers is a good addition. The series has been around long enough to feature recurring characters and we kind of know the world now.  It’s enough to justify another sequel.

Form here on out, Anderson will direct all of these himself and number four manages to once again impress me, picking up on a thread left over in 3 – the search for a part of the world that is safe and not infected. There’s a little retcon, but nothing to dire and the axe wielding bad guy is another nice addition. RE5 will pick up from about thirty seconds after RE4 leaves off, so closely linked you might have thought they were filmed back to back. However we’re back to meandering territory here. Little story, Lot’s of action and one of Milla’s best outfits.  It almost seems like sometimes the producers feel the need to go back to making the movie look like a video game, just to get back in touch with it’s roots.

It’s a shame, other than the first and third, these films can’t really stand on their own, but it’s a series custom made for marathoning or running in the background of a party. I don’t ever expect much from  Milla Jovovich. She’s nice to look at and I suppose it’s cool to have a female action star, but she’s never had any real acting chops that I’ve observed. Her best role is still in the Fifth Element because she doesn’t have to speak for most of the film. I can absolutely see myself popping this stuff on while I draw Violent Blue and I might even catch the sixth one next year when it comes out, but I can’t imagine going out of my way to really watch any of these again.

The Conjuring

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autorama retroHad a lot of movie trips in the last couple of days. I think that going to t he drive in in the middle of a hot summer is the perfect way to watch Escape from New York. I doubt I’ll ever get another opportunity, but it was great to see it on the big screen in this manner. I don’t think it really improved the movie any – some films do way better on the big screen than on TV – but it just felt right.

Mad Max on the other hand….I’ve never understood Mad Max. I don’t get the appeal. Perhaps it’s just because I’m not a car person, but it seems like a standard car/motorcycle gang film, and I don’t get how this became a franchise or why it’s so beloved (unless that happened after Mel Gibson broke through and people started looking through his past filmography for something to develop). The last ten minuets are the best part of the film…the rest is a bit of a slog. It was nice to see the Australian dialogue track restored. I know this has ben around for probably ten years, but it’s not the version I have at home and it’s hard to justify buying another copy of a film I don’t like just because it’s a classic.

And then there’s the Conjuring.


Cinema Wasteland was nice enough to provide me with advance passes for this movie. Amy had seen commercials for it in TV and the commercials freaked her out, and was surprisingly delighted when I told her I got tickets for the film.

We headed out the the Capitol and got there about 45 minuets early. We needn’t have bothered, the place was full, but not packed.  There were still seats available when the film rolled. It was rude crowd though, people constantly talking (TALKING, not whispering) through a good deal of the film.

It’s a fun movie, mashing up a haunted house story, a ghost story, a witch story and an exorcism story all into one. That said, it’s still not incredibly original. It’s very by-the-numbers, hitting all the points you expect from any of those kind of films very nicely. The jump scares are there, so are the noises and the doors opening and closing by themselves, the hidden rooms – if I were to sit here and chart all the things this movie has in common with the Amityville Horror we could be here all day.

The performances are all convincing and everything kept us involved. There’s a subplot concerning a possessed doll  that is sadly underused, almost tacked on. The film opens with it, then we get one real callback to it and that’s it. It almost feels like something they added in just to put it on the poster, or perhaps that first ten minuets was the original pitch reel that then  had to be included in the final cut – much like the reverse bear trap in Saw. I don’t know. I think I’d like to see more of the doll story ,or have it gone altogether. The way it was, it just doesn’t fit right.

Still, if you like haunted house movies (and I’ve been on a real haunting kick lately myself) then this is a good pick. Maybe not in the theatre though. It’s good, but not $9.00 good. Wait to rent it or catch it on Netflix. I’ll be interested in seeing how it does over the weekend, and researching just how much of this was actually the “true story” it was billed as.

The Lone Ranger

Movie bannerTheLoneRanger2013PosterIt’s hard to describe the Lone Ranger. You know how in the Superman movie, the first half is the origin, then he puts on the suit and he becomes Superman – brave, powerful, good. The Lone ranger is almost ALL origin. About two hours of it. He puts on the mask before the first hour is up, and he LOOKS like the Lone Ranger….but he hasn’t really become the Loner Ranger. Not yet. He’s still a tenderfoot, naïve and unsure. It’s not until he decides “If that’s the way the lawmen are (corrupt) I’d rather be an Outlaw.” and Tonto replies “That is why you wear the mask.” THAT’s when he really becomes the Lone Ranger and the last twenty minuets, everything makes sense and every thing ties together and he really is the character. The problem is, most people are going to this to see him BE the Lone Ranger, they aren’t coming to see two hours of him BECOMING the Loner Ranger. Some of the humor undermines the story as well, there are some really poignant moments – when Helena Bonham Carter tells them to get (revenge on) Cavendish for what he took from her and you see the painting on the wall behind her. It’s heartbreaking…then they have to throw a joke in there.
It’s not all bad. I really loved the framing device with Tonto telling the story. That was really well done. Cavendish is scary for the first time too. In the original series he’s just a general bad guy. Nothing special. In the comics he’s a brute masquerading as a refined gentleman. Christopher Lloyd portrayed him as a gentleman mad scientist type. none of that worked. This one is a thug with a slight tendency towards ritual cannibalism. He looks scary and acts scary and is the best version of Cavendish I’ve ever seen. The fact that he kills Native Americans also gives Tonto a great reason to hate him.

The makers of the film did their homework. All the touches are still there – the mask is made from his brother’s vest – the eyeholes where the bullets went through. His nephew is there, though younger. They have their own reasons for silver bullets. He still shoots their hands. It has a lot of good touches, but doesn’t seem good enough to make a sequel. we’ll see though. I said the same thing about Garfield.
All in all, it’s about half a good movie. and that’s a shame, because this could have been a good movie if they had just played it straight. Dial back the humor by about 25%  and just give the story some respect. Honestly, with all that research, they should have realized they had a perfect template to go by – just use  the comics Dynamite has been publishing for the last few years which are  so much better. It’s a disappointment, though those last twenty minuets – I could watch that over and over again. Maybe I need to do a fan edit and chop this sucker up a bit.

After some more Violent Blue.

Star Trek into Darkness

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Finally took a break from Violent Blue to get out to the Lorain Palace to  see the new Star Trek movie. My reaction was simple. It was good. It wasn’t Star Trek, but it was good.

I think that’s the only way I can look at these movies and be okay. The whole time travel conceit helps, but I’m just far too aware that these are not the characters I know. That’s Chris Pine playing Kirk. It’s not Kirk himself on screen.  I never had those kind of feelings with the original cast…not even with Nimoy’s cameos in the new movies….when Nimoy shows up – that’s Spock. I believe it. When Zachery Quinto is on screen, it’s Zachery Quinto in pointy ears.

It’s not just the cast though, J.J. Abrahams seems to be missing some of the soul of Star Trek, and certainly the familiarity. When the Klingon ships show up – I had no idea what I was looking at. If they hadn’t told me those were Klingon ships, I never would have figured it out. That wasn’t the case when  the bird of prey showed up in Star Trek 3. It LOOKED Klingon. There was a design language that told us what we needed to know immediately. Those new ships….they’re just a bunch of polygons flexing up and down. It’s a shame, I like Abram’s direction, and his style, but I wish he’d been P9gCjj5given the reins ten years ago and done this stuff in continuity, rather than in a tangent universe. I think that would have been a beautiful and bold change. This….this is just…not Star Trek.

I’m not going to try and make snarky remarks about this being a remake of Wrath of Kahn, because it isn’t.  It’s a completely different kind of Kahn story and a good one at that. It’s also a great thing they set Kahn up to be able to come back, and really using him is logical. Over the years he’s been set up (correctly or incorrectly) as Kirk’s arch-enemy. It makes sense for him to show up here. The touches like the Spock shouting “Kahn” as Kirk lies dying in a radiation chamber are obvious star-trek-into-darknesshomages (and I think, a little unnecessary) but this is not even remotely the same story. I do believe it can stand alone and really is a great story.

I did like all the alternate uniforms we saw. The diving suits were really cool and I even marginally like the gray suits for headquarters, though the hats I think took the military look to far – anyone who complained about Harve Bennetts red uniforms looking to militaristic ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Still the I liked the variety. I’ve always thought that was a nice part of the films- we had the base red uniform, and different coats for away missions, and different uniforms for engineering and medical.

star-trek-into-darkness-scene-600x337They take the alternate uniforms a little far this time though don’t they?

Seriously. It’s the same complaint I had with IM3. We don’t actually see  Tony in the suit enough. It’s still a problem here. We waited all last movie to see Kirk in the gold shirt, and we got it for five seconds at the end. This movie, we’re still spending the majority of the film with him in different uniforms.

Perhaps they were able to get away with this better when Shatner and Nimoy and Kelly were in the roles (although I’m not even sure about that. On of the things that irritates me about 3&4 is the lack of screen time for my favorite of all Starfleet uniforms) but with these characters, we haven’t had enough time to emotionally invest in these actors as the characters. We haven’t had movies_star-trek-into-darknessenough exposure to this ensemble and it only heightens the feeling that these are just actors playing the characters… not the characters themselves.

And that’s what it keeps coming down to. This isn’t Star Trek to me. I don’t recognize it, and that’s a shame. I think people like me would have been more ready to embrace it if we’d had more, not having to wait for three years. The only continuity we’ve had is a comic book series from IDW and perhaps a few kids novels.  A sister series on TV would have helped. A set of monthly novels and more magazines would have helped. Most of all, an eighteen month turn around schedule would have helped.

But there’s none of this, and whatever bloom there might have been, is off the rose.

These are fun sci-fi- action flicks (something that Trek  films devolved into during the TNG movies- and they really should be blamed for that), but they aren’t Star Trek, and that’s fine. But don’t expect my devotion. Don’t expect my respect.


When does Doctor Who start up again?