Friday, December 30, 2016

3 Short Paragraphs: In a Valley of Violence

2016, Ti West (The Innkeepers) -- download

Speaking of Old Westerns, Ti West, best known for his throwback horror movies The Innkeepers and The House of the Devil, brings us an old style western with very little pretension, a stripped back revenge story in the vein of John Wick. Ethan Hawke, who really is so successfully leaving behind that 90s pretty boy image he had, is a cowboy, a gunfighter who is heading south to Mexico, to leave behind some unknown dark past. First he bumps into a nasty preacher played by Burn Gorman, which establishes what kind of man Paul (Hawke) is, and then he bumps into the town of Denton, a nasty small place run by nasty small men.

Small towns in the old west were essentially self ruled, essentially lawless. This one is rule by John Travolta, who actually is a rather reasonable dictator, but unfortunately he has an unreasonable son. They try to kill Paul and do kill Paul's dog. Never kill the gunman's dog unless you are very very sure the gunman is dead. The rest of the movie is a stylish, but an incredibly lean style, revenge flick as Paul takes out each of of the men who killed his dog. Travolta and him live by a similar code, and while Paul only wants those men dead, Travolta cannot let Paul do so -- his son may be a dick, but he is his son after all.

I really like this movie, probably even more so than West's horrors which I thought were well done, if not entirely compelling. I like Old West stripped down to its simplest ideas. And while West does this here, the dialogue and characters are also very uncharacteristic. Paul is very enamoured with his dog, whom he connects to the wife & daughter he lost --- he talks to her like she can respond. Everything we know about Paul comes from that dialogue. Killing her, Abbie the dog, means he has lost any reason to be a better man. Well, maybe the local saloon girl (Taissa Farmiga, quickly becoming one of my favourite actresses) can convince him if not for the fact she is young enough to be a daughter. But he respects her needs, and he respects her. But no, he has to do what he has to do, all regrets put aside.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I Saw This!! What I Have Been Watching (PT D.4)

Pt. ABCD.1D.2, D.3 can be found there.

I Saw This (double exclamation point) is our feature wherein Graig or David attempt to write about a bunch of stuff they watched some time ago and meant to write about but just never got around to doing so. But we can't not write cuz that would be bad, very bad.  Y'know, red horny demon possession, bad.

Just to round out the pile, I am going to shoe horn in a show I am currently watching. So, this edition, we get a completed season (and series), a dropped show (but likely to be binge watched) and a nearly done season.

Meh; four (series) seasons completed.

Preacher, 2016, AMC -- download

When Preacher premiered, we were excited. The trailers showed an obviously different show than the comic, but I am always for a bit of retooling to allow a comic to come to life. Look what they did with Iron Man and it was a great movie -- the core is there, but in no way is it "faithful". And of course, the casting of Joseph Gilgun as Cassidy was brilliant, almost like the role was made for him.

But then we watched the first episode and were entirely underwhelmed. Then we watched the second episode and the underwhelming continued. It was not terrible, but ... but ... I don't know, it just didn't compel me to watch. And in today's age, there are always a half dozen other genre shows on TV for me to download/watch. So, it got dropped.

A month later I downloaded digital copies of the comic series, having release the original comics to the wild years ago. Back in The Day, that comic overwhelmed me. It was post-X-Men for me, and was so entirely different from everything else. It was also entirely different from The Sandman which has already taken me off the road of comics being only about superheroes. But Preacher was irreverent, angry, over the top fun for an angry, irreverent kid. Yeah, I consider 1995 as me-being-a-kid days. That definition is changing a lot these days, since my beard went grey.  I loved this comic. Until even it became old hat.

But even the re-read was underwhelming. Being so profane is a bit stylistically immature these days, but I get why Seth Rogen is still so attached to the story. He is hanging onto that exact sort of immature & profane. I still like the core story, and I still love pathetic Cassidy, but I don't hold as much reverence for it as I once did.

So, that confirmed that it was not (entirely) a Fanboy connection that had me not enjoying the show. Oh sure, I was kind of annoyed that Jesse was a bit of a self-questioning ass in the show, where he was always a Stand Up Guy in the comic. Also, the comic was a bit of a Road Movie while the show focused on establishing Jesse, his town and his "motivations". Gah; TV translations and all that. But still, it wasn't all bad and definitely wasn't a deal breaker. So, what? What stopped me? Was it just a few slow episodes? Why not watch the whole thing and see...

So we did.

And guess what, still entirely underwhelmed. They spend an entire season introducing asshole characters that Jesse cannot, and probably should not even try, to redeem. But guess what, he's just as much an asshole. And so is Tulip. And so is Cassidy, but who cares, because Cassidy is a 200 year old vampire so he's allowed to be an asshole. I get it; asshole is in --- Breaking Bad lost me because everyone was becoming one --- but it doesn't mean I have to subject myself to it. The genre bits were fun, especially the whole piling up of angel bodies, but it wasn't compelling enough to keep me watching. But we did, just to see where this whole thing was going, and to confirm our thoughts n what those occasionally whistling pipes sticking out of the ground were.

But we confirmed, a big fat "Meh!" and a big, fat confirmation that Seth Rogen is always best when being reined in by others. But I will get to that when I do Sausage Party.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

I Saw This!! What I Have Been Watching (PT D.3)

Pt. ABCD.1, D.2 can be found there.

I Saw This (double exclamation point) is our feature wherein Graig or David attempt to write about a bunch of stuff they watched some time ago and meant to write about but just never got around to doing so. But we can't not write cuz that would be bad, very bad.  Y'know, red horny demon possession, bad.

Just to round out the pile, I am going to shoe horn in a show I am currently watching. So, this edition, we get a completed season (and series), a dropped show (but likely to be binge watched) and a nearly done season.

Meh; four (series) seasons completed.

Westworld, 2016, HBO -- download

Speaking of technology rampant, the best thing on TV this year was Westworld, a remake of the 70s movie. If Person of Interest can question how can an autonomous AI come about, and how we should react to it, then this show can question whether it really matters or not. Westworld does its best, at its core, to question whether we can really even ask the question without questioning our own existence. What is intelligence? What is sentience? What is free will? Heavy stuff.

So, the brief is a theme park has been designed, in what must be a distant future, and set in America's Old West. It is populated by autonomous AI robots, so incredibly smart that we cannot differentiate the people (guests) from the robots (hosts). That is the point of the park; you just never know. OK, not really, the point is that we can so easily fool ourselves, we will get lost in the fantasy. In today's era of Japanese Otaku wanting to marry imaginary characters (or their pillows), it's not a thin stretch to believes people would become throughly immersed in this park's residents.

Gah, you cannot start talking about this show without skipping past the plot(s) and right into the meat of the matter. This is because the characters and plots are really just a vehicle for the questions and vague attempts at answers. Anthony Hopkins is the park's aging designer, one obsessed with keeping his toy to himself as well as pushing the boundaries of the narrative. Ed Harris is The Man in Black, a guest of the park who is always playing The Bad Guy. You know, Black Hats vs White Hats? Evan Rachel Wood is Dolores, a host who is often the subject of his Bad Guy routine. Jeffrey Right is Bernard, a tech who is constantly noticing that the hosts are thinking a bit more than they are designed to. Jimmi Simpson is Billy, an investor on his first trip to the park, a man who questions the moral implications of people letting themselves go entirely when they come to the park. Thandie Newton, easily the most compelling character in the whole season, is Maeve a host who has nightmares she is not supposed to be programmed to have. And the cast goes on, from hosts to staff to guests.

It's no surprise this show is all about questions -- it's Jonathan Nolan again, who was behind Person of Interest. I guess he has a theme he wants to explore and doesn't let a series ending interrupt that. Maybe he should have been given the reigns of Ghost in the Shell.

There is a mystery built into the show, a series of events and questions around those events, that are almost built to tease the Internet based viewer. Discussion, speculation, theory and predictions became the reaction to each and every episode. Some were telegraphed, some were tenuous and some were incredibly way out there. Boy, could you easily get wrapped up in that, but the show was smart enough to not capitalize on it, like The Walking Dead has -- there was no after-show, there was no discussion round table. Any such would have led to answering too many questions, which should be left up to the viewer just like the greatest moral questions of the show were.

Go see it.


ReWatch: Love Actually

2003, Richard Curtis (Notting Hill) -- Netflix

It was back on Netflix !  It wasn't last year.

This is becoming that movie that I will continue to do a rewatch post for as long as this blog clings to  the unreality that is blogging. I might not be a blogger anymore, and really who is, but this blog will cling to life for as long as I can continue to drag out mediocre non-reviews.

Kent, is this the podcast you were talking about, where two guys constantly rewatch the same movie? I imagine the idea is not unique, and I could continue to do it with many movies from The Shelf, especially the ones I associate with Xmas, like Avatar or 2012. Why do I associate them with Xmas? Because they were movies I received for Xmas and always have a hankering to rewatch them at this time of year.

So, the Rick & Mordo show. Nobody laughed at my poorly thought out in-Joke.  Let me ruin it even more by explaining it to you. In painful detail. Andrew Lincoln plays Mark, the loyal friend who hides his love for his best friend's new wife very well. Chiwetel Ejiofor is said best friend. On The Walking Dead Lincoln plays Rick Grimes. In the recent movie Doctor Strange Ejiofor plays Mordo, a sorcerer ally of said Doctor. There  is a very very popular irreverent cartoon called Rick & Morty, which people cannot stop recommending me to watch, but I only got to episode 2. This bad joke was really just meant to make Kent groan. But he's rarely on social media, so I doubt he saw it.

Anywayz.

Again, this movie makes me smile. And if you knew me, you would know how much of a challenge that is these days. I still cling to the most uplifting stories of love, the David & Natalie one and the Daniel & Sam story. For those that are wondering, Daniel (Liam Neeson) and Karen (Emma Thompson) are just friends, good friends, not brother & sister. David (Hugh Grant) and Karen are brother and sister. But I suspect Karen and Daniel dated once, a long time ago, which is why they are so close as to share a box of cereal together. And why she constantly breaks his grieving anguish with sarcastic levity --- only a true friend could do that.

For the first time in rewatching, I am on board with considering Alan Rickman a bastard for cheating on Karen. The director confirmed it, and the unmade bed in the background does as well. But the movie is not only about positive views on Love, but also on negative. The relationship between Sarah (Laura Linney) and her brother is not healthy, despite how loyal it is. And neat to recognise Sarah's obsession Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) as the scarred Bad Guy Host in Westworld. But yeah, Rickman loses Emma Thompson for one night with the young, hot secretary. I wonder what she felt she was getting from that, taking down the Boss That Everyone Loved. Her behaviour is not out of love.

Best lines.

"I hate Uncle Jamie !!"

"Eight is a lot of legs, David."

"Do. The SAS are absolutely charming. Ruthless trained killers are just a phone call away."

Is London really that warm five weeks before Xmas? Do you see what Keira Knightly is wearing, a crop top, short sleeve, no jacket outfit? And out on the water. I get the Big City idea of light jackets when you are running from car or subway to building and not spending much time outside, but that seems a bit excessive.

The movie ends with One Month Later, catching up on a few. Bill Nighy's aging rockstar (only 54, but damn leathery) is obviously doing well for himself. And Natalie, ever in red, while not accompanying her man on his business trip is definitely there to barge past security and jump into the arms of the Prime Minister. That is love, truly happy actual love.

I love her character, for she is never beset upon, she is never fazed but for a moment, by dickhead POTUS. She has been "redistributed" (I still don't think that meant fired) but understands and when David appears on her doorstep, she knows exactly why and goes with it. He may be Prime Minister, but he is a man who will love her, and whom she will love, probably forever.

One final word on confidence, the couple most often forgotten about in this movie are John (Martin Freeman) and Just Judy (Joanna Page), the porn body doubles. For such a shy couple, they are immensely centered on who they are. They can have conversations, as strangers, while sitting naked on each other!! Imagine being that absent of body shame? Oh I know there is physical attraction there between the two, but when they connect it is with utter confidence. And that last line from them, one year later ("Finally going to shag") means they have been taking it slow and gentle. How sweet.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

3+1 Short Paragraphs: Doctor Strange

2016, Scott Derrickson (Sinister) -- download

OK, Marvel, stop. Just stop now. No more "just OK" movies. No more resting on your laurels. No more accepting "good enough" as good enough. We need more Winter Soldier, we need more Guardians of the Galaxy. In a world where guys my age still remember that genre flicks were few and far between, especially superhero movies, these movies will always make a certain amount of money, enough money to justify the next one. But no, let's stop right now.

This is another origin story. It is another mostly standalone movie, mostly independent of all that came before but has enough threads to connect it to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have meaning in the overall. Magic gets officially introduced to the MCU, while it has already been hinted at in season 2 of Daredevil and the current season of Agents of SHIELD. We get the threads that will connect the super-science of Thor's homeland with their cosmic science of Guardians. Magic? Super pseudo-science? In a superhero world, it all blends together. And we also get another big bad guy, one that will probably connect to the coming stories.

Dr. Stephen Strange is Tony Stark 2.0, even from visual design. Egotistical, arrogant, incredibly endowed with intelligence and brought down low by an injury of his own making. And he has to dive deep within himself, with the help of an ancient mystical leader (The Ancient One, who I actually loved coming from Tilda Swinton) to not return to his previous state, but find a new much more important one. And he will definitely need the help of others like him if he is to protect the world.

And while he might not be a likeable guy, he sure is in a pretty pretty movie. Set design, colour scheme and settings are just incredible! The translation of the 70s woo-woo mystical arts into the pretty lights and glowy bits is spectacular. While the different realms may lift from previous other worlds we have seen before (I am talking about Inception of course) it is well handled, and fits into this movie's milieux very well. The problem is that all the good bits, the characters and the effects and the cast, just all come together in only an OK movie, a slight bit above "meh".

3 Short Paragraphs: The Nice Guys

2016, Shane Black (Iron Man 3) -- download

Yes, I am of that age now. That age where we spread, where we look in the mirror and see someone else looking back. Someone softer, rounder and probably more grey. Yet we are still in there, somewhere. Russell Crowe seems  well adapted to his current state and it's not a Hollywood thing; he won't be burning off those pints anytime soon. That is his image now, the guy who was Hando in Romper Stomper, who was the villain in the blue suit in Virtuosity, who was The Gladiator.  But now, over 50, he has taken on that middle-aged place in roles; he will now forever be the other guy to Ryan Gosling's leading man. But rest assured Ryan will someday be that that guy; not everyone can be Liam Neeson.

In this movie Crowe is a slab of meat, a tough guy who does not-nice stuff to people who usually deserve it, an enforcer for hire. Ryan Gosling is a not-nice detective more likely to do a bad job and stiff people, much to the chagrin of his doting daughter. Of course, Gosling deserves whatever sends Crowe after him, but its a 70s noir flick, so they end up investigating a mystery together. Misty Mountains, the porn star, has been killed and there is a convoluted plot behind it. In noir, there always is, especially LA noir.

This is Shane Black, so of course, the movie is light and quippy. Crowe and Gosling are great together who despite being dicks, end up being the two working together to do the right thing. Its not a complicated plot idea, the assholes end up being the nicest of the bunch, but it Black has the knack of making it subtle. Ever since I saw Russell Crowe in that episode of Republic of Doyle I have been waiting for him to replay that aging, spreading detective. This is basically it. I could almost go as far as saying Crowe was always going to end up in this kind of role, that this is what he really was made to be.

Poster is from MondoTees.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

I Saw This!! What I Have Been Watching (PT D.2)

Pt. ABC, D.1 can be found there.

I Saw This (double exclamation point) is our feature wherein Graig or David attempt to write about a bunch of stuff they watched some time ago and meant to write about but just never got around to doing so. But we can't not write cuz that would be bad, very bad.  Y'know, red horny demon possession, bad.

Just to round out the pile, I am going to shoe horn in a show I am currently watching. So, this edition, we get a completed season (and series), a dropped show (but likely to be binge watched) and a nearly done season.

Meh; four (series) seasons completed.

Mr Robot S2, 2016, USA Network -- download

Speaking of technology rampant, from the more metaphysical and speculative idea of what could happen, to a more grounded, if darker view on unfettered tech use.

Mr. Robot continues Eliot's descent into madness. Descent? More like riding the wave.

When we last left our young hero and his imaginary dad, Mr Robot, they were enacting their economically catastrophic plan. But of course, wiping out (records of) debt hasn't destroyed Evil Corp nor freed the serfs from debt slavery. In fact its fucking things up royally. Cash has become king and almost everyone, the 98% included, has had their bank accounts frozen.

I would have preferred if the show had expanded its purview beyond NYC so we could see how things are going in the rest of the US, and maybe across the border, but no we wander the streets of the city seeing restaurants that only take cash, people are jobless and pissed off and the TV never stops talking about it. But of course, the suits just keep on suiting. They will always have the money no matter how militaristic Elliot and his sister get.

Elliot spends much of the season desperate to maintain a routine while being forced into a seemingly routine tech support role for a gangster. This gangster, friendly and attentive to Elliots peculiarities is an analog for that guy who ran the Darkweb ebay site, you know, the one that sold weed and hitmen. Meanwhile his sister and her friends are both trying to plan what happens next while absolutely petrified about getting caught. Seriously, with the damage they have done they will end up in a deep dark concrete room, even if you ignore that they have an Arab girl working with them. And Angela, poor lost angry Angela who also wants to be wrapped up in the 2% world, she is being simultaneously courted and manipulated by Evil Corp's CEO. She knows it but she cannot escape, because only within them will she unveil what they did her home town. And her mother, and Elliot's dad.

This was a season better left to binge watching. The individual episodes are enigmatic and frustrating, yes even more so than season one was. And unfortunately, Sam Esmail is now required to have a secret behind what goes on for most of the season. Well, a secret that like in the first season, is pretty telegraphed and not entirely well explained, once the reveal hits.

After the reveal, we return to Elliot trying to find out what happened to his non-F Society cohort, Tyrell. Of course, Tyrell is not dead and he also has further plans for the destruction of Evil Corp and the world's wealth. Or is he? Of course, by now we cannot accept anything on the screen as being quite what it is. Really, this season leaves Elliot more as a side character, while focusing on the fallout and the investigation into F Society. Really, the best bits are about the socially crippled FBI agent Dom DiPierro and her desperate need to work this all out, so she will not have to return home where she only has masturbating and lonely conversations with her Amazon Siri clone, Alexa.

As I said, the season is best watched as a whole, but unfortunately it doesn't pull together at the end. There is no single moment it is moving towards and really feels more like one of those mid-season endings that plague television now. Seriously, its annoying how many shows have two Season Enders these days.

Friday, December 16, 2016

I Saw This!! What I Have Been Watching (PT D.1)

Pt. A, B, C can be found there.

I Saw This (double exclamation point) is our feature wherein Graig or David attempt to write about a bunch of stuff they watched some time ago and meant to write about but just never got around to doing so. But we can't not write cuz that would be bad, very bad.  Y'know, red horny demon possession, bad.

Just to round out the pile, I am going to shoe horn in a show I am currently watching. So, this edition, we get a completed season (and series), a dropped show (but likely to be binge watched) and a nearly done season.

Meh; four (series) seasons completed. This post sat in Draft Purgatory for months.

Person of Interest S5, 2016, CBS -- download

It came to an end; I am still surprised we got it to last this long. Once the show mutated into a speculative scifi thriller about emerging AI, human responsibility and ultimate overseers, I wondered how it stayed on the air. But that doesn't lessen the sadness of seeing it go.

When we started this blog, I was luke warm about Person of Interest. It fit every formula for me, as I am a Heroic Act of the Week kind of guy, but something faded out for me rather quickly. And then Kent got into it, and began to relate the deeper story, as he is the kind of guy who notices arcs and expanded stories long before I do. So we returned, rewatched Season 1, and fell in love. Me and the show; not me and Kent.

And then I rewatched Seasons 1, 2 and 3 again (with intent on continuing, so I could rewatch Season 5 for this post) and began my mourning period. I miss these characters so much.

Season 5 both pulls at all the loose strings and ties things up. It has to end the story, but it also has to open up the horizon for speculation. That is what good science fiction does -- presents ideas for you to ponder and keep on thinking about, long after they are gone.

So, where does it pick up? Where are our characters?

Shaw, the cool sexy emotionally dampened assassin who once worked for Samaritan's former self is still missing, a captive of the Bad Guys. The Machine, the AI built by Finch who meticulously taught her right from wrong, is dying, her code breaking down in the hastily assembled network of PS3s (neat! that IBM cell chip is featured) and other spare hardware. Reese is doing his best to keep up with the numbers and Fusco is being kept at arm's length, as Reese doesn't want him dragged down when they eventually fall.

This season as much focuses on the pain the characters are in, as much as it does on the fight against Samaritan. In some ways this is the Dark Urban Future world I have been reading and writing about for years. The world has changed outside the show, as Samaritan has been manipulating society, killing people and adjusting things appropriate to his agenda. Yes, Samaritan is a he, The Machine is a she.

I was not as enthralled with the Finch vs The Machine plot as I should have been. Finch has been fearful of her emergence, as he knows exactly what an unfettered AI can do in our world. That he has killed her so many times, because she failed his morality tests, is both terrible and required. This is the agenda that Samaritan claims to embrace, one that is terrible but required. But Finch has narrowed his on her, saving the world those ramifications. But I couldn't get on board with him, I just wanted him to embrace her like Root has, to finally understand she will not betray him, to really truly accept her as a living entity, and he, as her father, a father who taught her well.

But really, the plot that broke my heart the most was the exclusion of Fusco. He is my character, the every man, the redeemed man. He should be embraced, brought fully into the fold but Reese's hesitation to do so is actually a kindness uncharacteristic of the man. Reese so values Fusco's place in the world, that he wants to make sure Fusco is around when Reese and the rest of The Machine Gang are eventually killed. Reese has always been fatalistic about all of this but it's still wrong, and it doesn't stop Fusco from getting mixed up in the even seedier underbelly of Samaritan's agenda.

The show also allows us to revist some characters from its past, as it was always a show that had progression in its agenda. If number XXXXXX was saved, and they had this valuable connection, where would they fit into this war? We get to meet some of the past saved characters in a Machine Gang B. Oh, how I fell for that B team crew, who were shown their place in the world and chose to fight for a greater agenda. It was heart warming in the Nth degree and a bit of TV show tease, as in 'is this a possible side launched spin off ?'  No, it wasn't but its fun to speculate.

Of course, Elias, the best and most filled out nemesis of the Machine Gang, returns. He is a fan fav, my favourite and has been around since the very beginning. His denouement is appropriate and touching.

Gah, I feel like a fanboy with memories flitting about his head like moths to the flame. I am yet to rewatch the season, having been stalled in our latest series rewatch by New Stuph, so I don't yet see the end season as a whole. I don't see the threads that bind all these wonderful bits together.

Bittersweet is what I can really say. It ends with some deaths, some regrets, some acceptance and a lot of understanding. And potential.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

ReWatch: The Book of Eli

2010, The Hughes Brothers (Menace II Society) -- Bluray

I love me some PoAp (post apocalypse) fiction. Just finished reading Wastelands 2 and that got me into the mood to poke around in some ruins. The Book of Eli is the perfect American wasteland movie, despite it heavily leaning toward the proselytizing of old time Christianity. Like most, it never really explains what happened, just presents us with an American west full of craters and covered in dust. It absorbs the fantastical element, in that no radiation hinders our hero, but sets him on a hero's journey against great odds of the human kind.

This is an incredibly stylish movie, The Hughes Brother again trying something different for this movie. I am surprised we don't see more of these guys, only having a handful of films under their belt since the iconic Menace II Society. With its washed out colours, distinctive music by Atticus Ross and nods to Kung Fu, this slides a little into concept movie, but no, really does stay firmly as an action flick.

Denzel is Eli, a wanderer of the wastelands. He heads west with his cherished Bible and his iPod of Motown classics; I am sure he has more than just Al Green. He wants to avoid conflict, but sometimes he just cannot bypass evil, slicing and dicing haggard villains with moves of his light and incredibly sharp blade. Finally, the need of a battery charge leads him to a town led by Gary Oldman, a warlord who just happens to be looking for a Bible. It is the last book Oldman needs to control the people, the book with just the right words to make him legit. Of course, the wanderer will not give up his good book.

Much of the beats and notes of this movie are from a western. He might not be a cigar chomping white guy and the music is not done by an Italian, but you can almost hear the spurs jingling. Eli comes into town, fights the Bad Guy, defeats his goons on the town's single street and saves the girl from the saloon. I will have to go check if it was noon. And further into the west they go.

Despite my apathy towards Christianity, I appreciated what the movie was trying to say. Tradition, belief and faith. I also like that Eli is bringing this book to publishers who see the importance of it next to all the other great books of history, not as the centre of a new religion. Reverence can be a beautiful thing.

Of course, the reveal is entirely magical. Eli is blind. Has always been. His Bible is in brail. Even when he loses it to Oldman, its a waste of Oldman's efforts. Not only has Oldman given up everything for it, he also gets to die knowing how much he has lost, for nothing. But Eli, having read that book on his long walks back and forth across the wasteland, has memorize all the words. And they get transcribed by Malcom Mcdowell before Eli passes from his wounds.

Solara, Mila Kunis, the girl from the saloon that Eli has saved, both physically and spiritually, dons Eli's armour (his aviator glasses) and begins her own hero's journey back east, to save her mom and free her people. Its a shame that movie never got made.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

3+1 Short Paragraphs: Jason Bourne

2016, Paul Greengrass (Green Zone) -- download

Built like a brick shit house. It was something my family used to say, either my mother or my father, but really neither of them were ever so crude. The one time I got my father to scream "fuck!" at me, I had frustrated & angered him so much, he chased me around the house with a shoe. I am sure whomever would have inspired that idiom, would have deserved it.

Jason Bourne begins the latest Bourne movie built like a brick shit house. Seriously, after the skinnied down kid from The Martian he is absolutely gigantic. His troubled past has left him lost, angry and taking the pain out on others in the back alley street fights of Istanbul; or was it Greece? He knocks people down, takes money and moves on. Jason can never really escape what he was, nor what discovering made him end up doing. There is a lot of blood on his hands, and not of those who can get up again. Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) knows this, and is trying to help him find out who made him who he is, who he was. You thought we already knew? Nope; another enigmatic weirdly named program has emerged and with it, the names of others have as well -- including Jason's (David Webb actually) own father. Jason has some more digging to do.

The problem with this movie is that it is do deeply steeped in the format of the others. A woman with only his best intentions at heart has to die. There has to be a sniping in a crowded pubic place. There has to be a chase in an exotic locale, there has to be a car chase in a western locale. And there has to be another old white man at the centre of all of it. This time, the more-moral-than-old-white-guys female character is Alicia Vikander, but at least she gets to play a bit more nuanced than Joan Allen. I just wished her terrible America accent didn't come with such nasal intonations. But she doesn't save this movie from the humdrum cookie cutter acts, which even so, I have to admit, are still rather thrilling to watch. Which is why more get made. Hell, I am the guy still likes the Taken movies, so who am I to talk.

One aspect of the plot had me pondering creative intentions. The Bourne movies always stood up to the recent American ideals that it was alright to do "whatever it takes to keep America safe". Jason Bourne, the assassin, was a product of that. But the man at his centre thought they had taken it too far. Along comes Heather Lee (Vikander) who says Jason is still a patriot, still a good tool for America as long as he is convinced to come back into the fold. So, is the movie setting a new tone for future entries in the franchise where the next program is more morally aligned with America of today? One where America will still use assets (assassins) but only in certain context? The fact that her duplicity derails her intentions may be the poignant statement, that there is no context where killing to further American agenda fits in.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Revenant

2015, Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman) -- Netflix

Holy crap, he fights a bear and almost dies!

That is the primary take away from the Internet hype machine. But no, much like other Iñárritu movies, the real focus is surviving only to come out the other side changed. So, yes he survives a bear attack, but that's only the beginning.

1823; trappers in the mountains of Louisiana -- almost the entirety of the western frontier was called Louisiana back then, a massive untamed wilderness still populated by Indian tribes and rife with furs. The trappers are attacked an incredible, wonderful scene with long shots and wide swings of the camera taking it in from all angles. For a moment, I thought I was watching a Cuarón movie. The survivors escape into the wilderness, pursued, among them is Hugh Glass (Leonardo Dicaprio) and his rival John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Hardy is in his element wearing thick skins and an even thicker hillbilly accent, a man tortured by having survived a scalping and annoyed at Glass's connection to the land. Dicaprio is Dicaprio, intense and focused and a little messed up. Enter lots of solemn, hazy remembrances.

Despite the sweeping epic of that opening scene, what struck me the most was the dialogue -- these are not men speaking in period accents, but seemed to be just a bunch of rural men speaking in rural tones, from all over the country, i.e. your classic redneck dialects. Even Domhnall Gleeson, playing the lone officer in charge of these wild men, carries off a decent aged American accent.

And then the fateful bear fight. It is simple enough, Glass bumps into the bear cubs and knows he is in trouble, spinning just in time to see the upset mama. Silly man thinks he can take it down with a one shot musket. After a big of rag dolling, and a bit of desperate stabbing, she does actually go down. Poor cubs.

The others find Glass, barely alive, torn up three ways to Sunday, and have to decide what to do next. They are still being pursued by the Indians, they still have the heavy load of whatever furs they escaped with and its not likely Glass with survive long. The deal ends with Fitzgerald, Glass's son and a young trapper staying behind with Glass, to be with him until his dying breath. Fitz, of course and who didn't see this coming, decides to just do away with Glass and his son, and head back to civilization for the furs, the pay day and the extra for having stayed with Glass.

And thus starts the real movie.

Glass survives, through sheer stubborn will and a desire for revenge. It drives him to drag his broken body across the ground, to gain strength from berries and twigs, to ride a river to safety, to take refuge with a friendly native, to just keep on going and going and going. The transformation comes with the typical spirituality you expect of these movies, but at the heart, it is human. To catch the man who killed his son, who left him to die, is all that Glass wants. He has nothing left in life.

Does he learn anything after having caught up with Glass? A little, but really, this movie is about seeing through what you set out to do, not a moral challenge for or against revenge. Once Glass has caught Fitz, the drive seems to fizzle out, and for the first time in weeks he seems to deflate, to relax. Unfortunately, now he has the rest of his life to face.

In case you were wondering, a revenant is an undead spirit, one that comes back from the grave to seek revenge on those who did him wrong.

Monday, October 31, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: In the Mouth of Madness

1994, John Carpenter (The Thing) -- download

OK, let's finish this thing off. The season was not entirely filled, a few days here and there missed and some TV entries added in to fill it out. But the last few days were derailed by bad downloads, a lack of Netflix and life. Still, we got this one in, one of our few ReWatch entries.

This movie is very Stephen King / Dean R Koontz meta as a very popular horror writer gets so sucked into the worlds he is creating, he may actually end up summoning Cthulhu. But the movie is not about the writer, but about John Trent, an insurance investigator for the publisher. The movie begins with Trent in dragged into an asylum after which he later recounts the story to the interviewing psychologist. He alludes to something happening out there.  It sounds rather apocalyptic.

Sutter Cane, the author in question, has gone missing... with the only manuscript to his latest book. Trent's a good investigator, and the Publisher, who has some connection to Trent's company, wants him to find Cane. Not sure why an insurance investigator would do such things, but sure, let's go along. Along with Trent, they send Cane's editor because, that makes sense.

Cane's book are a phenomena. They are said to actually drive the readers bonkers. In fact, there is a spate of madness going on right now, as his fans attack others and even one went after Trent with an axe. And Trent discovers that arranging the book covers creates a map to Cane's supposed fictional New England town, Hobb's End. At this point, I would have talked to the art department but they just decide to drive there.

And they drive into the not fictional at all little picturesque town that already starts up with some oooooo spooky encounters. From there, things get worse and weirder. Cane is there. So is his book. And its words are a summoning ritual which will summon Cthuluhian Dark Ones from The Void. For things to really take off, Trent must return with the manuscript, have it published and then all the spooky stuff will come true. Not sure why it took all the investigating and bizarre choices, but I suspect it was because Cane was a terrible writer and was plotting out all these occurrences from habit.

This is pure Carpenter, deeply seated in B movie land, fun to watch but oh so very dated. The late 80s / early 90s are so very prevalent in this movie, from  the fashion choices to the kinds of scares but somehow it all still works. You could almost make a tie to nostalgia contributing to the madness inducing plot. I think the movie is due for a post-apocalyptic sequel.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Paranormal Activity 3

2011, Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman (Catfish) -- download

Somewhere in our hunt for horror movies, Marmy found posts that stated this was the best movie of the series, maybe the best horror movie of that year. Yeah, they were wrong. Very wrong.

Sorry, but i don't remember the original supposedly ground-breaking found-footage horror movie, that started the whole "nice suburban haunted house" idea. I do remember it was all jump scares, and the only thing that lent any actual scariness to it, was that the direction made the family, and the footage, very authentic. Once you really establish the mundanity of a situation, even the most benign scare can have weight.

And that is the only bank these movies have.

This one takes place in the 80s, when one of the girls from the first one was just a kid. Younger daughter Kristi has an imaginary friend who lives in the toy closet upstairs. Things start to get weird when the invisible "friend" starts asking weird things of Kristi, things not even she is sure she wants to do.

Meanwhile mom's BF and his brother are setting up cameras around the houses because they think it would be cool to catch whatever is going on. What they do catch is completely unsettling and the brother just runs away. Mom is upset, but never actually watches the footage. She is entirely dismissive of the whole thing, despite the evidence something fucking weird is going on. Y'know classic Sceptical Character trope.

The best scare of the movie is the floating blanket ghost child thing. It works well when see through the eyes of not-so-hidden camera, but from the ghost's point of view. Who was he scaring? If he never allows anyone to actually see him being clever, what is the point? Until he gets to messing around in the kitchen, the baby sitter is not even scared. I get it, it is a staple of horror movies, where we see things that scare us but the affected character is oblivious. But, this was just annoying.

Speaking of annoying. After filling out two thirds of the movie with the idea of an imaginary ghost friend demon thing and its connection to the youngest daughter, the movie spills headlong into some sort of ancient, family witch connection. This is where a tolerable jump-scare movie just got 70s silly. But it was probably tying together connections hinted at in the other movies.

Meh.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Lights Out

2016, David F. Sandberg (lots of shorts) -- download

Wow, they actually gave Sandberg directorial control over the feature of his own fucking scary short. Yes, the original short (found here) is one of those popular jump-scares on the Internet. But the guy does a pretty good job of adapting the mysterious, no real reason required, creepiness into a weird ghost story full length film.

The lights on, nothing there, lights out, figure hunched in the shadows motif is one of those lizard brain horror concepts that I am incredibly surprised took this long to make it to the screen.  Well, as the focus of a movie. It, as it is an extension of the monster just out of the corner of your eye trope, has been around forever in one form or another. But this is the idea distilled. Click click click click. SHRIEK.

The initial idea (click click shriek) is introduced immediately with Moustache Dad (*ahem* an oblique reference to what Riff Tracks called Billy Burke in their dialogue for Twilight) being haunted and killed by said creepy monster. I like that; the movie banks on the probably-already-well-known aspect of its monster and puts it immediately to the forefront. The rest of the movie is why.

Now that screenwriter Eric Heisserer will be all over the Internet, for he also wrote the critically acclaimed (and incredibly challenging) screenplay for Arrival, I am sure we can get some insight as to why he and David chose to throw the monster in our faces right away.

Anywayz, flash forward to his family dealing with Moustache Dad's death. Mom, Maria Bello, was already dealing with trauma -- barely medicated depression and anxiety. Daughter Rebecca (surprisingly skinny Teresa Palmer) left years ago when her dad disappeared, but is now worried even more for her little half-brother who is left alone with Mom and Mom's imaginary, but still dangerous, friend Diana. The monster, Diana, is very protective of Mom and prefers her unmedicated.

The explanation of what Diana is pretty sketchy, but the movie has a fun time revealing just enough. And it doesn't hold back on whom Diana takes out. She's a monster, and does monstrous things even if you just happen to be in her way. Of course, the movie has to lead to her release, her destruction at the hands of a loving family. Sequel? Of course, we all know monsters can never really be killed, just dispelled until the next family comes along to draw up their power.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: We Are Still Here

2015, Ted Geoghegan -- download

OK, I am officially over this whole look-like-its-the-70s stylistic choice for horror movies. Set in the 70s is fine, but grabbing all the stylistic choices from that era are no long fun-because-its-weird. I pretty much despised the look & feel of the 70s in pop culture, even when I was living through it, and I still do now. And I recall always hating the tone of those 70s horror movies, the long drawn out tensions, the drab skies, the depressing lives.

This movie is one of those kinds where the reviews are almost entirely positive and the Likes are firmly in the "meh" range. So, I guess that solidifies the fact I am not "reviewing" movies, and by no means a critic (shaddup, you readers from the Red Dawn remake post) because I slide over to the meh camp. I can, no matter what the bulk of the reviewers say, see the stylish choices here. This movie seems to fluctuate between painfully dull and boringly atmospheric. We get it, its cold and they are isolated in an old host that has weird things going bump.

But is not that scary of a house. It is quite nice, in fact, but I never see the real reason they moved out here in the middle of nowhere. The couple is still dealing with the accidental death of their son, but I cannot see why isolation in the middle of February can be therapeutic. And once you add the weird weird welcoming committee and the injured electrician (burned by a ghost) I would have been packing up the idea as a bad one.

On top of the ghosts the movie keeps on referring to The House requiring sacrificial bodies. The townsfolk have to feed a family to the house, or a darkness from under the house will eat them. But they keep on creeping the family out. If they wanted the couple to stay, and get eaten by the house, then why all  the fucking boogey man stories about the family who did some horrible murdering in the house? Especially since its a lie, and said family was in fact murdered themselves and is haunting the house. And that. If the burn-y ghost family is angry, shouldn't it be directed at the townsfolk? But no, they burn, attack and bump the couple and their friends & family. Shouldn't the ghost family want to interrupt the sacrifice that took their lives, allowing the Thing Under the House to eat the townsfolk?

This movie must be only attractive to the horror hard cores and the never-watch-em-ever crowd, who just find something different because I didn't find anything appealing.

Good poster though.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Green Room

2015, Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin) -- download

HOLEY FREAKING CRAP !

This is definitely not a straight up horror movie in the thinnest attempts of stretching the idea, but I haven't been so stressed out about a movie situation in decades. This movie had me jumping from one edge of the sofa to the next, just on edge, my nerves on fire. If you want to feel really uneasy, see this movie.

There is something about supernatural horror or even psychological horror that allows you to remain separated from it. Its not real and you know that, and you can observe it from afar. But this is a movie about real evil, not the abstract kind but the very real kind you can encounter in the street. The monster at the centre of this movie is the white supremacist -- a word, I just learned how to spell/pronounce properly today.

A low key, nobody punk band on the west coast is having a rather unsuccessful tour. They steal food, they siphon gas, they sofa surf and they sleep in their van. When they are offered a small, short gig at a "boots n braces" event, for guaranteed money, they don't say no. They can do punk even if they don't like the audience. And they do, pulling off a short show in the woods in a compound which immediately screams "know your exits !!" But then one goes back to grab his phone and sees a murder.

This starts a tense, nail biting roller coaster of survival. They know they are fucked, but are just not sure how to move forward. The supremacists have them locked in the green room, negotiating with them in bad faith through the door. "Just give us the gun and you can go, " says Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) in an utterly chilling roll as the leader, the guy who sees this as being as much about the crime business they run as the movement he leads. He has no intention on letting them go; they know it, he knows it but the charade has to be played out. Afterall, they're not monsters, right? Fucking right they are monsters -- very real, very tangible monsters whose whole belief system is at odds with the kids.

Like my mother was most disturbed by religious horror movies, because of her faith, I am entirely disturbed by fanatics, American fanatics. All you have to do is pay attention to the behaviour going on in the US right now as the election progresses (despite the date, the Americans are voting today) to know that evil is very real. And very scary. And can have an impact on your life. It doesn't matter if you are the subject of their hatred, they are just bad people and will do bad things to you if you get in their way.

The movie does not end well. Some of the kids survive but it is not a happy ending. It is depressing and disheartening, even to the point of leaving some of the more moderate skinheads completely drained by what has happened. Some people hate, some people fear but not even all of them are comfortable with utter evil. And I do believe that kind of hate is utterly evil.

P.S. This is going to be one of the last movies I will see Anton Yelchin in, and I honestly will miss him. I like him in his varied, differing roles. He was proving to be someone who was going to have a very interesting career ahead of him.  Fuck you death.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Mulberry St

OK, the Internet is back and has been stable for more than 24 hours. Going with out the Internet was astoundingly life interrupting. It has become a utility so much more than TV was, when I cut the cable. Not only couldn't we continue with our downloading of the last few flicks, but we had to cut 'I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House'. Via my phone I gave myself minimal Net access to update FB and the photoblog, but long form like this blog had to be left to the wayside.

P.S. Fuck Bell.

2006, Jim Mickle (Stake Land) -- download

I think this movie was in the leftover pile from Halloween seasons past. We just started watching media via Plex, which gives you posters/covers & synopses, while via the folder-based PS3 Media Centre, I found myself often asking, "Which one is that again?" And often there was no answer except IMDB. I saw Nick Damici's name and said, "Oh that one, let's watch it !"

I loved Jim's Stake Land which was seriously indie but incredibly sincere. That is my catch word for indie movies, that despite limited budgets and maybe a limited sense of experience (entire crew all around) make a well rounded movie. Too much of the indie crowd is lazy, making just enough of a movie to satisfy the film festival circuit and the genre movie blogs. I blame Asylum, who made doing good enough movies a sought after endeavour. Even there, bad movie as intent is fine; bad movie as laziness is unforgivable. And of course, some indie directors just don't know how bad they are. It's like student  & fan films, kids who are so enamoured with the process of making a movie, they cannot see how bad they are at it. But Mickle has skill and lots of fervour.

Mulberry St is also a sincere indie movie. Mickle spends a good amount of time building the world in which this movie is set. An apartment complex on Mulberry St in NYC, a falling down structure is filled with old tenants and a community of those who protect each other. Nick Damici is back (well, not back as this was done before Stake Land), as Clutch, unemployed ex-boxer. His daughter is returning from overseas war, her best friend is a transitioning young man with a crush on Clutch, the immigrant woman upstairs sees Clutch as a good catch. And so on. The building is a loose family.

And then the weird, indie, low budget horror movie emerges -- rat people infection. Yep, rat virus as an analog for zombies. In fact, they do the whole break down of NYC and quarantine of the city while our small group of people just trying to survive the night beat down as many rat people as they can. Its funny but its also deadly serious. But its also so very very low budget, which unfortunately takes something away from it all. I applauded his attempt, but couldn't buy into it entirely. Those rat people were just... goofy.

Friday, October 21, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Savaged

2013, Michael S. Ojeda (Deadliest Warrior TV show) -- download

This movie is now called Avenged. I guess they decided that the racially insensitive play on words was not in their best interest considering the current controversy in the sports world. But I don't think this movie has any qualms with controversy, and likely the name change was asked by distributors. Considering the movie is a rape revenge story, the idea of sensitivity was not considered. We live in a time where creative are finally realizing that the ultimate brutality does not have to be visited upon the fiction's victim. The societal baggage that comes with that is just not worth it.

So, plot summary -- deaf mute woman is raped & murdered. She comes back from the grave possessed by the spirit of a Apache chief who was betrayed and murdered a hundred years ago. She takes revenge on the racist redneck assholes who killed her.

This is a horror movie for the film festival circuit. Its low budget, but somewhat skillfully done. The director knows how to frame a shot and all the technical details are there, including the limited special effects. The unknown actors all do a serviceable job, including the lead Amanda Adrienne Smith who apparently answered a Craig's List ad. But the script. The script left a lot to be desired. People just don't talk that way. It is the classic fault of something that looks good on paper, but just wouldn't come out of a person's mouth that way. The main villain and the Magic Indian character have long streams of dialogue that obviously come from the writer's mind, not theirs.

As for the rest, the movie has a The Crow like quality to it, without the stylish pathos. Zoe the possessed is very aware she is dead, and won't be coming back to her boyfriend, so despite her having her hearing returned by the angry spirit inside her, she is not happy. That touch is nice, tragic and lifts the rest of the "chop the bad guys up with a tomahawk" story from the dirt.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: The Shallows

2016, Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan) -- download

OK, by this point, I have to admit that we have let Thriller leak into our viewing stream for this season. While there may be combo horror-thriller, many of the choices we have viewed have been pure thriller, without any thinly attempts at being a horror movie. Yes, the thin line between the two often ends up focused on the tone of the movie. Both have shocks and scares and intense moments, and it boils down to how the movie handles the characters, antagonist and protagonist. Usually a horror movie will focus only on the protagonist, where the antagonist is a mystery, an unknown.
Hush was definitely horror thriller, as it had lots of dark shadows, a mystery killer and was about the survival of the protagonist. The Ones Below was eerie with tense moments, a rather mysterious antagonist but was always in the open, very in your face as to why we were tense.

One could argue that The Shallows is a monster movie, just like Jaws was. In Jaws, there is no way we can accept that is a normal shark, as it seems to have malice, intent and incredible focus -- it is not just an eating machine. The shark that is harassing Nancy (Blake Lively) is of the same temperament. As a pair of his victims shout, "There are no sharks here!" so this guy is already out of his domain. And yet, there is no horror feel to this movie. This is pure thriller survival.

Maybe you cannot have horror on a bright, sunny surf?

It was good. But as you know, I like Small Movies.

Nancy is in med school, so the bite she gets can be taken care of. Still, she's bleeding and getting weak and is sitting on a rock for days without food & water. She's got a buddy, an injured seagull who hangs out on the same rock. She called him Stephen (#snicker) but I was referring to him as SharkBait. At least he wasn't a soccer ball.

When things really get going, this shark is just downright a monster! Seriously, he chomps and bites and rips apart everything without really wanting to eat it. The cast is small, so the body count is as well, but this is not about eating. Hell, he has a big stinky whale nearby so... why? Maybe I should re-think and sub-categorize this under Jaws. But no, this movie is not about replacing Roy Scheider with Blake Lively's bikini'd bum. This movie is it's own, more comparable to 127 Hours than anything.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: The Ones Below

2015, David Farr -- download

Family horror; specifically child rearing horror. At least with religious based horror, I have a Catholic background that can contribute to understanding it. But, much to my mother's chagrin, I am not having kids and don't really connect to the whole "we are having a baby, it's so beautiful" mindset. I get it, I am not against having kids, I just don't have the emotional connection and this movie was one of those that almost immediately drew upon it. Kate (Clémence Poésy) and Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) live in London, and are having a baby. Jon (the Governor himself, David Morrissey) and Theresa (Laura Birn) move into the flat below them. They are also having a baby.

Societal comments are my favourite details of horror movies. If the family in The Conjuring 2 couldn't leave their London home because they were poor, the families here have no such issues. These flats are incredible, and Jon & Theresa begin their connection to the story by renovating and landscaping the charming residence into something immediately creepy pastel. Seriously, the manicured lawn and precise angles at which they place the sunbathing chair in the back yard are something out vector-based advertising art -- think isometric art. Meanwhile, Kate & Justin are typically overworked, schlubby but look comfortable and charming. You can guess who I side with, who are meant to side with. And immediately judging happens between the two couples.

The horror begins almost immediately with a clash of the lifestyles, which unfortunately culminates in Theresa losing the baby. Jon's nightmarish reaction only solidifies our opinion of him; but can you blame him? Months later, Kate has had her little Peter and the downstairs couple return from their recovery to make amends and recover the friendship.

At this point you know where the movie is going to go. All the clues are there. It's now just the journey. Tension. Suspicion. It is meant to elicit the greatest horror from those who recently had children or are about to. But still, the movie is handled skillfully enough so that even I could feel the chill as to what was coming.

What, you may ask? I spoil everything else almost immediately? You should guess by now -- one couple - the creepy couple - lost their baby, and one couple - the ones we like - are happy with their new son. It's a thriller / horror. But at least Peter will grow up happy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: The Conjuring 2

2016, James Wan (Saw) -- download

Weird how James Wan, who did Insidious and the first Conjuring, also gets to do both sequels. We did both originals in years past, but the latter outside the season, which means we heard enough about it to see it as standalone movies instead of it them up for this time of year. As we did with the sequels. Sequels to these kinds of movies are often a rinse & repeat of the scares that made the first movie popular. We also have not seen the spiritual successor to The Conjuring, called Annabelle. Maybe next year.

OK, recap. The Warrens are paranormal investigators, a couple made famous by the Amityville house (yes, that one) and kind of haunted by it's popularity and infamy. They do the talk show circuit but are as often reviled as charlatans as they are celebrated for their abilities and successes. But the movie takes the seat that they, and we the audience, know what they do is very real.

This case takes them to London, England where a famous haunted house is all over the media and has reached the ears of the Church . Even the police have seen the activity. The poltergeist is so strong, that he even follows the haunted little girl across the street. When the Warrens show up, the house has already been trashed and the family is in a state of post-trauma having lived mostly sleeplessly for weeks, if not months, bearing the wounds and fright because they really have nowhere else to go.

The spirit is an old man, former resident of the house, one that is very malevolent and very angry. but there is something else going on, something that seems to betray the way the Warrens usually do these things. Is it a hoax perpetuated by a poor family who want a better way of life? Why is this old man, so angry so powerful?

There is something very Top 40 about the way these recent haunting movies are done, and as you know well, sometimes a Top 40 tune can get you humming even if its rather banal. The scares are all the requisite ones, but they are well done. You are not getting anything original here, but you are getting a good, solid haunting. A good not-solid haunting?

Monday, October 17, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Before I Wake

2016, Mike Flanagan (Oculus) -- download

"I am sure we will add his next piece to our next series."

OK, so I guess we are seeing Mike's next one a lot quicker than I expected. Delays and releases in different countries contributed to him having two movies premiere in basically the same year. Good for us!

Damn, that was good, playing into what I like in much the way Absentia did -- a mythology, a building of the world around the source of the scares. Where the other movie developed an actual other world, where creatures were creeping out of, this establishes a child who something other than you and I. Spoiler? No, not really. Almost immediately they reveal that Cody's sleep cycle is tied to the very real, very tangible things that appear. Butterflies, lost family members and something very very evil is the centre of this particular conjuring.

Mark (Thomas Jane) and Jessie (Kate Bosworth) are adopting Cody. Cody's been through the system and his last family literally abandoned him, leaving him alone in their apartment for over a month before he was found. Cody doesn't like to sleep; he drinks colas, he pops pills and has lots of sugar before bed. At first only he knows why, but after his stash is taken away, Mark and Jessie find out why. When he sleeps, his dreams take form. Butterflies made of Christmas bulbs and the child the couple lost, appear when Cody nods off. Jessie wants Cody to sleep as much as he can, because then she gets a moving, talking reminder of her drowned little boy. But then the other aspect of Cody's dreams appears -- The Canker Man, a terrifying, alien creature that is full malevolence.

It wouldn't be a horror movie without an antagonist, but I felt the movie wanted to be more about the wonder of Cody's powers. Obviously, a simple twist in the genre could have him being visited by Professor Xavier for inclusion in a certain school in upstate New York. But the Canker Man is there, and he is deadly. And fucking scary. Once Jessie realizes she is abusing Cody's power for something that is not real, she works hard to heal Cody, to deal with the Canker Man.  Both Cody and Jessie are left with consequences of her actions, but a new life to live out.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: The Hallow

2015, Corin Hardy -- download

As a D&D player, sometimes you see a monster in a movie and ponder, "That thing is a pretty low level, why so dangerous?"  OK, maybe just me. But seriously, any Fighter worth their level could have taken out the Ghoulies or even zombies. But if average people in movies are zero-level, then maybe you can accept them being torn to bits by 1/4 CR monsters. Now turn the tables, and take a rather innocuous monster from a D&D game, say evil Fey, and toss them against a government official and his wife. Instant horror movie.

OK, maybe not that silly.

But The Hallow (not the Hollow) is basically that, as creatures that would go well into any D&D game become the monsters in our world. Adam is the conservationist hired by the Irish government to identify regions of the ancient Irish forests that will be opened up for logging. I guess they imagine a conservationist will control it well enough, so it doesn't end up looking like British Columbia. But the locals don't buy it, and one even gets rather violent over it. But his concern is not exactly with the forest, but with what lives in the forest.

Adam find the horror staple -- black goo -- but with some quick study finds it to be a fungus with qualities like the cordyceps fungus, i.e. it takes over what it infests. And he finds signs of it in his house. Things between him and the violent local escalate, but Adam doesn't guess that the people messing with him and his wife are not quite human. And then they escalate their attacks, assaulting him in his car and his house, stabbing him in the eye in the process, a thin needle grown from that black fungus. It is very clear they are being attacked by something not human. Adam is infected and the creepy little Fey monsters (or are they just people & animals converted by the fungus?) steal his child. It takes him too long to remember that cold iron can help defend against the nasty things.

I loved the connections to old faeries tales and Irish dark mythology. The forests once covered Ireland until we burned and cut them down. The Fey were driven deeper and deeper into the wood. We essentially burned out the fungus. But why do they need a human child? What driving biological force needs a small human? Myth and biology blur in the terror and Adam is just in desperate need to protect his family before he turns.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Don't Breathe

2016, Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) -- download

Jane Levy, she of Suburgatory redhead fame, returns in Alvarez's next movie. This movie is not quite a horror, but it acts like a horror. With a different score, lighting and attitude it would just be a new Panic Room thriller. But it really latches onto the fear the characters feel which made it a good choice for this season.

Rocky, Money and Alex are low rent burglars breaking into the houses of Detroit's wealthy, stealing a bunch of junk and hocking it. Alex's dad is a security specialist and the kids' trick is to get in via stolen alarm codes, carefully take what they want, and then trigger the alarm after they leave. They are doing OK, but Money wants more money and Rocky needs more money, to escape an abusive mother & boyfriend combo. Alex is just tagging along because he's in love with Rocky. And along comes Money with the "perfect plan".

There is a single house on one of those now classic abandoned streets in Detroit. The owner won a ton of money in a wrongful death suit and has socked it away somewhere inside the house. And the owner is blind. Easy job, right? Of course not, for just as the writing about these kinds of movies is eerily familiar, so is the idea that it will never just be easy. Things have to go wrong.

The fear starts when Money gets caught. And it continues as the kids have to try and escape this house, a house where the Trumpish ideas of protecting property are in play -- he will kill them and not blink a blind eye about it. Just because he is blind, doesn't mean this ex-soldier is at a disadvantage. The fear gets set to 11 when they find someone in the basement that they shouldn't have.

This is a well done, stylishly built horror as thriller; thriller as horror? The monster is a solid brick of a man with a very amoral agenda. The kids are getting killed off, sans the promiscuity. And there is a Final Girl. There is even the haunted house motif, though it is really only haunted with danger.

Friday, October 14, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: The Loved Ones

2009, Sean Byrne (The Devil's Candy) -- download

From the get go, we said, "no torture porn." Yes, we are beating a dead horse (but not torturing him!) but I have come to realize its how the creator takes the torturish path that helps decide whether its is porn or not. At the heart of it, if the movie revels in the pain the victims are feeling, that we are as much rooting for the villain as we are "enjoying" the scenes of torture, then it fits into the sub-genre we enjoy.

But then you see something like The Love Ones where the core of the movie is all about torture, and yet it doesn't quickly fall into that categorization. Unless you are one sick fuck, I don't expect you will be rooting for Lola Stone and her twisted daddy. They are depraved people.

Brent is a high school kid who lost his dad not long ago. He's a tortured kid, who tests the limits of his own strength & endurance, and drags razors across his arm. He believes his mother blames him for his father's death. It's school dance season and he politely turns down Lola. Big mistake. Her dad drugs Brent, kills his dog and drags Brent back to their place so Lola can have her own dance night. With injected bleach and amateur trepanation.

The movie alternates between the scenes of Lola and her "family", the anguish everyone is feeling at Brent's disappearance, Brent's best friends rather messed up date to the dance and the very personal trials of the cop trying to find Brent. The rather lovely and brilliant focus of this movie is not (just) on the torture of Brent, which is horrific and graphic, but all the loved ones affected by what this family is doing, and has done numerous times in the past.

Brent is a kid who questions if he deserves to live, after his driving accident killed his father. This experience answers the question for him, and damn does he ever want to live. His response takes all the energy that has built up inside him over the past six months and explodes it outward against the Stones. Yes, he wants to live. YES !

And he does.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Falling Water & Channel Zero

Falling Water, 2016, USA Network -- download

This show comes out of nowhere, not really trying to connect itself to existing popularities. It is not horror but it is creepy enough to lend itself to this season. It is mysterious enough but I don't think it is going to jump down the Lost rabbit hole of mystery within mystery. I think they are going to run with the 'dreams connect us all' premise and expand.

Tess is a trend spotter, something I once thought I could have been good at, a person who wanders New York seeking out what things are emerging in the collective urban psyche, so her clients can popularize and exploit them. But she is a little disturbed, completely convinced she has had a child that no one knows about and she doesn't recall how she lost him. Burton is a company fixer and security specialist, who is obsessed with a lost lover, one who may or may not really exist. Taka is a cop investigating a suspicious death while being rather distracted by his vegetative mother. All three are experiencing waking dreams, dreams we are cued into by the visual of water flowing upstream, dreams that are somehow connected to each others.

While the show is eerie and stylish, I think it is leading to a Matrix style reveal. I think it wants a world where the reality these people know is not the base-reality, but something overlaid and in need of reveal. I think they are going to focus on the horror based tropes of fearful dreams, confusing dreams and shocks until it gets into full swing. I am just not sure if it will connect with its viewers long enough to reach that point.

Channel Zero: Candle Cove, 2016, SyFy -- download

Creepypasta is a digital age phenomena, something that only exists because of the sharing aspects of the Internet. Think spontaneously generated folklore written on the Internet, instead of being told person to person. When I was a kid, we told stories of a crazy man who escaped from "the butterscotch palace" who kidnapped children and did unspeakable things to them. If I had been born into this generation, I might have related the story on Reddit or other forums.

The most popular of them, the ones that ring true enough or resonate enough with the readers, grow a life of their own. Many people believe The Slender Man is a real urban legend, one that comes from out there and may or may not be true. But really, he was generated in a photoshop battle and the mythology came afterwards. Or did he really just emerge out of the collective psyche with Photoshop and the Internet as the entry media?

Candle Cove is one such creepypasta, that emerged as a series of fictional recollections on Reddit about a 70s TV show that the adults barely remember. The more they talk about it, the more it sounds like it didn't really exist but that a handful of young people who collectively hallucinated the show while watching the snow on a non-existent TV channel, i.e. channel zero. SyFy takes that premise and builds a show around it.

In episode one we meet Mike, a child therapist who had his own incredibly traumatic event as a child. A large number of children, including his twin brother, were abducted and murdered. He was the lone survivor. But there was more. Everyone knew the children were found missing all their teeth, but Mike knows what took the teeth. He just cannot come to terms with it. And he also knew there was some connection to an unsettling TV show he and his friends, and brother, were watching -- Candle Cove.

Mike is drawn back to his hometown where events are starting to spin up again. Children are watching the show. Things are happening in the woods. Everything is getting very very fucked up again.

I admit to drifting off while watching, being a little burned out, but I found the story telling to be very unsettling and disturbing, as it should be. I will have to rewatch ep 1 again and will definitely be tuning in for more. As long as I don't start seeing a puppet show on a channel that I didn't previously have before.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Last Girl Standing

2015, Benjamin R. Moody -- download

Themes. They seem to be the theme of the season.

The Final Girl, the Last Girl -- the socio-sexual comment on who deserves to survive an attack by a psychopath. She is usually the nice girl, the chaste girl, the one everyone roots for. Where all her (probably promiscuous) friends will die under the blade, she will go face to face with the killer and escape and/or kill him. Camryn is that girl; The Hunter was that killer.

This indie movie opens with promise, a classic camping weekend gone deadly wrong. Camryn survives, springing one of The Hunter's traps on himself. And then we get a fast forward of the years following: medications, hospitalization, a rising cult, people fascinated with The Hunter and disputes over his gravesite. Camryn emerges working a lonely, solitary job at a (Austin?) laundromat where she quietly washes and folds clothes, a routine that brings her home every night and avoids everyone. Until the new guy starts, and she starts seeing The Hunter again. Things are unraveling.

Is the cult active? Is she going nuts? Is the new guy in on it; are his friends? Is she being manipulated, toyed with? Do they have an end goal? Even with all these questions, I found myself very pissed off at whomever was fucking with Camryn. In your typical toned down indie way, the movie doesn't really make any character completely likable but nobody is really a bad guy, nobody is really exempt from possibly being Camryn's tormentor.

** spoilers **

And then the turn, the crescendo of the climax and it all falls apart. I was not particularly happy with the path it chose, to reverse fortunes and have Camryn become the legacy of The Hunter. She has finally cracked, finally succumbed to the pressures of her experience and sees disciples of The Hunter in everyone. And she kills everyone.

I felt ripped off. I get it, they want a twist, a reversal. But so much had been about Camryn recovering. And they tear that away from us and her. But there is another lone survivor...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016: Hollows Grove & Detention

Some movies are not even worth watching all the way through. And some are just those so straight forward, I just get up and do other stuff while it is going on. Until I lose all interest. We had to watch two just to feel like we were getting something.

Hollows Grove, 2014, Craig Efros -- download

OK, the premise caught me. I have already said how much I hate the actual ghost hunting TV shows (are they still on the air?) but Marmy likes them, so we have seen a few movies with them as the centre. But each movie version has always been from the point of view that they are legit, that they consider themselves real ghost hunters and are still seeking true evidence. But this one took a tact I liked, that they were just a TV show and were just at another location with a rep, building enough material from which to fake the episode with. And a friend is making a short doc on their show, so he is the camera watching the camera folk. That he would catch them faking their show seems against their best interest seems beside the point, but whatever, small budget movie -- script editing is last.

Mundane. Some good scares, some decent effects but mundane yawn boring. Ghosts, possessions, poltergeisting, etc. And the dumbest wrapper I have seen in years, with some droll FBI agent going on about how his team found the footage. Can't do a found footage movie without explaining how the footage was found. And they have other evidence, which is just an excuse for a final jump scare.

NEXT !

Detention, 2011, Joseph Kahn (Torque) -- Netflix

W... T... F... is this movie? Its like one giant gimmick gone awry. Its a slasher movie, its a teen comedy, its a gonzo scifi movie, its a .... forget it, I am going to bed.

Detention is that movie on Netflix with the weird Deathnote-ish poster which stars John Hutcherson, the "popular" love interest for the main character, you know, the guy known only for his role as Katniss's other love interest. His name is Clapton Davis, which should have been my first cue to turn this trash off. But it has a time travelling magnetic stuffed bear connected to aliens. And it also has a time travelling body-swap between a girl and her mother, in the 90s. Yes, the 90s are now the distant past. I am so old. And it has a stylistic opening credit sequence that gets boring after credit entry three. And it has a movie based slasher killer who is trying to kill the high school kids. Either this movie is actually actually (two intended) popular with the "Twitter generation" or it is an old man's (Kahn's only 44) idea of what would be popular with today's low attention span, multi media, mashup culture. I don't know, too old went to bed.