Saturday, February 28, 2015

Zodiac: Signs of the Apocalypse (2014)

Last night, I spent relaxing (and finishing some physics homework) and had no motivation to hit the blog. By now, everyone has probably heard about the passing of Sci-Fi icon Leonard Nimoy. For me, he not only etched his way into my mind as Spock, it was his work on In Search Of that sparked my interest into the unexplained. He will definitely be missed. #LLAP  - Now to the blog, next up is the 2014 made for television disaster flick Zodiac: Signs of the Apocalypse.

Plot/ When a mysterious planet crosses the sun global catastrophes are unleashed. A rogue scientist is the key to deciphering the symbols and humanity's only chance at survival.

Yes, I knew exactly what I was in for when I started watching this one: a predictable, CGI filled, made for television disaster flick, and that is exactly what I got. I did find the subject matter interesting; the theory of Nibiru or Planet X causing major disasters has been growing for decades. Ironically, it is popping up more and more into pop culture, even making its way into the last Star Trek movie. Unfortunately, the characters were flat, the CGI sloppy, and the scripting and performances were uneven at best. In the end, while this one offers nothing really new and is rather unbelievable (a car outrunning a tsunami), it is a mindless trip toward the apocalypse and perfect for background fodder when working on something.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Glass House (2001)

Sometimes, I take pleasure in the fact that the daughters enjoy scary movies. Unfortunately, as they get older, I do have to pay more attention to what type of flick I select, with content and rating overriding the scare factor. One such movie we enjoyed over the weekend was a solid family friendly entry: 2001s The Glass House.

Plot/ An orphaned teenager is taken in by a Malibu couple but discovers they are not the caring friends they seemed to be.

I went into this with almost no expectations and only put on because the daughters wanted to watch something. Fortunately, what I found was better than I could have expected. While it is not a perfect film and is rather predictable, the atmosphere and characters do actually set it apart from many of the other PG-13 entries that sit in the genre. The story was interesting and believable, the performances solid, and the scripting created a realism that was easily imagined. Yes, there were some plot holes and it did have some predictable moments, but those issues are rather small (especially for a family friendly thriller). In the end, this will not be for the hardcore thriller fan, but it is better than many in the genre and perfect for a wintery afternoon with the kids. Give it a shot.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Motivational Growth (2013)

It has been a good period for horror comedies. Between Horns and Tusk, the past few months have been a blessing for the genre. Now comes another entry that definitely should give that genre a boost, the 2013 indie entry Motivational Growth.

Plot/ Ian Folivor, a depressed and reclusive 30-something, finds himself taking advice from a growth in his bathroom after a failed suicide attempt. The Mold, a smooth talking fungus who was born of the filth collecting in a corner of Ian's neglected bathroom, works to win Ian's trust by helping him clean himself up and remodel his lifestyle.

This was almost an afterthought when I picked it up the other day, but I am ecstatic that I did. This is a bizarre horror comedy that is something so much better than I could have originally imagined. The scripting is dark and funny, the performances solid, the animation and soundtrack work really well, and the atmosphere is above the line. Then there is The Mold (Jeffrey Combs), which steals the show with his comedic combination of lightheartedness and sarcasm. Yes, there were some uneven parts with some of the character interaction, but that is but a minor flaw. In the end, this is one of the best low budget indie flicks I have watched in some time, and a movie that is definitely underrated. If you have not seen it, you are missing out. Now, go find it!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

V/H/S: Viral (2014)

Last night I was locked into science class and my weekly assignment. When in that zone, I struggle to get motivated to do any type of writing or reviewing. That was a shame because I still have some stuff from the weekend to catch up on. The next one up from that backlog is the 2014 sequel V/H/S: Viral.

Plot/ Follows fame-obsessed teens that unwittingly become stars of the next Internet sensation.

As a fan of the first two installments of the V/H/S series, I was decently excited to pick this one up when it came out. Unfortunately, that excitement quickly deteriorated once I started watching it. Unlike the first two entries, this one has no coherent moments and is a rather large mess. In fact, I would say that the only redeeming quality is the initial segment about Dante the Great. While not perfect, it did make some sense and was interesting. Other than that, the film felt beyond low budget with poor scripting, uneven editing, poor special effect, and some bad characterization (not sure if that was the script, acting, or both). In the end, stay away, and if you were a fan of the first two movies, stay far away from this one.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Stalking the Stalker - Flash Fiction

This was a piece that I did from a visual prompt. The picture reminded me of something that I would have seen in The Twilight Zone or Night Gallery. Any or all feedback is much appreciated.

I am not a paranoid person, but something is not right with what is happening to me. At first, I thought it was my imagination, there is no way this car is following me. After all, a car cannot have a mind of its own; it must have a driver. Yet, there was something weird about that car. Everywhere I turned, the sleek black sedan was there. It stared at me, it watched me, and it would not leave me alone. I am not sure when this began. Honestly, I have tried but cannot specifically remember the first time we crossed paths. While I could be wrong, as I usually do not pay attention to parking lots, I believe it was Sunday sitting outside my favorite antique store.

That day began as any other. I ventured inside to see if I could find something new for my cabinet of curiosities. Between the bones, fetuses, taxidermy oddities, wet specimens and Victorian era medical devices, it is quite the extensive collection. Unfortunately, it is becoming harder to find items that catch my eye. That was until I saw the shrunken head. There it sat inside a small bell jar in all its shriveled glory. The dark, manicured skin, the braided beard, hair, and mustache; the head was something out of a museum. Although the eyes were sewn shut, I felt it peer into both my mind and my soul.

When I looked at it, I could hear a deep voice cry out in pain; he wanted me to care for him. There was no doubt. I needed it, and at $250, it fit into my budget. I scurried to the counter, paid for the artifact, and headed for the door. That is when I stumbled upon the car.

Yes, that was it. The car was parked right next to me in the private lot to the right of the store. We were the only cars in the lot, yet no driver was around. This was peculiar, as there were no other customers in the store. I did not care; I did not have time, I had to find a location for my new discovery. That night, I did not notice anything strange, and I definitely did not see the car again. At least, I did not think so.

After that point, I could not rid myself of the sedan. On Monday, the car crept into my world. During lunch at Burger King, it was there. At the library picking up some research material, it was there. Everywhere I turned, it seemed to follow. The driverless vehicle would be there sitting idly almost waiting for me to depart. I would never see it on the road, yet it always appeared.

Early on, I found it somewhat laughable; there was no way someone would find me interesting enough to stalk. Could they, I was just an electronics instructor and writer. No way, this had to be my imagination playing tricks on me. It had to be. Unfortunately, the situation got worse. On Tuesday, the same thing occurred. Wednesday, check! Thursday, you bet. By Friday, it was getting old; the damn car was in front of my house all night. Incredibly, there was still no sign of a driver. I know because I started stalking the car. Yet, it was always just there. I would scurry into my house and quickly turn to the window, nothing. The car would seem to just appear in that split second where I was not paying attention. This bizarre situation had become both mentally and physically unnerving, and had to end.

When I woke on Sunday, there it sat. The sun reflecting off the blue starburst paint, the redline tires almost glistening in the brightness, but still, no one was in the car. Hell, in a week, I never witnessed anyone even approach the car. That had to change. After some thought, I decided to confront the vehicle. I know it may sound a touch extreme or insane, but I had to do it. This car was driving me crazy. I could not sleep, I could not eat, and all I could do was stare out the window hoping to see who (or what) was torturing me. It was a simple plan, step outside, and take a closer look. I had to see what was inside; hopefully find a clue to what was going on.

At four o’clock, I stepped toward the sidewalk and made my way towards my nightmare. Everything was quiet, as a dull murmur overtook my head; my eyes fixated on the car. I was captivated by its beauty, yet shook from the overwhelming sense of dread. I could hear my pulse echo through the emptiness. One more step and I was there. I hoped it would just one more step toward an answer.

“Hey, get away from my car,” a woman’s voice said, “I don’t know who you are, just get away, or I’ll call the cops!”

Startled by the person’s voice, I felt an inexplicable weight lifting from my shoulders. At that point, I realized something was amiss; that the stunning dark sedan that had been haunting me had disappeared; replaced on the street by a red sports car. That’s impossible, I thought as I looked up and down the street with no sign of the vehicle. What had happened? Where did that car go? This cannot be happening to me, I am not crazy.

Frustrated and confused by the situation, I collapsed to the ground staring with my eyes fixated on the coupe. Crack! A muffled sound came from my pocket as I hit the grass. What was that? I thought. 

“Damn, not the head! That car made me forget about the head. I’m sorry,” I said looking at the shattered bell jar. Unexpectedly, the sound of laughter erupted in my mind, and once again, those deep voices echoed through my soul, “Please, take care of me... and my caretakers car.”

Open Windows (2014)

Every once in a while I need to kick back and watch something that is different than my normal selections. Last night I decided to throw one of those into my weekend rotation. While I love straight horror, sometimes a little Crime/Thriller action is needed. Next up for review is the 2014 thriller Open Windows.

Plot/ A jilted fan soon finds himself pulled into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse after he accepts the opportunity to spy on his favorite actress via his laptop.

This movie is perplexing to review. While there were some interesting moments early on, but the final act was a twist that was not truly needed. Couple that with some decent performances, an intriguing storyline, and this was something that was different and thought provoking. Yes, there were some head scratching moments, pacing issues, and some scripting moments (not to mention the ending) that hurt the overall feel. In the end, this was decently entertaining and a movie that will definitely fall into the love/hate category of cinema. If you are looking for something to help pass some time on a slow evening, give it a shot.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Last House on Cemetery Lane (2015)

The weather has been insane today. Snow, sleet, now rain, with a forecast to change back to snow and ice, at least, I was able to make it to lunch with dad to celebrate our birthdays. It was an awesome time, and it was my treat, so he enjoyed it even more. Now that I am home, it has been a slow afternoon, but I did catch a low budget supernatural entry (based on a true story?)  that will make my next review: the 2015 flick, The Last House on Cemetery Lane.

Plot/ A screenwriter staying in an old manor house in West Wales discovers that it's haunted by malevolent spirits.

Every once in a while I stumble upon a low budget entry that is better than I expected it to be when I picked it up. I realize that with this type of movie, there are often flaws that are inherent to them, and I expect them and will not totally discard a movie just because of them. In this case, while some of those were present, it did a good job at overcoming the damage. The acting is decent with a small cast of relatively unknown actors, the storyline worked (even with some clichéd moments), and the soundtrack fit the storyline. Yes, there were some questionable cinematic moments with the camerawork, the pacing was slow, and some of the effects were a touch uneven, but those elements did not totally ruin this film. In the end, this movie was better than I expected and definitely helped pass a dreary Saturday afternoon. Sure, it is not perfect, but for a low budget entry, it could have been a lot worse.

Friday, February 20, 2015

John Wick (2014)

This has been a long and cold few days here in Pennsylvania and I definitely had a fun time with it being my birthday week. With that, I decided to take a few days off and kick back and relax., although, now I do have a small backlog to add to the page in the coming days. Next up for review is the 2014 action flick John Wick.

Plot/ An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.

Every once in a while, I need some mindless action and this one definitely hit the spot. Yes, there were a ton of clichéd moments, uneven performances, it is very unbelievable, and the characters were flat, but that was not what this movie was about. This one was about over-the-top action scenes, a crazy amount of blood and violence, and an incredibly powerful message about loss and revenge; something that many people in society should be able to easily relate to. In the end, this one is an entertaining action flick that definitely brought the best out of Keanu Reeves. If you like mindless action and can accept the inherent flaws in that type of flick, this one is for you. Give it a shot.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Arkham Sanitarium: Soul Eater (2014)

WOW, yesterday was a crazy weather day complete with whiteout conditions, blowing snow, and temperatures dropping to sub-zero chills. Of course, all of that was easy to overlook while watching the West Virginia University High School honors band and my talented daughter Genesis. Once I got back, it was time to find something to watch, and after some thought I decided on 2014s Arkham Sanitarium: Soul Easter.

Plot/ Arkham Sanitarium was vacant for years after a sex and death cult was arrested for committing heinous acts on patients. Today paranormal investigators are trapped and battling malevolent forces as they grapple with the very creatures created by H.P. Lovecraft.

As I have said, the found footage genre is definitely saturated. However, every once in a while something different pops up and adds something to the mix. While Arkham Sanitarium is not a great flick, it does have some original moments, and is a lot better than one would expect from the low budget. The storyline is interesting (although there is some clichéd moments), the performances are sound, and the special effects are decent. Yes, there are some minor pacing issues, and the lighting is all over, but honestly, it is better than many of the no-budget entries that have popped up over recent years. In the end, this is in no way a perfect movie and it has some down moments, but it also has some bloody and entertaining moments (and the killer cult storyline works), and is definitely watchable. If you have not seen it, give it a shot.