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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lost Highway (1997)



Once I completed After the Static, I decided that I wanted to rework/edit Walking Before Dawn, and I finished last week. Today, I was excited when I saw the reworked cover design for that book and should see it released in the next few weeks. To go along with that excitement, I decided to watch one of my favorite Lynch films: 1997s Lost Highway.


Plot/ After a bizarre encounter at a party, a jazz saxophonist is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to prison, where he inexplicably morphs into a young mechanic and begins leading a new life.



Like many, I am excited to have Twin Peaks coming back to the television in May. David Lynch is my favorite filmmaker and I am fascinated by everything he does. To me, this is one of his best films and a great example of bringing dreams and nightmares to life within the cinematic world. This journey into surreal has an extremely layered storyline with multiple things happening throughout, the cinematography is amazing, the performances solid, there is a great soundtrack, and the overall atmosphere brings everything to life. This is truly a masterful piece of filmmaking. Yes, as with every film by Lynch, it is definitely not for everyone with a myriad of storylines, strange twists, and endings that often leave non-fans scratching their heads wondering what is taking place. In the end, this is a great film and one that should be seen. Yes, there may be some confusing moments, but it is well worth.


Monday, March 27, 2017

End of Days (1999)



Having watched a wide variety of flick over the past few days, I wanted to get back to something closer to my After the Static project. While that is zombie/outbreak themed, there are some religious/apocalyptic overtones inside the book. With that in mind, I decided to watch the 1999 action/horror flick End of Days.  


Plot/ At the end of the century, Satan visits New York in search of a bride. It's up to an ex-cop who now runs an elite security outfit to stop him.


I remember seeing this when it came out and even after watching it again, I can say that my initial thoughts will still ring true: viewers will either love or hate this film. Really, there is no in between, especially with the religious overtones that are woven throughout the movie. For me, this was an entertaining flick that I still find intriguing. The storyline, while uneven, is interesting, the performances and effects are decent, and the dark cinematography works well with the soundtrack and the theme of the movie. Yes, some of the characterizations could have been darker, some of the scriptings were uneven, and it was highly implausible, but that is what makes movies like this engaging. In the end, this one will be polarizing due to many different factors including actors, religious beliefs, and tone; but, at the end of the day, it is just a fun and mindless good versus evil flick that should be seen.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Forest (2016)



After spending a portion of my day without service at softball practice, it is nice to finally relax some at the house. Now, maybe I can get to one of the projects. Over the past few days, I decided to check out a few different genres, and I continued that last light with 2016s The Forest.


Plot/ A woman goes into Japan's Suicide Forest to find her twin sister and confronts supernatural terror.


Last night after watching my final flick, I settled on The Forest, thinking that it would be a nice change of pace. While it did do that with its creepy atmosphere and interesting premise, it still left much of its potential on the table. The acting is solid, the cinematography works, and there is enough tension built throughout that makes you want more. Unfortunately, there is not enough meat to the attempted scares and they often are predictable and flat, the scripting almost ignores the forest, and some of the editing feels off. In the end, while this one has its positives, it never reaches its potential and ends up missing the mark. There are definitely better options out there.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Ecstasy of Isabel Mann (2012)



I have many different writing projects going, and I absolutely love it! Last night I finished a rewrite of the back page description for Walking Before Dawn, knocked out two blog posts, and did some work on my After the Static project. Today, after some yard work and answering a few emails, I kicked back and enjoyed my last flick from Family Video: 2012s The Ecstasy of Isabel Mann.


Plot/ A violent sect of day-walking vampires seduces teenager Isabel Mann. Her classmates start to go missing, attracting two detectives. Things get weird as the disturbed teenager kills at will in the nearby woods.


This was the last movie that I picked up at Family Video and probably the one I enjoyed the most. While there were some of the typical low budget flaws present, for the most part, it came off in a rather impressive manner. The performances are decent, the storyline interesting, the cinematography and direction spot on, and the soundtrack blended perfectly with the script and movie. Yes, the pacing was a touch slow, the sound quality was uneven, and some of the elements may seem better suited for an art house film than true horror entry, but when you look at the movie as a whole, they are minimal issues. In the end, this movie is a different approach to the vampire mythos and one that works. Sure, some viewers may not like it (and that is understandable) because of the diverse scripting and scene choices, but those are only minor flaws. Check this one out.


Friday, March 24, 2017

The Summoning (2017)



Last night as I was working on some of the smaller parts of a project, I decided to throw on one of the two movies I had left from Family Video. That movie is the next up for review: 2017s The Summoning.


Plot/ When a law student uncovers chilling secrets and places her life at risk, a bitter, and rough-around-the-edges detective is assigned to her case.


When I started this one last night, I was not sure what I was getting into. What I found was something that I probably should have expected with the low-budget status. Being a fan of smaller indie films, I understand the flaws, and this one definitely has some. However, it is not the worst thriller out there with an interesting premise (based on true events) with some solid performances sprinkled in. Unfortunately, the pacing is somewhat slow, the editing uneven, and the ending feels a bit off. In the end, this one had the potential to be a creepy thriller that would have been more memorable with some small adjustments.


ROTARY (2017) - Official Trailer



Urban legends are always intriguing and make great storylines for a film.  From LPA Films, this atmospheric horror/thriller takes on the classic legend of the babysitter and the man upstairs. Inspired by a true case of terror, the unsolved 1950 murder of Janet Christman, Rotary begins 18-years later as another young girl is tormented by strange and unsettling occurrences while babysitting.

Rotary Movie

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Elder Island (2016)



Last night, I decided to spend some more time working on Surviving the Static, the accompanying blog to After the Static. That didn’t stop me from catching a movie as I worked. That film was the 2016 slasher, Elder Island.


Plot/ A group of men secretly buried a body on Graves Island, and the reign of America's first and only king ended; but for every end, there is always a new beginning, for evil was born that night. Five families have always controlled the Island. Five families share the Island's fortune; five families share its curse.


When I sat down last night to watch this one, I had actually forgotten the premise, which drew me in when I rented it. What I found was a decent slasher (that fit in perfect after the Scream Season 2 marathon). Somewhat based on an actual piece of history, this movie does a great job at weaving the slasher genre into the events. Along with that, the performances are decent, the idea compelling, and the overall feel is solid. Unfortunately, there are some pacing issues, the backstory almost drowns the main storyline at times, and the editing feels choppy and a touch incoherent at times. In the end, this was a decent slasher done on what had to be a smaller budget. It may not be the best one out there, but it was entertaining enough to keep my attention.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Solace (2015)



I was on a decent streak until last night when I was hit by some type of stomach bug that put me down. Luckily, I feel much better today and hope to continue to improve. Now with some energy (and finishing the season finale of Scream), I figure it is time to get back. The next movie for review is the 2015 thriller Solace.


Plot/ A psychic works with the FBI to hunt down a serial killer.


This movie was an entertaining mystery/thriller that kept me engaged throughout. While this is not as clear-cut as many may like, it does a great job of mixing action, suspense, and excellent cinematography to create something enjoyable. The performances are solid, the cast, scripting, and there is enough pacing and atmosphere to keep things moving. Yes, the are some editing choices that will not appeal to everyone and there are definitely some predictable moments, but those actually do not damage the film. In the end, this is a fascinating look at the serial killer genre and a movie that should be seen. Check it out.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Eyes of My Mother (2016)



This weekend, I had a chance to catch a few solid movies and a couple sleepers. Fortunately, I am used to this being a fan of low budget indie flicks, but it can get frustrating. The next flick up for review is one that is so much better than I could have ever expected, the 2016 indie horror flick The Eyes of My Mother.


Plot/ A young, lonely woman is consumed by her deepest and darkest desires after tragedy strikes her quiet country life.


When I stumbled upon this one at Family Video, I had no idea what to expect and was unsure whether I should pick it up or not. I am so glad that I grabbed it, as it was definitely one of the best horror films I have seen in some time. While some may not like it, as it fits more in-line with art house cinema than the current flavor of mainstream horror, it has everything a true fan could ask for. The performances were decent, the atmosphere was dark and heavy from the start plus it continued to build throughout, the cinematography was amazing, and the storyline was both quiet and disturbing. Yes, the run time was a bit too short, and the ending was somewhat abrupt, but those definitely do not hamper the overall feel of the film. In the end, this is one of the best movies I have watched in some time and a flick that should appeal to true horror fans. Check it out!


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Passengers (2016)



I have one more movie to review until I get to the two flicks from last night. Like with Stake Land II, I almost forgot this one as well. This film is the 2016 sci-fi/romance Passengers.


Plot/ A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.


I had not actually paid attention to any of the reviews or trailers for this one and definitely went into with something else altogether in mind. While this is not a terrible movie, it is definitely more of a drama/romance than adventure/sci-fi entry, and I could see how that could turn some viewers off. All in all, it was not a bad film offering some fantastic performances, stunning visuals with some outstanding cinematography, and an interesting concept is woven into the storyline. Unfortunately, the scripting did leave a ton of plot holes that could have helped fill in some of the voids, and there were very few moments that helped build tension. In the end, this was a beautiful movie, although it lacked the sci-fi feel that drew me in. Yes, it was entertaining, but it doesn’t deliver the impact that it could have.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Stake Land II (2016)



As I kick back on a Friday for some relaxation, I realized that I skipped a movie from over the weekend and needed to catch up on it. I guess this is what happens when daylight savings time hits before your ready. What was that movie that I skipped? It was the 2016 vampire flick Stake Land II (AKA The Stakelander).


Plot/ When his home of New Eden is destroyed by a revitalized Brotherhood and its new Vamp leader, Martin finds himself alone in the badlands of America with only the distant memory of his mentor and legendary vampire hunter, Mister, to guide him.


I was surprised when I saw this one on the shelves at Family Video, as I had no idea that it was even in the works. As a fan of the original, I had to see what they came up with as a sequel. While I did not find it as good or as captivating as the source material, it is by no means a bad movie. It just seemed to lack some of the quality and depth of the first film. The storyline is still interesting building the world started in the first, there were some outstanding performances, and there were some moments of blood and gore that fit in with the atmosphere. The movie did lack some character development and the story was not quite as tight as the original, but that did not impact the overall entertainment value of the film. In the end, this is a decent flick that has enough moments to keep you interested, give it a shot.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Shut In (2016)



Having worked late last night, I was rather exhausted when I got home. Fortunately, I already had something to watch and was excited to relax and work on the rewrite/reformat of Walking Before Dawn. Unfortunately, my selection, Shut In may not have been the best background for that project.


Plot/ A heart-pounding thriller about a widowed child psychologist who lives in an isolated existence in rural New England. Caught in a deadly winter storm, she must find a way to rescue a young boy before he disappears forever.


When I sat down to watch this one, I had some small expectations and that is exactly what I got. While this is not a terrible film, it is rather predictable and is stuffed with way too many clichés. Yes, the performances are solid (especially Naomi Watts), there were a few scares (at least for my daughters), and the tension woven into the atmosphere builds throughout, but it still felt like something was missing. Of course, this could be from the predictability or clichés, some of the strange actions and decisions, or even the reveal that felt rushed. Overall, it was just a little disappointing. In the end, there is really nothing special in this movie and it should be viewed with that in mind. It isn’t terrible, but it isn’t memorable either. Be warned.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

1984 - Prime Stage Theater



This past weekend,  I had a chance to catch Pittsburgh Prime Stage Theater’s adaptation of the George Orwell classic 1984 and was blown away by the production. Not only was this performance powerful, it came across in a perfect manner, allowing the viewer a chance to immerse themselves within the oppressive atmosphere,  the message, and build a connection with the characters.

What was most impressive was the way the storyline subtly maintained a connection to the past while bringing the message out in a modern way that soiled have resonated with every viewer.  I know I should have counted, but I heard numerous conversations in the lobby about Big Brother about the once prophesized police state we are living in. 


Ironically, most of the material WikiLeaks revealed in their Vault 7 disclosure felt like it was part of this classic fictional world instead of reality. Unfortunately, the constant monitoring and barrage of propaganda has seemed to blur the lines between fact or fiction, making it somewhat difficult to decipher truths.

In this play, the performances are so believable that it made to want to stand and fight for Winston, and help him maintain sanity in the darkest days. It also showed the dangers we face everyday, including the truth that no one is safe. 
I know that this was the last performance in the run, and this will not lead anyone to 1984, but I for one became sold on every aspect of the Prime Stage Theater and cannot wait to see their next production, Perks of a Wallflower. it has anywhere near the same impact, I will definitely be a fan for life.


Monday, March 13, 2017

The Raking (2017)



Yes, I said I would get to a review of 1984 tonight, but decided to finish up with one of the films I watched this weekend. That movie is the 2017 low budget entry The Raking.


Plot/ A group of college co-eds embark on a weekend-long camping trip as part of a Cultural Anthropology project to research an internet Creepypasta urban legend.


I love stories based on urban legends, especially when I find one that matches one of my favorite songs (The Rake by The Decemberists). With this one being a lower-budgeted indie flick, I also expected to find some issues. As an indie film fan, I can look past some of the issues that typically plague them, and this one was no different suffering through many of these matters. I did like the storyline (although the execution was a touch off) and thought that the performances were on par with the budget. While those were some positives, the movie never truly reaches its potential with some uneven editing, some dialog/scripting issues, and an overall lack of darkness or atmosphere. In the end, this entry from Brain Damage Films may not be the best in the genre, but it does have a few entertaining moments that could help pass some time during the 2017 Snowpocalypse that is moving up the coast tonight and tomorrow.