Reviews of Movies, Books, & More – Updated 9/16

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This section is dedicated to my personal reviews of movies, books, podcasts, and television programs.

All genres are fair game here.

Take a look!

 

My Rating Scale:

1 Scary Head out of 10 – Complete and Utter Nonsense. Waste of time.

2 Scary Heads out of 10 – Bad. Pure and simple.

3 Scary Heads out of 10 – There’s a redeeming quality here, but heck if I could find it.

4 Scary Heads out of 10 – Meh. I won’t revisit this anytime soon. If ever. Fair, at best.

5 Scary Heads out of 10 – It was okay. Average. Not great, not horrible.

6 Scary Heads out of 10 – Pretty good. Would probably recommend to the right audience. Enjoyable, but had issues.

7 Scary Heads out of 10 – I liked it. It was solid. I would recommend to the right audience.

8 Scary Heads out of 10 – Really liked it. Made an impression. Something I won’t soon forget. I would recommend to most people.

9 Scary Heads out of 10 – Wow! Incredible. I want to experience this over and over. I would recommend to strangers on the street, even if they run away screaming.

10 Scary Heads out of 10 – OMG. The Best. Not only will I recommend this to every person I see, but I’ll probably gush about it openly for the next two weeks on social media.

 

 

 

 

 

Movie Review – The Last Movie Star (2017)

Linky

I don’t think I’m out of line by saying that because this was Burt Reynolds’ last/final film, I was going to err on giving this movie some extra wiggle room. Obviously, the critics at the time this came out could not foresee the irony, but in retrospect, they too, might have been a bit more forgiving.

The plot is probably what you might expect – an aging movie star gets invited to a “film festival” in his hometown. After initially dismissing the invite, he decides to go, believing that he’ll be reviving the “good old days” of fame and fortune. When he realizes that the festival (no spoilers here as this happens pretty early on) is actually put together by a bunch of fans on a shoe-string budget, he considers himself done with the whole event and just wants to go home. But we come to realize (as does Burt, playing Vic Edwards), there’s much more to everyone’s story, including his own.

For an hour and thirty four minutes, you won’t find much in the way of “new ground”. Most of the themes (no spoilers…I’ll leave those for you to discover) and plot lines have been done before (some better and some worse). Even the supporting actors/actresses play to tropes and characters we’ve seen before. But I’ll tell you what – having the knowledge that this REALLY IS Burt’s last movie makes this trip down memory lane all the more poignant.

If he hadn’t passed away so recently, I think I would have a harsher and more critical take on this. As it stands, there’s a great deal of reminiscing mixed with special moments (and old actual clips of Burt Reynolds) within the movie itself. Those of a certain age will likely connect to this a little more deeply than the average audience goer.

Is it a great film? Should it win awards? Do I need to own it? No, on all accounts. And to be honest, I can’t say I was ever a B.R. fan (in the 70s and 80s sense of the word).

BUT…a movie star who I’ve known for most of my life just passed away and this was his final film – a tribute, so to speak, to Hollywood, the cinema, and the time period in which I grew up. That alone was worth the time I spent watching this movie.

 

 

My rating: 7 scary heads out of 10

 

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TV Show Review – What Would You Do (2008 –   )

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Sometimes, I like a good reality-type of program. Years ago, I used to watch shows like 20/20 and Primetime and To Catch a Predator (loved that one). As of late, many of these shows have either gone off the air or turned into “one note” programming, leaving me rather cold and mostly bored.

What Would You Do? (WWYD?) is a program that is sort of newsy and sort of real-life – fitting somewhere in the middle and hunkering down and providing entertaining yet teachable moments for us all. Based on real-life situations, the crew re-enact scenes in public places (with actors) and film the reactions they get from everyday people.

When I discovered WWYD?, I found my interest peaked. I liked the scenarios and I liked the reactions. It was kind of a new-ish way of talking about prickly topics (race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.) and confronting them in a “real life” situation.

However…like anything else, I suppose, they have started to repeat themselves and not in a good way. How many times can you watch “the college girl getting overly drunk and an older guy trying to take her home” scene play out? Yes, we get it. Ninety-five percent (or more) of people overhearing that are going to step in and help her out. That’s great and it’s comforting to know…BUT, it doesn’t make for good television after you’ve seen the SAME THING played out for the past 6-8 (or more) years.

They’ve started to do segments on gender issues and specifically Republican/Democrat confrontations, which is interesting and brings the discussions we so desperately need out into the open. BUT, again, after a few months of that, the viewers are going to get bored.

Has this show run its course? I don’t know. In some respects, yes. In others, probably not since there are so many “hot topic” issues. But I do know one thing – if someone has too much to drink, don’t let them drive or leave with someone creepy. Point taken.

 

My rating: 6 scary heads out of 10

 

 

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Movie Review – The Endless (2018)

Linky

There is a scene in The Endless that is one of the most haunting and terrifying things I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a LOT of movies.

The scene is short – maybe a minute thirty, if that. It’s not a jump scare. It’s not extremely gory. It’s not a shock moment. Instead, it’s done almost like an old film thread and it loops on itself every 6 seconds. But it’s done in such a way that watching it over and over is downright chilling. It might not make sense here, being out of context, but I was able to find it (Tent Scene). There’s just something unworldly and surreal about it. Have your speakers turned on.

Where does this fit into the story and why is it so disturbing? Because of how realistic it’s set up to seem. When two brothers go back to visit the UFO Death Cult where they grew up (and then ran away), everything seems pretty on the level instead of being a Jim Jones wannabe type of place. The people are friendly and welcoming, but there is a sense of things being a bit off.

As the movie hits second gear, so does the intensity. There is an undertow of something amiss. People aren’t who they seem (or are they?) and circumstances waver into the unexplained. By the time the two brothers start fitting pieces together – about their past and their future – time isn’t a luxury anymore.

I could say more (be less ambiguous), but I don’t want to spoil a moment of this pretty intense, pretty amazing film by the guys (Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson) who brought us Spring (2015) and Resolution (2013) – two other fantastic movies.

Why this works is this – they don’t play it for laughs (although they could), and they don’t push it into some over-the-top craziness (although they could). The whole story, plot, elements, characters, and dialogue is kept real and that’s what I love about this. It might be billed (according to Rotten Tomatoes) as Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Mystery and Suspense (wow, RT, how about narrowing it down a little?), but what it comes down to is a reserved thriller that’s worth every penny. Sit with it for its 112 minute run and it will stay with you long afterwards…

 

 

My rating – 8 scary heads out of 10.

 

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Movie Review – The Hollars (2016)

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John Krasinski seems to be an all-around good guy. Maybe it comes from his many years spent on The Office, or just the way he presents himself during interviews. Either way, he just gives off a “nice” vibe in a similar way that folks like Tom Hanks and Steve Carell do.

That being said, The Hollars (which he directs and produces) is a decent, but lacking, film. Like the latter “A Quiet Place”, there feels like there’s something missing. Let’s explore where that piece of the puzzle might have fallen off the table.

The plot is as follows: A man, whose girlfriend is VERY pregnant, returns home when he learns that his mom will be undergoing brain surgery. Meanwhile, the rest of his family has been busy putting the “fun” in dysfunctional.

As I was watching it, there were shades of “Little Miss Sunshine” – yet they paled in true comparison. The writing wasn’t as sharp or clever, but the effort was there. There were scenes where I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to cringe at the awkwardness or laugh because of the “comedy aspect”. The banter between John’s character (also named John) and his brother, Ron, (played by Sharlto Copley) felt forced at least half the time. Again, was this supposed to be awkward-funny or awkward-dramatic? It was hard to tell.

The parents of the Hollar brothers, Don and Sally (played by Richard Jenkins and Margo Martindale), are caliber actors and it shows. But with this script, it was tough to tell if they were playing for laughs or for dramatic tension. In “Little Miss Sunshine”, there were hilarious moments that stemmed from some very serious situations – you couldn’t help but laugh. But here? It might have worked for some audience members, but I was never certain which way to take it.

There were a few scenes where the doctor, Dr. Fong (played by Randall Park), actually made me wince. Even in comedies (unless it’s played WAY over the top on purpose), most “medical staff characters” stay within the realm of realism. I didn’t believe for a second that this guy knew his way around a stethoscope, let alone be a brain surgeon. Casting? Script? Let’s blame the script and direction here.

So, was this a comedy? A drama? A dramady? It’s billed as a comedy/drama/romance. In my opinion, they should have narrowed the field down a bit and stuck with one.

 

 

My rating: 5 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Tooth and Nail (2007)

Linky

This is what IMDb wrote as a synopsis to this film: A group of people in a post-apocalyptic world fight to survive against a band of vicious cannibals.

If I were writing this, I would amend the phrases “group of people” and put “group of teens” instead. Why is this important? Because that’s the kind of movie it is – a bunch of teens behaving just like you would think they would which makes it pretty much a non-thriller in this case.

If this is supposed to be an apocalyptic world, I never would have known it. There was no tension or real concern from any of the characters. Instead, they whine. They complain. They bicker like high schoolers – not desperate survivors who have to fight to live another day. The only exception to this issue can be seen in a brief appearance by Robert Carradine (Revenge of the Nerds) as the Professor, but even his performance is pretty lacking. I’m going to blame the script on that one because I’ve seen him act in other things and I know that he can do better.

Much of what this band of “survivors” spend time doing is kind of pointless and boring. Even when the scary cannibals (and yes, I am being sarcastic) show up, there’s no real story or point. If these people are looking for others to eat, why are they spending so much time and energy playing hide and seek with this bunch of kids? And these particular cannibals? Believe me – there’s not a one in the bunch who looks like they’ve missed a meal. Ever.

It’s just kind of a ridiculous teen slasher romp that’s not very good. It’s all been done before and done better. This is one of those movies that should be on the sci-fi channel at 2am, so you can make fun of how bad it is before drifting off to sleep.

 

 

 

My rating: 3.5 scary heads out of 10.

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Movie Review – Submission (2017)

Linky Here

In today’s world, a movie about sexual harassment is going to be held to a higher standard far beyond anything we’ve seen before. Every nuance, every sentence, and every facial expression will not only be critiqued, but examined and discussed within an inch of its life.

And personally, I don’t think that’s fair, right, or necessary. It’s not going to be a popular opinion, but hear me out.

The hour and forty-six minute film is based on the book, Blue Angel, a novel written by author Francine Prose (2000). The premise is a time-worn thread that isn’t revolutionary but is told with realism and truth.

IMDb states: A cynical college professor takes a keen interest in a talented young writing student.

Cliche? Perhaps. But what aspects of real-life can’t be viewed as cliche when they are repeated over and over throughout the years? Ted Swenson (played to perfection by Stanley Tucci) is a borderline depressive who can’t quite find the passion or energy to write his second novel. Meanwhile, he teaches at a second-rate (third rate?) college to students who barely care about the time of day, let alone their class load, and while he appears to be in a relatively healthy marriage, his daughter is barely speaking to him. (for reasons that are never quite spelled out, but the tension is palpable during a Thanksgiving visit home)

The one shining ray of difference and hope in his life comes from a student in one of his classes. Angela Argo (played wonderfully by Addison Timlin) begins making shy and unobtrusive requests for Ted to take a look at her first attempts at her own novel. When he does concede, after she continually heaps praise and accolades on him as “her favorite writer in the world”, the plot locks in and we watch the dance between teacher and student. The navigation between these two characters is subtle at first, but when the lines begin to blur, the consequences and fallout come hard and fast…and everyone potentially ends up a victim in one way or another.

Why this movie was slammed in the ratings is beyond me. The responses and reactions from every single character were spot on – I didn’t have to suspend my belief for a moment while watching this. I could absolutely see this happening today, just as it could have happened in the 70s or 80s.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but the consequences were pretty much exactly as I thought they would be. I wasn’t shocked or angry or stunned.

Why other critics have chosen to throw this film under the bus, so to speak, in the face of the #MeToo movement is baffling. Not every movie made today has to “make a statement” or “take sides”. Not every work of fiction (yes, FICTION) has to comment on the world’s issues and problems. Sometimes a movie just wants to tell a story.

Other pieces of cinema can take on the weight of the world. They  are created to address the racial/sexual/hierarchical/gender/societal/financial/status problems that we live with in 2018.

BUT – not ALL movies have to do that. (and this goes for books too). Sometimes, like in this case, a film can tell a very realistic story about a group of people who have faults and are thrown together and forced to interact with one another. Either everyone will come away from the experience unchanged OR things will happen, creating more upheaval and discord than anyone was prepared for and lives will ultimately change.

That’s what happens in real life. And that’s what happened in this film.

 

 

My rating: 8.5 scary heads out of 10

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TV Show Review – Preacher (2016 –  )

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If you’ve read any of my reviews, it will come as no surprise that Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Comic Book World stuff isn’t usually my bag. Every once in a while, I’ll give something a shot and I usually come away feeling like, yep, it’s still not my bag.

I started watching Preacher in 2016. I never read the comics (although I have thumbed through a few copies), so I wasn’t sure what to expect. If you don’t know the general plot, this is what IMDb has to say: After a supernatural event at his church, a preacher enlists the help of a vampire and his ex to find God.

Sounds kind of kooky and fun, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. And during Season 1 and 2, I held fast to that belief. Every episode was, indeed, a wild ride. Trips into Hell, special powers that defy any deity, people coming back from the dead…  

Yes. Everything about it was fascinating. However, the three main leads, played by Dominic Cooper, Joseph Gilgun, and Ruth Negga, were, at first, really annoying. I didn’t like Tulip’s attitude (Ruth Negga), and I found Cassidy to be pretty irritating (Joseph Gilgun). I sort of liked Jesse (Dominic Cooper), but my feelings really went back and forth with every scene. It’s tough to delve too deeply into character analysis when these people are based on a comic. Sure, they all have backstory, but it doesn’t hold the same qualities as say, Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul.

So what about Season 3 (and beyond)?

Well, I started watching the newest season and due to a weird timing coincidence, I missed an episode. Then, I missed another. And a third. And by the time I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that I, in fact, didn’t “miss them” at all. Watching Season 3 felt like work. Complicated math type of work. Trying to figure out and keep straight all the weird plot lines and characters and bits of commentary that “really mean something else”… 

It lost it’s entertainment value somewhere around the second episode of the season. Maybe if I had read the comic, I wouldn’t have been lost. But you know what? I just didn’t care in the end. You might feel different, especially if you like comic/superhero things. It’s a well-made show with a talented cast.

But in the end, when everything is all said and done, it’s still not my bag.

 

My rating: 6 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Spinning Man (2018)

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I read someone’s review after watching the final scene of this movie. They said that it was a thriller with no thrills. I like that – not just for the wordplay, but because that’s pretty much a dead-on way to sum up the entirety of this film.

It starts out with SO much promise. A professor (Evan Birch played by Guy Pearce) at a local university becomes a suspect in an investigation when a young woman goes missing. Even though he is “happily married” and has kids that he dotes on, the  downfall of his character is that his has a roaming eye (and over the course of the movie, we learn about other roaming body parts as well). It sounds like a great set up and it is…for the first hour of this hour and forty minute ride.

But by the time we get past the half-way point, we’re waiting. And waiting. And hoping something breaks…

Just about the time when we think we’re learning the truth behind everything, the movie ends. Yes. That abruptly. I was like “where’s the rest of the movie?” 

All three main actors (Guy Pearce, Pierce Brosnan, and Minnie Driver) cannot be faulted here. They did exactly what they were supposed to do, but it’s as if someone forgot to deliver the last chapter of the script to them.

There’s a lot of time spent making Guy Pearce look guilty of a crime that hasn’t been established yet. A girl is missing – that’s all we know for a large part of the movie. His wife sticks by him as do his kids (although they’re a little on the young side to really understand much of what is happening), but there’s enough evidence that starts to build that we, as the audience, start to question his motives and innocence as well.

It bordered on frustrating for me because, without giving anything away, there were quite a few time-jumps. During a number of scenes, it was difficult to tell exactly WHAT time period we were looking at. We’re not talking time frames like 20 years ago….we’re talking within the span of the past year or two at most. But there was enough confusion that I looked over at Charlie a few times and we BOTH said “Huh? Was that supposed to have taken place now or was this part of the earlier interaction?”

Generally speaking, it wasn’t a bad movie. If I say it’s worth watching, don’t blame me if you get to the end and feel the need to look up “spoiler ending”. And even then, it appears that no one is exactly certain of anything when it comes to what precisely happened when the credits finally rolled.

 

 

My rating: 5.5 scary heads out of 10

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Event Review – Oddities & Curiosities (2018)

This is a bit different than my usual reviews – being that this is an event and not a film or TV show.

This past weekend, we headed up to Villa Park, Illinois to the Odeum Theater and attended the Oddities and Curiosities Expo (Linky Here). It was a one-day only festival of all things weird and bizarre. It ran from 10am to 6pm and when we arrived at about 10:20am, the parking lot was close to full and the line was literally around the building already.

I had looked online to familiarize myself with what it was all about, but after attending, I think there was a serious misnomer. While there were indeed odds things (and curious things to boot), the majority of items I saw really revolved around the macabre – specifically death in all of its forms.

There are a number of things in the world that could fall under the label of odd and NOT be remotely tied to death/dismemberment/the afterlife, but for the most part, I did not find that to be the case here. I saw more heads (skulls), body parts (both fake AND real), dead animals encased in a variety of containers, and morbid bits and pieces than anything else at the show.

The vendors were nice, friendly, and willing to chat. The crowd was a real mix – both adults and kids – in all facets of dress (and undress). The vendors I was personally drawn to were what I would say represented the “one offs” – the steampunk lamps, the books and videos, the funky clothes…

I saw, but steered clear from the dead animals – not my thing at all – but there were many. Too many for my liking.

There were also live shows but we didn’t stick around to see any of them. They might have been interesting and cool, but truth be told – it was crowded and HOT and the thought of jamming in with hundreds of other sweaty people didn’t sound too appealing after spending 3 hours there already.

Overall, I’m glad we went. I saw some things I don’t think I would have experienced anywhere else (certainly not in Bloomington-Normal) and I got to meet an author that I had recently heard on a podcast and get a signed DVD from him (he does books AND DVDs). You’ll probably see him in a Meet & Greet soon!

I would recommend going to this if you like the macabre and creepy. As for me, I think once was enough.

 

 

My rating: 6 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – A Quiet Place (2018)

Linky Here

Ever since I watched The Office, I’ve been a fan of John Krasinski. He’s always come across as a good guy, competent actor, and decent human being. When this movie first came out as his directorial debut, I had nothing but high hopes.

IMDb gives this as the synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing. 

Now, when I read these blurbs, whether for movies or books, I take them to be a general overview of what I’m about to experience. I don’t, however, take them to represent the entire story. Unfortunately, that’s kind of what we get here. For an hour and thirty minutes, we spend time with this family as they go about their unusual lives in this given scenario. We don’t learn much about any of the characters (let alone their names). We can guess at the kids’ ages, but we don’t know much else.

I can recall one other ‘character’ in the movie (no, wait, two), but they don’t have much to add to the story, plot line, or outcome. We don’t know anything about the monsters (except that they have exceptional hearing) –  why are they there, how did they get to earth (if it is earth, and I’m assuming that it is), what is happening in the rest of the world, or what is their motivation for killing humans?

We also don’t know how (or why) this particular family survived when (I’m guessing) so many others did not.

The daughter (played by Millicent Simmonds) is deaf, and much of the communication between the actors/characters is done with sign language. Ms. Simmonds is actually deaf in real life, so signing was really a cool and novel approach to the story.

Emily Blunt (John’s real life wife) plays the mom, Noah Jupe plays the older son, and Cade Woodward plays the youngest child. Everyone did a believable job – they were great. I have no problem with any of the actors.

This movie fell short for me because of the plot line – what there was of one. Maybe it was supposed to be all about visuals and music. Maybe it was a representation of something much bigger. Either way, I was kind of left wanting more. A LOT more. And that left me feeling pretty empty by the end.

 

 

My rating: 5.5 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Norma Rae (1979)

Linky Here

A lot of movies from the 70s have a very distinct feel about them. I don’t know if it’s the way they were shot or the equipment itself, but films of this era have a kind of transparent cast that overshadows the entire production (but not in a bad way). Really, watch anything from about 1974 – 1980 and you’ll start to see a quality not unlike listening to vinyl records, with all the crackles and pops reminiscent of a certain period that no longer exists.

Believe it or not, I had never seen this movie until now. I had a passing idea of what it was about, but I didn’t even realize that it was based on the life of a REAL person:

Crystal Lee Sutton, the union organizer whose real-life stand on her worktable at a textile factory in North Carolina in 1973 was the inspiration for the Academy Award-winning movie.

I think I was one of “those” holdouts because sometimes I like Sally Field and sometimes I don’t. I thought the movie “Sybil” was amazing, but I detest films like “Smoky and the Bandit II”. Many times, I just find her acting to be on the abrasive side. I’m sure SHE is a fine person, but her acting abilities leave me kind of cold.

I actually felt the same thing here. I wonder how I would have perceived this movie had someone else taken the lead. The story was interesting and made me curious enough to look up information about Ms. Sutton, and the other actors were okay, if not a little overly dramatic (but then again, a number of movies played into those kind of theatrics during this time).

Beau Bridges and Ron Leibman were the other leads and did a decent job. However, Ron Leibman (who played Reuben Warshowsky, the union activist) was chewing plenty of scenery himself. It was almost a toss-up between Sally and him – who would come “unglued” and look “crazed” first.

Overall, I found it to be fairly interesting because of the way it dealt with history, unions (especially with what is happening in the U.S. these days), and factory life. I am sure there was much more to the real story, but with only an hour and fifty-four minutes, cutting corners is going to happen.

 

My rating: 6 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Thelma (2017)

Linky Here

Coming in at 116 minutes, this is a film that will stay with you long after that time has elapsed. The more I think about it, the more I grow to appreciate the layers within.

The premise LOOKS simple – a young girl beginning her first year at college (in Oslo, Norway) is having difficulty fitting in. Her strong connections to her home (mainly, her father) and upbringing seem to help at first. But as “new” and “alternative” situations crop up, her religious and strict upbringing begin to be more of a hindrance than a comfort.

Doesn’t it kind of sound like a Lifetime “coming of age” movie? Yeah, that’s what I thought too, which is why I kept pushing it down on the Netflix list. But when I finally gave in and watched the darn thing, I was more than surprised – in a good way.

I’m not going to say that the acting was amazing. It was fine in a very “Lifetime” sort of way. One of the main threads throughout the film focuses on a lesbian/coming out theme. Which is great, but it didn’t delve too deep. Come to think of it, a lot of issues and concepts in the movie weren’t necessarily presented with much background or insight. It’s possible that the director (Joachim Trier) simply didn’t have time to show everyone’s back story or perhaps he didn’t feel that it was ultimately relevant to the REAL plot. In any case, some of the more pressing themes are touched on in a rather superficial way which is probably why I equated some of this movie to a “Lifetime” script.

But, you know? Even taking all that into consideration, I really liked where the film ended up. There are twists and turns that I didn’t see coming until a few minutes before they happened. I like that. “Good guys” might not be so good, and “bad guys” might not be so bad. Maybe. It depends. And yes, I mean to waver…because that’s what this story does – it makes you wonder who is good and who is bad and who might fall into both camps at the same time.

 

My rating: 7.5 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Baskin (2015/2016)

Linky Here

Where the heck do I even start with this one? Uh, okay, I’m kind of grasping at straws here, but I’m going to warn you well in advance – if you’re not a horror fan, you might want to stop reading now. Seriously. This one even made me a little uncomfortable and I’ve sat through The Room. (yeah, that’s a joke…)

Baskin (meaning “police raid”) comes from Turkey and is noted as being a fantasy/horror film. Horror – yes, all the way. Fantasy? Well, I suppose you if want to push boundaries. If you’re into fantasy movies like Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit and go into this thinking that this will slide smoothly into those realms, you might want to reconsider.

The opening scene – a little boy gets up in the middle of the night and is seen knocking on his parent’s bedroom door. A moment passes and we watch him being summoned by a scary claw from another room. And then in the next moment, we’re in a different setting, realizing that this was only a dream of a rookie cop who has apparently been haunted by this vision for years.

Now, however, he is part of a five-man police unit who get a peculiar call one night from a location that has a questionable history. They don’t know who called them and no reason is really given. But once they arrive at said location, all hell breaks loose – literally.

Think Hostel meets Hellraiser and then throw in some weird Japanese horror for good measure. There are scenes that will offend. There are visuals that will disgust. There IS a spider moment (I had to look away). The actor who plays “Baba/The Father” (you’ll know him when you see him) actually has some type of medical condition that gives him a rather uncanny and memorable look – he did not wear any make-up or use any prosthetic during the filming of this movie. (not a judgement – just a movie tidbit/factoid)

I was really on the fence as to liking this…until the last few minutes. I don’t want to spoil anything, but when I saw it, I was like “OMG – now I get it.”

IF you go into this, be ready for weirdness. Keep an open mind. And when you’re done, watch “Seinfeld” or “King of Queens” or something funny for a palate cleanser before you go to bed.

 

 

My rating: 7 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Hereditary (2018)

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I need a pile of kittens. I need to burrow under soft, furry, friendly things for a time while I debrief from watching this two hour and seven minute slice of pandemonium.

The more I think about it, the more I can’t get over what a fantastical ride this was. I was shocked, scared, and horrified. And then it got weird.

The basic plot (I won’t spoil anything, so this is going to be brief) is that of a family whose matriarch (the mom to Toni Collette’s character, Annie), dies. The four members of the Graham family start to fall apart after the fact…in more ways than one.

I felt like a balled up fist that refused to uncurl for the entire duration of the running time. It’s that intense and it doesn’t let up. Thankfully, the director Ari Aster realizes that jump scares do NOT equal scary. There are few and they are all palatable. What is terrifying is the tension, the questioning, the bewilderment – what is real and what is not.

If you’ve seen the movie mother!  you will have a good idea what the overall feeling will be like. From the opening scene to the final cut, you’ll wonder if you were “seeing it right” and WTH just happened. You’ll go to Google. You’ll read the reviews with spoilers. You’ll want to make sure your sanity is grounded and your eyes were not playing tricks on you. And you’ll want to watch it again.

Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, and Alex Wolff are all in. They are perfect in every sense of the word. No one is phoning this one in – I believed every word, every gesture, and every expression. I’m saying it here first – Toni Collette might very well get an Oscar nod (if not more) for this one.

Go see this. If you can handle horror at it’s finest, you won’t be sorry.

(Why not 10? Because I was a tiny bit confused at the end)

 

 

My rating: 9 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Baby Driver (2017)

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Apparently, audiences who have watched this movie fall into one of two camps: Love it and watch it multiple times OR hate the very mention of its title. To be honest, I really expected to fall squarely into the latter group. I was wrong.

The plot follows said “Baby” (played by Ansel Elgort), a young man who can drive better than most NASCAR professionals. After a horrendous accident that kills his parents, he is left with a bad case of tinnitus (the reason given for his constant need to listen to music with earbuds), and some serious trust issues. Somewhere along the line, he is forced to work for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey) as a driver for bank heists.

For a while, things go well. Everyone makes money. Life appears to be palatable. Then things turn ugly…

This hour and fifty-two minute movie plays almost like a live-action cartoon. After I watched it, I wondered if this was one of those films that had originally been a graphic novel like Preacher or Constantine. It’s also a little bit crime-noir. Most of the people are really played like caricatures instead of fleshed out characters/people we care about.

All of this points to something I would generally avoid like the plague. I didn’t like Constantine. I’m easily bored with crime-noir. I don’t care for stories that I can’t really get behind.

BUT.

Yes, there is a but. Somehow, some way, this works. I don’t know if it’s because of Edgar Wright (writer and director) or because of the stars (Jon Hamm is delightful). I assume it’s a combination of both with a bit of luck thrown in. There is a laugh-out-loud moment right before the first bank job. There’s some amazing driving techniques that HAD to be near impossible to film. There are some true eye-rolling moments near the end that will have you saying “C’mon! That can’t happen!”

All in all – don’t take it seriously. It’s a fun ride for an evening of entertainment. As long as you don’t expect much more than that, you’ll be fine.

 

My rating: 7 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – The Jungle (2017)

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This movie was actually based on the true story of Israeli backpacker, Yossi Ghinsberg, who, in 1981, survived for three weeks in the Bolivian jungle without much of anything to go on.

Yossi and his friends, Kevin and Marcus, decide to follow an Austrian “geologist” to find adventure, gold, and new experiences. When the group of four splits and become pairs of two, things begin to ramp up and not in a good way.

I really can’t do this film justice by telling you how incredible the filming was. You are in the jungle with these people and nothing feels “movie-ish” or fake. There are a number of close calls where you are certain of what will happen next, but unless you know the real story (and I didn’t going in), you’ll be surprised at every turn.

It’s harrowing and disturbing and not at all what I thought it was going to be. I’ve seen “lost in the jungle” movies before, including Green Inferno and Cannibal Holocaust (yeah, I know..blech), but nothing is quite like the real thing. Daniel Radcliffe plays Yossi and I believed him. I was all in. Whether it was his acting, the plot, the intense drive of the movie, I don’t know. What I DO know is that I found this hour and fifty-five minute film to be compelling and I ended up really feeling for these characters/people/actors.

I don’t want to spoil it, but if you DO end up seeing this, by all means read the REAL posts at the end. I was shocked at what happened to some of these ‘characters’ after the main story was over. It will stay with you long after the final reel spins.

According to Wiki, “Ghinsberg’s story was also featured in the documentary series I Shouldn’t Be Alive on Discovery Channel.

 

My rating: 9 scary heads out of 10

 

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TV Show Series Review – The Terror: Season One (2018)

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There is already talk about a Season 2 and I cannot be more excited. This 10-part drama-horror-“documentary” was based on author Dan Simmons’ 2007 book of the same name about “a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to the Arctic in 1845–1848.”

Amazing. The show had me by the first commercial break and never let go. The premise is as follows: (according to Wiki)

The crews aboard the Royal Navy‘s polar explorer ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror venture into uncharted territory seeking the Northwest Passage. The ships are soon stuck, frozen and isolated, and those aboard must survive the harsh weather conditions and each other, while being stalked by an elusive menace.

There is a laundry list of characters and to be honest, it took me awhile to figure out who was who and how everything connected. There are many scenes that banter back and forth and if you look away for a moment, you might not realize what “ship” you are on and who is supposed to be “the bad guys”.

However, as the episodes ramp up, so do the tension. The audience comes to realize that there aren’t any REAL bad guys – it’s more about the environment, the deadly situation,  the unforgiving status, and the primitiveness of the time period that sets everyone on edge. These days, with communication and provisions so readily accessible, The Terror would hardly be a story worth telling. However, as a period piece, it’s riveting television.

The novel is apparently over 700 pages. There was a point during my viewing that I felt a desire to read the book, but now, I don’t know. I still might but now that I’ve seen the complete first season, that desire has been pushed to the back burner.

So WHY was this so compelling? Because from the outset, it’s real people dealing with real situations. My least favorite part is the mystical creature that comes around now and then and reeks havoc among the crew. Yeah…I didn’t really care for those scenes. Give me real hardships, tough situations, and unforeseen circumstances any day — these things can provide enough horror and dread for years to come.

It’s also fascinating that this was based on REAL LIFE. The difficulties faced are more horrific than a CGI creature. Think Donner Family coupled with madness. It’s no spoiler; it’s just life being lived right up to the brink of insanity.

How can you beat that?

 

My rating: 10 scary heads out of 10

 

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Movie Review – It Comes at Night (2017)

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The hour and thirty one minute film is billed as a horror and mystery. I knew nothing about it going in, and by the end of the running time, I still had a few unanswered questions.

We are pretty much thrown head first, like it or not, into the middle of “an environmental crisis” where people have to wear gas masks before going outside. But then, it turns out that it’s NOT the outdoor environment that’s hazardous, but rather a “sickness” that has spread to cities, and in this case, to the smaller towns. Apparently, once this sickness invades the body, your days are literally numbered.

We follow a small family (mom, dad, and son) who have basically boarded themselves up from society to keep this sickness at bay. Minutes into the movie, a man breaks into their house supposedly looking for shelter. After a bit of time, Paul, the dad, and Sarah, the wife (played by Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo, respectively), finally allow this man and HIS family (wife and young son) to live with them. This man, Will, (played by Christopher Abbott) had explained that his family is virtually out of water and have been suffering out in the forest.

The two families co-exist pretty well…for a time. About two thirds into the movie, trust issues rear their ugly head, causing everyone to start pointing fingers and wonder who’s telling the truth about being well and who may be sick.

It’s a solid film…IF you can overlook some glaring questions like:

  1. What is this “sickness” and how did it begin?
  2. Before the two families joined forces, how was Paul’s family going to survive on their own supplies? Food will run out for everyone, eventually.
  3. If Paul was REALLY that concerned about bringing outsiders into the home, why not just give Will some water and  be done with it?

 

Like I said, it was good and I did enjoy it. But I’m one of those people that would like to know how and why this crisis began – I need a good backstory and this was sorely lacking one.

 

 

My rating: 7 scary heads out of 10

 

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Movie Review – Being Evel (2015)

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I was only about 11 when Evel made his Snake River jump (or attempted to). His name was easily a household one, even in a family like mine. We were hardly what anyone would call a group of daredevils or people who lived-on-the-edge. So I went into this movie with a pretty blank slate. I knew of the man and had seen a few televised jumps, but I wasn’t exactly in the maelstrom of the Evel empire.

The documentary, “led” by Johnny Knoxville of “Jackass” fame, was a solid window into the man’s life. It didn’t sugarcoat his personality, his childhood, or his many failed attempts of motorcycle jumps throughout the 70s. The hour and thirty-nine minute film included a good number of breakaway interviews – his wife, his kids, members of his crew, sportscasters who were on-hand – as well as clips, interviews, and videos of Evel over the years.

As a viewer, you see the arc and can sympathize with a man who created an image and felt pressured to live up to being heroic long after his body refused to cooperate. His plummet into drugs/painkillers and alcohol took a devastating toll, but after putting his body and soul through such daring escapades, you can almost give the guy a pass.

I found the movie to be pretty fascinating and fairly detailed. It’s not a complete biography, but it paints a solid picture for anyone interested in Evel, his history, the 70s, or sports in general.

 

 

My rating: 8 scary heads out of 10

 

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Movie Review – LadyBird (2017)

For an hour and thirty four minutes, I watched. I waited. I hoped to be enlightened. But in the end, it didn’t happen for me. For a film that was touted to be THE movie of the year, awards and all, I was expecting to be blown out of my seat. Instead, I ambled away with a mild feeling of pleasantness, having seen some decent acting and witnessed what everyone had been talking about.

LadyBird is a “coming of age” story about a seventeen-eighteen year old girl who has aspirations which are far beyond her current standing in life. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, and Tracy Letts (and written and directed by Greta Gerwig, who has an extensive professional bio), this is a film that is well-played. Solid acting was the saving grace for me – that, and the direction were probably enough to put this up there with Shape of Water (read my review below) and a few of the other contenders.

But.

And there most certainly is a BUT.

I felt that this movie, especially the writing and scenarios, have all been done before. Juno, Ferris Bueller, Fast Times, The Breakfast Club…heck, even Stand By Me to some degree all did the “angsty teen” thing better than LadyBird.

I wasn’t surprised by anything that happened. I wasn’t shown anything “new”. I didn’t even care for the main character as I found her to be annoying and mean. I know – she was “drawn that way” for the big REVEAL and COMEUPPANCE  at the end.

Yeah…been there, done that. Not a bad way to spend an hour and a half, but I’m still baffled as to what all the fuss is about.

 

 

My rating: 5.5 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Christine (2016)

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I don’t think most people are going to confuse THIS movie with Stephen King’s 1983 classic horror film of the same name, about a killer car. By all means, this movie, based loosely on the life of Christine Chubbuck, a television reporter in Sarasota, Florida, has little to none in common with the fictitious frights of the King empire. The terrifying moments we experience here are far too real.

Christine Chubbuck (played by Rebecca Hall) suffered from depression, and that’s only the beginning. As the film portrays her (I’m only going from this as I have not read much else about this woman), she is fanatic and completely driven for her supervisor to notice her work. She seeks praise in everything she does and strives for perfection. She also has a one-sided crush on one of her co-workers (George, played by Michael C. Hall), and when she realizes that her feelings will not be reciprocated, it throws her farther off the deep end.

Coming in at just under two hours, her story is told slowly and methodically. There is a build-up, but the audience is forced to be patient. The first 90 minutes is pure character development. We see Christine as she struggles in work, in her personal life, dealing with a health issue, and in her attempts at starting a relationship. We get to know some of her co-workers. We understand, from an outsider’s perspective, how the media seeks to promote anything outrageous in order to keep viewers in their seats and tuned into their program (even if it is the news). We also learn that sometimes, the people who “own” us have no real interest in what our end game is.

In other words – there’s a lot of ground to cover before the “twist” at the end. If you’ve read anything about Ms. Chubbuck, you know what’s coming. It’s not a spoiler since this happened almost 48 years ago – and anyone with access to microfilm, Google, or a journalism history book can be up to speed in a matter of minutes. However, it’s still a compelling story and I would recommend this film to anyone with an average attention span. Think “Network” (1976), but more dire and realistic.

 

My rating: 7 scary heads out of 10

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Series Review – The Handmaid’s Tale: Season One (2017 – )

The original story, written by Margaret Atwood in 1985, follows Offred, a handmaiden (in literal biblical terms) as she fends for her life and her sanity in a world that has changed. The United States is now Gilead, a totalitarian society run by men and for men – women are now considered property.

If the premise sounds a little far-fetched, you might be surprised at how natural and realistic the whole government takeover is portrayed. It doesn’t happen with special effects or CGI weaponized robots. It’s much more subtle – and that’s what makes it hit pretty close to home. When a bunch of fundamentalist religious (and wealthy) men decide they want to run the world, they make it happen, and in today’s society, it’s not so hard to imagine that kind of reality.

Elisabeth Moss is Offred, Joseph Fiennes is Commander Waterford, and Yvonne Strahovski is Serena Joy Waterford – our “nuclear family”. If there was any hint of phoning it in, none of this would have worked. But these actors are on point from the very beginning. You feel the fear. You sense the tension. You believe it can happen.

This isn’t the kind of show where you can multi-task through each episode. Every bit of dialogue has a purpose and each scene is played to perfection. From the hundreds of books in the Commander’s office (books are banned elsewhere) to the muted tones of the other female servants (most likely to have them blend into the background -as they are ‘unimportant’ as non-childbearing females), everything means SOMETHING.

I read the book and I watched the 1990 film adaptation. Even though both were, of course, amazing in their own right, it had always made me want more. I wanted to delve deeper into this insanity that was called Gilead. Why and how did people let this happen – and could it happen here?

Riveting. Biting. Poignant. Important for our time.

 

 

My rating: 9 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – The Shape of Water (2017)

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This 2 hours and 3 minute film won best picture for 2017.

It was good. It was entertaining. It had a very retro feel to it; a sense that hearkens back to movies of a more stylized period. But was it Oscar-worthy? In a word – no. And I don’t say that lightly.

Director Guillermo del Toro certainly is no stranger to credits and well-deserved praise. He can count The Hobbit, The Devil’s Backbone, and Pan’s Labyrinth among his work – all artistic endeavors that are amazing on a number of levels.

But does The Shape of Water deserve to play in that world? As with most movies, it’s going to come down to a matter of opinion. When it comes to art of any kind, subjectivity rules the day.

At its core, the story follows a mute woman who works as a night cleaner for an aquarium/research facility. As she exists in a rather dull and monotonous day-to-day existence, her world suddenly opens up when an “unusual creature” is brought into her workplace. She forms almost an instant bond with this specimen, despite the danger it might cause for everyone involved.

Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, and Octavia Spencer (the main leads) do an incredible job of convincing us that what is happening on the screen is, indeed, real. It’s a tale (fish-tale?) that requires us to suspend our beliefs and just go with it. And with these people at the helm, we can and we do.

However – there’s something missing. In the overall arch of the film, there’s a sense of pretend and play and a feeling of LARGER THAN LIFE that takes us out of the moment and plants us firmly back on terra firma. Yes, it’s a fantasy. Yes, it’s all fiction – as most movies are. But if a film is going to win best picture of the year, I want it to be able to transcend all that.

In 2014, Twelve Years a Slave won best picture. In 2013, Argo won. In 2011, The King’s Speech won. These are examples of the kind of pictures that have gravitas. While The Shape of Water was entertaining in a retro-big Hollywood kind of way, it didn’t have enough weight behind it.

 

 

My rating: 6.5 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

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Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell star in this pretty amazing and very believable story about a mother, whose daughter was brutally murdered, seeking justice from a police department that has yet to catch the killer.

Bear in mind – it’s an hour and fifty five minute slow paced drama. There are no special effects, no explosions, no car chases (which is fine by me – I generally prefer my movies to be void of such things). It’s dialogue heavy and mostly follows the one plot line. There are a few minor sub-plots (such as the ex-husband dating a 19-year-old), but those aren’t given much in the way of screen time.

We get to know all the main characters (and a few supporting ones), but what really drives the movie is the acting. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if “lesser” actors played these roles, the movie would have been a yawn-fest. But lucky for us, the casting was spot on and is what made this work. It was one of the films nominated for an Academy Award (and deservedly so).

There really isn’t much to spoil, but there is a bit of a twist toward the end which cranks up the suspense. After I watched this, I wondered if this was based on real events. I could really see something like this happening. Perhaps it will give someone out there a few ideas, if they have enough money to invest in renting billboards for a year.

A great, solid film that shows people as they really are.

 

 

My rating: 8 scary heads out of 10

 

 

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Movie Review – The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

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The Lobster. mother!, Neon Demon… all of these movies have a similar feel – like we are watching something a bit unworldly, something a little off center, something that doesn’t feel quite right. The Killing of a Sacred Deer falls right in line with these others. There is a tone that approaches realism but it veers away at just the right moments, leaving the audience uncertain and for some, uncomfortable.

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (who also directed The Lobster) has an eye and ability to tell us a story in a quirky and an almost in-your-face cadence between characters.

According to Google:

Dr. Steven Murphy is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon who presides over a spotless household with his wife and two children. Lurking at the margins of his idyllic suburban existence is Martin, a fatherless teen who insinuates himself into the doctor’s life in gradually unsettling ways. Soon, the full scope of Martin’s intent becomes menacingly clear when he confronts Steven with a long-forgotten transgression that will shatter his domestic bliss forever.

While we follow Colin Farrell (as Dr. Murphy) as his life peels apart and his family begins to pay the price for some past sins, we can’t help but wonder WHY HIM? When the reveal happens, you’re still “kind of” wondering WHY and HOW and who is Martin?

However, the dialogue is stilted, the actions (or reactions in some cases) aren’t what you might expect REAL people to do (or put up with), and some of the behaviors are a little hard to swallow.

At 2 hours and 1 minute, it’s a bit of a long ride. If you liked The Lobster (and I did. Didn’t LOVE it, though), you’ll probably enjoy this one. BUT (and it’s a strong but…), there isn’t a lot of comedic moments here. It’s dark and poignant and may leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Yes, I understand that this is a “different” kind of movie – the kind where metaphors and hidden meanings and representation are at the core – but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

 

My rating: 5.5 scary heads out of 10

 

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Movie Review – The Monster (2016)

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Oh, dear.

Where do I begin to tell the story of a movie that wanted to tell two stories simultaneously yet ended up dragging us through a 91 minute slogfest? I suppose the beginning is the best place to start, but as far as this venture goes, I don’t think it’s going to matter all that much.

Lizzie, a young girl (about 11 – her age wasn’t mentioned as far as I knew) had apparently planned to see her dad for the weekend. Her alcoholic mom was supposed to drive her to his house, but since the trip was going to take some time, they had agreed to leave early in the morning. However, by the time the mom wakes from her stupor/hangover, it’s evening before the two actually set out.

On the way, they hit a wolf that had run out in front of the car from a forest/wooded area. Cue the heavy rains. Cue the engine stalling. Cue something growling in the trees. Add in a number of worried looks and lots of unanswered questions.

The dialogue between the two main characters (Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine, playing Kathy and Lizzie, respectively) is painfully trite and does nothing to endear us to them or their situation. We are also privy to flashbacks that only show how horrible the young girl’s life was with an alcoholic mother and a verbally abusive father. Even though the parents have divorced, Lizzie’s life pretty much still sucks, so why is she so determined to go live with/visit/stay with her dad?

When the monster shows up and the two women are trying to comfort each other, we don’t really care. We don’t know enough about them to be worried other than the usual trope of monster=bad / people=good. A handful of other characters are thrown in just so the monster has something to chew on while we wait to see what happens between the women (which doesn’t add up to much).

All in all, I found it boring and that was even with a few mild jump scares thrown in the mix. If you’ve never seen a movie with people trapped in a car for an extended period of time telling each other to be quiet and that everything is going to be “okay”, then this should fill that void. Otherwise, take a hard pass.

 

My rating: 2.5 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Nerve (2016)

I’ve never  been a millennial. I didn’t grow up with and around computers. Texting/instagram/whatever else is the app of the day is, is not common knowledge to me. However, I’m quite aware that technology can be all-encompassing with large swaths of today’s youth. And in this vein, I found Nerve to be a novel take from the usual “teen horror” movie tropes of the past.

Nerve throws us right into the action. There’s an online game/app called “Nerve” that’s basically an extreme version of Truth or Dare (but without the truth part). If you partake, you are either a Watcher or a Player. The Watchers determine what the player’s dare will be, how long they have to do it, and how much money they will receive if the dare is completed. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but the dares get more “intense” as the game goes on.

Vee (played by Emma Roberts) and Ian (Dave Franco) are the two main characters we follow as their dares increase, both in danger and monetary gain. There are some twists that we learn later on, but because the characterizations of the entire cast is rather shallow and one-note, we kind of don’t care.

But that’s okay! With a movie like this (as well as Saw, Hostel, etc.), we don’t have to know the backstory of these people. We don’t need to know all the specifics. Little bits of information are dropped in here and there during short exchanges between the characters, and that’s good enough. We understand early on who we are supposed to be rooting for during the hour and thirty-six minute run time. It’s more about the next dare…and if they are willing to do it.

Is this a great movie? Not really. Is the acting amazing? Can’t say it is. But is it a fun ride into the minds of today’s teens and how social media and the need for popularity can be problematic? Sure.

 

My rating: 6.5 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – The Neighbor (2018)

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There are a LOT of movies with some variation of this title, so if you go searching for some information, make sure you’re checking out the correct one.

For this review, I’ll be talking about the one directed by Aaron Harvey and starring William Fichtner from Prison Break fame. If you’re still not sure, this is the movie that received a 4.7 on IMDb, which I found to be pretty accurate, so, yeah…it’s that one.

The plot is pretty simple and follows a general LifeTime Channel excursion for all the characters involved. A new young couple move into a house which is right next door to an older (50-somethings) couple with a college-aged son. The young wife doesn’t work and spends a lot of time at home playing in and around the pool, wearing the shortest of shorts, and making eyes at Mike (the character played by William F.).

Mike, supposedly in the throes of a mid-life crisis, starts to fantasize about his new neighbor at the same time taking a harsh dislike to her husband (who is, truthfully, a bit of a tool and an blow-hard).

I don’t think it’s tough to see where all this is heading…but, the problem is, it doesn’t. It doesn’t go there. Instead, Mike’s wife (the only one who appears to have a real job in this film) kicks him out of the house based solely on his “apparent interest” in the neighbor.

But nothing happened!

Ug. Okay, I won’t “spoil” it for those who want to see this. If you want to sit through an hour and forty five minute “thriller” – and I am using that term loosely here – then by all means, do so.

I will warn you though. There’s a LOT of screen time spent on Mike looking pensive, thinking with a furrowed brow, thinking withOUT a furrowed brow, peeking out windows, staring into space, etc. For a guy who is supposedly going through a crisis, there’s not a great deal of drama and theatrics.

The final minutes are pretty much the only reason I’m giving it this high of a rating. Your mileage may vary.

 

My rating: 4 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – All the Way (2016)

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Politics is not my bag. Now, before any judgements are passed, I do have my personal opinions on various matters and if pressed, I would say that I’m an independent. However, I believe pretty strongly in certain things. For example, I believe that all people should have the right to vote, to get a job (if they are qualified), to eat wherever they want, etc.

That being said, this movie presents a time when it these rights were not accepted by the majority. Apparently, there were laws preventing such things – which still baffles me, but okay – it’s history.

All the Way follows LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson) as he takes over after JFK (John Kennedy) was shot in 1963. He moves from Vice President to President (and ultimately wins the next year’s election) at a very tumultuous time in our country’s history. Civil rights, riots, the inklings of the Viet Nam War – everything seemed to fall at his feet at the same time.

Bryan Cranston takes the lead role and runs with it. He’s a great actor and slipped into this “character” like it was an easy transition. (I imagine it wasn’t!) I personally wasn’t around during the actual LBJ days but I’m assuming that he did the man justice.

The film comes in at just over two hours, but for me, the time flew by. I was never bored and it never felt I was sitting through a classroom history lesson. I guess if you actually lived through this time period as an adult, you might be able to catch some ‘goofs’ or places where the movie took liberties with what really happened. But, from where I was coming from, I had no problems with any part of it. It made me want to know more.

 

My rating: 9 scary heads out of 10

 

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Movie Review – Good Time (2017)

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I spent a few hours trying to come up with the name of that contraption that I thought would be the perfect analogy for this movie. Rube Goldberg. That’s it. He was a cartoonist who drew complicated ‘mechanical-type’ devices that end up doing the most mundane or routine things.

By Rube Goldberg – Originally published in Collier’s, September 26 1931, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9886955

 

While that’s a bit of cool trivia, what in the world does this have to do with the movie? Well, that’s where it all comes together. The film follows two brothers (Connie and Nick, played by Robert Pattinson and Benny Safdie) who, in an attempt to rob a bank, end up botching the whole thing. Nick ends up in prison and then soon after, the hospital, and Connie spends much of the running time trying to get his brother out from said places.

The hour and forty-one minutes goes by at a decent clip. While none of the characters are very likable (and this includes the supporting ones as well), the scenes move along which keeps the energy and pacing at an engaging level.

The most annoying thing about the plot comes right at the beginning. Nick, who has some kind of disorder (we aren’t really sure what his official diagnosis is), is shown in a therapist’s office, possibly going through a significant breakthrough. Just as the doctor (?) is about to delve further into his patient’s emotional turmoil, Connie (the brother) busts through the door and drags him away, telling him he doesn’t need to be there.

It made me pretty angry. The only reason for Connie’s obnoxious behavior was out of pure selfishness. He wanted his brother’s help in robbing the bank so they could leave the area. We are supposed to feel compassion for them, brothers wanting to stick together beyond all odds, but the only sense of compassion I felt was toward Nick. Connie, aptly named, was a conman from the get go.

If you like crime, gritty stories, and a bit of comeuppance, you’ll like this one.

 

My rating: 7 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – The Mountain Between Us (2017)

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This hour and fifty-two minute film is pegged as an action/adventure/drama, but I have serious reservations with those labels. To make matters worse, Idris Elba and Kate Winslet (the two main stars), two credible actors in their own rights, have to carry this cringe-worthy script to its predictable and pathetic climax. Needless to say, I wasn’t amused.

The story is one we’ve seen a thousand times before – two people who are characteristically opposites find true love by managing to survive through a disaster together. It’s fine if it’s done well. Sadly (or in this case, comically), it is not.

After a small chartered plane crashes in the mountains, we are left with Ben (a surgeon from London), Alex (a photographer/journalist), and an adorable dog (named Dog – don’t get me started), for most of the running time. We are supposed to feel their anguish, their fear, and their pain as they trek through the treacherous landscape in order to find humanity again, yet the only things I felt were disbelief that someone, somewhere, let this script be made into a movie that cost 35 million dollars.

Their affect was flat. The dialogue bordered on comical – a far cry from the fear and trepidation they were supposed to be feeling. I didn’t sense one bit of chemistry between these two, even after they supposedly ‘fell in love’.

And the pivotal sex scene? No – just…no. Painful to watch and impossible to believe. I actually yelled “stop it!” at the screen and scared one of my cats from the couch.

Not for one moment did I believe the tension or feel that they were in any real kind of danger. The characters themselves made light of pretty much every situation that they found themselves in. The whole thing was a mess from the beginning, which is really too bad because it could have been a decent movie if others had directed/written it with a more believable hand.

 

My rating: 2 scary heads out of 10

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Podcast Review – Stuff You Should Know

Charles (Chuck) Bryant and Josh Clark are co-hosts of a long-running podcast with said title. The show is under the umbrella of How Stuff Works, the mega-hit entity which houses 16 other educational/entertainment podcasts. In the case of SYSK, the guys do a twice-a-week drop of new episodes from topics ranging from animals to politics to mysteries from the 1920s, and so much more.

The shows run anywhere from 30 minutes to almost an hour with a few “ad” breaks (like most podcasts do nowadays), but the time just flies. These two guys have been together for almost the entire run of the show, which was at 1,045 episodes as of November, 2017.  The podcast began in 2008 with Josh and another writer from How Stuff Works. Chuck came along soon after and they’ve never looked back.

It’s informative and hilarious at the same time. Both Josh and Chuck started as staff writers at How Stuff Works and now, from what I can surmise, they are “podcasters proper”. They tour throughout the U.S. (going in May to see them!) and have done international trips as well.

Below is the link to the Wiki episode guide. It doesn’t matter where you begin. Start now and work your way backwards or begin with show #1. They’re funny. They’re great. You’ll learn stuff.

My rating: 10 scary heads out of 10

(LINKY)

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Book Review – Horror Show by Greg Kihn (1996)

 

 

I was lucky (?) enough to have started college in August 1982, which was one year after MTV launched. (Yes, that makes me 53 for all you math wizards). I mention this because it was MTV was the catalyst for much of my knowledge regarding 80s music.

And if you were around in the 1980s and were into pop music of the day, you might be familiar with a man named Greg Kihn. He was the front man (and name sake) for a band that had been around since 1976. (The Greg Kihn Band)

Although I preferred the 50s and 60s, the music scene of the 1980s was heavily influenced by the video culture and visa-versa. And, generally speaking, the college years tend to be tightly wrapped into the music-of-the-day’s bed sheets. You couldn’t get away from it, even if you wanted to – Prince, Madonna, Robert Palmer, Michael Jackson, Huey Lewis, and Men at Work (just to name a few) – were EVERYWHERE.

So, what’s Mr. Kihn have to do with this? I mean, he had a couple of stand out hits during the early 80s  like Jeopardy and The Break-Up Song (also known as They Don’t Write Them Like That Anymore), but what does that have to do with writing, let alone horror?

Maybe you already know. But I was shocked to find out that not only is this 68 year old guy a musician and radio personality, but he is a writer as well.

A HORROR writer.

Naturally, I went to Amazon and ordered his book, Horror Show (1996).

Horror Show, by Greg Kihn, tells the story of Landis Woodley, a B-movie director from the 50s who would do anything in order to make a scary movie – the weirder, the better. When the reader first encounters him, it is in the present day. In order to nab the “real” story about a film-gone-wrong, a young journalist named Clint Stockbern, has come to Landis’s home for an interview with the now-reclusive director.

This sets us up to revert back to the 1950s for much of the rest of the book. We follow Landis and his crew as they crawl their way from B-movie status to B-movie lifestyle and back again. The last few chapters throw us back into present day with some wrap up and answers to questions. (no spoilers)

If you’ve ever watched old bad horror movies from the 50s and 60s, you might appreciate the path that Mr. Kihn has laid out in this 350 page novel. The characters were fairly believable, which was good since we spend a large portion of the time with them. The overall plot was nicely done as well. There was a good build up, so by the time they are making the pinnacle movie (and all that happens during it), I found myself “buying in”.

There are a few subplots which tie in and for the most part, I found them to work well within the confines of the main plot. There are a large number of secondary characters, so if you read it, pay close attention, especially during the first third of the novel.

Having said all that, I have to say that I found the writing itself to be a little…pedestrian? Is that fair? As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but think that this was very much someone’s first effort. Now, I am in NO position to PASS JUDGEMENT on someone else’s writing ability. I mean, seriously – I had to pull one of my own books and am re-doing it.

However, I found a good chunk of this book to be repetitive. He mentions the same qualities of his characters over and over and over again. In some of the chapters, I had the distinct feeling that I was reading the same passages twice or three times…because it felt like I was looking at the exact same wording that I had read earlier in the book.

I also didn’t really like any of the characters. I was interested in what happened because the plot made me want to see what the outcome would be. But I never found myself rooting for anyone in particular. While that can be fine (characters certainly don’t have to be likable for me to enjoy a book), I was hoping that I could at least care about one of them. And to be honest…nope. I didn’t. I’m glad I finished it to see what happened, but if there were a sequel to this book with some of the same characters, I don’t think I’d be on board.

Overall, I’m glad I read it. It was interesting to see a rock and roll guy try his hand at writing horror. That alone should make you consider reading it. But, if you’re looking for real horror that will make you keep your lights on and your doors locked, you might want to take a pass on this one.

 

My rating: 4 Scary Heads out of 10.

 

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Movie Review – Eat My Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words (2016)

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I’m not a Zappa fan. Having watched this hour and thirty-three minute “docu-bio-in depth” look into his music/performances/interviews, I can say with certainty that I’m still not a fan.

The man might have been talented, smart, witty, and shameless, but most of what I saw come across during the snippets of interviews and clips focused on a person who defined the words presumptuous, arrogant, and egotistical. Now, it’s true – I’m basing my opinions on the movie. I don’t know much more than what was presented, but after hearing what his music consisted of, I think I’m good.

I can’t really judge the movie because it was literally clips stuck together – interviews, performances, talking to a variety of people – so, you can’t really critique someone simply living their life, even if it is on camera. However, his persona (what I am assuming is the  REAL Frank Zappa) came across as pretty abrasive and condescending.

Maybe I am not his “target audience”. That’s fine. I’m sure there are plenty of people who found his work to be incredible (in a good way), but I don’t consider myself in that particular crowd. Your mileage may vary.

 

 

My rating: 4 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Neon Demon (2016)

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Art House. Those are the words that will come to my mind whenever anyone mentions this movie to me in the future. Not that it’s a bad thing…necessarily…but in this case, it walks a fine line, sometimes tripping over itself to be daring.

The story follows Jesse, a sixteen year old girl who moves to Los Angeles in order to enter the modeling world. She finds the competition and everyone surrounding it to be rather aggressive. The one young man who comes across as a decent guy gets quickly kicked to the curb.

There really isn’t a likeable person in the entire film (with the exception of Dean, the young man we meet early on). It’s like spending 1 hour and 58 minutes with that one clique from high school who thought they were better than everyone else. Condescension and snobbery are the watchwords of the day here, and while I understand that this is probably LOOSELY based on the real world of modeling, the characters are hateful and spiteful and I found myself rooting for something bad to happen to them.

This is marketed as a horror/thriller, yet to me, it is neither horror nor thriller. There’s a short bit of gore in a final scene, but there really isn’t anything in its run time that would make this appear on a horror lover’s list of must-see films. And as far as categorizing this as a thriller? Aren’t thrillers supposed to be edge-of-your-seat experiences? Or, at the very least, provide some tense moments? Instead, I found this to be a challenge in trying not to look at my phone while the movie was on.

Elle Fanning is Jesse and while she does a good job, it just wasn’t enough. It’s Art House at its best, and a theatrical design/lighting/atmosphere study at its worst. It just wasn’t my bag.

 

My rating: 4 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – The Graduate (1967)

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I don’t exactly remember the first time I saw this film, but I assume that I’ve seen it at least two dozen times so far. To me, this is the perfect movie – the dialogue, the music, the acting – every moment, every nuance, every scene is utter perfection.

The plot is well known by now. Ben, a recent college graduate, has an affair with one of his parent’s friends, yet ends up in love with the friends’ daughter. Say what you will about Dustin Hoffman (and all the accusations that have been recently flying around), but he was absolutely incredible in this role. Mr. Hoffman can be subtle; but his inner turmoil and disillusions with the world around him are not only felt by the audience, but palpably resonate in each scene.

There are brushes of humor, but I don’t see this as a comedy. To me, The Graduate is all drama with perhaps a passing nod to a comic relief moment or two. One of my favorite “funny moments” happens when Ben tells his parents that he plans to marry Elaine (the daughter). Ben’s mom’s (played by Elizabeth Wilson) reaction is priceless. The extreme contrast to Ben’s monotone delivery is fantastic.

And Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson? Well, what can one say? There is no one else who could have done that part justice. No one.

This is a movie where timing is critical. Every line, every mannerism needs to happen in such as way as to convey certain meaning. If someone overplayed a character or lingered too long on a particular line, it wouldn’t have been as effective. William Daniels, Katherine Ross, Buck Henry – everyone went above and beyond.

Having an affair is looked upon as taboo in our society, so having a movie revolve around such behavior might make the two people involved come across as ‘bad’, ‘wrong’, or ‘evil’. But both Ben and Mrs. Robinson show AND tell us WHY they chose to engage in this behavior, and it was far from ‘having fun’. It provides us an in-depth look at personal pain, loneliness, desperation, the need for purpose, and escapism.

If you haven’t seen this incredible masterpiece, do it. Now. Don’t wait. Don’t say ‘you’ll get around to it sometime’. Do it now.

 

My rating: 10 scary heads out of 10

 

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Movie Review – Take Me to the River (2015)

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Sometimes, when a movie ends and your left with a vague feeling about what you just witnessed, it doesn’t work. It leaves you with an unfinished and unrequited sense of loss. This movie, however, managed to stay vague in some of what I would consider, the most crucial of details, but somehow, pulls it off.

Logan Miller, Robin Weigert, and Josh Hamilton star in Matt Sobel’s film about a gay teenager from California who goes to a family reunion in Nebraska. It’s very apparent that the Nebraska side of the family is not as open-minded about such things as the LGBTQIA community, and after one of those “vague” moments, emotional walls are put up and thick lines in the sand are drawn.

This is most certainly a character-driven story. We are shown scenes of people staring, thinking, looking at one another – but it’s not boring. In each of these moments, we as the audience aren’t “waiting” for something to happen, but instead, feeling what these characters are going through. Some of the best moments, however, happen when tensions and conflicts are at their highest – when family confronts family – and rest assured, it’s painful and uncomfortable to witness. But  THOSE moments make me forgive some of the “vague subtleties” that happen toward the end of the film.

No spoilers here, as usual, but the last five minutes, “things” are explained. Well, maybe explained is not accurate. Hinted at. Yes, that’s better. Vaguely hinted at. It’s still a solid hour and twenty-four minutes.

My rating: 7.5 scary heads out of 10

 

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Movie Review – The Founder (2016)

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I love retro stuff. If you snoop around the blog long enough, you could have probably figured that out for yourself. If not, and you’re just passing through, let me share that very real fact with you – I do love it. I collect old advertising, radios from the 40s and 50s, and even a few “more affordable” clocks from back in the day.

So, when this movie popped onto my radar, I was already on board. It’s the story of Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s. It begins in 1954, when Ray was a small-time traveling salesman pitching his wares to uninterested restaurant owners and follows him as he meets the two brothers who would eventually change his life (and subsequently, the life of many others).

Michael Keaton stars at the titular character, supported by the likes of Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch, two fantastic actors were really were on their game for this film.

The movie might have taken some liberties with actual events (I can’t speak to that since I haven’t read Ray Kroc’s biography), but from the first scene, I found it mesmerizing. I don’t even eat at McDonald’s (anymore), but it’s an entity that most people in our culture (and beyond) are at least familiar with and it’s certainly a place that I grew up with.

Every shot drips with nostalgia. There’s comedy, tragedy, drama – it really has it all. And I have to assume that at least most events depicted were fairly close (if not spot on) to real life. At the end of the movie, there are photos of the REAL people – Ray Kroc, the McDonald Brothers, etc. That alone is worth watching the hour and fifty-five minute Hollywood take on the most well-known fast food restaurant/industry/entrepreneur in the world.

 

My rating: 9 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

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It’s pretty tough to say anything against a film that’s been a staple for the American viewing audience for 70 years. So, I won’t. This is an incredible movie that, while dated to some degree, still holds up and will probably continue to do so for the next 70 years and beyond.

For a running time of 1 hour and 36 minutes, even repeated viewings tend to fly by. It doesn’t matter if you watch it every year, know every scene, can repeat every line – it’s a delight.

If you are somehow unfamiliar, the premise of the film follows a divorcee, Doris Walker (played by Maureen O’Hara) and her 8-year-old daughter, Susan (played by Natalie Wood). Doris works for Macy’s Department store and is in charge of the annual Christmas parade (among other things). When the man who is supposed to play the pinnacle role is found to be drunk, a “stand-by” Kris Kringle (played by Edmund Gwenn) volunteers to take over. So convincing is he as Santa Claus, the department store hires him to continue the charade through the season. However, when the question arises – is he the REAL Santa Claus or just “a nice old man with whiskers” – everyone begins taking sides.

It’s such a smartly made film, it’s hard to find any problems with it. Sure, there’s a little bit of sexism and ageism. Yes, there’s some ‘old school’ ways of thinking. But for 1947, it actually presents some very forward concepts: A lead character (a woman) who is divorced; a well-adjusted child from a ‘broken home’; a woman who holds a very high level position in a company. These were not your normal 40s tropes.

One year earlier, It’s a Wonderful Life, depicted Mary (Donna Reed, lead, opposite George Bailey played by Jimmy Stewart) as a stay-at-home-wife/mother with four kids – even though she went to college. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – it’s just a different take on two strong women from movies in the 40s.

Anyway – if you haven’t seen this movie – do it. Take time out from your holiday craziness and take a trip back in time to 1947. It will renew your belief in the impossible, the goodness of people, the kindness of strangers, and the hope inside us all.

My rating: 9 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

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With voices like Louis C.K. (yeah, I know…), Eric Stonestreet, Albert Brooks, and Dana Carvey (just to name a few), this animated feature, coming in at 1 hour and 30 minutes, definitely has some great moments. Is it as clever as say, the first viewing of A Bug’s Life or Despicable Me? Kinda close, but not quite.

The story is simple. As the title implies, the story is supposed to show what (can) happen to pets after pet owners leave for the day. The plot takes the audience through the life of a number of animals (some pets, some not) during a “work shift” of the main dog’s (Max) owner.

For adults, it’s going to be a fairly predictable outcome, which is fine. I knew, of course, going in, that the target audience was kids (probably under the age of 12). But, the commercials looked pretty cute, so I saw it. And you know what? There were some adorable scenes. There were also a couple of funny  laugh-out-loud scenes. There was also quite a bit of violence and “mayhem” for a kid’s movie. And, to be honest, it felt long. And when an animated film for kids feels long (and it’s a first time watch), something is amiss.

There were a number of times when the movie could have “wrapped up nicely”. . . but it kept going. There were also a few times when scenes felt “added in” to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the running time – and that’s never a good sign. I would probably recommend parents run through the film first, because, like I said, there’s some unexpected violence that, for a showing like this, even caught me a little off-guard.

Overall, I’m glad I saw it, but if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t have been a “big miss”.

My rating: 5 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Fences (2016)

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There’s a lot of good things to say regarding a movie such as this one. With stars like Denzel Washington and Viola Davis at the helm, you know you’re in for a quality film. At two hours and nineteen minutes, you also know you’re going to be covering a lot of ground.

The story revolves around an African-American father (Denzel Washington playing the part of Troy Maxson) trying to do his best for his family during the 1950s. He works as a garbage man, but had dreams of becoming a professional baseball player. Unfortunately, when black athletes were “allowed” into the major leagues, he was regarded as too old to play. Because of this, he turned bitter and hard against the world.

Fences was originally written as a play in 1983 by August Wilson. According to the IMDb page, “In 1987, the play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.” The five main characters/actors who were in the play, recreated their roles for the film in 2016.

Overall, it’s a solid film. The acting is amazing and the subjects that are covered (racial tensions, being poor, family expectations) are important for all of us, regardless of our own upbringing.

However… my opinion of Fences as a FILM, is probably going to put some folks off. I thought the movie dragged. I found myself checking the clock after the first 90 minutes and I can say that I don’t mind a long movie – if it holds my attention. This didn’t.

It’s a delicate call to make because I know that, especially in our current climate in the states, no one wants to offend anyone else. And believe me, that’s NOT my intention AT ALL. I am only stating how I viewed this work as a MOVIE and not how I feel about the issues that were central to the film’s core.

To me, it was too much like a play. Before seeing this, I didn’t know that it was taken from that format and put to celluloid. That might have changed my perspective if I had known that ahead of time. But, seeing it as I did, I found the movie to be too long, too ‘set in one place’, and too repetitive. Again, that doesn’t speak to the talent and cinematography, but as a movie, I thought it was just “okay”.

 

My rating: 5.5 scary heads out of 10

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TV Show Review – Stranger Things (Season One) (2016)

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Am I proud that I binged watched the entire 8 episodes of Stranger Things (Season 1) in two days? Well, I guess it gives me a little street/geek cred, but you know…I could have done a lot worse than to give almost 8 hours to a single show that’s this good.

For the record, I am a Baby Boomer. I’ve had to defend that label to others who, for whatever reason, refuse to believe that being born in 1964 DOES INDEED qualify a person to hold that “credential”. As I have read, Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 — therefore, I am proud to say that, yes, I can claim to be a hippie of sorts.

Why is this important? Because this show (I’m referring to the first season during this review) starts in November 1983. So, for my money, this show’s target audience is probably Gen X (the folks who were born between 1965 and 1976). This group most likely has more coming-of-age/fond memories of the 1980’s than I do, although, since I was alive during this time, I still recognize a large portion of the social cues/music/background/culture that is so prevalent throughout the show.

With that being said, I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about Stranger Things. So, finally, I saw it. This season’s premise revolves around the town and the people of Hawkins, Indiana. After one of the main characters (a 12-year-old boy) goes missing, the town goes on high alert. At the same time, the Hawkins National Laboratory is suddenly taking center stage. Are the two related? Is there a link, and if so, what is it? Good? Bad? Both?

There’s much to consider. Abductions, paranormal activity, clandestine scientific experiments, parallel universes (the Upside Down), and psychokinetic abilities. While these tropes are weaved in and around the story lines, the audience is also privy to other, more grounded goings-on such as relationships, teen-angst, bullying, divorce, the “nerd/AV club” group of kids — like I said, there’s a LOT going on from the first scene to the last. This isn’t a show that you can really have on in the background while you play with your phone. You have to pay attention because the characters are many and the details are plentiful.

It’s a fast 8 hours – that, I can promise you. The only character/actor I didn’t care for is Wynona Ryder. She’s played in other movies, of course, and I found her to be ‘alright’, but in this show? I find her out of place, annoying, and too young to for the part. She might actually BE the age she’s supposed to be playing, but I just couldn’t get behind it. I found her acting “forced” and “too contrived”. Everyone else was fine – heck, even the kids were great (which is important since they really carry much of the show), but her? Not really. Your opinion may differ, but I’m standing pretty firm on this point.

I’m looking forward to Season Two (which is not currently available on Netflix disc delivery). I’ll probably end up binging it as well, which is no problem. A good show like this is worth it. I won’t spoil anything here, but to me, this show is a strong mix of E.T (1982), Stand By Me (1986), Super 8 (2011), and a dab of X-Files thrown in. Again, not my usual go-to, but it’s solid programming and interesting as heck.

My rating: 7.5 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Colonia (The Colony) (2015)

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After I read this movie’s synopsis, I have to say that I wasn’t expecting to like it. To me, it smacked of “espionage thriller” which probably meant lots of gun play and car chases and a bunch of testoterone-laden bro-types exchanging “snarky quips” — everything that is NOT up my alley.

Boy, was I wrong. And boy, was I glad to be wrong.

This incredible film, coming in at an hour and forty-six minutes, which features Emma Watson, Daniel Bruhl, and Michael Nyqvist, is beyond riveting. It tells the story of an uprising that takes place in Cuba in 1973. A young couple gets caught up in the attempted revolution and through a number of quick and unfortunate mishaps, both of them end up at Colonia Dignidad, a real “Nazi-run” camp/cult that actually existed and was run by lay preacher/cult leader/pedophile, Paul Schafer.

The movie, based on true events, was a little confusing at the start. For the first 10 to 15 minutes, I was bracing myself. I confess not knowing any history about the Pinochet regime and the Chilean military coup of the early 70s, so I felt a little behind the eight ball, so to speak. But, once Daniel (and later, Lena), the two main characters, are inducted into the cult/camp, everything begins to click.

The film is marketed as part romance. Well, I’m going to disagree with that label. While it’s true that the main characters are in a relationship and that thread plays a role throughout the running time, so much of the film relies on other plot points and other important characters. It reminded me of Ti West’s movie, “The Sacrament” (2014), which was based heavily on the Jim Jones/Jonestown story. It also was similar to “The Handmaid’s Tale” in some regard, especially the tie-in to the misogynistic aspects.

Overall, this was an amazing movie. There are some brutal scenes and if you are bothered by somewhat realistic violence, you might need to turn away during a few points. But if you want to see a well-made, intense film, this is a good one.

 

My Rating: 9 Scary Heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Evan Almighty (2007)

I’m going to be right up front with you. I love this movie. Yes, I said it, and I’ll say it again. I LOVE this movie. I don’t care that Rotten Tomatoes is at 23% or that critics panned it. And even if IMDB is at 5.4, it doesn’t faze me one bit. I will stop flipping through the channels and watch it, wherever it happens to be in its 1 hour and 36 minute run time.

The plot: Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) moves his family to Virginia when he wins a seat in Congress. He is “confronted” by God (Morgan Freeman) to build an ark to save the town from a flood. This also coincides with a loudmouth congressman (John Goodman) who is trying to push a bill through the house that will devastate the area and the animals.

Evan’s family, friends, co-workers, and by-standers all believe he’s crazy — trying to personify Noah and The Great Flood. But we, the audience, and Evan, know the truth.

Did I say that I love this movie? It makes me laugh. I LOVE all the animals in it, even if they are CGI. I love the family dynamics between the all the Baxters, and the supporting cast is hilarious. Are some scenes silly? Yes. Can you pretty much see the ending from a mile away? Yes, perhaps. Does it matter? Nope. Not at all.

This is a feel-good, family friendly, wonderful ride. I’m not usually on board with these types of films, but I think Steve Carell is perfect as Evan (not everyone could pull this one off.) His comedic timing and subtle commentary are played well, and even the kids are believable – right down to ‘making fun of their dad’ during some of the earlier moments.

John Goodman is a great “bad man”. It’s a little bit of a carry-over from his “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou” part, but again, it works here. And it doesn’t make a lick of difference that we know good will win out over the bad guys. It’s all about enjoying the trip, from beginning to end.

There’s lots of “easter eggs” as well. The real estate lady (Eve Adams – a play on Adam and Eve), the line where a minor character states “That’s what I said” (a reference to Steve Carell’s Michael Scott character “That’s what she said” phrase), and the bird poop landing on his shoulder at the ‘exact moment’ of an exclamation (couldn’t have been timed, could it?). And, so much more.

Forget its predecessor, Bruce Almighty. Watch this one.

 

My rating: 9 Scary Heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Temple (2017)

Linky

Seven out of eight critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave this film a “rotten” score. At 13% (on RT), you might question why I spent 78 minutes invested in this disaster of a project. The best answer I could give is, I don’t normally check RT, IMDB, or Metacritic before viewing — I like to make my own decision without being swayed beforehand. Even if I had read the reviews, I probably would have given it a shot anyway.

The plot sounded like it had promise. Three Americans head over to Japan to scout out ancient temples. James and Kate are boyfriend and girlfriend and Christopher, Kate’s “friend”, who she pretty much treats like crap, is along for the ride because he can speak the language. Kate’s is supposedly working on her master’s degree, which is why she traveled to the ‘jungles of Japan’ — she wanted to see these temples firsthand.

On the outset, I was on board and willing to give it a chance. Ten minutes into the film, the interactions and dialogue between Kate, Christopher, and James had become so hilariously bad and poorly scripted that I stopped taking the movie seriously. Then, the overly-done tropes began — an old Japanese man relaying a cryptic message to Christopher about the temple’s curse — the three main characters separating in the dark forest — flashlights failing to work at the most inopportune times. And those were the good points.

Near the end of the movie (no spoilers, of course…not that it would make a bit of difference), Kate wanders aimlessly through an underground tunnel, searching for James. Instead of calling his name or shouting for help, all she does is say “Hello?” (and not very loudly might I add). This is one of those scenes that you just have to see to appreciate the hilarity of it. The intonation of her voice, barely above a normal level, repeating the word ‘hello’, like she was meeting someone at a dinner party…well, I simply can’t do the scene justice here – but trust me when I say it was the comic relief that the film sorely needed. That alone made me raise my rating a whole point.

If you want to see bad acting, worse dialogue, annoying characters, and one funny-as-heck scene near the end, watch Temple.

My rating: 2 Scary Heads out of 10

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Book Review – Mr. Mercedes (2014)

I’ve been a little out of commision, having recently had foot surgery. While I am doing better, it still makes for long days with having to have an appendage in the air while donning ice bags. Knowing this predicament, my sister gifted me with a few books to read while I recooperate, one of which was Mr. Mercedes.

This is Stephen King’s 62nd novel, and as he puts it “his first hard-boiled detective book”. Generally speaking, I don’t normally read crime and/or noir, but…Stephen King. It’s because of him that I chose to write in the horror genre. So, I went all in.

I have to say that I’m so glad I did so. I kept my apprehension at bay and kept an open mind. I had to remind myself on a few occasions that “this isn’t a suspense/horror novel”, but by the time I was a quarter of the way through, none of that mattered.

The main plot centers around a retired policeman who gets pulled back into a case that hadn’t been solved yet (at the time of his retirement). The story also follows the serial killer who hasn’t been caught. Between these linear plot lines, the pace is fast, furious, and full of intrigue. There was quite a bit of research on Mr. King’s part — it’s obvious he delved deeply into the real world of law enforcement as well as technology. But, that’s what he does and that’s why his stories are so great. They’re believable for a reason.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter that he veered away from his known genre. I think, as long as you know that before going in, you won’t be disappointed. If, however, you have any notions that this might just be a “subtle, less scary horror”, you will indeed be in for a let down.

So, why not a score of 10? Because as long as I have been reading books by Stephen King, I’ve never been “convinced” that the dialogue from children has been quite right. It often feels too adult, too forced. Anyone under the age of 18 (and there are a few characters who fit this description in the book), sounds like they’re about 30. It happens here too, in my opinion, but the rest of the book is good enough to give a few eyerolls after “the kids” talk, and get on with the chapter.

I highly recommend this. I firmly believe that whatever genre you are accustomed to reading, you WILL find enjoyment with Mr. Mercedes. It’s just that good.

 

My rating: 8 scary heads out of 10

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Movie Review – The Hamiltons (2006)

Linky Here

If you’re thinking of the musical, Hamilton, and you slip this into your DVD player (or stream it or whatever the popular kids are doing these days), you will be sorely dissappointed. This 86 minute film isn’t bad. It’s not good, but it’s not the worst thing you can do for an hour and a half.

Plainly put, four teen/young adults have to take care of themselves after their parents get killed…and they have a secret they need to hide from the rest of “society”. It’s not long into the film that the audience becomes privy to the reason they sequester themselves from nearly everyone else. (But no spoilers here) The problem with most of the screen time is…it’s boring. There’s lots of shots where people are thinking. Which is fine, if they were going to take action soon afterwards. But, no. Just more…thinking…and some looking. And when things really get moving, there’s a bit of screaming.

Even the “climax”, if you will, has been done before (and with more tension, I might add).  Samual Child, who plays the oldest brother, David, was either given the direction to overact and come across as a cardboard cutout of a character OR Mr. Child needs a few more acting lessons.

I’m going to assume that this film was geared for the YA crowd, because that’s really where it would fit best. It’s not scary and it’s fairly predictable, but again, if you’re a fan of teen movies and looking for something to play in the background without having to give your full attention to it, this might be for you.

My rating: 4 scary heads out of 10.

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Movie Review – The Circle (2017)

Linky Here

As soon as I saw the commercials for this film, I knew I wanted to see it. It looked exciting and different and I always like a good Tom Hanks movie. I will defend “That Thing You Do” (1996) as long and hard as I have to if need be. Linky

Anyway, The Circle follows a general theme that we as movie-goers have certainly seen before. A young woman gets hired at a somewhat new tech company. Everything seems perfect at the onset, until secrets begin to be revealed.

I can easily forgive a routine premise such as this one if the plot delves into new and unforeseen areas that haven’t been explored before. The first half of the movie did just this. No spoilers, of course, but the lead character (as well as the supporting ones) encounter some novel situations which lead to some rather questionable decisions.

I was on board for a good solid 45 minutes, but right around the halfway point, I found myself getting a little frustrated. By the time the credits rolled, I was past frustrated…I had officially rounded the curve to peeved.

The movie was good. The actors were solid. The concepts presented were really intriguing. But darn it all if the entire hour and fifty minute run time only skimmed the surface on most plot points. There was so much potential left unexplored. I don’t know if it ended up on the cutting room floor (if they even do that anymore!), or if James Ponsoldt and Dave Eggers (writers and directors) thought that they hit enough of the high points, nothing else needed to be addressed or wrapped up.

It’s really unfortunate because this could have been a WOW movie. The premise was timely and the ideas presented were spot on. They simply didn’t flesh them out or take them as far as they needed to in order to have audiences stay with them until the final scene. I think the 17% on Rotten Tomatoes bears that out. (and I know RT isn’t the be-all end-all on how good a movie is…but in this case, I find it rather telling).

 

My rating: 5.5 Scary Heads out of 10

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Book Review (of sorts) – Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories to be Read with the Lights On (1973)

Linky Here

I’ll be honest – this is not going to be a fair commentary for the simple fact that I did not finish the book. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even make it half-way through. So, as a critique, take this with a very large grain of salt.

I found this book a few months ago when I was up in the Rockford, Illinois area. This amazing store, Toad Hall Books and Records had everything…and I mean everything. We probably spent the better part of 3 1/2 hours in there and didn’t even see all that they had to offer.

Anyway, I knew that I was going to have foot surgery so I was looking for a number of books that I could read during all the down time. Among them was this particular Alfred Hitchcock paperback – a very old-school looking piece that I really thought would be up my alley.

I started reading it a few days ago. I got a few stories in…and had to really push myself to get that far. I jumped around a little, checking out some of the stories further in, but to me, they barely held my attention. After a few days of making some decent runs at it, I gave up. It going into the garage sale/next book drive pile. I simply couldn’t do it.

Now, you have to understand me. I’m not a big “crime thriller”/who-dun-it reader and I don’t care for generic mysteries. The closest thing that I would consider giving time to (in this vein) are old television shows like Columbo or Quincy, M.E. I’m partial to Law & Order: SVU, but not Law & Order: Criminal Intent. There’s a real divide for me as far as where my interests lie.

Alfred Hitchcock plays in two camps. Movies like Psycho and The Birds firmly comes down on the horror/suspense side. These are the types of stories I can get behind. I’m all in and enjoy most everything about them. However, Mr. Hitchcock’s other offerings tend to fall into the non-scary, non-creepy crime/robbery/cozy-revenge tales that are predictable and telegraph the outcomes almost from the beginning.

This second category is where I would firmly put this book – hook, line, and sinker. I was bored. However, if these kind of tales are something that others enjoy, that’s great, and fortunately for that reader, Alfred Hitchcock put out a number of these kinds of paperbacks. It’s just not my bag. At all.

 

My rating: 3 Scary Heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Linky Here

You know, I’m just going to come right out and say it. I’m blaming the fact that I was talked into seeing this movie on my lack of reasoning from taking painkillers for my recent foot surgery.

There.

Diablo Cody (pen name), the woman responsible for the film Juno, was also responsible for this dabble into “horror-comedy” about a high school cheerleader who ends up on the receiving end of a “body take-over” by something evil. This metamorphosis helps to set off a local killing spree of hormone-overloaded male teens.

Okay…I guess it “is what it is”, but if I knew ahead of time that it was going to be the epitome of cliche horror flicks, I would have taken a nap instead. Stereotypical characters? Check. Dialogue that was supposed to be “funny” (i.e. clever) but was not? Check. A plot that was so obvious it brought NOTHING new to the table? Check and double-check.

Horror-comedies that actually work are few and far between. Shaun of the Dead comes to mind, but to be honest, I don’t really consider that true horror. Apparently, An American Werewolf in London is filed under “horror comedy”, but I actually thought of that particular film as a rather tragic story.

Anyway…Jennifer’s Body is a lot of things. It’s a run-of-the-mill teen slasher that we’ve all seen before – far too many times. There’s nothing different that sets it apart, from say, Cabin in the Woods or Get Out, two recent films that more than just clever. If you are looking for a film to show at your teen’s Halloween party this year, this movie might be a decent selection. But for my money? Leave it for the Sy-Fy Channel and pick up something else.

My rating: 3 Scary Heads out of 10

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Movie Review – The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

Linky Here

Let me be clear. If you are a fan of horror, suspense, thrillers, or just plain good movie-making, RUN, do not walk, to see this film. It’s creepy, chilling, and executed extremely well.

While the story is pretty straight-forward, there is much going on during the 86 minute run time. A small town father-son coroner team take on a “Jane Doe”, who is just one of a handful of victims during a strange and violent homicide. In order to move the plot forward, the police inform them that a COD (cause of death) is needed by morning, so, working on this unknown female is priority #1.  As such, Tommy and Austin (the father and son) begin their routine autopsy procedures on said cadaver.

Once we hit this juncture, the movie starts ramping and refuses to let up. Without going into spoiler territory, we, the audience, are hurled into one possible scenario to the next without as much as a breather in between. Yes, there are some minor jump scares (of which I am NOT a fan), but if you’ve ever seen a horror movie, they are pretty well telegraphed (although not in a bad way). They work. The atmosphere works. The character interaction works. The ending works. Everything about this cinematic wonderland works.

Not a spoiler, but there is an animal death. It’s brief, but biting. I didn’t like that part, although it wasn’t overplayed. I understood why they included it. But if you don’t like such things, you should have ample time to look away.

If you’re not a horror movie buff, you still might enjoy this one. It’s just done so darn well.

 

My rating: 9 Scary Heads out of 10

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Movie Review – Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978)

Linky Here

This Italian cult movie from 1978 probably has a following somewhere in the world. It’s not in MY world, mind you, but I assume that there are pockets of fans drooling over Ursula Andress and her handful of nudie scenes.

Ranked as one of the “video nasties”, I can certainly understand why it made the list. While it doesn’t have much of a plot (a small group go in search of lost family members on a cursed mountain through the jungles of New Guinea), there are far too many lingering shots of animals killing, eating, or disfiguring each other. I’m assuming these shots were of actual footage (according to Wiki) which doesn’t make it any better. As a matter of fact, I abhor these kinds of things on film – and I’m usually against censorship.

There are a number of gruesome human-on-human killings, but they aren’t necessarily done well. They don’t add anything to the plot and when a character dies, it really doesn’t matter all that much in the larger scheme of things.

The movie comes in at 99 minutes, a time that could be considered rather short if the film was entertaining in some way. In this case, it’s a long, drawn out, painful experience.

This isn’t one of those “good” bad movies, like Shark-nado, where you can sit back and make fun of it and have a good laugh. This is straight up a “bad” bad movie, and a host of unfortunate animals paid too high a price.

My rating: 1 Scary Head out of 10

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TV Show: Shark Tank (2009 – Current)

Linky.

Why am I drawn to this show? What is so special about this “reality series” that makes me want to tune in every Friday night (moving to Sunday for the new season!) and see Kevin O’Leary tell someone that they are “dead to him”? Or watch Mark Cuban roll his eyes at a con-artist trying to bilk the Sharks for three million dollars in exchange for 2% of some crazy concept?

It’s exactly those scenarios that make Shark Tank a fascinating show. While most reality shows rely on featuring scripted sophomoric behavior between barely-dressed 20-somethings, this show gained its popularity by presenting REAL people making actual business deals.

The Sharks (Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Robert Herjavec, Lori Greiner, and Mark Cuban) are real people, not paid actors. Their names and reputations are really on the line (as much as they would like them to be), and while it still is a television show, the basic arc of the program centers around actual products, current businesses, and people livelihoods. Sure, it’s still entertainment, but deals are made (or not) and futures of companies, no matter how small, are truly affected.

I think this is what makes it so compelling. I’ve actually seen some of these products in stores. I’ve bought the Scrub Daddy (it’s great, by the way). I’ve sent Wicked Cupcakes (they are quite good, too). I’m rooting for some of these folks, while, at the same time, rolling my own eyes when I see some business models walk onto the stage.

If you haven’t seen an episode, do it. Watch for one hour. You might see an amazing product. You might have a good laugh at some of the Sharks’ commentary. Or you might just roll your eyes. But in any case, I think you’ll enjoy time spent with the Sharks.

My Rating: 9 Scary Heads out of 10

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Movie Review – mother! (2017)

Linky Here.

Oh my. What does one say about a movie such as this one? Written in 5 days, Darren Aronofsky has done one heck of a job dividing social media into two categories: Love this film with every cell in your being OR hate it, cursing each second it takes up in the world. It really IS that kind of movie.

If you are anything like me (and that could be scary in and of itself!), watching the previews/tv ads had given me the impression that this was a horror movie; something along the lines of Rosemary’s Baby. The tone leads the audience to believe it is one thing…but in fact, it is very much NOT that. I will not spoil anything here, which is why I’m staying vague. But, a quick Google search WILL indeed spoil the whole “meaning” – so be forewarned if you want to go in “fresh”.

The set-up is fairly simple. A married couple living in a huge house (which the woman is painstakingly renovating) is bombarded by guests who, for unknown/random reasons, keep coming and refuse to leave. The visitors become more agitated as time goes on, creating problems for the couple, the house, and themselves.

Before the final scene, things get chaotic – and that’s putting it mildly.

This is NOT a movie for everyone. The problem is that, without spoiling it, most audience members aren’t going to know if they should see it or not. Is it horror? Well, no. But there ARE horrific moments. Is it a love story? Well, sort of. But don’t expect anything mainstream. Is it an art house movie? Well, in a way. There a great deal of atmospheric importance, as well as symbolism/allegory throughout.

You know, the more I think about it (and I just saw it yesterday), the more I think that I would have appreciated it more if I had read about it BEFORE seeing it. Yeah – even with spoilers. I think I would have tuned in to certain things more had I known X,Y, and Z. I will say this – it’s not a movie you’ll soon forget, whichever side you come down on.

My Rating: 7 Scary Heads out of 10.

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 Movie Review – Colossal (2016)

Linky Here

Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis lead this part sci-fi, part fantasy, part rom-com romp through New York City as well as Seoul, Korea. When I read the blurb on the Netflix envelope, my hopes were not high. I’m not partial to fantasy and I rarely like anything that comes close to rom-coms. (romantic comedy).

But, I have to say, I went in with my mind open, willing to give it a shot, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s probably no spoiler to say that Anne’s character, Gloria, realizes that she’s the “monster” that’s terrorizing folks in Seoul. When it dawns on her that she’s causing havoc to innocent people, the real story begins.

There’s some humor, albeit not the driving factor here (at least for me). There isn’t anything  gory or horrific to speak of, even though it’s a pure “take-off” on the Godzilla movies of the past. The whole movie is more about the underlying messages – those of which I will not “spoil” here. But, if and when you see this, you’ll understand because it’s VERY CLEAR.

Overall, it’s not a bad way to spend an hour and forty-nine minutes. It’s a novel way to look at how one person’s actions can affect others.

My Rating: 6.5 Scary Heads out of 10

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 Movie Review – Green Inferno (2015)

Linky Here

I know I’m going to be the outlier here, but I thought this movie was absolutely incredible. I say that I’m alone in my thinking because whenever I mention my love for this film on horror websites/FB pages, I am made fun of and “harassed” 🙂 (in a good way).

The premise is simple. A group of college students head to the Amazon rain forest in order to protect the “unprotected”. What follows is probably not a big leap for most horror fans – things go from bad to worse and end up far more gruesome than anyone thought possible.

Now, if you know me, you know that I’m not one for gore and slashers. It’s not scary to me – it’s just pointless, grotesque and/or boring.

And yes, I’ve seen Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive (1993).

And yes, I hated it. I understand that it was supposedly the goriest film ever made (as well as a comedy, no less), and I can attest to the fact that it was, indeed, the definition of pure disgust. But did I find it entertaining? Humorous, like Shaun of the Dead? No. I found it to be a vile, putrid, mess of special effects filmed onto celluloid JUST for the sake of having the ability to do it.

But I digress – back to Green Inferno.

Some viewers might see this movie in a similar light. It certainly has some nasty moments and it doesn’t shy away from gory scenes. HOWEVER, and this is where I tend to part ways with the horror community, I thought the message, albeit somewhat obvious, was what drove the movie.

The fact that a bunch of first world students head into a third world country without knowing anything about the people or cultures they might encounter, yet remain stoically determined to “make their statement”, is an accurate thermostat of how our world is today.

There have always been people who feel their way, their beliefs, their process of doing things is the right and ONLY way, regardless of how other folks think, feel, believe, and live. Many times, the groups or persons who are being “bullied” or pushed to change are in a weaker position and can’t fight back (although that appears to be changing in our current climate).

However, The Green Inferno takes that concept and turns it around. The cannibal aspect is portrayed as the “scare factor” here, yet the actual act of consuming people (for a variety of reasons) is more common than one might think. (Cannibalism: How Stuff Works).

Without delving into a whole discussion on the Donner Party or how cannibalism has played a role in history, one of the key take-away points of  The Green Inferno is “don’t fix something that isn’t broke.”

The film was riveting, the message was on point, and the atmosphere was believable. It made me cringe. It made me think. And it made me like it.

 

My Rating: 8 Scary Heads out of 10

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The Cure for Wellness – Linky

Movie Review – A Cure for Wellness

I had wanted to see this movie ever since I saw the commercials for it on television. It looked like a weird take on Dr. John Kellogg’s Battle Creek, Michigan’s sanitarium gone horribly wrong. And in a strange way, it wasn’t too far off. But, somewhere around the 90 minute mark, it managed to take a sharp left turn and never look back.

The plot, at its core, revolves around a young businessman who travels to the Swiss Alps in order to bring the company’s CEO back to America. Generally speaking, that part of the plot is just a ploy to get the main character into the “wellness center” where 95% of the movie takes place.

The great part about this film is that there is a VERY similar feel to Shutter Island (2010) with Leonardo DiCaprio. In fact, I found the lead in ACFW (Dane DeHaan) to resemble Leo on a number of levels. There’s a great deal of mystery and strange goings-on which creates a feeling of tension for much of the running time. And, like many solid movies these days, the actors and atmosphere drive the film. If anyone “phoned in” their performance, this 2 hour and 26 minute cinema feat would not have worked at all.

Which brings me to my main complaint.

It’s long. VERY long. I know some people won’t (or didn’t) have an issue with the length. That’s understandable. But for me, I would have liked to see this wrap up closer to the 120 mark, if not a little earlier. It’s not that the movie dragged, but I had the sense that the director was trying to put EVERYTHING he possibly could into it. Sometimes, it works. This time, it didn’t (again, for me…you’re mileage might vary).

And then, eels. Yeah…I’ll just leave that there.

 

My Rating: 6 Scary Heads out of 10.

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The Blackcoat’s Daughter – Linky

Movie Review – The Blackcoat’s Daughter

Well, now. That was confusing.

Oz Perkins (Osgood) wrote and directed this 2015 thriller/horror. One might think that being the son of the infamous Anthony Perkins (of Psycho fame as well as a number of other films), the man would have some major tricks up his sleeve.

At its core, the plot revolved around two girls who have been left at a religious boarding school to wait for their parents. The older of the two is having pregnancy issues (and boyfriend issues as well), while the younger one is having some emotional crisis (which comes out through choppy nightmare scenes). Oh, and there’s an evil presence for some reason which is never really mentioned.

Cue the time jumps.

I basically waited the entire movie for “things to come together”. I’m still waiting. Yes, the cinematography is wonderful. The settings are artistic. The cast does a good job in creating a sense of dread.  But, for me, there was a LOT of down time – too many scenes showing pensive looks and people standing still. It’s more art-house than horror; more technical film-making than thriller.

There are going to be those that will LOVE this movie. The atmosphere alone will pull some audiences along. And that’s fine. It’s just not for me.

 

My Rating: 5.5 Scary Heads out of 10.

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11/22/63 Movie –  Linky

Movie Review – 11 / 22 / 63

Wow.

To be fair, I basically binged watched all 8 episodes from Netflix. So, no commercials, no breaks (unless I chose to pause the show). Personally, I think that’s a great way to see something like this.

The film, at its most basic level, follows the story of high school teacher, Jake Epping, as he bounces back and forth from 2016 to 1960, in order to prevent the assassination of JFK. There’s a love story. There’s a “team up with someone who might or might not turn on you” story. And of course, the big question of who REALLY shot the president, looms large throughout much of the movie.

To me, it was part thriller, part drama, and part romance. It wasn’t horror, although there are a few disturbing elements weaved throughout the plot lines. But if you’re going into this film after having seen Stephen King’s name attached and believe it to be another ‘Salem’s Lot or The Shining, you might be disappointed.

The actors did a great job, the characters were very believable, and the story never stalled. Having watched it in a very concentrated time frame was not a problem – it was that good. Having a thorough knowledge of the 1960’s or JFK conspiracy theories might lead you to enjoy it more, but going in cold won’t be an issue. The great thing about Stephen King material – he’ll walk you through the tough stuff so you won’t be confused as to what’s happening. Yet, at the same time, there’s no real spoon feeding either.

My Rating: 9 Scary Heads out of 10.

 

 

 

 

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