Category: reviews

2011 book/movie list

I’ve kind of started a tradition that at the beginning of the year, I list all the books I read and movies I watched during the previous year.  I have a terrible time trying to remember what books I’ve read and what movies I’ve seen so I thought this might help.  Even reading through this list, I couldn’t remember reading or watching some of this stuff.  I need to lay off the aspartame.

Book List 2011

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (3.5/5)
How to Write Horror by Horror Writers Association and Mort Castle (3/5)
The Joke That We Play on the World by Joshua S. Porter (4/5)
Die Softly by Christopher Pike (3.5/5)
Chain Letter by Christopher Pike (4/5)
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (3.5/5)
Hater by David Moody (3/5)
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1/5)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (3.5/5)
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (4.5/5)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (3.5/5)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (4/5)
It Gave me a Name by Marquis of Cups (3.5/5)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (4/5)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (4.5/5)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (4/5)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (3.5/5)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (4/5)
On a Forty Year Drunk by Robert E. Black (1.5/5)
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (2/5)
Horns by Joe Hill (4.5/5)
I am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells (3.5/5)
Mr. Monster by Dan Wells (3.5/5)
I Don’t Want to Kill You by Dan Wells (3.5/5)
Will Storr vs. the Supernatural by Will Storr (2.5/5)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (3.5/5)
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (3.5/5)
Bag of Bones by Stephen King (only made it halfway through this one so no rating applies)

Obviously, things started slowing down in October.  I don’t know what happened other than just being burned out on reading, trying to work on writing my own book and hating my job/life/self.  But I surpassed my goal of reading twenty-four books so that makes me feel pretty good.  I hope I can keep it up this year as well.  Even if I don’t read a ton of books, as long as I’m continually reading something, I think I’ll be satisfied with that.

Movie List 2011
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (TV) (3.5/5)
The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (4/5)
Red Without Blue (3/5)
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (3/5)
Vampires Suck (2.5/5)
Resident Evil: Afterlife (4/5)
Catfish (3.5/5)
The Last Exorcism (2.5/5)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (3.5/5)
Laughing Matters (1.5/5)
Triangle (4/5)
Hellion: The Devil’s Playground (1.5/5)
Bad Biology (2/5)
Devil (2/5)
Pi (2.5/5)
Once (3.5/5)
Battle Royale (4/5)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (4/5)
Children of Men (3.5/5)
The Road (3.5/5)
Eater Bunny, Kill! Kill! (2.5/5)
Nine Dead (3/5)
The Ghouls (2.5/5)
The Seamstress (TV) (2/5)
Gutterballs (4/5)
Let the Right One In (4/5)
Let Me In (4/5)
I Spit on Your Grave (2010) (3.5/5)
Black Swan (4/5)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (3/5)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (3.5/5)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (4/5)
Sex and the City 2 (3/5)
The Horde (2.5/5)
Dead Air (2.5/5)
Paranormal Activity 2 (1/5)
Machete (1.5/5)
Mutants (2.5/5)
Quarantine (3.5/5)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (4/5)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (3.5/5)
Flight of the Living Dead (2/5)
Insidious (3/5)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (4/5)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (4/5)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (4.5/5)
True Blood: Season 3 (4/5)
My Soul to Take (2.5/5)
Hell Hath No Fury (1/5)
It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2.5/5)
The Vampire Diaries Season 2 (4.5/5)
Can you believe I didn’t watch any movies in October?  It’s like that month is made for me, especially with my penchant for horror movies.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know of any television channels that played any really good scary movies.  There was the obligatory Halloween movie marathon, which I did browse but I didn’t watch any of the movies all the way through to warrant including them in the list.

Bridesmaids  (3.5/5)
Scream 4  (3/5)
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (3.5/5)

Things also started slowing down in October as far as movies are concerned.  I suppose I was in a bit of a funk.  I didn’t even write many blog entries in those months, either.  Gosh, what did I do with my time?  

2010 book/movie list

Last year, I posted all of the books and movies I enjoyed (or did not enjoy) in 2009.  I thought it would be nice to do it again this year!

When I listed all of the books I read, I was ashamed.  Only five.  I could blame it on being busy with school/stress etc. but there really wasn’t an excuse.  So, I made a resolution to read at least two books a month in 2010.  That’s twenty-four books.  Way better than five.  I thought that seemed pretty reasonable, considering my work schedule and getting back into animating.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make my goal.  But, I read almost the entire year.  Some books took me two months to complete (because they were so bad) but I pushed through and the important thing was that I continuously read.

My goal for next year is to complete the Harry Potter series.  I read the first three when they came out but then I stopped for some reason so I’m basically going to have to start all over!  I know, I’m way behind but the books just look so huge and it seems like I’d really have to be in the mood to read them and my interests were always elsewhere so I have put them off but I will put them off no longer!

Book List 2010 
Nevada by Joshua Stephen Porter (3.5/5)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (Re-read) (3.5/5)

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (3/5)
Chuck Klosterman IV by Chuck Klosterman (1/5)
Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler (2.5/5)
Night Chills by Dean Koontz (2/5)

Lucky by Alice Sebold (3/5)

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (4/5)
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (3.5/5)
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer (2/5)
The Shack (2/5)
The Damnation Game by Clive Barker (4/5)
The Spinal Cord Perception (Re-read) (3.5/5)
Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk (4.5/5)
Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz (0/5)
(I was still reading Fear Nothing and eventually had to stop because it was so bad.  And I never not finish a book.  I literally could not go on.) 


The Giver by Lois Lowry (3.5/5)
So, sixteen books!  Not twenty-four but way better than five!  Because the Harry Potter books are so large and I’ll probably be busy animating, I might not make it to twenty-four next year but as long as I’m continuously reading, I think I’ll be happy with that!
Upcoming Books I Want to Read
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Exquisite Corpse
Animal Liberation
The Undertaking
Wasted : A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia
Go Ask Alice
Movie List 2010 
Christmas Evil (2.5/5)
Julie & Julia (4/5)
Ink (3.5/5)
Paranormal Activity (2.5/5)
The Final Destination 3D (3/5)
Martyrs (4.5/5) Read Review
Lightning Over Water (0/5)
Hurt (2/5)
Lying to be Perfect (TV) (3/5)
Halloween (2007) (2.5/5)
Halloween 2 (2009) (2/5)
All About Steve (3/5)
Transformers (3.5/5)
Jennifer’s Body (4/5)
The Children (3.5/5)
Tamara (2.5/5)
The Hills Have Eyes (2006) (TV) (3.5/5)
District 9 (4/5)
Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen (3.5/5)
Sydney White (TV) (3/5)
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (TV) (4/5)
Zombieland (3/5)
House of the Devil (2/5)
Last of the Living (2/5)
The Crazies (2010) (3/5) Read Review
Humpday (2.5/5)
Zombie Dearest (1/5)
Precious (3.5/5)
A Perfect Getaway (4/5)
Humble Pie (1/5)
Mr. Brooks (4/5)
Dead Snow (2.5/5)
30 Days of Night (3.5/5) Read Review
Repo: The Genetic Opera (3/5)
Jacob’s Ladder (3.5/5)
The Convent (3/5)
Zombies of Mass Destruction (3.5/5)
Possession (2.5/5)
Lo (2.5/5)
Kill Theory (3.5/5)
Zombiegeddon (0/5)
Masters of Horror: Family (4/5)
The Sorority (1/5)
Soldier’s Girl (4/5) Read Review
How to Be a Serial Killer (3.5/5)
Pandorum (2.5/5)
Homecoming (TV) (2/5)
Moon (4/5) Read Review
Party Monster (2.5/5)
Hallowed Ground (TV) (1.5/5)
The Comeback (TV Series) (3/5) Read Review
The Collector (2.5/5)
Where the Truth Lies (3.5/5)
Blood Creek (4/5)
Beneath the Surface (4/5)
City of the Living Dead (1/5)
Zombie Honeymoon (4/5) Read Review
Dorm of the Dead (0.5/5)
Wind Chill (TV) (2.5/5)
Solstice (TV) (2/5)
The Secret (TV) (2/5)
The Haunting of Sorority Row (2/5)
Die You Zombie Bastards! (2/5)
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (4/5)
Zombie Night (0.5/5)
Awaken the Dead (2/5)
Zombie Town (2.5/5)
Electric Zombies (0/5)
Necropolis Awakened (0.5/5)
Dead Fury (2/5)
Awakening (2/5)
The Lovely Bones (2/5)
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (3.5/5)
Ninja Assassin (3.5/5)
The People Under the Stairs (2/5)
Shutter Island (2/5)
Zombie Lake (0/5)
True Blood: Season 2 (TV) (4.5/5)
The Fall (3.5/5)
Finale (1.5/5)
Happiness (2/5)
Goblin (TV) (1.5/5)
The Stink of Flesh (2.5/5)
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (3.5/5)
Hell of the Living Dead (3/5)
Living Dead Girl (0/5)
Family Portraits: A Trilogy of America (1.5/5)
Kick-Ass (4.5/5)
Piranha 3D (4/5) Read Review
Survival of the Dead (2/5)
Aeon Flux: Complete Series (TV) (4/5)
Days of Darkness (3.5/5)
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (4/5)
The Vampire Diaries: Season 1 (TV) (4.5/5)
Dexter: Season 4 (TV) (4/5)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 6 (TV) (4/5)
Easy A (2.5/5)
Night of the Demons (2009) (0.5/5)
Dawn of the Dead: Documentaries (4/5)
Darkness: The Vampire Version (3.5/5)
Satan’s Little Helper (2/5)
Night of the Demons (1988) (3/5)
Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (3.5/5)
Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (3/5)
Night of the Demons II (3/5)
Hunger (3.5/5)
Daybreakers (2.5/5)
Pathology (3.5/5)
$9.99 (2/5)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) (2.5/5)
Me and You and Everyone We Know (2/5)
Amelie (2/5)
Frozen (3/5)
The Unborn (2.5/5)
Being John Malkovich (2/5)
Best Movies
Julie & Julia (4/5)
Martyrs (4.5/5)
Jennifer’s Body (4/5)
District 9 (4/5)
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (TV) (4/5)
A Perfect Getaway (4/5)
Mr. Brooks (4/5)
Masters of Horror: Family (4/5)
Soldier’s Girl (4/5)
Moon (4/5)
Blood Creek (4/5)
Beneath the Surface (4/5)
Zombie Honeymoon (4/5)
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (4/5)
True Blood: Season 2 (TV) (4.5/5)
Kick-Ass (4.5/5)
Piranha 3D (4/5)
Aeon Flux: Complete Series (TV) (4/5)
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (4/5)
The Vampire Diaries: Season 1 (TV) (4.5/5)
Dexter: Season 4 (TV) (4/5)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 6 (TV) (4/5)
Worst Movies
Lightning Over Water (0/5)
Zombie Dearest (1/5)
Humble Pie (1/5)
Zombiegeddon (0/5)
The Sorority (1/5)
City of the Living Dead (1/5)
Dorm of the Dead (0.5/5)
Zombie Night (0.5/5)
Electric Zombies (0/5)
Necropolis Awakened (0.5/5)
Zombie Lake (0/5)
Living Dead Girl (0/5)
Night of the Demons (2009) (0.5/5)

Piranha 3D (2010) Review

This Summer 3D Shows Its Teeth

Underwater tremors unleash a slew of ravenous, prehistoric piranhas on the unsuspecting horny teens partying during Spring Break.

What a blast!  If you’ve seen the trailer for the movie or heard any of the reviews, then you should know the movie is completely silly and made to be enjoyed, not analyzed or deconstructed.  Yes, this movie is all about the boobs, blood and laughs.  And that’s okay by me!  As far as story, well, there’s not much to it.  As described above, a bunch of flesh-hungry fish are unleashed onto a large group of teens celebrating Spring Break.  This thin plot is there to offer reasoning for why the piranhas are suddenly there, tearing large-breasted women to pieces.

A group of seismologists (AKA more victims) team up with Sheriff Julie Forester (played by the still smoking hot Elizabeth Shue) to investigate the fissure caused by the tremors.  Once two of the members are attacked, one of the piranhas is captured and taken to a marine biologist.  He tells them it’s bad, bad news and Julie decides to shut down Lake Victoria, the hot spot for all the Spring Breakers.

Meanwhile, Julie’s son, Jake, gets caught up in the Spring Break madness and inadvertently gets caught up in a “Wild Wild Girls” softcore porn shoot.  He takes the “Wild Wild Girls” crew along with his friend/crush, Kelly, on a boat right into the path of the piranhas.  To make matters worse, Jake’s little brother and sister find themselves trapped on a small island with no way to escape. 

Julie’s cries for the closing of the lake go unheard as the Spring Breakers ignore her warnings and booze it up.  That is, until the piranhas show up.  Gory carnage ensues!

Forget plot, forget story, forget believable characters.  This movie is all about the piranha attacks.  I was surprised that there were very few attacks throughout most of the movie.  While there are a few attacks here and there, the real good stuff doesn’t kick in until the last block of the movie but believe me, it is worth the wait.  There’s also plenty of female flesh to satisfy any red-blooded hetero male.  And hey, there’s even a little peen (no pun intended) for the gay guys to gobble up (pun intended).  And in a pleasant surprise, there was even some tension injected into some of the scenes.  And lastly, it was pretty darn funny in some spots.  As for the 3D aspect, some say it wasn’t worth the extra charge.  As far me, I’ll agree that the 3D probably wasn’t utilized as well as it could have been but I still thought it was effective enough to justify the extra cost.  Side note:  Being able to watch the Resident Evil trailer in 3D alone was worth the two bucks!

All in all, the movie was ridiculous, fast-paced and over the top.  It won’t win any Oscars but it doesn’t aim to.  It just aims to have fun and I think it accomplished it well.  I would definitely watch it again.

4 out of 5. 

Zombie Honeymoon (2004) Review

In Sickness and in Health
Denise and Danny are newlyweds who are starting their new lives as one flesh.  Unfortunately, things get messy when Danny is attacked by a zombie and slowly turns into one.  Will Denise stick with Danny, even when he begins to rot and his hunger for human flesh grows too strong to ignore?

This is probably the first romantic zombie movie I’ve ever seen and definitely the first zombie movie that’s based on true events.  Well, the zombie part isn’t true but the characters of Denise and Danny are based on the director’s real life sister and brother-in-law.  In fact, the entire movie reflects their real lives together.  The real Danny and Denise were newly weds who quit their jobs to move to Portugal.  Danny was a surfer and wanted to live where the waves were beautiful and accessible.  Right before they were supposed to leave, Danny died in a surfing accident.  The director created this movie as a valentine for his sister and her strength and ability to get through such a tragic loss.

As with the real people, Denise and Danny quit their jobs and beginning to build a married life together.  One day, at the beach, a zombie emerges from the waves and attacks Danny.  He dies in the hospital but then comes back to life.  Mistaken for a miracle, Danny is actually slowly undergoing a transformation into a zombie.  Soon, it becomes apparent that Danny is not quite okay when Denise catches him munching on a fat neighbor.  From then on, Denise struggles with this new found kink in their plan as Danny struggles (and often fails) not to eat people.
What I liked about this movie was the character development.  I really cared about Denise and Danny and really rooted for them.  The film wouldn’t have worked if these two characters weren’t likable.  The chemistry was great between the two leads as well.  I could really see the connection between them and almost read the heartbreak on Denise’s face when the ugly truth about Danny’s condition came out.  In fact, the movie slowly burns along and the zombie action doesn’t take place until about halfway through the movie.  The director took the time for us to get to know these people and care about them before plunging them into terror.
Even the zombie mayhem wasn’t overly done.  This isn’t a typical zombie splatter fest.  Yes, there as blood and even a bit of gore but it was controlled and not done just for the sake of gore.  The focus here was not on eating hearts, but breaking them.  
My only problem with the movie was the uneven mix of drama, comedy and horror.  For example, after Denise catches Danny during one of his all you can eat body buffets, it is very much played out like he’s been cheating on her.  Denise is frightened and disgusted and in a bit of shock.  Danny, covered in blood, tries to calm her down and explain his actions to her.  The tension is real and thick.  After a great deal of hesitation on Denise’s part, she decides to work it out with Danny.  Suddenly, the couple’s friends ring their doorbell and from there they launch into a bumbling, comedic clean up scene where they try to wash the blood off the floor and hide the dead body in the bathroom.  These kinds of jostling transitions in mood didn’t feel right to me.  It almost felt like the flick didn’t know where to go with its direction and so it went everywhere.  That’s really only a minor peeve, though.  Overall, a great flick and a romantic and kind of sad one as well.
If you like your love notes written with blood and brain matter, you might enjoy this movie.
4 out of 5.

The Comeback (2005 TV Series) Review

Valerie Cherish was TV’s IT Girl. Now IT’s a different story.

Valerie Cherish is a washed up sitcom actress.  Her big comeback comes in the form of a new television show and a new reality show that will document her rise to relevance.  Or, at least that’s the hope.  Unfortunately, Valerie stumbles through heartbreaking (and hilarious?) obstacles on her journey to becoming a star again.

I just have to say that this is probably the most depressing “comedy” I’ve ever seen!  The whole series is only thirteen episodes and each episode is soul crushing.  I think there is a difference between getting into whacky situations and just downright being trampled by life and poor Valerie is trampled in every single episode.  I mean, I sat there just feeling so sorry for this lady.  This isn’t a case of her farting in front of the audience or having her period in the middle of a sex scene.  This is about her career, self-esteem, identity and life basically being whittled away on screen!

The most tragic part to me is how Valerie keeps on trucking although everything falls apart.  Some people say she was naive.  Some people say she was clueless.  I don’t agree.  I think she knew exactly what was going on but she tried to make the best of it.  I don’t know if that was just her personality or if she was going it for the cameras but, God bless her, she was a trooper.  First of all, the television show that was supposed to jettison her back into the limelight is retooled and her starring character is turned into a frumpy side character called Aunt Sassy.  Her costars are a bunch of beautiful twenty somethings.  One of the writers of the show absolutely hates her and all the while the creators of her reality show might not be portraying her in the best light.  Each episode is an exercise in humiliation and because I saw the entire series in one sitting, it became almost unbearable.  Perhaps if I would have seen the show weekly and taken it in small doses, it might not have been as traumatic as it was but watching it all in one large lump only emphasized her agony.

Here’s what I liked:  the show was a great satire of reality television, not only revealing some behind the scenes happenings on reality television (such as how the producers have to get permission from restaurants and other businesses that the stars of the show enter or how anyone not associate with the show has to sign a release to appear on camera and how that really interrupts the flow of not only the show, but of the people’s lives they are capturing) to how reality shows aren’t real at all.  I mean, none of these are big secrets anymore but maybe some of that information was new and revealing during its time.  Not only was the show full of jokes but the show itself was a huge joke.  And this is kind of a small thing but I really liked how Valerie got along with her cast mates, especially the young and beautiful Juna.  So many times you see women brought together who feel they are in competition with each other or act catty toward each other but Juna seemed to legitimately look up to Valerie and Valerie seemed to legitimately look at her as someone she could teach and protect.  I liked that.

Here’s what I didn’t like: Valerie Cherish was not a great person.  There were many times where her kindness felt disingenuous.  When someone would tell her something personal, she’d interrupt them with a “Put a pin in that, dear” as a way to shut them up because she just wasn’t interested.  And when a girl broke off a key in her dressing room, Valerie ran away because she didn’t have time to help her.  She even adopts a puppy and then pawns it off on someone else because she never actually wanted it, only took it to look good.  She’s also not the best step-mom to her husband’s daughter, ordering take out instead of cooking and never taking the time to bond with her unless the camera is on her.  She is also quick to abandon her castmates in favor of going to a party with more famous actors.  And then there’s the ending of the series when her character really comes out.  And as mentioned before, any of the kindness she did show is put into question because you never know if Valerie Cherish really is nice sometimes or if she’s just trying to make herself look great for the viewing audience.

Here’s why I think it didn’t work:  the show was just way too depressing.  Listening to the commentaries, Lisa Kudrow and her co-creator Michael Patrick King said they wanted to make the show dark but comedic.  I think they made it more dark and less comedic.  Yes, the show was funny in some parts but it was mostly just sad to see the destruction of this lady on camera.  Next, as mentioned before, Valerie isn’t that likeable.  Now, I’m not saying that she’s completely unredeemable but you do get the sense that she cares more about her career than those around her.  It’s hard to root for someone who seems just a bit self-absorbed.  That, combined with her hopeless situation makes the audience just want to give up.   I know I did.  At the same time, I would have watched a second season.  But I don’t think the rest of the world was willing to.  At the end of the series, I think people realized that she was kind of a fame whore.  And frankly, what else could they do to her in the next season?  Have her husband leave her for her gay hair and makeup guy, Mickie?  Have her show canceled?  Have her get cancer?  No thanks.  We don’t wanna see that.

Moon (2009) Review

The Last Place You’d Ever Expect to Find Yourself

Astronaut Sam Bell is in the last days of his three year contract to live and work on the moon, cultivating resources to send back to Earth.  After being on his own for such a long period, and with no one to talk to but a computer, Sam starts to feel the effects of isolation.  Things get really interesting when Sam has a near fatal accident, awakens in the infirmary and then realizes he’s not as alone on the ship as he thought he was.  And when Sam discovers the identity of the new passenger, everything Sam ever believed in is shattered.

I had heard a lot of good things about this movie but I also tried to avoid hearing too much about it.  I’m a firm believer in knowing as little as possible about a movie before going into it, especially trailers that can be too revealing.  Of course, that tactic backfires sometimes when you realize that if you had just watched the trailer, you’d know you were walking into a giant turd of a film.  But, I trusted that this wouldn’t be a turd and I was correct!  This is another review in which I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to give anything away.  So, I’ll just say that this movie, just like Soldier’s Girl, had me thinking mucho after the credits rolled.

One of the biggest things that I got from the film is how we can walk around and believe certain things are true when in reality, they might be completely fabricated.  It really makes you think about reality or what reality means to you vs. what it means to me.  Who knows what’s real?  I guess it’s all about the perception.  Schizophrenics can hear voices that aren’t there and see monsters that don’t exist and we can write them off as being crazy but what if they have tapped into a different dimension of reality that “normal” people aren’t privy to?  Monsters aren’t real but trees are and who’s to say that’s true?  Just because an overwhelming majority of people believe this to be the case doesn’t necessarily mean it is if we are all programmed by some larger source to believe it.

Another concept is that of one’s will to survive despite devastating odds.  How far are you willing to go to save yourself once your destiny is revealed and you realize you have no destiny?  What is that burning desire to live that’s within us, even when we know we have no future, despite logic and reason?  There’s just so much that I think can be pulled from the film, many layers of meaning and I love that.

Finally, props go to Sam Rockwell, who plays Sam Bell.  You see many sides of him throughout the film and he manages to separate himself into different identities while still being the same person, if that makes any sense.  And because he is virtually the only character in the film, the fact that he held my focus the whole time is a good sign of his acting ability.  I sympathized with him and rooted for him the entire time.  Good actor, good character.

See this film and after you do, please come back and let me know what you thought!

4 out of 5.

Soldier’s Girl (2003) Review

She Was The Only Man He Ever Loved

This film tells the true story of a young soldier that falls in love with a transgendered woman and the deadly consequences of their relationship.

Barry Winchell is the new kid in the military and is assigned a room with a seasoned soldier, Justin Fisher.  Fisher convinces Winchell to attend a nightclub where drag queens and transgendered women perform.  Barry is drawn to one of the performers, Calpernia Addams, and soon begins pursuing her.  She’s hesitant to allow the relationship to progress because Barry is a “normal straight boy” and she doesn’t want to be hurt when he realizes what he’s gotten himself into.  As the story continues, Fisher becomes more and more unstable as his relationship with Barry deteriorates.  Simultaneously, Barry and Calpernia become lovers.  Soon, a  young man named Calvin Glover joins Barry and Fisher’s troop and it’s apparent this guy is off his rocker just as much as Fisher is.  Fisher takes this troubled youth under his wing and instigates an ongoing unease between the young man and Barry.  Eventually, the tension escalates and ends in tragedy.

This film kept me thinking long after the credits rolled and I love that in a film.  While listening to the commentary by the filmmakers, they said they intended to create an incredibly complex love story.  They succeeded beautifully.  In fact, the story was so complex that I don’t even know where to start analyzing this movie.  Actually, I don’t think I will analyze it.  I just want to bring this film to people’s attention and then let it speak for itself.

All I will say is that I hope the film opens up people’s minds to the concept of gender and sexuality.  While watching the film, I didn’t see a gay couple.  I didn’t see a man fall in love with another man or a man fall in love with a woman who used to be a man.  I saw two people fall in love with each other.  The gender soon became irrelevant as I grew to know these two human beings as individuals and as a couple.

Let me also mention the amazing actors.  Troy Garity was great as Barry Winchell.  I think he handled Barry’s intricate sexuality beautifully with a mix of sincerity and grace.  And Lee Pace was absolutely astounding as Calpernia Addams.  First of all, I saw him a few weeks prior in the thriller Possession (starring the always delicious Sarah Michelle Gellar, which was the only reason why I saw that clunker in the first place) and in the film, he played a pretty bad dude.  Muscular, macho and mean.  And to then see him as a woman was a complete transformation and a testament to his skill as an actor.  He sounded like a women.  He moved like a woman.  And it wasn’t an over exaggerated caricature of a woman, either.  It was natural.  And as the film progressed, I forgot he was a man at all.  Once again, it just went back to being about two people.

My favorite scene is when Barry and Calpernia are in a row boat in a pond.  Barry asks Calpernia to sing to him and she does as he rows the boat.  That moment was sweet, touching.  And it just goes to show that we all want that.  No matter who we are or who we love, we all want someone there with us to share those kind of peaceful, tender moments.  We all want to love and be loved.  And what’s so wrong with that?  

See this film.  It was powerful, emotional and enlightening.

4 out of 5.

30 Days of Night (2007) Review

They’re Coming!
Because of the earth’s tilt, the small town of Barrow, Alaska occasionally experiences thirty days without seeing the sun.  I will not make a joke about how Sarah Palin is always in the dark.  Oh, I just did?  Oops.  A group of vampires come to town to take advantage of this quirk of the earth and embrace their inner gluttons!  And as you know, when you’re dealing with a live dinner, sometimes the meat is hard to catch.  Well, these shivering townspeeps certainly don’t make it easy on the razor-toothed interlopers.
I shrugged this movie off when it was first released because…well, I’m not really sure why.  But, I finally decided to check out this movie because I had two free rentals that I wanted to take advantage of and this was a movie I always said I’d watch if I could watch it for free.  I’m glad I did!
For me, this movie was less like Dracula or Salem’s Lot and more like 28 Days Later or 2004’s Dawn of the Dead.  The focus wasn’t so much on the vampires but the small town Alaskan folk who have been unwillingly invited to an all you can suck blood buffet.  The main characters, sheriff Eben Oleson (awesome name) and his estranged wife Stella wrangle up the last few survivors and move from shelter to shelter while waiting out the month.  Eban and Stella are the most fleshed out characters.  The others are pretty forgettable and there to add to the body count.  The vampires are an even bigger mystery.  These guys seem to have a “wolf pack” mentality, with a pretty intense looking leader who commands the rest of the bunch.  And this isn’t your friendly neighborhood Twilighters, either.  These guys are animalistic, vicious and ugly.  In fact, some of the characters looked as if their faces had been tweaked by CGI or prosthetics.  Or maybe they just found unique looking actors but there wasn’t something not quite right about them, sending off a suitably creepy vibe.  As with any apocalyptic monster movie, the vampires are mostly background noise to the shenanigans the humans find themselves in.  Oh, and lets not forget the character(s) who get(s) bitten and doesn’t tell anyone until they eventually turn, put the rest of the group in danger, and then has to be shot by the hero who has a good cry over having to snub his best friend/brother/favorite uncle that lasts for approximately a second and a half until everyone moves on to the final showdown!

Acting was good.  Cinematography was gorgeous.  Gore was great.  There’s one decapitation scene that is so graphic in its realism that I had to rewind it several times with my mouth agape in awe.  That was worth a rental alone.  The last block did pull me out of the film just a bit.  The direction went from horror to almost a comic book feel with the decision of the main character.  I suppose it sort of made sense and maybe it was pulled off better in the graphic novel but it just didn’t sit right with me in the movie.  Fortunately, the final frames made up for it with some bittersweet gruesomeness.  I honestly can’t remember the last vampire film I’ve scene (not counting New Moon) so this was a nice reintroduction to the vamp genre.

4 out of 5.

The Crazies (2010) Review

Fear Thy Neighbor.

Warning:  This review might contain slight spoilers, although I’m not really giving too much away that would affect your viewing experience.

Things get a little less boring in the sleepy town of Ogden Marsh when a certain nasty something swims its way into the population’s drinking water, turning everyone into raving lunatics.  Then, the military pops in to clean up their mess but it only complicates things for the uninfected who try to escape.

Another case of a trailer misleading the audience into thinking a movie is going to be something it’s not.  My impression was that it was going to be another 2004’s Dawn of the Dead/28 Days/Weeks Later type of movie with crazy people running around ripping everyone apart.  Not so much.  Instead, we have a small group of people whose main rivalry erupts between them and the military coming that’s barged in and trying to fix the situation.  The crazies really just act as a backdrop to the government shenanigans taking place.

The film starts out with a small town baseball game.  Things are going along fine until a presumably intoxicated man storms the baseball field with a shotgun.  Sheriff David confronts the man, resulting in his death.  While definitely an odd occurrence, everyone writes off the man’s actions as a drunken incident.  That is, until another family is attacked.  And then all communication is cut off.  And that is about the extent of the madness before the military come, round everyone up and split them into two groups:  infected and uninfected.  David is deemed safe while his wife, Judith, is put into the sick bunch.  From there, David makes his way through the military and the madness to find his wife, picking up various uninfected and escapees during his trip.  Does he find his wife or has she gone crazy?  Will he even survive the journey?  And in the end, what will David and the survivors do in a town full of crazies and a ruthless army of troops whose sole mission is to take out the entire population?

I have not seen the original nor do I plan to.  The trailer for the original looks absolutely abysmal and therefore I’m not interested.  And I call myself a hardcore horror fan?  Ha!  So, I’m judging this baby based on this film alone…and I guess the expectations I had after viewing the trailer.  I have to admit I was slightly disappointed by the lack of actual crazies and crazy chase sequences that went down.  Now, that’s not to say there aren’t interactions with some of the crazy inhabitants of the town but these get downs only consisted of about two to three crazies at a time.  The action is intimate and in your face and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that but I was hoping for something a bit more epic and wider in scope.  For example, in the trailer, you see a horde of people smashing down a gate and running free.  That image captured that epic scope that I hoped would carry throughout the film.  While I was hoping those people would smash through the gate and then run amok among the townspeople, unfortunately those people were only suspected of being infected and were just trying to escape their imprisonment to find their love ones.  Not exactly the blood quenching scene I was expecting it to be.  And when the town is overrun with the crazies, we are only given the carnage after the fact in the form of empty streets and burned cars.

If you’ve seen Dawn of the Dead or the 28 movies, then you’ve seen The Crazies.  Humanity goes down the drain, the government intervenes, the government fails, a small group of people try to find refuge, they pick up a few survivors along the way, someone gets bit/gets sick, one dimensional characters die after having about fifteen minutes of screen time and then the end leaves enough room for fifteen more sequels, each one worse than the other.  That’s not to say that the action wasn’t tense because it was.  That’s not to say that the deaths weren’t gritty and gruesome because they were (although not explicitly gory).  That’s not to say that the film was boring because it wasn’t.  I guess I just feel like the action was more between David and the military rather than him against the crazies, although he does run into quite a few. 

I liked the film.  I probably say that as a hardcore zombie/mass murder movie junkie.  I’ll pretty much enjoy anything resembling a zombie-themed genocide.  At the same time, that’s where my slight disappointment comes in.  My main beef with the film was the lack of crazies, the lack of people going insane and taking out their families, friends and neighbors in gruesome ways.  I guess it’s just that the setup was great but never thoroughly explored.  I guess when the film is called The Crazies, you expect to see some!  Well, more than the two to three that appeared at a time.  On top of that, there were a few plot holes that came to mind after some reflection.  Other than that, I think it was a solid movie.

3 out of 5.

Martyrs (2008) Review

They Did Not Finish to be Alive

A little girl named Lucie escapes from an abandoned slaughterhouse where she was kept and tortured for a number of years.  She is sent to an orphanage where she meets another girl named Anna.  They become close friends as Anna helps nurse Lucie back to help.  Fifteen years later, Lucie has found the ones who tortured her.  Entrails really hit the fan when she goes to their house to exact her revenge.

All I can say after finishing this film is whoa!  I feel I’d be doing a disservice to those who have not seen the film if I elaborate on the plot beyond what I’ve already said.  All I will say is the film is basically split into three parts and each part is tougher to watch than the last.  This French film falls into the same vein as other French “torture porn” films such as Inside, Frontiers and Haute Tension.  There will also be comparisons to the Hostel movies but I reject that comparison outright!  Hostel wishes it could be half as hardcore as this film.

What I enjoyed about this movie was how the violence was unflinching and realistic.  It wasn’t exploitive, either.  The gore wasn’t overly abundant but when it hit, it hit hard and hit with a purpose.  The French have a knack for spreading the blood thick and messy and in a way that isn’t entertaining but unnerving.  One of the big differences I’ve noticed between American horror movies and French horror movies (and let me just admit that I haven’t seen very many, to be fair) is that we tend to root for the killer more often than not.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a slasher in which I hoped the dumb girl with the big rack wouldn’t trip on that random patch of grass, twist her ankle and then crawl away from the demonic plumber as he breaks his plunger off into her torso.  Alternately, I care about the French victims because there’s some actual backstory on the characters and even when there isn’t, they are put through so much that we can’t help but to root for them after a while and hope that they can make it to the end.  And I thank the French for that.   

And the reasoning behind the madness!  How beautifully twisted!  I definitely wasn’t expecting that and it brought a whole new dimension of thought, fear and discomfort.  The film left me thinking and IMDBing it long after it was over and I love when a movie stays with me after the credits have rolled.

With that being said, it wasn’t a perfect movie.  While I thought the themes overall were great, some of them were handled in a clunky manner.  Some of it was predictable.  The last block also felt a tad long, although I completely understand why they did what they did.  The ending, however, was fantastic and ambiguous but in the best way possible.  Sometimes ambiguous endings can be really lame if not handled well but this film did a great job with the openness and the final image brought the film to a new level of depressing.

Check it out if you can.  It’s gory, gross, enlightening and frightening.

4.5 out of 5.