Monday, October 31, 2011

10 Best Things of October 2011

1. Cinemassacre's Monster Madness

The second best annual event in October. I always enjoy James Rolfe's opinion on horror films.

2-4. The Walking Dead Returns

The great television series returns with three strong episodes. At least, three episodes I thought were fantastic.

5. Community, "Remedial Chaos Theory"

One of the best episodes the show has done. Which says little and a lot.

6. Chael Sonnen's Post-Fight Promo

Pure Money.

7. Video Games Awesome's Halloween-A-Thon

The crew up north made the most entertaining gaming nerds with nearly daily coverage with hot new games and/or horror-themed longplays. Their experience playing Amnesia: The Dark Descent being the highlight.

8. The Avengers Trailer

Looks awesome and exciting. Unlike others, I'm still keeping my expectations down to prevent disappoinment.

9. Disney's Sin City

A well-executed video synching Disney animation with the structure of the Sin City film trailer.

10. Fighterpedia

I love fighting games and any show that explores them gets a mighty thumbs up.

My Tops of 2011 - October

FOOTLOOSE is frankly not bad. It has a sense of realism and overall fun environment. The strict remaking of every step and plot point hurts its progress.

MONEYBALL has very good performances from Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill and an interesting take on the sports film but can be confusing sometimes or tacky with cliches.

RUBBER should have been a fun art/cult film about a evil rubber tire. Instead, it suffocates itself with its consumption and regurgitation of the fourth wall, annoying audience surrogates, and constant winking to dadaism.

RA.ONE is a vapor blockbuster for India. A good cast can't forgive the copy-pasting storyline, lame Western songs, and dire special effects.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 at first didn't feel like it could measure up to the first two films. My opinion changed, now embracing the effective scares and lingering open questions.

ATTACK THE BLOCK is a fun, original sci-fi tale that deliberates creates problems with its characters for later plot elements. Didn't match up completely with expectations, so now I must wait and see if I can later join the cult.

Best Films of 2011

1. Drive

2. Bridesmaids

3. Rango

4. The Tree of Life

5. Source Code

6. Super 8

7. X-Men: First Class

8. The Green Hornet

9. Paul

10. Thor

11. Fright Night

Worst Films of 2011

1. Passion Play

2. Waiting For Forever

3. Mars Needs Moms

4. Battle: Los Angeles

5. Atlas Shrugged

6. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

7. Scream 4

8. Gnomeo and Juliet

9. Rubber

My Horror/Halloween Hit List

Like many others, throughout this month I have been watching horror or horror-themed films in honor of the Halloween spirit. This is all of the movies I watched or re-watched:

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul
Black Sheep
Creature from the Black Lagoon
The Creature Walks Among Us
The Fog (1980)
The Green Slime
Horror of Dracula
The House Where Evil Dwells
The Lost Boys
Mad Monster Party
The Mummy
The Mummy's Curse
The Mummy's Ghost
The Mummy's Hand
The Mummy's Tomb
The Mystery of the Wax Museum
Paranormal Activity 2
Paranormal Activity 3
The Return of the Living Dead
Revenge of the Creature
Scooby Doo on Zombie Island
The Thing (1982)
The Tingler
Zombie Apocalypse

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ra.One - Review

Time to crack my knuckles and wear a bib. It's another movie that incorporates video games into its plot, up front and the center of attention this time around. Filmmakers hardly ever are able to successfully incorporate the popular field of entertainment into their motion pictures. Video games are no longer a popular fad or an unknown entity to people, with 30+ years of history now. There's no excuse, no reason to be able to grasp and understand both video game logic and video game design and display it correctly on the big screen.

As a resident nitpicker when it comes to these problems, I again was not shocked to witness that RA.ONE gets a failing grade when it comes to videogames. The hot new exciting video game created by Shahrukh Khan's character and his staff is a big money pit waiting to happen. The game in question, sharing the same name of the film, is an one on one fighting game that can only be played through a virtual reality body harness. This surely expensive harness some how has perfect synchronization with movement and no presence of lag, something the Wii and Kinect still haven't solved. So, with absolutely no alternate controller option, the consumer is forced to purchase a giant accessory in order to interact; a peripheral that most assuredly has far higher expenditures compared to the game's expected revenue. The people who worked on Steel Battalion now can enjoy a good laugh.

If you thought the game-within-the-film is good or perfect to play in real-life, you don't know movie video games. It is simply a bare-bones fighting game, using the best of three rounds mentality most associated with them. You strictly can only play as G.One, forever in battle with the menacing, so devilishly evil Ra.One. And yeah, that's it. No online functionality, no multi-player, no extra features. A two hundred to three hundred dollar gimmick video game, my projected price range upon release, and Khan truly expects this to turn a profit and save both his job and the favor of his son.

Honestly, my long rant and choice to talk about video game production is really the only interesting things to ponder about from this vapor Bollywood blockbuster. Not even a major plot twist in the first half involving Khan could peek my interest. I simply did not care if Khan's son would be killed by a reality-invading Ra.One or if Khan and his wife Sonia could rekindle their romantic feelings. RA.ONE fails completely its in direction and plot; a re-fried TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, with a sprinkling of IRON MAN, and high ambitions to top ROBOT as the most blisteringly stupid sci-fi musical of all time.

Blame shouldn't fall on anyone in the cast. Khan brings his trademarked charm and Kareena Kapoor, as Sonia, is able to play up both the immense inner and external beauty of her character. I even greatly enjoyed Armaan Verma, the child actor playing Khan's son, who can safely be called the best of the bunch. These three have great chemistry and comic timing with each other but they are constantly hurt by clunky dialogue, action sequences that go far too long, and lame musical numbers set to songs by Akon of all people.

Rather than existing as a dumb but always smile-inducing Hindi rendition of ROBOT, RA.ONE has no soul and is filled to the borders with utter dullness. It is a long two and half hours and no laughable CGI effects or film cameos can change the massive frown I had sitting through it.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Horrors of October - Are You Afraid Of The Dark? : "The Phantom Cab"

During the 80's and the early 90's, there were a plethora of horror anthology entertainment. In movie form, there was Creepshow, Creepshow 2, Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, The Twilight Zone: The Movie, Nightmares, etc. On television, there was of course Tales from the Crypt, a show that pushed the boundaries of what could be shown but only on available on pay TV. I hardly had a chance to watch the HBO exclusive show, though I did watched the de-fanged and kid and moral friendly Tales from the Cryptkeeper animated series. There was also the syndicated Freddy's Nightmares, which banked on the popularity of the Freddy Krueger character to shill a bunch of often mediocre horror stories. Of course, kids had better and easy to view horror shows, such as the one season wonder Eerie, Indiana. Then, there is Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Are You Afraid of the Dark? officially premiered on Nickelodeon on August 15, 1992 as part of the newly created SNICK lineup. From 8 to 10 pm EST every Saturday, kids had a block of shows that brought a variety of entertainment before always ending with some horror to scare the crap out of them on the way to bed. "The Tale of the Phantom Cab" was the premiere episode of the show but it wasn't the first to air on Nickelodeon, which we'll get to later. If it wasn't for the fact that the episode serves as the important introduction to many aspect of the series, I would just stop right here. "The Tale of the Phantom Cab" is simply terrible.

The episode starts off with a bespectacled teenager named Gary. He breaks the fourth wall as the camera dollys around to the other teenagers sitting next to him. They are the Midnight Society, a group of teenagers from different school and lifestyles who come to a place in the middle of the woods to share spooks and scares. Gary's speech addresses the audience but canonically it is for Frank, a new candidate to enter the Society but he must submit a horror story while still blindfolded. It's no surprise that he wins over the others but it later becomes a seemingly unwise decision; the headstrong Frank spends the rest of his run always trying to pick a fight and being a genuine dick to the others. Add to the fact that his story absolutely sucks and you get the impression the Midnight Society isn't worthy as an exclusive and prestigious club. These segments with the teenagers bookend the show, with a brief segment intersected into the middle probably as kindly reminder to those scared that it is only a TV show. And, before the story starts, the teller must throw some of the Society's "magic dust" into the fire to make a mini-explosion. This dust always was a treat for me and I later found out it was simply just table sugar.

The "horror" story is of two brothers, Buzz and Denny, as they are lost in the woods. They meet up with a man named Flynn who directs them to a house but not before asking them about riddles. The two kids enter the strange little house that looks like something from the Shire and meet a strange old coot named Dr. Vink. He says he'll help them only if they figure out a riddle. Once they fail it, he kicks them out but gives them directions to an area where a taxi drives by every night. They enter the car to find Flynn is not only the driver (oh, wow, what a twist!) but undead and about to kill them too unless they solve the riddle.

I really can't believe I wasted some much time and energy writing the plot synopsis but I wanted to spell out the fundamental problem with this story. It is called "The Tale of the Phantom Cab", and yet the phantom cab doesn't enter in until the very end. You have to sit through so much tedious walking and talking scenes in the beginning with the two kids who have "Not An Actor" printed on their foreheads. The direction is just abysmal with many shots, most obviously a Vertigo Shot of the kids screaming, badly executed. The worst offender is when the winds and sounds of lost souls surround the kids, which is displayed by close-ups of bushes that are being forcibly shaken.

The only saving grace and an important moment in the series was that this is the first appearance of Dr. Vink. I absolutely love this character as a kid, played expertly by Aron Tager. He is essentially a horror-themed Merlin, a wise but mischievous wizard and anti-hero whose morality is often questioned. Like in this episode, he often served as the villain of the stories, preying on modern citizens and imposing dastardly tricks to injury and even kill people. He also had two recurring gags, one involving the pronunciation of his name (Not Fink, but Vink. "With a va, va.") and how he could hear somebody calling him a "nut bag" and calls it out on them after some time has passed. So, when he tries to kill these two losers, of course I had to cheer him on.

Though it serves purposes as being the first both for the show and for the Dr. Vink character, steer clear (ugh) of this tale. It's a bad start for what later be a fun, entertaining and scary series.

Next up: A simple ghost tale among women.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Footloose - Review

FOOTLOOSE has returned for an encore, complete with its still tacky main plotline, character arcs and moments, dance set pieces, and even costume attire. In fact, this new beast of teen sexuality and physical prowess has too much of the original film's DNA. The major plot holes are now bigger given the jump in time and Ren McCormack still thinks that hate-dancing in a warehouse is a good idea. Thankfully, the director Craig Brewer told his co-writer, the original's sole writer Dean Pitchford, to return to his Teen Beat issues while Brewer lathers the film with some more grim and smut to make a commendable, entertaining soundtrack film.

Ren is again dropped into Bomont, clashes heads with the town's anti-music and dance laws, and slowly flirts with the dangerous daughter of the local preacher. There is now a prologue showing the reason for the ban and the "Chicken" tractor fight has turned into demolition derby with school buses. That's really the only core plot elements retouched and added, a couple of bruises when it should have been major cuts. Instead of script-doctoring the story, it is the characters that seemed to be the problem for the writers. They now have new skin colors, have spines implanted to talk back, or killed off for cheap pathos.

However, I feel that Brewer's heavy hand and guidance to bring in, shockingly, realism and vibrant energy to the words and motives of his players saved the film from being a potential catastrophe. All of teens swear and talk frank about sex often. They speak back with "Yankee Sarcasm", their clothing, or a simple beer bottle to the head. More importantly, their dance styles are current and fit their personalities, from aerobic gymnastics to the bump and grind. They aren't 80's statues, they feel like young turks of this generation.

The main leads are either suited or just fine. Except for lame attempts to invoke James Dean or possibly James Franco, Kenny Wormald does show off a pretty boy live-wire persona. Julianne Hough, of Dancing With the Stars fame, uses her body and her surreally beautiful eyes effectively. Wormald and Hough may have the attention but the supporting cast has the real spotlight. Miles Teller came in to the film wearing the heavy shoes of the late Chris Penn's Willard character and he makes those boots boogie all over the place. A true standout, Teller is a joy to behold. I was also fond of Ray McKinnon as the now empowered and endearing Uncle Wes who has some great interactions with Wormald and Dennis Quaid's Reverend Moore.

With the camera, Brewer not only makes the dancing more pervasively sexual and dynamic but makes surprisingly excellent compositions with his D.P. in the tamer scenes. An early scene where Quaid is giving an eulogy in a tight closeup turns out to be his endorsement of the bans at a town hall meeting. Also, much later, the young lovers's first kiss is done in a lingering medium shot with a quietly attractive sunset behind them. Unfortunately, his great framing include several shots of Coca-Cola propaganda, with the Sprite soda can perfectly facing it.

The original film had an excellent and successful soundtrack and some of its popular songs are included. The title track still bookends the entire film, with Kenny Loggins' edition at the beginning and Blake Shelton's cover at the end. Deniece Williams' "Let's Hear It for the Boy" still overlaps Willard's dance lessons but a cover is used during the credits. "Bang Your Head" returns oddly but "Almost Paradise" and "Holding Out for a Hero" were redone and, in the case of "Hero", strangely added in awkward scenes. None of the new songs moved myself except for "Fake I.D.", which made for some excitingly choreographed line dancing. Most to the detriment of the film, Ren's landmark hate-dance segment is accompanied by a lame industrial rock-techno song instead of the ultra-cheesy "Never" or something more fitting that doesn't make the scene look completely goofy.

FOOTLOOSE is a perfect date movie and good for some he said/she said fun walking back to the box office. The stupidity of banning dance and music from teenagers in this day and age of television shows and the Internet is way more enormous to accept compared to when it was in the 1980's. On the other hand, you get to see some sexy people dance and buses turn over and blow up. Pick your poison.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Horrors of October - Introduction

It is now the month of October. A month often devoted to the genre of horror in the entertainment world. New horror films are released in time for Halloween, television stations and networks put on movie marathons or countdown shows about thriller chills, and bespectacled super nerds lavish over their favorites with personal viewings or in viral reviews. So, of course I fit in with the latter.

I was not planning on doing an overview of anything horror this month, despite the fun but tough 25 Days of Christmas Entertainment I did last year. The main reason is because there are already many great websites and web series who do it better justice, most notably the great folks behind the I-Mockery website and James Rolfe's in-depth and hilarious annual "Monster Madness" series. But something changed everything.

One day while surveying my favorite store for DVDs, I came across what is now a rare OOP (Out of Print) DVD collection. It was the Complete First Season of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, a horror anthology series I very much enjoyed as a kid and a collection only released in Canada. I've seen some repeated episodes of it on the Nicktoons Network back when I was living in Syracuse but those few and far between, mostly ones from the later seasons. I spent most of the time watching old Nicktoons or laughing with friends at the old Goosebumps television series when it aired on Cartoon Network at Halloween time.

An idea came to me to revisit the original season for another special holiday occasion and I jumped at the chance. Starting on Tuesday the 18th, I'll be going over the show's original 13 episodes, bringing up my past memories and comparing/contrasting them with my present views. I'll talk about the main cast members, the featured guest stars and the contents of the stories. Each write-up will be short expect for the first one and any episodes that still have resonated with me.

And, like the television characters, all of "my stories" will be posted at the strike of midnight. Sadly, I don't have a magic powder to throw before posting.