I found these creepy little fellas in my stocking. They're sort of undead, holiday versions of the M.U.S.C.L.E. Men I used to collect as a youngster.
The latest Michael Chabon novel, which I will get started on the moment that I finish Anno Dracula: Dracula Cha Cha Cha by Kim Newman, which I am currently embroiled in. Also, an adorable Incredible Hulk bookmark to help keep my place. Losing your page makes Hulk angry...and you wouldn't like him when he's angry.
Hulk also doesn't like it when his Mountain Dew gets warm.
I love The Big Bang Theory. BAZINGA!
Part freak. Part geek. All week.
And what Christmas is complete without socks?
I also received some Amazon gift cards which I will be putting towards purchasing a new Kindle Fire to replace my outdated, flameless Kindle from years back.
The wife and I had a little free time in our schedule today, so we decided to swing by the local used book store, where I traded in a shopping bag of old, unwanted books for substantial credit and found this little gem.
The limited edition Cemetery Dance hardcover of Peter Straub's fantastic PORK PIE HAT, signed and numbered.
Picking up directly where the original left off, this sequel has the two survivors, Mark and Sarah, fleeing from the flaming wreckage of the wax museum, unaware of the fact that a strange creature from the homicidal exhibits has escaped as a well--a dismembered hand with a life of its own.
It follows Sarah home and promptly murders her white trash stepfather--a crime for which she is put on trial. The jury doesn't believe this crazy story about evil museums and killer hands, of course, so they open up a dimensional doorway and hop through like Alice through the looking glass in order to locate and bring back some kind of proof.
And from there, it's more of the same nonsense as our "heroes" hop from era to era, striving to put right what once went wrong. They spend some time in the Victorian past (a la Frankenstein), the distant future (a la Aliens), and way too much time in a medieval land, each time barely saving the universe and themselves.
Like I said, it's more of the same, and so the same problems plague this film as the original. The FX are better, and the acting and scripting aren't so over-the-top, but again the film is virtually schizophrenic, bouncing from utter slapstick--witness the (welcome) appearance of Bruce Campbell--and taking itself far to seriously--as in the Aliens riff. It seems as if the filmmakers only wanted to make the best parts of a dozen different films, so that's what they did, tossing them together with a patchwork plot.
A group of over-privileged and under-disciplined stock characters attend a private midnight showing of the mysterious new waxwork that has just opened in the neighborhood. Once inside, they find that it is actually a museum of the macabre, with exhibits showcasing scenes of vampires, werewolves, living mummies, etc. One by one, these spoiled and obnoxious shits stumble blindly into the exhibits and find themselves transported to a different world where the scenes are all too real, and they are--surprise, surprise--mere fodder.
The acting is lackluster, the creature effects cheesy, the set-pieces are elaborately over-the-top and cheap like a soap opera's idea of a period piece, and the pseudo-cool 1980s dialogue and attitude is painfully dated. One might say that the saving grace here is the tongue-in-cheek manner in which the film presents itself--we can't take it too seriously because it doesn't take itself seriously--but that is a half-truth at best.
Strangely, the scenes that take place in the "real" world are hokey and jokey, with a self-effacing sense of humor that leads you to believe this is some sort of dark satire. But when the characters enter into the exhibit worlds, suddenly the tone changes and we're supposed to believe that we're watching a real horror movie--an illusion I just couldn't buy into.
The trio of waxwork employees were suitably creepy, and there were a couple of highlights throughout the film--a gross dinner scene involving 'steak tartar' (yeah right) and an all-too-brief Night of the Living Dead-inspired scene--but overall, I'd rather pay to see Madame Tussauds.
She's got Lady Gaga, after all. Talk about scary!
"They'll make a movie about anything nowadays."
As much as uptight asthmatic lawyer Harold is repulsed by the hippie subculture, it seems equally drawn to him. After a freak accident puts his car out of commission, he's stuck with the only loaner that the shop had left in stock: an old wagon painted up in psychedelic stylings, looking like one part Mystery Machine, one part Partridge Family bus, and one part Merry Prankster's Further. Almost immediately following this, Harold is reunited with his brother Herbie, a flower child residing in Venice Beach, and he develops some infatuation with his brother's hippie chick girlfriend Nancy. Nevermind the fact that Harold is already engaged to Joyce.
Nancy bakes Harold a batch of "groovy" brownies, and before you can say Barney Miller, Harold inadvertently shares them with his fiance and parents. Still reeling from the wacky tobacky, Harold abandons his old life and plunges head first into Wonderland.
This wacky little flick is populated with kooky characters and a bleak, bitter sense of humor. It seemed almost like an old Woody Allen film taking place among the California hippies instead of the New York intelligentsia.
I had a lot of fun throughout, despite the lack of a solid story, and enjoyed it many times more than I thought I would. It was a smart, biting satire of a subculture that was destined to consume itself,, and the most interesting thing is that there seems to be a sense of legitimacy here. The filmmakers appear to have had at least a peripheral knowledge of the scene they're mocking, or at the very least were very good at faking it, which is a rarity for these types of films.
On a side note, no, you're not missing something--there is no character named Alice B. Toklas here. She was a real person who wrote a cookbook upon which this movie is hinged.
Double-bill this with Lord Love A Duck for two times the subversive fun.
Any movie that references Allen Ginsberg in the first 30 seconds is aces in my book.
It's time for another Instant Watch Update. Here are the top 5 films available to stream on Netflix that are currently on my radar. Jonny tested, Jonny approved.
Drive:A Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver is lured from his isolated life by a lovely neighbor and her young son. His newfound peace is shattered, however, when her violent husband is released from prison.
Buried:While on a job in Iraq, civilian contractor Paul Conroy is attacked and kidnapped, then awakens to find himself buried alive in the middle of the desert with nothing but a lighter, a candle, a cell phone and a knife.
Memento:Suffering short-term memory loss after a head injury, Leonard Shelby embarks on a grim quest to find out who murdered his wife. Shelby snaps Polaroids of people and places, jotting down contextual notes on the backs of photos to aid in his search.
Marathon Man:When his CIA agent brother (Roy Scheider) is killed, graduate student Babe Levy (Dustin Hoffman) finds himself trapped in a deadly game with a Nazi fugitive (Laurence Olivier), a sadist who uses dental instruments as tools of torture in this Oscar-nominated film based on William Goldman's novel. As Levy turns from pacifist to street-smart cynic, director John Schlesinger's thriller barrels toward its fever-pitched conclusion.
The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane:Living by herself in her father's house, resourceful 13-year-old Rynn Jacobs will do anything to remain independent and to keep anyone from discovering what she's hiding in the cellar, as her prying landlady finds out.
Wilson Wyler Concannon...William Sadler
Film blogger Tyler has grown obsessed with a mythical horror film entitled The Hills Run Red. It played briefly in theaters a few decades ago, but was promptly pulled due to controversy over its graphic and realistic portrayals of sadistic violence. With the home video market being what it is today, one would expect The Hills Run Red to have found its niche upon re-release, but once it was pulled from theaters, a print of the film was never seen again. Even stranger, no members of the cast have ever been located, nor has the director been heard from. All that remains behind, the only proof that the movie ever actually existed, is the original trailer and a few still photographs, and the fading memories of those who had seen it upon its initial release. And they claim it was the most frightening film they had ever seen.
No wonder Tyler wants to learn the truth behind this modern myth. Everyone needs a Holy Grail.
Tyler, his girlfriend, and his best friend locate the strung-out stripper daughter of the director and convince her to take them on a journey to uncover the truth: that maybe, just maybe, the movie wasn't just a movie after all.
The premise is a surprisingly good one, and original to boot. It's just too bad that the execution didn't live up to its promise. There was a lot of raw, untapped potential here, but it went slightly south and ended up too predictable and less than believable. That isn't to say that I didn't enjoy the film--I did--but it should have been something more than it was, like a promising student who winds up pumping gas for a living.
This film was released with a modicum of fanfare among the Blogger Horror Society, but with proper marketing, it could have been much bigger. Had they played up the mystery angle prior to its release--leaked the trailer for the film-within-the-film, and it had gone viral, for instance--it could have generated quite a bit of buzz, but as it stands, no one outside of horror fandom seems to know that this movie was ever even made.
With its great concept and some strong performances, one can overlook its flaws and see that it is, if nothing else, the best movie from production house Dark Castle that doesn't involve CCH Pounder and a murderous Russian orphan.
With certain notable exceptions, I've never been a big fan of the anthology film format. The quality of the stories always vary from segment to segment, and more often than not the wraparound story is just a lame attempt at bringing multiple disjointed works into a single cohesive units. As a whole, the film tends to be an uneven experience, and just difficult for me to appreciate as a singular work of art.
I am, however, a fan of found-footage films. They have a way of drawing me into the story that a more cinematic method fails to do. When something uncanny or unusual is shown via amateurish or non-cinematic camera work, it somehow seems to me more real and less like a special effect.
So right off the bat, this movie had one plus and one minus in my mind, which pretty much put it at an even playing field when I popped it into my DVD player for the first time. There was a lot of positive buzz, followed by a lot of negative backlash, for this movie and I carefully avoided it all. I wanted to go in fresh.
The wraparound story (Tape 56, directed by Adam Wingard) involves a group of low-level thugs and amateur pornographers who are hired by persons unknown to break into a house and steal a specific video tape. Once there, they find the corpse of the homeowner and a number of VHS tapes. They play the tapes, looking for the one they were hired to steal, and each of these tapes delivers to us another story.
Amateur Night directed by David Bruckner
Three of the most despicable, obnoxious douchebags that I have ever had the displeasure of seeing hit the night club scene with a pair of spy glasses, hoping to bring some drunken co-eds back to their hotel room and capture their sexcapades on tape. Two out of the three bag a babe, but back in their room, one passes out before much of anything can happen and the other is much more than they bargained for. It would have been enjoyable if I didn't hate every last one of the principal characters 30 seconds after the segment started.
Second Honeymoon directed by Ti West
A married couple on vacation in Arizona refuse to give a hitchhiking woman a ride, and thereafter a mysterious stranger sneaks into their room and films them while they sleep. It features some truly creepy moments (reminiscent of Evil Things), a truly gory one, and a twist ending that is relatively silly. But at least the main characters are likable this time around.
Tuesday the 17th directed by Glenn McQuaid
The title isn't the only part of this segment that is a riff on Friday the 13th. In typical slasher fashion, a group of horny, pot-smoking young people visit a rural location and find themselves stalked by an unstoppable killer. For whatever reason, the killer's image is unable to be captured on video, so he's represented by a lot of digital distortion and a mess of pixelation. Unfortunately, changing the camera perspective doesn't mean anything new is brought to the table.
The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger directed by Joe Swanberg
This entire segment is shot using video chat software and follows a woman who is trying to convince her long-distance boyfriend that her apartment is haunted. It offers a few chilling glimpses of spirit children running through the background, but a simple and effective premise was ruined for me by a convoluted and unexplored twist ending.
10/31/98 directed by Radio Silence
A group of male friends on their way to a Halloween party find themselves at the wrong house in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Not comprehending their mistake, they explore the house. The initial spooky happenings are laughed off as Halloween tricks, but there are some things that simply can't be denied. It is a batshit crazy take on haunted houses and urban legends, and was probably my favorite of all the segments.
All said and done, it was a pretty good little flick even if it didn't live up to all the hype. There were quite a few chilling moments, and although not all of the stories were home runs, the ones that worked outweighed the ones that didn't. I'll probably watch this one again, at least certain segments, and I'm looking forward to the impending sequel.
Charlie Dunnigan...Paul Douglas
Robert Cosick...Richard Basehart
Virginia Foster...Barbara Bel Geddes
St. Patrick's Day in New York City. The fifteenth floor of the Rodney Hotel. The Ledge.
That's where young and jittery Robert Cosick has taken his perch while he works through a few familial issues in his mind and kicks around the idea of suicide. Flatfoot traffic cop Charlie Dunnigan is the first on the scene and his straight-shooting colloquial nature quickly builds a rapport with the frightened young man, so much so that even when the place is swarming with high-level fuzz and professionals duly qualified to deal with these kinds of situations, Robert wants nothing to do with anyone else.
Coached by his brash sergeant, an over-educated psychiatrist, and his own innate gift of gab, Dunnigan finds himself in the unlikely position of having to save this boy's life--a far cry from writing traffic tickets and directing taxis in and out of hack stations.
I'm a bit of a sucker for these old-school suspense yarns, with their kooky characters and archaic tough guy attitudes. I went into this movie having never heard of it, and having read only the single line synopsis supplied by Turner Classic Movies, so I really wasn't sure what to expect. I was more than pleasantly surprised. I was damn near blown away.
Despite the fact that the entire movie essentially takes place in a few singular locations stacked one atop the other (the street, the hotel room, the ledge), there's no shortage of characters here. In fact, it seems to be a cast of millions, from the aggravated cab drivers stuck in traffic and taking bets on what time Robert will make the jump, to the philosophical Romeo using the madcap scene to make time with some pretty little onlooker, and the reporters out for a story with the old "If it bleeds, it leads" mentality. But the real selling point is Paul Douglas as Officer Dunnigan, the kind of police officer you don't often see depicted in the media anymore. A good, honest cop just trying to do a little good in the world. As much as I like a Vic Mackey, the world still needs a Dunnigan.
There's not much action here, to be honest. It's a very character-driven and dialogue-driven tale. But the characters and dialogue are so spot-on that your nerves will be rattled and you'll be biting your nails in suspense. It's amazing what a little emotional investment can do. As the son of a suicide, I've automatically got a morbid fascination with the subject (although, to be fair, if it was a movie about a man threatening to hang himself, I probably wouldn't be able to stomach it), and it was refreshing to see it treated in a tasteful, serious, and believable way.
Highly recommended, Hipsters.
Stop me if you've heard this one: A Jew and a German walk into a bar. Well, okay, they don't walk into a bar, but they do get into their respective cars, get into a little racially-fueled road rage, and die a horrible, fiery death following a collision with an oil truck. Pretty good punchline, eh?
This horrific event kicks off our story, and from there we meet liberal pacifist grad student Babe Levy, whose girlfriend may or may not be what she claims, and whose brother Doc is a covert government agent killed in the line of duty. Immediately following his violent demise, Babe finds himself on the run from Szell, a sadistic Nazi war criminal--a former dentist with a passion for oral trauma. He's willing to torture and kill for the answer to a single question, an answer that Babe doesn't have.
"Is it safe?"
But, as always, there's only so much poking and prodding a man can take before you hit a nerve--in this case, quite literally--and Babe shakes loose from his pacifistic shackles in hopes of turning the tables on his ratzi tormentor.
Truth be told, this movie is like an old Mustang. It takes a short while to warm up, but once it gets going it purrs like a kitten and takes you for one hell of a ride. Although it's more intrigue and suspense than horror, that doesn't make Szell any less of a terrifying character, and you'll root (canal) for his comeuppance just as sure as you'll cringe at his medieval practices. This could easily be seen as an offshoot of the Survivalist Film, or, if you squint hard enough, a predecessor to the Torture Porn subgenre. It's Hostel...with a storyline. Who would have even thought it possible?
With rock solid performances from all of the dependable leads and admirable direction, this movie has a shiny payoff that you'll want to see, so don't let the rusty warm-up period throw you off.