Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Scarefest 2013 - John Dies At The End

Today's Movie:  John Dies At The End (2013) - viewed on Netflix

Starring:  Two dudes I've never heard of before and, strangely, Paul Giamatti, who must have needed a quick payday.

Plot:  Alright, hang on here.

Two guys become super clairvoyant and begin seeing other worldly creatures after taking a drug called 'Soy Sauce' which appears to be a living organism.  Random, odd, people pop in and out of the drama and are never fully explained.

The two friends wind up involved in some sort of inter dimensional clash of worlds where one (not ours, of course, because we're slackers and peace loving douche bags) wants to take over the other by ingesting all the smart people into this one eyed, genius monster (what? it's how it gains more knowledge).

Gore Factor:  Very high.

Nude Factor:  Non existent

Scare Factor:  A few jumps, but this plays more like a Cronenberg film: creepy and surreal.

Review:  If you're thinking that this is a seriously fucked up movie, you don't know the half of it. I didn't even mention the creatures that will show themselves to people in different forms, the dog that can drive cars or the creature that creates itself out of freezer meat.  Also there is some world famous spiritual dude (played by Clancy Brown) who can somehow destroy these creatures with a phrase over the phone. 

If you're also thinking this doesn't sound very serious, you've nailed that, as well. There are several laugh out loud moments throughout (after all how did they get the meat creature to take a cell phone call?) and there is a time bending aspect to it which results in John calling his friend and asking 'Did I die yet?'. 

Or popping back to life and having this exchange.

John:  'Where are we?'

'At the mall'

John: 'Coming or going?'

'Going'

John: 'Right, it would have to be going because Fred is still alive'

Fred - standing next to John:  'WHAT???!!!'

Bottom Line:  Strange, nearly incomprehensible plot yet often grotesquely funny. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Scarfest 2013 - Cabin In The Woods

More spoilers today, so look away....

Today's Movie:  Cabin In The Woods (2012) - watched on DVD.

Starring:  Chris Hemsworth (is he Thor?), Bradley Whitford, Shaggy from Scooby Doo, a bunch of other people who become chum during the course of the movie. 

Plot:  A bunch of friends (the jock, the slut, the virtuous one, the stoner, the sensitive guy) plan a weekend in someone's cabin in the woods.  They run across the creepy local who warns them all away just like every other horror movie ever filmed. 

They stumble across a basement full of toys and one of them accidentally unleashes hell on earth.  Let the bodies begin piling up.

Only things aren't what the seem.  The cabin is being monitored by people who appear to be running a game show with real death involved. 

Things get more convoluted (often hilariously so) from there.  The deaths are actually a human sacrifice to prevent unseen, hellish creatures for coming up and destroying the earth.  Yeah, it's a bit hard to describe this one. 

Gore Factor:  Through the roof.  

Nude Factor:  'Come on...show us the goods'

Scare Factor:  Despite the complex plot, there are some seriously creepy moments here.  It helps that there is barely any build up before the first victim is claimed.  Things only escalate from there.  Some images from this movie will stay with you.

Review:  This doesn't simply turn the genre on its head, it tips it upside down, inside out and abuses it with amusing contrasts (the employees at the monitoring center partying while one girl is being thoroughly abused on the monitors behind them is a classic).  It also becomes the first horror movie that PROMOTES the use of marijuana.  I really don't want to spoil this too much as some of the explanations for the annual slaughter are the best punch lines. 

Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins are fantastic as two colleagues betting on the outcome of the victims.  Acting like it's just another day at the office while carnage takes place all around them.  The other actors are just as good, morphing from the stereotypical teens marked for death to living, breathing humans we're rooting for.

There are surprising and shocking deaths throughout as well as an unexpected resurrection.  The film keeps you on your toes, so don't expect your traditional 'here comes a sequel' ending, either. 

Bottom Line:  Smart, funny, scary, super gory...yep, we have a winner here. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Scarefest 2013 - The Innkeepers

Today's Movie:  The Innkeepers (2011) viewed on Netflix streaming

Starring:  Sara Paxton, Pat Healy and a nearly unrecognizable Kelly McGillis.

Plot:  Two slacker 20 somethings are the last remaining employees of a centuries old New England Inn (thus the title).  Boredom has pushed them towards proving there are paranormal events happening at the hotel.  They spend their time tending to the few remaining visitors and recording events throughout the night. 

This being a horror movie and all, things take a turn for the worse.  If you've ever seen any horror movie at any time in your lives, you can figure out which way this one turns. 

Gore Factor:  Slight.  There is a bathtub scene that is bloody, but there isn't too much.

Nude Factor:  None, although I was hoping for a better shower scene since I'm head over heals for Sara Paxton.

Scare Factor:  Pretty good, actually.  There are some moments that will stick with you (especially in the final 30 minutes) and several jump out of your seat moments. 

Review:  I'm not sure why other movies have such a hard time figuring this out or, at the very least, getting it translated into the movie, but when we care about characters it makes what happens that much more intense.  Great horror movies (or thrillers for that matter) always involve us in the people themselves.  If they're assholes or wooden cut outs, the stakes aren't nearly as high. 

'The Innkeepers' gets this right.  Introducing us to two co-workers, sometimes friends, possible love interests who are fun to simply hang around with.  Investing us in their personalities and camaraderie intensifies everything that happens.

It certainly helps that Sara Paxton is fucking adorable, charming, slightly insecure and unsure as Claire.  Helps a lot, actually, since she's the focal point of the plot.  There are several laugh out loud moments throughout, as well.  The two of them getting drunk and staging a ghost sighting; the mother and son who are trying to prove a point to her distracted husband; an interesting cameo by an off the wall coffee shop employee. 

While the scares and horror aren't anything unusual (although this does have it's moments), the acting and directing make this an enjoyable time. 

Bottom Line:  Have fun with this one.




Also, resistance is futile

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Scarefest 2013 - Hard Candy

Just as a head's up, there are major spoilers ahead.  Read no further if you want to watch a twisted, very flawed, psychological twister from eight years ago.  What, exactly, is the limit on spoilers?  If I say that Jack dies in 'Lost' would that still be considered a spoiler?

Anyway....

Today's Movie:  Hard Candy (2005) viewed on FearNet Channel

Starring:  Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson

Plot:  Creepy older dude, Patrick Wilson, convinces a 14 year old to meet him at a coffee shop while they are chatting on the internet.  They do the older guy/REALLY young girl flirtation that makes viewers uncomfortable.  Everything seems to be heading towards disaster for this young, cute, naive girl...

...until Wilson suddenly passes out and comes to with Page having tied him to a chair.  She has turned the tables and spends the rest of the film searching for his child porn stash, torturing him and castrating him on the kitchen table.  I spent much of this movie with my hands over my genitals and/or legs crossed. 

Gore Factor:  Limited, although the castration scene is brutal even if there isn't overt blood and guts.  We glimpse what's going on through the blurry monitors Page sets up so Wilson can witness his own undoing. 

Nude Factor:  None, which is odd considering what occurs.

Scare Factor:  Low.  There aren't overt frights here.  This is more a psychological cat and mouse game between Page and Wilson.

Review:  This one didn't so much as creep me out as make me very uncomfortable.  There are severely squeamish moments throughout due to Page and Wilson acting the shit out of this. Even the suggestive conversations between the two made me hesitant. 

That said, this movie cops out BIG TIME when everything is revealed.  Most importantly it turns out the entire castration was orchestrated and she never went through with it.  It was all a ruse.  Secondly, Page is about 80 pounds soaking wet with her pockets full of lead.  How she was strong enough to move Wilson around and tie him up so tightly that he can't break free is a huge mystery. 

Finally, her end game is so convoluted and overly complex I have to wonder why she didn't just kill the guy and be done with it.  Instead she risks being found out and gets other people involved when it isn't necessary.  Near the climax she has Wilson hung up on a chair with a noose around his neck.  Instead of knocking the chair out from under him, he manages to break free after she spends 15 minutes talking to him and stalk her throughout the house.  They both wind up on the roof where she has another noose waiting for him so he can hang himself.  If she wanted it to be a suicide, just knock the chair out, ya dummy.  Why risk having him kill you for no reason?

Bottom Line:  Great acting undermined by a script that should have stopped itself before getting carried away.  If this were an 85 minute movie and ended where it should have, I would still be unnerved by it.  Instead it degenerates into another potboiler that makes no sense. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Scarefest 2013 - Mama

Since we're in the Halloween spirit, allow me to start reviewing some scary movies during the next week or so.  No time frame on these.  I've already got two movies ready to go.

Be warned, there are spoilers ahead. 

Today's Movie:  'Mama' (2013) viewed on HBO

Starring: Jessica Chastain and the dude from 'Game Of Thrones'.  Plus two little girls who are pretty good for child actors.  Does it take a lot for kids to act scared in movies like this?  Do the directors actually scare them for authenticity?

I digress.

Plot:  Two girls are abducted by their father after he goes on a killing spree. Fortunately for them he takes them to a secluded cabin in the woods that is haunted by a killer ghost who has a softness for children.  As the father is about to kill the two little girls (because he loves them, of course), the murder ghost jumps out and kills the father thus saving the girls.

Five years later....

The girls are found by a couple of dudes (just as the funds run out from the uncle who has never stopped looking for them - conveniently).  They're feral and dirty and must have been shitting themselves regularly since they have been surviving on cherries and the kindness of the murder ghost. 

As I'm writing this, I realize this plot is fucking ridiculous. 

Anyway, the girls are reunited with the uncle and his rock chick girlfriend (was there a reason she was in a rock band?  It really didn't play much into the story. I was hoping she would have a bass duel with the ghost like Scott Pilgrim).  There is the usual transition period and the rock chick begins to realize that SOMETHING HAS COME BACK WITH THEM!

You can guess the rest.

Gore Factor:  Not much, really.  Another PG-13 horror movie.

Nude Factor:  None.

Scare Factor:  Admittedly there are quite a few effective scenes.  The director shows us that the murder ghost is still with the girls with in a clever foreground/background combo shot.  Wifey jumped out of seat a few times and cursed 'I hate these movies' more than once.  The murder ghost also makes this creepy, clicking sound that reminded me of 'Mimic'.

Review:  While this isn't terrible, it completely falls apart in the last 30 minutes.  Legitimate scares turn into laughs after the third person winds up at the creepy cabin in the middle of the night.  Can these people not make it there before sunset?  The uncle has a vision of his dead brother and leads him to a bridge.  Only he winds up walking seemingly for hours to get to the cabin.  So what was the point of the vision?  Was he cursing his dead brother for not being more specific in his death taunt?The psychiatrist who is unraveling the murder ghost's true identity doesn't tell anyone where he is going and winds up in the cabin (in the dead of night of course).  Things work out for him as well as you would think.

Other ludicrous things happen like the rock chick nearly running over her boyfriend even though she's driving down an mammoth secluded road and he's in a forest at least a hundred square miles in size.  This is my favorite, goofy scene.  She had left him a voice mail explaining that the murder ghost has kidnapped the girls.  After nearly running him over, he says 'I got your message'.  Not 'Oh, hey, I'm out of the hospital' or 'What the fuck are you doing here' or 'What are the odds we meed right here at this exact moment'.

No, just 'I got your message'.  Rock chick next says 'She's got the girls!' which is an absolute shock to him.  Wait, did you get her message or not?  Did you delete it without listening to the entire thing, you selfish prick?  And how did you have time to listen to a voice mail when wandering the woods?  What cell plan do you have?  Because your coverage is fantastic!

Here's my pet peeve with these stupid movies:  Why do they have to explain the ghost?  They all have to have back stories now.  Why can't it simply be something inexplicable?  Isn't that the entire point of paranormal?  Something that can't be explained?  Instead they turn the murder ghost with a terrible manicure into a wronged - albeit dead - woman.  And why are her hands so big?  If she's just a dead woman, shouldn't they be normal size?  Was she a freakishly good vollyball player back in her prime?

Bottom Line:  Watch the first three quarters of this movie then make up your own ending.  Whatever you come up with will be ten times better than what the movie came up with. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sock Talk

No, sorry.  Not the Red Sox again today.

This has to do with a phenomenon that's been taking my house by storm. 

Socks. 

In particular these new Nike Elite socks that everyone is going goofy over.  Let's get this out of the way first - they look ridiculous.  Knee highs that come in a variety of colors that seem to be an experiment in retina torture. 

Here is one version

 
 
That pair is one of the least offensive.  Check out these MoFos:

 
 
 
 And from the 'Good Lord, Look Away' collection:

 
 
 
Don't worry, though.  The boys wear these socks - hiked up as high as possible - while wearing shorts.  So they won't be hidden underneath long pants. Fuck, no.  That's unacceptable.

On the plus side they 'only' cost $14 a pair and certainly protect my sons' legs from potential skin cancer.  Although I'm betting radiation or lead paint poisoning is the trade off.  Also, I can spot them from miles away, so I won't ever lose track of them.  Well, unless they're in a crowd of other kids the same age in which case all I'll see is a blur of psychedelic colors that make me think I'm having an acid flashback. 

Again.

OK, I was a stupid kid, too, so I can deal with the colors and (hopefully) passing fad. 

What really chaps my ass about these socks is a tiny detail that you can barely see in those photos.  Look real close and you'll see an 'L' and 'R'.  They've labeled their socks so you know which foot they're supposed to go on. 

Nike has somehow tapped into the borderline obsessive compulsive section of society; people like my wife and two boys who are now insisting that socks should be worn on certain feet.  My pleas of 'They're socks.  There are no left or right feet options with socks!' are ignored. 

The purpose of this labeling (I finally pointed out to the boys) isn't support or comfort, it's so the Nike swoosh is always on the outside of the leg so everyone can see it.  Duh, people.  We can't afford to put our trademark on both sides, so we're going to tell you which foot to put them on. 

This makes laundry day so much more fun.  My philosophy is seeing two socks the same type and putting them together - thus making a PAIR of socks.  It's been working perfectly for generations. 

I still do this with the Elites, but OCD Wifey goes through them again to make sure the pairs have a left and right sock together.  Let's all re-read that sentence again.  Left and right socks.  What the holy fuck is happening?

As if these Elite socks aren't enough, Wifey came home with white socks for me last week.  They are basic Nikes and they are also labeled with L and R.  White socks.  Again, the purpose is to keep the logo on the outside of the leg. I'm wearing them on opposite feet and inside out today just to piss her off.

Our neighbors have kids about the same age as my boys and they showed up one day with Adidas' version of the Elites.  While just as eye scarring as the Nikes, at least they put their logo in front.  No left and right labels for this company.




I can only hope some executive in Adidas looked at their Nike counterparts and thought they had lost their collective minds. 

Nice to know there are some sane people left in this world. 

Enjoy the weekend, folks. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Weekend Of Chaos

Let's start today off with a confession:  I'm old.  I'm approaching the age where sleep is nearly as important to me as sex.  I'm not there yet, but the impulses are waging battles that become more epic by the day. 

Therefore, I can not be blamed for bailing on the Red Sox at 10 pm on a Sunday night with them down 5 - 1.  Not only was I sick of watching this beloved and bearded team swing at pitches in the dirt, I had to work in the morning.  Remember: Old. 

While I had witnessed the Patriots stick a dagger in yet another member of the Ryan family, I was shocked when Wifey says to me the next morning 'Red Sox won last night'.  I misheard it as a question and replied that they were down four runs and looking terrible so I doubt they won.

She says, 'No, I'm looking at it now. The Red Sox won last night'.

Throughout the season they've been pulling wins out of their collective asses, so I really shouldn't have been that surprised.  Although if you had seen the first game and two thirds of this Detroit series, you couldn't blame my skepticism.  Sanchez made them look foolish Saturday and they looked no more competent against Scherzer. 

What I found most amazing is that the two athletes that were involved in both comebacks have been around for a full generation of Boston fans.  My 13 year old was born just before the season Brady won his first Super Bowl.  He was a pup when Big Papi carried the Sox to their first World Series in 86 years.  He was the one who showed more confidence in Boston sports in 2007 when he told me not to worry about the Sox' being on the brink of elimination against Cleveland.  'Don't worry, Dad', he said, 'I know the Red Sox will win.'

Since the year of his birth he's been a part of five Super Bowls (three rings),  two NBA Finals (one ring), two Stanley Cups (one ring), and two World Series (both wins).  Hell, he's had more championship parades to attend in his first 13 years than I had my first 30.

Stupid, spoiled brat. 

One positive about aging is I have grown more objective regarding sports.  They aren't nearly as important as they used to be.  I still root for all Boston teams, but can appreciate other teams better (well, except the Lakers who I hate with every cell in my body).  I am a full fledged Kevin Durant lunatic (as is my oldest son) and keep hoping the Celtics pull some sort of trade to get him to Boston (it's called daydreaming). 

It was this objectivity that made me make a bet with my 8 year old while watching the Patriots game.  Tom Brady had just thrown an interception with a bit more than two minutes remaining.  Brees has the ball back now and I said 'Well, that's that'.

Youngest says 'Dad, there is still time left'. 

'Tell you what,' I fatefully say to him in a ridiculous attempt to teach him about odds, 'If the Patriots win this game, I'll give you 10 bucks'.

The kid is now 10 bucks richer and had his first lesson in Tom Brady.  He may be a fan for life now. 

Of gambling, that is.

Friday, October 4, 2013

TV Chatter

Slacker indeed, my friend....

With the launch of the new television season, let's touch base on some of the returning and new shows I've had the (mostly) pleasure to view. 

No talk of 'Breaking Bad', by the way.  I just finished season two.  Judge me all you want, but I just don't have a ton of time to binge watch like I used to.  Hell, I finished the first season of 'Lost' in three days. 

Let's get to it.

The Voice:  Not the greatest show, but it's a fun, family friendly distraction that we can tune into whenever we want.  I prefer the blind auditions, but wifey and my youngest prefer the knock out rounds. Basically, the more it becomes like 'American Idol' the less I watch.

It helps that I feel a kinship with Blake Shelton because I'm 90% sure there is booze in his cup during these shows.  I think we would have a blast hanging out. 

The Good Wife:  Getting a bit sick of the Alicia - Will thing and this season seems to be putting that aside for more important, career story lines.  The writers/creators have kept my interest since the beginning, so I have no reason to doubt them now. 

New Girl:  Not nearly as funny as the first season, but it's still entertaining enough. What I find interesting is them tackling the 'What Now?' aspects of hook ups and the balance of friendships and love interests.  We've all had conflicts like this in our lives but this is the first show to address them (in a funny way, of course). 

Brooklyn Nine Nine:  We stumbled across this during it's first episode and were hooked immediately.  Safe enough that the boys can watch with us.  My youngest laughs at this harder than anyone.  I'm assuming your enjoyment of this will depend on your view of Andy Samberg (who I keep referring to as Adam Sandler).

'Hi, I'm Detective Right-All-The-Time and this is Detective Not-A-Good-Detective'.

The Millers:  Either nobody can figure out what to do with Will Arnett (besides 'Arrested Development') or he picks terrible projects.  He's had more sitcoms than...um....well...somebody who had a lot of sitcoms in which to star.  Yet, again, this is a forgettable, boring, predictable, stupid one.  Pity.

Dads: WTF is this mess?  How does the creator of 'Robot Chicken' agree to make something this terrible?  Is this an experiment?  Are they trying to top 'Who's The Boss' or 'Full House' as one of the worst series of all time and see how many people watch?  Please, end the madness.  Not sure why this is called 'Dads', either.  Much of it takes place in a workplace.  Might as well just call it 'People You Wouldn't Spend Time With'.

The Blacklist:  Whatever.  I watched the first episode and it wasn't nearly enough to hold my attention.  It was ok, but I don't have time for a show that's just ok.

Marvel's Agents Of SHIELD:  The biggest surprise so far.  Much funnier than I expected (which is a great sign) and decent acting.  That Sam Jackson showed up as Nick Fury in the most recent episode makes me wonder if Tony Stark or (more likely) Thor will make an appearance.  In a nutshell this is old fashioned, brainless, fun. 

Sleepy Hollow:  Have only seen the first episode so far, but was impressed with what I saw.  Much better than the premise sounds (which, admittedly, is ridiculous).  Give it a shot if you see it On Demand. 

NFL Red Zone Channel:  Still the best invention in the history of forever. 

The Big Bang Theory:  Please tell me I'm the only one that doesn't find this show funny.  Is it me?  Am I missing something?  I just don't get it.  It's not terrible, mind you, but (at best) it's an average sitcom that has become wildly popular for reasons I don't understand. 

The Goldbergs:  'The Wonder Years' for the 80s?  Pass.

Parks and Recs:  Not off to a great start.  Still better than most shows, but it's showing strains along the seams by losing Andy to London and the baby subplot.  Enough with the recall effort, too.  Get back to the basics.  I'd rather watch a spin off with Andy and his English doppelganger at this point.

Actually, holy shit.  They should totally make a show about those two. 

Shows I Haven't Watched But Seem Terrible So I Probably Never Will:  'Sean Saves The World', 'The Micheal J Fox Show', 'Trophy Wife', 'Ironside', 'Back In The Game (aka: The Bad News Bears for TV')

What do all of these shows have in common?  They have been promoted ENDLESSLY throughout the summer.  The winner being 'The Blacklist' which I saw ads for so many time I've lost count.  My theory is the more a movie or show is pimped, the worse it will be.  I've been proven correct time and time again.

Let me know if I should pick up on some show (sorry, not 'The Mindy Project').

Enjoy the weekend.