Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Pick # 3 "Mickey's Christmas Carol"

Well, due to the sheer amount of Holiday related goings on lately, I haven't blogged in a bit. However, I feel compelled to still share the final of my Christmas picks-- "Mickey's Christmas Carol." This is one of the Holiday specials that seem to have dropped off in popularity since I was a kid. This used to be shown every year, much like the Rudolph and Frosty cartoons, but when I asked my nieces if they had ever seen it they said no. I rectified that during a night of pre-holiday babysitting and they loved it. It's got a lot going for it-- Scrooge McDuck is a great Disney character who is rarely used, and it was produced in 1983, so it's an honest-to-God hand animated movie! None of the CG crap that floods the animation market these days.

So, here it is-- A few days late, but still a great movie. And what I've posted is the entire film (about 25 minutes) so If you haven't ever seen it you can watch it in entirety right here. Just make sure you watch it before Disney sends a letter threatening the lives of my family if I don't remove it from my site. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

DVD Review: "Black Sheep"

For many years Horror movies have often contained comedic elements. In fact, there exists a sub-genre within horror films that purposely push the humor to it's extreme. Director Peter Jackson's classics "Bad Taste" and "Dead Alive" certainly fit into this category. And Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead 2" is perhaps one of the most recognizable horror films of all time. However, the trick with this type of film is knowing how to temper the horror with the comedy to create a genuinely scary film, that also makes us laugh. First time Director Jonathan King's "Black Sheep" certainly has the concept and genre detail down, but the overall product still lacks some of the the charm of it's predecessors.

The story follows Henry Oldfield (Nathan Meister) as he returns to his family farm after being away for many years. He soon discovers that not only is his older brother now running the farm, but he has secretly begun genetically mutating his sheep. His experiments have transformed the animals from mild mannered grazers, into blood thirsty monsters. Now it's up to him and a pseudo-Peta protester that he found trespassing on the farm to stop the sheep before they overtake the country. Did I mention that Nathan suffers from severe Ovinophobia, or fear of sheep?

Director Jonathan King took full advantage of the beautiful landscapes of the New Zealand farm on which the film is set, which gives it a tremendous setting, and a truly big-budget feel. The film makes no attempt to be taken seriously, nor should it; It's a horror/comedy from the start. However, I feel American audiences are sort of left out of the main joke of the film-- the fact that New Zealand is a land where the sheep outnumber the people 10 to 1, which makes the premise of the film all the more humorous.

There are plenty of bad one liners, ridiculous jokes and gross out set-pieces to keep fans of the genre happy. Though, the scenes dealing with the film's main monster were suspiciously dark, prompting me to wonder whether that was a conscious decision on the part of the director to hide special effects that weren't exactly impressive.

Originally released as a double-bill, playing alongside UK horror film "Severance", this one will no doubt find a long life on the shelves of video store "cult classic" sections far and wide. Though not quite as over-the-top as the films that seem to have inspired it, "Black Sheep" is well worth the viewing, especially for fans of the horror/comedy genre.

Score: 3 out of 5

Monday, December 10, 2007

What's on my Christmas List this year...

Each year, about this time, I get the question from my wife, "What do you want for Christmas?" As I get older, it gets harder and harder to think of things that I really want, that are realistic to ask for. Well, as ideas for gifts that I would like this year come to me, I'm going to post about them for two reasons:

1.) I hope that my wife finds my blog at least interesting enough to give a look once in a while, so maybe she'll get the hint.

2.) It's fun to talk about what I want for Christmas.

So, the first thing that came to my mind this year is this 5 disc Collector's Edition "Blade Runner" HD-DVD.

Read the complete details about the set here. But believe me when I say, it is going to be awesome.

And at $27.99, I don't feel bad asking for it (unlike the super deluxe edition, which costs a whopping $40 more! That's right, $70 just for that steel case!)

DVD Review: "The Reaping"

At a time when so many classic horror films are being remade or "re-envisioned", it's refreshing to see an original screenplay like "The Reaping" get made. However, one can imagine why a studio would opt for the in-the-bag success of a remake after witnessing the third act of a film disintegrate as badly as it does in this one.

The film is about college Professor Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank), a lapsed Christian whose area of expertise is debunking supposedly divine occurrences, or miracles. She's contacted by a man from a close knit, bible belt town who believes that their river, which has turned red, has actually turned into human blood. Believing this to be the beginning of the biblical ten plagues, he hires her to come investigate and hopefully find a satisfactory explanation of this phenomenon that will calm the people of his town.

As is the case with many original horror movies, the setup for this film is very interesting. The first act was great, with Swank's back story being revealed through some quite interesting flashbacks and subtle exposition. The second act was also decent, introducing the young girl whom the town believes to be the source of their troubles. However, it seems the burden of proof for a horror film is the third act, which is to say, how well it can wrap up the ending. What usually occurs, and has certainly happened here, is that the filmmakers throw in everything that they can, visually and story-wise, often causing it to become awfully convoluted and hard to follow.

Tonally the film started off in the same vein as a film like "The Wicker Man." There was clearly something going on behind the facade of the quaint, peaceful town. However, the amount of borderline cliche elements that pull the storyline in several directions at once stretched the film a bit thin by the end. The story would have benefited from choosing one direction and sticking with it, rather than borrowing elements from other films that led to it's becoming a mash-up of hackneyed horror conventions. The film had a solid concept, but ultimately it falls short in providing a satisfactory conclusion to the story, leaving the viewer feeling slightly cheated, and slightly more confused.

Score: 2 out of 5

Thursday, December 6, 2007

"Speed Racer" pics look bad... real bad.

Ever since I found out that the Wachowski Brother & Sister would be behind the new "Speed Racer" film, I've kept it at arm's length. I mean, these are the guys who defined the term diminishing returns with a little ditty called "The Matrix Trilogy."

After seeing these pictures from the work-in-progress film, I can see that my doubts were justified. These pictures look like psychadelic, uber-digital, retro garbage. Now, there wasn't much of a chance that I'd see this and/or like it, but now that is a definite. Decide for yourself.

Click the pictures to enlarge.

Withersin Magazine Update

I've been officially added to the staff of Withersin Magazine as the "staff reviewer", thanks to editor/publisher Misty Gersley. I'll be contributing film and book reviews to the website and print magazine. If you are so inclined, meander over to their (or, i guess now I can say our) website and check out my reviews.

You'll find my writing under the "Reviews-->Films " section, and you'll also find some info and a snazzy pic of me listed under the "About Us" section. And hey, if you can stretch your alligator arms over to your wallet, maybe you could buy the next issue at you local Barnes & Noble. C'mon, help a brother out. Just kidding.

Check out the site here.

Christmas Pick #2 - "Home Alone 2"

Two more of my favorite holiday films to watch this time of year are "Home Alone" and "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York." No matter how old I get, or how many times I see these films there are just a few parts that never, ever fail to tickle my proverbial funny bone.

For me, the unsung hero of the second film has always been Fred Krause, or as he was known in the film-- Officer Cliff. In his one and only credited screen performance, Krause delivers his lines with such emotion and desperation, I just can't help but crack up when I see it.

(Pictured: Krause, snubbed for a Best Supporting Actor nod in 1992.)

The scene may be completely unbelieveable, and a recycled joke from the first film, but to me it's like a fine wine-- it's only gotten better with age.

This one's for you, Cliff. If you say you weren't smooching the Hotel Concierge, then damn it, I believe you.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

DVD Review: "They Live"

"I'm here to chew bubblegum and kick ass-- and I'm all out of bubblegum."

That memorable line of dialogue pretty much sums up the attitude behind John Carpenter's 1988 film "They Live." Following in the long tradition of horror film-as-social commentary, this film is Carpenter's indictment of Reaganomics, the yuppie movement and conspicuous consumption of the upper class in the 1980's. Though the film's message is delivered with all the subtlety of a slap in the face, it's still a fun and entertaining watch from beginning to end.

Freelance construction worker Nada (Roddy Piper) arrives in New York City as a stowaway on a cross country train. He is able to find work on a construction site, and even finds housing in a camp of other poor/homeless/vagrant types. Before long he realizes that this camp is the base of a movement that is out to bring down the government, who they've discovered are working in conjunction with alien beings to control the minds of the masses via subliminal messages.

The basic plot is genuinely creepy, reminiscent of the best of television shows like "The Twilight Zone" or "The Outer Limits." And the aliens of the film, who show their true form only when viewed through inexplicably powerful sunglasses, are actually really creepy looking. Though I was impressed with the make-up and effects of the film, I was somewhat disappointed with the overall treatment of the story.

Pretty creepy looking aliens, right?

This could have been a true classic, on par with other great "Aliens among us" stories such as "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Instead it's a classic of a different kind-- a cult classic. The film is chock full of great one-liners and enough hammy acting to keep even veteran B-movie fans satisfied. Also, there is a fight scene in the film that can only be matched in length and ridiculousness by Peter Griffin fighting a giant chicken on "Family Guy."

If you're a fan of John Carpenter, Alien movies, B-movies or any combination of the three, you'll enjoy this film. While it's not exactly Hitchcock, don't forget who's on the cover-- Rowdy Roddy Piper. What you're going to get is an ass kicking good time with lots of laughs thrown in for good measure.

Score: 3 out of 5

Sunday, December 2, 2007

It's Beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Now that it's officially December, I'm getting pumped for the holidays. That means I get to watch all of the Christmas movies that I wait all year to see. "Christmas Vacation", "A Christmas Story" and "Scrooged" are up there, but there are so many more. I'm going to post a few of my favorite scenes from these films throughout the month, and I'm starting it off with this very strong entry. Enjoy!

NOTE: I've included the subtitles for this one so you can fully appreciate the dialogue in this scene.