Wednesday, April 30, 2008

DVD Review: "Prom Night"

Just a quick review of the original 1980 slasher "Prom Night."

Pros: The film stars the quintessential scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. Maybe it's residual love for "Halloween", but I just like her in these roles. Also, Leslie Nielson has a small role as her father. And that's about it.

Cons: For a horror movie, this film is a bit light on the horror. The first murder doesn't even happen until 1:01:08. That's over an hour into the film before the first teen virgin meets her demise.

Secondly, the film is terribly dated. I don't mean that the effects aren't good, or that the acting is cheesy. I mean that this film is as dated as disco-- literally. The one glaring negative of this film is the way that disco music/dancing are shoehorned into the film. At one point a dancing scene, containing absolutely no dialogue, goes on for nearly six minutes. That's too much disco, even for 1980.

Overall: The film was simply not as creepy or scary as I'd remembered. That may have something to do with the fact that I remember the sequel "Prom Night 2: Hello Mary-Lou" much clearer. That one was on the Prism channel quite often during my youth. Anyhow, as a fan of the horror genre, I guess this is a must-see. And even though it's just okay, it's certainly better than the godforsaken "remake."

Score: 2 out of 5

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Trailer: Disney's "Earth"

Call me a sucker for Disney, a sucker for animals or just call me a dork, but this trailer gave me goosebumps. I think it looks like a terrific film, and you can count me in for it. And damn if Ian McKellan doesn't have one hell of a voice-over voice.

Any "Extras" fans out there--

"Sir Ian, Sir Ian, Sir Ian, "Wizard you shall not pass!", Sir Ian, Sir Ian, Sir Ian."

Anyway-- Whenever Earth day 2009 is, I'll be there for this one.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Lost Season 4 Episode 9: "The Shape of Things to Come"

The wait for "Lost" to resume is over-- and surprisingly it went by pretty quickly. They certainly brought the proverbial ruckus with quite an action packed episode. People dying, things exploding-- and the smoke monster-- how about that smoke monster. So, anyway here's my thoughts.

1.) I thought I was very clever in assuming that all of the deaths in the past two episodes (Carl, Rousseau, The Doctor and Alex) would somehow prove to not actually have happened-- after all we are dealing with a rift in time between the island and the boat. However, that went out the window when it's clear in the flash forward that Alex truly is dead. Damn-- I thought I had one this time.

2.) Ben brought down the wrath of the smoke monster as easily as ordering a pizza. Damn was that an awesome scene. Now, I know there is a faction of Lost fans out there who don't like the overly sci-fi elements of the show, but guess what-- it's a sci-fi show, especially after all that has happened this season, so get over it. The smoke monster is awesome.

3.) I don't really miss the overly hammy Jack/Kate storyline. I think the most interesting characters are Locke, Ben, Hurley and Sawyer. As long as we're with them, we're all good.

4.) This was an exceptionally violent episode. Between the people dying in the Lost camp and the guy Sayid shot (9 times!), the show definitely grew some balls over the hiatus. I like it.

That's all for now. I think there was more to bring up, but this post is many days overdue, so there you have it.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Portishead: "Third"

This week I went ahead and procured myself a copy of Portishead's new album "Third." Let me tell you-- it's terrific. The band hasn't released an album in about 10 years, but you would never know it by listening to this one.

As I've stated many times before, I really enjoy music that I can put on that won't be distracting to listen to while I am doing work. This one is fantastic for that. As usual, the band has a moody, dark and almost sinister edge to some of the songs. My favorite song so far is "Silence." I must have listened to it ten times today. But the whole album is a really good listen.

If you like Portishead, definitely check this one out. If you've never heard of them, I would start at their first album-- "Dummy"-- that should make a fan out of you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pardon me...

Pardon my relative absence-- I'm frantically working on the screenplay, as the end of the semester is now on the horizon.

Monday, April 21, 2008

DVD Review: "The Killing Lens"

The pseudo-documentary seems to be the current the sub-genre du jour for independent horror filmmakers. Historically, the antagonists of horror films-- like Freddy Kreuger or Michael Myers-- have been kept at a distance, at least in terms of their psyche and personal life. What J.L. Botelho's film, “The Killing Lens” attempts to do is show the personal side of a serial killer, and perhaps allow us a glimpse into what motivates a person to commit such evil acts. That is a pretty strong concept for a film. However, a film cannot exist on concept alone. There is also the matter of execution, which was unfortunately the downfall of this film.

The film is set up as a documentary being shot by a group of film students. Inexplicably, a serial killer has signed on to allow them to follow him as he maims and murders his victims. Eventually the horrors that the crew witness during the filming drives them to the brink of madness, and even into complicity with the murderer himself.

The main strike against this film was it's overall amateur aesthetic. The film was shot on digital video, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, when paired with the poor audio quality and distractingly dark picture, the film suffers greatly for it's inferior technology. The film was also quite long, with some scenes meandering on well past the point of any expositional usefulness. And though I'm loathe to point out the sub-par acting in a low-budget indie film, the performances in this particular film were terribly distracting. Overall, the film smacks of inexperience, which overwhelms any message or point that the film may have been attempting to communicate.

Pseudo-documentaries can often be a scathing and interesting way of broaching a taboo topic. Director J.L. Botelho wears his influences on his sleeve-- specifically 1992's “Man Bites Dog.” And, that's fine-- borrowing inspiration from influential art is quite common, especially in the film business. But it's only when something new or interesting is added that a film becomes it's own entity, and not just an amalgamation of it's influences.

Score: 0 out of 5

P.S.-- This film was shit.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A three hour tour...A three hour tour

I'm off to Central Pa for the weekend. A group of fellow Wilkes writers and I are going to have us a good old writer's weekend on the high seas. Actually, we'll be in the relatively small Raystown Lake, but you get the idea.

I hope to workshop my script and see how it plays to someone other than my cat. I don't know if I'll have access to the internet, but I plan on taking a lot of pictures and I'm sure I'll have a full report when I get back on Sunday.

Until then, feast your eyes on this truly strange cross promotion for
"Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan." (Video courtesy of Film Junk)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The name's Plissken... and I'll take a small coffee.

Anyone who knows me (or reads this blog with any frequency) knows that I unabashedly swing from the jock of John Carpenter. So, naturally, I was interested in getting a hold of the soundtracks for all of his films. What's interesting is that, for the most part, he writes the music for all of his films himself-- with the exception of "The Thing" which was written by the legendary Ennio Morricone. But, you know that unmistakable theme from the original "Halloween?" Yeah-- he wrote that.

As of late I have been writing to the score from his 1980 classic "Escape from New York." The score is totally of it's time-- all synthesizers and keyboards-- and that may turn some people off. But not me, I say it is awesome. It's certainly terrific background music. In fact, I listened to it twice over today in the coffee shop-- all 28 tracks! I realized that I had to stop listening to it when the barista told me where I could find the cream and sugar, and I responded, in a Snake Plissken voice, "I don't give a fuck about your cream, or your sugar."

So, if you like the film, or are just a fan of incredibly dated synthesizer music, give it a listen.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I was perusing the upcoming DVD releases and came upon Woody Allen's latest film "Cassandra's Dream." Something about the cover box seemed... familiar. As if I'd seen it somewhere before. I'm not sure-- can you tell what it might be?

I know that these films may not be similar in plot, but whoever designed the cover art for "Cassandra's Dream" certainly phoned this one in-- presumably directly after renting "Eastern Promises." Perhaps this is a new DVD cover template in iMovie, or something? To quote myself in 6th grade, "Hop off the jock."

That is all for now.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Review: "Prom Night" (2008)

Few times in my life have I been exposed to a mainstream theatrical release that was as poorly written, abysmally directed and completely devoid of any entertainment value as the film "Prom Night." Having said that-- seeing this film was not a totally worthless experience.

First off, the film had some truly hilarious, unintentionally funny scenes. Usually I find people who laugh at films that aren't comedies to be very rude. In this case, there was nothing to be done-- it was just too funny. And the sheer ignorance on the part of the director as to how to sustain suspense and create scary moments was truly flabbergasting. You would have to imagine that he actually watched the finished product before it was released, right? What's worse is that the director also outright stole elements from other horror films-- some of which were mediocre in their own right. Scenes from "Saw", "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and even "I Know What You Did Last Summer" were pillaged like so many medieval villages. So much for originality.

Another unexpected positive was the boost that this film gave to my confidence as a screenwriter. It was almost as if the writer of this film had purposely broken every rule taught in screenwriting 101. And I don't mean he broke rules in a new and interesting way-- he just failed at effectively telling a story for the screen. (Having said that-- he's now the produced writer of a bona fide, Hollywood "hit", and I am writing this on a free blog-- so, what do I know.)

Anyhow, I took a load of shit from my wife and friends this past weekend for this film being my choice, and rightfully so. I cannot emphasize to what lengths you should go to avoid this film. I'll just say-- If you're on a plane and this is the in-flight movie, politely flag down a flight attendant and ask for a complimentary parachute.

Score: 0 out of 5

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

DVD Review: "The Breed"

If you look at the cover art for "The Breed" and assume it's simply 100 cujos stuck on an island-- well, you'd be right. And as campy and derivative as that sounds, director Nick Mastandrea was able to make a rather entertaining survival horror flick out of this simple premise.

The story is about a group of friends who are vacationing at a cabin on a supposedly deserted island. Little do they know that this particular island was home to a research project that turned the island's dogs into aggressive, rabid, killing machines. Did I mention they're smart? The dogs, that is. Yeah, they are smart enough to unhitch the group's plane from it's dock, effectively trapping the teens on the island. But you know what-- if you sign on to watch this film, you might as well go all out and throw believability to the wind-- I did. Your viewing experience will be the better for it.

One of the greatest elements of this film is the fact that the filmmakers took the road less travelled, in terms of special effects, and used real, honest-to-goodness animals throughout the film. This pays off greatly in the realism of the attacks and the overall entertainment value of the film. Who wants to watch a bunch of poorly rendered CG animals, anyway? ("Deep Blue Sea", anyone?) And the acting was okay-- not that this type of movie calls for award winning performances or anything.

Overall, the film was entertaining-- nothing ground breaking, but a worthwhile rental if you're into this type of film. Just don't watch it with your cat-- mine did not appreciate it very much.

Score: 2.5 out of 5

Monday, April 7, 2008

Is it safe?

More unfortunate news today. Over the weekend I developed one hell of a toothache, and today I was privy to one of the more barbaric medical procedures I've ever seen-- having a tooth pulled. Somehow I imagined it wouldn't be as bad as it sounds-- and in a way it wasn't. It didn't hurt, and was over relatively quickly. However, the fact remains that the procedure involves gripping a tooth with a pair of glorified pliers and wrenching the tooth back and forth until it's ripped loose. Sorry to be graphic, but hey-- that's life.

So now, I'm home preparing to continue my marathon of DVD watching. So far I've watched:

"Arrested Development" Season 2
"The Thing" (HD-DVD)
"The Fountain"
"Fright Night"
"The Killing Lens"
"The Breed"

And today I'll be catching up with "I Am Legend."

So, in honor of my unfortunate experience this weekend, I present to you, the "Is it safe?" scene from "Marathon Man." If you don't know what that is, just give it a watch. Enjoy.

P.S.-- Percocet is a truly magical medicine.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

R.I.P. Charlton Heston

I'm sad to report that Hollywood icon Charlton Heston passed away last night. Whether you liked him or hated him, there is no denying th guy was a legend. He was just another breed of Hollywood star-- one of the last of the Studio megastars. I mean, "Ben Hur", "The 10 Comandments", "Planet of the Apes" and for God's sake "Touch of Evil"-- they guy was a part of some truly amazing films.

Unfortunately, much of today's viewing audience knows Heston only from the raw deal he recieved after agreeing to be interviewed by Michael Moore for his "documentary" "Bowling for Columbine." Moore took advantage of Heston, bullying and confusing the guy in what Moore mistakenly believed would be a poignant moment. Instead, the scene only solidified Moore's reputation as a bully and a manipulator.

In his final years, Heston was ravaged by Alzeimer's disease and had retreated from the public eye. But, however you felt about the old guy, you have to admit that he was an absolute icon. So, here's to Mr. Heston, I tip my 40 ouncer for thee. Enjoy a bit of his greatness below.

"Touch of Evil"
If you haven't seen this film yet, see it immediately. It's that good. And by the way, the ridiculousness of Heston playing a Hispanic man is not lost on me. All the same, it's fantastic.

"Planet of the Apes"
"Get your hands off of me you damn, dirty ape!" Need I say more?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

"Dark City" Director's Cut coming to theaters?

Apparently the 1998 film "Dark City" has been revamped with a new score, a new edit and even added special effects for a short theatrical run before a DVD release. I think this is great news. The film is terrific, and being that it was released just about a year before "The Matrix", it's often forgotten. It's a dark, noirish sci-fi, and is really worth checking out.

I would like to catch it in the theater if I can (It should play somewhere near Philly) and I'll most certainly be picking it up on DVD. Though, I wonder if it will be released on Blu-ray? I'll have to check that out, because it would benefit from the high-def treatment, for sure.

Thanks to FilmJunk for the scoop on this one.

He has a point...

This is for anyone who has ever tried to watch a film on a cell phone, ipod or any other handheld device. It just doesn't work. Film is not meant to be experienced on a 2.5 inch screen-- end of story. Just listen to David Lynch on this one, because he's right. Get real.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

DVD Review: "John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness"

I like John Carpenter. The man is responsible for perhaps the greatest horror film of all time ("Halloween",) as well as numerous other classics like "The Thing" and "Escape from New York." He has also never been one to shy away from heavy topics such as politics ("They Live") and touchy social issues ("Pro-Life".) In "Prince of Darkness" Carpenter broaches perhaps the most heavy topic there is-- religion.

The premise is a good one-- after the death of an elderly priest at a run-down old church, another priest, Father Loomis (Donald Pleasance) is sent there to take over. What he discovers is that this Church was the base of something called the "Brotherhood of Sleep", a group of Catholic priests who were charged with protecting a centuries old secret. In short, the basement is home to a canister of green goo that contains the essence of pure evil which, if released , will bring about the return of the son of Satan, or the "anti-God."

Father Loomis enlists a theoretical physicist, Professer Birack, to help him try to figure out the science behind the supernatural powers that the canister seems to have. Together they gather a group of grad students, scientists and translators to set up shop in the Church and figure out exactly what they're dealing with. However, before they are able to do so, the essence begins to overtake them one by one.

The main issue with the film is its pacing. The story is set up quite fast, only to have it drag to a halt during the second act. Essentially everything we need to know about the story is set up in the first half hour and then, for the rest of the film, the eventuality of the situation seem to develop in super-slow motion. I liken it to standing on train tracks, aware that a train off in the distance will eventually be there to hit you, yet you just stand there and watch it slowly make its approach. As you may have gathered, this led the film to have a sort of lag to it. Though, in a way, it felt reminiscent of the Italian horror films of the 1970's, and not just due to the overtly (anti?)religious story. These films were often slow going, and would often conclude with a really effective, memorable denouement-- something this film does indeed contain.

This is not to say that the film didn't have bright spots-- it is, after all, still a John Carpenter film, so there's bound to be something good about it. For me, it was the shared dreams that the group of grad students begin to have during their stay in the Church. The dreams aren't actually dreams at all-- but rather transmissions from sometime in the future, giving a peek into what will happen if the evil in the canister is released. Carpenter uses grainy, handheld video for the footage of the transmission which, to my knowledge, may have been one of the first horror movies to use handheld, first person video in this way.

The film is interesting, but ultimately just a bit too much of a slow burn. After viewing it a second time, it seems as though the entire film is one, giant, drawn-out first act (Not unlike Shyamalan's "Unbreakable", although in that case it was by design.) I would have liked to see where the film would have gone if the ending we get would have taken place much earlier in the film-- like, say, in the second act. This film is obviously a must-see for anyone who considers themselves a true John Carpenter fan. However, for anyone else, it's probably not going to do much to win you over.

Score: 2.5 out of 5