Friday, October 31, 2008

Review: Midnight Meat Train

 These days it seems like certain films achieve a "cult" status before they've even earned a legitimate fan-base. I'm thinking of films such as "Donnie Darko", "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "Hatchet." I'm not saying they're not good films-- but they seem to bestow the cult status upon themselves before audiences have a chance to decide for themselves. Or, in the case of "Midnight Meat Train", before audiences even get to see the film.

The film is an adaptation of a short story by horror legend Clive Barker. And I think therein lies the problem. Sometimes a story is written in short form because that is simply the correct format for it. This seems to be the case with "Midnight Meat Train"-- there simply wasn't enough, uh, meat to fill out the story.

The plot is simple enough-- a late night train, usually only inhabited by one or two commuters, has become the slaughter-ground for a silent maniac (Vinnie Jones) whose weapon of choice is a brutally blunt meat tenderizer. Oh, and some meat sure gets tenderized, believe me. In fact, the gore factor is probably the saving grace of this film for many horror fans. It's a pretty graphic flick. But in this reviewers opinion, the filmmakers fell victim to the trap of using CG gore and blood effects all too often. I would like to think that most true horror fans would rather have a good film that may have a few questionable practical effects, rather than a mediocre film that uses shiny digital blood for most of it's real money-shots. But, we live in the digital age, and I guess digital gore is going to be increasingly prevalent in the genre-- let's just hope it improves... soon. As far as the story itself... it was okay. The main character is a photographer, which has now become a tired cliche in horror films. When the silent killer inadvertently becomes the subject of the photographer's work, he's drawn into trying to discover exactly what's going on in the late night train the man takes every night.

Now, without treading into spoiler territory, I'll just say that the ending of the film was somewhat rushed, and a bit vague for my liking. I don't need everything laid out for me, but I do want a reasonable amount of time devoted to ending a film in a satisfying way.

Overall, the film was a disappointment. Was that because of the months and months of waiting for it's release? Probably. Had I never heard of the film, and just picked it up on DVD, I may have had a different reaction. But that's not how it happened. If you're looking for something creepy that you haven't seen this Halloween, this movie may do the trick. But I do believe I'm justified in telling most horror fans out there-- don't believe the hype.

(P.S.-- The film is now available to watch on FearNet for free! Even I can't argue with that price.)

My rating: 2 out of 5

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's over!

Amen. Hallelujah. Thank God, or the Baseball gods, or whoever it is that is responsible for the outcome of Phillies games, because for a few moments there, I did get kinda scared. But, alas, the curse is over, and the Philadelphia Phillies are the 2008 World Series champs. 

Philly... has a winner. That, my friends, feels very good to say. 

I'm glad that I got to finally see what a championship team looks like. And I'm also glad for my Grandpa who, despite being the biggest Phillies fan I know, still curses Phillies manager Charlie Manuel's every misstep-- even in the championship game!

This was a great end to a great season.

And if any of you reading this are Met fans, I hope this sticks so far into your crawl, the handle breaks off and you have to get a doctor to pull it out.

Go Phils.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Disposable Art. Literally.

I came across this video in one of my "research" breaks while writing my script. An artist in New York uses typically disposable materials-- literally the guy uses trash bags-- to create very interesting, vibrant pieces of art. The bags are attached to sewer grates, and simply look like garbage strewn across the sidewalk. But, when the occasional subway train passes underneath, the resulting gust of air fills the bags, and the works of art come alive.

This is one of those videos that really struck me as amazing. I didn't know that there were any videos left on the internet that could do that. Anyway-- I just thought this was so neat, I felt compelled to share.


Can this wretched championship curse continue? Only in Philadelphia.

Of course this would happen in Philadelphia. A mere 3 innings from our first professional championship in 25 years, and the first World Series championship in 28 years, and the game has been postponed, twice. Just to be clear, this is a first in World Series history, and yes, it's happening to our Phightin' Phils.

I have to believe that this is just a cosmic joke, and we are being toyed with one last time before we finally catch up to the dollar-bill-on-a-string that is this World Series championship.

I also wanted to showcase the photo on the left. I love this fan-made "Do it for Steve" campaign! Some of you may know, I am a huge animal fan, and as such was a big fan of the late Steve Irwin. Some may say, "He deserved what he got!" I hate that type of thinking-- he brought a lot of informational and conservation efforts to fruition through his work and , in my eyes, was the man. 

We need three innings. Three F-ing innings. So I concur, do it for Steve, and let's BEAT THE RAYS!

Friday, October 24, 2008

You can quote me on this...

Okay, I'm about to get esoteric and drop some knowledge and inspiration on your asses. During a bout of self-importance, I was perusing my Facebook profile and took a look at what I had listed as my favorite quotes. Now, I know how it is, when someone looks at your facebook profile they don't give a damn about your quotes, or the books you like or any of that crap. They want to see embarrassing pictures of you, say, dancing half-nude at somebody's wedding. But, I have to say, that I put some time into which quotes that I listed, and would hate to think that the effort put forth was all for naught. So, in a continuation of that self-aggrandizement, I present to you my own personal favorite quote.

It comes from Theodore Roosevelt and, while not originally meant for this reason, it holds a certain value for writers, artists and anyone else who puts themselves out there to be, well, judged. I consider myself an, ahem, writer. Still not used to saying that. But alas, it is what I strive to be known as. And this is a quote that I come back to time and again, when I feel like shit about my own work. I hope it means at least a small percentage of what it means to me for you. At the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, I do actually get chills when I read it or, as Chris Matthews might say, a tingling up my leg. But I digress.

Anyhow, without further ado...

Take it away Mr. Roosevelt.

"It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Let's go Phillies!

I know that I usually try to keep this blog on topic with film, writing and such. But I just want to quickly take the time to voice my excitement and support for my hometown ball club the Philadelphia Phillies. I couldn't be happier that this year they finally broke through and made it to the World Series.

However, in watching the games this post-season, I couldn't help but notice a few things:

1.) I know it's all in good fun when a team shows their unity through facial hair, sideburns, or any number of other unifying acts. But I cannot help but be annoyed when I see players and fans with the so-called "Ray-hawk." I hate the mohawk, and especially since it has become the "in" style for pseudo-hip Moms to give their toddlers. Didn't anyone tell the Rays that mohawks are completely and utterly passe? Worst of all--Now I have to watch Joe Maddon, the coach of the Rays and a 60+ year old man, sporting the look. They deserve to lose simply because of that. Mr. Maddon, have some dignity and self-respect as the authority figure and coach of a pro ball team, and while you're at it, try maintaining a coiffure befitting a man of your age.

2.) Not to rail on Joe Maddon, but is it just me, or is his purse-lipped, bespectacled face simply the most punchable face in the history of the MLB?

3.) I'm not trying to be a baby-- after all we won game 1-- but, that cowbell bullshit is damn near a violation of the rules, in my opinion. How about next year, it's the Phillies "thing" for all 50,000 fans in attendance to bring in air horns and blast them all game? Have some cajones as fans and use your voice (you know, "boo") to psyche out the other team. That or tell them their Mom is banging Squeak. (Bonus points for anyone who replies with what movie that's from in the comments section.)

Okay. That's enough. After all, I don't have too much more to complain about, given the fact that we took game one, and we're well on our way to winning the championship. Posting on sports probably won't be a habit, but if we win this thing, expect at least one more, so I can simply tell all the Mets fans out there to eat a fat one. That is, before their team buys out Cole Hamels next season and he lays us out all year...

But as for now, I'm focused on this year. Go Phils...

Monday, October 20, 2008

So, you're telling me things will get better...

Uber-screenwriter John August (who runs this awesome blog) posted about what it's like to write (and specifically to finish) you're first screenplay. It was a very concise and fitting description-- he says it's like the first time you have sex. Awkward, rushed, probably ends too soon-- you get the point. However, since I'm probably not as eloquent as I should be in communicating his article, here it is in full.

Your First Time
by John August

Your first script is like the first time you have sex. Yes, it’s exciting. You did it! High five!

But that’s not the best sex you’re ever going to have. In fact, it would be sad if it were.

In all likelihood, your first time was rushed and awkward, with some great moments but a lot of room for improvement. And the odds that your first experience will blossom into something life-defining are slim. So take it for what it is: a beginning. You will get better at it.

A mistake way too many screenwriters make is assuming that the first thing they write is The One. The One that will get them noticed. The One that will sell. The One that will transform their lives.

The fact is, there is no One. I can’t tell you what mine would be. The one that got me an agent? The one that got made? The one that Spielberg liked? Those are all different scripts, written years apart. I went from sleeping on the floor of my apartment to owning a house, but none of them changed my life in the way people would expect. Mostly, I just got a lot busier. It was less about the script, and more about the work.

Screenwriting is a career of continuous effort marked by occasional highlights, not unlike trial law or professional football: a single case or game might be notable, but it’s what you do on a daily basis that determines your overall success.1 And, like trial law and professional football, you may discover that you’re just not cut out for it. But you need to approach screenwriting with the same perspective as a lawyer or linebacker. Expect it to be very hard work, with long hours and continuous setbacks.

And in that aspect, the screenwriting/sex comparison fails, because if your lovemaking is hard work with continuous setbacks, you’re probably doing it wrong.

1.Even looking through credits on IMDb is misleading, because the movies that get made are a small percentage of what a screenwriter actually produces. I’ve written 27 screenplays, eight of which are movies with my name on them. And only three of them predate my first produced film, Go.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Halloween is almost here...

This is the beginning of my favorite season. From September to about New Years, for me, is the absolute best time of the year. Honestly-- I feel more excited and invigorated about things, and certainly feel more creative in the Fall. Something about the heat of the summer just saps all of my creative juices.

Anyhow-- as I did with Christmas last year, I'll be posting a few topics about this month's holiday-- Halloween. I love Halloween. The costumes, the candy-- and the TV specials! This time of year there are always some really good kids shows (Garfield's Halloween, The Great Pumpkin, etc.) and there are also some awesome all-day marathons of creepy TV shows. One in particular is "Tales from the Darkside." This show was on in the mid to late 1980's, and was somewhat overshadowed by shows like "The Twilight Zone" and "Tales from the Crypt"-- but it's still a really good show.

So, I caught a few of the episodes that they've started to air, and one thing came rushing back to me-- the opening credit sequence is creepy as hell. First, it was the theme song that got me. Then the seemingly innocuous visuals-- a river, a farm, a covered bridge. Combine those with the devilish voice-over, and that just sends it over the top for me. It's terrific.

Like any horror series, the episodes themselves are hit and miss, but one thing I will say is that they aren't afraid to have ambiguous, and even some downright unhappy endings. It's not available on DVD yet, but If you get a chance, tune into SciFi this month to check this show out out. And I've posted the aforementioned intro to the show below-- see it for yourself. 

Hope to post again soon-- Until then.......