Thursday, August 17, 2017

Attack of the Monsters (1969)

As I said yesterday, I needed something mindless and turned to my 12 Creature Features set. Even after the first movie from the set I watched last night, I needed more. That is when I broke down and continued a Gamera marathon with Attack of the Monsters (AKA Gamera vs. Guiron) from1969.

Plot/ Aliens kidnap two children and take them to another planet for the purpose of getting knowledge from their brains, but Gamera follows and tries to rescue them.

So, I went down a Gamera rabbit hole last night and did not come out until I was two movies into it. Incredibly, this flick was even more ludicrous than the first one, but it was also quite entertaining and laughable. This entry had everything fans of this genre will appreciate including crazy monsters made from rubber suits, uneven audio dubbing, and a fascinating storyline that goes off in multiple directions when you least expect it. More of a kid-centric film than the tamest Godzilla entry, this schlockfest is both entertaining and comical, plus it features some decent acting and decent cinematography for what it is. Yes, all of those technical aspects could be considered flaws (and will be from those who didn’t grow up with these creatures), but they are part of the charm. In the end, while I did like Gammera the Invincible more, this one was rather entertaining and did a great job taking me back to my youth. If you are like me and a fan of 1960s monster driven schlock, give this one a shot. It is a blast and kept me entertained.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Gammera the Invincible (1966)

All right, I had planned to review a film that I rented at Family Video, however, that movie was even worse than some of my latest selections. Needing to clear my mind, I decided to head back into some of the schlockfests that came with my 12 Creature Features set, after some debate, I decided on the 1966 American release Gammera the Invincible.

Plot/ An atomic explosion awakens Gammera--a giant, fire-breathing turtle monster--from his millions of years of hibernation. Enraged at being roused from such a sound sleep, he takes it out on Tokyo.

Fans of no-budget monster flicks from the 1960s and 70s should already know what expect from this one; a lower budgeted Godzilla type flick full of cheese and schlock. In fact, this one offers that and more. Yes, there are the cheesy effects with a rubber suit and miniature cities, the storyline is unfathomable and hilarious, the dialog and dubbing while bad and uneven make this one extremely entertaining and laughable. Plus, the soundtrack is awesome and the Cold War tensions are perfect! Of course, for non-fans of this genre, they will say this is a miserable movie with very few redeemable qualities; to them, I say grab some popcorn and free your mind. In the end, technically, there are definitely many flaws, but then again, that was part of the charm of these movies when watching them on the Saturday morning creature features on a UHF channel. If you are from that generation, you should definitely agree with me on that. This one is easy to find in the bargain bins, find it and check it out.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Blessed Ones (2016)

Last night I made it through a couple of movies, but unfortunately, neither did anything more than help me pass time. The first one of those was the 2016 flick The Blessed Ones (AKA Polaris and The Divine Ones).

Plot/ The Blessed Ones shadows a tightly knit cult hiding in a remote desert enclave as they prepare for the impending apocalypse. Two dissenters try to escape through the vast desert wasteland as the cult embarks on a mass suicide pact.

When I read the synopsis of this one at Family Video, I was drawn in. Disturbed cults and serial killers are always great subjects to watch or write about. This low budget indie flick was an interesting film with a storyline that I thought explored many of the darker facets that exist within a cult. The problem is that the budget in no way helped bring what could have been an extremely entertaining and possibly surreal movie to life. Yes, there are some positive moments with solid cinematography and interesting concepts, but overall, the film felt disjointed, the scripting and performances uneven, and the pace felt predictable and forced, unfortunately, these flaws also left the film somewhat unmemorable and left me wanting more. In the end, while I loved the concept, it never really reached its potential. Yes, it has a few moments, but not enough to make it worth watching. Stay away.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wait Till Helen Comes (2016)

After Shin Godzilla and Phoenix Forgotten, I wanted to change direction. At first, I did some sports writing for one of the sites I manage, but that was not anything that really helped pass the time until Twin Peaks: The Return. That is when I decided on the next flick, 2016s Wait Till Helen Comes (AKA Little Girl’s Secret).

Plot/ When a reconstructed family moves to a converted church in the country, 14-year-old Molly must save her troubled stepsister from a dangerous relationship with the desperate ghost of a young girl.

I grabbed this one to have something to watch with the girls and it definitely served that purpose. However, for me, even with the creepy look of the house and the decent cinematography, this one did not move the needle. Sure, the performances were not bad and the storyline was believable, but that did not save it from being anything more than background entertainment. There was nothing new in this one, as the story was predictable (although I could have read this in my youth), it lacked atmosphere and tension, and there was nothing in this that made it in any way memorable. In fact, I may have already forgotten some of it. In the end, this one is a decent flick to watch with the kids if they are searching for a ghost story, but nothing more. Unless you are in that position, stay away.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Shin Godzilla (2016)

As I was relaxing last night doing some last minute paperwork for Prestige tryouts today, I thought about working on a second review. Instead, I waited for today to review one of the best monster movies I have seen, 2016s Shin Godzilla (AKA Godzilla Resurgence).

Plot/ An unknown accident occurs in Tokyo Bay's Aqua Line, which causes an emergency cabinet to assemble. All of the sudden, a giant creature immediately appears, destroying town after town with its landing reaching the capital.

The last few modern creature features I have watched have been pretty good and I hoped that Shin Godzilla would be the same. This was especially the case after hearing that Toho was behind the film and taking the famed creature back to its roots. What I found was both enlightening and entertaining with a darkness that seems to create something deeper than most of the stylized Godzilla flicks from my youth. The storyline is intriguing with an interesting look at the flaws in the way the Japanese Government is set up. I have to wonder if this is somehow a message about the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima nuclear plant. Even after the initial scenes with the monster, Godzilla morphs into something amazing and more devastating than one would expect, the performances are solid, and the soundtrack works really well. Yes, the character development is lacking, there are some head scratching moments, and the audio dubbing is not the best, but those flaws were somewhat expected. In the end, this was one of the best monster movies I have seen in some time, and I could only hope that this is the creature that ends up facing King Kong. Sure, it is not quite the typical Godzilla flick, but it is well worth watching.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Phoenix Forgotten (2017)

After doing some softball drills with a couple players last night, I decided last night that I was going to step away from the computer and relax. Plus, I had Shin Godzilla to watch and wanted to focus on that. However, that is not the next movie up for review, that movie is the 2017 mockumentary, Phoenix Forgotten.

Plot/ 20 years after three teenagers disappeared in the wake of mysterious lights appearing above Phoenix, Arizona, unseen footage from that night has been discovered, chronicling the final hours of their fateful expedition.

This was a movie that I wanted to see when it came out, but decided to wait for the video release. As a person that saw the live coverage of the Phoenix Lights on national television, I have always been convinced that more happened there that night than we will ever be told. For me, this was a interesting mockumentary that adds a fictional twist to the true story of the Phoenix Lights and a movie that had more than a few believable moments. The performances were decent, the storyline interesting, and the 1990s feel was spot on. Yes, this is partly a found footage flick, so that will likely turn some viewers off, the pacing was a touch slow early on, and the ending added some frustration, but overall those elements really did not detract from the feel of the film. In the end, keeping the true story of the Phoenix Lights is an extremely important endeavor and movies such as this will not let the world forget about that event. Sure, this movie isn’t perfect, but it also isn’t terrible. Check it out, you may be like me and enjoy it.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Beyond the Gates (2016)

After taking a break from some movies last night, I decided to kick into high gear tonight. Right now, I am in the middle of Phoenix Forgotten (which is interesting). Earlier, I sat back and watched the 2016 throwback Beyond the Gates.

Plot/ Two estranged brothers reunite at their missing father's video store and find a VCR board game dubbed 'Beyond The Gates' that holds a connection to their father's disappearance.

When I sat down t watch this one, I had no idea what to expect, but with this movie being a throwback of sorts to my youth, I was excited. What I found was indeed a low budget homage to early 1980s horror, although it did not inspire me as much as some of those films did back then. While this one is not terrible, it does have its flaws including poorly paced dialog, a slow building story that is overly tedious, uneven performances, and some flat characters. Yes, there were some fun elements; the effects (considering the budget) were interesting and the idea had potential. Unfortunately, those positive moments did not offset the execution problems. In the end, this one could have been much better and even more entertaining. Is it terrible? No, but it will likely be met with a polarizing response and disappoint many hardcore horror fans.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

This is Not Always What It Seems

I can’t believe that it has been two days since the Phoenix Arts Center's Ten Minute Play Fest came to an end and Not Always What It Seems received such a great reception. Honestly, I am still humbled by the experience and have a newfound confidence that is driving me to focus on creativity. In fact, the ideas are already churning around in my head and I just have to put everything together and decide what I want to focus on.  

Today, I was surprised as Brenda finished the upload of the video recording of the play. So, for those of you who missed seeing it in person, give it a look and let me know what you think.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Phantom Fiend (1932)

Earlier, I was reading an article on Jack the Ripper and yet another claim of solving that mystery. As a history buff, I have always been fascinated by the Ripper and enjoy consuming everything about the horrific tale. Incredibly, while searching for a movie tonight, I stumbled upon this 1930s entry based on a book about Jack the Ripper, The Phantom Fiend; a remake of the Alfred Hitchcock silent classic The Lodger.

Plot/ An enigmatic young man in a London boarding house becomes the subject of suspicion as the infamous Jack the Ripper begins his campaign of slaughter.

Being a fan of classic cinema (and of the Hitchcock silent gem), I figured I was going to be in for some head scratching moments with this one. Anytime someone attempts to remake Hitchcock, it never seems to end well. While this one is not unwatchable, there are a ton of flaws that make it fall well short of the inspiration. For me, any time Jack the Ripper is involved in the storyline, the movie has potential and this one does have potential. Unfortunately, between the uneven performances that made it feel like a poorly dubbed silent film, the poor sound quality (considering the dialog), and an ending that in no way serves justice for the original, this one is a tough watch. Sure, the storyline is not anything spectacular or groundbreaking, but there is something there that should have been better. In the end, this one is a bit of a disappointment. While it is not terrible, it is nowhere near anything that I would watch a second time.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Night of the Living Dead (1990)

As I sit down tonight, I wanted to finish with the last movie I watched last week that I haven’t had time to review. While many people will shun this one because it is a remake (and I was one), it does deserve to be seen. That movie is the 1990 zombie flick Night of the Living Dead.

Plot/ The unburied dead return to life and seek human victims.

I will be one of the first to admit that I had stayed away from this one for a long time. As a fun of the original masterpiece, it was difficult for me to even consider watching a remake that in my opinion was not needed. However, after the tragic passing of George Romero, I wanted to venture back into this influential world and give the remake a shot. Directed by Tom Savini, this one was actually much better than I expected, and I am disappointed that I waited so long to give it a shot. Clearly made for a different generation of viewer, this version does off many of the same social commentaries that made the original so powerful. The zombie make-up is amazing, the updated characterizations (especially Barbara) work really well, and it is fun to watch everything come to life in color. Yes, the colorization does take away from some of the darker atmosphere and there was much less gore than I would have expected with Savini at the helm (but, I do understand because the film stayed true to the original), but those are but minor flaws in the overall world of the living dead. In the end, this movie was much better than I anticipated and it is a movie that is worth watching (at least once). If you have not seen it, give it a shot.

Curtain Call and a Thank You!

As today winds down and I am finally able to sit back and digest the events of the past two days with the first annual Phoenix Arts Center 10 Minute Playfest. I am extremely humbled by the response and am still in a little shock after watching Not Always What It Seems win the First Watson Award. This is a tremendous honor and an award I will forever cherish. In looking at the history of the State Theatre, just to have my play come to life in the same footsteps as legends such as Johnny Cash was enough. 

Although my name will be on this award, I know that it would have never had a chance against the competition if it weren’t for the amazing performances from the cast. Anna, Carrie, Dolores, Michael, and especially Luke were brought everything to life in ways I could never have imagined. I wish you could have all received this award because you all deserve it more than anyone. 

When I walked into the State Theatre this morning, I wondered what the day would have in store. Last night, I was blown away by the intensity of all of the performances, and most of all, the depth of all of the scripts. As a writer, I love the emotional turns that words can create and the stories were all remarkable. To all of the writers, Mina, Tabbitha, Marci, Steven, Aimee, and Jessica, I grew so much from your words and stories and I want to thank you. 

Finally, I want to thank Carrie for seeing this playfest through to fruition, and Brenda for all of the incredible behind the scenes stuff that it takes to make this type of show happen. I for one hope that this is the first of what will become an amazing journey into the stage. 

The Cat o'Nine Tails (1971)

Tonight was an awesome night as I finally was able to see Not Always What It Seems performed in front of an audience, and it was an amazing experience. This was an amazing moment and one that left me wanting to write more things for the stage. After a great dinner with PJ and AJ, I decided that it was time to review the one movie I did watch last week before all of the craziness started with the schedule. That movie is the 1971 giallo The Cat o’Nine Tails.

Plot/ A newspaper reporter and a retired, blind journalist try to solve a series of killings connected to a pharmaceutical company's experimental, top-secret research projects and in so doing, both become targets of the killer.

As a fan of Dario Argento, I often view this movie as one of his more overlooked films. While I do understand, why people overlook it, I don’t necessarily agree with them. Sure, it does lack many of the more memorable attributes of a typical Argento giallo, but it does offer an intriguing (albeit sometimes incoherent) storyline that is quite entertaining. Besides that, the performances are solid, the atmosphere is heavy, and as usual, the soundscape is outstanding. Yes, the film does lack the typical violence of an Argento flick, the camera work is not as crisp, and the surrealism that became an integral part of his later works just is not there. Plus, the scripting does seem to be all over and at times unfocused and the character development is uneven, but those elements would not be a huge issue if this wasn’t one of his films. In the end, while this is nowhere near Suspiria, it is a memorable giallo that would definitely be viewed differently if it wasn’t part of the Argento catalog. If you have not seen it, give it a shot. You may be surprised.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Tomorrow is "Not Always What It Seems"

I know that it has been a couple days since I posted anything. In fact, the last few days have been insane, between going to the county fair, one of the best concerts I have ever seen (Bouncing Souls, Dropkick Murphys, and Rancid), and going through tech week and dress rehearsal for the play, Not Always What It Seems.

Fortunately, all that handwork with the play will soon be visible. Honestly, I can't believe that tomorrow, the actors will hit the stage at the State Theater in Uniontown for the first 10-Minute Play Festival with The Phoenix Arts Center. Once they begin, it won't be long until my first written stage play closes the show. 

This has been a major accomplishment in my writing career and it is a story that should resonate with much of the audience. Over the past few weeks, I have been able to watch the cast grow and the performances are riveting. The way the cast works together and feeds off each other is something that I could have never imagined when I first wrote the script. 

The festival is scheduled for 7 o'clock on Saturday, August 5th and 2 o'clock Sunday, August 6th. On a side note, I am still waiting on the cover design and layout of my first fiction novel, After the Static, but I am sure that will be finished soon. After that, my epic poem, Salvation, written as a NaPoWriMo project may be finished as well.

Until then, I will continue to push forth with the reviews, and who knows, possibly even write another play. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Time Travelers (1964)

After spending some time in an Art House Cinema mood, I decided that it was time to venture into something mindless and fun. Having searched all of my streaming services, I decided on the 1964 sci-fi entry, The Time Travelers.

Plot/ In 1964, a group of scientists creates a portal that takes them to a barren, mutant inhabited, Earth in the year 2071.

After watching this low budget gem, I am glad that I stumbled upon it. Coming from the great low budget era, this one has many elements that make it an entertaining and fun watch. The scripting is amazing, with both imagination and intelligence to ask poignant questions (especially from that era). The performances are solid, the effects work (even if they feel somewhat dated today), and the storylines allow the movie to grow and stay relevant all these years later. Yes, there are some obvious budgetary constraints that are visible and you will have to suspend belief, but that is one of the things that make sci-fi flicks so fun. In the end, this is a film that any fan of classic sci-fi should see. Sure, it isn’t Oscar worthy, but for its budget, it is better than many other entries from that era.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Lulu (1978)

Last night as I was waiting on The Ringmaster’s Realm to receive its millionth page view, I stumbled on a movie that I had heard about for quite some time and the influence it had on both cinema and music. In fact, one band that I listen to, The Tiger Lillies, wrote an entire album based on the original stage production that predated this film. That movie is the 1978 entry, Lulu.

Plot/ This highly stylized melodrama of the rise of a femme fatale and her fate at the hands of Jack the Ripper.

While I had heard of this film (and stage production), I had never been lucky enough to see it. Last night I was finally able to watch this one, and I am more than happy that I did. Yes, this is definitely not my usual genre; I was blown away by the depths of the film and can see how it has influenced decades of writers and filmmakers. This highly stylized does a tremendous job blending different eras of film and stage, using a solid mixture of silent film cards, soundscapes, colorization, and even opera music to create an atmosphere that is dark, entertaining, and memorable. Plus, anything that had Jack the Ripper in it cannot be bad (right?). Sure, the movie is more art house cinema than mainstream and it does not fit into any specific genre, but that adds to the overall satisfaction found when watching it. In the end, this film is unquestionably worth watching if you are willing to step outside the box and embrace the experience. This one is definitely not for everyone, but it really hit home with me. I loved it.