Indie Gems: Halloween

Don't fear the reaper.

Michael Myers (Tony Moran) stabbed his older sister to death when he was just a child. After being in a mental hospital for all of his youth, he escapes and returns to his home town of Haddonfeild, IL. His psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) has an idea of what Michael might do. He's returned to target young Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends.


Halloween continues to be one of the most frightening movies of all time. There have been many sequels, even a few remakes, but none can compare to John Carpenter's original masterpiece.  Besides his creepy mask (and the wonderfully ominous score that follows him) we didn't know a whole lot about Michael Myers. That's what made him so scary. He was just plain crazy, no intentions, just the need to kill. In Jamie Lee Curtis' first role, she cemented herself in the screen queen scene.

You have to have a lot of respect for this Indie Gem. It was the highest grossing independent film of it's time. They had to paint fake leaves to make it feel like fall, then gather them after they filmed a scene. All of the actors wore their own clothes, the majority of the film's minuscule budget ($320,000) went towards the cameras used to shoot the film. Hell, Michael's signature mask was a William Shatner Star Trek mask painted white! That's making the most of your money.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "He was standing right there.." - Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis)

Indie Gems: 28 Days Later

Not zombies. Just rage.
Anyone who reads my blog knows about the Danny Boyle lovefest that goes on here constantly. So 28 Days Later is a perfect fit for my horror Indie Gems.
Animal Activists attempt to set some caged monkeys free only to find out the hard way they are infected with the rage virus. 28 Days Later we see Jim (Cillian Murphy) waking up stark naked in an empty London hospital. He soon encounters fellow survivors, Selena, (Naomie Harris) Frank (Brenden Gleeson) and Hannah (Megan Burns) they attempt to find refuge in this deserted land while trying to avoid the raging humans infected with the virus.
28 Days Later often gets categorized as a Zombie movie when it really isn't. These aren't the walking dead. They are alive, just infected. Boyle's signature way or shooting things is front and center with quick cuts and spots of rich color amongst the gloomy London backdrop. Then there's the fact that the film is down right creepy and has plenty of suspenseful moments. This film introduced me to Cillian Murphy who has easily become one of my favorite actors since. This is one of the best horror movies out there, everything about it works. Just ignore the inferior sequel.
Recommended: Yes
Grade: A-
Memorable Quote: "Are you trying to kill me?" - Hannah (Megan Burns)

Indie Gems: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Meet Leatherface.

You know, that creepy dude with the mask made out of people's skin, who wielded a chainsaw and had the balls to saw a dude in a wheelchair in half. He's the focus of the scary Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I point this out because the remakes and prequels like to show us more of Leatherface's dysfunctional family as if it's an excuse for this monster. Yes they were a family of cannibals, but they made the father out to be more of the monster than the son, and that's where I think the film lost focus. That and that God-awful scene in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning where baby Leatherface literally CRAWLS out of his mother during child birth. Terrible film making.

Now that's out of my system, lets talk about the original TCM. Shot so wonderfully it felt like it really happened. (what a convincing narrator) They even marketed it that way. (It didn't by the way, it's loosely based off of Ed Gein.) All those classic deaths, the meat hook, the frightening scene of someone chasing you with a chainsaw to Sally's (Marilyn Burns) iconic scream as she finally escapes on the back of a pick up. TCM was downright terrifying. By the time I saw this, I was used to seeing Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger stab people to death. But Leatherface had a fucking chainsaw! I couldn't think of anything more terrifying. This was a slasher flick that dared to be different. Instead of the sneaking up on his victims slowly, Leatherface ran. He showed no mercy. He was ready to feed these five teens to his entire family. I still consider The Exorcist to be the scariest movie I've ever seen, but TCM is a close second. For any horror fan, this is a must see.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre." - The Narrator.

DVD Review: The Extra Man

Gentleman.

Louis (Paul Dano) is a young teacher who loses his job after being caught curiously trying on a bra in the teacher's lounge. He goes to Manhattan in an effort to find himself and ends up bunking with strange man that escorts older women, Henry. (Kevin Kline) Henry dances strangely, sneaks into Operas, and thinks women shouldn't get an education. He's a playwright, but his ex room mate who he refers to as a "Swedish Hunchback" stole his one great piece of work. Louis goes along on his escapades, all while trying to find a way to balance his new job, his new crush, and his secret enjoyment of cross dressing. Then there's neighbor Gershon (John C. Reilly) with a huge head of hair, long beard, and Mickey Mouse voice that shows up for a few laughs.


I thought the movie felt smart and fresh, but jumbled and disjointed. They tried to cram too many subplots into one film. The characters are interesting and different, but the film loses it's focus on them. Still, Dano and Kline give good performances. John C. Reilly was funny, but his part was brief. Katie Holmes also stars as Louis's Vegan co-worker, but she falls flat as always. I have yet to see a believable performance from her.

Recommended: Yes, disjointed or not, it's still a clever story.

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Gershon is pathologically late." - Henry (Kevin Kline)






Indie Gems: Cabin Fever

Nothing bad ever happens when you spend your vacation in a remote cabin in the woods.

Right? Never happens! Cabin Fever has a simple formula.

Five college friends spend their vacation in the mountains. On their first night they encounter a strange drifter who appears to be sick. Soon, one of them contracts a scary, flesh-eating virus. Of course they can't just drive away and get help. As the virus spreads the survival instinct kicks in and perhaps these friends aren't as close as they seem.

Cabin Fever introduced me to a true horror fan in director Eli Roth. He took a cliche horror movie plot and turned it into something enjoyable. Who can forget that infamous scene of Marcy shaving her legs? Or Paul making the tough decision of ending the one he love's misery. And he managed to be clever and funny on top of that. It's always a good thing when a horror movie can bring on equal amounts of creep, gore, and laughter in my opinion. Plus you have to love Eli Roth's taste in horror. When you see his name on something, you know it will be gory and creepy. Because of him I also discovered the wonderful Japanese film Audition. I'm thankful for that.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I made it! I made it!!" - Jeff (Joey Kern)

DVD Review: Biutiful

Javier Bardem is a fantastic actor.

But you already knew that. He turns in one of his best performances yet in Biutiful.

Bardem plays Uxbal, a man recently divorced from his bipolar wife and raising his two children alone. He's diagnosed with terminal cancer and wants to atone for his life of crime before he dies. He works on the streets in many illegal operations, he has an unwanted gift of seeing people who have passed on, and forwarding messages to their loved ones. Uxball has a lot of things going on.

The movie's long run time hurts it a bit, but what I really enjoyed were the chain of events in Uxbal's life. The film starts off normal and slowly gets more disjointed and you can see it in Bardem's face. That's one of things that makes him so great, the way he's able to convey emotion. It's written all over him. His fear, his love for his children, his guilt when something goes horribly wrong, the over all tiredness of Uxbal is all there.

The film is beautifully shot and I felt like I saw a whole new side of Barcelona compared to what I have seen in previous films.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "Please don't forget me." - Uxbal (Javier Bardem)

A Look Back at Breaking Bad Season 4

I think Breaking Bad might be the best show I have ever seen on television.  I have a lot of shows I enjoy, but none of them put me on the edge of my seat like this does. I can't get over how good Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are. They are superb actors, and they deserve every Emmy that comes their way.

With my True Blood recap, I went over a few things I disliked and a few things I liked. Honestly, the only think I didn't like about this season of Breaking Bad is Skyler, I loved everything else. So instead I'm going to ask questions. Questions that will for sure be answered in Breaking Bad's final season.

1) Is Tyrus dead? Gus's epic death (and double meaning for the episode's title "Face Off" was left slightly open. Skyler tells Walt that "Gus Fring is dead and some Mexican drug cartel." Who was she referring too? Tyrus or Hector? Gus yelled when the bomb was about to go off, Tyrus could've easily ran into the bathroom or something.

2) Who will try to avenge Gus's death? Gus was probably the best villain on TV in awhile. It would almost be cool if in some strange twist he was still alive, but that wont happen. The last episode had a close up shot of the Los Pallos Hermanos logo. I assumed Gus's former partner was the other "chicken brother." But what about that company in Germany that backs Gus's restaurant? Was Gus answering to a higher man?

3) Who will Mike align himself with when he returns? Gus's camp? Or Jesse?

4) Did Walt poison Brock? I'd like to think our anti hero wouldn't stoop that low juts to get Jesse on his side, but the finale sure left us wondering. Will he be set up?

5) Is Ted dead? Injured? Will he play a part in bringing Skyler down.

6) Will something happen to Walt's family? I Think Walter Jr. gets hurt or killed. He's bound to wonder more about why Walt referred to him as "Jesse" when he was passed out after getting beat up.

And the ultimate what if..

7) Will Walt and Jesse become partners or enemies? Will they continue to cook? If Walt did poison Brock and Jesse finds out, what will he do? Will Jesse find out that Walt let Jane die? There's so many what if's between this relationship. Personally I hope they end up on good terms. If the cancer doesn't get Walt in the end, could he die by Jesse's hands?

Indie Gems: Saw

Want to play a game?

Nowadays, Saw has been turned into a total joke. It was a Sundance hit that turned in a decent sequel then several horrible ones.

Let's forget all the crap that happened and focus on what started the franchise: The original Saw. Shot on a grainy hand held camera, with a dirty bathroom set and quite possibly one of the most surprising endings in all of horror. Saw turned a lot of heads at Sundance and soon found a limited release. It exploded on DVD once word of mouth got around.

Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes) and Adam (Leigh Whannell) wake up chained to the walls in a bathroom. There's a dead man lying in the center, and an ominous voice on a tape player telling them they are part of a game. They will need to play to be set free. Obviously it isn't easy.

Saw in some cases kick started the genre known as "torture porn." The plot centers around people getting stuck in various traps and dying, but these aren't just random victims. No, The Jigsaw Killer only kills people that don't realize that life is a gift. In a way, that sort of made up for it. It didn't feel as exploitative since Jigsaw was making a valid point, but it is still wrong and you are against the killer nonetheless. When I saw this in theatres, the ending literally made several people say "No fucking way." in unison. It was a pretty cool moment as a movie goer. Saw's rep may be tarnished today due to greedy movie studios, but I still love the original and it remains one of my favorite horror films to this day.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Most people are so ungrateful to be alive." - Jigsaw (Tobin Bell

Review: The Ides of March

Politics.

Stephen (Ryan Gosling) is working on a presidential campaign for Mike Morris. (George Clooney) In between working for his sometimes pushy boss, Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) dodging nosey reporter, Ida (Marisa Tomei) having secret meetings with the opposing campaign manger, Tom (Paul Giamatti) and falling for a young intern, Molly (Evan Rachel Wood) Stephen has got his hands full. Eventually he learns one of Morris's dirty little secrets, and Stephen will have to play dirty himself.

I've never been a big fan of political thrillers, but I gave this one a chance because of the wonderful cast.  I didn't think it was possible for Ryan Gosling to look unattractive, but the opening and closing shots of this film do him no justice. His performance is good, as is everyone's, but besides Gosling and Clooney the rest of the cast aren't given much to do The plot started out interesting but felt like it had been dragged through the dirt by the time it made it to it's abrupt ending. I've seen a lot of blogs talk about which role Gosling should campaign during the Oscar season. I say Drive. I was never looking at my watch during Drive.

Recommended: No

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: Well...I've been trying to fuck you for awhile now." - Molly (Evan Rachel Wood)

Review: Moneyball

The story of the Oakland A's.

Moneyball follows the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) as he attempts to put together a playoff worthy team on a tight budget. He hires Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who's strategy is to get players on base, it doesn't matter how as long as they get on. You don't buy wins, he puts it. You buy runs. They analyze each player and eventually form a contending roster. They don't win the World Series, but they proved that you don't need star players to get to the post season.

Being a huge baseball fan myself, (go Twins!) I really enjoyed watching Moneyball. I loved all the baseball talk and found it extremely interesting how they put everything together. Brad Pitt delivered as I expected, but who I was really surprised by was Jonah Hill. I'm used to him playing the same character in every single film and he finally shows a different side here. Moneyball might not be for you if you don't like baseball, but I still think you should give it a shot. This is coming from someone that wasn't intially interested in the film. I could nitpick and say that they left out a few key players that helped during the year, but I understand that things needed to be cut for time constraints.

On a side note, I can't believe Billy Beane turned down that deal with the Red Sox. Especially when they won the World Series in 2004.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "You're about to get on a plane. Those things crash all the time." - Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) 

A Look Back at True Blood season 4

Ahh True Blood. My guilty pleasure TV show. As much as I hate cliff hangers, I admit they make for some good TV. And the best place for a cliff hanger is a season finale. Last season's finale left me feeling a little empty. I felt like the episode prior to it was better. Season 4's finale? Off the charts. Next June couldn't come quick enough.

Here's a few things I loved about this season, and I few things I didn't care much for.

1) Eric and Sookie finally hook up. I realize that sounds very teenybopper of me to say, but I have to admit their sex scene (which earned the first "graphic sexual content" rating that I've noticed) was hot. They did it in the forest! On the floor! On the couch! In the bedroom! It almost makes up for the fact that they made that shower scene so fucking weird. Eric loosing his memory was actually quite heartwarming, and when bad ass Eric finally came back, it made me love his character more. It also provided one of the funniest things I've ever seen on this show.
 

2) Fiona Shaw was awesome. Witches didn't really sound interesting to me at first, but boy did Shaw kill it with her Marnie character. Denis O'Hare's Russell is still my favorite True Blood villain, but Marie got up there.

3) Pam's lines were great. "I'm so sick of Sookie and her precious Fairy vagina and her unbelievably STUPID name!"

Lafayette's were great too: "We'll stay for 5 minutes. 10 if they got dranks."

And Jesus's.. "You can't trade magic like their fucking Pokemon cards!"

4) Tommy finally got killed off. I seriously hated his character.

5) The finale. Oh the finale, there are so many things to look forward to in season 5! Debbie is dead, what will Alcide think? Tara got shot? Will she survive? (I'm going with a vampire saving her, but having to turn her due to the amount of blood she's lost.) Lafayette lost the love of his life, how will he cope? What's up with the ghost of Terry's past? Will Eric and Bill start to get along? Will Eric and Pam sort things out? Who's the werewolf outside of Sam's trailer? And the biggest cliff hanger of them all... How did Russel Edgington get out of his grave of cement? And how pissed off is he going to be? I can't wait to find out.

A few minor things I didn't like:

1) Werepanthers. That storyline was so unbelievably stupid. I hated it in season 3, and I hated it even more in season 4. Thank God it only lasted about 4 episodes. Werepanter gang rape is where I draw the line on my supernatural shows.

2) The fairies take a back seat. I never cared much for the fairy storyline to begin with, but they started off the season with a very interesting take on them..then went no where with it. Eric killed Claudine, and we didn't see another Fairy again until the finale episode in which one mates with Andy. If they can keep it interesting like they did in the opener, I wouldn't mind seeing more.

3) Eric and Pam fighting. It just seemed out of character for the two. Pam worships Eric and he's always been particularly loving towards his progeny. So him threatening to kill her during their face off with Marnie just felt strange. I hope they patch things up.

4) Not enough Godric. I know he's dead, but in season 3 he still spoke with Eric from beyond. I wanted more of that, Godric was one of my favorite characters that died too soon. One little dream with him was not enough for me.

5) Jesus's death. I admit, I saw it coming, but it still made me sad. I loved him and Lafayette as a couple. I hope we see a lot of him from beyond as well.  He certainly grew on me.

Indie Gems: Wicked Little Things

All this month, Indie Gems will be horror films.

You either love or you hate the After Dark Horrorfest. Personally, I love it. Sure they distribute some truly bad horror movies (Hello, Penny Dreadful) but they also produce some gems. Wicked Little things, though a complete cliche at times is one of those gems in my opinion.

Karen, (Lori Heuring) and her two daughters, Sarah (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Emma (Chloe Grace Moretz) move out to a remote house in Pennsylvania that they have inherited. Years ago, many children were buried alive at a nearby mine. The neighbors warn them of the strange things that can happen, and of course little Emma (much like Moretz's character in the Amityville horror remake) befriends a ghost child. Then people start getting attacked. Karen and Sarah must save Emma.

I have to say that I really dig Scout Taylor-Compton and her string of horror movies. She was the one bright spot in Rob Zombie's God-awful Halloween remakes in my opinion. She's a real horror fan, and it shows in her performances. Plus she's got a killer scream. Wicked Little Things managed to be very creepy even though you could guess the ending a mile away. If your going to check out some of the films that have been part of After Dark's Horrorfest, I'd suggest this one. It's not perfect, but it's entertaining.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "That did not just fucking happen!" - Sarah (Scout Taylor-Compton)

DVD Review: Heavenly Creatures

Back then, it was starking mad.

Today we call this "batshit crazy." This perfectly describes our leads in Peter Jackson's film about a real event that happened in New Zealand.


Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) meets Juliet, (Kate Winslet) a Brit who's recently moved to ChristChurch, New Zealand. They attend the same school and eventually become friends. Their friendship grows more intense and they make up a fantasy world and fall deeper and deeper into it.  Their parents think their relationship is unhealthy and attempt to separate them. Pauline blames her mother, and she and Juliet plot to kill her. They do, they are caught, and they go to prison...for about five years. These girls were convicted of cold blooded, pre-meditated murder and were released on terms that they would never contact each other again. Nice justice system.

At first I thought Kate Winslet's acting was very over the top. This was both her and Lynskey's first roles, but the most I watched, the more I realized that her "I'm really excited to be here!" expressions fit her character perfectly. This was a girl who's imagination ran so wild, that she would refer to her friend by her character's name. Lynskey was particularly menacing as well. Oh that stare, she has quiet and evil stare.

Heavenly Creatures does feel long and at times I felt like I was forcing myself to watch it, but seeing Winslet's career begin is worth it when you know how great of an actress she has become. Lynskey is great as well, I only wish she'd get some bigger roles. The movie is beautifully shot and that final 10 minutes is truly a grueling experience.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Dozens of people are dying all the time. So why not mother?" - Pauline (Melanie Lynskey)



Review: 50/50

Laughter is the best medicine.
Such is one of the central themes in 50/50. It's based off of screen writer Will Reiser's bout with cancer, which he ultimately beat.
Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a healthy 27 year old who works for a radio station. Nagging back pain brings him to the doctor's office and he is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer. His option is chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, than a risky surgery to rid himself of it. Adam's support system is his best friend Nick, (Seth Rogan) who cares deeply for his friend, but is not above using his condition as a ploy to get girls in bed. Adam's over bearing mother (Anjelica Huston) and unfaithful girl friend (Bryce Dallas Howard) prove to be obsticals, but he finds solace with his therapist in training, Katherine. (Anna Kendrick) Adam doesn't go to extremes to do things before he dies. He doesn't have some spiritual awakening, he just deals. Just as Will Reiser did.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is really the heart and soul of the film. He perfectly balances the script's witty humor and it's harder moments. Seth Rogen was a great addition as well. With his traditional one liners, he brings light to Adam's situation. Just when you think that maybe Nick might just be an asshole, Adam finds a cancer coping book that Nick has been reading. Proof that he's having a hard time dealing as well. Anna Kendrick brings the same charm she did in Up in the Air, but it feels like she's playing the same character. This job could've easily been the one Natalie Keener left Omaha for in that film. She's good with this type of gig, but it's nothing new for her.
50/50, though not as good as it's working title I'm With Cancer in my opinion isn't just another depressing movie about the disease. It's shows that not everyone goes into bucket list mode as soon as they are diagnosed. Yes they are angry and scared, but they just carry on an prove that sometimes a laugh (and perhaps some medicinal marijuana) is really what you need to ease the tension.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A
Memorable Quote: "No one's gonna fuck me, I look like Voldemort." - Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)