Saturday, June 30, 2012

Quiz time! Fireworks or Justified?

Once again Independence Day is upon us, which means that it’s time for our annual fireworks quiz. This year’s challenge: fireworks or episode of Justified?

For those unfamiliar with the latter, Justified is a crime drama on FX. The 8sails staff got started watching it mostly because of the star, Timothy Olyphant. Who of course pretty much guaranteed that the show is known informally around the office as Not Deadwood.

The series follows the exploits of federal marshal Raylan Givens, a shoot-first-and-ask-questions-if-he-feels-like-it lawman who brings his particular brand of justice to Harlan County, Kentucky (locale of a famous documentary about the hard lives of coal miners). This testosterone festival is based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, who is also one of the show’s executive producers.

So it should surprise precisely nobody that the names of the episodes are typically bite-sized chunks of machismo that would be right at home on T-shirts from Labor Day in Sturgis. Or a Bob Seger greatest hits collection. Or fireworks.

Good luck!

1. Fire in the Hole

2. Missouri Kicker

3. Bad to the Bone

4. The Lord of War and Thunder

5. Shock and Awe

6. The Hammer

7. Cottonmouth

8. Total Blowout

9. Midnight Rider

10. Blaze of Glory

11. All Jacked Up

12. The Gunfighter

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review - The Fields

How long has it been since I actually liked a low budget horror movie? But then, how long has it been since I saw one that employed any amount of subtlety? Further, this picture seems custom designed to appeal to those of us who were kids back in the early 70s when the nation went paranoid nuts over the Manson murders. In this tale, a boy is sent to live on his grandparents’ farm while his parents take some time to “work it out.” Though cautioned to stay out of the corn field, he goes exploring. Soon thereafter a sinister, invisible presence begins to threaten the family. The picture combines childhood anxiety, nightmares and actual threat with still unmatched by most expensive productions. The picture also features Chloris Leachman and Tara Reid, both of whom do good jobs despite not exactly sporting résumés with “subtle” written all over them. Worth seeing

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review – Children of the Corn: Genesis

A film studies program could make an entire course out of the various entries in this series. At one point or another the children have taken just about every possible approach to mid-budget horror, from slasher to monster, all different levels of acting, writing and production values. This sequel falls somewhere in the middle ground. The technical quality is okay, but the script relies too heavily on the bickering that passes for dialogue. As in the first entry, a married couple gets stranded in the middle of nowhere, though the peril takes a slightly different form this time around. Mildly amusing

Review – The Dread

The Snooze. An over-zealous woman discovers that she has a sibling in an insane asylum, a brother she doesn’t remember because they were separated after their parents were slaughtered by an evil skeleton guy. So when one of the misguided therapists at the creepy nuthouse gives him a crappy video game to play, it summons our bony foe to resume his bloodthirsty ways. See if desperate

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review – Blue Sunshine

What’s the worst side effect of bad acid: that it comes back to haunt you ten years after you take it, that it turns you into a homicidal maniac, or that it makes your hair fall out? From this movie’s 1978 standpoint, I’m guessing it’s the hair. In the lead role, Zalman King’s acting is as stiff and ridiculous as the pay channel erotica that later made him famous. Overall this is a vaguely entertaining relic from an era when LSD and disco seemed like they would be important to society. See if desperate

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review – Daybreakers

I’ve griped in the past about vampires and rule obsession, but this picture really goes overboard with it. Vampires have taken over the world, and they’ve consumed almost all the humans. Bereft of fresh blood, the masses are beginning to degenerate to monster form. Vampire scientists race to find a blood substitute and/or a cure for the whole vampire thing, and small pockets of human resistance try to survive. They spent a fair amount of money on the production, which made it a little better than it might otherwise have been. Mildly amusing

Review – The Caller

Mary has two problems. First, her psycho ex-husband is stalking her. And worse, a crazy dead person keeps calling her from 1979. The whole getting-into-a-phone-fight-with-someone-from-1979-who-can-seriously-mess-with-your-past thing is clever in a Twilight Zone kinda way. I also liked the twist at the end and the fact that the protagonist’s dog makes it the whole way through without incident. However, in a world where movies could be whatever length they needed to be rather than shooting for the hour and a half minimum, some of the developments along the way could probably have been omitted. Mildly amusing

Monday, June 18, 2012

Review – The Devil Inside

I admit I got suckered in by “The movie the Vatican doesn’t want you to see” ad line. Of course any student of film history knows there are a lot of movies the Vatican doesn’t want people to see. But in this case, perhaps the Holy See was just trying to save us from another piece of camcorder crap about exorcisms. The first dozen times someone tried this, it might have been bush leagues clever. But we’re well beyond that now. Honestly, this one doesn’t even have any good booga-booga moments (it has a few boogas, but they aren’t good). A video crew shoots footage in the Vatican’s school for exorcists, latches onto a couple of students who freelance on the side, and things go downhill (yes, downhill) from there. See if desperate

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review – After Midnight

This started out looking like a slasher movie about a professor teaching a class about the psychology of fear. But then it turned out to be an anthology piece. Sadly, it was an anthology of exceptionally lame stories. Of course even a brilliant script and excellent acting wouldn’t have been a match for the sheer weight of such a huge pile of clichés. In particular, the whole just-kidding-it-was-only-a-practical-joke thing is a risk if you try it once, and after you’ve repeated the mistake you’ve ruined any chance you have at getting the audience to trust your storytelling. See if desperate

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review – Episode 50

Ghost hunters from high-band cable tackle a haunted asylum. The trick here is that it’s two shows rather than one. The first is a band of skeptics dedicated to debunking ghostly presences, and the second is a pack of true believers led by a religious fanatic. Do I even have to tell you that most of the plot revolves around disputes between the opposing “ideologies”? Oddly, the production had a couple of strong points. It was set in a modern-looking hospital rather than the wrecked-out Danvers Asylum or reasonable facsimile thereof. And it packed a few genuinely spooky ghosts. But by the end the foolish storyline drove it into more familiar, bad territory. See if desperate

Review - Fear Island

A group of people trapped on an isolated island start dying one by one. Who’s killing them, and why? This worked well for Agatha Christie (title notwithstanding). But wow does it not work here. The sole survivor of the island massacre struggles to regain her memory, telling the tale of slaughter in drawn-out chunks. Personally, my chief suspect for most of the movie was the lost chihuahua. See if desperate

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Review – The Confession

This is actually a series of short segments originally produced for the Web but edited together into movie form. A confessional priest (John Hurt) finds himself confronted by a hit man (Kiefer Sutherland) who wants to argue theology. The result is a lot of bickering back and forth, punctuated occasionally by violent flashbacks. Though I could see how this might work as a series of shorts, as a single viewing experience it gets a little tedious. Mildly amusing

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review – The Avengers

This was marginally better than I thought it would be. The writers did a reasonably good job of meshing the various franchises and franchises-to-be into a single, cohesive story. In particular, Robert Downey Jr. is easier to take when he isn’t the sole protagonist. Of course the special effects go a long way toward smoothing over weak points in the plot (such as the remarkable ineffectiveness of bad guys who should logically have been a great deal more powerful than they turn out to be). Overall this should prove satisfying to anyone looking for an entertaining superhero movie. Mildly amusing