Friday, December 27, 2013

Review – Deceptive Practice

This is one of the most uneven documentaries I’ve ever seen. I could watch Ricky Jay work slight-of-hand for hours, so the clips of his performances would have been more than enough for me. I was also willing to experience the discussions of the artists who influenced him. The interminable interviews with acquaintances – especially Mamet – not so much. Sadly, the elements are mixed together seemingly at random, with little concern for any kind of story flow. Thus a subject that should have been fascinating becomes frustrating instead. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review – Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away

These shows must be quite impressive live. The video version is good as well, but the intended venue is clearly the theater rather than the living room. This appears to be a combination of different CdS shows woven together by a thin bracket plot. Though the story doesn’t amount to much, the fun of watching the acrobatics more than makes up for it. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Oh how I loved this movie when I was a kid. Of course I could have done without the musical numbers, which oddly still holds true even four decades later. But the story is entertaining enough. An inventor (Dick Van Dyke, here wisely eschewing an English accent) builds a fantastic, super-powered car and takes his moppets and rich girlfriend on an adventure. The whole thing is sort of a kiddie-lite version of Ian Fleming’s more widely-known creation. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review – Devil

Five people are trapped in a broken elevator. One of them is the Devil. M. Night Shyamalan wrote the story. This is exactly as good as you’d expect it to be. See if desperate

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review – The Conjuring

This is one of those movies that’s probably intensely terrifying if you believe in demons and witches and ghosts. For the less credulous among us, this is a handful of good booga-boogas, a much more substantial dose of weak booga-boogas, and an overwhelming pile of pseudo-theological nonsense. Perhaps this would have been a better experience if they hadn’t been so dead-set on selling it as a true story. Amityville still casts its shadow more than three decades later. See if desperate

Review – Chilling Visions

I was pleasantly surprised by one aspect of this anthology piece: all five stories were actually vaguely linked. I expected this to be another nearly-random assemblage of shorts gleaned from an amateur horror short contest. They even built a loose structure around the five senses, devoting one tale to each. However, the lot might have been improved a jot by following traditional anthology structure: best story last, second best story first, and the mid-packers in between. Because if they thought they were doing that here, the drastically over-estimated the appeal of the show stopper at the end. Still, I’ve seen worse. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review – The Evil Dead (2013)

This bootmake deftly avoids everything that made the original good. The small picture that launched Sam Raimi’s career had a certain indie earnestness, making it easier to enjoy the good parts and at least tolerate the weak spots. This studio tripe exploits all the worst qualities of the genre without making any excuse for itself. Imagine the fanciest, most delicious food you’ve ever eaten. Now imagine what it would taste like if McDonald’s added it to the Dollar Menu. Wish I’d skipped it

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review – The ABCs of Death

The good thing about horror anthologies is that bad segments tend to end quickly, giving their companions a chance to re-win the audience. But when the majority of the stories are genuinely awful, they overpower the good stuff. This set sports 26 entries, one for each letter of the alphabet. The first two got the evening off on the right foot, but after that it dived straight downhill. By the end I’d experienced way too many suffering animals, graphic toilet explorations and the like to be able to appreciate the diamonds buried in the shit. Verdict: wish I’d skipped it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review – Devil Times Five

Awfulness times infinity. Five severely psychotic kids escape from an asylum and go crazy at a mountain resort. The primary pleasure here is in watching for the hosts of continuity slips and other technical errors (the IMDb listing supplies a set of things to look for). Or perhaps savoring some of the worst dialogue ever written. I’m amazed that this was made in the days before camcorders. Film production actually requires money, and it’s weird to see that much cash dropped on something this dreadful. Wish I’d skipped it

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Review – Dark Skies

Once again I find myself wondering if aliens capable of interstellar travel and other technological marvels really have nothing better to do with themselves than come to Earth and engage in relatively trivial crime. To be sure, kidnapping children is worse than vandalizing crops. Still, it comes across as an unpleasant blend of paranoia and stupidity. They spent some money on the effort, making mid-grade production values and some familiar faces in the cast the picture’s only saving graces. See if desperate

Review – Cool Air (2006)

Yeesh. I respect the folks who made this for realizing that they didn’t have the resources to make a movie with any kind of production values. Going with a script-intensive approach might have worked if the screenwriter hadn’t been so intensely talentless. I’m surprised that the source story should prove so hard to adapt, but this is the third or fourth attempt I’ve seen and none of them have been good. Though this is by far the worst. Wish I’d skipped it

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Review – Star Trek Into Darkness

I didn’t hate this Abrams Trek anywhere near as bad as I hated the first one. I still prefer the cerebral drama of the original TV series (fear a movie that makes William Shatner’s high jinks look cerebral) over the noisy action sequences so popular with 21st century audiences, but I did at least appreciate the absence of Lost-esque time travel plot monkeying. I couldn’t quite decide if the presence of characters and plot developments from Wrath of Khan were a loving, playful tribute or just a desperate attempt at “anything you can do I can do better.” But overall I enjoyed this outing, at least when it wasn’t busy screaming in my ear. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review – The Dictator

At least this time we don’t have to feast upon the sight of Sacha Baron Cohen’s nutsack. Though this is more heavily scripted than Borat or Bruno, it’s nonetheless yet another tale of an obnoxious foreigner battling culture shock in the United States. It sports a few funny gags, but for the most part it’s excessively juvenile. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Review – The Expendables 2

Within five minutes or so it becomes painfully obvious that Sylvester Stallone wrote the script or at least a good percentage of the dialogue. At least the folks who put this together were smart enough to figure out that the ensemble of action actors was the major draw of the first one. This entry features more familiar faces in the supporting cast and less concern for the niceties of plot and character development. And they didn’t bring back Mickey Rourke. See if desperate

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Review – The Blood Beast Terror

The parts with the moth/human hybrid monster are some fun. Sadly that’s less than two minutes out of the total 88. The rest is a weak re-heat of the plot from The Reptile. See if desperate

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Review – Battleship

What’s more miraculous: that they did in fact make a movie out of the Battleship board game or that they made it through the whole thing without anyone saying “You sank my battleship”? If you have this disc in your player and your trusty remote in hand, buzz directly through the first 20 minutes, which are almost entirely completely unnecessary character development. Tune back in when things start blowing up. Even by genre standards, this is stupid stuff. [side note: when I typed the title onto this page, I accidentally typed “Battleshit.”] See if desperate

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review - Fall from Grace

What an inapt title. As if Fred Phelps ever attained any semblance of a state of grace from which he might have fallen into the pit he continues to dig for himself. For the most part I’m prepared to brush this off as a not-entirely-welcome look at the Phelps cult, not interesting or insightful enough to merit as much attention as it requires. However, I’m going to recommend this picture to one particular group: those people who feel that rights and privileges freely granted to heterosexuals should be denied to non-heterosexuals. If that’s you, watch this movie closely. You may not be as hateful as Fred, but some of his spirit lives inside you. See if desperate

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Review – Dead Again

Here’s the movie that should have demonstrated early on that Kenneth Branagh could be trusted neither in front of nor behind a camera. Almost from the first frames we manage to establish that the male and female leads are a couple reincarnated after tragic deaths in the 1940s. As that left the story with nowhere interesting to go, the movie meanders through a parade of go-nowhere subplots and other pointless complications. The cleverest moment in the whole picture was a character’s disability used as a sub-reference-to-another-production clue. See if desperate

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review – Brave

Those who’ve met me could probably guess that I’m not exactly a Disney Princesses kind of guy. But I genuinely enjoyed this movie, at least in part because it wasn’t the typical Disney Princess experience. Our protagonist doesn’t need a handsome prince to self-actualize; indeed, the plot gets rolling with her refusal to submit to an arranged marriage. It was also nice to see Pixar getting a bit more comfortable dancing around the “uncanny valley” (not to mention sporting a female lead for a change). Politics and image quality aside, this is a charming picture that manages a delightfully even mix of comedy, drama, action and character development. Worth seeing

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review – Coming to America

Remember when Eddie Murphy was famous for something besides voicing a talking donkey? Remember when Arsenio Hall could command a major role and Samuel L. Jackson did no better than a walk-on as a guy robbing a fast food joint? Remember when John Landis could still find work? Then perhaps you’ll remember this movie for something other than the huge lawsuit that trailed in its wake. This tale of an African prince who comes to New York to escape an arranged marriage isn’t bad. It’s just unmemorable. Mildly amusing

Friday, April 19, 2013

Review – The Dark Sleep

Putting “sleep” in a movie title is just begging for a host of obvious insults, but here I’d feel bad about taking such cheap shots at such a defenseless production. H.P. Lovecraft’s “Dreams in the Witch House” may be buried somewhere under this vast pile of amateur hour antics. But for the most part this movie is an uneven blend of “at least you tried” special effects and writing more appropriate for skits performed in the multipurpose room of a dorm. See if desperate

Review – The Bay

To the extent I’m able, I’ve sworn off found footage movies. But with Barry Levinson in the director’s chair, this entry seemed like it might stand a chance. Levinson occasionally trips over the format, sneaking narrative filmmaking in here and there. I would also have preferred a more linear chronology. When the movie whips back and forth between subplots, editing scenes out of order doesn’t exactly make the story easier to follow. However, the nasty little mutant parasites more than make up for the technical defects. And sadly the premise – pollution of Chesapeake Bay turns harmless sea life into a dangerous plague – is all too plausible. Worth seeing

Review – Dark Feed

I’m greatly puzzled by one element of this picture: the puppy survives to the end. When a horrible horror movie introduces a cute animal of any kind, the poor creature’s part is almost universally guaranteed to end badly. Mind, I’m not complaining. Indeed, the decision saved the production from earning a lower rating. It just struck me as odd, particularly as the rest of the show was an intensely predictable tale of evil befalling a crew shooting a bad horror movie in a haunted insane asylum. See if desperate

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review – The Adventures of Mark Twain

When I was a kid, Will Vinton’s Oscar-winning animated short, “Closed Mondays,” inspired me to spend some time playing around with animation using clay. Unfortunately, the quirky cleverness that functions well in shorts doesn’t translate particularly well to feature length productions. Vinton is still able to do some impressive stuff with clay, achieving fascinating effects that today’s computer-generated productions would never even consider. And in several spots it’s put to excellent use, particularly in the chilling version of “The Mysterious Stranger” (a segment cut from some prints for being too potentially upsetting for children). However, some of Vinton’s technique is ineffective. He’s especially bad with leg movement. And the production’s sense of self-conscious whimsey was dated in 1985, let alone now. Overall, however, this works as animated art and homage to the title character. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Abandoned – Storage 24

Dear bad British horror movie producers: thanks for getting the dog death out of the way in the first ten minutes. You saved me from sitting through the remaining 80.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Review – A Dangerous Method

Pretty tame by David Cronenberg’s standards, this is a fairly straightforward account of the birth of psychoanalysis. Naturally Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Jung (Michael Fassbender) feature prominently, as does Sabina Spielrein (Keira Kinightley). As is typical with such productions, Spielrein is here commemorated more for her kinky affair with Jung (and its effect on Jung’s relationship with Freud) than for her own valuable contributions to the field. Otherwise, however, this was a reasonably entertaining bit of historical drama. Worth seeing

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review – The Awakening (2011)

More than a century after the first publication of “The Turn of the Screw,” Henry James continues to work his evil, dull-as-dishwater influence on English ghost stories. The description’s mention of a ghost hunter prompted me to pass this picture at first, but then I found myself curious to see how one of the great staples of the “found footage” sub-genre might play in an actual, narrative movie set decades before the birth of camcorders. Though I found the spiritualist-debunking protagonist initially intriguing, the production swiftly sunk under the weight of its own ponderous plot. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review – The Factory

In this mid-budget slasher flick the trick is that the killer doesn’t kidnap prostitutes just to kill them. Instead he chains them up in his basement and forces them to breed with him. Though the title implies that he’s doing this for money, his only apparent interest is in having a lot of babies around. Beyond the baby thing, this is a run-of-the-mill genre piece with the usual cast of characters, pseudo-suspense and ludicrous plot twists. See if desperate

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review – Argo

It’s like Ben Affleck heard people calling him an actor/director and set out to prove them wrong on both counts. In 1980 the Canadian government and the CIA collaborated to sneak American embassy staff out of Iran disguised as a film crew, a real life story with tremendous cinematic potential. Helmed by the Cohen brothers, this might have been a successful oddball caper picture. A political thriller veteran like John Frankenheimer or William Friedkin might have made this work as an espionage movie. Affleck’s vision seems to be more “Let’s shoot The Hurt Locker as a comedy.” And in front of the camera, he adopts the listless, emotionally dead approach that seems to be a trend at the moment (may it vanish as quickly as it appeared). The Oscars didn’t snub you, buddy. They just politely turned their backs to give you the chance to slink away with some of your dignity intact. See if desperate

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review – The Color Out of Space

The parts of this movie that actually follow the H.P. Lovecraft source story are reasonably good. Sure, it’s in German. And I was of two minds about the decision to make the amorphous “color” the only non-black-and-white element of the production. Clever or gimmicky? You decide. I didn’t care much for the bracket(s), which seemed to be there solely to stretch a solid 40-minute story out to a watery feature length. But the core of the production made the filler acceptable. Mildly amusing

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review – Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet

I’ve seen literally hundreds of horror movies that start with some promise but end up slain by one failed element in the production mix. Most often it’s bad directing or bad acting, though it can be any combination of elements on the low budget horror don’t list. However, this picture’s a novelty, because it’s ruined almost entirely by the writers. The production is competently assembled, and the acting is downright solid by sub-genre standards. But the dialogue? Ouch. It’s like listening to an hour and a half of a witless what-are-you-doing-dunno-how-bout-you cell phone conversation occasionally punctuated by attacks from a naked slasher ghost. See if desperate

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review – Everything or Nothing

James Bond fans should love this retrospective on the 50-year-old series. Or then again, maybe not. Though the picture doesn’t dwell excessively on the negative, it does present an unflinching look at some of the behind-the-scenes battles that shaped some of the odder moments in the set, particularly Sean Connery’s off-again-on-again relationship with the producers. This is also a nice, even piece of documentary filmmaking, a good blend of movie clips, archive footage and interviews. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review – Endangered Species

A crappy horror movie producer should count himself lucky to score even one of the C-list stars who specialize in such productions. But this picture sports no less than three. Eric Roberts, Arnold Vosloo and John Rhys-Davies team up to create an Expendables-ish ensemble that overshadows the weak story, a thin stew made from Terminator and Predator leftovers. See if desperate

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Abandoned – Ghost From the Machine

The plot summary – guy tries to invent a machine to bring his parents back from the dead – sounded vaguely intriguing, but the actual movie is merely a mess of character-intensive, indie meandering. I even gave it an hour to see if it would eventually go anywhere. But then I had to pause it to deal with something else and couldn’t force myself to go back to it.

Abandoned – Howling 5: The Rebirth

If you’re gonna make a werewolf movie, you really ought to consider actually putting a werewolf or two in it. I waited patiently for half an hour before giving up.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review – The Asphyx

When people know they’re going to die, spirits called Asphyxes attend their passing. A couple of gentlemen scientists figure out how to trap the things, which apparently makes them immortal as long as the trapping occurs right around a fearful passing, the right light shines on the racket-making puppet spirit and it’s locked away where the light never gets turned off. The concept is weird enough to work in a metaphysical-version-of-autoerotic-asphyxiation way, but it doesn’t survive a script packed with bad dialogue and low logic levels. Sadly, this picture will only interest you if you’re especially fond of British horror movies from the 1970s, you’ve never seen an immortal guinea pig or your ass is broken. See if desperate

Monday, February 25, 2013

Review – Blood Gnome

Rubber monsters need to feed on blood, their hunger satisfied by killing members of the blood fetish sub-stratum of the BDSM scene. If you’re shocked or titillated by nudity, bondage or crappy rubber puppets, then they finally made the movie you’ve been waiting for. Sadly, that’s all this picture has to offer. See if desperate

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Review – The Bourne Legacy

Here we go with a new operative same as the old operative. They’ve replaced Matt Damon with Jeremy Renner, and they stirred in some nonsense about a virus. The IMDb notes indicate that Paul Greengrass, the director of the first two Bourne sequels, suggested that this round be called The Bourne Redundancy. Which hits the nail squarely on the head. See if desperate

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Review – Barrio Tales

If this is any better than an average “moron with a camcorder” movie, that’s due more to improvements in video production technology than to upgrades in the moron department. Three shorts held together by a cheap bracket. Frat boys kill their maid and suffer a horrible curse. Suburban kids are turned into Mexican food by Uncle Tio (doesn’t that mean Uncle Uncle?) and his taco truck. And rednecks who kidnap and torture undocumented workers get a violent comeuppance. This might work as a minor critique of anti-Mexican racism if it didn’t wallow so heavily in the racist muck along the way. It’s also hard to side with the sound editor’s guess that viewers would have more interest in the twangy guitar soundtrack than in the dialogue. See if desperate

Apple, are you kidding me?

Late last Wednesday afternoon I had what by now has become all too familiar: a Mac hard drive crash. Fortunately I learned my lesson after the first three times this happened to me, so this time I had a reasonably current backup. I lost just three or four days, almost all of it stuff I’d uploaded to the web already.

So the issue wasn’t data loss. The issue was the hard drive itself. The problem required a trip to the Apple Store (not exactly right next door), where the computer had to stay for three days. As down times go, that honestly wasn’t too bad. It was actually sort of nice to have an excuse to take a break from connectedness for a little while.

Plus the Apple “Geniuses” were nice to the verge of customer service overkill. One even told me that the company’s in-house code name for the computer I bought is the Ultimate. That made me wonder what their name is for the model with a few extras I didn’t get. Best not to know. I’d hate to think about people unwittingly using a computer known as the John Holmes.

My problem with all this (aside from this being the fourth hard drive crash in less than two years) was that in days gone past I could have tackled the repair at home. If the hardware was seriously torched (and in this case it may have been), then off to the store it would go. As I’d had it only a month or so, it was still under warranty. But at least I could have tried running some diagnostics and attempted to fix it myself before swapping in an expensive replacement part.

But in this brave new world that doesn’t happen. Because I needed to be able to boot from an external system disc so I could go to work on the internal hard drive. And do new Macs come with a CD system disc? They do not. Of course there’s a certain logic to that, as the new Macs don’t have disc drives. But I have an external drive that I use mostly to watch DVDs on the computer. So if I’d had a disc, I could at least have given it a try.

Another option would have been to use a Firewire connection to link the problem child up to an older, functioning computer that I happened to have downstairs. But Apple in its wisdom decided I didn’t need a Firewire port in my new machine.

Here then is the deal: in Apple’s imagineered vision, we’re all going to live in the cloud. We’ll store all our data in the cloud, connect to our peripherals via the cloud, watch movies from the cloud, do everything we do entirely from the fabulous world of the net-connected cloud. For the full effect, read that last sentence aloud while standing on your tiptoes, flapping your arms like a happy little bluebird and employing your most sarcastic tone.

In Apple’s defense, the cloud works great. Until it doesn’t. It provides us with all kinds of new possibilities. But if we rely exclusively on our net connections, we lose a measure of autonomy (not to mention opening our lives up to scrutiny by hackers at the government, corporate and freelance levels). At the very least, we appear to have surrendered the ability to opt in or out at our discretion.

So if Apple is going to watch over us like we’re a mass of ignorant children, then the corporation is going to have to make a bigger commitment to being a better parent. A few more geniuses in the design and assembly stages might save employing fewer at the customer service end. Just a thought.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review – Beyond Evil

The ever-so-brief swollen finger effect is nasty beyond description. The rest of the movie is beyond boring. An architect (John Saxon) and his wife (Lynda Day George) move into a haunted house, and she swiftly succumbs to possession by the evil spirit of the former owner. Matters weren’t helped much by the film-to-video conversion, which looked as if it was done with a Super 8 projector, VHS camcorder and a bathroom mirror. See if really really desperate

Monday, January 28, 2013

Review – Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic

This looked more like a half-assed attempt to plug a video game than a genuine attempt to make a movie. As in the game, Dante is an action hero kicking ass through the nine levels of Hell to rescue his beloved Beatrice and lock Lucifer in his place forever. Though the art quality varies a bit (different levels appeared to have been done by different animators), even at its best it’s only a step or two above “motion comics.” See if desperate

Friday, January 25, 2013

Abandoned – Ancient Evil 2: Guardian of the Underworld

Like the worst parts of Clerks in some horrible over-blended crap smoothie with a monster movie that couldn’t meet even the minimal standards of SyFy. 17 minutes

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review – Death Race: Inferno

I love the generic names they tend to give movies like this. I hope we can look forward to future efforts such as “Death Race: Full Throttle” and “Death Race: Outlaw.” Noise and explosions, what else do you need? Not plot or character development, I hope, because if that’s what you want then you’re in McDonald’s looking for the salad bar. See if desperate

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A first from 8sails Press



Like most kids, I wanted to be any number of things when I was a kid. Superhero. Commando. Astronaut. Of course I had a few more down-to-earth ambitions as well. Engineer (not good enough at math). Computer programmer (no patience for it). Architect (see Engineer and Programmer).

The one childhood fascination that stuck with me was writing. Of course this infatuation evolved a bit over the years. Thanks to my love of novels and short stories, I originally saw myself as an author of fiction. I first set foot on that path at 16 when I got a short story published in a small press anthology.

And then nothing. Though I’ve written fiction off and on for the last three decades, I’ve published none of it. Until now.

A couple of days ago, 8sails Press published a novella I first drafted several years ago and recently managed to edit and compose for Kindle distribution. Writing it was great entertainment. I even had fun designing the cover. So I hope readers will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

The official description: Sarah Upton and her parents are headed to the small fishing village of Innsmouth for a funeral. Before journey’s end, she’ll learn more than she ever wanted to know about her family, her heritage and the darker corners of the earth.

Fans of the work of H.P. Lovecraft will recognize a name or two in there. My story is a modern re-thinking of Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” Though the novella contains a few references to the original story, you can enjoy it fully even if you’re unfamiliar with the source.

Thanks to an agreement with Amazon, this title is available only for the Kindle. In exchange for this restriction, the retailer is providing some marketing assistance. If you don’t actually have a Kindle device, fear not. Amazon makes Kindle apps available for free for a range of computers, tablets and smart phones.

And yes, the company also makes me charge for it. However, the price is an affordable 99 cents. My royalty is 35 cents per copy, so if you buy the book and don’t like it, I’ll personally refund the 35 cents you gave me and you can go out and buy yourself a nothing.

If you’re not inclined to mess with the whole Kindle thing, you can still read the first few pages on Amazon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review – Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies

This is the first time I’ve ever watched a mockbuster back to back with the movie it’s coat-tailing. Naturally the comparison isn’t favorable. Bill Oberst Jr. turns in a good performance as the title character (the President, not the walking dead). But against the tide of ill-conceived nonsense, the good parts don’t amount to much. Before the story runs its course, we get Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth, Teddy Roosevelt as a boy, and zombies that just sort of stand there waiting to be done in. Though I was pleasantly surprised by parts of the Hollywood take, this one was pretty much exactly what I expected. See if desperate

Monday, January 14, 2013

Review – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

This was better than I thought it would be, which to be honest isn’t particularly high praise. When the title character performs the title task, this is a fun horror/action picture. I could do without the axe-twirling nonsense – seriously dude, are you a vampire killer or a cheerleader? – but otherwise the fight scenes were well assembled and the monsters were sufficiently creepy. However, trouble arises when the script tries to mesh fantasy and history. I was particularly put off by the notion that Lincoln started the Civil War because vampires were pro-slavery. Not that I’m against wholesale slaughter of Confederate vampires, two birds with one stone there. But it slows the plot’s pace down to a crawl until the bloodsucker slaying starts up again. Mildly amusing

Review - Feast

A cadre of loathsome strangers are trapped in a bar in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a handful of flesh-eating monsters. This seems more like an excuse for some frat boy filmmaker wannabes to hang out with Henry Rollins and Judah Friedlander than a serious attempt to make a movie. Wish I’d skipped it

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Review – The Barrens

Finally, a Jersey Devil movie that actually has a Jersey Devil in it. And a good one, too. Well designed, not over-used. A family on a camping trip to the Pine Barrens run afoul either of the legendary monster or Dad slowly going paranoid nuts. Normally I tend to run short on patience with the whole reality-or-delusion thing, but in this case both options (actual ravening beast or rabies-spawned hallucination) are both equally horrifying. The production is awfully hard on the animals, and the pacing slips off the tracks a bit toward the end. Otherwise this would have gotten that ever-elusive fourth star. Worth seeing

Review – Dredd

As bootmakes go, this one’s not bad. At least Karl Urban has the guts to play the title role without removing his helmet, in keeping with the original comic book character. How un-Stallone of him. Though the characters here stick a little closer to the source, the aesthetic is less graphic novel and more Blade Runner. Mildly amusing

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2012 - Some final housekeeping

At the start of 2012 I set two goals for 8sails, making one and falling just a tad short on the other.

The one I missed: adding 1000 new pages to the site. I figured with all the Survival Guide uploading at the start of the year that I might stand a chance of making it. Though that contributed an even 400 new pages, I still finished the year at 909 (including blog entries). Still, that’s an average of more than four per working day. Not too bad.

My other goal was to shoot more than 10,000 pictures, a mark I managed to clear with 80 to spare. The next big 8sails College project is going to be a photography text, and I need to replace the examples of other photographers’ work that I used to use in class with self-created demonstrations that could be uploaded to the web without violating copyright laws. My collaborator and I still have a ways to go, but we’re off to a good start.

Right before Christmas I also wrote the site’s 4000th movie review. When I hit 3000, I took a look back at what I’d reviewed. That was easier then than it is now, because back then I had a database of all the reviews allowing me to count the number of horror movies, comedies, dramas and so on. The database bit the dust in a hard drive crash, and I haven’t cared enough about it to rebuild the thing. So the view from 4000 is only “wow, that’s a lot of movies.”

Other than work on The Photographer’s Sketchbook, I haven’t set any goals for 2013. I’m going to let the year go wherever it takes me.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Review – Dark Shadows

I can remember trying to watch the original Dark Shadows soap opera when it ran as afternoon airtime filler reruns in the mid 1970s. I was a kid at the time, and my reaction to it was “this has vampires and werewolves and witches and ghosts. Why does it suck?” Thus I had no objection at all to the Burton-izing it gets here. Sure, it’s goofy. Everyone in it is playing for the back row. And some of the jokes fall flat to start with or get driven into the ground (okay, we get it, the 200-year-old vampire thinks Alice Cooper is a woman). Overall, however, it’s a reasonably entertaining bit of no-brain fun. Mildly amusing

Review – The Dark Knight Rises

I was genuinely surprised at how much I didn’t like this movie. I loved the first Christopher Nolan Batman effort, and I enjoyed the second one as well. This one not so much. For starters, it’s way too long. And I’m not talking only about the epic two-to-three-hour running time, either. I had a lot of trouble believing that terrorists could seize and hold Manhattan – oops, I mean Gotham City – for months while Bruce Wayne battles back from a serious ass beating. The time frame required plot points (such as thousands of cops trapped underground) that should have been resolved in days at most to drag out far longer than they possibly could have. The 165 minutes of screen time also allowed for a lot of time-wasting detours, such as the ever-dreaded parade of story-stopping failures of even the simplest tasks. Further, I was bothered by the heavily politicized plot elements, particularly the weak-witted, reactionary conservative backlash against the Occupy Wall Street thing. Still, there’s some fun to be had. Anne Hathaway puts in a good performance as Catwoman (though surprisingly not as good as Michelle Pfeiffer), offsetting the downright annoying presence of Tom Hardy’s Bane. And of course the effects are flashy and the explosions are noisy. It just wasn’t enough to last as long as it did or live up to the reputations of the other two. See if desperate

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Review – The Amazing Spider-man

Normally I’m not so into the reboot thing, but this one actually wasn’t too bad. The de-Sam-Raimi’d take on the classic superhero returns to the original comics for the small details (such as mechanical rather than biological web shooters). The Lizard was a favorite supervillain from my childhood, though I never thought they’d use him in a movie. It was also nice to see the hero actually fight crime rather than spending half the picture dithering around about his personal problems. I’d see a sequel to this if and when they make one. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Review – Drive-In

For an obscure, stupid comedy from 1976, this is actually really amusing. Most of the acting is beyond amateurish (only a couple of cast members went on to any kind of career from here), the plot nearly nonexistent and the script largely built from folksy similes. Still, there’s something charming about the picture’s earnest attempts to entertain. Especially for those of us who still remember drive-in theaters, this is a fun way to spend an hour and a half. Worth seeing

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Review – Drive

Here we have a movie about a professional stunt driver slash race car driver slash getaway driver, and it’s directed by a guy who can’t drive. Nor can he direct movies, judging by this effort. Ryan Gosling wanders from scene to scene only occasionally uttering lines, a performance that must have been calculated to make him seem deep and brooding but instead makes him seem vapid and robotic. Seriously, Nicolas Winding Refn, you’ve been in the United States long enough to notice that movies here tend to be violent, so violence alone without plot or character isn’t likely to be enough to impress anyone besides dull-witted critics who equate “boring” with “artistic.” And do you really miss the 1980s as much as the pseudo-retro soundtrack suggests? If Giorgio Moroder was dead, he’d be turning over in his grave. Wish I’d skipped it