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