Expos and Movies

April 24th, 2014

You know something, I have been blogging for a long time. It’s been about 15 years (no kidding), in one form or another, and I have never been as bad at it as I have for the past year.

Believe me, it’s not for lack of interest (if that was the case, I’d let the domain name lapse, and shut down the hosting service), but Jesus H. Christ am I a busy person lately. Lately meaning, the past year, but it’s really ramped up the past six or so months. I work full time. When I’m not doing that, I’m working on my own business that is just starting. When I’m not doing that, being that it’s spring time, there’s a lot of planting and seed bank and general garden stuff going.

When I’m not doing that, I’m trying to squeeze in a movie for my 365 films project, which I must confess, I’m now two weeks behind on (mostly due to the fact that I decided to start watching Game of Thrones, so of course spent two weeks main-lining that).

Oh, and I have Calgary Expo starts today (Thursday through Monday), which I say I’m going to blog at every year, and then don’t, so I’m not going to say I’m doing that this year. Wouldn’t it be neat if I did, though?

I did manage to update the master list of movies I’ve seen this year. My current favourite is Oculus that I saw on opening day (I think Mike Flanagan is one of the best new horror directors out there right now).

But for now, I must run. In the very least, maybe I’ll get some photos up of Calgary Expo over the next few days. It promises to be a really awesome year, with Bruce Campbell and George Romero on the top of my “people to shake hands with” list. It’d be fun if I could see Karen Gillan too, in the very least, to tell her what an awesome goddamned movie Oculus was.

Until then, kids.

Posted in All Things Horror, Flicks, Nerd Alert | 1 Comment »

Wherein I Say Hello After A Month

March 2nd, 2014

Well it’s been a tough few weeks, so something had to fall by the wayside – and guess what it ended up being? I had a bit of a personal thing that I had to deal with, and sometimes when that stuff happens, you just don’t feel like blogging.

I’m getting back into the swing of it though. Mostly I’ve spent the past few weeks working on my seed bank. Since the big move, then the loss of most of my data, things got a little disorganized, so I spent about 10 hours going through every single seed sample and cataloguing it, verified it was there, etc.

Then, I’ve had a lot of people ordering seeds, plus getting all the samples ready to send out to the volunteer growers. Updating the site, doing the quarterly newsletter, and officially finishing and launching the seed bank database.

So I’ve been busy as a bee, but mostly over in that world.

Just to completely destroy myself, I looked up the temperatures in Victoria as opposed to here. Because apparently I’m masochistic. Ya, it’s about 35 degrees warmer there right now.

That’s right. It’s March, and it’s -29 here (-37 with the wind chill!). I’ve re-acclimatized alright since moving back from the coast, but this is really goddamned cold and I’ve completely had it. I think my delving so hard into the seed bank has been my coping mechanism with the unnaturally cold weather. But, the good that’s come out of it all is that the seed bank is super organized, I have my fancy new seed bank wiki, and I’m completely caught up. Now I just need to wait so I can actually start my seeds. I think I still have about a month to wait for that.

Boo.

But, I have been keeping up with all of my movies (more or less), even if I haven’t updated the site. Because there have been so many since the last blog, I’m going to make this short and sweet:

30. Saw II
31. Howl
32. TWA Flight 800
33. Billionaire
34. Stoker
35. Episode 50
36. Citadel
37. +1
38. Sons of Perdition
39. Beyond The Time Barrier
40. Shut Up Little Man!
41. Retreat (2013)
42. Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes
43. Haunter
44. The Descent
45. A Walk Into The Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory
46. I Think We’re Alone Now
47. The Descent: Part 2
48. Absentia
49. The Last Will & Testament of Rosalind Leigh
50. Girl 27
51. Let’s Scare Jessica To Death
52. The Nightmare Factory
53. The House On Telegraph Hill
54. Reel Injun
55. (A)sexual
56. The Loved Ones
57. Dangerous (1935)
58. Lizzie Borden Took An Axe
59. Man In The Attic (1953)

In the sake of streamlining this whole process since there’s almost 30 movies, I’m just going to list the best and the worst (in chronological viewing order):

The Good

Howl, TWA Flight 800, Stoker, Citadel, Shut Up Little Man!, The Descent, Absentia, Girl 27, The Loved Ones, Dangerous

OK, I lied, I’m going to talk about Citadel a bit.

citadel1 Citadel was probably my favourite. I adored this movie, and I was constantly reminding myself to breathe (no hyperbole present in that sentence). Aneurin Barnard, who played Tommy, the agoraphobic man with an unbelievably expressive face, is the one that completely sold this movie. I bought every single moment of fear that he showed, and coupled with the wonderful and light handed direction, this movie did exactly what it meant to (which is make me feel so goddamned stressed out I had to consciously take some deep breaths).

Despite the fact that this movie is “about feral children”, it’s not really about that at all. These children serve completely as an allegory to Tommy’s fear, and everything else in the movie is utilized perfectly to heighten that fear. Hell, him missing a bus became so momentous, I actually shouted at the screen for the bus to stop (I think my exact words were “No, no, no, no! Stop, stop, stop, stop!”).

And the production design? Brilliant. And these large, tombstone of the estates, bearing down on him constantly, overtaking so much of Tommy’s life was almost suffocating.

When you watch as many movies as I have/am/will be it’s really refreshing to see a movie that really grabs you by the throat and shakes you around a bit.

The Bad

Episode 50, +1, Sons of Perdition*, Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes, The Last Will & Testament of Rosalind Leigh.

Considering how many movies I watched, a handful being just downright awful isn’t bad.

Now, Sons of Perdition has received awards, and is considered by many to be a great documentary. The reason why I’m putting it on this list is because the editing, sound, and sound editing were so technically bad, it did a complete disservice to the subject matter. I would have greatly enjoyed it had they gotten somebody who knew what they were doing in those fields to put the movie together.

Don’t ever cheap out on your sound kids, that’s the thing that’ll ruin the movie.

Alright, I plan on rebounding back and blogging a few times a week to talk about my insane 365 movie adventure.

Until then, if you’re into gardening, check out my seed bank, because I think it’s pretty neat, damnit. Also there’s still seeds of some varieties left to dole out, so if you’re looking for some new tomato varieties, check out the distribution page to see what’s available.

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Well, I’m Trying Damnit.

February 1st, 2014

I said in my last post that I was going to try to do these more than every 7-10 days, mostly so I feel like I don’t have to rush through some thoughts on the movies in an effort not to write a 2000 word post every time. I started writing an entry then ended up scrapping the whole thing all together.

At least I’m trying.

So since the last post, where I ended off with Branded, I’ve watched the following movies for the first time:

17. I Sell The Dead
18. The Imposter
19. Hot Coffee
20. The American Scream
21. Resolution
22. Paranormal Activity 4
23. Side Effects
24. Tabloid
25. The Other F Word
26. Toad Road
27. The I Inside
28. Saw
29. Final Destination 5

Okay, I really have to work on updating a lot more frequently. That’s 13 damn movies (currently leaving me at two behind if we’re going by day count).

I’m going to try something different, so I can hopefully not write a novella in this post: The Good, The Bad, The Unrealized.

The Good

In this category I would firmly plant The Imposter, Hot Coffee, The American Scream, The Other F Word, Side Effects, and Saw (making the majority of the movies I liked the past two weeks documentaries).

I know, I bet you’re thinking “Saw, what the fuck, that came out 10 years ago?!”.

Let me explain. I don’t like torture porn. I’m not opposed to gore (obviously), but I have to have a story, and it can’t simply be mean spirited – that’s my whole problem with the Final Destination franchise after the first one (more on that in a bit). So, dear three-people-that-read-this, I incorrectly made the assumption that that’s all that Saw was. That’s right – I admit it! I was wrong. It’s quite a humbling experience when it happens so rarely.

But anyway, my point is, I believed a lot of ridiculous nonsense about how the first Saw was torture porn, and how that was the whole point of the movie. And it was grisly just for grisly’s sake. Good god, that cannot be farther from the truth! I’m such an asshole for not watching something myself and coming to my own conclusions. I was freaking shocked at how much I ended up loving this movie. Saw is inherently a mystery, and don’t you believe otherwise. Now, I have the inkling that each Saw did get increasingly torture porny. But, considering how wrong I was about the first one, I’m going to just shut the hell up and watch more of them until I loose interest. So expect more Saw sequels in the coming weeks.

The other fictional movie I liked this week was Side Effects which felt like Contagion at the beginning then goes completely wacky and turns every decision you just made about the movie on its head. I love a movie that can trick me, and there was something extremely Hitchcockian about the whole feel of it. Very well done, and very enjoyable. But then again, it’s Soderbergh, so how do you go wrong?

The Imposter had me thinking about it for days afterwards. While being a documentary, the whole story could have come straight out of a Raymond Chandler book. The twists, the turns, the sheer artistry of the filmmaker for completely pulling the rug out from under me with the way the story was very artfully crafted. Loved it.

The American Scream was heartfelt and made me smile, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need in a documentary. It reminded me a lot of Indie Game in that respect (which was one of my favourite films of 2013).

Hot Coffee was a lot more interesting than “a documentary on tort reform” would have you believe. It’s not really about the McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit that has become so ingrained in pop culture references, and the additional stories about civil litigation in the USA is really fascinating.

The Bad

I really only have one movie on this list, and that’s Paranormal Activity 4. I’m not a lover of found footage, but I certainly won’t discount something that’s found footage in and of itself. Mostly my problem with that style of filming is that it’s a cheap way out that doesn’t help the story. Obviously, Paranormal Activity’s claim to fame is this format, but everything was just extremely underwhelming and completely unrealized. It disliked it more than any of the other Paranormal Activity’s I’ve seen (and unlike a lot of people, I didn’t really like the first, finding it un-scary and offering nothing new), but 4 makes the first one look like a found footage cinematic masterpiece.

The Unrealized

I Sell The Dead, Resolution, Tabloid, Toad Road, The I Inside, Final Destination 5.

This is the category that the majority of the movies I watched fall into this week. For one reason or another, something didn’t quite click, which is always more distressing to me than a straight up bad movie; You know something good is there and it’s a travesty that it didn’t quite make it all the way to be a really enjoyable movie.

Resolution was scattered, with three separate story lines that each could have been a great movie in and of themselves, and I commend the filmmakers on their ambition, but it was just far too much that they tried to throw in, thus making the movie meander, with some under-explored ideas and themes, which really did those ideas a great disservice.

ToadRoadFilmPosterMy first thoughts when watching Toad Road was that it felt oddly like an afterthought, and rather aimless. After finishing the movie, and feeling very unfulfilled in terms of story and where it went, I made my usual trek to Wikipedia to read further on it. There I found that indeed, this movie was an afterthought, loaded mostly with real-life clips the director had taken of him and his friends that were originally destined to be a documentary. The documentary never got made, because when the director viewed all the footage, he realized there wasn’t any story.

He then dreamt up this story, about a group of friends introducing a sweet, innocent girl to drugs, who then go through seven gates reported to be the seven gates to enter hell (based on a true urban myth originating in the filmmaker’s area). So this movie is a mix of real life footage (comprising almost entirely of a bunch of friends getting wrecked on drugs), and fictional story.

The problem is, is that instead of realizing the original footage had no story and just scrapping it, the director shoe-horns it into this story, which in and of itself could be good, but completely falls flat because he relies far too much on the footage-that-never-was-a-documentary.There are some interesting ideas in the form of the fictionalized story that could have been something cool, but instead falls entirely flat because of the aimless footage of his friends getting wrecked. It really boils down to trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

The I Inside actually made me mad. Honestly, really angry. Most of the movie is great – I love a movie that screws with time and perception, and this one does it beautifully. The acting is good (I will watch anything with Sarah Polley), and despite some of the beginning feeling like it was made in the 80’s (despite being released in 2004), it was fun to watch. I became invested in the characters, in the story, and where it was going. That was, until the worst thing imaginable happened: the filmmakers completely negated everything I, as a viewer, got invested in by making the lead character (Ryan Phillippe) dead the whole time. So everything that just happened was completely meaningless. It was lazy and stupid and I hated it. What could have been a four star movie, turned into a two star movie.

Tabloid was simply unfocused. It is a documentary about the Mormon Sex In Chains Case, told from the perspective of Joyce McKinney, who’s obviously batshit crazy. But was this documentary about a crazy lady? The tabloids and how that affects public perception? Or was it about the laws itself? I don’t know. The filmmaker didn’t seem to know either. It’s called Tabloid, but really doesn’t focus on that much at all.

Final Destination 5 was about what I’d expect. Now, I am a HUGE lover of the original Final Destination. I loved that movie when it came out, and I have seen it probably, oh, 20 times in the past 13 years. If not more. It was new, it was novel, and the way Rube Goldberg-like deaths were created are still some of the best in horror movie history. The movie had a story, and the deaths, while being a central highlight of the movie, still somehow seemed secondary to the mystery of what was going on that our characters had to figure out.

Then, each subsequent movie got more and more silly, and simply became about the deaths. Instead of doing something different, adding a new element to the franchise, or really pulling the wool over the audience’s eyes, each movie did the same damned thing over and over. They really tried with the choose your own ending (#3 – DVD release), and then again with 3D in #4, but these were schlocky attempts at best, nothing in the story progressed, and the death sequences changed to be simply grisly deaths by the wackiest way possible. Each Final Destination got progressively worse.

I will say, 5 is better than the previous two, but I think that’s coming from a perspective of a lover of the first – so I really loved all the strange little nods to each previous installment. The direction was smart for what Quale was presented with, and the ending turn had the entire view worth it. I appreciated the little hints that had me scratching my head through the first part of the film and then all made sense. But, even with all of that, most of the film falls back to what 3 and 4 were – a sequence of silly deaths with absolutely no real story line or well-written dialogue.

Also, I was under the impression there was more Tony Todd in this one. That was a lie. I felt cheated.

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365 Films – A Week In Review

January 17th, 2014

My 365 films in 2014 continues as I actually reward myself with a particular favourite rewatch of mine: The Cabin In The Woods. Which I’ve probably seen more times that I freely care to admit. But I’m so on track with my new movies, decided it was time for the warm loving embrace for one of my favourite movies (also: Fran Kranz, can’t ever go wrong).

So onto the movies I’ve watched since January 8th (continuing on with the numbering system that’ll carry us through this year):

8. Rubber
9. Room 237
10. All The Boys Love Mandy Lane
11. Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil
12. Bronies
13. Somm
14. The Bell Witch Haunting (2013)
15. the Dyatlov Pass Incident (AKA Devil’s Pass)
16. Branded

Oddly enough, the two movies I liked the least were both found footage, those being The Bell Witch Haunting and The Dyatlov Pass Indicent. The Bell Witch Haunting was awful – if you do like found footage style there’s a lot better out there, including Paranormal Activity – which I don’t like, but The Bell Witch Haunting, while not a direct rip off, sure “borrows” a lot from it.

The Dyatlov Pass Incident I didn’t know was found footage/mockumentary style, and for the first two-thirds is ok, it at least somewhat held my interest, but then in the last third it just gets wacky and downright silly. The lead actress was also awful and the dialogue was atrocious. I later found out that the writer’s previous credits include only reality TV – so that solves that mystery. The only good thing I can say about this movie is that it is loosely based on a real event, which in and of itself is kind of a spooky crazy story. If the movie had actually been based on that, it would have been a lot better.

Bronies, Somm, and Room 237 were the documentaries on the docket. Bronies was actually really heartwarming, and I loved it. Bronies are quite a hot topic, mostly because they make a large segment of the population really uncomfortable. Including people who otherwise consider themselves very open minded and accepting of all walks of life. I’m of the firm belief that the only reason people have such a strong reaction against bronies is because they’re into something that’s squarely seen as something very female. And that means to a lot of people that it’s deviant. Which is insane to me. But, before I get off into a rant about how ridiculous gender stereotypes are, let’s go onto:

Somm which was great. I was worried it’d be a “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” (meaning: everybody loves it, but I found it painfully boring), but I was really pleased to find really engaging. Even if I do think all that wine hooplah is a big load of shit. I mean, I like my wine, but come on guys.

Room 237, on the other hand, was a Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I thought it was painfully boring. You know it’s a bad sign when you check out the time and you’re not even halfway through but it feels like you’ve been watching it for hours. I’m a fan of The Shining. I’m a fan of people and their wacky theories. But this was just painful. One of my biggest problems was how it was set up visually: All we see are clips, mostly of The Shining, along with some of Kubrick’s other movies, and without anything to break those up (say, like images of the people being interviewed) I found it tedious, and sometimes it felt like they really were reaching to find something to show on screen that corresponded with what the interviewees were saying.

The winners this week for me were Rubber and Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil. Rubber is batshit crazy, but in a really good way. It’s about a tire that can blow up things with it’s mind. And a bunch of other stuff, but I don’t want to spoil a thing. Seriously, just watch it. It’s nuts.

Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil is a movie that’s already got the “buzz” as the kids say, so I really don’t have to go too much into it. Needless to say it was definitely enjoyable, although I don’t know how much rewatchability it has.

Those were the highlights of the past week or so. I think I need to do these more often so I don’t write a novella every time I’ve saved up a few.

And if you’ll excuse me, the Buckner’s have just been reanimated and Maintenance has been declared the winner of the pool, so I’ve got to get back to The Cabin In The Woods.

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Jan 8, 2014

January 8th, 2014

With the coming of a new year I’m often plagued by many questions.

Questions like, “how long will it take for me to learn to write this year rather than last year?” Additional questions like “man, I wonder how much BowFlex is raking in right now?”

Unlike a lot of other people, I don’t do resolutions. I think if you want to change something you should do it now, not wait for some socially arbitrary date to do it.

What I do are my yearly “projects”, which I outlined in my previous post. I maintain they aren’t resolutions because they have absolutely nothing to do with becoming a better/healthier/less crazy/whatever person.

365 new movies in 2014. That’s my project this year. Everybody thinks I’m nuts, but it’s really not a stretch for somebody like me. Really what it does is rule out of a lot of re-watches, which is what I’ve been plagued with the last few years. I guess partially it’s easy to get into a rut. When all the movies coming out seem to be sequels, or adaptions, or originally TV shows, or anything not original to that movie, it leads me into a sense of despair. It’s so easy to think “goddamn, there are no good movies anymore.”

Which is total bullshit, and I know it. So, hence the reprieve from re-watches – I’m making a concerted effort to expose myself to more of those.

So, without further ado, on this here 6th day of the 365 movies project, here’s what I’ve watched so far:

1. Birdemic
2. Grabbers
3. Antiviral
4. Heathers
5. Sunset Strip
6. Hatchet
7. Hatchet II

I realize the hilarity of being all like “I’m only going to watch new movies to expose myself to the wonder that film still is”, and then opening up the new year, and making my first movie of this project, Birdemic, which is arguably one of the worst movies ever made.

But I like bad movies. Scratch that. I like movies that are bad and still provide you with much entertainment value. You know, the “so bad, it’s good thing”, which seems to be a bad thing to say these days, but we’ll leave that for another discussion.

Truth is, New Years Day is B. and I’s unofficial “we’re ordering pizza, staying in our jim-jams, and moving as little as possible” day. Usually that’s because our house is a mess from hours of drunken revelry the night before, but this year we played it much more low key. That didn’t stop us from having our ridiculously lazy day. Now, B. and I see very differently on movies – basically I love them, and he doesn’t really watch them (which is insane, but there you have it). Where we seem to be able to hit a happy medium is with the laughably bad movies, so, this is the one we settled on.

Anybody who has a passing interest in Birdemic knows enough about it, anybody who’s not interested, couldn’t possibly care, so I’ll just say this: My mouth was agape the whole time. Also, the How Did This Get Made? with one of the lead actors was quite enlightening as to several of the movies problems.

Next up was Grabbers which was a fun sea monster/alien/comedy that came from Ireland. The first third was a bit slow, but the last two thirds are pure enjoyment.

Antiviral was really good, although I heard some people don’t like it (“oh, he’s just aping is father’s style”). Let’s put it this way: I haven’t liked the last three David Cronenberg movies, as where Antiviral I found compelling, beautifully shot, with a good story that’s a slow burn. I also found it extremely disturbing (fact: I have a wicked fear of infectious agents), but very clever with a good dash of black humour. I really enjoyed it, anybody who doesn’t I think is spending far too much time trying to compare the Cronenbergs, as opposed to sitting back and looking at it without that veil.

Sunset Strip, a documentary with an obvious subject, while interesting, was a bit more music heavy than it said on the tin, but still interesting.

Hatchet & Hatchet II. Well, if you like horror I’m sure you’ve seen them already. I hadn’t, which is kind of a travesty, but I thoroughly enjoyed them, so I can’t wait to sit down and watch Hatchet III at some point this year. I actually watched them back to back, so I was trying to mull over which I enjoyed more. I still can’t point out which one is better, so I’m not sure one is. Hatchet II really is an extension of the first, rather than a sequel, per se. I really would have loved to see these in a theatre with a big crowd, simply because they are so damned fun. I would have liked to experience the whole theatre laughing and groaning with me. Alas, it was just me and the dog.

The dog got up and left at once point because I was laughing too hard.

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