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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Halloween Happenings: Drunken Pig

As many of you are well aware, the Halloween season is well underway. In fact, it’s impossible not to notice if you’ve stepped foot into any type of store over the past month or so. As is the case with every Halloween season, I am gourds-deep in everything orange and black, and I thought it would be nice to share with all three of you just what I’ve been up to in the days leading to…

CHUCKTOBER!!!

Halloween 2014 3

If you’ve been a long-time reader of CNAMB, then you should be familiar with Bolo, the mighty gourd plant that I started growing some years back. This season Bolo came on STRONG and grew so large that things got a little scary for a minute.

Unfortunately, however, Bolo fell ill, and do to his size it was tough/expensive keeping him healthy. As a result, Bolo kicked the bucket pretty early this season, but not before giving us a handful of new gourds to decorate our crack house with.

What’s interesting is that each year Bolo gives us vastly different looking gourds, and this year was no different. This is specific to the five oddly shaped gourds that were best described by a friend as vaginal, something that might come in handy one of these lonely nights.

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As is the case every year, I am spending my days of darkness enjoying as many seasonal beers as possible. After coming across this shrine erected by the mighty Kroger, I knew the season had officially begun!

Below are but a few of the many Fall/Pumpkin beers I’ve been enjoying…

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And of course, no Halloween season would be complete without me ingesting a ton of Halloween influenced junk food. I am a complete sucker for Halloween packaging, something I am only slightly ashamed of, and I have been doing nothing more than adding to my potential for developing diabetes.

Here’s a sample of my inability to control myself…

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Normally by this time of year, I would have most of my Halloween decorating done. However, the days leading up to the month of madness have been overtaken by something other than Halloween. Specifically the fact that my mail-order bride and I have a child on the way, which I think is an acceptable reason to not get a lot of Halloween decorating done. 

FIRST BORN RED

What’s sort of fitting about this whole baby thing is the fact that she (as in a girl!) is due on November 4th, which is obviously right around Halloween. What are the chances, right?! Anyway, I have my claws crossed that our daughter will be born on Halloween day, but outside of black magic, I have very little control over that whole thing.

In any event, my mail-order in-laws were awesome enough to throw my mail-order bride a baby shower, and seeing as she is due right around Halloween, Halloween was indeed the theme for the baby shower.

Below are a few photos of the decorating they did, which I think came out pretty darned fantastic!

Halloween 2014

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That about does it for now, kiddies. Hope you enjoyed this in-depth look into all the Halloween Happenings I have been enjoying over the past month or so. Now I have to get my rock-hard ass in gear and start setting up for Chucktober, so soon thou shall see you!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Salute Your Shorts: Mickey (2009)

Mickey 2009 Short film

Mickey opens with a black and white shot boxing match between the film’s titular character, Mickey (Hugh Elliot), and a much larger opponent. Everything seems to be pointing to this being an epic moment for the drastically undersized Mickey; however, within seconds of the bell ringing he is TKO’d. This happens again and again, as Mickey faces off against a handful of opponents, with the result being the same each and every single time.

This opening scene immediately sets the tone for both the film and the character of Mickey, as it is very apparent that, despite having all the odds stacked against him, Mickey never seems as if he’s afraid to step up to a challenge. It's an excellent way to introduce the character, because within a minute’s time the viewer really gets a sense of who the character of Mickey is and what he has likely dealt with his entire life.

Shortly after a run in with a dangerous gangster (Joseph West), Mickey is led to a tattoo shop where he discovers a peep show featuring a woman (Jessica Osbourne) imprisoned by chains. Despite the many dangers that he could be facing, Mickey decides it's his duty to rescue this woman. Will this attempt at heroism lead to the good-hearted Mickey getting one over the bad guys, or will this be yet another failure in the making for a character who has never had anything go right for him?

Written and Directed by Dusty McGowan, Mickey is a 20 minute short film that doesn’t rely on much dialogue to tell its tale of a character who refuses to let his small stature be a roadblock for his principles. To go with the lack of dialogue is a true sense of surrealism. Mickey is, at times, a strange film and somewhat reflective of the works of David Lynch, and this both works for and against the final product. The oddness of the film makes it tonally confusing at first, but once it’s clear that McGowan is going for surrealism, everything begins to gel a little better.

Overall, Mickey is an enjoyable little oddity about a little man with a big heart, so take 20 minutes to give it a watch for yourself below!

Salute Your Shorts 3.5

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Killpoint (1984): The Sound of Violence

Killpoint 1984

The review is in conjunction with the 1984-A-Thon, which is being hosted by Forgotten Films. After you check out this review, I encourage you to keep up with the other contributions throughout the Blogathon over at Forgotten Films.

When a vicious weapons dealer named Nighthawk (Stack Pierce) robs a military weapons cache and begins selling off the high-powered arsenal to various gangs, the police are forced to send in their best man to take care of business: Lt. James Long (Leo Fong). Armed with an unwieldy bowl cut and adorable bangs, Lt. Long must do whatever it takes to get these dangerous weapons off the streets, while also putting a stop to Nighthawk and his boss, a crazed mob leader named Joe Marks (Cameron Mitchell). Oh, and if that wasn’t enough,  Lt. Long also must find the people responsible for raping and murdering his wife only a year before.  

Killpoint 1984 Movie

Written and directed by Frank Harris, Killpoint (or Kill Point if you’re a conformist) is far from what one would describe as a “good film.” Killpoint is, however, a film that certainly delivers the goods, and it does so in spades, I might add. Right from the word go, Harris kicks the door open and unloads a barrage of action-packed madness that greatly exceeds the average B-Action picture of the time period, or any period for that matter.

Shortly after Nighthawk (by the way, NIGHTHAWK!) robs the armory, there’s a brilliant scene in which he is instructing a group of armed thugs to go into a restaurant and kill a specific person. However, he also informs the men that they mustn't leave any witnesses, which would seem innocuous in terms of an action film except for the fact that during this set up Harris cuts to various shots from inside the restaurant, where there are numerous innocent people eating. As a result, Harris subjects his audience to an amazing scene where no one person or one thing is safe from the thugs high-powered attack, and this includes, but is not limited to women, children, vases, liquor bottles, wall art, and plants. Nighthawk and his men shoot everything and anything, no questions asked.

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“Take THAT, tequila bottle!”

As wildly satisfying as this moment may be, it’s only 5 minutes later when a nearly identical scene occurs, but this time taking place in a grocery store! And please keep in mind that this all happens within the first 15 minutes of the film. We're talking about an incredible amount of people and even more inanimate objects being shot the hell up, and every last minute is an absolute joy to witness.

While there are plenty of bloody and violent action scenes to be had throughout the entire 80 minute runtime, Killpoint has far more to offer than the giggle worthy action it delivers. Throughout Killpoint, one will find Mexican gangbangers, Richard Roundtree, a karate tournament – which may feature the best martial arts in the film, if that should tell you anything – a cheap hillbilly strip club (complete with pool tables and wood paneling), body builders, and Cameron Mitchell.

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Oh, and that Cameron Mitchell...

Camera Mitchell is, as one would expect, as bananas as ever. Playing the kind of ridiculous, over-the-top character that only Cameron Mitchell can play, Joe Marks is a mix of flamboyant psychosis rarely witnessed on screen. Often adorned with a scarf tied around his neck and rocking a pair of oversized sunglasses, Marks loves nothing more than flying off the handle without any warning whatsoever. At one point, and during his introduction no less, Marks is watching a news report about the armory heist, when he suddenly pulls out a massive gun and shoots the TV. After that, he simply laughs and starts talking to the little dog sitting on his lap. Oh, did I mention he carries around a little dog? Well, he does, and not only does he have a little dog, he also loves wearing daisies in his hair while getting drunk in a Jacuzzi with said dog. Like I said, bananas.

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Cameron Mitchell is far from the only person deserving of a few laughs, as Lt. James Long (Leo Fong) also brings a lot of awful to the table. One of my favorite moments comes during a scene in which Long – who is clearly harboring a lot of issues due to the fact that his wife was raped and murdered – partakes in an epic training montage where he is visibly driven by silent rage. Within this montage, the viewer is privy to a barrage of imagery featuring Lt. Long doing all sorts of weight training, target practice and sparring (which leads to a small cameo by Bill “Superfoot” Wallace) mixed with close-up shots of Lt. Long staring intently into the camera. And when I say close-up shots of Lt. Long staring intently into the camera, I mean the camera is literally right on his face, where all that is seen is his nose and his eyes (which are frighteningly close together) and those adorable bangs.

Killpoint 1984 Leo Fong

Despite being narratively inept and poorly made, Killpoint makes it a point to entertain despite its obvious blemishes. In fact, those blemishes only add to the overall value that the film contains as a piece of cinematic history, and while Killpoint will never be remembered as a classic per say, it will be remembered for being one hell of a fun watch. That is, by the five people who’ve actually seen it.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Totally Tubular Trailers: The Frame

TheFrameKeyArt

It’s been quite some time since I last did a Totally Tubular Trailers post, but I decided to dust off ye ol’ segment for a special occasion, that being the release of the first trailer for Jamin Winans’ The Frame.

If you are a long-time reader of CNAMB, you may recall myself being quite vocal about my enjoyment of a little science fiction fantasy film titled Ink. Not only did I give the film a rave (and poorly written) review, Ink made it onto my list of the best films of 2009, ranking at number 4, no less. So I think it’s safe to say that anything that comes from Jamim and Ink producer Kiowa Winans will be firmly on my radar.

That brings us to The Frame, which looks every bit as promising as one would hope in a follow up to Ink. Being described as a “mind-bending science fiction mystery,” the plot details of The Frame will, at least for the time being, remain a mystery. To further this shroud of secrecy, the 2 minute trailer gives little information as far as plot goes. With that said, however, the trailer is absolutely captivating and features more than enough visual prowess to have me drooling in anticipation for the slated fall release. 

Take a moment to give the trailer a look for yourself, and please feel free to share your thoughts below!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Addicted (2013): An Overdose of Mediocre

The Addicted 2013 AKA Rehab

Led by a budding journalist named Nicole (Jenny Gayner), a group of friends spend the night in an abandoned rehab clinic with the intent of capturing some paranormal activity on film. What they come across, however, is a sinister spirit AND a serial killer, both of whom intend on cutting their evening a little short.

Written and directed by Sean J. Vincent (who also stars), The Addicted finds itself trying juggle a lot of balls, but ultimately drops many of them. The catalyst for the film’s horror comes from a storied past involving a drug rehabilitation facility, where a diabolical doctor has been keeping his patients hooked on heroin. This leads to one of the patients killing himself, which then results in an evil spirit that haunts the now abandoned rehab clinic as well as gives birth to a serial killer with a penchant for injecting his victims with enough heroin to NOT kill them. Whatever sense that makes. So it’s already quite apparent that there’s a whole lot of antagonist to deal with here, and how they connect does nothing but make things even more convoluted.  

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At what would normally be a reasonable 90 minutes, The Addicted finds a way to overstay its welcome. There are a number of scenes that feel painfully dragged out as well as moments that literally serve no purpose to the story or the characters. One of the most egregious moments comes in the form of a 5 minute musical montage, in which the four main characters get completely bombed before heading out to spend the night at the rehabilitation facility. This poorly thought out scene not only brings the film to a complete halt, it makes absolutely no sense in the context of these “adult” characters. Furthermore, the lead character, Nicole, is looking to hit the big time and become a credible journalist, so why would she get smashed just before going out on a self-imposed assignment?! I don't think Anderson Cooper downs a fifth of vodka before going to the Gaza Strip.

There are plenty of other questionable and often silly elements strewn throughout The Addicted. Multiple characters are dragged away by their feet a la the ending of REC. In fact, it actually happens to the same character three times. You’d think he might have been a little more alert after the second time it happened. Every time the killer shows up, at least a few dozen light bulbs explode, which makes me wonder: who the hell replaces those things? Also, are they LEDs? ‘Cause them shit’s are expensive. The killer spends a lot of time breaking through drywall, which is kind of funny considering the location is a old brick building. And of course, the typical bad decisions are constantly made, including the ever so wonderful “I just hit the killer with a weapon - then I dropped the weapon - then I went on to make sure the killer was dead only to have said killer get up and kill me” scene.

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In the end, The Addicted simply tries to do too much without being able to do much of anything well. It would've been a better idea to either go with a straight slasher film or a straight supernatural film, as opposed to trying to mix the two together. Honestly, I would've preferred them to lean more towards the supernatural, as it's the supernatural elements that are the most enjoyable in a fashion reminiscent of mid-90s Full Moon flicks. For me, a hokey supernatural film with goofy special effects works far better than an unoriginal, stereotypical slasher movie with a plot and setting I've seen dozens of times before.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Oculus (2014): Reflecting on Childhood Trauma

Oculus 2013 movie review

A pair of siblings face off against a mirror with the intent of proving that it caused the death of their parents. In doing so, however, the siblings must face the realities of the intense trauma they were forced to endure as children.

Co-written and directed by Mike Flanagan, Oculus gives off a brooding sense of dread from the very start. The low-key, pulsating music that lightly pounds away indicates a feeling of unease for the viewer and characters alike. It’s immediately clear that the two main characters, Kaylie and Tim Russell (Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites), have a very dark history that stems from their youth, and the siblings have dealt with these issues in differing ways. Where Kaylie believes that their troubled past, specifically the death of their parents, is a direct result of a haunted mirror, Tim – who was just released from a mental institution for murdering his father in self defense – believes that everything was a result of their father being crazy.

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Taking place primarily in one location (the house that Kaylie and Tim grew up in), the film’s narrative bounces back and forth between the present – where Kaylie is trying to prove that the mirror is evil – and the past, where the sibling’s history is revealed over the course of the film. The events from both the present and the past run parallel together in a manner that effectively reveals the perfect amount of information at the right time, making the narrative approach an effective storytelling tool. This is especially true during the film’s final act, where the line between the present and the past begin to blur, as does the line between illusion and reality.

Oculus shares a number of similar themes with Flanagan’s previous film, the solid and atmospheric Absentia. Themes of mental instability and a fractured family unit are as much a drive of Oculus as the mirror featured within the film. Flanagan’s script takes a hard and difficult look at a variety of familial issues such as infidelity, spousal abuse, child abuse, and abandonment. The way in which these family problems can and do affect children is front and center of it all, which adds an impact far more terrifying than that of any monster, ghost or demon. These familial issues carry weight because they are, in one way or another, reflective of the types of issues that many children are forced to deal with in real life. No matter what your socioeconomic situation may be, almost every child will face some form of varying hardship, which is often amplified simply because they are in fact children. Children are quite vulnerable at the mercy of their parents, something of which is effectively featured in Oculus.

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Where Flanagan has shown a penchant for creating atmosphere and dread, he is also showing increased growth as a visual filmmaker. Guided by crafty cinematography by Michael Fimognari, Oculus is highlighted by an impressive visual prowess. The camera movement and tracking shots featured early in the film flawlessly flow throughout the single home location, giving the viewer ample opportunity understand the layout of the home while also getting a grip on the characters and their specific situation. There are also moments of great technical subtlety, leading to a steady stream of tension during key scenes, especially during the film’s final moments.  

Highlighting the impressive filmmaking and script are stellar performances by a small but dedicated cast of actors. Kaylie and Tim’s parents, Marie and Alan (Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane), bring intensity to the screen without ever going too far over-the-top, which would certainly be the easiest route to take with such a film. The standout performances, however, are equally shared by both Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites, who play Kaylie and Tim as adults, and Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan, who play the characters as children. The film weighs heavily on these two characters both in the past and the present, and all of their performances steadily support the intensity of the story in a way that transcends your typical horror yarn.

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Where the current state of theatrically released horror seems to be stuck in a rut of unoriginality and bland trends, Oculus is a rarity in that it delivers an original story that is both accessible and intense. The cheap thrills are kept to a bare minimum, allowing ample time to develop strong characters to go with the well-crafted horror elements. Creativity and care are attributes that seem to be missing in theatrical horror as of late, and it is these attributes that set Oculus apart from the rest of the pack.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Salute Your Shorts: Liberator (2012)

Liberator 2012

Once the country’s most beloved superhero, Al Migliocetti aka “Liberator” (Lou Ferrigno) has really hit rock bottom. After being set up by the government for a crime he did not commit -- which resulted in a lengthy prison sentence -- Al is ready to set the record straight and finally get his life back together. As wonderful as this all sounds, Al has one major roadblock in his road to redemption, and that is the very people who set him up to take the fall. This gives Al only one option, and that’s to dust off his old costume and make a return as Liberator!

Directed by Aaron Pope, Liberator is less of a short film and, in true comic book nature, more of a first installment. The film is bookended by comic book panel sequences that help to give some exposition as well as fill in certain aspects that are well out of budgetary reach for such a modest project. Despite being a low-budget affair, however, Liberator is quite ambitious, featuring some moderately admirable special effects.  

There are moments where the filmmaking is a tad amateurish, specifically with some staging. On the other hand, however, there are also a handful of wonderfully crafted action sequences featuring impressive continuous shots and solid editing, which help to create a smooth and comprehensive flow of action that is quite exciting to watch. Some of the performances are awkward at times, and this includes Lou Ferrigno himself. Though, in the case of Ferrigno, his less than perfect performance is balanced out by a genuine level of sympathy and sincerity that the ever massive man brings to the table.

Liberator ends on a To Be Continued… note, which comes just as Al is going back to his Liberator roots to face off against his enemies, leaving the viewer with an exciting cliffhanger and a reason to look forward to a future installment. Regardless of whether or not that ever comes, Liberator works as a fairly entertaining comic book inspired short that is worth twenty minutes of your time, so long as you are a fan of such subject matter. If not, maybe the Don “The Dragon” Wilson cameo will be enough to sell you on the project.

If you’d like to check it out, you can rent or purchase Liberator on Amazon for $2.99.

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