Saturday, August 9, 2014

August Horrors

As the summer movie season draws to a close and all the major "tentpole" movies have been released, smaller studios are ready to waltz in and make a quick profit on relatively inexpensive genre films. While October might seem the logical time to release a horror movie, by mid-August, genre fans like Uncle P are looking for something darker and weirder to get them through the often artsy Oscar bait with which we are about to be inundated (not that there's anything wrong with artsy Oscar bait movies... there are plenty of those that I love). But once a Horror fan, always a Horror fan.

First up is the modern Southern Gothic Jessabelle. Directed by Kevin Greutert (the Saw series). Jessabelle concerns a young woman (Sarah Snook) who returns home after a car accident paralyzes her and kills her boyfriend. Moving into the first floor bedroom previously occupied by her late mother (something Uncle P is actually about to do), Jessie discovers a series of VHS tapes made by her apparently  psychic Mom., predicting what's going to happen to her. 



Yikes!

Next is from Quarantine director John Erick Dowdle. As Above So Below explores the catacombs beneath the City of Lights, an ossuary created to house the many thousands of Parisian corpses which could no longer be contained in traditional cemeteries via a group of young archaeologists looking for a missing part of history. Combining elements from and with any number of Gates of Hell movies,. As Above So Below looks like good a old-fashioned claustrophobic nightmare.



I would NOT go down there. Would you?

And then there's the curiosity known as The Congress. Robin Wright (The Princess Bride) stars as a version of herself in a film that comments about the illusions of beauty, reality and Hollywood. And while there are some who might argue that The Congress isn't a Horror film, imagine yourself trapped in an animated world where anything could happen. I think Ethel from The Twilight Zone might sympathize.Wright is joined by an amazing cast which includes Harvey Keitel; Jon Hamm; Kodi Smit-McPhee and Danny Huston. 



I'll be happy to see one of these films this month and delighted if I were able to see all three (as unlikely as that is). 

More, anon.
Prospero


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mini Retro Review: "Oculus"

Now on DVD and OnDemand, last year's forgotten little Horror Movie That Almost, Oculus (Latin for 'eye') has a lot going for it, despite a plot that needs more attention paid to it than Inception

Kaylie (Karen Gillan - Amy on "Dr. Who") and Tim (Maleficent's Brenton Thwaites) are brother and sister who ten years ago, survived a supernatural event which killed their parents, involving an apparently haunted antique mirror. Dad (Dazed and Confused's Rory Cochrane) and Mom (Katee Sackhoff, best known for "Battlestar Galactica") are slowly driven to violent insanity by the mirror which thrives on the souls of its owners. Think "The Shining" if the Overlook was a mirror. Told simultaneously in and while jumping back & forth between the past and present, Oculus is chock full of both creepy scares and gross-out gore (Uncle P will NEVER bite into an apple again). Determined to prove the mirror is to blame, Kaylie brings it and Tim back to their childhood home, along with a plethora of tech (no idea how she afforded all that) to document what she says is proof the mirror is to blame. Tim, having spent ten years in a mental institution, being told what he saw wasn't real, wants nothing to do with his sister's obsession but gets drawn in, nonetheless. The cast is fine (kudos especially to Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan, who play young Kaylie and Tim, respectively). I'm surprised this twist on an old trope wasn't embraced by the genre community.

Mike Flanagan's direction is perfect for the genre, though his script gets a bid muddied in Act 3. The special effects are on point and there are some genuinely creepy moments. *** (Three Out of Four Stars). Oculus is rated 'R' by the MPAA for: "terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language."




More, anon.
Prospero 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"The Joke's On You" Part Deux

The Joke's On You star, Adrian Colon
A while back I posted about a short film starring and co-directed by a young man I met on a very odd Friday night, not too long ago in New Hope. Adrian Colon is a standup comedian from my hometown of Trenton, NJ and The Joke's On You is short documentary about his struggle to make it in an exceptionally difficult field. 

One way Adrian supplements his income is by bar-tending at New Hope's (in)famous Raven Inn. He is funny and adorable and pours my perfect martini, perfectly (Sapphire:* up; in & out;  no fruit). At home, I keep my gin in the freezer, so it doesn't get diluted by the ice. Same thing with my vodka, but I digress.

Uncle P is excited and pleased to announce that The Joke's On You has been chosen to premiere on Friday, September 12th as part of the NJ Film Festival's Fall Schedule! I am lucky enough to have seen the entire film and thought it was just terrific. Adrian's likeability comes across so well and his stand-up is very funny (peeks into his family help explain why). 

I love promoting new talent (especially local talent who also happen to be menches) and I truly hope this award-nominated short goes on to bigger and better things and brings Adrian that much closer to his dream. If you can, please check out The Joke's On You.



*The only gin, darlings!

More, anon.
Prospero

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Review: "Guardians of the Galaxy"

It what will undoubtedly be the weekend's #1 movie (and possibly the summer's - even the 2:30 2D matinee I saw was packed), Chris Pratt becomes a bona-fide movie star;  Bradley Cooper's and Vin Diesel's voices get the most laughs and Marvel has yet another critical and popular hit franchise on it's hands. Is it the 'Best Marvel Movie Yet!'? You can decide for yourself. I'm not going there.

Pratt is Peter Quill, an Earthling abducted by space pirates in 1988, after the death of his mother. In the slightly heavy-handed and deliberately complicated plot, an unlikely band of heroes is brought together to fight against an evil force that wants to destroy the planet (sound familiar?). This time the weapon is powerful stone forged during the Big Bang and the villain, Ronan the Accuser (my beloved Pie Maker, Lee Pace) has some unclear grudge against the prosperous and peaceful people ruled by a severe-looking Glen Close in some wigs that would make Effie Trinket giggle. 

Wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista is actually hilarious as a voile-skinned Drax, an out-for-revenge literalist who doesn't understand jokes or irony.  Zoe Saldana (who is fast becoming a Sci-Fi regular) isn't given much of a character to play, though I hope she'll get the chance to develop one in the inevitable sequels. A bulked-up Pace, hidden under weird makeup and an even-weirder headdress, hams it up as the bad guy like Pacino on steroids. And the few lines Close has, are barked out like she just wanted to pick up her check and to go home. But this is Pratt's movie all the way and his goofy charm and egotistical swagger as "Star Lord" are reminiscent of so many great Sci-Fi movie heroes - almost like a hot guy playing Peter Griffin playing Han Solo in the "Family Guy" Star Wars parodies.

Director James Gunn (Slither - one of my faves!) keeps the action moving while managing to keep the many homages and nods from becoming cliches. There are lots of great 70's tunes and 80's references (the 'outlaw' John Stamos, for one) and plenty of cool Sci-Fi gadgets and space ships. "The Walking Dead" alum Michael Rooker; Djimon Hounsou; John C. Reilly; and Benicio Del Toro (looking particularly silly) are also on hand with voice cameos from Nathan Fillion and Rob Zombie.

All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy is fun and faced-paced and loud and bright and so very, very colorful. My eyes were exhausted in 2D. I can't imagine it in 3. In all honestly, it is visually stunning and Gunn's palette works beautifully for a comic book movie with no actual super-heroes. Well, except maybe for Groot.* And while hardly perfect, it is undoubtedly the most fun I've had at the movies all year. **** (Four Out of Four Stars). Guardians of the Galaxy is rated PG13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language." Make sure you stay for the after-credits Easter Egg, which is hilarious and had to be explained to every teenager attending with their parents. It was hilarious hearing them all. Oh - and Stan Lee's cameo is particularly hilarious.



*If someone doesn't market a desk-top Dancing Groot toy, I will be very unhappy. Because I must have one.

More, anon.
Prospero

Friday, August 1, 2014

Got My Tickets

While not quite the insane San Diego ComicCon, the Philly burbs have hosted a more genre-specific Fan Con called Monster-Mania Con for nearly 30 years, at a convention center in the South Jersey Upper-Middle-Class Philly burb known as Cherry Hill, NJ.

When Uncle P was a kid, the Cherry Hill Mall* was the largest and first of its kind. A trip there with Auntie and Grandmom meant coin-operated and ticketed kiddie rides; endless exploration of the late-60's and early-70's version of Pier One Imports; a new pair of something and maybe a toy (if we were exceptionally well-behaved). After the NJ State Fairgrounds in Trenton closed down, the NJ State Fair was moved to the Cherry Hill Race Track, though these days it is held in North Jersey at The Meadowlands and the old Fairgrounds are now the rather amazing Grounds for Sculpture, which I highly recommend visiting once every few years. But, I digress.

It has been nearly 30 years since Uncle P attended a fan convention. It was 1985 and my sister and I went up to Manhattan (can't remember f I drove or we took the train) to attend Fangoria Magazine's first ever Weekend of Horrors. It was... well, you can imagine. This was early on in Fan Cons and most of the space was taken up by vendors. We made sure we attended George Romero's Day of the Dead panel, where we caught a sneak preview that wasn't immediately shared on an internet which didn't quite exist, yet. And it was amazing. We met and spoke with Horror Icons Tom Savini and Michael Berryman (both of whom were lovely and appreciative of their fans); I bought books and a t-shirt. We got lots of free buttons (including a Back to the Future button I probably should have hung onto) and generally had a good time. Though we found ourselves to be... well... the least nerdy duo in attendance, that day. And while there were maybe a dozen or so cosplayers there, the term had yet to be coined and they stuck out like sore thumbs. 

On Saturday, August 16th, I will be attending Monster-Mania Con with two co-workers: My sweetly and identically insane Mia (creator of Teddy-Z) and the newest addition to our department, Chris B. Chris is a sports guy (go Phillies!); a far less-obsessive movie fan than Uncle P (honestly - his lack of the Essentials is appalling - but I'm going to take care of that) and a fellow performer. I think the three of us will have ourselves a grand time and cannot wait to attend my first modern Fan Con! I'll make sure my phone is charged and will take lots of pics!



If you haven't figured it out by now, yes, I am a HUGE Horror geek and can't wait until we go! I'll also be asking my compatriots to restrain myself when it comes to shopping...

More, anon.
Prospero

*Uncle P started my 20 years of purgatorial retail life at Bamberger's, in my local Oxford Valley Mall.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Matthew 7:15 or: "The Rise of Gilead"

See You Next Tuesday!
You'll notice I didn't use that crazy-eyes picture of Ms Bachmann for this piece. In fact, I specifically looked for one that was attractive. And there is no doubt, the former Intelligence Committee member (insert your own oxymoron joke here) is an attractive woman. And so is She Who Must Not Be Named. And why is that? Because the Christian Right (which I will forever and ever continue to insist, is neither) is middle America. Breadbasket, small town, Ozzies and Harriets; Beavers and Wallys., who go to work  and school and church and do and believe everything people in authority tell them to do and believe. The people in authority? Well, they'll lie and scare and do anything they can to keep Ozzie and Harriet under their thumbs. The Face of Hate in America isn't a white man under a white hood or a skin-head Neo-Nazi. No, my friends, the Face of Hate in America is Mom. 

Bachmann continues to spread lies about LGBT people (I can only suppose) in the hope that they will get her elected in 2016. They should get her censured, at the least. You can read and /or listen to her most recent offensive comments at Thenewcivilrightsmovement.com, if you are so inclined. Though I must comment on one quote in particular. It is one of the oldest and most proven incorrect lie these hate-fueled dimwits use when trying to justify their hate:

  •  "Also, they want to abolish age of consent laws. We would do away with statutory rape laws, so adults would be able to freely prey on little children sexually. That’s the deviance that we’re seeing embraced in our culture today.”   

This lie continues to be spread by the Right, even though every reputable therapist, psychologist and psychiatrist refutes it. Of course, how can we expect the the truth (or even anything sensible) from a woman who claimed that the HPV vaccine did the following to a 12 year old girl in FL:  "(she)... took that vaccine, that injection -- and suffered from mental retardation thereafter." Really? So, you are using an archaic and generally accepted as offensive word, while blaming the offensive (to you) condition on a medically sound prophylaxis which has been proven safe and effective? Hmmm... so I suppose when you got your Polio suger-cube, you got Polio? I know I did. NOT! (Yeah, immature, I know - but at least I read).

In Margaret Atwood's chilling 1985 novel, "The Handmaid's Tale," America in 2195 has devolved into a dystopian Christian theocracy called The Republic of Gilead, where women (especially unmarried women) have no say over what happens to them. The central character Offred, is the titular 'handmaid,' basically a baby factory for the ruling class. In Atwood's Gilead, LGBT people are labeled 'gender traitors' and hanged. This is exactly what the Right wants, only they don't want to wait another 170 years. They want it now. And they present it as truth. And the weak and uneducated believe them. Because they look like Mom. And so what if Dad is fruitier than you're Uncle P? He can cure himself with 'Reparative Therapy," praise Jebus! Reverend Shambock says it's so! Of course, neither of your two Uncle Ricks' eating habits are helping... 

Listen, I don't care what you believe. Personally, I wish no one believed (because it would end so many conflicts and so much hatred). And yes, I have plenty of friends who are believers of one faith or another. I don't dislike or shun them because of it. And yes, the vast majority of my believer friends are progressive liberals like Uncle P.

 I do care about your politics, though. But when your politics are based on your dogma, you get a very smelly tire fire that needs to put out well-before even coming close to being a problem.

And while I can't speak for any of you (or however many are left, at this point), I refuse to go back in the closet for June effing Cleaver on Zoloft!



Rant over. Enjoy your weekends! 

More, anon.
Prospero

My Guilty TV Pleasure

Nick Cannon Pranks the Judges
The recorded episodes of my Reality TV guilty pleasure are over for the season. The top 47 of 48 acts have been chosen for the remaining live shows of "America's Got Talent" at Radio City Music Hall (the 48th is still being voted on, online). You can read the full list here, if care to see it. And while it's still early enough that I don't yet have a 100% favorite, I was pleased to see several of my favorites are going into the live rounds at Radio City. I was also sad to see a few favorites not make it. And a couple I'm still not sure about.

Of the male singers to make it through, Miguel Dakota is both talented and adorable. If he would only ditch the stupid knit hat.



On female singers, I'm torn, though I am so pleased that quirky, beautiful and talented Emily West (which also happens to the name of a very talented actor I am lucky enough to have directed).



Damn! That performance was so hot, even I'M turned on! Ms West, regardless of the outcome, is about to become a star!

Magicians are a harder call. Remember, a ventriloquist has won AGT, but a magician has never made it into the finals. Could this be the year? There are several exceptional close-up magicians this year and I am torn:







Musicians and bands? Emil and Dariel are amazing, but I take umbrage at the judge's claims of originality and can't believe that none of them have seen a video of my Croatian hotties Luka and Stjepan of 2Cellos. Personally, I adore the adorable Wills Clan. They are a 21st Century American Von Trapp Family!



Dancers are an easy choice this season. Blue Journey took something we've seen plenty of (dance, shadows, projection) and did something completely new and amazing and totally deserved to be put through before "judgment week."



Kids acts (despite Season 1, when the show was still finding it's feet) don't generally win, though at least one (Jackie Evancho, anyone?) has gone on to a professional career. This year I am loving unassuming Broadway belter Mara Justine. I've never heard a white girl pull this off:



And my life-long love of circus and variety also has me torn between Valo and Bobby:



Or who I think will end up being my favorite until he's booted, the exceptionally adorable Christian Stoinev:



That body! That smile! That strength! That dog!

There are some serious contenders this year and I can't wait to be able to start voting. Do you watch AGT? Who is/are your favorite(s) this season? Oh, and if you haven't seen it, the photo above is from a brilliant prank AGT's producers and host Nick Cannon pulled off on judges, Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howie Mandel:



I do so love this show, as much as I am loathe to admit it.

More, anon,
Prospero