Five Good Things for 12/8/2015

Five things I encountered today that were interesting, educational, beautiful, edifying or that I otherwise found to be…well, good. None of these are promotions and I do not receive any benefit from sharing them. I just like them.

It’s time for the annual end-of-year onset anxiety, complete with a constant nervous feeling, too much work to do, and even more disrupted sleep than usual. I’m going to try to keep up at least with a daily links post, but I don’t know how much else I will get done until the New Year. Then everything will be shiny and new and different and I’ll sleep like a baby and find keeping up with work and writing a total breeze… right? Oh well, till then, enjoy some awesomeness from the internet.

giphy (2)1) Rare Exports might be my new favorite Christmas movie. I don’t want to say too much and spoil anything, but it’s a Finnish horror movie about the horrors experienced in a small town when the real Santa Claus is unearthed from his tomb. Hilarious, scary, and just plan weird if you haven’t experienced it, you need to.

56197-Oh-I-Cant-Believe-My-Eyes2) PBS has a video of a live from Lincoln Center performance of some of Danny Elfman’s most memorable music scores, including some from the Nightmare Before Christmas, featuring Elfman singing. It’s a great retrospective on a long, iconic career, and so much fun to hear Jack Skellington come to life.

Continue reading “Five Good Things for 12/8/2015”

Advertisements

31 Days of Halloween Days 28-30 – Must See Halloween

October is Halloween movie month! Having been completely deprived of any kind of Halloween experience growing up, I now spend 31 days celebrating with film and TV. I like to shoot for a mix of old and new, horror and comedy, from the slightly spooky to the totally terrifying to the just plain weird. Each day of October I’ll reviewing one of these ventures in the realm of the creepy and supernatural. Some will be high quality cinema and some will require large amounts of alcohol to survive. Stock up on seasonal beer and Fireball-apple jello shots and join me! A warning, though – unless the review is of a very recent release, HERE BE SPOILERS.

Partially because I ran out of time, and partially because my penultimate three Halloween movies have been so well-written about that I doubt I can say anything new, I decided to do a quick, joint write-up about them. Tomorrow, I’ll post my final Halloween pick, the instant classic “Over the Garden Wall”. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Most-meta – Cabin in the Woods, Day 28

MV5BNTUxNzYyMjg2N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTExNzExNw@@._V1_SX640_SY720_Synopsis: A group of college students go away for the weekend to a cabin, where unbeknownst to the them, they become part of an annual ritual to protect humanity from the Old Gods, which involves their suffering and deaths. Things don’t go quite as planned, as not just the “virgin” survives but one of the others as well. She refuses to kill her friend, the Old Gods rise, and the world ends.

tumblr_m3tykz3bng1rodf0wCabin in the Woods is Joss Whedon distilled into a single movie. A brilliant satire of horror tropes, a take-down of the torture porn genre, and stuffed full of references, it’s hilarious, scary, and everything you might expect from Whedon. The concept is brilliant – what if this cliched scenario of hunted teens was really run by a high tech group of normal guys, tasked with protecting the world by making sure the regular sacrifices take place on schedule. They’re detached from the pain they are causing, running an office pool on what monster the teens will self-select and casually celebrating while our Final Girl fights for her life because “the virgin’s death is optional, as long as she suffers”.  The redundency built in around the world is also interesting, the idea that this goes on in multiple places just to be sure nothing goes awry. Although I do wonder if all the rituals have the same requirements – the one we see in Japan seems to abandon the slut/jock/nerd/loser/virgin set up in favor of a bunch of school girls.

The movie surprised a lot of people when it opened, as it was marketed as a straight-up horror movie of exactly the kind it was mocking. A lot of Whedon’s favorite themes are evident here. His fixation on the Final Girl, who is the ultimate Final Girl this time when the world is destroyed by her actions. The idea that the ultimate evil can be caused by regular folks, just doing their jobs, and the concept of a larger group pulling the strings and ordering the lives and deaths of young folks for some kind of twisted greater good (see most notably the origin of the Slayers in Buffy). The main concept Whedon wants to hammer home, though, is that there are some lines that shouldn’t be crossed. If a yearly sacrifice is what it takes to keep humanity alive, then we don’t deserve to be. And then he kills everyone. But he has a lot of fun along the way, with an all-out slaughter of everyone working in the bunker that involves all the monsters they’ve been keeping. Stabby unicorns, tentacle monsters, werewolves, creepy girls, cannibals. It’s a horror fan’s wet dream, gruesome, bonkers, and funny.

Rating: 8 out 10 – You couldn’t wish for a better commentary on horror, our love of horror, and human nature, while still having a good time.

Runner-up: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Funniest – Young Frankenstein (Day 29)

young-frankenstein-movie-poster-1974-1020294653Synopsis: The grandson of the rather more infamous Doctor Frankenstein, returns reluctantly to Transylvania to take care of his family’s estate and finds himself overtaken by the family obsession, creating his own monster who then escapes and must be recaptured and healed of his abnormal brain.

young-frankenstein-gifThis Mel Brooks classic is easily the funniest Halloween movie ever made, if not quite the funniest Mel Brooks movie ever made. Not so much a parody of but a tribute to the early Universal horror movies, particularly the 1940’s Frankenstein and its sequels, it lovingly recreates the setting and feeling of these classics (Brooks even went so far to retrieve the original laboratory props to use, which had been languishing in the propmaster’s garage for decades) and then uses it as a springboard for ridiculous, corny, slapstick humor. Young Frankenstein has the highest gag-per-minute rate of any movie I’ve every seen. They throw everything – puns, sight gags, innuendo – at the wall and sees what sticks. Most of it does. Young Frankenstein is one of the few movies that gets funnier the more times you watch it.

The cast is superb, with more comedy geniuses than you can shake a stick at. I honestly can’t imagine this movie being nearly as good with even the smallest casting changes. Gene Wilder wrote the script with Brooks, and as such perfectly inhabits the character of Fredrick Frankenstein, hesitant mad scientist. The cast was clearly having a blast during filming (so much so that Mel Brooks added more scenes to film because everyone was having so much fun) and it shows. Some movies are magically perfect, with not a hair out of place, and will stand the test of time forever. Young Frankenstein is timeless, feeling forever old and new at the same time. There are lots of funny horror movies, but few that rely on classic comedy techniques instead of splatter.

Rating: 10 out of 10 – Wouldn’t change a thing, will rewatch at least once a year till I die.

Runner-up: A distant second, but in a similar (if less sophisticated) vein is Ernest Scared Stupid

Kinkiest – The Rocky Horror Picture Show

the_rocky_horror_picture_show_posterSynopsis: An innocent, newly engaged couple stumble into the castle of mad-scientist/transsexual/alien Dr. Frank N. Furter and find themselves tangled in a web of sexual escapades and alien invasion plots.

983c7a0d90f1022471475017e439cfb9Rocky Horror is one of those movies that has to be seen to believed. It’s more than a horror movie. It’s more than a sex comedy. It’s more than the self-billed science fiction double-feature it claims. It’s more than a cult musical hit. It’s about desire, particularly the kind we sublimate, and the dangers both of denying those desires and of letting them get out of control. And it’s also a crazy, sort-of drag show whose purpose is titillate, confuse, and entertain. Rocky Horror taps into something deep in all our psyches we might not totally understand, but are fascinated by. And the movie suggests to us that it’s okay to explore these urges – provided we don’t over-do it.  The longest running theatrical release (40 years), it’s more than a movie, it’s a phenomenon and a deep part of our culture.

Rating: ? out of ? – There’s no way to rate a movie like this, it must be seen to be believed.

Runner-up: None.

Grizzly 2 – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 27

October is Halloween movie month! Having been completely deprived of any kind of Halloween experience growing up, I now spend 31 days celebrating with film and TV. I like to shoot for a mix of old and new, horror and comedy, from the slightly spooky to the totally terrifying to the just plain weird. Each day of October I’ll reviewing one of these ventures in the realm of the creepy and supernatural. Some will be high quality cinema and some will require large amounts of alcohol to survive. Stock up on seasonal beer and Fireball-apple jello shots and join me! A warning, though – unless the review is of a very recent release, HERE BE SPOILERS.

Griz

So, this isn’t so much an actual review as a notice of a future one. I watched Grizzly 2 for the premiere episode of a new podcast, Monster Mixtape, and instead of writing about it here, I’m going to let that episode stand in for a blog post. Because really, there’s nothing else to say. Except that it truly is the worst movie I’ve ever seen.

If you don’t know the history of this movie, here’s some background. No, it was never released. Yes, you can find it easily on the internet (YouTube). Yes, that is George Clooney (talk about a guy who improves with age). You should watch it, and then look for for the first episode of Monster Mixtape coming soon!

Bloodsucking Bastards – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 24

October is Halloween movie month! Having been completely deprived of any kind of Halloween experience growing up, I now spend 31 days celebrating with film and TV. I like to shoot for a mix of old and new, horror and comedy, from the slightly spooky to the totally terrifying to the just plain weird. Each day of October I’ll reviewing one of these ventures in the realm of the creepy and supernatural. Some will be high quality cinema and some will require large amounts of alcohol to survive. Stock up on seasonal beer and Fireball-apple jello shots and join me! A warning, though – unless the review is of a very recent release, HERE BE SPOILERS.

bloodsucking-bastards-poster-600x841

Bloodsucking Bastards (2015)

Starring: Fran Kranz, Pedro Pascal, Joey Kern

Synopsis: Evan works a at sales company selling male enhancement products over the phone, along with his ex-girlfriend Amanda and his best friend, Tim. Evan has been working towards becoming sales manager but is disappointed when his old rival, Max, is brought in instead and he’s relegated back to the sales pool. Things start changing around the office, with some people disappearing and others undergoing a change of personality that makes them work harder than ever. Evan remains largely oblivious to the very clear fact that everyone is being turned into a vampire, which is at first only noticed by Tim and a security guard, Frank. He’s more concerned with Max putting the movies on Amanda. Eventually, however Tim and Evan, along with Frank and Amanda, set out to fight the vampires and take the office back from Max. After a long bloody battle they eventually defeat Max and Evan and Amanda get back together.

video-bloodsucking-bastards-videoSixteenByNine225This movie is Office Space meets Shaun of the Dead meets 30 Days of Night – a middle management comedy with vampires and buckets of blood. The metaphor of a charismatic vampire who turns the company’s performance around by transforming the employees into mindless subservient drones is neither subtle nor revolutionary, but it is very appealing for those of us who have worked in offices with this sort of management structure (ie, most people). Max’s explanation that this is the perfect place for vampires, since it’s a windowless office full of pale people who already work late into the night, rings unfortunately true for my own cubicle based existence (hey, if I stand on my tippy-toes I can see a window sometimes).

Continue reading “Bloodsucking Bastards – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 24”

Ginger Snaps – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 16

October is Halloween movie month! Having been completely deprived of any kind of Halloween experience growing up, I now spend 31 days celebrating with film and TV. I like to shoot for a mix of old and new, horror and comedy, from the slightly spooky to the totally terrifying to the just plain weird. Each day of October I’ll reviewing one of these ventures in the realm of the creepy and supernatural. Some will be high quality cinema and some will require large amounts of alcohol to survive. Stock up on seasonal beer and Fireball-apple jello shots and join me! A warning, though – unless the review is of a very recent release, HERE BE SPOILERS.

tumblr_nucg35GZEM1qd00sto1_1280

Ginger Snaps (2000)

Starring: Katherine Isabelle, Emily Perkins, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers

Synopsis: Brigette (Perkins) and Ginger (Isabelle) are high school outcasts, anti-social and obsessed with death to the point of having made a suicide pact as children. Their main hobby is filming and photographing elaborate, realistic, and gory scenes of their own demise. They are each other’s only friend, and their parents, particularly their overly cheery, pushy mother, don’t understand them. Suddenly, during a string of mysterious attacks on neighborhood dogs, everything changes. Ginger gets her first period and then is attacked by a creature of some kind while she and Brigette are in the middle of playing a prank on their main antagonist, a cheerleader named Trina. Ginger heals swiftly from the attack, but over the course of the next month begins to change. Her teeth become fanglike, she sprout hairs from her swiftly-healing wounds, and even grows a tail. Her behavior changes too, she fights with Brigette and becomes more outgoing, sexual, and even predatory, leaving her younger sister behind. Brigette figures out that Ginger is transforming into a werewolf and getting increasingly out of control, to the point where she savages and infects her boyfriend and kills Trina, who comes looking for her dog. Brigette, with the help of greenhouse worker and pothead, Sam (Lemche), figures out how to make a cure from the monkshood flower (wolfsbane) and attempts to save Ginger. But Ginger isn’t interested in being saved. Before she can be cured, she transforms fully into wolf form, killing Sam and finally attacking Brigette who defends herself with a silver knife, stabbing Ginger. As wolf-Ginger lays dying, Brigette puts her head on her sister’s chest and cries.

tumblr_mmfck28jDk1rdecj3o1_500Ginger Snaps is a low budget Canadian horror movie that somehow manages to be the most interesting werewolf film I’ve ever seen. In historical and popular culture werewolves are primarily used as a symbol of the monster who lives inside of a man, the part of himself that he hates but can’t control. To a lesser degree and more recently they have been used as a metaphor for puberty, a less dramatic but no less upsetting change we all go through. Ginger Snaps relies primarily on this latter comparison, though with a heavy dose of the former, but it does so in a far more gritty and gory way than the average teen werewolf flick, and twists the usual narrative to focus on the specific troubles of female adolescence. Continue reading “Ginger Snaps – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 16”

Shadow of the Vampire – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 14

October is Halloween movie month! Having been completely deprived of any kind of Halloween experience growing up, I now spend 31 days celebrating with film and TV. I like to shoot for a mix of old and new, horror and comedy, from the slightly spooky to the totally terrifying to the just plain weird. Each day of October I’ll reviewing one of these ventures in the realm of the creepy and supernatural. Some will be high quality cinema and some will require large amounts of alcohol to survive. Stock up on seasonal beer and Fireball-apple jello shots and join me! A warning, though – unless the review is of a very recent release, HERE BE SPOILERS.

shadow_of_the_vampire_ver4_xlg

Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

Starring: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe

Synopsis: A behind-the-scenes dramatization of the filming of the horror classic Nosferatu. The director (Malkovich) reveals to the crew that he hired a unique and extraordinarily talented method actor named Max Schreck (Dafoe) to play the role of the vampire, Count Orlok. While they film on location in Czechoslovakia he will stay in character the whole time, filming only at night. Unbeknownst to the crew, the director discovered the “actor” in one of the castles in which they will be filming and he is, in fact, an actual vampire. The director has struck a bargain with him to appear in the film, including allowing him to feed on the starring actress in the final scene. Quickly things begin to go wrong during filming, including mysterious accidents and the film’s photographer being drained of blood during a blackout. Despite muttered warnings from locals, the crew still continues to believe that Schreck is merely a very devoted method actor – even when he catches and eats and bat in front of them. Continue reading “Shadow of the Vampire – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 14”

Five Good Things for 10/19/2015

Five things I encountered today that were interesting, educational, beautiful, edifying or that I otherwise found to be…well, good. None of these are promotions and I do not receive any benefit from sharing them. I just like them.

rtlogo1) Looking for even more Halloween movies to get in the mood? Rotten Tomatoes has a great countdown of the 75 best-reviewed horror movies in history. I like that they include movies from all countries and eras, including silent classics. I’ve got some catching up to do!

2) Koko, the famous gorilla with a firm grasp of sign language, has turned 44 years old. As a present, she was given two kittens as companions. Her love of kittens is legendary, so lets hope these kitties give her many years of friendship. This video of her with them is quite literally the cutest thing ever.

img-thing3) Need a wand to complete your perfect Harry Potter Halloween costume? This Instructable has awesome details on how to make one from scratch using paper, a glue gun, and a few baubles. Cheap and impressive. Much better than spending $70 at Harry Potter World (sorry, Warner Bros). You could probably even put a unicorn hair in there, if you’ve got one.

4) It’s getting cold outside. Perhaps you need to knit up some hedgehog mittens to keep your fingers toasty? Any resemblance to John Watson is purely coincidental.

5) Looking for a webcomic featuring queer and gender non-binary characters and drawing on Celtic mythology? Look no further. Eth’s Skin is clever, beautifully drawn, and trope-destroying. Plus, selkies!