Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bigger, Stronger, Faster

That Small Print underneath the title states "the side effects of being American"
Genre - Documentary
Year Released - 2008
Running Time - 100 minutes
Directed by Chris Bell
Written by Chris Bell & Alexander Buono
Cast Includes the members of Chris Bell's Family (himself, his two brothers Mark and Mike, his mother Rosemary, and his father Sheldon) as well as a slew of other famous athletes, stars, etc.
Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:

In sports, winning is everything, and the pressure to succeed can drive some athletes to start taking banned substances. Filmmaker Chris Bell points the camera at his brothers and himself, all users of steroids. By exploring the reasons behind and the effects of steroid use within his family, Bell calls into question the win-at-all-cost attitude so prevalent within American society.

Review:

Fantastic or Fraud? Hero or Hoax? Champion or Cheater? Legend or Liar? Phenom or Phony? These are some of the questions that writer/director, past steroid user, Chris Bell focuses on in this documentary of Anabolic Steroid Use. (anabolic steroids, also known as "the juice", are derived from the male hormone testosterone)

Bell starts off the documentary by going back to his childhood heroes, which back in the mid-eighties were the likes of Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Hulk Hogan. To him and his brothers, it was all about the muscles! Eventually this fascination with building up their physique led to all three brothers using steroids. Due to guilt, the writer/director of this documentary - Chris - decided to quit using. Both of his brothers are still using though, and plan to continue, probably for the rest of their lives.

Chris does a superb job of honestly focusing on steroid usage within our society, not only among body builders, but also among athletes throughout all sports, even in the Olympics. I definitely recommend this film, especially if you enjoy documentaries or are at all curious about steroids in general.

As for me, I am against steroid usage (especially in sports!) If you know me at all, then you know that I am a big fan of Mixed Martial Arts. When you put two guys in a cage, facing one another, do you think it at all fair, if one has been using steroids, to hopefully better himself more than his opponent? Not me! I was crushed when, last year, my favorite fighter - Sean "the muscle shark" Sherk - had his belt stripped and was suspended for 6 months for "apparent" steroid usage! :-(

This film is not really pro or con, it is just an honest look at our society's fascination with physique. It does have some very interesting view points (both good and bad) and is quite humorous at times, like when they compare earlier models of G.I. Joe compared to now-a-days. (Back in the 70's, he was an average looking guy, then in the 80's his biceps got a little bigger, then in the 90's he had a 6-pack, and now he is just completely ripped) Chris also spoke with Stan Lee [If you do not know who he is, shame on you!] ;-) about the physique of Super-Heroes, etc.

One other thing that completely amazed me was when Chris was talking about Supplements, in general - me made a bottle (to prove a point) for around $1.50, which could easily sell for $60.00!! Unbelievable!

Just thought I would leave you with this picture. . .

Here's the Trailer:

Jason

Monday, September 29, 2008

All About My Weekend

This past weekend was just me and the kids!
For those of you who may not know, my family is from Florida, and we are currently traveling the country, looking for the ideal place to settle down.
Long story short - My wife is an echocardiographer ("ultrasounds of the heart") and since the real estate has slumped in Florida, she decided to take her skill (as well as the family) and hit the road. There is big business for traveling medical technologists - the company that hires you pretty much foots the bill for living, food, gas, etc. and the hourly pay is greater than the usual.
The companies generally hire out for three months at a time, and we have been traveling for a little over a year now. We have lived in Phoenix, Arizona, Lake Shasta, in Northern California, Seattle, Washington, and we are currently in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
While we travel, I am a stay at home, home-schooling father, of our three youngest children - our oldest son was accepted into a brand new, top-notch high school back in Florida, that only 400 other kids were accepted into, in the entire county, so he is staying with his father, until we decide where we are going to live permanently.
[Now, you have a little bit of the background story] :-)
So, we have decided to go ahead and put our house, in Florida, on the market.
(I have a friend that has been staying there watching over everything)
After some discussion, my wife and I decided that it would be best if she went back, to "clean-house" [I tend to be a bit of a pack-rat, and she knew that I would not get rid of anything - she is probably right] :-)
So, she flew back to Florida and met up with our oldest son, and some friends, and they packed everything up in those P.O.D. Storage Units.
While all of this was going on, I kept receiving calls from my son - they went something like this - "Hey, um, can I have your gaming chair? Um, I found your PSP, could I have that? Uh, Do you still want your skateboard? What about these knives?" This went on every ten minutes or so, until I finally told him that he is there to pack, not scrounge. We can discuss what he can have, when we settle back down. . .
So, backtracking, on Friday morning, we all took mom to the airport and said our sad farewells. The kids did really good though. My youngest daughter almost cried, but she held back her tears. (If she had cried, they all would have cried)
On the way back home, we took our time, stopping at different places.
When we got home, dinner was waiting for us. My wife had made a pot roast meal, with potatoes and carrots, that had simmered in the crock pot all day - it was delicious!
[Now, you have to understand my wife, she is a wonderful woman - she had dinner prepared, in advance, for us, for each night that she was gone. Every day, she had a little letter for me and each of the kids, along with a special "treat bag" My wife is Awesome, plain and simple!] :-)
That night, I told the kids that we would have a "slumber party" in the living room. I had Netflix send some children's movies for the weekend, and we started off the night by watching Nancy Drew. (I brought out my mattress and we all lay on the floor watching the movie) That was a decent movie - my daughters really enjoyed it. We then settled in for the night. Now, I like to sleep in pitch black darkness, so being in the living room, even with the blinds closed, it still seemed pretty bright, and not having my wife beside me, I just don't think that I got much sleep that night.
On Saturday morning, I awoke to my youngest son (he is 2) whimpering. I asked him what was wrong, and he just rolled over, facing the opposite direction. I went around to the side he was facing and again asked him what was wrong. He just sort of pouted and rolled back over, the other way. I picked him up and carried him into the bathroom while I brushed my teeth. I sat him on the bathroom counter, where he curled into a little ball. I just figured that he was missing mom pretty bad. I put him on my bed, while I got dressed, where he promptly decided to throw up. I quickly grabbed a washcloth and helped him into the bathroom, where I started cleaning him up. About this time, I thought I heard more retching, and my oldest daughter hollered that my youngest daughter was throwing up, in the living room. Needless to say, I had two sick kids that day, so I decided to just stay home and let the kids rest. We watched that old 80's E.T. wanna-be movie, Mac & Me - the kids really enjoyed it though, so that was cool.
My oldest daughter is a big Classic & Musical Movies Fan, so, while the other two kids were resting, I found the 1973 Musical Version of Tom Sawyer on Turner Classic Movies and she really loved that movie! We then watched Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, on Disney.
So, basically, Saturday was just a "lounge around the house day" Nothing exciting. I had planned on taking the kids to the park and having a picnic lunch, but obviously that did not happen.
Sunday morning, I was planning on taking the kids bowling, but I let them choose what they wanted to do, and they chose to have a picnic lunch at the park.
After the park, we went to a local strip mall, where our budget theatre is located. At this mall, they were having an exotic animal show, so the kids actually got to play with some tiger cubs, which was awesome! The exhibit also included a Magic Show, so I took the kids over, 20 minutes before it started, and we got good seats, right in front! Joe Exotic is a Master Illusionist and the show (which was an hour and a half - and free!) was fantastic! We all had a Blast!
[This show is called Joe Exotic's Mystical Magic of the Endangered - it is put on by Awakening Productions, so if you ever see them in your town, definitely check them out!!] They are based out of Oklahoma, and tour all over the United States.
Well, I feel that this Blog is becoming a bit lengthy - I just wanted to document my weekend. :-)
Let me leave you with some pictures:
Three of My Beautiful Children

This was a weird roller-bar slide

Playing with a Tiger Cub

One of the 'rules' were "no picking up the cubs" As you can see from this picture, my son knew better and was seeing if he could get away with it. . .

It looks as if my oldest daughter is a bit nervous in this picture. I think that the cub yawned and she thought it was going to roar or pounce. :-)


Isn't he a cutie?!?

Well, I will be back to my regular reviewing of movies, probably one day this week (depending on what arrives via Netflix, and if it is any good. . . Right now, I am off, with the kids, to pick my wife up from the airport - I miss her so!

Jason

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Double Feature: The Blame & Spectre

Two Foreign Films from Spain:
The Blame - Spanish Title: La culpa
Spectre - Spanish Title: Regreso a Moira
Language - Spanish
Subtitles are in English
Genre - Horror (Foreign)
Year Released - Both in 2006
Running Time - The Blame - 72 minutes / Spectre - 75 minutes

The Blame
Directed by Narciso Ibanez Serrado (who also directed the Spanish Film Who Can Kill a Child? - which I have not yet seen - it is in my Netflix Queue)
Written by Narciso Ibanez Serrado (who also wrote Who Can Kill a Child?) and Luis Murillo
Cast Includes: Montse Mostaza, Nieve de Medina, and Alejandra Lorenzo

Spectre
Directed by Mateo Gil
Written by Mateo Gil (who also wrote Vanilla Sky as well as the Spanish Film that it was based upon - Abre Los ojos - Open Your Eyes - both Excellent Films!) and Igor Legarreta
Cast Includes: Juan Jose Ballesta, Jordi Dauder, and Natalia Millan

Rating for The Blame: 3 Skulls

Rating for Spectre: 5 Skulls

Films to Keep You Awake

Plot Summary: (for both films)

The 6 Films to Keep You Awake collection presents this frightening double feature of Spanish horror movies.

In The Blame, a nurse who is strapped for cash moves in with a doctor friend, only to discover that the doctor's run-from-home medical clinic isn't what she expected.

In Spectre, an old man is haunted by a supposed witch he knew as a little boy.

Review: (for both films)

Well, since the last two films that I watched in this anthology did not hold up as well as the first two that I watched, I wanted to make sure that it wasn't in the time frame in which I watched them. (I watched the first two in the wee hours of the morning, and I watched the second two in the middle of the afternoon. So, this time around, I figured that I would watch these two, late at night, after everyone else went to bed.)

I really don't think that it matters, when you watch them, as long as you are not being distracted by anything else. . . :-)



The Blame

The Blame started off with a bang and then sort-of coasted along for the remainder of the story. While slow-paced, it still kept you in suspense.

This story is about a mother (who is a nurse) and her young daughter (who is absolutely adorable) who move into the house of a female doctor (who is an Obstetrician/Gynecologist) The house is a tad bit creepy - there are weird noises (strange thumps and bumps) along with a weirdo neighbor, who actually owns the house, who lives in a room on the other side of the stairwell - connected to the main part of the house, by a doorway. The mother discovers that her doctor friend has a clinic set up in one of the vacant bedrooms. She then comes to realize that the doctor performs abortions, on the side. This doesn't sit too well, as she discovers that she is pregnant with a second child. [I do not want to say anymore, as to not give anything else away]

I will say that I only gave this film 3 Skulls because I did not like the way that it ended, at all!

Spectre

I really liked the way that this film was directed. It tells the story of an old man who is haunted by his memories of a woman that he knew when he was younger - in his teens - a woman who supposedly was a witch.

I do not want to give any of this story line away, as it belongs right up there with the first two films, that I watched, in this anthology. I will tell you that the director had very cool scene transitions from the past to the present which helped the story flow even more smoothly.

So, of all six of the films in this anthology series, I feel that the best, in order, are: The Baby's Room, To Let, Spectre, A Christmas Tale, A Real Friend, and then The Blame - if you are able to purchase all six together (which I will) then I recommend it, as really, they are all enjoyable!

Let me leave you with the opening segment to each of these films: [just because I think it's cool] :-)

Jason

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sgt. Hetfield's Motor Breath Pub Band

I have a question for you: If you were to toss The Beatles and Metallica into a musical blender, what would you come up with? Why. . . Beatallica, of course! :-)

For those of you who may not be familiar with Beatallica, they are a a Satirical/Tribute Band who emulates both The Beatles and Metallica - they take the names of Beatles and Metallica tunes, write their own lyrics/music, and mix everything together. . .


Cover of their 1st Album


What you ultimately get is a band whose songs and style prove that they have truly been inspired by both The Beatles and Metallica.

Here is the song list from their first album: (I have included the inspirations for those of you who may not be fans of either band, or only one or the other)

1. Sgt. Hetfield's Motor Breath Pub Band (obviously a play on James Hetfield & Motor Breath crossed with The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Pub Band)

2. Revol-ooh-tion (The Beatles' Revolution)

3. Blackened in the U.S.S.R. (a cross between Metallica's Blackened and The Beatles' Back in the U.S.S.R.)

4. Sandman (a cross between Metallica's Enter Sandman and The Beatles' Taxman)

5. Helvester of Skelter (a cross between Metallica's Harvester of Sorrow and The Beatles' Helter Skelter)

6. A Garage Dayz Nite (a cross between Metallica's Garage Days and The Beatles' A Hard Days Night)

7. Anesthesia (I'm Only Sleeping) - this one is an Instrumental (a la Metallica's Anesthesia - Pulling Teeth)

8. Leper Madonna (a cross between Metallica's Leper Messiah and The Beatles' Lady Madonna)

9. Ktulu (He's So Heavy) - (a cross between Metallica's The Call of Ktulu and The Beatles' I Want You)

10. For Horsemen (Metallica's Four Horsemen)

11. Hey Dude [Probably my favorite song on the album - a twist on The Beatles' Hey Jude]

12. Sgt. Hetfield's (Reprise)

13. ...And Justice For All My Loving (a cross between Metallica's And Justice For All and The Beatles' All My Loving)

The Band Members

Even the Band Member's Names are a Tribute:

Jaymz Lennfield - Vocals, Lyrics, and Rhythm Guitar

Grg Hammetson - Lead Guitar and Background Vocals

Kliff McBurtney - Lead Bass and Background Vocals

Ringo Larz - Drums Only!

As you can hopefully tell, this band is absolutely hysterical - I had the immense pleasure of seeing them Live, just a few weeks ago, and I had an Absolute Blast! (I have seen Metallica, Paul McCartney, and now Beatallica - all Live and all three shows rank up there in my top favorite concerts attended!!) So, if you get the chance to see Beatallica Live - Definitely Do So!!

Here some other song titles that they sang in concert:

Hero of the Day Tripper (they played this song, for the very 1st time, at the concert that I attended! - a cross between Metallica's Hero of the Day and The Beatles' Day Tripper)

The Thing that should not Let It Be (a cross between Metallica's The Thing That Should Not Be and The Beatles' Let It Be)

Masterful Mystery Tour (a cross between Metallica's Master of Puppets and The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour)

Please Please Me, Or I'll Beat You (my favorite song of the evening - a play on Metallica's 2 X 4 and The Beatles' Please Please Me)

Their 2nd album is hopefully going to be coming out in March '09, sometime around St. Patrick's Day, so hopefully some of the above mentioned songs will be on the new album - it is still going through the legal stuff - Lars and Metallica are fans, though I am not sure that Sony (who holds rights to The Beatles) is. . . in the meantime, they have released a new single - All You Need Is Blood [a spoof of The Beatles' All You Need Is Love] :-)

If you want more information, visit their website at: http://beatallica.org/


Well, hopefully I have peaked your interest in Beatallica!
If you are a fan of Metallica, I definitely think that you will enjoy Beatallica - if you are a fan of The Beatles (but not a Metallica fan) I am not so sure - my wife, who doesn't particularly like Metallica (I know - what a shock!) happens to be a HUGE Beatles fan [I personally prefer The Doors over The Beatles] Anyway, whenever I am playing Beatallica, my wife says that they make her nauseous and that she feels that she needs to listen to The Beatles to purge herself of "Beatallica's Butchering of The Beatles" - her words - a bit dramatic I would say! ;-)
So, it's all in your taste ~ give them a listen and decide for yourself!

I am going to leave you with a personal story, which I think is pretty funny. I was listening to Hey Dude, in my truck, the other day and my 4 year old daughter was in the truck as well - the opening stanza of Hey Dude says "Hey Dude - it's true not sad - take a thrash song and make it better - Remember, that metal is in your heart. . ." At this point, my daughter pipes up and says, "Dad, if metal is in your heart, you would die! Only Jesus can be in your heart!" Too Funny!! :-)

Beatallica - A Garage Dayz Nite:


Jason

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Double Feature: A Real Friend & A Christmas Tale

Two Foreign Films from Spain:
A Real Friend - Spanish Title: Adivina quien soy
A Christmas Tale - Spanish Title: Cuento de navidad
Language - Spanish
Subtitles are in English
Genre - Horror (Foreign)
Year Released - Both in 2006
Running Time - A Real Friend - 73 minutes / A Christmas Tale - 71 minutes
A Real Friend
Directed by Enrique Urbizu
Written by Enrique Urbizu (who also wrote the film The Ninth Gate) and Jorge Arenillas
Cast Includes:
Nerea Inchausti
Goya Toledo (who was also in Amores perros)
Eduard Farelo
A Christmas Tale
Directed by Paco Plaza (who was also co-director of [REC] with Jaume Balguero - who directed To Let on the previous disc of 6 Films to Keep You Awake) Paco also directed the film Werewolf Hunter
Written by Paco Plaza & Luis Berdejo (both of whom also co-wrote [REC] as well as the forthcoming American Re-make Quarantine)
Cast Includes:
Christian Casas
Roger Babia
Daniel Casadella
Pau Poch
Ivan Baquero (who played Ofelia in Pan's Labyrinth)
Maru Valdivielso (who was also in Werewolf Hunter)
Rating for A Real Friend: 3 Skulls
Rating for A Christmas Tale: 4 Skulls

Films to Keep You Awake

Plot Summary: (for both films)

The 6 Films to Keep You Awake collection presents this chilling double feature of horror films from Spain.

In A Real Friend a young outcast named Estrella befriends an older man who resembles a vampire, only to discover that he harbors a dangerous secret.

In A Christmas Tale, an axe-wielding zombie dressed in a Santa suit seeks revenge on a group of boys.

Review: (for both films)

I was a little worried that these two films wouldn't hold up to the previous two (The Baby's Room & To Let) that I watched a few days ago, especially since I watched those in the wee morning hours, and I watched these in the middle of the afternoon [during my son's nap time] :-) There was no need to worry. . .

A Real Friend

A Real Friend started off a little bit slow, but it improved itself, over time. It tells the story of a young girl (perhaps 8 or 9 years old) who loves all things horror! She enjoys reading Stephen King and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as well as watching zombie movies and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - her mother, of course, does not approve of such things. So, when her mother is at work (she is a nurse who works different shifts) the young girl sets herself up in front of the television, with a tray of sandwiches, a drink, and a clock - to warn her when her mother is due home.

Eventually, you find out that the young girl has several imaginary friends - amongst them, Leatherface himself! She also has an imaginary vampire friend (who she believes resembles her Nosferatu doll) This vampire friend of hers seems a little shady. He also appears to her in the daytime, so he may be more than he seems. . .

I do give the director props for several cool shots (my favorite of which took place in an elevator - you will know it, when you see it) There were also several shots of her imaginary friends in the far background (for example - across the street - sitting on steps) which I thought was pretty cool. All in all, this film probably deserves 4 Skulls, yet I just felt that I had to give it 3 as there were some scenes that were unexplained, which irks me!


A Christmas Tale

A Christmas Tale was the better of the two films - This story takes place over the Christmas Holiday, in 1985. It tells the story of a group of young friends (4 boys and 1 girl - all about 12 or 13 years old) who stumble across the body of a female, dressed in a Santa suit, who fell into a deep hole in the middle of the woods. They find out that she is dangerous and is wanted for robbing a bank, so they decide to keep her in the hole, until she tells them where she hid the money that she stole. What made this film extra interesting was that I was the same age as these kids, back in 1985. One of the boys was a big Karate Kid fan - he ran around with a Karate Headband around his forehead and practiced his Flamingo Kick. There was also a scene where one of them was playing the old light-em up game of Simon, where you follow the colors and beeps. I really laughed out loud when the kids starting arguing over their code names - they were using the names of the A-Team members! :-)

Anyhow, I suppose that you are wondering where the Zombie comes into all of this. Well, two of the boys had started watching a cheesy old zombie movie called Zombie Invasion - the zombies in this movie were created by a voodoo ritual and could only be killed by stabbing the zombie, in the brain, through the left eye, until black gook oozed out. . . I am sure that you can figure the rest out on your own. Another thing that I liked was the classic zombie with a busted leg, dragging an axe across the ground - throwing up sparks bit - too much fun! :-)

Overall, both of these films had more of a Tales from the Crypt episode feel to them, as opposed to the originality of the previous two that I watched the other day - hence these receiving less skulls! Still, they are still both worth watching. I am hoping that the final two films in the anthology will arrive tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Jason

Mr. Monk goes to Hawaii [Book Review]

Genre - Mystery
Year Published - July 2006 (Published by Signet)
Length - 286 pages
Written by Lee Goldberg (Based on the television series created by Andy Breckman)

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:

Some people think Hawaii is paradise. But Monk knows that danger - like dirt - lurks everywhere. Look at Helen Gruber, the rich tourist who took a fatal blow from a coconut. The police say it fell from a tree, but Monk suspects otherwise. His assistant, Natalie, isn't exactly thrilled about Monk's latest investigation. It was bad enough that Monk followed her on vacation, and now it looks like the vacation is over. . .

Smooth-talking TV psychic Dylan Swift is on the island and claims to have a message from beyond - from Helen Gruber. Monk has his doubts about Swift's credibility. But finding the killer and proving Swift a fraud - all while coping with geckos and the horror of unsynchronized ceiling fans - may prove a tough coconut to crack. . .

Review:

First, I just have to say that I absolutely LOVE Monk - it is one of my favorite shows on television! If Adrian Monk were a real person, he would be one of my heroes! :-) So, when I came across this novel, in a used bookstore, I was surprised. I generally do not read novels based on television series, but c'mon, this is Monk that we are talking about! (and it just so happens that the television show is currently on hiatus, until the winter, so what better time than to read a story about Monk?)

If you are not familiar with Monk, it is a show, on the USA Network, about an Obsessive Compulsive Detective (played by Tony Shalhoub) Monk has OCD to the extreme, yet with his deduction skills, as well as his organizational skills, along with his phenomenal attention to details - all of this makes him an absolutely amazing detective! (I will not go into all of the details of the show's plot - just check it out, if you never have!)
I will however give you a couple examples of Monk's OCD (just because they are so hysterical)

When Monk is eating a bowl of Kellogg's Raisin Bran, he removes every single bran flake and raisin to make sure that his bowl has a four-flake-to-one-raisin ratio!

He carries a tape measure with him - one of the uses being in case he orders a sandwich, they will be able to cut it 'exactly' in half

Perhaps all of this is more funny to me, as I have a slight/minor case of OCD as well, so I can relate with Monk. (I am by no means as bad as Monk - I just like Order - things to be straight and even, etc.)

The above are just a few of the examples of Monk's OCD - along with his OCD, he also has a plethora of Phobias - hence his need of an assistant (Natalie) who provides him with Wipes, after he has to shake someone's hand, etc. Other examples:

He takes his own silverware/dishes with him to a restaurant

He takes a folding lawn chair with him to the movies, because he cannot stand the thought of sitting in a chair that hundreds, if not thousands, have already sat in beforehand

I digress. . . back to the actual review of the book:

The book is written by Lee Goldberg - who just so happens to also write a lot of the television episodes, so I knew that characteristics, etc would all match up - a good thing when reading a book based upon something else!

The book is told from Monk's assistant - Natalie Teeger's perspective, which is awesome! The book reads just like an episode from the series! Lee Goldberg nailed Monk's mannerisms, his sarcastic remarks, etc to a tee, which is hilarious! There are several things going on in the book, it is not just one single mystery that is solved, so the book is a fast read! (and just like the television show - a lot of times it is easy to figure out the "who did it" but the fun part is figuring out the "how and why")

So, if you are already a fan of Monk, and you enjoy a good book, definitely pick this one up - there are other books based on the series as well, so I will be keeping an eye out for those myself!

If you are unfamiliar with Monk, check on USA for re-runs of the show (it is currently in it's 7th season) If you like the show, then you will like the book as well :-)

Jason

Friday, September 19, 2008

Double Feature: The Baby's Room & To Let

Two Foreign Films from Spain:
The Baby's Room - Spanish Title: La habitacion del nino
To Let - Spanish Title: Para entrar a vivar
Language - Spanish
Subtitles are in English
Genre - Horror/Thriller (Foreign)
Year Released - Both in 2006
Running Time - The Baby's Room - 77 minutes / To Let - 68 minutes

The Baby's Room
Directed by Alex de la Iglesia
Written by Alex de la Iglesia & Jorge Guerricaechevarria
Cast Includes Javier Gutierrez & Leonor Watling
To Let
Directed by Jaume Balaguero (who also directed [REC] - which I am dying to see! - it is currently "Saved" in my Netflix Queue with an 'unknown release date')
Written by Jaume Balaguero (who also wrote Quarantine - the American Re-make of [REC] which comes out in October - it looks Great! I am keeping my fingers crossed!)
Alberto Marini also co-wrote (he also wrote The Abandoned - one of the "8 Films to Die for" - which I have not yet seen)
Cast includes Macarena Gomez, Nuria Gonzalez, and Adria Collado
Rating: (for both films) 5 Skulls!

Films to Keep You Awake (?)
Plot Summary: (for both films)
From the 6 Films to Keep You Awake anthology comes this terrifying double feature of Spanish horror movies.

In the unnerving The Baby's Room, a new father repeatedly sees, via a video baby monitor, a shadowy man hovering over his newborn infant.

In To Let, a couple looking to rent an apartment discovers that they can check in, but they can never leave.

Review: (for both films)

First, I just have to say that these films really do "Keep You Awake" :-) I woke up this morning, shortly after 3:00am and I could not go back to sleep (which is very rare for me) So, after tossing and turning for 20 minutes or so, I decided to go out to the living room and watch The Baby's Room - I had no intention of watching both films, however The Baby's Room was so good that I had to watch To Let immediately after, in hopes that it would be as good, and it was!!

After doing a little research, I discovered that this "anthology" of films was actually made for Spanish Television - much like our own Masters of Horror (on Showtime) Needless to say that I will be checking out the other 4 films in the series!

The Baby's Room

The Baby's Room grabs you from the opening sequence and doesn't let up! This one tells the story of a young couple with a young son (slightly older than a newborn) who move into an old Spanish Mansion. They are given a set of second-hand baby monitors (the walkie-talkie looking kind) During the first night, they hear the baby laughing and it sounds as if someone is talking to the baby, from in the baby's room! When the father goes into the baby's room to check, there is no one else in the room. The parents, a little weirded out, decide to buy a new baby monitor - one that includes video. Being dark, the baby camera utilizes night vision/infrared technology, so all you see is the silhouette of the baby, with iridescent/glowing eyes - pretty freaky! The next evening, when the father wakes up in the middle of the night, he glances at the baby monitor and sees a second set of iridescent/glowing eyes. . . Again, upon rushing into the baby's bedroom, there is no one else there. The father begins to grow increasingly paranoid, until you begin to wonder if he is delusional or not. This is a rapid-fire pace of a film, which at only 77 minutes, scarcely gives you time to breathe! This film is for all of you psychological horror fans out there - minimal blood in this one, it is all in the story!

To Let

To Let, on the other hand, sheds quite a lot of blood! This one tells the story of of another young couple who are looking for an apartment to rent. Driving to yet another apartment to look at, it begins pouring rain. They eventually begin to leave the outskirts of town and start traveling through a very bad looking neighborhood (things are rundown, in shambles, there are actually cars that have been stripped, on the sides of the road - I personally would have turned right around!) Eventually they come upon an apartment building, in the middle of nowhere, all by itself (that looks in such bad shape, that you would think it was abandoned) Yet, they go in anyway! Inside the apartment, the woman finds a photograph of her and her boyfriend, and he finds a pair of old shoes of his that he threw away, a week ago. . . something is definitely not right! I do not want to say any more, so as not to give anything else away. I will tell you this though - Nuria Gonzalez plays an outstanding psychopath!

Both of these films have my highest recommendation - Definitely check these two films out, and stay tuned for reviews on the other four [only if they are "blog-worthy" of course, which I have a feeling that they will be!] :-)

I was unable to find a trailer for The Baby's Room, and the trailer that I found for To Let showed way to much! (which I hate) So, you will have to Trust Me on these!

Jason

Lakeview Terrace

Genre - Thriller
Year Released - 2008
Running Time - 110 minutes
Rated: PG-13
Directed by Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men)
Written by David Loughery (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) & Howard Korder (The Passion of Ayn Rand - which I want to see)
Cast Includes:
Samuel L. Jackson (need I say more?)
Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy)
Kerry Washington (Fantastic Four 1 & 2)

Rating: 3 Skulls

Plot Summary:

This dramatic thriller follows Chris and Lisa Mattson as they settle into their Los Angeles dream house - only to be harassed by their off-kilter cop neighbor, Officer Abel Turner. Turner disapproves of the couple's interracial relationship and is determined to drive them away, but as the harassment turns violent, the newlyweds have no choice but to fight back.

Review:

The reason to see this movie is Samuel L. Jackson!
Boy, does he play a great bad guy! (though I really shouldn't call him "bad" - more of an antagonist really)

Samuel's performance is such that you can see his conscience warring against his emotions, right through his eyes. You, as a viewer, know that he is going way overboard, and you can tell that Samuel knows it to, yet he doesn't stop himself!

My favorite scene in the movie doesn't have anything at all to do with his "neighbor issues" - it is when he is on duty, chasing a perpetrator, and he catches him against a fence - Intense! - It is at this point that you realize that Samuel's character is not mentally stable.

Eventually Samuel's petty harassment escalates into larger things, ultimately reaching a violent stage. . .

So, is this movie worth seeing in the theatre?
That really depends on you - there is a background storyline about the California Wildfires that was pretty cool to see on the Big Screen - there was so much smoke in the air, it almost looked like a mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb. Other than that, nothing that you need the big screen for - everything else is in Jackson's performance. If you are a Samuel Jackson fan and don't mind spending the $10 bucks or so, sure - see it in the theatre.
If you are not a very big Samuel Jackson fan, then you can wait for DVD.

In all honesty, the movie was a bit long - though it is well worth it for Samuel's performance!



Jason

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Smallville - Season 8 Premiere Recap & Burn Notice - Season 2 Finale

Well, tonight was the Season Premiere of Smallville's Final Season.

I will say that I am not sure why they are continuing another season, especially one without the Creators [Alfred Gough & Miles Millar] or Lex Luthor [Michael Rosenbaum - who was just as much a part of the show as Clark Kent/Tom Welling]

I had my doubts, yet after tonight's episode, I believe that Smallville is in good hands!! (I know that the guys who took over the reigns have been Producers/Writers on the show for years, so that is a good sign!)

The show opened with three members of the (as yet unformed) Justice League - Green Arrow, Aqua Man, and Black Canary - searching for Clark, who disappeared after Season 7's Finale.

Lex also disappeared, and we find out that the new CEO of Luthorcorp (in Lex's absence) is a female, played by Cassidy Freeman - she seems to be trying to portray a female personification of Lex - I am not sure that it is going to work (then again, I wasn't sure that Erica Durance was going to pull of being Lois Lane, and boy was I wrong there!)

We then discover that Clark is in Russia - minus his powers!!
(Luckily Oliver Queen - aka Green Arrow - is able to track him down and bring him back home. . .)

We also find out that Chloe has lost her healing powers, yet apparently she has gained some new ones in its absence. . .

I am very curious to see how this season is going to play out, especially with them bringing Doomsday into the picture (he will be played by Sam Witwer, who was Crashdown in Season 1 of Battlestar Galactica!) For those who do not know, Doomsday is the being that ends up taking Superman's life! (This season should definitely be interesting. . .)


Tonight is also the 2nd Season Finale of my Favorite Show on television right now - Burn Notice.

If you have not been watching this show, definitely check it out!! Season One is available on DVD!

Well, the finale is about to start. . .

Jason

Starship Troopers 3: Marauder

Genre - Science Fiction
Year Released - 2008
Running Time - 100 minutes
Directed by Edward Neumeier (his Directorial Debut)
Written by Edward Neumeier (who wrote the Screenplays for SST 1 & 2, as well as Robocop)
Cast Includes:
Casper Van Dien (Returning as Johnny Rico)
Jolene Blalock (Commander T'Pol on Star Trek: Enterprise)
Stephen Hogan

Rating: 3 Skulls

Plot Summary:

The War Against The Bugs Continues!

When a Federation Starship crash-lands on the distant Alien planet OM-1, its passengers - including Starship Leader Sky Marshal Amoke and pilot Lola Beck - find themselves stranded and their only hope for salvation lies with Col. Johnny Rico. Now Rico - the hero of Planet P's Bug Invasion - must mobilize a team of Troopers for a death-defying rescue mission.

Review:

First, let it be known that I absolutely love the 1st Starship Troopers - Directed by Paul Verhoeven (who also directed Robocop & Total Recall) in 1997 - that movie was based upon the Novel written by Robert A. Heinlein (which was a great read as well)

A couple of years later (1999 I believe) a CGI/Animated Series, called Roughnecks, was created - chronicling the war against the Bugs. I thought that Roughnecks was pretty cool!

Then came Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation, in 2004, which received a lot of flack from "the fans" I thought that the movie was decent (definitely not as bad as everyone claimed at the time) It was a Sequel "in name only" - there is no need to see Part 2, before seeing Part 3, as Part 3 is a closer sequel to Part 1, than Part 2 was [get all that?] :-)

It's A Good Day To Die!

Now, we have been given Starship Troopers 3: Marauder which is actually "Presented By" Paul Verhoeven (why didn't he just direct it himself, I wonder - has he even directed anything since Hollow Man?!?) I often find that when a Director "Presents" another movie - that movie generally winds up being mediocre, at best! Such is the case with the third installment of SST. Ed Neumeier did a fine job directing, I guess that I would just like to see Verhoeven step back into the director's chair.. . . The movie obviously had a lower budget (generally what you get when straight-to-DVD) The CGI Effects were not very good - they seemed on par with something that you would see on the Sci-Fi Channel, and the movie had a somewhat hokey ending. . . I need to stop here, because it sounds like I am trashing the movie, when really, I'm not! The movie was good, it just had some "issues" :-) Let me leave you with some cool photos of shots from the movie:


The best scenes were on the beaches of the Alien Planet OM-1

The Marauder's Suits were Awesome!!

So, if you are a Fan of the Starship Troopers Universe, check this movie out and leave me a comment with your thoughts, once you have watched it!

Here is a Trailer for Starship Troopers 3: Marauder:


Thanks to my friends Bill & Fred for both helping me out with the whole "trailer issue" :-)

See you on the bounce Trooper,

Jason

UFC Fight Night 15(?) and The Ulimate Fighter Season 8 Premiere Recap

My wife and I are both huge MMA fans, so we have been looking forward to tonight's line-up on the Spike Network. Tonight was Spike TV's 8th Season Premiere of the UFC's Reality Show - The Ultimate Fighter, but before the Premiere was another LIVE Fight Night!

Here is a recap, as well as my thoughts on the fights:

Light Heavyweights Houston "the Assassin" Alexander vs Eric Schafer - I thought for sure that Houston was going to win this fight. He started off strong, but Schafer was taking the punishment! Eric then turned around and submitted Houston with an Arm Triangle - Houston tapped out with only 7 seconds left in the round! :-(
All in all, a great way to start off the night!

Middleweights Ed Herman vs Alan Belcher - 1st, I have to ask (if you saw the fight) What was up with Belcher's shorts?!? (he had the bottoms pulled up inside the top, with the top of the shorts rolled down or something - very strange!) Anyway, I was betting on Herman to win the fight. I pretty much gave Herman the 1st round, as well as the 3rd round (the 2nd round could have gone either way) So I was surprised when Belcher was announced the winner by Split Decision - I feel that this was a wrong call!

Next up was my Favorite Weight class - the Lightweights - Clay "the Carpenter" Guida vs Mac Danzig - I like both of these fighters, however I was going with Guida on tonight's fight... The 1st round could have gone either way - I probably would have given it to Mac, as he was more technical in the fight. I feel that both the 2nd and the 3rd round went to Clay, so when he was announced the winner by Unanimous Decision, I felt like that was a Good Call! Clay was Slamming Mac left and right during those last two rounds! :-)

The Main Event was Lightweights Nate Diaz vs Josh Neer - Again, I like both of these fighters, yet I had to go with Nate, as I love watching him fight! I love the way that Nate is constantly on the look-out for Submissions and the way that he transitions from move to move, out of the blue! This was an Awesome Fight, with Nate winning, by Split Decision.

Dana White (President of the UFC) announced during the night that on December 10th, LIVE on Spike TV, the UFC will hold a 3-hour "Fight for the Troops" in Fort Brag, to help raise money for the troops. . . the Card has not yet been announced, but I am sure that this night will be something to look forward to!

After Fight Night, Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter Premiered - this Season's Coaches are Heavyweights Antonio Nogueira and Frank Mir (who will both fight for the Heavyweight Belt, after the Season Finale - Antonio currently holds the belt. . .)

32 Fighters (16 Light Heavyweights & 16 Lightweights) were gathered together. They each are paired together to fight one another, with only 16 Fighters making it onto the show!

Tonight's Premiere Episode started off interestingly enough with Dana White welcoming everyone - before he even finished the welcome, a fighter passed out - apparently, he was not expecting Vegas' 105 degree heat. . . even though that was pretty funny, he proved himself inside the Octagon, defeating his opponent and making it onto this season's show!

I immediately pegged a fighter - I wish that I could tell you his name - Kristoff (not spelled right! - something like Krzyst...) Before he even fought, I told my wife that he would definitely make it onto the show - just the way he carried himself - Sure enough, he fought 1st and destroyed his opponent!

My least favorite fighter so far was Jose somebody (they called him "Freddy") I just did not like him (I don't really know why) and I am glad that he did not make it onto the show - Sorry. I am not really too keen on the guy that beat him either. A Super Cocky Fighter (I don't mind Confident) this guy was just, in-your-face, cocky - we'll see how he holds up - the Coaches seemed to really like him. (Another thing, I have a hard time respecting a Fighter who paints his toenails! I know, I know, I love Chuck Liddell and he paints his. . . WHY?!?!?)

Some other things to note:

Clay Guida's Brother Jason Guida attempted to make it into this season, however he showed up at 217 lbs and needed to cut weight within 24 hours to 205 lbs - he weighed in at 207 lbs and was off of the show. . . it's his own fault - why would you show up 12 lbs overweight?!?

Rashad Evan's Brother Lance Evans tried out for the show as well - he obtained a rib injury during his fight and could not continue. . . off the show as well. . .

Well, that about wraps up my rambling! :-)
[Just looking forward to the continuation of this season - next week!]

If you too are an MMA Fan and caught any of tonight's fights, be sure to leave me a comment with your thoughts as well :-)

Jason

Roman

Genre - Drama/Thriller
Year Released - 2006
Running Time - 92 minutes
Directed by Angela Bettis (her Directorial Debut)
Written by Lucky McKee (who also wrote May as well as Sick Girl)
Cast Includes:
Lucky McKee (who directed May and Sick Girl)
Kristen Bell
Nectar Rose

Rating : 3 Skulls

Plot Summary:

Roman is a lonely guy who just wants a little love and happiness - and an escape from his day-to-day existence as a factory welder.
When his obsession with a pretty neighbor ends in murder, Roman struggles to hide his deed and pick up the pieces of his life.
But now someone else has their eye on Roman and he's about to discover what obsession really means.

Review:

When I first saw May, back in 2003, I immediately fell in love with both Angela Bettis and Lucky McKee (both of whom are on my "would like to meet someday" list)
Lucky McKee is the writer & director of May and Angela Bettis played the lead role. (for those of you who have never seen May, you may know Angela from Tobe Hooper's 2003 Re-make of The Toolbox Murders)
For those of you not familiar with Lucky McKee, he basically solidified himself as a true Master of Horror with his 1st Season episode (of MoH) Sick Girl (again, starring Angela Bettis)

In Roman, Angela Bettis and Lucky McKee switch roles - Angela has become the Director and Lucky the Lead Role.
The 1st thing that I thought of when I started watching this movie was that Lucky McKee must be one tall dude! [either that or both Kristen Bell & Nectar Rose are really short] :-)
Lucky did okay playing Roman - he is one of those directors who are far superior behind the camera (i.e. Quentin Tarantino) than in front of one.

I am not really familiar with Kristen Bell (I know that she plays the lead role of Sarah in Forgetting Sarah Marshall - which is in my Netflix Queue - and that she is in the American Re-make of Kairo (aka Pulse) which I have not seen because I am pretty sure that it will be a clunker like almost every other American/Japanese Re-make. Based on Roman though, I thought that she did quite well.

Nectar Rose [her parents must have been hippies] on the other hand, in my opinion, stole this movie! During the movie it kept bothering me that she looked so familiar, so I looked her up on http://www.imdb.com/ to find out that she was an uncredited stripper in Independence Day and was also uncredited as Marilyn Monroe in L.A.Confidential. Well, she has come a long way from her uncredited days! In Roman, Nectar plays a crazy chick obsessed with death (Saturdays are for Chili Dogs in the Cemetery!) Her character's obsession reminded me a little bit of Cameron Diaz's character in Vanilla Sky - far out there!!

For those of you who are already Lucky McKee fans, you will be pleased to see that both Mike (Lucky's real-life father) and Jesse Hlubik (both of whom were in May and Sick Girl) return as Roman's fellow co-workers at the welding factory. Another co-worker was Director Chris Siverston (who directed the awful I Know Who Killed Me and then redeemed himself by directing Jack Ketchum's The Lost.

Ben Boyer (who was the Composer on Sick Girl) played Russ, Roman's Landlord, who watches porn - in surround sound - 24/7! Pretty Funny! :-) There is also a deleted scene with James Duvall (who was also in May, as well as Donnie Darko and also The Doom Generation)

All in all, if you are a fan of Lucky McKee's, I think that you will enjoy this movie. It was not as good as May, though it was a perfect directorial debut for Angela Bettis. If you are not a fan of Lucky's, but you like your dramas dark, then you too may enjoy this film. . .

[I am awaiting a friend's reply on how to add Trailers to my Blog. . .] :-)

Jason

Monday, September 15, 2008

Carved: The Slit Mouthed Woman

Foreign Film from Japan - Japanese Title: Kuchisake-onna
Language - Japanese
Subtitles are in English
Genre - Horror (Foreign)
Year Released - 2007
Running Time - 90 minutes
Directed by Koji Shiraishi
Written by Koji Shiraishi & Naoyuki Yokota
Cast Includes:
Eriko Sato (who is also in Cutie Honey - currently in my Netflix Queue)
Haruhiko Kato (who is also in Kairo - Japan's Pulse)
Miki Mizuno

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:

30 years ago, a Japanese suburb was terrorized by the vengeful spirit of a woman in a surgical mask who asked her victims, "Am I Pretty?" before slaughtering them.

Now, children in the community are disappearing again, leaving police and teachers to discover the reason and put an end to the new wave of carnage.

Review:

When The Ring first came out, in 2002, I absolutely loved it!!
I immediately went out and bought Ringu (the 1998 Japanese movie that it is based on) and I then rented all of its sequels. After watching those, I then bought Koji Suzuki's book that Ringu was based on.
Needless to say, all of this culminated in my love of Foreign Horror. (Unfortunately, aside from The Ring, every American Re-make of a Japanese Horror Film has failed miserably, in my opinion.)
I eventually gravitated from Japanese Horror, to Korean Horror, to German Horror, to French Horror, etc. The French, I believe, are currently producing the Best Horror Films out there, right now (films such as Haute Tension, Them, Frontiere(s), and Inside)

Browsing through my Netflix Recommendations, I came across the film that I am about to tell you about - Carved: The Slit Mouthed Woman - this movie is actually based on an actual Japanese Urban Legend, which makes it that much more interesting. Like I mentioned in the Plot Summary, it is about a woman who appears, suddenly, wearing a surgical mask and wielding a pair of scissors that have got to be 2 feet long! (I kid you not)
Why she asks, "Am I Pretty?" is never explained though. . .
What makes this woman even more Freaky is that she has the capability to possess others, so even if you do manage to kill her, she merely jumps into another body, which then actually becomes her - mask, scissors, and all.


This movie relies more on Story than on Gore (which I think is better anyhow) There is actually an underlying morality tale about child abuse woven throughout the story.

If you are a fan of J-Horror, then I definitely recommend this movie.
If you are not familiar with J-Horror, this movie would not be a bad introduction.

I was going to provide you with a Trailer for the movie, in case I peaked your interest, however I have not yet figured out how to add a trailer to my Blog - please bear with me! :-)

Jason

Friday, September 12, 2008

Death Magnetic

Rating: 5 Skulls (see my Rating System, to the right) this one is a Must Own!

I woke up this morning to a brisk 64 degrees. (for those unaware, the family and I are currently in Wisconsin) Being from Florida, I am welcoming the change in weather!
What better way to start off the day of Metallica's 9th Studio Release?!? :-)

In my opinion, Metallica is the Best Band EVER!!! It is hard to believe that they have been around for 25 years now!!
I have been looking forward to this new album for months now, and I must say that it is well worth the wait!!! (though I was a little disappointed that Best Buy was not carrying the Limited Edition Coffin-Box Set, which had extra stuff, such as another CD with Demos, a Making-of the Album DVD, a Poster, T-Shirt, etc.) Oh Well, after having listened to the album, I am still content!

The Four Horsemen have gone back to their roots with this release - It is Fast, Hard, and Heavy!!! My Favorite Metallica Album, so far, has always been Master of Puppets - after listening to Death Magnetic, there is a possibilty that this may change. . . time will tell. . . I am one of those who lets the music float around in my head for a while - what is my favorite song today, may not be my favorite song a month from now.

Having already heard a couple of the songs from the album already (The Day That Never Comes, Cyanide, and My Apocalypse) I can tell you that Cyanide was my favorite. Now, after having listened to the complete album, I think that my favorite song, as of this posting, is going to be Broken, Beat, and Scarred - listening to it for the first time, I found myself shouting along ~ Show Your Scars. . . ROCK ON!!! :-)

I think that the deepest song, lyric wise, is probably The Judas Kiss (again, I've only listened to the album once)

I was also thrilled to hear a 10 minute Instrumental - Suicide & Redemption - just like back in the good 'ole days! :-)

[For a song-by-song review, visit my good friend Bill's Blog at http://fxguy.livejournal.com/]

Speaking of Bill, listening to this album brought back memories of when he and I, along with group of friends, used to play the role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade into the wee hours of the morning, with Metallica blaring in the background! Good Times!!! :-)