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Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Author: Casey Criswell

Plague is not a bad movie in the over run world of post apocalyptic viral outbreak movies. It’s not quite a stand out either though. There isn’t much terribly new going on in this Australian zombie flick, but if you enjoy watching how the regular denizens of society change when dealing with such a traumatic event, this movie has some to offer.

Be forewarned, the movie is a bit dry. For a zombie film, there is a wee bit of gore, but it’s far from the focal point. There’s a lot of dealing with survivors interacting with each other, not to mention our main character dealing with some unpleasantness that some times pops up in these types of films.

Possibly the largest fault of Plauge comes in the second half when much of the story falls up on the shoulders of Evie’s husband John. To put it bluntly, the character of John is written to be fairly grating and comes off as highly unlikable as the film rolls on. While you can sympathize with Evie, you can’t sympathize with John it all. Thankfully for us, if you tough out the second act, it all corrects itself in the third with a nice little twist that I didn’t see coming.

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Thursday, June 04th, 2015 | Author: Casey Criswell

I’ve talked at length about the power of memory when it comes to movies. My mind is full of vague memories of studying VHS boxes, wondering about particular movies that I’ve never seen, weird scenes of movies glimpsed in passing. Such is the case with 1986’s Something Wild.

I can remember coming across Something Wild at the Video Place somewhere back in the mid 80’s. The cover was pretty striking and a wee bit sexy. For my teen-aged brain, that was pretty exciting. I never brought myself around to renting it though. It was an image that stuck with me; I’d come across it on subsequent visits to the video store, even other stores. It always stood out as I passed through the aisles.

Perhaps it was the bright yellow used for the cover that drew the eye. Maybe it was that caricature of Melanie Griffith in that black bob cut and the flirty way she licked her lips. Perhaps, it was the way that Melanie looked like Michelle Meyrink from Real Genius, because it was the 80’s and I was a fan of Michelle. I can say it wasn’t Jeff Daniels being his goofy self hanging upside down; I never realized that was him until I sat down to finally watch the film! Regardless, it caught my eye.

Though it pulled my gaze every time, it never enticed enough to get me to pull the trigger and give the film a watch. I can’t say for certain why. The important bit is, I walked away from that VHS box every time with a specific image of the unseen film in my mind. To start, it’s called Something Wild. This was a pretty common title tactic in 80’s comedy and earlier. They were usually straight forward, no nonsense and hinted at exactly what you were going to see. Revenge of the Nerds was exactly that; a case of revenge, served up by nerds! Animal House, gave us exactly what it promised; a house full of frat boy animals. So in the times that I saw the tape, the name Something Wild combined with the over the top portrayal of Melanie Griffith on the cover lead me to believe this would be straight up, typical 80’s comedy.

There were more clues on the cover that lead to this conclusion. Look at the font used for the title. It’s filled with another common 80’s trope; the loud ransom note font. There’s neon, animal print, wild lettering…all stalwarts of your common over the top 80’s funny person. Generally when you saw something outgoing such as this, your mind was directed straight to thoughts of outrageous types, such as Cyndi Lauper. And again, let’s take a look at Melanie on the cover. She’s bedecked in a very mod hair cut, covered in loud colored bangles, necklaces and jewelry. Another common indicator of the time that you’re in for a standard goofball comedy!

With those powers of deduction in mind, I never rented Something Wild and every since those days decades ago, I’ve had it in mind that the movie as a goofball 80’s comedy. Now that the film has been released on Netflix Instant Watch, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that Something Wild was so much more of a movie than I had built up in my mind .

The film, directed by Johnathan Demme no less, opens simple enough. Jeff Daniels is a stressed out business man packed with self importance and impatience. Melanie Griffith is quirky and weird with an outgoing personality to offset Daniels stuffed shirt appearance. She confronts Jeff after he tries to skip out on paying a lunch bill, tricks him into going with her and before long, she’s kidnapping him to show him a wild weekend and to break down his normal walls.

As you can see, the movie does in fact play out like your typical comedy from the era. It doesn’t take too long for it to show that it has a darker side to it. As the movie rolls along, we watch Audrey and Charles drink booze, have sex and concoct spontaneous plans to keep their weekend adventure alive and to get Charles out of his shell. As they get further from the city and the day to day grind, we soon find that Audrey has some ulterior motives. The next thing you know, Charles is posing as Audrey’s husband for her mom and her class reunion.

Once we reach the class reunion portion of our show, is when Something Wild skids into the turn of darkness. Ray Liotta, playing none other than ‘Ray’, arrives at the class reunion leading to the unveiling that he is not only an ex-con, but Audrey’s true husband. He’s got a mean streak to him that is a mile long and he wastes no time into working his criminal wiles on Charles to pull information from him on he and Audrey’s antics.

So, this movie I had thought for sure was a screwball comedy, is actually a bit of a crime thriller in disguise. For a crime movie, it’s very quirky and different, but it’s quite effective in how it fools the viewer into thinking they are heading in a certain direction before spinning off to parts unknown. Mind you, this is not necessarily a thriller nor is it anything that would ever be called gritty. It is an interesting turn in storytelling though that treats us to something that is not quite common.

The characters of Something Wild are its strongest points, all of them well developed and full of multiple facets. Audrey seems cute and endearing at first, but quickly shows that she is quite damaged from an unknown past. Charles seems stuffy and fussy, bordering on typical 80’s power monger, but soon proves that he is riddled with insecurities and uncertainties on his path in life. Ray is the only straight forward character, one that is brutal and mean with nary a good bone in his body. While his turn is straightforward, it’s still powerful. Despite all the characters flaws, by the end of the film you find yourself invested and hoping for the best for this unlikely couple. Plus, with Oscar nominations for all three actors, it proves that these were well written characters that were performed pretty expertly by all involved.

After years of waiting, I may have proved myself a dope by discovering that Something Wild, a movie I had avoided for years, was absolutely nothing like I expected. As they say, and as I often like to ignore, you shouldn’t always judge a book, or VHS tape by its cover. Thankfully though, once I found the time to finally sit down and lay eyes upon it, I found myself treated to a small somewhat worn gem of the 80’s. It’s a good bit of storytelling from Johnathan Demme and E. Max Frye that maybe you should check out too, should you find yourself wanting something…wild for a change.

Tuesday, June 02nd, 2015 | Author: Casey Criswell

It’s not uncommon to talk about films in a sense of merit. Looking at them with a critical eye, perhaps praising them for their use of world building or story telling. Perhaps even poo-pooing them for the very same reasons. Sometimes, it’s fun to look at a film in the terms of the experience it provides.

Movies definitely entertain; that’s what they’re made for! They also make for a an experience as well. These experiences are mostly nostalgia wrapped around a fond memory of your time going to see a movie. It’s still an experience all the same. Let me give you an example.


Thursday, May 07th, 2015 | Author: Casey Criswell

I’m totally aware that I spend a lot of time on various podcasts and such whining about how I’m getting old. Truth is, I don’t really care about getting old. I also don’t actually think I’m ‘Old’. It’s just a fun thing to get worked up over. However, as I do grow older, I’ve come to notice some significant changes in the world of ‘fandom’ or ‘geekdom’, or which ever label you’d like to slap on those of us who get into…well, anything…a bit more than others.

As my body has aged since I first started losing myself in the world of movies in the early 80′s, so too has technology aged significantly over the same number of years. One could say that technology has aged a bit more gracefully than myself, but…let’s look beyond that. Where somewhere in the vicinity of 1980 I watched films such as Stars Wars and The Black Hole hundreds of times because that was the only VHS tapes that were on hand, now days I find myself often times crippled by sheer choice. Where once catching a rare film was a unique event in the development of one’s personal pop culture, these days said rare films can be found in a matter of minutes.


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Sunday, September 22nd, 2013 | Author: Casey Criswell

There once was a song, I’m sure you’re all familiar with it. The verse went something like, “What once was lost, now is found.” Such is my life as a fan of film. The once was, a man who loved to explore the filmscape in search of random treasures, treading through the mire of filth that once happens upon in such a search, and enjoying every smelly kernel of the trip. That film fan was lost though. He became swamped, overwhelmed with the act of keeping up and worrying about things he shouldn’t, such of fans and stats. Said man took a hiatus; he left to find himself, to locate that fan that once lay within him that he celebrated daily. The hunt took some time, but that film fan of old, now is found. The film fan stumbled upon a time where he could once again sit and enjoy a movie because the poster looked cool, of the cast impressive. He apologized to his circle of friends, hoped they would welcome him back and maybe he settled back in, things would go back to the way they once were. Let’s hope the reunion goes better for our intrepid film fan than it did for Yul Perkins in “Hit & Run”.

In my time away, I’d seen trailers for “Hit & Run”. It looked weird; I mean, it featured Bradley Cooper in White Man Dreads! That’s certainly an attention grabber. It also had a cast that caught my eye. I’ve long been fan of Kristen Bell since her days on “Veronica Mars” and Dax Sheppard’s always been hilarious. Knowing that they are real life ‘life partners’ as well, the idea of them working together on screen was a draw. The plot seemed odd enough to be something different, Dax Sheppard plays a former getaway driver who is in witness protection after ratting out is former gang, then falls in love with Kristen Bell in is newly adopted town. Her job situation lands her an interview in L.A., the very town that Dax is sworn to stay out of for his own safety. Thankfully, the contrived setup and stellar supporting cast combined to make a road movie that was at the same time hilarious, rather engrossing and a bit action packed. Really, it all fit together to make a really good story.

As I said, I’ve always found Dax Sheppard to be a solid actor. He’s proven his comedy chops in flicks like “Idiocracy” and he’s proven his more dramatic side on TV’s “Parenthood”. Here in “Hit & Run” he manages to put together a solid character that has a few facets to it. You know he’s done something wrong, yet you still find yourself cheering for him throughout the film. At times, you feel sorry for him and at others, you’re confident he’s going to win the day. He makes a character that’s easy for we the viewers to connect with, which is essential for this type of film. Kristen Bell plays well off of Sheppard. She’s sweet and innocent and you can understand where her frustrations come from when they arrive. You’re engaged throughout her and Sheppard’s ups and downs. Despite Bell’s solid performance though, you find yourself sticking with the film for Sheppard. Seeing as he directed the film, in addition to starring in it, it’s nice to see him stand out so well.

While the main plot of “Hit and Run” was its solid and true story telling, what made this movie so enjoyable for me was the supporting cast. With out this crew, the hilarity of the movie would not rank so high. Tom Arnold, believe it or not, is a scene stealer. His moments are all over the top, but honestly, what would you expect from Tom? Watching him ghost ride his mini van while discharging his fire arm was enough to bring out some loud laughter. When you find out after this fact that he’s actually a US Marshall? Even better. There are some other stalwarts that show up here, such as Kristen Chenowith and Sean Hayes, all of which are great in the short scenes they show up for, helping to round out the movie quite well. Seeing Bradley Cooper play against his stereo type was a nice change. Though his performance was nothing particularly mind blowing, it was a nice change from Mr. Hunky Leading man.

In the end? “Hit & Run” was easy to dismiss form the trailers alone, and I don’t think it fared very well in the box office. The marketing push was short, so I’m not surprised if most readers hear about it and say, “Oh, I remember that flick, Bradley Cooper in dreads…” Thanks to Neflix streaming though, you can go back and give it a watch and I think you’ll find it well worth your time.

So for now, your long lost film blogger bids you a fond adieu. He can’t really say if he’s back full time, or even regularly. He can say that he’s starting to feel his oats once again and that the time away has done him well. The landscape of movie geekdom looks mysterious and new once again, instead of stale and frustrating as it once was. If you’re feeling froggy, he’ll be happy to have your company on the journey once again.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

In the wake of myself trying to make changes for the better, I’ve taken to waking up at obscene hours of the morning and riding the exercise bike. To help pass that time, I’ve been chewing through TV series on Netflix. So far, I’ve gone through the second season of “Supernatural” which was quite a bit of fun, but after copious amounts of word of mouth on my various forums and on my twitter stream, I decided to check out the first season of “The Killing” on a lark.

Man am I glad I did!

Of the many things I heard about the show, little of it had to do with the plot itself. I really had no idea what I was in for when I hit play on the first episode. I’ve heard many comparisons to “Twin Peaks” which lead me to believe we’d be seeing a lot of weird and trippy stuff but that wasn’t the case. The show IS reminiscent of “Twin Peaks”, but that comparison is due to the show’s structure rather than bizarre antics. The entire first season follows the murder investigation of a teenage girl named Rosie who was found brutally assaulted. From there, we watch as this long over arching story unfolds and intertwines the lives of at least four different groups; Detective Li nden and her partner Holder. Rosie’s parents who are understandably devastated by the turn of events. A young teacher that was influential in Rosie’s life. And finally, a politician running for Mayor of Seattle, who’s campaign is oddly roped in to the ongoing murder case.

To put it bluntly; I find the show captivating. The dreary landscape of Seattle is captured pretty masterfully to give the show an underlying current of gloom and doom. This is a great fit as the story is full of gloom and doom. Adding to the depth of the show is the fantastic character development that is going on. Our main character, Detective Sarah Linden is struggling with the case as much as she is struggling with her personal life. You feel that she IS a good detective though, so it’s not inept ability that has kept her from solving the case thus far. Even her partner Holden has an air of mystery around him, knowing that he’s come from the undercover narcotics division and has a shady manner about him.

The plight of Rosie’s parents, played by Brent Sexton and Michelle Forbes, is downright heart breaking at times. They’ve captured the sense of exasperation that you would expect to come with a family who’s had the floor ripped out from beneath them. Sexton who comes from a shady past wants to use his old ways to find closure, but can’t bring himself to do it. Forbes wants to care for and help with her family, but can’t bring herself out of her deep depression. As a parent, this side of the story is very very effective and helps to make for some gripping moments.

Really, now that I think about it, it’s the great character arches that make “The Killing” shine. The plot is straight forward as far as murder mysteries go; nothing crazy or out of the ordinary here. It’s the fact that that they peel back a new layer each and every episode on each and every character revealing just a bit more that brings you back each time. Just fantastic story telling all around.

There is not much in the way of gore here, so if you’re worried about a show called “The Killing” about a murder mystery being too oogey…it’s not very bad at all. In fact, while the events and the effects of said events are truly horrifying…I wouldn’t even label “The Killing” as horror. It’s a mystery/drama. Actually…it’s great TV. That should be enough to get you to watch.

It makes great viewing for my early hours on the exercise bike. When I’m not feeling quite up to getting back in the saddle at 5:30 AM, the promise of the next episode does help to motivate a bit!

Season 2 of the “The Killing” starts up on April 1st over on AMC. Probably not enough time to cram Season 1 in before then if you haven’t seen the show yet but trust me…you NEED to see Season 1 first before you dive in! You can count on me having Season 2 sitting on the DVR until I catch up!

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Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell

Sean Bean is “Sean Bean” in “Yay! Sean Bean is Wearing Armor and Swinging a Sword Again!”

One could argue that Sean Bean has gotten himself stereo typed here as of late. He’s been a Gondorian knight in “Lord of the Rings”, he’s Ned Freaking Stark in HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and now, he’s the knight Ulrich in Christopher Smith’s 2010 feature “Black Death”. It’s pretty standard that if you need an older rugged looking dude to swing a sword about, Sean Bean’s your guy. As stereo types go; who really cares? Sean Bean is really freaking good at the whole knight in shining armor schtick and I for one, am happy to see him reprise the roll again and again!


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Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

With strong praise coming from my friends over at Night of the Living Podcast I jumped on the chance to take in “Suck” when it became available on Netflix. They had talked the movie up quite a bit and I have a bad habit of letting my friends high enjoyment color my expectations. This time around it didn’t burn me. Thankfully, their kind words in Episode 208 were right on the money.

The Winners are on a tour of Canada and the US, hoping to gain fans and win a contract at their showcase gig at CMJ. The fans aren’t really swarming them though. Early on into their tour, the band’s bass player Jen gets invited to a party by a swishy looking goth bloke who happens to be a vampire. Guess what…Jen gets turned into a vampire! Surprising, huh?

Luckily for the rest of the band, once Jen gets vamped out, she starts to draw attention on stage. The fans start to pay attention and life on the road to CMJ starts to look a little better. Things get even better once the rest of the band members start joining the undead ranks, but all good things must come to end. Once the legendary vampire hunter Van Helsing shows up, their rocket to the top starts to fall apart in a hurry.

The key to enjoying “Suck”? Don’t take it seriously. The cast and screen writers don’t take it seriously at all and neither should you! This results in a fun little vampire satire that makes itself stand out from the standard fanged romance fare. Now, the movie does start out a little slow. It has a gradual build that pays off in the end. The story isn’t necessarily new and ground breaking, but it plays well to the setup. It’s your typical “deal with the devil” type of story that lends itself well to the rock and roll world of “Suck”. Trade the standard Satan with a vampire god in the guise of Alice Cooper and you have yourself an entertaining bit of story!

The main cast here is nothing really to get excited about. They do a fine job, you just haven’t heard of any of them most likely. You’ve heard of the supporting cast however. How about Dave Foley. Remember him? “Kids in the Hall”? He’s the band’s manager and he’s a smarmy and hilarious jack ass. Malcolm McDowell? Yah, he’s the enigmatic and hammy Van Helsing. A perfect fit, really. Even Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper and Henry Rollins show up as stereotypical rock type icons and to be honest, they’re pretty damn funny! Iggy Pop is a nice little philosophical stand out and Henry Rollins and his mullet-ed shock jock radio DJ is pretty damned hilarious.

The biggest problem about “Suck” is that it hit the market very close to another vampire comedy by the name of “Vampires Suck”. As you can see, it’s going to be pretty easy to confuse the two when you’re barely remembering this recommendation when walking through the video store. I’m here to tell you though, “Suck” is the better film. Given a chance, “Suck” delivers a ton of good laughs and some great cameos making for a memorable flick. Since the movie showed up on Instant Watch once week after it was released on DVD? You now have no reason not to watch it!

Monday, November 29th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Ah, the holidays. The perfect time to sit around with family and catch up on some flicks. Which was exactly what I did! This time around however, I set my dad up with access to my Netflix Instant account on his Nintendo Wii and well…he couldn’t be happier. Since dad’s an action sort of guy and I had yet to have seen the Boondock Saints, it seemed like a great way to break in the service for him. Turns out, that was a good hunch!

The Boondock Saints – I honestly can’t tell you why I put this movie off for so long. I think it suffered a bit from the “Lebowski” syndrome; I watched about 10 minutes once and just didn’t get it. So I shut it off. Much like the “Lebowski”, now that I got myself to sit through it once, I freaking loved it! Flanery and Reedus were both great and the movie had a healthy sense of humor as well as a nice little world built around it where these two could roll around Boston doling out their own sense of judgment.

What about Willem Dafoe you ask? The man is completely and utterly creepy and it shoes here in this movie. That’s what makes him such a great actor though! The way they introduced him as quirky at first and progressively made him spiral more and more into darkness and oddity was great.

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day – Now; I know a lot of die hard fans hated this sequel. For my viewing the morning after watching the first? I didn’t mind it at all. The story continued on well without feeling like a forced plot turn and the brothers were on par as normal. I would have hoped for more of Billy Connolly this time around, but you don’t always get what you want. On the other side of the coin, I myself enjoyed the inclusion of Julie Benz though her southern accent was a bit…grating. She copped off of Dafoe’s investigation style a bit too much as well and her flair for stiletto heels was a bit weird too. But, she did all right. She looked pretty great in her cowgirl duds too!

Assault on Precinct 13 – I’m a Carpenter fan. I think he has a lot of great flicks. Definitely some classics. “Assault of Precinct 13″ isn’t one of them however. I had seen the remake some time ago and I thought it was all right for an action movie. I always like to see the originals when I can for a good comparison and well…it just doesn’t add up for me. Mind you, the acting is okay and the plot is pretty close to the remake. My problems lie in the dreadfully slow pacing and what seems like tons of wasted time in scenes. In what feels like a full minute, we watch as Ethan Bishop saunters slowly down the sidewalk to his patrol car and then fumbles with his keys as he gets ready to start his shift. Next, we watch for what feels like minutes as he drives through the city. The movie is full of scenes like that that linger on for too long and feel like filler. For myself, this leads to disappointment and boredom which is never good in an action movie.

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Coming out in 1995, “Tales From the Hood” was a movie that flew under the radar for me. The early trailers for the movie made the stories packed within the anthology look weak with the urban themes being forced in to fit the tones of the ‘From the Hood’ moniker. Some fifteen years later, I’ve come to find out that the themes are heavily urban in flavor making a great setting for this group of fun stories.

Trying the four stories together is Clarence Williams III. Portraying an eccentric undertaker in a funeral home, he is confronted by three young thugs in search of ‘the shit’. As he stalls the three men, he shows them the various dark corners of his funeral home, each of which unlocks a different story that eventually seals the groups fate.

Ultimately, “Tales From the Hood” is quite a bit of fun. While it doesn’t’ do anything revolutionary to the genre, it is on par with many films of its kind, especially horror flicks that came out in the nineties. None of the stories are overly scary but they pack a good dark sense of humor and give a creepy vibe throughout. There is a good variety between the stories as well. The tale of a young boy with a powerful imagination is downright touching. Watching Corbin Bernson act like a racist pig rather disturbing, his fate well suited. The harsh reality that flashes through a dying murderers mind; unnerving. All of the shorts manage to push their point without taking themselves too seriously.

The best part of the entire movie is Clarence Williams, hands down. He’s campy. He’s over the top. He’s maniacal and has good comedic timing. He’s just all around entertaining and the glue that holds the whole thing together.

“Tales Form the Hood” isn’t going to show you anything new. It’s going to keep you around for the full runtime though and give you some laughs and some chills. I’d say it’s well worth throwing in the DVD player for a Halloween party and it won’t scare off your non-horror minded friends either!