Archive for » May, 2009 «

Sunday, May 31st, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

Let’s get this out of the way. This movie? It made me giddy. It made me enjoy a night at the theater more than I have in quite awhile. And I go a lot. “Drag Me to Hell”? Loved every minute of it. Sure, it sounds fanboyish for certain and I’ll be honest, it really is. At the same time though, getting Sam Raimi back behind the camera for a horror flick is an event worthy of dreaded fanboyism. I’ll do my best to tell you why I liked it with minimal squeals and giggles.

There are many types of horror films out there. Some have a slow building brand of fear that gets under your skin, gives you goosebumps. Others aim to repulse you with blood and guts and other disgusting attributes. For “Drag Me To Hell”, Raimi dove into his well worn bag of tricks and gave us a jump scare thrill ride that got to even the hardest of horror nerds. The key element to “Drag Me To Hell” is to catch you off guard and startle you quickly and surgically. Kicking it off straight from the opening title screen, they leave no doubt that you’ll be jumping out of your chair repeatedly, and they do it pretty damn well. It got me to jump several times. Ask the Mrs.; I’m pretty desensitized to it all.

It was a well publicized fact that this one was going to get the dreaded PG-13 rating and the worry was palpable across the internet. There have been very few *good* PG-13 horror films to come out. Whether it was the fact that it was Sam Raimi, superstar director, causing the ratings boards to slack a bit or the fact that he really is that good, the boundaries of the PG-13 brand of mediocrity was pushed to the edge and perhaps over some. Gone is any bonafide snot-like pus and gore that the man is known for from such classics as “Evil Dead” as well as over the top violence. It wasn’t needed though. He still manged to paint a distinct and clear picture as to what happened and in many cases, we still got to see it. For me, what helped him to redefine the PG-13 boundaries was the use of audio to make the viewer uncomfortable. At times it is overly loud which is the point. Dissonant chords swelling into a blasting cacophony forces the viewer to cringe along with our star Alison Lohman. This takes the place of the blood and guts spewing forth for an hour and a half and works well. At other times, the sound is used effectively with the demonic presence that is stalking our starlet making the moments even more unsettling. An all around good show that helped to accentuate the positive in the mix of old fashioned latex and CGI effects.

In the acting department, star of the movie Alison Lohman centers herself solidly in a new found role of scream queen. Fully engrossing in her tormented state yet still managing to capture the goofy humor that is a trademark of Sam Raimi horror, she fit in well. The rest of the cast are meant to be not much more that set pieces, but they do quite well. Especially in the case of Lorna Raver, the lady cast in the unfortunate role of Mrs. Ganush, the gypsy lady who gets Lohman in trouble. No offense to Ms. Raver, but she was downright nasty in this flick and the lady fully engrossed herself in the role and did a stellar job. She’ll make you feel for her and turn around repel you in disgust in the same breath making the film all the more enjoyable.

An important note to those that have not been indoctrinated to Sam Raimi or the “Evil Dead” series. “Drag Me To Hell” is a cousin to these early films in every way. It is not a straight up serious horror flick. It’s not a flick that is meant to make you think or to force you to dig into it deeply. The entire film is there for you to enjoy on the surface and they have only one thing in mind; to make you jump. Repeatedly. At the same time, there is a trademark sense of humor that comes with a Raimi film too and it is present here as well. You’re going to laugh. You’re going to laugh a lot. It is all a delicate balance and with this movie, it is the perfect example on how to do such a thing well.

“Drag Me To Hell” is a great flick and the best time I’ve had at the movie theater in quite awhile. I jumped a lot, I laughed a lot. I even enjoyed “Mac Guy” Justin Long. This is a perfect date movie in that I guarantee you that your girlfriend (or boyfriend) will be holding on for dear life through out the film. This is a movie that you definitely want to see in the theater with a large crowd, it ads to the experience.

With all that said, Sam Raimi and Alison Lohman can drag me to hell anytime they want.

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Sunday, May 24th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

“True Blood” made a big splash when it hit airwaves. Author Charlaine Harris brings a heavy following from her long established book series, Anna Paquin brings in some of her own and HBO series pretty much scream quality. So, it seemed like a given. Mix in the supernatural aspects what with Vampire politics, shape shifters and who knows what else out there, the series more or less hit the ground running.

For myself, I enjoy TV series a lot with one caveat; I tend to enjoy watching television on my own pace. There’s something special about being able to blow a Sunday afternoon having your own personal marathon. When “True Blood” first came on the air I watched the first two episodes but couldn’t be bothered to have to schedule my Sunday nights every week. Now that the Season 1 DVD set has finally landed, I can enjoy my own little marathon which I have.

“True Blood” lends itself to the back to back viewing. The writing flows together in such a way that when viewed as such, the story comes across as a better whole. In hindsight, I don’t know that I could have enjoyed the show as much as I have watching them back to back. Regardless, it’s all still a great show.

As far as the DVD set goes, we have a hefty six disk set containing all eight episodes. The transfer quality is fine and dandy as is the audio. This set is light on extra features aside from some audio commentaries from the likes of creator Alan Ball, but there isn’t much else that you haven’t seen before on HBO. If you’re a fan though, then don’t hesitate. Snatch it up.

If you’re like me and have been waiting to watch this series at your convenience or are a non HBO subscriber, grab the set. For Sookie Stackhouse fans this is a no-brainer.

Stay tuned here to Cinema Fromage for a more detailed look at the series as a whole once my season 1 viewing is complete!

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Monday, May 18th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

“Killshot” is a pretty natural fit for me. It has a lot of things I like, such as Thomas Jane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Diane Lane, and Rosario Dawson. It even has Mickey Rourke which I like but not quite as much. Combine this top notch cast with a screenplay based on an Elmore Leonard novel and you get a pretty enjoyable crime flick with some pretty great performances.

As a story, “Killshot” is pretty straight forward. Rourke plays a seasond hitman on the lam from a rival mafia boss. It seems he killed one person too many on his last hit. As he lays low, he happens across Joseph Gordon-Levitt, an insane criminal with no sense of order or style. Feeling a familiarity with the younger killer, Rourke takes him under his wing and together they attempt to extort money out a real estate agent. When they arrive, they happen to mistake Thomas Jane as the agent. He’s only visiting his wife, Diane Lane at work. The job goes foul, the criminals flee. Rourke is a professional though; he can’t leave witnesses to his crimes alive.

As I said, pretty straight forward as far as hitman movies go. With this kind of plot, the attention falls squarely onto the shoulders of the cast to carry it through. In “Killshot”, they manage to do a pretty damn good job of it. There are several undercurrents at play here between the characters, such as Jane and Lane’s failing marriage and their being forced back into each others company under the witness protection program. They are both endearing though Lane isn’t really doing anything she hasn’t done before here. Thomas Jane however does take a new turn as a out of luck and past his prime steel worker still hoping to pull his marriage back together. Dare I say it, he’s a bit loveable and you easily fall in to feeling bad for the guy.

The real excitement here comes from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and surprisingly, Mickey Rourke. As I said, I like Rourke for the most part. He generally tends to rely too heavily on his tough guy routine which just makes him come across as comical. Here however, he has a quiet danger that runs underneath the surface; restrained, held in. You feel he is a dangerous man, methodical in his murder, detached and unfeeling. Rourke handles it quite well and goes a long way towards making this movie teeter into the enjoyable catagory over merely watchable. When paired with Gordon-Levitt’s unhinged maniac, the two play off each other well. Gordon-Levitt is trouble and lives it. He’s frenetic and haphazard, he’s unpredictable, he’s dangerous as well but for an entirely different reason.

Other than the cast, there’s really not much to say about “Killshot”. It’s a good story if not a groundbreaking story. It really relies on the cast to make it work. You’ll find yourself sucked in pretty easily and there are a few jolting moments later on in the film that work nicely just as the film manages to lull you into a rhythm. An above average crime drama to be sure.

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Friday, May 15th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

Been a busy week for me over at my other home away from home, Bloody Good Horror. Another Review, podcast happenings and blog postings galore. So, I’ll share the basics here with you and be sure to head on over to BGH for the full meal deal! Like what you read, be sure to comment, let em know.

First up is Episode 73 of the Bloody Good Horror Podcast where we discuss the ins and outs of George Romero’s “The Crazies”. Not my cup of tea surprisingly enough. Next week we look at “Donkey Punch” which should prove interesting.




I took my turn at the review chair once again (it’s every Thursday, be there or be square) with a look at 2007′s Tooth and Nail. Not a half bad little horror flick. Check for the full review.







Tuesdays are my ongoing DVD column over there, The DVD Bargain Bin. It goes up every Tuesday on new DVD day, so check it out. This week only 4 DVD’s to hit the shelves, hit up Bloody Good Horror for all the nitty gritty.





This week I’ve moved into my newest office at Bloody Good Horror as I’ve now moved in to the Comics department as well. To kick things off I gave Radical Comics Hotwire #3 the once over and found myself rather intrigued.







Continuing my not so hostile takeover of the BGH Comics Department, today I looked at the new zombie western title from Moonstonebooks, Rotten. I’m particularly excited on this one. Good concept.







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Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

Life as a ‘Star Wars’ geek is rough. I know, I’ve lived it. “Fanboys”, the 2008 geek opus had a long road to tow to get a release. Plagued with a number of delays, re-shoots and other unexplained issues, it seemed for awhile there that Obi-Wan would be their only hope. Thankfully, the force was strong with this one as it finally sees a DVD release on May 19th.

I’ll be perfectly honest here; “Fanboys” isn’t going to be for everyone. It follows a fairly standard road trip comedy formula. It IS a decent movie to sit through, but unless you’ve lived the life of the obsessive “Star Wars” nerd you may have a hard time getting into the movie. Standing on its own, stripped of the nerd jokes, the movie is still a passable comedy. It looses some of its luster though and becomes run of the mill. The “Star Wars”-centric jokes are what make this one stand out on its own which is going to be off putting to those that are not fans or even unfamiliar.

Four nerdy friends decide to embark on a dream that has festered in their minds since the fifth grade; road trip across the country to Skywalker Ranch and steal the rough cut of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. They’re too eager to wait. Setting off, they get into many contrived escapades including a few Trekkies, insane pimps and all sorts of craziness.

As I said, there is nothing new here for the comedy road-trip genre, but that’s okay. It’s safe to admit that you’re really here for the “Star Wars” jokes. While the main plot is not going to wow you, the gags will. Our four nerds are carried off quite well. Dan Fogler’s Hutch is uncanny; I’ve now a guy or two that was just like him. All the way down to the tape case filled with nothing but Rush. Throwing in Jay Baruchel and Sam Huntington ads some more nerd cred to the cast, both being familiar from previous nerd roles. All carry off the anti-social and obsessed side of the characters to a T. As I’ve said, I’ve seen these people before; go to any “Star Wars Celebration” convention, you can see them too!

I’ve got to admit, the first two acts of “Fanboys” left me feeling pretty overwhelmed. The movie suffers from a slow start and flat jokes. It’s not until late into the second act that things start to pick up and thankfully they pick up enough to make the wait worth it. With a ton of cameos thrown in to spice things up, little things like the many faces of Seth Rogen and a ginger wigged Ethan Suplee acting as AintitCoolNews’s Harry Knowles are worth a laugh. There’s some good writing in these last acts weaving in many facets of nerdom that are nice and subtle if you’re hip to the lingo. But once again, if you’re not part of the ‘scene’, you may find yourself a bit bored and left behind.

I enjoyed myself quite a bit by the end of “Fanboys”, even despite the fact that they are obsessing over a movie that came out in 1999 and is loathed by many. This last bit of irony helps make the absurdity a little more absurd and is even addressed before the credits role. It’s worth a watch if you’re into “Star Wars”, probably worth a watch if you’re into nerdery as well.

If nothing else, this movie serves to prove one thing for sure: Kristin Bell in a Slave Leia costume? Yah, the force is strong in her too.

Monday, May 11th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

In the event of an emergency, please stay tuned to this channel for further instructions.
Zero Hour for this Extinction Level Event, henceforth known as ELE, has been calculated to fall in exactly 17 days.

Again; during this time of emergency it is advised that you remain indoors with windows and entryways sealed. Should you be approached by a person or persons showing the prescribed signs of infection, please flee the scene immediately.

Stay tuned to Cinema Fromage for further instructions.

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Monday, May 11th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

In Jason Statham’s first outing as Chev Chelios I was blown away. I loved the insanely over the top action, I loved the character and even though it wasn’t believable at all, I loved the story too. At the end of ‘Crank’ we were teased with the possibility of Chelios surviving his mid air free fall. Turns out, he did.

There really wasn’t any where to go with ‘Crank 2′ except crazier; more violence, more T&A, more of Jason Statham and Amy Smart doing it in public. In essence this sequel is the exact same movie as the first, only with different scenery. In this case that’s not really a bad thing since it’s their unique brand of entertainment we’re looking for. The key is to not go in looking for something deep and thought provoking. Just go in and plan on watching stuff explode and having a good time.

With that in mind, I still find myself torn after watching. On one hand I loved the continuation of the madnes, the frenetic paces, Statham’s ‘bad-ass-itude’. On the other, I don’t know that I’d ever want to sit through the film a second time. Directors Neveldine and Taylor make use of a handful of film tricks and gimmicks that hearken back to the days of seventies exploitation. Jarring camera moves, split screen asthetics, 4th wall breakdowns that spin off to the nonsensical; plenty of moments that add to the mystique of the ‘Crank’ franchise. That’s not to say that these moments spoiled the movie at all. In fact, they helped further franchise into its own unique niche of big screen antics. It’s simply a matter of being great the first time around, but losing it’s magic upon the second.

‘Crank: High Voltage’ is simple mindless fun. It doesn’t pretend to be anything more. It’s great to see Statham and Dwight Yoakam reutnr to their roles and it’s even fun to see some new cameos such as Corey Haim in a wicked awesome mullet. Crazy and awesome and just good enough that I’ll happily be waiting around in a few years to see which part of Chev Chelios the gangs decide to steal next.

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Sunday, May 10th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

I’m a casual Jim Carrey fan. I’ve enjoyed my fair share of his ‘Ace Ventura’ era, I was suitably touched by the ‘Truman Show’ era, and I’ll always love the ‘In Living Color’ days. As of late, Carrey has been trying to turn over yet another new eara, flirting with both dark and serious roles and now the latest; the romantic comedy.

‘Yes Man’ came and went pretty quietly. With trailers focusing on the zany-er moments such as the ‘Red Bull’, the idea is laid down before you even get to the theater. I among others were expecting more of the goofy side of Carrey which may have led many of us away from this one in the the theaters. There are plenty of laughs here, but they’re more of the dialed in variety, more dubdued and believe it or not…Carrey actually acts!

Joining him on screen for this one is hipster queen Zooey Deschanel. Being her usual quirky self, she’s weird, into oddball fashion…really nothing new coming from Deschanel here. For myself, I find her perfectly adorable, but I also think her schtick is beginning to wear a bit thin. She’s starting to suffer from vieweres knowing exactly what to expect from her; she’s always the same character. Dont get me wrong, she was great here alongside Carrey. Endearing, cute and oh so weird; I’d just love to see her stretch her wings a bit, to try something new.

I’m not a romantic comedy kind of guy at all, but something about ‘Yes Man’ drew me to it. Thankfully, it strikes a good balance between shmultz and jokes keeping it light on romance. The story is pretty cookie cutter as these types of movies go. In that customary pre-climax drama point, they play the ‘good relationship takes a turn for the worst when she finds out the truth’ angle pretty low-key. This manages to keep things pretty light and leaves ‘Yes Man’ being an okay way to kill an afternoon.

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Sunday, May 10th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

My mom has her on view on movies that’s pretty unique. She’s pretty much unlike anybody you’ve ever known when it comes to watching a flick. First up there’s the short attention span; she’d rather crochet than sit pay attention to what’s going on screen. There’s also her ingrained fear of a movie having a sad ending! Any time that we watch a movie at mom’s house when we’re in town, the scenario plays out the same:

Mom: Who’s that guy?
Colleen: If you were paying attention Cyndi, you’d know!
Mom: Is he going to die? He’s going to die insn’t he! I don’t want him to die!!!
Colleen: Do you want me to tell you the whole movie?
Dad: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

It’s an ongoing discussion, yet its one that’s stuck with us for years and gives us no end of laughs no matter how many times we go through it.

Even though she doesn’t care about paying attention to a movie or seeing the sad endings, she’s still responsible for a large part of my own movie geekdom. Back in 1977 it was her that had the three year old me standing in line outside the Reese Cinema for the premiere of Star Wars. It was her back in 1984 that drove me up to South Bend to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when it came out. Even in the days before VCR’s were common household items, it was mom that would rent us a DVD player or laser disk player from the library whenever I had a sleepover and load us up with movies. She was a pretty cool mom! Even better, she was pretty open to what I watched too, which was always cool.

Mom was always down for watching a movie though she may not actually watch all of it and she still is today. She’s always up for taking the grand kids out to the movie and loading them up with popcorn and candy just like grandma’s should. The perplexing bit in mom’s movie history comes with the VHS release of 1986′s Hoosiers.

I don’t know for sure why my mom connected so much with this movie. It might have been the underdog going all the way success story, it might have been Gene Hackman. She was never a huge fan of basketball that I remember. This damn movie though…I do not exagerate when I say this: she’s probably seen this movie well over 100 times! There was always a routine in the past. Saturday morning would roll around meaning it was time to clean house. To clean house, mom had to watch Hoosiers. Like clockwork. For years.

The kicker? She still loved every minute of it!

Secretly, my dad and I think that deep down inside, mom was hoping that some time through on her repeated viewings the ending would change and Milan would lose the state championships. She still got that caught up in the final game every time through!

She’s long ago wore out that VHS copy of Hoosiers and it was long sinc replaced by a DVD. I think her addiction has been reigned in over the years although I still think she sneaks in a fix every now and then! Despite the quirks, we still look forward to watching movies when we head up north for the weekend, simply because we know it’ll be a fun experience all around!

So Happy Mother’s Day to Mom! I can assure you that she’s not watching Hoosiers on her special day. I know this because I gave her a copy of Peggle Nights for a mother’s day present and she’s already chastized me saying it’s not nice to give your mother an addiction on Mother’s Day!

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Saturday, May 09th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

It has arrived. It has conquered. It has won my heart. To quote my friend Kyle on his Facebook status last night: “For the first time ever, I think I actually love Star Trek > that Star Wars.”

The time for speculation and general naysaying is over. The results are in, the fat lady’s sung, the end is night; all of it is in tune and ship shape form. As the credits rolled at the end of the just over two hour adventure last night, I found myself excited for a film franchise once again. Everything seemed to click on all cylinders and the movie and every one was on top of their game.

It’s hard to go too into story here without spoiling things, so I’ll do my best to tread lightly. The key plot point though and thing to remember going in is that this is a large scale reboot of the franchise, not simply a remake. They did the reboot better than I could have imagined with certain events happening to sping the Trek universe into a whole new direction. The mastery of this is that it leavse Abrams and friends a wide open slate to do as they wish. We no longer have to worry about what happened in the previous movies. We no longer have to worry about Jean Luc Picard and his adventures. All of it is handled in such a way that this items are now moot. And? It works. It works very very well. So well, I cannot wait for the next round with the new cast in hand.

The New Cast

The biggest thing to come under scrutiny in this new reboot of the franchise is a fresh young cast, filling the shoes of characters that we’ve come to know. Characters we’ve known since 1966. Big shoes to fill indeed. While many may have questioned new comers such as Chris Pine and “Heroes” Zachary Quinto and their ability to take the place of such legendary leading men William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. After sitting through the premiere last night, I hate to break it to Billy Shatner, but there’s a new Kirk in town, and he’s good. Nimoy gets a pass, because he’s in this new reboot and does a kick ass job anyways!

A definite standout was Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy. Quite possibly my favorite of the new cast, Karl Urban’s turn as Bones was pretty amazing. It was an acting job done so well that one friend in attendance didn’t realize it was him until the final credits rolled. We got the customary bones cynisim and one liners; all in all he was great.

Chris Pine as James Tiberius Kirk ranks up there as a stand out here as well. Pine was virtually unkown to me when the announced his casting. This is a very daunting predicament considering the fact that he’s filling Willam Shatner’s Shoes. While The Shat is far from being some kind of master at his craft, he still filled the role with a signature swagger. Pine did away with Shatner’s attitude and brough his own. He was ambitious, agressive, cocky and all around great. At the end of the film when he throws out his nod to the original James T. Kirk; magical.

Zachary Quinto as Spock. There was no question that Quinto would look the part when the pictures first started to it the net, but could he act the part as well? Turns out he could, in spades. He nailed the stoic logic and underlying rage that Leonard Nimoy pioneered and did it gracefully and believably. There’s just enough of himself in the role to make this Alternate Spock his own and he was pretty captivating every moment he was on screen.

Really, every body involved in Trek was great. These three were the standouts for me though that really went above and beyond to suck you in to the ongoing adventure. I do wish we would have seen more of Simon Pegg’s Monty Scott, but you know he’ll be there in spades in the next film.

J.J. Abrams continues to wow the world with his movie making and rightfully so. Taking on the daunting task of of pleasing both newcomers and die hard fans alike, he’s succedded in spades. I’d love to go into full detail on what all I loved in this reboot, but I really want to stay out of the meat and potatoes of it so any of you that haven’t seen it yet can enjoy it to its fullest as I did. Just rest assured that this version of Trek is packed full of action, explosions, compelling drama and plot and a kick ass cast to send it on home. I can easily say, this is by far my favorite flick of 2009 so far. Upon a second viewing, it might even hedge out “The Dark Knight” and become one of my favorites of the last couple of years.