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Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

Going into “Orphan”, I actually managed to have little to no expectations which is a rarity for myself. I knew what the movie was about, I knew who was in it. I just didn’t pay close attention and didn’t care too much one way or the other. It looked sufficiently creepy all while teetering on the edge of being either good fun or absolute crap. Sadly, before going in I knew what was going on here thanks to not censoring myself from reviews well enough, so I will try and avoid that here and give you sufficient warning before we get into that territory. Regardless of this fact, I was surprised to find myself enjoying this movie has much as I did!

The setup is simple enough; a family of four consisting of Peter Saarsgard and Vera Fermiga have gone through a recent tragedy. Their third child was stillborn. Understandably, this is hard on the entire family and leads to many problems for each of them to contend with. Eventually, they decide it best for the family to adopt a child to share their love and so they do; enter Esther. Esther is a quiet Russian nine year old. Dark features, a sweet smile and a knack for art and a straight forward outlook on life endears her to the Coleman family so they snatch her up. At first life at home with their new family member is everything they could hope for. Fun and warm with an occasional outbreak of sibling jealousy. It doesn’t take long however for them to discover that Esther has a dark side and it is soon going to bubble to the surface.

In essence, the setup of “Orphan” is pretty simple. So simple in fact that the trailers make this movie sound exactly like “The Good Son” and “The Bad Seed”. Being the most common statements I’ve read in regards to this movie, this assumption is somewhat correct but ultimately wrong. It does mirror these former films for quite some time in plot and tone but it eventually takes a drastic turn that makes it a film of its own. Where all off these films are in common is the family drama elements. “Orphan” handles this well enough yet it feels like it falls short and stutters a bit. There is a lot of time spent highlight certain aspects of the family turmoil, the stillbirth not being the most prominent. No, they choose to focus instead on the fact that mother was an alcoholic. This does come into play later on and is essential to the story but it still feels overplayed. They harp on this angle repeatedly leading to much eye rolling after awhile. It is small details such as this that are in fact essential but given to much weight that make this movie a bit of a chore to start out with. Thankfully though, it does eventually pick up.

Esther, played by Isabelle Fuhrman, is the lode stone to “Orphan” since she is in fact, the orphan. With the setup of the movie, the whole thing focuses on this young girls performance to pull it through. She’s the one that has to show the many faces, the evil, bring the chills and thrills. You know what? She bears the weight well. Fuhrman, for me, was what made “Orphan” as fun as it was. She handles the many faces of Esther fairly well and goes after them with gusto. As the ending of the film draws near, she manages to work with the changes and adapt to them and still keep things believable.

In reality, the entire cast at work here does a fine job with their parts. All of them are believable and do well with what they have to work with. The problems in “Orphan” lie in the plot and writing itself. As I mentioned before there are aspects that are overplayed. There are also parts of the plot that are overlooked and breezed over as well. This makes the movie feel uneven throughout as it starts to build to its big third act, wavering between slow and heavy and sometimes confusing. Despite this it still manages to be engaging and even bring in a few chuckles and shows definite promise for more to come from the first time writing crew.

It’s at this point that I will warn you that you may want to look away if you have yet to see “Orphan”. This part of the review will contain spoilers and you owe it to yourself to go in fresh. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, just know that overall I enjoyed it quite well by the end of it. It is the third act and the twists within that made the movie enjoyable!

The Third Act.

Okay, so here we are. The tweest. Remember, I warned you.

As it stands on its own, I enjoyed the dwarfism twist of “Orphan” quite a bit. I unfortunately spoiled this aspect for myself before seeing the movie, but it still worked. Knowing what was in store, it actually made the film seem that much more creepy and unsettling, especially when Esther begins to let her freak flag fly. Had I not known this, I think the third act would have still been enjoyable but perhaps a bit less so. They simply didn’t handle the reveal all to well. Perhaps it was the editing that made it feel clunky; they could have been effective with what they had going on. It just felt rushed in hindsight. Regardless, the actual twist in itself was pretty great.

With the idea of dwarfism in play, it is this factor that makes watching Fuhrman at work that much more enjoyable. She handled the completely unhinged portion of the show great and seemed to embrace the craziness perfectly well. As she goes to work, the movie feels to me to take on a more 80′s aesthetic to it with the violence and blood involved. Horror today seems to be a bit more reserved when it comes to this stuff, especially when kids are involved. “Orphan” felt like they took the gloves off and gave the violence a good visceral feel that we don’t get much these days. It never felt like Esther was acting like an evil bitch; she simply was.

Okay, enough spoilers.

“Orphan” surprised me. While it has its faults and some would argue that it technically wasn’t a ‘good’ movie, it was still a lot of fun to sit through once it got rolling. It may feel tough to get into at first but it does reach a point that it starts to pick up speed. Once it does, it slowly snowballs throughout the remainder of the two hour running time to pretty enjoyable ends.

Go see it. It should make for a good Friday night date movie.

Just a reminder, if you’d like to hear some more of my long winded rambling over “Orphan” accompanied by the insight of some other horror confidants, be sure to check out Episode 83 of the Bloody Good Horror Podcast!

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Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

Growing up in a small town in Northern Indiana, a kid grew up with a heavy dose of learning how to entertain one’s self. With little to do aside from housework and chores, many a weekend would pass with much beer and the hangovers to accompany them.

One small feature of our sleepy little town was an abundance of video stores scattered about. One or two large chain stores, and at least three mom and pop shops as well, our choices were grand. One of these mom and pop shops however stood out from the rest, and that was from selection alone.

“The Video Place” had been an establishment for a number of years. When it first opened in the mid 80′s, the store was THE premiere hot spot for movies. Pre-Blockbuster era the mom and pop shops were where it all started in our neck of the woods. With it’s pseudo security bars and numerous movie posters blocking the view inside of the only views into the store. When the doors first opened, I looked upon this place with much wonderment and a need to know what was inside.

When the day came where my step dad finally said “Hey, let’s go check out that new video store!” you can imagine my excitement was high and my imagination was in overdrive. As we pulled into the parking lot and put the old International Harvester Scout II into park, I had no idea what I would truly be in store for. But luckily for you (Perhaps unlucky?) It was a move that can be looked back as historical as it helped to eventually lead us to this website some twenty years later.

As we walked into the Video Place, the first thing to hit you was the smell. A peculiar smell indeed, however not necessarily foul. My foggy recollection seems to think it was mixture of particle board, must and popcorn. Strange indeed. A low budget attempt in all aspects, the owner of the shop strove for cheap and affordable, and that is exactly what he presented. Hand built particle board shelves lined the walls and aisle ways, with a maze of various rooms and sections pre-existing from what ever business happened to occupy the space at the time.

Lined upon these shelves were VHS tapes as far as the eyes could see, complete with cardboard slipcases and sometimes plastic clamshells as well. My step dad being a “I like stuff that blows up” kind of guy, he made a b-line for the action adventure section of the store, as I lagged behind taking my new surroundings like a fat kid that just discovered cake. After all, I had been dying to see the inside of this place for a few months now and here I was standing upon the threshold.

A portly bearded man behind the counter gave me a casual ‘hey, how ya doing, kids section is over there’ as he pointed off to the side. Feet finally in motion I staggered off in the indicated direction. Closing in on the kids section however, something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. There was a door back there and there were even more movies back behind it. Just what could be big enough to devote an entire room to, yet keep it separated off from the main floor of the store? As I cut off my progress and veered off to this forbidden door, my first thought was the same as yours; “Boobies!” You can imagine how surprised I was when I stepped up onto the raised floor of this new room to be greeted by rows upon rows of blood and guts. (The porn section was the door way in the back of the horror room which I figured out soon after.)

To this day I can still see some of the box art that was burned into my memory that day. Wide eyed and amazed, I can still recognize the imagery of many of the flicks to this day. that I always wished I could see them but step dad either deemed them to gory and would bring down mom’s wrath or I myself feared what was enclosed based on the box art alone.

Classics such as:

“Futurekill”

“Night of the Comet”

“Critters”

“I Spit on Your Grave”

“Q the Winged Serpent”

I had discovered a land of fascination and it was in that very room my step dad found me thirty minutes later. I was slwoly attempting to read the plot blurb on the back of every single box. It was a day that would shape my tastes for years to come.

It was this room full of odd and gory box art that started a trend. Filled with fascination and curiosity, I would return to this room every time we stopped in. Many of the flicks I looked upon with such wonderment, I never did get around to renting back then. Either I was too scared or mom thought it was too out there for my impressionable young noggin. Many of them I did get to rent however, and started me on the dark journey of ‘Fromage’ through the years. The ones I didn’t get to rent back then? Why do you think I’m so hell bent on reviewing old movies that many folks have never heard of nor cared to hear about? It was those forbidden jewels from so long ago, nestled snugly away in the mirror walled horror section of the Video Place. Many a time has my wife heard ‘Holy crap! We gotta watch this! I remember the box for this one, I was too scared to watch it!’

Years passed, and the Video Place did not change one single bit. Still managing to get the big money new releases every week, the look and decor of the store never evolved. More run down as the years went by, most began to forget about the store as the town evolved aroudn it. With chain stores opening up in the downtown area, soon this happy little place of my youth was an afterthought and an eyesore to most passers by. For me however, they held something special within and luckily for me I had a group of friends that agreed. And besides, I still hadn’t managed to rent all those flicks in that secret little room in the back of the store.

These days, I still search endlessly for a video shop that held such a magical atmosphere for me. The sterile shelves of the big names such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video fail this fascination. Focused solely on profit, most of the video stores these days hold nothing but hundreds of copies of the latest Hollywood bonanza with the old stuff getting a small afterthought hidden away in the middle of the store. Even then, it’s nothing but straight to video trash and classics they know will rent. The arrival of Netflix came close to this magic with every title imaginable available at the click of a button, but it lacks the personality of the musty particle board smell of the poorly lit back room of that video store from so long ago.

When my friends and I finally hit 21, we had discovered beer in force. Caught up in the rush of bar hopping on Friday and Saturday nights, it was easy to look over the fact that there were still some flicks in that run down little store that I was dying to see. One day a fellow bar hopping friend happened into the Video Place and noticed a new promotion the owner was running in a last ditch effort to bring customers in the door before throwing in the towel for good. The 5 5 5 deal. 5 Movies, for 5 days, only $5.

It was the birth of something special. Which you’ll have to tune in for Pt. 3 to find out!

How the Hell Did This Happen? The Long and Pointless History of Cinema Fromage Pt. 1

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Saturday, July 25th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

I’m an action flick kind of guy. I like to watch fist fights, people shooting guns at each other and things blowing up. A lot of the time, these are the majority of what an action film consists of; a whole lot of flash and little substance. To be honest, this is fine. Sometimes you just need to see somebody else’s chaos and carnage to end your day. Sometimes though, an action movie will give you some meat and potato’s to go with it though and give a little bit of drama, tension and story to go along with it. This generally gives you a well rounded action movie with some depth to it, something nice to stimulate both the ‘things that go boom’ part of your brain, and the ‘things that make you go hmm’ part.

When the trailer for “Taken” first hit, I wasn’t sure what to think of them. The first thing to jump out at me was the idea of Liam Neeson as an action hero. Sure, we saw his wily ways as Qui Gon-Jin, but those were younger days and pretty fantastical fighting at that. Would it be possible to believe him in a real world fight situation? With real people fighting back? The second thing to stand out to me was the fact that the trailers seemed to be dead serous, bordering on becoming a heavy drama with an ex-CIA agent using his brains to outsmart some bad guys. Once again, nothing wrong with this idea in itself, but it felt as if it could easily slip into the dank and sappy depths of a family drama and well…I’m not a fan. Sitting down and letting the film run, after working my way through the character development and the excitement began to snowball, “Taken” surprised me as it managed to turn itself into a good mixture of action movie tropes and proved itself to be one of the most surprising action movies I’ve seen in awhile.

Setting off at a decent pace, “Taken” makes sure to spend some time to setup the characters and the scenario in good form. The do this in just the right amount of time avoiding weighing down the movie with too much development and making it thin and lifeless with too little. IN a mere thirty minutes, we manage to feel sad for Liam Neeson as a father, dislike Famke Jansen as an unfriendly ex-wife and somehow believe that Maggie Grace is a sweet and innocent seventeen year old. With characters to care about, it was pretty easy to get sucked in to the plot lines of the movie.

For me, the highlight of the movie is the fact that at roughly fifty seven years old, LIam Neeson can still kick some pretty major ass. Not only that, it was rather smart ass kicking as well. Feeling much like the frenetic fist fights of the “Bourne” series, the fights were always exciting and fast paced and still managed to be somewhat realistic. Mind you, the movie does suffer from the fact that its lead character is pretty much infallible throughout the entire movie. He continuously takes on throngs of men with nothing more than a pistol and a fist fight and doesn’t really appear to be challenged by all this in the slightest. Throughout the entire film, he really only seems to be on the defensive two to three times and comes across as injured only once that I can remember. He’s a super man and it takes away a lot of the realism the movie had going for it. Regardless, as lopsided as the fights were, they were still great fun to watch, well shot and well choreographed.

While the trailers led me to think that “Taken” would be more drama than anything else, I was still happily surprised at how engaging it was. It seems to fit in well with the “Bourne” style movies with plenty of crazy action, a meaty story and some brains behind it. There is no camp whatsoever here, so if you need some good yuks with your action this may not be the movie for you. If you like Liam Neeson and some solid ass kicking though, you’ll be all set.

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Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

Talk about myself? Yah, I’m really not all that comfortable with it most of the time. Talking about accomplishments, credits, qualifications or expertise; really not my thing. I’ve always been more of a do-er and never gave the thought of writing a bio about myself too much thought. I’ve had a few quick blurbs in the past that I’ve used in published stories and articles but it was quick and done without much second thought. Recently, read: today, my esteemed colleague Illoz Zoc over at Zombos Closet of Horror and Grand Poobah over at The League of Tana Tea Drinkers came to us within the League with an idea. Why not post a bio on the League’s website to help further interest in our own respective sites? Sounded like a great idea sure, I could use any extra interest in Cinema Fromage that I can garner. But that means I then have to proceed to toot my own horn and my excitement tapered down a bit from there!

Falling in love with bad horror films at a very young age, Casey Criswell strives to bring back the classics in today’s modern age of horror remakes. Armed with nothing but a DVD player and keyboard, he charges into battle with his mighty battle cry of “I watch crap, so you don’t have to!” Casey runs his film blog, dedicated to reliving the finest in horror, science fiction, and the obscure at Cinema Fromage.

The problem for me stems from spelling out ones credentials and qualifications because the truth is; I really don’t have any. I’ve never studied film, never done much more than watch a whole hell of a lot of movies and have a knack for remember useless tidbits of information. Sure, I’m educated; I studied music for two years in college then switched to another two years of computer information systems. As you can see, neither are film or writing related! All that I brought with me into this realm of the unknown film blogger was a love for movies, a love or horror and a dream of being a writer. To step out of the pessimistic side for a moment however, I’ve now been doing this for just over four years and it seems to be going pretty well. So that’s definitely a bonus!

To call myself a blogger feels like a misnomer. There are a myriad of variations on the name and all come with their own connotations and meanings. Back in 2005, I decided it was time to pursue a life long dream of being a writer and I had learned by that point that the only real way to make that happen was to do it. With that resolved, the next step was to decide on what to write about. I had read over and over again that its best to write about what you knew. I knew plenty but not necessarily about any subjects that anybody wished to read about. The more I thought about it though, the one thing I did love spending countless hours talking about, be it with my wife, friends or even myself, was movies. Especially horror movies. So why not?

To call myself an expert on horror movies is laughable at best. What I can tell you that I am well versed and dare I say and expert in is what I like. I’m generally not the type that will go with the flow with people and jump on a bandwagon just because; there are specific things enjoy about movies and when those are present, I deem the flick a success. I also don’t fool myself into thinking that my opinion is right either. I don’t expect anybody really to like what I like and for the same reasons I like it. I really don’t! I’ll for sure talk your ear off about it though, given the chance.

So, there’s a start to my panic attack on worrying about writing a bio about myself for the world to see and draw interest into my own blog. It’s not the finished product of course, but it gives me insight on starting the thought process on planning it out. Not to mention, it feels a bit cathartic I guess too as I slowly begin to work my way back into a regular writing schedule. Do feel free to comment all you wish on these meandering posts I begin to post more in depth on why I’ve decided to out myself as a horror movie nerd. To come are tales of a fat kid sitting at home in the country armed with nothing but a VCR and rentals from the local store IN town and a pair of parents that felt it important to not stifle a kid and to let him explore his tastes a bit in his own way.

Thus ends Part 1 of “How the Hell did this Happen? The Long and Pointless History of Cinema Fromage”.

I urge any of you reading this to leave your own tales of budding AV Club Nerdery in the comments below! As the song goes, “We are Family”!

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Monday, July 20th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

I’ve never been a die hard Joss Whedon fan. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve appreciated what he’s done, I enjoyed some of “Buffy”, I really enjoyed “Firefly”, but I’ve never been drawn in to the point that I will go out of my way to watch everything he attaches his name to. Back in February when the show debuted, it seemed interesting, the setup was good. Early buzz seemed lackluster. Combine this with my dislike of watching TV on a schedule and well, it slipped my sights.

The Skinny
“The show follows an organization that employs mind-wiped DNA-altered humans known as Dolls who are implanted with false memories and skills for various missions and tasks. When they are not ‘at work’ they are living in a real life Dollhouse which gives the show the name. One of those mind-wiped humans, a young woman named Echo, is slowly starting to become aware of herself and what’s going on – all the while somebody on the outside is trying to bring the Dollhouse down while getting closer to Echo – possibly not aware that she is one of the Dolls he is after.”

With the release of this DVD set coming out I figured it would be a good chance to give the show a shot. It sounds like a good SciFi setup, it has brunette cutie Eliza Dushku in the starring role and though I’m not a devotee, I do appreciate Whedon’s writing skills. Digging into the show, I was surprised to find myself sucked in fairly quick. Many of the early complaints stated that the first half of the series was stiff and hard to get into while the second half picked up drastically. For myself, I didn’t suffer the same issue. The show felt easy to get behind and had a solid flow. The ‘flavor of the week’ type formula, all setup around whatever role Dushku would be posing as for that episode gave the show some good variety. The action was solid all was handled well by Dushku and supporting cast. Even better was the fact that this was science fiction to its core, yet it was highly accessible to those who don’t necessarily tend to like that type of genre.

The DVD

The “Dollhouse” Season 1 DVD set is a four disk set packed with the entire first season and plenty of extras. As for picture quality and sound quality, both are top notch with full Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. I had no problems with playback and the picture quality was great for a TV show. That is to say, broadcast quality.

There are plenty of extra features on the fourth disk, including the un-aired pilot “Echo”, a never aired episode “Epitaph One” and a number of featurettes and commentary with with Whedon himself.

The full list:

o Never-before-seen episode Epitaph One
• Commentary by writers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen
o Original Unaired Pilot – Echo
o Deleted Scenes
o “Making Dollhouse” featurette
o “Coming Back Home” featurette
o “Finding Echo” featurette
o “Designing the Perfect Dollhouse” featurette
o “A Private Engagement” featurette

The Verdict

“Dollhouse” caught me off guard. I rather enjoyed the show, definitely more than I expected to. This is definitely a show that lends itself to binge watching, that is to say back to back episodes on DVD as opposed to the staggered weekly schedule that all shows suffer from on the big screen. Dushku handles the varied roles she has to play rather well and makes for some good fun. She kicks some ass too!

Worth a possible pick up if you’re a fan and definitely worth a rental.

“Dollhouse” Season 1 streets July 28th with a MSRP of $49.98.

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Sunday, July 19th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

The horror genre, specifically the vampire sub-genre, is home to many low budget horror films. Possibly out striping any other genre for commonality and accessibility, the internet is home to a multitude of them. With the number of conventions and film festivals across the country that give attention to this sect of filmmaking, it’s no surprise. With such a large volume of content however, especially with content that skirts around over used territory, it takes a special film to stand out from the crowd. With Phil Messerer’s “Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries Vol. 1″, the description on the back of the DVD case may lead you to believe that this just another vampire film; once you sit down and give the film a chance however, you’ll find that there is a lot more going on here that gives this biter the legs it needs to pull ahead of the pack.

The Baxters are a seemingly normal suburban family. Daughter Lara is black clad goth teen obsessed with death, vampires and all the trappings you would suspect in such a youth. Helen is the do-gooder of the family; popular in school, good in grades, bright and cheery and the exact opposite of her twin sister Lara. Brother Raymond has issues of his own, obsessed with science and questioning his sexuality and mom, a former Bulgarian figure skater who’s career was cut short by injury. Together they make a nice little oddball family circle, tolerant of one another outside of the general cattiness expected of siblings. As the twins birthday nears, Helen falls ill with an unstoppable nose bleed and all eyes point to Lara in search of someone to blame. Helen fails to recover, the family mourns, but not for long. Helen makes her unholy return as family devolves into confusion and turmoil on how to help the once beacon of life for their close knit circle as she comes to terms with her new un-life.

There is no question that “Thicker Than Water” was shot on a shoestring budget. Simple sets and green actors abound in familiar indie fashion. It is not a film meant to wow you however with high end special effects and amazing makeup work. The key to “Thicker Than Water” lies in its plot which is where they manage to stray away from the typical vampire norms. Gone are the romantic trappings of dark beings stalking through the night, in are the fresh angles of genetics and viral infections. Only the tip of the iceberg, the story continues to distance itself from your standard tropes and sets up a nice little mythos all its own.

Stereotype changes are not the only thing at play either. The family dynamic of the Baxters is established early on as a primary focus of the film. After the return of Helen, the focus remains on that dynamic as opposed to strictly on vampirisim and a vampires escapes. Instead we remain looking upon the family as a whole and how they are all affected by Helen’s condition. Its this factor that gives “Thicker Than Water” depth and something to sink your teeth into. Generally the affect on family is only hinted upon in a vampire film; Messerer has decided to explore it and expand upon it which is what makes this indie horror film a cut above the rest. Sure, it may not have the high dollar style that you are used to in a Hollywood flick, but it gives a moving story with depth to it that is easy to slide into. Also, the characters are well developed which adds weight to this deconstruction of vampire family.

While the plot was good fun and easy to get into, the film does have some faults. These namely lie in pacing and editing, though they do not affect the overall enjoyment factor much. There are times where the monologues and expositions carry on a touch to long leading to eye rolling a hope to move on. Luckily, they happen fairly infrequently and once past, the story rolls on once again. Feeling perhaps over long by the end, the story remains great, it just feels like it could have been told with a few less words. My only real problem with the film came in the form of two jarring interstitials that narrated the plot and jumped us ahead in time. Feeling like an info dump that served only to film in points that they couldn’t film, they broke the flow that was established in story telling. They came across as an after thought and didn’t necessarily fit in with the timeline of the story that they were moving ahead. The scenes before and after the breaks felt like a cohesive whole leaving me wondering if they were really needed. The first worked somewhat as establishing factor, the last just seemed wholly unnecessary. Despite these, the movie still tells a good story and that’s what counts.

“Thicker Than Water” will not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you cannot enjoy a low budget film, you may want to avert your eyes. If you can look past this however, you’ll find yourself enjoying a solid story with few plot holes, a fresh perspective on the vampire mythos and some good jokes as well. There are some twists and turns in the plot too, all handled nice and subtle. Many films in this indie arena suffer from many problems that will cause you to reach for the stop button the remote. “Thicker Than Water” is not one of these films and proves that good movies don’t always have to be high gloss and high sheen.

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Saturday, July 18th, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

I’ve manged to avoid the whole format war until now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not some Luddite stance against new technology or anything like that. It’s just that DVD has always been good enough for me and the price point to jump into a new Blu-ray player has been too high for my comfort zone. For me its always been about the movie itself and not so much centered on the picture quality and extra features. That whole world view on the home video landscape came crashing down today when I came across a player that reached the magical sub-$100 price point I’d vow would be my entry point. That is to say, Cinema Fromage has now entered the modern age and ready to happily watch some films on high def glory.

While I do enjoy high def as much as the next guy, I’ve never been a full on zealot for it. Once again, I don’t really care so much for extra features so that rules out that perk. When it comes down to it though, as much as I love to watch movies, why not watch it in the best quality available? Even better from my first two outings on the machine however is the sound quality. Bringing to life my puny rear speakers like never before, hearing the whizzing bullets of Tropic Thunder or the baning explosions of Iron Man are pretty great and cause many a yell of ‘Casey, can you PLEASE turn it down’ to emanate from the other room. Mind you, I’ve had full 5.1 surround sound going for awhile, it just seems that this player seems to be able to bring it to life a little bit better than before. Whether this an effect of Blu-ray itself, or just the player, I can’t say.

More than anything, this new player gives me a new found excitement for movies in a time that my excitement had begun to wane a bit. Again, this could be a result of the time off I’ve taken from here at the site as of late. It could be the result of a new purchase renewing my interest in the ‘ooo shiny new toy!’ sort of way. (Most likely the case.)

To kick things off, I’ve armed myself with a handful of movies that I’ve mostly seen before, but figured it’d be nice to see again to break in the new player. Besides the above mentioned “Tropic Thunder” and “Iron Man”, this weekend also sees Role Models and Friday the 13th:Killer Cut to burn in the player. A quick trip to the handy Disc Replay down the street also sees us with a classic or two to throw in like Resevoir Dogs and Terminator 2: Judgement Day to give the movie watching fun a nice rounded feel.

Stay tuned here at Cinema Fromage as we start to look into some Blu-ray reviews for here on the site and hopefully a renewed life in the realm of film writing. I can’t guarantee anything, but I feel the excitement growing and the urge to write coming back! (Which, I guess you could take this as proof of!) If you have any top notch blu-ray discs you feel are a must see, be sure to drop us some comments and we’ll check them out!

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Friday, July 03rd, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

With much groaning and bile being spewed over the Hayden Christensen starring action flick Jumper, it was a film that was under my radar. With as much hate as the film garnered and not having much interest in the continuing work of “Mannikin Skywalker”, there was just never any strong urge. I’m generally down with most Samuel Jackson fare but still, not enough to invite myself for pain in suffering. When recently I found myself on the road with little to do and free HBO at my disposal, I figured it was time to take in this little super hero take and found myself mostly frustrated; yet I still found a few things to like.

The basic setup of “Jumper” works. There are definite efforts made to carve off the chaff that typically weighs down films such as these. In some ways it made the film feel rather quick and snappy as far as action films go, jumping straight in to the excitement and wasting no time for heavy character development. We were already privy to the basic plot of the film from the trailers and the film makers take good advantage. At first this process is slightly confusing. We don’t know anything at all about David Rice except for the fact that he can jump around and that Roland the Paladin doesn’t like it. They do a good job mixing in the character backgrounds as the first act progresses and soon you have just enough to make sense. This concept gets pushed beyond effective though as we’re given tiny side plots and characters that fit in well at first, however when we reach the end of the film we realize that they never tied off these side plots. This leaves “Jumper” a confusing story of super hero’s and their evil counterparts.

Sadly, this confusing leaves a bad after taste in the mouth for the viewer and makes the universal panning that “Jumper” received valid. The basic plot points are engrossing and some of the fights and effects are pretty decent yet they pass by too quickly with no chance at depth. There is an entire back story to be expanded on here in further films, but most likely we will never see this exposition on the plot. What exactly are these paladins hunting down the jumpers? What ever happened to the other Jumper, Griffin?

All of these plot holes and unfinished side arch’s could be forgivable if it wasn’t for the complete and utter lackluster quality to the active of all involved. Christensen is wooden at best and fails completely at drawing you in and making you feel sympathetic. When you’ve eschewed plot depth, you must rely on your actors and it simply isn’t here. I found myself more concerned over the out come of the twitchy Jumper sidekick Griffin, played by Jamie Bell. This character was quirky and had edges which Bell used to his advantage. Beyond these two, they’ve packed in some decent named co-stars to bank on but fell short. With the likes of Samuel L Jackson, Michael Rooker and Diane Lane, you’d expect a bit more fireworks on screen. Instead there is a definite feel of actors earning a paycheck and phoning in their performance. No love for the script, no emotion that we’re accustomed to seeing from them, nothing more that working to pay the bills. Again, when you have not plot depth to rely on, you come to place your bets with these folks and they fail to provide the extra support needed.

“Jumper” has sadly lived up to its reputation as a stinker of a movie. The ideas of providing a more stream lined super hero tale with out spandex suits or matching level outfits was a good one, it just fell short in execution. With actors that cared, or could act with emotion, the film could have been a pretty decent way to use up two hours. Instead, we’re left with frustration, confusion and boredom, none of which are signs of a time well spent.

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Friday, July 03rd, 2009 | Author: Casey Criswell

Dynamite Comics has had a successful run at extending the “Armys of Darkness” universe in ink. With an earlier mini series throwing together everybody’s favorite movie monsters battle royale, “Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash”, they’re now set to dive into this slobberknocker once again!

Due out soon is “Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash – The Nightmare Warriors” written by Jeff Katz and James Kuhoric and drawn by Jason Craig.

For those of you like me who missed the first mini, things can be a bit confusing diving into this book at first, but they do a good job of tying the two stories together and setting the stage. We find an Ashley Williams who has retired from monster slaying, content to live at home and throw parties with his bikini clad girlfriend. We gather hints that the Necronomicon was the tie that binds all of the monster world together, government black-ops departments in search of it for weapons testing and a few other small details to help flesh out this well worn universe and make it a little bit of their own.

As a whole, the story seems a bit light and fluff, but when working with a mini series, there’s not that much room to flesh out the heavy details. Here, I found myself drawn in and enjoying the familiar faces with new twists and looking forward to more. There is some decent carnage in issue #1 though it is quick and easy, but its the little touches that make it feel like being back at home at Camp Crystal Lake that make it feel okay. The artwork is enjoyable here as well with Craig doing a good job of conveying these characters that we know every nook and cranny of and bringing them back to life with pretty decent accuracy.

“Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash – The Nightmare Warriors” isn’t going to blow your socks off, especially for new readers that aren’t familiar with where they’ve been before. For longtime fans of the characters however, the story is fun and put together well enough to feel comfortable and familiar and most importantly, enjoyable. Just remember it’s not canon and you fans should be all right.

“Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash” #1 should be available now at your local comic shop running at $3.99.