Archive for » June, 2010 «

Monday, June 21st, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

TV and I have had a long history. I’m by no means the type of person that says all television is trash and should be avoided at all cost. I am the type of person that doesn’t like to be held to a regular viewing schedule if a show doesn’t grab hold of my attention fully. That’s not to say there’s nothing that I watch on schedule; there are plenty of shows that I do watch weekly when they air! I just have a limit as to how many shows I add to the list is all.

Throughout this past season, there are a number of shows that I was told I needed to watch, either by friends or my own wife. I chose to avoid them however until the end of their current seasons. Not only do I not like being held to a schedule for my TV viewing pleasure, I like to binge on my TV choices! What do I mean by binge you ask? I mean it just like it sounds; I’ll save up my recordings until I have an entire season ready to view and knock them out one after another. You could say that TV on DVD is made specifically for people just like me!

Here over the past few weeks at Cinema Fromage, the movie reviews have been coming few and far between, because it’s finally TV season for me. Many of the shows I was vaguely interested in have finished up their seasons and gone on hiatus. So, it’s been time for me to play catch-up. I’ve watched a LOT of TV here as of late, some whole seasons, some seasons just getting started. Here are a few short thoughts on what I’ve been taking in, just in case you’re interested.

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Thursday, June 17th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Terror Inside (Buy here!)
On the surface “Terror Inside” seems like a solid setup for a horror movie. A lone well driller is testing out the soil in a small Florida town, working on a government grant for a scientific study. Everybody is happy and it’s your idyllic country town setting. Everybody knows each other, they’re all aware that Corey Feldman is driving to town once a week to bang Tanya Memme and everybody gets along. After Mr. Well Driller pulls his last sample to send to the local university for study, all while never washing his hands after fondling his sample of mud and touching everything he passes, the town undergoes a drastic change. When Corey Feldman returns to town after a month away, he finds empty streets and houses and a whole bunch of people who have turned into pierced emo kids addicted to pain. It’s all a bit of a downer really.

As it turns out, the true terror inside of this little flick from Joe Landers is a host of bad acting lead by Mr. Feldman himself. Once again, the basic plot is not so bad. Even the dialog contained within is passable! It’s the wooden performance by the entire cast that makes “Terror Inside” a chore to get through. There are some size-able plot holes that crop up throughout the movie. We never really learn the true nature of what has turned everybody in to sadomasochists. We know where it originated from and how its spreading, but we really never get any background on the virus, any setup or finality to it or anything of the sort. Instead, we get to watch as Corey Feldman plays Corey Feldman trying to act like a loving and caring boyfriend. Frankly, it doesn’t work. Where most of the actors, Tanye Memme included, give the disinterested performances that make the movie slow and plodding, Corey Feldman works up his nice guy persona to extreme levels that become near comical.

There are some interesting moments as we see the results of the infection come to a head. There is really nothing in the way of action that happens in “Terror Inside”, but interesting moments all the same. When we watch Feldman’s real life wife Susie Feldman bedecked as some kind of goth princess charging across town on a motorcycle to ram herself purposefully into a telephone pole, it’s a brief flash of excitement in a drab movie. The blood and makeup work for these brief scenes of violence are good and it shows a great deal of what the infection in this small Florida Town is capable of making people do. Had they continued in this direction, the movie would have maintained a more exciting pull to keep us invested. Instead, we ramp back down to rely on Corey Feldman delivering dialog and it simply doesn’t cut it.

“Terror Inside”? Not a fun movie. The ideas are there to make it a decent low budget flick, but it takes a turn for the slow and sleep inducing. None of this is helped by the actors involved and leaves we the viewer a bit angry with our selves for having decided to watch it.

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Sunday, June 13th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

We all know the greatness that was “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ and most of us should be familiar with the continuation of “Cinematic Titanic”. A good chunk of the original MST3K crew, Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl, are back to continue lambasting bad movies that we all love so much.

To compliment the DVD’s that they have been putting out over the past couple of years, the crew have added live shows to their repertoire as well. If you’re like me, living in the artistic dead zone known as Indiana, you’ll probably never have a chance to see one of their live shows. Thankfully, they’ve taken to releasing Cinematic Titanic Live on DVD as well!

“Danger on Tiki Island” is the third Live DVD that the crew has released. For my own personal tastes? This is the best one yet. To put it frankly; I laughed my ass off. I think you will too.

As an extra bonus, the DVD also has a mini-documentary called ‘Between the Riffs’ which is a collection of interviews with the cast. This mini-doc is worth the watch too, just because it’s fun to see the cast talk about riffing on the movies and the entertainment godliness of Frank Conniff.

If you’re a MST3K fan and have’t checked out Cinematic Titanic yet, “Danger on Tiki Island” is a great place to start.

Saturday, June 12th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Okay, admit it; we all love Steve Guttenberg just a little bit at least. His days as Sgt. Mahoney made him a lovable and endearing miscreant. Sure, he shows up here and there in bit parts and cameos, I’ve never seen him headline a horror movie. To be honest, I never really thought of him headlining a horror movie before. The idea is a nice little twist for the guy as an actor and for us as a viewer. It’s fun to see somebody you know so well who embodies a certain characteristic challenge themselves and change things up just a bit! It’s just too bad that “Cornered!” as a whole didn’t add up to back up Guttenberg’s venture into new territory.

Inner city convenience stores are a dime a dozen, but for the purposes of “Cornered!” our store of the moment is populated by a group of colorful lowlifes and regulars. The store is owned by Steve, an over watchful and paranoid man that accepts life as is. He’s assisted by his nephew Jimmy played by James Duval, a lapsed rehab patient. Donny Donut, the chubby and wimpy store clerk does his best to fend off shoplifters while he harbors his love for street walker Jess who is happy to let Donny fawn over her. To round out the mix, we have Mona the heavyset freelance phone sex operator with a taste for ice cream. Guttenberg arrives as Morty, the beer delivery guy who arrives daily to keep the shelves stocked with cans of generic no-name beer.

This group of self described low-lives combine together to show a portrayal of life in inner city america. There’s no real social message here; they’re just real people living life. Since they’re all regulars, they meet once a week at Steve’s apartment over the store to play poker, which we witness as the film unfolds. Cutting over these scenes of ‘life’ we get snatches of news reports that talk of a serial killer stalking convenience stores across the city. As the group of misfits gather to play poker, it is all to obvious what is about to go down over the course of the night.

“Cornered!” presents a nice idea for a slasher film. That of a group of people held to one limited location as the killer works his way through the cast one by one. The premise is ultimately nothing new though. We’ve seen similar set ups before, so you have to make things happen on screen to make your movie stand out. “Cornered!” simply doesn’t do that. The movie is predictable from the very beginning leaving little to no mystery. We see that everybody is going to come to the store to play poker. We know that there is a serial killer on the loose targeting convenience stores. We know that the over protective shopkeep is going to lock everybody inside. The only real question is ‘who is the killer?’ and it really isn’t that hard to guess early on.

Though the movie is predictable leaving “Cornered!” as a bit lack luster in the slasher/serial killer department, there are still some good things to watch here. If you watch the special features, the director pushes the idea that he wants the characters to appear real in their portrayal and not some caricature of what inner city denizens. They are indeed successful in this wish! Each person that we focus on does have a stereotypical basis in their character but they are not over the top. Jess is a low-rent hooker, but she has real concerns such as money and rent. Steve is over protective of his store running and watching security cameras 24/7. It’s believable though because the store is all he has, so why wouldn’t he go overboard trying to protect it? It’s this aspect that makes “Cornered!” worth the watch instead of the serial killer tangent that brings them all together.

As far as a slasher movie goes, the film falls short in giving us anything new and exciting. There are attempts made to give our killer some stand out quirks such as killing each victim in ways central to methods mentioned early on in the film, but each moment happens so fast and shaky that it’s hard to get much thrill from them. We watch Mona be dispatched with her beloved drumstick ice cream cones, but the entire scene is played out in quick snatches. We’re only fully sure how she was killed off in a scene far removed from the kill, later in the movie. As killers go though, there is a slight attempt at a twist ending, but the murderer still manages to feel real by the end of the movie. Watching him work, we again do not get to focus on much to give meat to the character. In the end when he reveals his motives, he seems genuine and fairly basic as to the whys of his actions which makes him stand out just a bit from his counterparts.

“Cornered!” is not a great movie, but there are far worse ones out there. The characters help to keep the movie interesting along with nice attempt at giving it a bit of a grind house feel. Come for the characters and not for the carnage and the movie is worthy of a late night watch. Just don’t expect to find your next favorite psychopath during the running time.

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Thursday, June 10th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Uwe Boll has a proven track record when it comes to films. A track record that leaves you questioning why you just rented the movie you just sat through, what bad choices did you make that led you to this point in time and other life affirming type questions. After sitting through Boll’s latest opus “Rampage”, I found myself asking a whole new set of questions. Questions such as ‘did Uwe Boll really direct this?’ Was that an actual well thought out movie? And the best; did I really just enjoy myself?

Bill’s a direction-less young man. He’s fresh out of high school, can’t afford college and he lives at home with his parents. Though it may not seem like it, he’s a very driven man with high ideals for the world around him. As he begins to feel held down by the world around him, his anger starts to build. When his parents pull him aside to let him know that they think it is time for him to move out, he finally boils over.

Much to my surprise, “Rampage” is a solid revenge film, drama and an anti-establishment movie all rolled up into one. There is plenty to laugh at, but the humor is subtle as opposed to the slapstick comedy we saw in Boll’s earlier effort “Postal”. Once the film gets rolling, it becomes a rather disturbing portrayal of a disturbed mans descent with a pinch of “Fight Club” thrown in for good measure. Now, the movie isn’t perfect. In fact, the opening twenty minutes are a bit shaky as we’re introduced to our man of the hour, Bill. While character development is essential in a primarily one man show such as this, it did feel a bit disjointed at first. Some of this is intentional as Bill is not meant to be a comfortable character to get behind. It can easily strike you as uncomfortable and cause you to fear the worst early on. It does fit the plot and the character though, so if you can power through, you’ll be in for a rare Uwe Boll treat as the meat of the movie begins to build.

The key to enjoying “Rampage” lies in the hands of lead actor Brendan Fletcher in the roll of Bill. The plot focuses entirely on this actor and his descent into madness. It’s a heavy load for a young actor; if your’e just the slightest bit off, the tone of the movie changes and begins to fall apart. In the case of Mr. Fletcher, he handles the pressure very well. From the very beginning we can see that Bill is off kilter from the norm. Full of nervous energy and a gaze that shows there is something wrong deeper down. On the opposite end of the spectrum, he provides a good sense of humor when the script calls for it which lends the character more complexity than the common nut job and makes Bill a memorable character indeed.

Your first impulse at seeing ‘Directed by Uwe Boll’ is to run, I know. I’m telling you now; if you’re going to sit down and watch a Boll film, “Rampage” is the one to watch. It’s not perfect but it is very solid and very enjoyable. The main character is a great one and is a lot of fun to watch from beginning to end.

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Sunday, June 06th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

I’ve always been the flaky sort when it comes to TV. There’s two factors to blame for this; one I generally have a lot of movie screeners to work through and two, I just don’t like being held to a schedule. Sure, there are a number of shows that I do watch week to week, but there’s just a limit on how many I like to add to my list.

Which brings us to “Supernatural”. The show should be a natural (some would say ‘super’) fit for someone such as my self. By the name alone, you’d think that I would have eaten such a show up. Be it other interests at the time the show started or the fact that I didn’t really watch the channel that show aired on, I’ve managed to pretty much ignore all five seasons. Until now of course. After hearing a lot of love and praise regarding the Winchester Brothers and their adventures, I jumped at the chance when I was asked if I wanted to review the impending blu-ray release of the first season. After trudging through all four disks of the set, I’m now pretty happy I finally took the time for it.

If your’e like me, avoiding five seasons of the show, the first season of “Supernatural” is a fun monster of the week type setup. We watch along as the Winchester brothers, Sam and Dean, fight evil across the country in search of their missing father. We learn quickly that the family has a bit a history regarding such pass times, fighting evil and such, starting with the demonic attack which killed their mother and later Sam’s girlfriend in the same fashion.

Though the show isn’t a high mark of television quality, it’s still a good entry in genre TV. For the first season, the monster of the week format keeps the show nice and light. At times it hearkens back to the glory days of the “X-Files”. The creators penchant for exploring urban legends for their monsters helps to give the viewer a quick and easy familiarity with the story and makes the deconstruction of the myths just plain old fun.

While the seasons have been out for some time now on DVD, Warner Brothers is bringing the Winchesters to blu-ray on June 15th. We’re all familiar with the benefits of the format and the four disk set of “Supernatural The Complete First Season” hits all the right notes. The picture is nice and pretty sharp with surround sound that is sufficiently booming when the show’s trademark classic rock soundtrack kicks in. I will say that the episodes do not appear quite as vivid and clear as other blu-ray movies you may have seen. While the picture itself is fine, it lacks a bit of the ultra sharp vibrancy that is typical of the high def format. This can be contributed to the format of the show as it relies heavily on blacks ad shadows which are notoriously hard to produce in a lot of different HD televisions. At times the scenes will appear to luck much like their DVD counterparts for this reason. When we get scenes that take place in full daylight and such though, the picture is exactly as you would expect from a HD broadcast.

The other bonus for this release is that it comes packed with extras. Most of the features you’ve seen will be familiar if you already own the DVD sets. New to this release are the Devil’s Road Map, an interactive atlas to all of season ones urban legends. How factual it is I can’t say, but it is fun to find out more to all the myths that you will vaguely remember from the show. We all know the stories such as ‘Bloody Mary’ or the ‘The Man with the Hook’, but have you ever bothered to look up the history of these legends? This feature will help fill you in! The other new feature is a panel discussion with the cast and crew from the Paley Festival. If such a thing is your bag, you’ll have fun getting some candid behind the scenes discussion from all involved.

For a blu-ray collection, “Supernatural The Complete First Season” is a good set all around. The show is a solid bit of fun to fill your genre TV needs during the summer hiatus. At $49.99, I can’t say that there is enough new material here or high def glory to warrant an upgrade from your DVD set, but for those just getting started on the show, this blu-ray set is a sure thing.

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Sunday, June 06th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

This past week saw the release of I, Zombie #2 from creators Chris Roberson and Mike Allred, the new hip and sexy take on the comic zombie form. Issue #1 concentrated on setting up the mystery of Gwen and her undead calamity as well as giving us a hint of more to come. Issue #2 takes up right where the first issue left off, diving into the spiraling story lines and focus of the memories Gwen absorbed from the brain she had just consumed.

Issue #1 of “I, Zombie” rocked my world with its quirky characters and it’s hellbent direction of reinventing a lot of the typical monster stories we’re already familiar with. Issue #2 continues the trend though the world rocking has been minimized a bit. This isn’t all that uncommon; writers have to go all out to lure you in with their first issue. After you’re hooked, they delve straight into the story which is what Roberson does here. While the story is still strong and engrossing, it lacks some of the punch that the first issue had for me. We branch off into a few different directions as we start to see the characters separated and being fleshed out. Gwen is still on task and we begin to see where the absorbed memories are taking her which is good. We also have a side story going on with a clutch of vampires running a night time pain ball field and another setup for our resident were-terrior’s friends as well. These side plots are good and they are tweaked enough to fit the quirky setup that Roberson and Allred gave us in the first go around, though in issue two they do pull away a bit from the most interesting plot; Gwen and her just-eaten mental room mate. Gwen is the most compelling character we have here and for me, I’d rather concentrate on her and see the side characters worked in around her. I’m sure we’ll see all of these story lines intertwined at some point in the future and I will most likely be less critical of them when that happens. For now though, it makes the overall story feel a bit muddled when I only want to concentrate on our undead heroine.

Don’t let my words detract from your enjoyment of the story or lead you to believe that I’ve lost interest in the book. I still found issue #2 to be pretty great and a fun read. There are just a few small changes that I’d like to see happen for personal tastes. Again, the problems I have with too many story lines will most likely be resolved as the current story arc carries on and I’ll gladly still be there every week to see where they’re going with it all!

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Wednesday, June 02nd, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Satanic cults have always been a good subject for me scare wise. The idea of a group of people running around, their minds sold so far into their twisted beliefs that they’ll do anything that catches their fancy. They generally have no fear or remorse as they think they’re doing right by their religion so it can’t be that bad! Unfortunatley, the idea of satanic cults have never translated all that well to the big screen. Sure, there have been some winners here and there but in general they tend to be slow moving with characters being overly stoic and in general…quiet in their attacks. 2009′s “Finale” deals with the subject of cults and gives it a decent spin on the general setups, that of being tied in with a local school who is using it as a front to recruit members. Unfortunately, the movie also suffers from the typical problems that crop up in cult flicks with plodding pace and convoluted scenes that make the true point of the plot a bit muddled and hard to follow.

As the film opens we jump straight into the a fight for the death. Sean and his girlfriend are working frantically to stop…something which we are not privvy to yet. Sean plays with some sort of remote switch, we see a light flash on a remote receiver, the camera jumps around and then we see a female say something to the effect of ‘eliminate Sean’. As Sean and his girlfriend walk out a building, we see a barbed wire snake out of nowhere, wrap itself around Sean’s neck and hang him from the rafters. The scene itself is well put together and is fairly intriguing. While it sets and exciting pace for the film, we still have no idea what any of the past five minutes of film pertain to and it leaves the viewer feeling confused more than anything. After the title credits roll shortly after, we finally get a bit more of the story as Seans family, his mother and father, sister and brother, enter his house. The lament that fact that Sean had committed suicide and how they don’t understand how he could do such a thing. It’s not until this moment that the opening sequence makes sense.

From here, “Finale” settles into a very slow pace and feels very different from that opening scene. There isn’t much going on until mom decides to stay at the house to finish cleaning up. She quickly uncovers some of the secrets that Sean had be delving into and with the help of a few flashes of something other wordly going on in the house, she begins to believe that there is something more at play here. The story of “Finale” is actually quite solid once you wrap your brain around what’s going on. The problems lie in spending too much time watching characters sit around and ponder the world around them as they slowly dig through to the crux of the matter. We’re introduced to the cult angel of the film later on and the basics are solid. The cult has setup in the local school and are using it as a front to recruit members. Logically, this makes sense. Cults like to prey on the weak and troubled minds out there. A high school is a good place for this with unexperienced kids with raging hormones and over sensitvie emotions. Even the leaders are hidden in the background well making it all just a bit intriguing. Just as the going gets good however, we cut back to mom fighting her own personal demons back and Seans house and it the movie as a whole just loses a bit of its flair.

One of the stand outs of “Finale” are the effects used to show the demonic forces at play and how they invade our world. The demons here can only access our world through reflections which adds an interesting dynamic. If your’e running from something unseen yet you know they are going to get to you through any reflective surface, life kind of sucks when you make a wrong turn to find yourself in a room full of mirrors. Even the designs at work for the demons are well done enough to strike the viewer as a bit creepy. Though they are hard to focus on due to the use of heavy blue filters and jerky camera work, you do get to see enough to get the gears turning, even though most tend to resemble a member of Rob Zombie’s Firefly family. They even go so far as giving the demon a name of “The Collector” to make it all a bit more real. Unfortuantely, we have no idea why the cult has chosen “The Collector” to do their dirty work or why he even has the name of “The Collector” in the first place. They simply forgot to give us any back story on the demon whatsoever. If they did, it became so mired down in the muddy moments of mom cleaning Sean’s house it was simply forgotten.

“Finale” is far from the worst satanic cult movie ever made but it does suffer from some problems in editing that keep it from being as great as it could have been. There are some genuine moments here that will entertain adn tell a solid story, but you have to get through the slow and meandering moments of a mother coming to turns with her son’s apparent suicide and the truth that lies beneath. These moments do start to thin out towards the end of the film, but they are prominent enough early on to leave a bad taste in your mouth whenever Sean’s mom returns to the screen. That’s not to say that Sean’s mom was either a bad character or poorly acted; her scenes were just not very much fun to watch, a problem that lay more in the writing than in the delivery.

If you’re in the mood for a slow growing movie, “Finale” is worth a late night watch. It’s not in your face and there are parts that are a chore. The end product however is worth the time.

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