Wednesday, February 29, 2012


This video tape of my first encounter with my undead neighbor, Zombzany, was collecting dust at the bottom of my pile of tapes stolen from Zombzany’s private collection. As I have mentioned in the past, Zombzany at this point in his career as a horror movie host was reduced to peddling his services to any group of horror movie fans that could afford him. This recording is another job that Zombzany accepted to host a Scare-a-thon for a local film group. I know Zombzany was not proud of these gigs and I think he only kept them to keep them from falling into the wrong hands of someone such as myself. I think if Zombzany had known that this was the first recording of his meeting with me, Doc Freak – as he incorrectly addressed me at the time – he might have destroyed it instead.
The terrible condition I found this video tape in demonstrates that Zombzany indeed had no fondness for our encounters. I had to dub this tape off of a video monitor, because the format was incompatible with any functioning video tape equipment that I still own. Another reason that the image is so grainy and fuzzy is that Myron, Zombzany’s zombie cameraman was not only unfamiliar with the white balance control of the camera, but the manual focus control either. Unfortunately, it is the only copy I have of this historic -- or should I say histrionic – first videotaped meeting of Zombzany and myself.
For the sake of clarity, I will be referring to myself in the third person for the following description of this video.

In the first part of Zombzany Meets Doc Freak -- which I've titled "Lights Out", Zombzany is sitting on his throne and preparing to host yet another horror movie marathon, when all the lights in go out in his tomb. Zombzany turns to see that the only light in the neighborhood is coming from the vicinity of Doc Freak's laboratory. Determined to force Freak to fix his loss of power so that he can carry on with his "Scare-a-thon", Zombzany stomps off towards Doc's lab. Zombzany bangs on Freak's door and an agitated Doc Freak answers it. After some "negotiating", Zombzany convinces Freak that he should repair the fused circuit breaker box that powers his cemetery. As Freak is fixing the circuits, Zombzany casually mentions he needs the power to host a Frankenstein movie marathon, which causes Doc Freak to get extremely excited, as Frankenstein is his favorite movie monster. Zombzany reluctantly agrees to allow Freak to observe him hosting the Frankenstein film marathon, just as Freak repairs the circuit breaker panel and restores Zombzany's power. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


When Cloverfield was released in January of 2008, I knew very little about the film other than what was shown in the trailer. Unlike many critics, I thought Cloverfield worked as both a giant monster movie and a dramatic character piece. Even the found footage and “shaky cam” gimmicks that normally cause me to immediately check out of a film did not deter my enjoyment of Cloverfield.
A little over three years later, an “official” trailer for a sequel to Cloverfield – simply titled Cloverfield 2 – was posted on YouTube. It is as inspired and dramatic as the initial trailer for Cloverfield was back in 2007. Unfortunately, there has been no more information to be learned about the production or impending release of Cloverfield 2 since the release of the trailer. The only official response to a possible Cloverfield sequel was in a brief interview with director Matt Reeves published by Total Film Magazine on March 17, 2011: "Well, you are going to see it - we just don't know when [laughs]. At the moment we are talking about the story quite a lot. Drew Goddard, who wrote the original, is going to pen the sequel and JJ Abrams is very much involved. However, the three of us have been so busy that getting the right idea together has been taking a long time. We have a lot of affection for the original and the sequel can't just be the same thing. But that is tricky when you need to have a monster destroying stuff once again."
Either this trailer is a fantastic fan fake – which I doubt – or once again director Matt Reeves, writer Drew Goddard and producer J.J. Abrams are keeping the production of Cloverfield 2 completely secret from the prying eyes of the press and the fans alike. I for one hope that there will be a Cloverfield 2 sometime early next year
Enjoy the trailer!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


“My main gripe with the film is that without the 'found footage' gimmick, Apollo 18 is just another below average horror-in-space story.”
Horror and Science Fiction
Starring - Warren Christie/Ben Anderson, Lloyd Owen/Nate and Ryan Robbins/John Grey
Director - Gonzalo López-Gallego
Writer - Brian Miller
PG-13 - some disturbing sequences and language
1 hr., 26 min.
Let me state right off, that in general, I am not a fan of “found footage” films. Found footage is a genre of film making, used extensively in horror films, in which a film is presented as raw film footage or unedited video recordings. This footage is usually presented as having been discovered left behind by lost or deceased characters. The proceedings onscreen are visualized from the point-of-view of a camera or cameras of one or several of the characters in the film. Unsteady camerawork and damaged or missing footage are also generally used to enhance to realism of the film.
The film credited with popularizing the “found footage” genre is The Blair Witch Project, which was made on a budget of between $500,000 and $750,000 and when released in 1999 grossed $248,639,099 worldwide. Oddly, it wasn’t until 2007 that the found footage genre really took off: Alone with Her, August Underground's Penance, Diary of the Dead, Exhibit A, Head Case, The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Paranormal Activity, REC, Redacted and Welcome to the Jungle all were released that year. The financial success of Paranormal Activity, which grossed $193,355,800 worldwide on its meager $15,000 budget (although Paramount/DreamWorks acquired the U.S. rights for $350,000) has inspired two more sequels and many other found footage films since. The more fiscally or critically successful of these include: Cloverfield (2008), Monster (2008), Quarantine (2008), The Last Exorcism (2010), Paranormal Activity 2 (2010), The Troll Hunter (2010) Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) and Chronicle (2012).

The film Apollo 18 purports to be made from 80 hours of footage hidden by NASA of a secret Apollo 18 mission to the Moon in 1974. Commander Nathan Walker, Lieutenant Colonel John Grey and Captain Benjamin Anderson are told they are being sent to the Moon on a secret mission to place detectors there to alert the United States of any impending ICBM attacks from the USSR. Grey remains in orbit aboard the Freedom Command module, while Walker and Anderson land on the moon in the lunar module Liberty. The astronauts plant the detectors and then take some samples of moon rocks. On their second day, Walker and Anderson take a lunar rover to a cratered area and discover that they are not the first or only ones to visit this area of the Moon.
Like all found footage films, it requires the imagination of the viewer to pretend that what he or she is watching is actually real documented footage and not a traditional fictional drama. Unfortunately for me, the first “astronaut” seen in the footage in a pre-flight interview is actor Ryan Robbins as Lieutenant Colonel John Grey. I’m a fan of the SyFy Channel TV program Sanctuary on which the actor Ryan Robbins has played the character of Henry Foss for four seasons, so I was immediately taken out of the idea of Apollo 18 as being real by such a recognizable (by me) actor. Still, I tried to get into it, but the immediate appearance of another actor known to me from TV (Warren Christie who plays Cameron Hicks on SyFy’s Alphas) made it impossible to view Apollo 18 as anything more than just another sci-fi horror film.
All the visual tricks that are used to produce the feel of the footage being made on video from the era or shot on 16mm film are mostly a distraction from telling an interesting story. Technically, the reproduction of the NASA Apollo mission era’s technology, from the ship models to the space suits are excellent, but they are unfortunately marred by the distorted imagery to the point where they could have been done much more cheaply and it may not have been noticeable. Still, as a representation of realistic 1970’s era space travel, it is well done.

My main gripe with the film is that without the “found footage” gimmick, Apollo 18 is just another below average horror-in-space story. The three astronauts in the film are given very little time to develop as real characters, because the film makers are in such a rush to get them to the Moon, where they are to become embroiled in the horrors there. It is impossible to say how disappointing the “horrors” on the Moon are, without spoiling the entire film, but I certainly wasn’t even remotely frightened or even surprised by the big reveal. Only the final scene of the film contained any real feeling of tension or suspense and by then I just wasn’t involved enough with the film to care.
If you are a fan of found footage films, then give Apollo 18 a try. If you are like me and find found footage films to be a tired and overused gimmick, then go watch Alien (1979) or Moon (2009) again.
TECHNICAL: Acting – 7 Directing – 6 Cinematography – 7 Script – 6 Special effects – 8
VISCERAL: Visual – 8 Auditory – 7 Intellectual – 6 Emotional – 6 Involvement – 6

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


"Real Steel should have been at the very least a light-hearted sci-fi action drama. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a pointless exercise in juvenile wish fulfillment and an unsophisticated emotional manipulation machination."

Drama, Action and Science Fiction
Starring - Hugh Jackman/Charlie Kenton, Anthony Mackie/Finn, Dakota Goyo/Max, Evangeline Lilly/Bailey Tallet, Kevin Durand/Ricky and Hope Davis/Aunt Debra
Director – Shawn Levy
Writers - John Gatins, Shawn Levy and Richard Mathis
PG-13 - for some violence, intense action and brief language
2 hr., 6 min.

While I wasn’t completely fascinated by the premise of Real Steal, the combination of the exciting trailers, the appeal of the always enjoyable Huge Jackman and the mostly good reviews made me want to rent this film as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I should have used my time more wisely and rented something with a little more substance, because Real Steal was underwhelming and overemotional.
Real Steal takes place in the near-future, where robots have taken the place of humans in the sport of boxing. Charlie Kenton is a former fighter who now makes a living controlling these robots in freelance matches all across America. After losing yet another match and another robot, Charlie needs cash to buy a new robot, so that he can win enough money to pay off his increasingly violent creditors. Charlie receives a court summons forcing him to travel to New York to release custody of his 11 year-old-son Max by a former girl-friend, who he has never met, to her rich sister and husband. Seeing a way of financing his next robot, Charlie cons fifty grand out of the husband before signing over the boy. However, before they take custody of Max, Charlie must take care of Max for the summer, while the rich couple vacation in Europe.
Charlie uses his money to buy a former “champ” bot and is about to leave Max behind, but the stubborn Max insists on coming along to the fight. Charlie gets a headline fight, but his cockiness in the bout costs him both the bot and a beating at the hands of his creditors. Looking to steal spare parts to fix his robot, Charlie and Max break into a junk yard and accidentally stumble on an abandoned sparing robot, which Max insists on bringing back with them to repair. With the help of Charlie’s girlfriend Bailey, they repair the old sparing robot, which Max dubs Atom. While Charlie is off trying to find the parts to fix his damaged champion bot, Max uses the vocal command parts from it to control Atom. Soon, Max has Atom up and running and discovers that Atom has a shadow program built into it that allows it to mimic the moves of its controller. Max insists that Charlie enter Atom in a fight, so Charlie reluctantly allows Max a local bout and much to his surprise, Atom and Charlie win the match. Soon, Max and Charlie are wining fights all around the country, eventually earning a chance at the professional circuit and a match with the champ Zeus!
Real Steel is not even remotely believable as science fiction, because the near future depicted in the film looks identical to our present; only with the addition of giant fighting robots. While much of the film is dedicated to demonstrating the physical dynamics of the robots and how their controllers are partnered with them, there is no consistency in the level of technology that is used even at the professional level.
What the film attempts to do is fill the void of futuristic world building with emotional gravitas. We’re supposed to care enough about the father and son relationship, so that we’ll not only overlook the technological incongruities, but the fabricated plot furthering devices as well. That is the major problem I had with Real Steel: I did not like either Charlie or Max as characters and I never once believed in the contrivance of their bonding in the film. Part of the problem with Charlie’s character is that for most of the first third of the film, Charlie is portrayed as a self-centered, irresponsible lummox, who’s only goal in life seems to be to get another robot to enter into a fight. He sells off his own child to pay for a robot and later we’re supposed to shrug this off with a laugh after Charlie and Max suddenly hit it off upon finding a common goal with Max’ bot Atom. Max is also extremely unlikeable; being nearly as self-centered and pig-headed as his estranged father! Why we’re supposed to suddenly like these two characters just because they both share the same selfish ambitions to become successful at robot fighting is beyond me.
The only real positive to Real Steel is the fighting robot sequences. The combination of animatronics and digital animation is nearly flawless. Unfortunately, the choreography of the fights themselves was not very inventive, so a lot of the work that went into making the robots realistic looking was wasted on unimaginative matches.
Real Steel should have been at the very least a light-hearted sci-fi action drama. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a pointless exercise in juvenile wish fulfillment and an unsophisticated emotional manipulation machination.

TECHNICAL: Acting – 7 Directing – 7 Cinematography – 8 Script – 6 Special effects – 9
VISCERAL: Visual – 9 Auditory – 7 Intellectual – 5 Emotional – 6 Involvement – 7