My Two Cents: SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

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Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

Directed by: André Øvredal (Troll Hunter)

Starring Zoe Margret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush

CBS Films, Entertainment One (2019)

Based on the book written by Alvin Schwartz

While I was growing up, there were not a lot of horror books and shows made for kids and preteens to enjoy. It seemed everything in the nineteen seventies and made for the horror genre was geared towards adults. The nineties kids had plenty of horror –lite to enjoy. That generation had Are You Afraid Of The Dark? And the Goosebumps books to jump-start their horror obsession. By the time these arrived, I was already desensitized from watching movies like The Exorcist and The Shining at a young age. No starter horror for me. I jumped in headfirst. Today, kids can be exposed to horror without being scarred for life. This is where Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark falls into place. The main characters are all younger teenagers, and the frights are far more palatable and less gruesome.

Scary Stories is the tale of a group of teens growing up in Middle American during one of the most tumultuous times in U.S. history; the late 1960’s. On Halloween night, the gang visits a mansion, which according to legend, is haunted. The family that lived in the home had many dark secrets, including a hidden away daughter that lived a secluded, tortured existence. The kids take a book that once belonged to the daughter, and this begins a series of fateful stories being written into the book by a ghostly presence. These stories begin to happen in real-time, and the group must face their fears to save their lives.

Scary Stories is definitely meant for a teenage crowd, but also has enough to keep adults interested as well. Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape Of Water) co-wrote the screenplay, and if you are a fan of the directors work, you know there will be some wild imagery and creative monsters in the movie. I found the political and social references of the time set a dark tone for the story, although most of the younger viewers won’t understand them. Subtle humor is injected for a good counter balance the intensity of some scenes. All in all, I enjoy my horror with a little more violence, bloodshed, and of course, nudity. After all, I am a horror veteran. Scary Stories, however, would be a very nice jumping point for someone who is new to the genre, or feels like upping the game from light fare like Goosebumps.

T.

 

Some pretty cool posters.

As I browse the internet, I come across so pretty cool images. I am a fan of music gig posters, and minimalist movie posters. A lot of creativity inhabits the world, and cyberspace is the easiest way to get your art out to the masses. As I come across something I find pleasing to the eye, I save it. Here are some of the images I feel are very sharable. I have no idea who the artists are, and I can take no credit for any of these pieces. Whoever did these, please keep up the amazing work.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

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True Romance (1993)

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Lost Boys (1987)

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Blair Witch Project (1999)

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The Exorcist (1973)

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The Shining (1980)

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Goonies (1985)

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Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

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Ghostbusters (1984)

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The Shining (1980)

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The VVitch (2016)

 

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Danzig/White Zombie/Kyuss Gig Poster

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Melvins Gig Poster

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Pallbearer Gig Poster

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Blondie Gig Poster

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Queens Of The Stone Age Gig Poster

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Queens Of The Stone Age Gig Poster

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The Sword Gig Poster

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Queens Of The Stone Age Gig Poster

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Beastie Boys Gig Poster

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Pink Floyd Tour Poster

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David Bowie Gig Poster

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Pink Floyd Gig Poster

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The Sword/Pallbearer Gig Poster

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Queens Of The Stone Age Gig Poster

T.

My 2 Cents: Molly’s Game

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Molly’s Game (2017)

Directed by: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner
Distributed By: Entertainment One (Canada)
Run Time: 120 Min.

Being a Canadian, I had never heard the story of Molly Bloom. Molly Bloom is a former competitive skier turned high-stakes underground poker game “facilitator”. For seven years, she hosted celebrities, athletes, and rich businessmen each week in Los Angeles, and then moving the game to New York. Eventually. Members of the Russian mob became involved in the games, which in turn attracted the interest of the FBI. In 2013, two years after Bloom last hosted a game, she and a number of other people were arrested and charged with illegal gambling, sports betting and racketeering. Molly’s Game is alleged true story based on the book of the same name.

This is the first film I went to see in 2018. I had some pretty high expectations because of the writer/ director’s history of spinning a good yarn. Aaron Sorkin is a master at taking a true story and turning it into great film. He is the man who wrote Moneyball, The Social Network, and A Few Good Men. Molly’s game is his directorial debut. It is a hell of directorial debut. The movie clocks in at about two hours and twenty minutes, but it does not seem to be that long at all. Great pacing, interesting characters, and the narration makes the film fly by.

The acting is also great. Jessica Chastain is the main star of this film. She carries the load. Along with her voice over narration, her portrayal of Molly Bloom made me instantly love the character, and encouraged me to learn more about the real person. Chastain is also one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, and she looks amazing throughout the whole movie. Molly’s attorney, Charlie Jaffe, is played by actor Idris Alba (The Dark Tower). The chemistry is good and their one on one scenes are the best parts of the film. Kevin Costner, Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim) and Graham Greene (Dances With Wolves) also play small but important roles.

Beyond the reasons I have stated, there are a few other reasons why I found Molly’s Game to be very entertaining. I am a sucker for a movie about or involving poker. Rounders (Matt Damon, 1998) is one of my favorite movies, and Casino Royale (Daniel Craig, 2006) is the best Bond movie. Secondly, I am a sucker for a movie about common people who catch a break and become rich. Wolf of Wall Street (Leonardo Dicaprio, 2013), Joy (Jennifer Lawrence, 2015), and Citizen Kane are good examples of these films.

I will probably see over fifty plus films at the theatre in 2018, and I have a feeling that come the end of the year, Molly’s Game will be in my top five. If you enjoy an intriguing story with a good balance of emotion and danger, please check out Molly’s Game.

T.

My Two Cents: M. Knight Shyamalan’s SPLIT

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Split

Directed and written by: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley

2017 Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions

When you go to see an M. Night Shyamalan film, it’s like a roll of the dice. His first few films were a safe bet. Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and to an extent, Signs, are all good films. Lady in the Water and The Happening, not so great. His second to last release, The Visit, was decent enough that I was looking forward to seeing M. Knight’s latest; Split. The trailers looked good and the concept plays well as a horror/thriller.

Split is the story of Barry, a man whom has twenty-three separate personalities. The majority of harmless, but a few of the personas have malicious intentions. The movie begins with three young women being abducted, and the story unfolds from there. We soon learn the background stories of Barry’s many personalities, and one of the captives, Casey Cooke. There is really not much more I can speak of without ruining plot twists. However, I will say that Split contains one of Shyamalan’s signature twist endings which features a familiar face, and perhaps sets up a possible sequel for at least one of M. Night’s films.

All in all, Split is enjoyable and has enough suspense and story to keep the viewer interested. James McAvoy portrays Barry. He does an amazing job playing essentially a half dozen characters. Anya Taylor-Joy, who shined in last years The Witch, shines again as the captive with a past just as dark as her captor. The pacing is great and the story translates well on the screen. I do, however, have a couple of things that bother me about the film. We only get to see one third of the personalities that inhabit Barry’s brain. I think it would have been interesting to see a glimpse of each of the twenty-three psyches. I do understand that the director needs time for character development, but just a peek would have been nice. I also thought the film lacked violence. Not because I am a savage, but because it would have lent nicely to the mystique of one of Barry’s personas (for sake of spoiling, I cannot say which). A little more violence would also have intensified the already satisfying suspense.

To recap, the high points are the performances of James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy. They dominate the screen, and their characters have compelling stories. The Shyamalanian twist at the end is also worth the watch. This is even more true if you are a fan of his movies, as it ties two of his stories together. Split is not The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable (both amazing films), but it is a million miles better than the happening. In a time (January and February) when crappy films are released and usually die, Split stands out and will hopefully succeed.

T.

List-O-rama: Top Five Favorite John Carpenter Films

Five Favorite John Carpenter Films

n-john-carpenter-433-1Mr. John Carpenter is the man. What else can I say about a writer/director who has manufactured so many brilliant stories, and memorable characters. His full-length film debut, Dark Star, was in released in 1974. Since then, he has treated movie-goers to thrills, chills, comedy, horror, science fiction, and just pure cinematic beauty. And despite what Hollywood has become over the last couple decades, Carpenter keeps it real and does it his way. Also, yesterday was his sixty-ninth birthday. Let’s celebrate with a top five list of my personal favorite J.C. films. You may or may not agree with these choices, so feel free to comment. From five to one…

5. Escape From New York (1981 MGM) – Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, and Earnest Borgnine? This is top five on that merit alone. Basically, the President of the United States crash lands in Manhattan. Sounds simple, but Manhattan in the future is now a large maximum security prison, and the inmates have the commander in chief. A one-eyes bank robber named Snake Plissken is sent in to retrieve the captives and the downed airplane’s cargo. I get a Mad Max, Man With No Name feel whenever I watch this movie. Amazing Soundtrack, a bad ass anti-hero main character, and Donald Pleasence as the President. I think I have proven my point.

4. They Live (1988 Universal) – Humans are being kept under sedation by a race of alien creatures through subliminal messages that appear on billboards, television etc. Nada (played by the late, great Roddy Piper), a down on his luck blue-collar guy finds a pair of sunglasses and soon uncovers the brainwashing and manipulation. I love this film because it does star “Hot Rod” Piper, but I also appreciate the Twilight Zone vibe it gives off. They Live is an alien movie, but it also a social comment on how society is told what to do through advertising, and we don’t even know it. Also contains one of the longest fist fight scenes in the history of film. You cannot argue with that.

3. The Fog (1980 Embassy) – The plot sounds crazy; one hundred years ago, a ship of lepers bound for the shores of Antonio Bay, California are deliberately guided to crash into the rocks along the coast, and thus left for dead. Now as Antonio Bay prepares to celebrate it’s centennial year, a ghostly fog washes across the seaside town. What is inside this fog now seeks revenge for the wrong doings of the town’ ancestors. A spooky ghost story with some creepy atmosphere and strong female performances make this one of Carpenter’s more underrated films. Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, and Adrienne Barbeau star, even though the real star of the film is the ambiance and mood.

2. The Thing (1982 Universal) – Claustrophobia and paranoia make for brilliant film. John Carpenter’s The Thing is chock full of both these elements. An American research station in remote Antarctica is confronted with a being not of this earth. Soon, it is all out panic and mistrust as the alien begins to take on the forms of the research team. Trust is lost and all hell breaks loose. Carpenter favorite Kurt Russell is R.J. MacReady, and Keith David is great as Childs, the two men who take it upon themselves to flush out and destroy The Thing. This is not only a great Carpenter film, but one of my favorite science fiction/horrors. If you have not seen this film, go watch now.

1. Halloween (1978 Universal) No big surprise here. The film about babysitters being stalked by a man wearing an expressionless mask, made on a shoe string budget, snowballed into a massive hit. A simple story about a boy, Michael Myers, gone wrong, locked away in an institution, only to return home fifteen years later to murder his estranged sister. It sounds like anyone could make this movie. Unfortunately, not just anybody is John Carpenter. On a low budget, Carpenter squeezed out all he could and the result is a true classic. To the point acting, an iconic soundtrack, and the quintessential slasher is the perfect storm. Sure, the Halloween franchise has pretty much spun out of control, but that has nothing to do with Carpenter. If you are a fan of bare-bones horror, I’m sure this film is right up there on your list as well.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

MY TWO CENTS LOGO

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Captain America: Civil War  (Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo | Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie) MARVEL STUDIOS

When I was a kid, I was pretty much consumed by three things. Star Wars, WWF (now WWE) wrestling, and Marvel Comics. Besides my love for Batman, I was deep into Marvel. I would give anything a read, but for the most part I gravitated toward The X-Men and Spider-Man. This was awesome when Hollywood rolled out the red carpet for comic book movies back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s as Spidey and the X-men were the premier stories to be told on the big screen. The only thing that sucked was the fact that the rights to different Marvel franchises were scattered all over the major motion picture studios. I think each company had a piece; Sony had Spider-man, Fox took the X-men and Fantastic Four and Universal had the Incredible Hulk. You get the picture. All of this meant that we would probably never see any crossover of our favorite heroes. Marvel wised up and decided it was their best interest to start their own motion picture company in 2005. Disney then subsequently purchased them in 2009. Essentially, Disney owns pretty much every right except X-Men and all characters mutant-related (unfortunately that includes my personal favorite, Deadpool), and of course Spider-Man, and his cast of characters. But here is the good news. Marvel Studios now has a working relationship with Sony. This means Peter Parker, Aunt May, Green Goblin, and the whole gang will now appear in Marvel Studios productions, and vice versa. Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. I hope it makes sense, and IT IS important to my review on Captain America: Civil War because, you guessed it…our sneak peek at Spider-Man in his first appearance in a Marvel Studios movie. And to me, and I’m sure any Marvel purist, is an amazing (no pun intended) event.

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It’s good to see you again, Web-Head!

 The Avengers are heroes. They have time, and time again, saved Earth from all sorts of threats. There is only one problem. When they go into battle, they usually end up leveling a city and the result is loss of civilian life. After a recovery mission in Wakanda (fictional African country) goes south, and an incident occurs, several nations from around the world want the Avengers to be held accountable. The United Nations has demanded that all “enhanced humans” sign an accord to hold up their accountability. This causes a split right down the middle of the Avengers, with Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Captain America at odds with each other due to each of them having strong opposite beliefs. All hell breaks loose. This is all I can really say without giving story lines away. As far as comic book movies go, Captain America: Civil War is now at the top of the food chain. When I was a kid, I dreamed of things like this. This film is jam packed with so many elements and characters, that the one hundred and fifty minutes whipped right by. Usually with a giant ensemble cast, you loose some characters along the way. That is not the case. The film keeps gaining characters, and snowballs into a cinematic juggernaut. The special effects and battle sequences are seamless. Often I get lost in CGI and end up resenting it because of the distraction, but it just becomes part of the story in Civil War. The main battle sequence between the two feuding factions is dynamic and fluid, and I was fully engaged.

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Former friends turned bitter enemies?

 Captain America: Civil War also kicks off Phase 3 of the Marvel cinematic universe, which means we are exposed to new characters, and get to see a little more of a couple surprise favorites. Paul Rudd returns as Ant-Man, and is nothing short of clever and charming, as he was in his own film last year. T’Challa, the Prince of Wakanda is fierce and believable as Black Panther. The actor portraying Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman, is going to make a nice addition to the ongoing story. Last, but not least, we get our first glimpse at the new, and drastically improved Spider-Man. The other films starring Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield had their moments, but there was always something missing. Peter Parker is a kid, and the other Spidey movies lacked Peter’s boyish wonder and charm. Tom Holland now gets a turn at bat to play Peter Parker, and if his performance in Civil War is a glimpse into Spider-Man’s future, he is going to smack a home run. It will be fun to see how Sony and Disney work together to create a brand new world for the wall crawler. Although the Civil War has been tagged under the Captain America franchise, this was much more. All of the Avengers, old and new, are important pieces to the story. Only Bruce Banner (Hulk) and Thor are AWOL, but there is a good reason, which will be explained in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok. We also get to see a lot more of Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Vision (Paul Bettany), and the stunning Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olson). It is quite a stellar cast, lead by Chris Evans (Captain America) and Robert Downey Jr. (the always dashing Tony Stark/Iron Man). It is actually quite impressive that Marvel Studios has amassed a roster of actors this deep and talented on an ongoing basis. The directing team of brothers Anthony and Joe Russo are given the task to put together this enormous puzzle, and the do an amazing job. They were also in charge of Captain American: Winter Soldier, which to me right up on top of my favorites list. The Russo’s are given many more moving parts with this sequel, and make an even better film. Because they are also in charge of the next two Avengers films, expect nothing less than pure enjoyment.

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A fine addition to the Marvel cinematic universe; Black Panther.

As I read this back to myself, I sound like a fan boy. I forgive myself, because that is exactly what I am. I remember being ten years old and reading Marvel’s Secret Wars. It was a limited issue mini series that basically put most of the Marvel heroes and villains on a planet by a being called the Beyonder. The Beyonder essentially wanted to see the two sides fight it out. Captain America Civil War is not Secret Wars, but it is a gigantic step towards amalgamating these characters into one universe. Now wouldn’t it be something if Twentieth Century Fox and Marvel/Disney could work something out so maybe one day we could see a big screen Secret Wars. The X-Men and Marvel’s Avengers sharing the same universe? Maybe that’s just wishful thinking from lifelong fan boy, but hey, crazier things have happened. The closest thing we have right now is Captain America: Civil War. Don’t walk, but run (or fly if you are an “enhanced human”) to the cinema. You will not be disappointed.

T.

In 50 Words…HATEFUL EIGHT (2015)

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In 50 Words logo

The Hateful Eight

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth

The Weinstein Company

Runtime: 187 Minutes, Rated: R

A group of traveler’s, consisting of bounty hunters, Civil War veterans, and killers converge on a remote outpost in the heart of the Wyoming wilderness during a severe blizzard. As these strangers seek shelter, each appears to have their own agenda. Is it the storm that brings upon this chance meeting, or is it destiny that has these folks are gathered at Minnie’s Haberdashery on this cold winter’s afternoon?

I always look forward to Quentin Tarantino’s new films simply because they are typically brilliant. The dialogue, acting, and dark humor are always engaging and enjoyable. Those points remain true in his 8th film, The Hateful Eight. The movie comes across like a stage play, as it takes place primarily in one room. The blocking and back ground performance away from the primary action  is well done. I did have one issue with the film that kind of took away from it being close to perfect. The run time, at over three hours, is too long. When the ending came around, it almost seemed like a relief that the movie was over, and lessened the impact of the conclusion for me. Also, the score music seemed incredibly loud in spots, but that could be the fault of the cinema. Overall, an entertaining film, full of humor and violence. Walton Goggins and Samuel Jackson are brilliant, as is Jennifer Jason Leigh. For me, this one falls between Inglorious Basterds and the amazing Django Unchained.

4 Bloody Moons 4 out of 5 Bloody Moons

T.

In 50 Words…Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse

In 50 Words logo

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Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse (2015)

Directed by: Christopher Landon

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont

Broken Road Productions, Paramount Pictures

Three friends, and fellow Scouts, get set to go on their last camping trip. Plans are also in effect to ditch the camp out after dark and go to the biggest secret location party of the year. Much to the surprise of the friends, they walk right into the middle of a full-blown zombie outbreak upon their return to town. After enlisting the help of a stripper, the group races to find the secret location of the party to save their high school friends. Scouts are always prepared, but are they prepared for this?

Horror-comedy can be really good if done right. I went into this film with no expectations. I had not heard much about it besides seeing a couple teaser trailers. I must admit. I enjoyed Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. The film knows it is a comedy and never tries to be serious. They follow the formula very well, and throw in some blood and guts for good measure. I found this movie very reminiscent of another good horror-comedy; Idle Hands (1999). Week after week, T.V.’s The Walking Dead slams us with an intense, end of the world zombie drama. Once in a while it’s nice to relax and laugh at hordes of undead. You won’t need your brain for this one, and that’s not a bad thing now and then.

3.5 Bloody Moons  3.5 /5 Bloody Moons

T.

 

In 50 Words… Why Horror? (2014)

In 50 (or so) Words

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Why Horror? (2014)
Directed by: Nicolas Kleiman, Rob Lindsay
Starring: Tal Zimerman, a host of interview subjects including John Carpenter, Don Coscarelli, Eli Roth, Soska Sisters, and George A. Romero
Don Ferguson Productions

Life long horror fan, Tal Zimerman, goes on a mission to document and discover the answer to the age old question; why do we love to be scared? Zimerman travels from Mexico to Japan to investigate different cultures, interviews many authorities on the subject, and has physical tests performed on him to try and understand his own personal obsession with horror, and also mankind’s interest in the macabre.

I was flipping through movies on the television and came across Why Horror?, and since I am also a fan of the genre, decided it would be in my best interest to watch this feature documentary. If you go in expecting a film about horror films, this is not going to satisfy you. What is satisfying about this film is that there was a great amount of work put into it. Art, literature, other culture’s beliefs in death, science, and of course film are all explored. The question being asked is a valid and interesting question; why does horror appeal to see many people, while other people do not care for it? The film flows really well. The quality of interviewees and “experts” is impressive and insightful. The addition of the brain scan during a viewing of a horror movie was a nice and interesting touch. Overall, Why Horror? is a really cool watch. It’s nice to know that there are freaks like me out there. It was stated in the film that while people watch the horrors and atrocities of real life on CNN, I’ll stick to watching my horror in the cinema and reading it in comic books, where it won’t drive me mad.

3.5 Bloody Moons

3.5/5 Bloody Moons

T.

In 50 Words… Hellions (2015)

In 50 (or so) Words…

hellions_ver2Hellions (2015)

Directed by: Bruce McDonald

Starring: Chloe Rose, Robert Patrick, Rachel Wilson

Whizbang Films, StoryBook Corporation, DHX Media

It is Halloween, and seventeen year old Dora is stunned and distraught after discovering she is four weeks pregnant. Her night gets worse as she is terrorized by a group ghostly trick-or-treaters who are after more than just candy. Halloween becomes surreal and terrifying for the young mother to be.

I was really excited to watch Hellions simply because it is directed by veteran Canadian filmmaker Bruce McDonald (Hardcore Logo, Pontypool). The first half of the film is very promising, but then things fall apart. The film becomes wishy-washy with too many scenes that left me guessing if what I watching was reality or a fantasy sequence. By the last ten minutes I had lost interest because I wasn’t sure which direction the story went. Not all was lost. There are some very creepy scenes as well as a little bit of tension. Canadian actress Chloe Rose (Degrassi: The Next Generation) is convincing as the tormented protagonist, and Robert Patrick (T2: Judgement Day) is, well, Robert Patrick. It is unfortunate that Hellions did not finish as strong as it started. I really wanted to like it more than I do.

2.5 Bloody Moons

T.