Movie Review: DARK REEL

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2-5 - Movie Review: DARK REELLionsgate Home Entertainment
2008
R

Murder, mystery and mayhem as B movie fan, Adam Waltz, wins Walk on Role in a film Featuring Scream Queen, Cassie Blue. Thinking his luck had changed for the better he steps into chaos with a killer loose and no one on the production safe. Adams role gets bigger with the murder of an actress, studio chief’s low-budget thriller becomes big with the new publicity… Everyone is a suspect. Who is the killer? Why are they doing this? and who is next?

So, what do you get when you try and make a horror movie that’s part slasher and part supernatural mystery, peppering things with a tasty cast of genre familiars Lance Henriksen, Edward Ferlong, Tiffany Shepis, Tony Todd and Mercedes McNab and a tongue-in-cheek script? Either one of the more fun horror movies to hit DVD, or one of the more disjointed and messy horror movies to hit DVD. Fortunately, Dark Reel falls closer to the former than the later.

Dark Reel is a very well crafted independent horror flick that is a tongue-in-cheek slasher that features some chuckle-worthy black comedy along with some creative kills and makeup effects. The actors seemed to be having some fun with the roles, with Hendriksen being probably the hammiest of them all. Admittedly, the story itself isn’t anything new, but it’s the more enjoyable ones. And it’s good to see they didn’t go for the more obvious Horror Movie Plagued By Horror and went with a Pirate Movie being filmed instead.

Overall, Dark Reel is worth a watch some time. If anything, it’ll give you an idea of what Edward Ferlong has been up to recently. It’s kind of adorable, really.

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Book Review: DEATH MASKS (The Dresden Files)

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2-5 - Book Review: Dresden Files 5 - Death MasksJim Butcher
Roc Publications
2003

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he’s getting more than he bargained for. A duel with the Red Court of Vampires’ champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards… Professional hit men using Harry for target practice… The missing Shroud of Turin… A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified… Not to mention the return of Harry’s ex-girlfriend Susan, who’s still struggling with her simivampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life. Some days, it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you’re charging.

Fifth book in the Dresden Files series, and things just won’t slow down for our hapless wizard detective. First he’s on a local talk show panel with a Red Court vampire that’s disguised as a São Paulo University professor, and a Vatican priest. The priest hires Dresden to recover a stolen Shroud of MacGuffin…er, Turin, while the vamp challenges Dresden to a duel to end the war between the White Council and the Red Court. All during the show, mind you. Then, while leaving the studio, he’s attacked by a fallen angel known as a member of the Denarians, but then rescued by Michael Carpenter and the other two Knights of the Cross, named Shiro and Sanya, an Asian Baptist and a Russian agnostic, respectively. They tell Dresden to drop the investigation into the missing Shroud, but he refuses to do so. He then manages to find the Shroud, but is captured by the two thieves, who are then attacked by another one of the Denarians that are also trying to find the Shroud themselves. Dresden escapes, goes to an art sales event to see if the Shroud is going to be sold there, gets attacked by another set of Denarians (man, they’re all over the place, like misquetoes or something), who manage to steal the Shroud. The leader of the Denarians then tries to make Dresden an offer he can’t refuse, only to have Dresden refuse it, and Shiro shows up to trade himself for Dresden. Harry and the two other Knights capture one of the other Denarians and manage to get the Denarians’ nefarious plans, which involves a virus infecting the world. But before Dresden can even begin to think about how to thwart that, he has that little duel with the Red Court vampire to take care of.

Whoa, boy this was a big’un. As if the previous baddies weren’t’ enough, we now get introduced to the Denarians, which are described as a coven of fallen angels who reside in the 30 pieces of silver that were given to Judas Iscariot for betraying Jesus back in the day. So, there are thirty of those buggars overall, with just a handful encountered here. They possess human hosts who have taken hold of the coins, and can transform into rather nightmarish beings. Their leader, Nicodemus, is nigh-invulnerable and wears the noose Judas used to hang himself as a fashion accessory. Another one of the Red Court vamps arrives to continue the sub-plot of the war between them and the White Court of Wizards, and also the Fellowship of St. Giles, which feature humans who were infected by the Red Court vamps but had yet to give in to drinking lifeblood to complete their transformation, which is what Dresden’s ex is part of. The other two Knights of the Cross show up, and they have some interesting back stories to tell. Then there’s The Archive. All I’m going to say about her is, welcome Unnervingly Creepy Child to the world of Dresden’s Chicago. And also, BUTTERS! Yay, Butters!

This book in the Dresden Files series left my head swimming. But, in a good way. You definitely can’t accuse Jim Butcher of merely rehashing the same plot over and over; here, we get some rather intense action, a story with some intriguing twists and turns, and some further development for current characters as well as introducing further ones. It’s nice to see the momentum is gathering rather than stalling out with this series.

Movie Review: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Part 5: The Dream Child

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2-4 - Movie Review: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Part 5New Line Cinema
1989
R

“Hi, Alice. Want to make babies?”

Unable to overpower the Dream Master who vanquished him in A Nightmare On Elm Street 4, Freddy haunts the innocent dreams of her unborn child and preys upon her friends with sheer horror. Will the child be saved from becoming Freddy’s newest weapon or will the maniac again resurrect his legacy of evil?

The fifth entry in the Nightmare On Elm Street series finds the heroine from The Dream Master–Alice–graduating from high school and going about her normal life as a part-time waitress of a cafe’, when she starts experiencing waking dreams that feature a nun getting raped by 100 maniacs and giving birth to Baby Freddy, and then witnessing Baby Freddy spontaneously growing into Freddy again, because we can’t just zap the guy with lightning to bring him back to life like we seem to do with Jason Voorhees. So now Freddy’s back, and after Alice’s boyfriend is taken out by him the night of their graduation, she’s hard pressed to convince her friends that Freddy’s real and is ready to slice-n-dice his way into everyone’s hearts. And various other body parts. It takes a bit, but when another dies and one other is almost gotten, they start to understand that Alice may not be as crazy as they think. Also, Alice is pregnant with her dead boyfriend’s baby, and Freddy is trying to mold the lil’ neonate into his image through his dreams. So now Alice not only has to take the battle to the dream world to fight for her friends’ lives, but also her unborn child’s life. And it’s going to take some assistance from the spirit of Freddy’s mother herself to fight him.

Looking over the history behind this entry in the series, it looks like it wasn’t very well liked by Robert Englund, but Lisa Wilcox (who played Alice in this and the previous entries) liked the darker, more Gothic tones, but not so much the darker subject matter and scenes. Which are the points that actually makes this one of my more favorite entries in the Nightmare On Elm Street series. It does have a very strong Hammer-esque Gothic quality and atmosphere both cinematic and story-wise. The movie overall is very dark, which is something that seems to be missed when attempting to do something with it nowadays. This one manages to hit some very dark topics, while the kills seem to be more of an incidental thing. I do admit, the characters did seem to come off more as caricatures, but as the movie filled out, the depth of them began to show. Not so much the parents; pretty much from the get-go, the actors who played the parents were hammy, over-the-top and annoying.

Overall, I rather enjoy The Dream Child. It’s dark, not as cheesy as it could have been (though Freddy is his usual playful self), and compared with certain other entries in the series, is one of the stronger ones in the list. Recommended.

Book Review: SUMMER KNIGHT (Dresden Files)

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2-4 - Book Review: Dresden Files 4 - Summer KnightJim Butcher
Roc Publications
2002

Ever since his girlfriend left town to deal with her newly acquired taste for blood, Harry Dresden has been down and out in Chicago. He can’t pay his rent. He’s alienating his friends. He can’t even recall the last time he took a shower. The only professional wizard in the phone book has become a desperate man. And just when it seems things can’t get any worse, in saunters the Winter Queen of Faerie. She has an offer Harry can’t refuse if he wants to free himself of the supernatural hold his faerie godmother has over him—and hopefully end his run of bad luck. All he has to do is find out who murdered the Summer Queen’s right-hand man, the Summer Knight, and clear the Winter Queen’s name. It seems simple enough, but Harry knows better than to get caught in the middle of faerie politics. Until he finds out that the fate of the entire world rests on his solving this case. No pressure or anything…

So, here we have the fourth book in the Dresden Files, and let’s see if our protagonist Harry Dresden gets a chance to breath, let alone get some rest from the constant wackiness that he’s been put through in the past three books. Hmmmm. It looks doubtful.

Things kick off with a visit from Mab, who just happens to be the Winter Queen of the Sidhe (that’s the Unseelie Faeries, the likes of which you should hope to never run across), who informs Dresden that she just purchased his debt to his Faerie Godmother (you remember, from the previous book), and as such wants him to pay off this debt by doing three favors for her, the first of which happens to be recovering the stolen mantle from the Summer Knight that was recently murdered. Since getting involved with Faerie politics is never really a good thing, Dresden tells Mab to suck it. But then, his motion to “suck it” is shot down by the White Court of Wizards, who–because of that little incident that started a war with the Red Court vampires–informs Dresden that he will accept the roll of Mab’s Emissary as his trial, otherwise he’s going to be stripped of his title as Wizard and then handed over to the Red Court as a peace offering. Then he receives a visit from an old flame, who just happens to be the Emissary of the Summer Court, runs into some changelings with ties to the Faerie, discovers that the Summer Queen is planning on waging war with the Winter Court at Midsummer, meets up with the Elder Queens, and suddenly finds himself entangled in a war he must survive. Will he make it through? Well…this is only the fourth book in a series of fifteen, you tell me.

Okay, so there was a lot to take in while reading this, and sometimes I thought I would have to begin making a flow chart just to keep up. The ongoing story of Harry Dresden just keeps getting more and more complicated, especially now that the Faerie seems to want to come in and play, and his ongoing persona non grata with the White Court of Wizards. Overall, very good book, very complex but engrossing. Nicely done.

Movie Review: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Part 4: The Dream Master

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2-3 - Movie Review: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Part 4New Line Cinema
1988
R

“How sweet. Fresh meat.”

After beautiful young Kristen sees the remaining Elm Street kids succumb one by one to Freddy’s razor-edged wrath, she embarks on a desperate mission to release the tortured souls of Freddy’s victims once and for all. Can this lone Dream Master defeat the satanic dream-stalker? Or will she have to wake up to the fact that no one is ever really ready…for Freddy?

The fourth movie in the original run of A Nightmare On Elm Street movies, this one taking the concept of the Dream Warriors of the previous movie and distilling it all into the concept of the Dream Master to take on a once-again resurrected Freddy Krueger. There’s just no keeping that guy down, is there?

Here we are, some time after The Dream Warriors, and the three kids who survived the previous entry are now released from the psychiatric ward and are living their lives as shiny, happy teenager. Until one of ’em accidentally resurrects Freddy in one of his dreams, and he begins taking ’em out with extreme prejudice, and that wacky sense of humor that we all know and love from our favorite char-faced dream stalker/slasher. Before killing off the last of the Elm Street kids, though, Freddy manages to get access to a whole new group of kids to continue on with his diabolical hobby. Only thing is, one of the slabs of fresh meat (see what I did there?) is little Alice, who has a talent Freddy wasn’t counting on: the ability to gain the powers of the slain Dream Warriors and bending the Dream Realm to her will just as easily as Freddy does, and thus being the Dream Master of the subtitle. Alice has little time to learn to control her new found powers, and take out Freddy, because if that iconic glove of his doesn’t kill her and her friends, his toxic puns will.

Okay, so we’re at the fourth movie of the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise, and after the strong entry of The Dream Warriors, The Dream Master was equally as strong story-wise. It had ties to the previous movie, but didn’t merely rehash the story. As a matter of fact, this movie killed off the remaining characters twenty minutes into the movie, making room for the new protagonist. That’s pretty ballsy, there. The character of Alice seems to be an interesting protagonist, seeming to be the anti-Freddy. The movie as a whole was fairly entertaining and visually interesting, like the previous one.

There is a minor quibble I have; with the previous movie, The Dream Warriors, we had as the big song inclusion the song Dream Warriors by Dokken, a nifty slice of melodic hair metal goodness. The pop-a-licious pop song tie in used here? “Are You Ready For Freddy” by The Fat Boys, which features Freddy actor Robert Englund dropping some mad rhymes at a 65% efficiency level.

It was the 1980s. And Will Smith hadn’t started acting yet.

Book Review: GRAVE PERIL (The Dresden Files)

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2-3 - Book Review: Dresden Files 3 - Grave PerilJim Butcher
Roc Publications
2001

Harry Dresden has faced some pretty terrifying foes during his career. Giant scorpions. Oversexed vampires. Psychotic werewolves. It comes with the territory when you’re the only professional wizard in the Chicago-area phone book. But in all Harry’s years of supernatural sleuthing, he’s never faced anything like this: The spirit world has gone postal. All over Chicago, ghosts are causing trouble – and not just of the door-slamming, boo-shouting variety. These gosts are tormented, violent, and deadly. Someone – or something – is purposely stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc. But why? And why do so many of the victims have ties to Harry? If Harry doesn’t figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself…

The third book in The Dresden Files series of novels, this one expounds quite a bit on the world that professional Wizard Harry Dresden lives in–namely, the supernatural side of Chi-town. Though, I’ve yet to see Chicago referred to as that in the series yet.

We’re introduced to new character Michael Carpenter, a Knight of the Cross that’s helping Dresden take care of a sudden rash of malevolent ghost encounters; they both are rushing to a hospital to take care of a particularly macabre one that sings newborns to death. Something is happening to make the barrier between the physical mortal world and the spirit world–the Nevernever–weak enough to have not nice things come through easier, and after almost getting caught by his Faerie Godmother, he makes the connection between this and a literal Nightmare that seems to be stalking his friends and associates for whatever reason…a reason that points to a previous case that Dresden and Carpenter helped close with the Special Investigations unit of the Chicago PD. And all of this ties into the local society of Red Court vampires and their personal beef with Dresden. Yeah, it had to be the vampires. As long as he doesn’t try to start a war with them…wait. Ah, crap.

So, Grave Peril is pretty much where The Dresden Files finally hits its stride as being engrossing dark urban fantasy noir. Not only are we taking pretty much immediately into the action of things, but it’s a nicely taunt action at that, and in the course of things we’re given more fleshing out of Harry Dresden’s world, both in Chicago and beyond. We finally get a glimpse inside the Nevernever, we meet with Harry’s literal Faerie Godmother (who I always imagined as Ruth Connell, who played Crowley’s mother on the show Supernatural), the three major Vampire courts in play (the Red Court, the White Court, and the Black Court), and the introduction of Michael Carpenter as one of the Knights of the Cross, wielding the sword Amoracchius. Gads, I love this character. And yes, I know, he’s described as being Caucasian with blonde hair and blue eyes, all Catholic ubermench and all…but pretty much from the get-go, I pictured him more as Denzel Washington. And I feel no need to update my mental picture files on this. In my head, Michael and his family is African American, and that’s that.

Yeah, it was with this third entry into the Dresden Files where I found myself a bit more than just a curious novice, and began tearing through the books with reckless abandon. If you’ve made it this far into the series, then kudos. You know what I’m talking about.

SNOW DAY FORTUNE COOKIE ROUNDUP

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bad-fortune-cookieSo, this being a rare snow day from work, and seeing as how I’m not going anywhere for a bit, I figured now would be a good time to catch up on posting the various Fortune Cookie messages I’ve gotten from my takeout excursions over the months. They’ve been piling up here on the corner of my desk. So, here’s what they are, and my little commentaries to follow:

YOU WILL BE ADVANCED SOCIALLY, WITHOUT ANY SPECIAL EFFORT.
…I’ve read Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’…this won’t end well.

AN ADMIRER IS TOO SHY TO GREET YOU AT THE MOMENT
…at least, until the lights are out and I’ve gone to sleep, so that they can sneak inside and steal another lock of my hair for their collection.

YOU WILL SOON GAIN SOMETHING YOU HAVE ALWAYS WANTED
…that would either be the cold hands of death to guide me out of this mortal coil, or that Darth Vader gumball machine. Could go either way.

KEEP YOUR PLANS SECRET FOR NOW
…well, great. You should have told me that before I posted everything on my Facebook page. Way to drop the ball, cookie.

NOW IS A GOOD TIME TO FINISH UP OLD TASKS
…even the cookies are getting on me to put away my laundry. Sheesh.

OUR FIRST AND LAST LOVE IS…SELF LOVE
…now, is that the kind of love a man has for a woman, or the kind of love a man has for a fine cigar?

::END TRANSMISSION::

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