Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Battery

Hollywood has a tendency to take what is successful and milk that concept until it is withered and useless. Horror movies seem to be the easiest for the studios to milk because they cost very little to make, thus making it easier to turn a profit. Zombie movies are the new "hot" item and seems as though each one is more generic than the last, with no foreseeable end in sight. The only way it seems that you are able to get an exceptional horror movie made is to do it independently, or ask a studio for a ridiculously small amount of money. The creators of The Battery took the independent/no money route and made one of the best horror movies that I have ever seen.

The Battery follows two baseball players, Ben (Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim), as they traverse the backwoods of New England trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Ben is perfectly fine with it just being the two of them, moving from place to place in order to survive. Mickey, on the other hand, longs for civilized society and the way things used to be. When a third-party, Annie, is introduced into the equation,  Mickey becomes obsessed  with her. This leads to greater threats than the horde of zombies roaming the countryside.

The first thing that I need to mention about this movie is that it was made for $6000. Let me say that again, $6000. It is incredible what passion, ingenuity, and a decent camera can get you. Jeremy Gardner, who is the star and director, used a Canon 5D to shoot this and the results were incredible. The movie looks excellent from start to finish, and it is incredible what they did with a consumer-level DSLR. If a studio has the balls to give this guy a larger budget and a better camera, I am willing to bet that the result would be incredible.

I know I mentioned earlier that this was a "zombie" movie, but they are in the background for most of the movie. The relationship between Ben and Mickey takes center stage throughout the course of the movie. Ben is the survivalist of the pair, and looks like a modern-day caveman. Mickey longs for the way things used to be, and is generally seen as kind of a pussy. Ben gathers the food, and kills the zombies that they encounter. Mickey seems to just exist in this situation and offers nothing. Their relationship is a symbiotic one, with Mickey keeping Ben mentally sane, and Ben keeping Mickey out of harms way. You can tell that they didn't like each other before the outbreak but are now forced to rely on each other to survive this messed up situation.

There are so many situations in this movie that I can see happening to regular people if the zombie apocalypse ever took place. Dancing around drunk, playing catch, jerking it to zombie tits, hoarding your girlfriend's panties, and teaching people how to kill zombie. You can count me in for everything except for the 3rd and 4th ones. I can believe that I would survive for a while, but who the fuck knows. I guess that is the magic of this movie, you believe that what the guys are doing is exactly what you would be doing in the same situation. Things that we take for granted such as brushing your teeth or a simple game of catch are euphoric for Ben and Mickey, showing the extent of fall of the world around them.

I love horror movies, and I don't need gore to make something enjoyable. This movie is gore-free for the most part, and chooses to focus on the mental wear that is put on Ben and Mickey. Ben has the weight of the safety of the pair on his shoulders and the idea of civilization dying off has made Mickey an empty husk. No scene better illustrates the mental strain on these guys better than when Mickey is cornered in a car by a topless zombie. Mickey is safe in a car and the topless zombie is scratching at the window from the outside, and then he just decides that it would be a good time to jerk off. What the fuck? This would not have been in my thought process but to each their own.


Must See

Best movie of 2013. Boom.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen brothers are arguably the most consistent American directors of the last 2 decades. They have a tendency to make fantastic movies about individuals who are complete underachievers. We've seen it in Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, and A Serious Man. The Coens have now given us the pleasure of seeing another spectacular underachiever with Inside Llewyn Davis.

Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a struggling folk singer living in New York City in the early 1960s. His singing partner, Mike, has recently committed suicide and left Llewyn to pick up the pieces of his struggling career. He is a freeloader of epic proportions, bouncing from couch to couch across the city, preying on the giving nature of his “friends”. He is a jerk to everyone around him and scrapes by on performing a couple of gigs here and there while trying to promote his solo album, Inside Llewyn Davis. He desperately wants to succeed at his craft but he is constantly sabotaging himself by only focusing on the short-term rather than the long-term.

This movie is an experience, we get to see and feel the full array of emotions over the run time of the film. The Coens give us a glimpse into one man’s seemingly crappy existence and we get to see his ups and downs, and it is magnificent. There is no main goal to the story, no maniacal villain, and no damsel in distress. It is a movie about a man struggling with his dreams and his inability to make good decisions. I think the reason that I loved this movie so much is due to the fact that Llewyn’s life seems incredibly relatable, with his lack of direction and the cyclical nature of his life. He loves being a musician but is completely unwilling to bend in his beliefs to become successful and lacks the decision-making skills to counter his lack of adaptability. He is simply doomed to make the same mistakes over and over.

Oscar Isaac gives a breakout performance as the titular character, and handles singing duties to go along with his incredible acting performance. I believe the greatest aspect of his performance is his ability to make a mostly unlikable character and turn him into an endearing character that you constantly root for, but he is still a massive asshole. He is a dick to almost everyone that he comes into contact with but the people around him continue to love him, no matter how horribly he acts towards them. Oscar also has some serious singing chops and he infuses each performance with a staggering amount of emotion, and makes you feel the pain that come out in his character feels.

The supporting characters are solid as well with Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan playing a singing duo, Jim and Jean, who are Llewyn’s closest friends. Mulligan spends most of her time being completely pissed off at Llewyn but also has some touching moments with him as well. Timberlake’s character just exists in the movie and is not given a ton of scenes to fully develop but he isn’t the focus of the movie. The real scene stealer is John Goodman, returning to the Coens after 13 years. He plays a jazz musician, whom Llewyn hitches, a ride with to Chicago. The jabs that his character and Llewyn exchange are some of the best in the movie.

Inside Llewyn Davis revels in its main characters misery. There are no over the top situations or a huge dramatic conclusion. We simply get a magnificently filmed glimpse into the life of a chronically underachieving artist. The low-key tone of this movie was done perfectly by the Coen Brothers and continues their string of masterpieces that hopefully lasts for decades to come.


Inside Llewyn Davis doesn’t have the memorable lines of The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona, or the memorable characters of Fargo and No Country for Old Men, but it is masterpiece nonetheless. This is another masterful addition to the Coen Brothers’ movie resume, I can't wait to see what they have up their sleeve for us in the future.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Walking Dead- "Miles Behind Us"

Now we move onto the second arc of The Walking Dead, Miles Behind Us. For people just beginning to read the series after watching the show, this arc is the basis for the second season of the AMC show. Just keep in mind if you plan on reading "Miles Behind Us", that it is completely different than the show. You will realize how superior the comic series is after you read this arc.

This arc leaves us with Rick and the group of survivors searching for a new place to live. They find what they think is a safe gated community, that they quickly realize is infested with zombies after one of their own is taken down. While in the community, a new set of survivors is brought into the mix. We are introduced to the badass known as Tyreese, as well as his daughter and her idiot boyfriend. The group then moves onto a farm after another near tragedy and shacks up with Herschel and his family for a few issues.

The interesting thing about this arc is that there is no villain or any real presentable danger to the group. After being chased out of the gated community, they find Herschel's farm and then spend the rest of the time getting to know each other. I have seen where this series goes and this portion of the series really serves as a calm before the storm. Most of the pages are spent getting the characters more familiar with each other. There is also a sizable jump in time from the first arc to this one, with several months passing. There is still the weight of the deaths from the first few issues on the group, and it is examined a few times. That is what makes this series so special, it is not just about zombies but how people are affected by this crazy situation.

 I thought Herschel had a hard time in the TV series accepting that there was no cure for the zombie virus, but in the comic series he seems like a belligerent idiot at times. You have to keep in mind that a large portion of his family is still alive at this point and he has several more children. His idiocy leads to the death of more than a few people. He is not the moral center of any group in the comic series and the only reason people love this character is because of the TV show. Most of the time in the comic he is just a pile of uselessness with a shit attitude.

This arc was a way for Robert Kirkman to get us acquainted with the cast before he brought them to the prison, which is where the series really begins to take off into greatness. I never got the sense that any of the main cast of characters was in any real danger. This is a necessary evil when a writer has a long term plan in place, and seeing where this series goes just reaffirms my belief in my previous statement. Keep picking up the graphic novels until you catch up with where the series is currently. The series just keeps getting better and better. With no endgame in sight, I am excited for the series every single time a new issue comes out.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Walking Dead "Days Gone Bye"

If you are not a fan of The Walking Dead, you may want to skip this article. 

I have been meaning to write about The Walking Dead comic series for some time. Of any series that I have read, this is by far the best in terms of long term quality. At this point, we are nearing 120 issues and there has not been a noticeable drop in quality. If anything, the series has gotten better with age. Days Gone Bye, is the opening arc to the series and is the most recognizable to mainstream audiences, as it is the basis for the first season of the the wildly popular television adaptation of the same name. This is also the only arc to feature the artwork of series co-creator Tony Moore, and the arc is worth reading for the artwork alone.

Days Gone Bye details the beginning of Rick Grimes' journey through the zombie apocalypse. Rick is a small town sheriff in Kentucky, who is injured in a shootout and lapses into a coma due to his injuries.He soon wakes up to a disheveled hospital room, and as he ventures into the hospital he learns that there is something definitely wrong with the world. His motivation for surviving is to find his family and make sure that they are safe. His journey leads him to Atlanta and that is where all the fun begins.

The thing that I truly love about this arc and the series in general is that the writer, Robert Kirkman, always focuses on the characters rather than the zombies. The zombies are still a huge threat but humans are the scariest creatures in this story. Zombies have no motivations and are simply there to find their next meal and devour anything in their path. The human characters have their own motivations, histories, and the most dangerous of all, the need to survive. Shane is more unhinged than ever and you can see him breaking from the first moment that we meet him. He might have had a larger role in the television series but his impact in the comics is more effective. The subsequent arcs really delve into the fact that humans are the real danger when society begins to breakdown and I'll get to that as I start breaking those arcs down in the future.

People need to keep in mind that this arc is before Rick is the leader of the group of survivors and fan of the television show are going to have to forget everything that they have seen before, because the comic series is a whole other beast. There are more characters of importance in the comic than in the TV series and they each play a pivotal role in the series. It is also strange that the character sin the series are written in a more realistic manner than in the comic series. Once Lori finds out that Rick is alive there is no more romantic feelings with Shane. It is completely over in her eyes, but not in Shane's eyes, which leads to him being the series' first villain. Rick is singularly focused on finding his family and only when he does, does the full effect of what is going around him affect him. The whole thing with the first arc is that it is slowly world building, we get a sense of how the zombies function and how this group has been surviving in the world.

Most of you reading this are either fans of the TV series or a fan of both the TV series and comic series. The differences between the two, even in the early stages are drastic. Characters such as Andrea, Lori, Shane, Dale, and Carl are vastly different in each medium. Andrea is not a weak character and she only gets one shining moment in the first arc but it is vastly different than her lesser television counterpart. Lori is not caught in a love triangle and is simply happy to have her family back in one piece. Shane snaps much earlier than in the TV show and is not as well developed as his TV counterpart. The one character that the TV series really did a disservice to is Dale. They made him into this overprotective father figure for the group and never allowed him to really develop as a character. His comic version is a father figure and moral center for Rick more than anyone else, and that only starts in later arcs. In this arc he is one who jumps into action to save Lori from a zombie attack and also is there to comfort Andrea after she has to kill her sister after she is bitten. There opportunities were wasted by the writers of the TV series because they were more interested in having the group seek a cure for the zombie infection, which was dumb decision. What makes the series compelling is the human reactions to the situation that they have been thrust into.

This is essential reading for any comic fan and for anyone that loves the TV show. If you are a fan of the show and have never read the comic, you are going to be in for a treat. This arc, even as a standalone story, works incredibly well. Read this anyway that you can, buy it at your local comic shop, download it from Comixology, or torrent it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Walking Dead- "Dead Weight"

Would the real Governor step forward, please.

About time this happened.  These last two episodes that were focused on him solely felt like a time-out in the progress of the season.  I understand why the show did this, but his arc was so quick I could have used more time seeing him portray Brian.  Alas, the man is back, in charge, and wanting revenge on everyone.

The episode starts with a back and forth between Meghan and The Governor, and Martinez and The Governor.  His initial talks with Martinez are tense and show anger between the two.  His talk with Meghan though gets his brain moving towards making the next move in life.  This was the first sign that he was back and ready to make moves.  After a supply run that some good walker deaths they were back at camp.  Martinez made a joke while using the golf clubs from Woodbury about sharing leadership with The Governor.  Needless to say The Governor didn’t find it funny and that was all she wrote for Martinez.  It was a beautiful death and words will do it no justice.  The acting was superb and the scene was great.

The Governor tried to leave before anything else happened.  He gathered up his new family, including Tara’s new girl fling, and they all drove out in the middle of the night.  Soon enough they were stopped by a slew of walkers stuck in quicksand like mud in the middle of the road.  Some great make up work here as the walkers have only been getting better as the season has gone on.  Having to go back to the camp, The Governor decides it is time to take charge.

With a brutal death to Pete and a decision to see if he can get Mitch on his side, Pete’s brother, The Governor takes full reign of the camp.  The theme again has been can you ever come back from something and still be who you once were.  The Governor clearly can go straight back into his all-out crazy mode of controlling everything and being the leader again, despite the look of him not really wanting to take the mantel.

Of course he knows of a place to keep everyone safe and we get a great ending to the episode with him secretly spying on the prison.  With a raise of his gun, the episode cuts to black in a great cliff-hanger to the last episode of the year.  It seems as if he will do everything in his power to keep Meghan, Tara, and Lily safe.  I think the last episode of the year is going to be explosive, exciting, and see many deaths from some of the regulars we have come to know and love.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Innkeepers

The Innkeepers harkens back to the classic ghost movies of yesteryear, such as Poltergeist, and modern marvels such as Insidious. Director Ti West has become of the best young independent horror directors in the industry, and this is another feather in his cap. The Innkeepers doesn't overly concern itself with over the top gore or jump scares, it is a slow-burning haunted house tale.This is a very different movie from all of the gore fests that have come out over the past decade, The Innkeepers concerns itself with the story and characters first rather than worry about the way the ghosts will look of the effects it will have in it. This is a style that is sorely lacking in Hollywood for the most part because it doesn't necessarily sell to the masses.

The Innkeepers tells the tale of Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), who work at The Pedlar's Inn  which is on it last weekend of being open. There was a woman, Madeline O'Malley, who hanged herself in the inn in the 1800's and many of the people in the inn have seen her ghost. Claire and Luke are very interested in "Ghost Hunting" and try and document all of the different events that go on in the inn. From little things such as a piano playing itself or even doors closing on their own there are little things that support the notion that there is a ghost in the inn. Claire starts to become overly paranoid after she starts to witness things that she attributes to the ghost of Madeline O'Malley.From that point forth it is a tale of trying to find the truth about what happened in the inn and how they can make it out of there alive.

This is exactly the type of horror movie that I loved as a kid. There is almost no gore to speak of and it uses all of these small scary events to set the mood and establish fear in the viewer. The two main characters in the movie, Claire and Luke, are also extremely likable because they seem like just normal people. They both seem like outsiders and are never at odds with each other and they both like each other. You can tell that they like each other on a deeper level but they never act on it. This is one of the better ghost stories that I have seen over the last few years and it is a step blow movie like Insidious or Poltergeist. The only thing it doesn't do that those other movies do is create an iconic or long lasting villain. It is also a tad slower than most movies which takes its toll on the effectiveness of the movie because it take such a long time to get to the meat of the movie.

This is a very good haunted house movie and is a great little independent movie. Sara Paxton also does a wonderful job of carrying the movie on her shoulders. She is extremely beautiful in every movie that she is in but they manage to make her look like a plain Jane and just like a normal person. Her chemistry with Healy is great in the movie and really carries the movie along. This is a very good ghost story and deserves to be seen by horror movie enthusiasts.

I am a huge fan of haunted house movies/stories and have really grown to appreciate the skill needed to make one successful. Anyone can take a group of people, throw them in a creepy setting, and add ghosts. It doesn't mean that the movie is going to be scary but that is why over-the-top gore is used heavily to compensate for shit stories in many cases. West has become a modern master in horror storytelling and you can see that first hand in this movie and in House of the Devil. He has made these movies scary by using setting, story, and having the ability to use these to fill every frame with a sense of dread. The bottom line is that if you are a fan of horror movies, you should be watching this movie right now. If you are not a fan of horror movies, you should still give this one a shot.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Walking Dead- "Live Bait”

Ah, the return of The Governor.  Only took about half the season, but it was a grand return.  The episode saw him kill off two sides of his persona while creating a mix of them in a brand new terrifying, yet lovable new version.  Let’s see how long he can keep this going through the rest of the season, or if the darkest version of himself will come back to haunt Rick and the others at the prison.

A great beginning showing exactly what happened to The Governor and those in his car after the killing members of Woodbury.  The Governor was in shock and couldn't or wouldn't even defend himself from walkers as they camped for the evening.  After waking up in the morning he was by himself and a never ending journey wandering past walkers started.  With a voice over by The Governor himself, we saw Woodbury burn and a beard grow.  He was of course talking to Tara and Lily, people who would become new family to him by the end of the episode.  He told them his name was Brian, clearly for the fans of the graphic novel “Rise of the Governor,” and would only tell them that where he came from, the leader lost his mind, with “Brian” barely getting out.

We eventually see how he hooked up with Tara and Lily and it was a great moment.  The Governor had fallen on the ground, and he needed a glimmer of hope to even stand back up, and at that perfect moment he saw Meghan, looking very much like his dead daughter Penny, in a window inside a building.  Starting off Tara and Lily do no trust him right off the bat, having him sleep in another room and trying to gather what information about him that they can.  After they talk to him, they wanted help with moving their ailing grandfather, David, so The Governor helps them and at the request of David he gets a game of backgammon to play with Meghan from a person upstairs from them.  When he gets upstairs he finds the game without a problem, but he finds the man it belongs to in a tub and mercifully kills him.  He looks very uncomfortable doing it, which is very unlike him.

This is a man who is broken.  He is not the ruthless man who we knew from last season.  Most of this season has been how far can the characters, which we have come to know, go and still be the same people.  It seems as though The Governor has changed forever.  This was best exemplified in the next scene where he travels to a nursing home to get oxygen for David, at Lily’s request, and is so startled by all the walkers that he runs away from the home with only 2 canisters, where he had a whole cart at first.  He doesn't seem to want to deal with walkers anymore after his actions in Woodbury.

Another great screen occurred with him and Meghan.  As David is dying, he starts to warm up to the girl, seeing his own daughter in her, and the feeling of wanting to keep her safe brings out a nice side of The Governor.  The whole episode dealt with trying to get the audience to see this man in a different light.  I don’t know how I feel about it yet, because I still think, and hope, the horrific man is in there so another battle can take place, but I like that they are giving him more dimensions.

When David dies, The Governor takes it into his own hands to kill him.  He does it quite horrifically in front of the 3 women, but it had to be done.  After the killing is done, he buries David, with a little help from Lily, and then burns the picture of his own family.  He doesn't want to be reminded of the hurting anymore and realizes that that part of his life is over and will never come back.  The Governor wants to leave, but Lily doesn’t let him without herself, Tara, and Meghan.  As they drive towards an unknown destination they stop for the night.  Lily decides to get some and The Governor and her hook up as the other two sleep right next to them.  In the morning the truck doesn't start and they have to travel on foot.  A horde of walkers is nearby and they have to make a run for it.  Meghan freezes, still in shock from what he did to her grandfather, but eventually goes right into his arms, and they run.  The Governor trips into a pit that has walkers inside, like he used to keep.  He kills the walkers brutally and says he will keep her safe no matter what and then Martinez shows up on top of the pit.

We don’t know how this is going to work out.  We haven’t seen him in a long time and so much has changed.  The Governor know has this family that he is taking care of and is at least seemingly trying to redeem himself for all of the terrible actions he has committed.  I thought overall this was a great episode, even though we only had one main character in it.  David Morrissey easily carried the episode and I hope we get more of him every week from here on out until the season is over.  It will be interesting to see if he has to play second banana to Martinez, as the preview suggested, or if that will be short lived.  The Governor has had a great reintroduction, hopefully the writers can keep it going now.