Holy fuck! Who’s that creepy motherfucker and what is he doing here?? Something tells me he wants to strangle me with my own intestines…which is VERY unhygienic, so EW. Or he could just be that guy from VOLUMES OF BLOOD: HORROR STORIES, the sequel to the kickawesome VOLUMES OF BLOOD. Remember that one? An anthology, but a super fun one with lots of gory good times? (Just click the link if you need a refresher!) But we all know that the killer always comes back, no matter what, and we also know how it tends to go with the art of the sequel. So does VOLUMES OF BLOOD II hold up to the first? Hmmm…let’s take a look….
Our story starts with a heist. One that’s set in the middle of nowhere (maybe a farm?), which is the perfect place to die. It starts out well enough with three amigos heisting, shooting the shit, and telling spooky stories about the old place they’re stealing from (because one ALWAYS does that during a heist, duh). At least half of our opening story was filmed in apparent complete dark, however, so you’re going to have to rely on your ears big time here. BUT the kill scenes are nicely lit and so long as you get to see people die, I guess it’s all cool, right? (Huh. That last sentence doesn’t make me sound unbalanced at all. ;))
But WAIT, no, omg, guess what?? That whole time we were watching a movie!! I mean, obviously I was watching a movie but then I was watching people watching a movie! Ah, the old movie within a movie trick. (Thank you, CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI) Boy, did you get me. Then we’re off to…watch another movie? But first we need to time jump to the past? And then 20 minutes past the past? Then come back to here to watch the movie? (I think I got that order correct.) There were lots of random images being flashed about, so I wasn’t sure if we were going back to the library and following the immediate aftermath of the first film or if we were jumping into a, um, jumping into movies anthology. It turned out to be neither.
What happened next was an anthology wrapped around a house and the holidays – different holidays and a single house as the centerpiece. We get to experience Father’s Day, Christmas, birthdays, Halloween, and so on and so forth. (We also get to experience the joys of house browsing!) As with most anthologies, certain pieces were better than others. My favorite story featured the girl above, a salesman, and Thanksgiving. It was incredibly atmospheric which helped lift it from the “oh yeah, I have a pretty good idea of how this ends” doldrums. The Christmas piece ended up being fairly good as well with its fun ending and an actress who was able to carry ~10 minutes of screentime alone (and mostly in silence). The downside was that this piece was much too long. I understand the time needed to build tension, to make the audience realize that something isn’t quite right, but it can be done in less time than this. (Also, my god, the freaking carols and Christmas music!!! BLEHCK. I hate this holiday so much.)
Overall though? First and foremost, VOLUMES OF BLOOD: HORROR STORIES reminded me WAY too much of THE PERFECT HOUSE, which is also an anthology tied around a house in which a real estate agent is showing a young couple around. Secondly, it was much less cohesive than the first. This story didn’t flow as smoothly as the first did; didn’t tie together as well; didn’t make as much sense. Especially the ending. I still don’t know who the killer is or where he’s from or why he suddenly popped up and decided to kill every citizen of Owensboro. I also am unsure why there are now unseen forces (or people) seemingly commanding him to kill (not like voices in his head but legit “hey that’s an order!” commanding way). Maybe it’s all just meant to entice in case there’s a third film? I dunno, but I was not impressed. Thirdly, this sequel just wasn’t as much FUN as the first was. This film was really lacking the joy of the first (I know that sounds weird – joy in a horror flick? – but hear me out). The first film was clearly such a product of love and devotion and people were so obviously having a blast that it made the energy of the film into that too (despite the blood and gore ;)).
VOLUMES OF BLOOD II was definitely better LOOKING than the first – it looks like they had a larger budget this time around – but it was lacking. It was missing that joie de vivre and indie spirit, for whatever reason. It also didn’t stick together as well as the original – this one very much showed us that it had been stirred with several hands in the mixing bowl and it made for some lumpy spots.
Is it ultimately worth a watch? Yes. There are the couple of stories that are really enjoyable; there’s a nod to TRICK’R’TREAT (my favoritest anthology series EVER); and there are lots of gooey messes and intestinal effects that are all practical and not CGI. (Big props for the makeup team and fx guys! You guys are wicked awesome!) And, of course, if you’re a fan of the slasher genre, you may totally dig on this. Check out the trailer on the Facebook page and let me know what you think!
Ahh, September is such a crazy month! Pretty much EVERYONE I know has a birthday this month (including my beautiful and amazing niece, who turned 7!), so things get busy. And TODAY is actually MY b-day, so I’m here to ask any & all my lovely buds in the Portland area for a birthday gift (that honestly is more a gift to YOU!).
Remember the kickawesome, amazeballs, “OMG WTF?”, swoon-worthy, “everything is magical” movie NEIL STRYKER & THE TYRANT OF TIME from the Portland Film Fest? The one I fell in love with (and the one where I fell in love with Darrel Freeway ;))? WELL, guess what? Turns out, there is ONE MORE showing TOMORROW, Friday, September 23rd of NEIL STRYKER, in Portland, at Clinton Street Theater, at 8PM, with the Oregon Independent Film Festival! (That was A LOT of commas…) So if you love me – if you love movies – if you love yourself – you’ll get thee to the Clinton Street Theater tomorrow at 8PM, if you’re within, say…a 60 mile radius? 🙂 You WON’T regret it. (C’mon, I would never steer you guys wrong. Right, E?? ;)) Get your tickets HERE, then get your asses in those seats, and prepare to *giggle* said asses off.
And thank you in advance for making me a very, very happy birthday girl. 🙂 (If you do go watch, come back and share your review because I really wanna *squee* with people over this one!)
You guys rock. ❤
mid·dle·man: /ˈmidlˌman/ – a person who arranges business or political deals between other people.
Also known as the go-between, or the manipulator, or the “wait, what did I just really agree to, asshole??” guy. And in Lenny Freeman’s case, it refers to a hitchhiker named Hitch (yes, I know), who may or may not have roped him into a deal with the devil himself. Oops.
Lenny Freeman’s dream of being a famous comedian is about to become a nightmare. Not only is he stuck in a dead end accounting job, Lenny has a bigger problem — Lenny is not funny. When his mother suddenly dies, he quits his job and heads to Vegas in search of fame. But along the way, a mysterious hitchhiker lures him into a desert-town killing spree with a dark and twisted result – as the bodies pile up, Lenny actually becomes funnier and funnier.
Another Portland Film Fest selection, MIDDLE MAN definitely shows us that the devil is in the details (sometimes literally) and you should, perhaps, be careful what you wish for. Personally, I don’t know what the big deal is to Lenny – couple of dead people vs. guaranteed stardom…?? (Kidding, kidding! #totes) And to think it all starts with one jerkface heckler (don’t be jerkfaces, people. It leads nowhere good!). And everyone, just don’t pick up hitchhikers, especially ones named Hitch, because C’MON! And if a person you just met starts trying to convince you that they can absolutely be your manager and help make you famous, etc. etc., just NO. And for fucks’ sake, if you wake up after a night of drinking with a new friend and there’s a dead person in front of you that you don’t remember killing but your new friends says, yep, you must’ve – RUN. AWAY.
I guess it’s not entirely Lenny’s fault. He was stuck living somewhere in the 50s and didn’t seem entirely aware of the dangers of now. (And by that I mean, kind of how my parents like to pretend that we all live in an episode of THE ANDY GRIFFITH show). No, Lenny seemed to be a very kind, but VERY oblivious to anything not related to him, sorta guy. Hence why his stand-up act wasn’t very good. He grew up listening to comedians from the Ed Asner/Milton Berle era(s) and never moved past their comedy into his own style (a style which should’ve apparently included a lot of misogynistic sex “jokes” according to his competition at the club). BUT when people started dying, Lenny kept getting funnier and funnier.(Maybe he got their funny as it left their bodies?)
I liked the style of this film – where it was set in contemporary times but with Lenny’s car, attitude and certain styles of clothing, etc. seemed to be a throw-back to the 50s. The nostalgia was definitely strong with this one! And the desert landscapes were absolutely GORGEOUS. (Desert = scary because desert has sunshine, but desert is also so so pretty.)
Jim O’Heir could NOT have been anymore perfect as “Lenny”. Oblivious, slightly charming, freaked the fuck out, happy, panicked, slightly crazy…his portrayal of Lenny’s rise to “stardom” and subsequent downfall before the fact was A+. Andrew J. West as “Hitch” was an endearing ball of sunshine…no, wait. I meant to say, one crazy motherfucker. We, the audience, know something’s off with him early on, but he manages to keep his homicidal tendencies on the down low from Lenny for at least…I dunno, like 15 hours? West plays “Hitch” as constantly on edge, walking a fine line between “will I fuck you up?” and “oops, that was totes an accident! Kinda…”, a line that another actor well might have stepped over early on in the film. West kept it all tightly reined in till needed though and was magnificent. He was definitely my favorite thing about MIDDLE MAN.
Unfortunately, overall, despite it’s dark comedic overtones and West’s fabulous performance, I wasn’t a huge fan of MIDDLE MAN. While I understood the point of all the death, I also got bored watching essentially the exact same thing happen 3 or 4 times. The ending – the very last scene – was so fucking kickass that I’m still thinking about it, but otherwise, I found the film kind of “meh”. It was in no way bad and was actually quite well done, so I think it was just the length and repetition that soured me on it. Still, I definitely think it’s worth watching, especially if dark comedy is your thing, so check out the trailer and then tell me your thoughts!
What madcap, steampunk, nonsensical adventure was this?? NEIL STRYKER & THE TYRANT OF TIME is like DOCTOR WHO on crack (and we all know that DOCTOR WHO is already on something, so hot damn!) and the result is absolutely GLORIOUS. Like, hi, move over Indiana Jones, a new action hero has stolen my heart – and he’s ridiculously emotionless, gravelly voiced and entirely capable of handling himself around robots (because YES, THERE ARE ROBOTS IN THIS MOVIE!!!). (And yes, I WILL apparently be using my caps lock key a lot.)
So Neil Stryker is a dude, on suspension from his job as…okay, I never really understood exactly what he did but kind of like the military + secret government operation + spies thing? Unfortunately for the world, Neil’s ex-mentor, the MAD scientist – complete with white lab coat, crazy sticky-uppy hair and crazy goggle glasses – has finally set in motion his dastardly plan to go back in time through the time portal he created to…steal a bunch of toys on Christmas Eve and have THE SEX (as E. would say) with Mrs. Claus! NOOOOO!!! Along the way, the mad scientist also kidnaps Neil’s son, so there’s that. Also the mad scientist is MAAADDDDD, which just leads to all sorts of shenanigans and tom-foolery. Oh, and he has a sidekick (of course) named Darrel who’s robotically challenged, musically inclined, and sneaky planning his own…uh, sneaky plan. 😉 Darrel is actually my favorite character of the whole piece (sorry, Neil! I love you but I love Darrel more because he sings!), which makes sense, because his vibe is the epitome of “bad boy”, which media and society has conditioned women to view as totally normal and moreso, absolutely romantic (“omg, he got so mad he punched a wall? That’s soooo romantic – look how passionate he is about you! *sighs*” *rolls eyes so hard they fall out of head*). Anyway, despite his bad boy vibe, Darrel is more cartoon villain than romantic villain (think Dr. Horrible), so whatever, I dig him.
In fact, the whole movie is a cartoon come to life, with over-the-top…well, EVERYTHING. It’s a complete and total farce, and it’s AMAZING. Guys, there’s cars that fly! Robots! Goblins!! (I honestly have no idea WHY there were goblins, got totally lost there, but dudes – goblins!!- and they were adorable and evil and so cute, and then there was the Russian guy and the vodka…like The Fireys in LABYRINTH! Kinda…). There’s time travel! Souvenirs! Explosions! HEADS exploding! This movie has it ALL. It’s an 80s throwback that hits its mark perfectly.
In fact, those super kickawesome, evil, adorable goblins? Looked like they were right out of the Henson labs. They were brilliant. This film was shot entirely in Oregon and parts of Washington over the course of 9 years, and every single set, effect, every puppet was created by a Portland artist. Now THAT is what I like to see in homegrown cinema. Especially when the result is something as laugh out loud funny and enjoyable as this.
The sets were kick ass. The small amount of CGI was almost perfect (the explosions were a little off and fake looking, but they also might have been that way on purpose to fit the 80s theme, I’m not sure). The costumes were fabulous. The actors – ugh, I don’t think there was anyone in this films that I DIDN’T like and that rarely happens. Nic Costa (Darrel) captures the “sidekick craving more” trope perfectly. Rob Taylor as Neil Stryker is hilariously apathetic as the hero (anti-hero?) of the piece. And Rob Taylor as the Mad Scientist is ridiculously funny at being woefully inept. Oh yes, you did read that correctly – Neil and MS were played by the same guy – and I had NO freaking clue till the end of the movie when the credits came around! Not one inkling. Holy fuck, I loved this movie.
Currently playing at the Portland Film Fest, NEIL STRYKER & THE TYRANT OF TIME is a side-splittingly funny piece of comedy that had me alternately shaking my head at the melodrama, then giggling uncontrollably. With a bit of everything, it’s a madcap adventure of the very best kind – and there damn well better be a sequel in the making. I’m willing to follow Neil Stryker through the universe and time, so c’mon guys, let’s get to more adventuring!
Oh yeah, and watch the trailer below to get a taste of the wacky wildness that is Neil Stryker!
Shady’s back – tell a friend! *dance break* Oops, sorry, got a little excited there for a minute…Anyway, I’m back (for today at least. and later this week. then hopefully forever and ever and ever like that creepy clowndoll you can’t get rid of but being ill makes life rarely go as planned, so we’ll see. right? 😉 ) WHY am I here? To let y’all know that the Portland Film Fest is back!!
Remember AIMY IN A CAGE from last year? The mind-blowingly, amazingly, freakishly, insanely beautiful love child of John Waters and Marc Caro/Jean-Pierre Jeunet (that is currently on Amazon Prime – hint, hint, nudge, nudge)? It was one of the AMAZING pieces from last year’s festival and this year’s line-up promises to be just as interesting! I’ll be covering the festival and reviewing films from it for the next couple of weeks, and there’s just so much diversity going on here – there are films on pinball wizards; accountants dying to be stand-up comedians; Ovarian Psycos; pot growers; guys with allergies to the sun; haunted Mediterranean islands; politically-conscious indie musicals (YES!!!); family dramas; goat farming; gang life vs. street fashion; superstar role models; and MORE…*deep breath* Whew, that’s a lot of film! Obviously, I can’t get to them all, but I’ll be getting to as many films as I can. If you’re IN Portland, however, I HIGHLY suggest you go watch these beauts for yourself!
The fourth annual Portland Film Festival will take place August 29 – September 5, 2016, at Portland’s iconic Laurelhurst Theater, and will include over 20 educational panels & forums, 12 archival presentations, and many parties, events, and industry networking opportunities throughout the week. Established in 2013, the Portland Film Festival is one of Oregon’s largest film festivals, and was named “one of the coolest film festivals in the world,” by MovieMaker Magazine. This year, the festival has programmed a near equal balance of films from men and women, furthering the festival’s commitment to supporting diverse voices and visions.
“This year’s screenings, panels, and programs are an exciting cross-section of icons of classic cinema, engaging new filmmakers, and the best of modern indie film. We’re truly proud to bring this year’s eclectic program to local audiences. We’re also thrilled that, for the first time, all of our films will screen at Portland’s historic Laurelhurst Theatre. This year’s festival will be a not-to- be-missed event,” said Josh Leake, Portland Film Festival Founder and Executive Director.
The festival will present two opening and closing night films (a documentary and a narrative film on each night) and feature films in the following sections: Narrative Competition Feature, Documentary Competition Feature, Narrative Spotlight, Stranger Than Fiction, Tribute: Visionaries, and Milestones. New this year, the festival has created a section to screen classic films from the 70’s and 80’s, and will also be honoring two iconic writers, Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Choke) and William F. Nolan (Logan’s Run).
Visit their site for full deets and list of films!
We’ve already seen some clunkers at the theaters in 2016. From “London Has Fallen” to “Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice,” it’s basically been an onslaught of soulless action sequels designed to fill the gap between the winter awards season and the spring and summer blockbusters. But beginning in April we’ll really start to get into the coming year in film – and there are sure to be more disasters on the way.
Keeping that in mind, here are my predictions for the five worst movies still to come in 2016.
Alice Through The Looking Glass
It’s amazing how infrequently Through The Looking Glass is mentioned, given the fame of Alice In Wonderland. Lewis Carroll’s sequel was as quirky and wondrous as the original, and probably deserves a similarly high place in the literary canon. That said, it probably doesn’t really need a film sequel, does it?
2010’s “Alice In Wonderland” wasn’t actually bad, but it’s been another six years, and I’m just not sure the public is ready for more Tim Burton/Johnny Depp eccentricity (though Burton is only producing this time around). The trailer looks like a combination of “The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus” and a bunch of Disney ideas that were locked away in a vault (not a good combo), and the cast is a who’s who of actors who are strange for the sake of being strange: Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Michael Sheen, Andrew Scott, Rhys Ifans, Stephen Fry…. They’re all very capable, but thrown together in a project like this they just sound annoying.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows
Where was I when we decided we needed a sequel to the blasphemous garbage that was Jonathan Liebesman’s 2014 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles CGI Festival” (not the official title). The movie got 21% on Rotten Tomatoes and prompted one reviewer to make the claim that it made Transformers movies look subtle. But hey, it made almost $500 million, so full speed ahead.
I don’t feel I have to get into this one too much, so here goes. Spoiler alert: it’s going to be horrible.
Now You See Me 2
“Now You See Me” wasn’t an awful movie… it just wasn’t very clever. Billed as a sort of “Ocean’s 11”-but-with-magic, it was expected to be a mind-blowing heist thriller complete with intelligent twists and intricate plot puzzles. Instead, it was kind of just a heist movie that used only partially explained magic tricks as explanations for thievery. There was something there, but whether via poor direction, uninventive writing, or perhaps even shoddy editing, it didn’t quite come to the surface.
Maybe round two will be better. The cast, at least, has been loaded up for a major summer blockbuster. Returners Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, and Mark Ruffalo are all bigger deals now than they were when the first film came out; established pros Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Woody Harrelson are all back; and this time around we’ll also be treated to appearances by Daniel Radcliffe and Lizzy Caplan. The ingredients are there. But frankly, the first movie didn’t inspire much confidence, and given that sequels are usually dumber and less inventive (see: “Ocean’s 12”), it feels more likely that this movie doubles down on the shortcomings of its predecessor.
Independence Day: Resurgence
It might be about time for an alien invasion movie. This particular sort of fiction is always popular, but it’s actually been a while since a big budget movie tackled invasion. Aliens in general have remained popular subjects for entertainment of late. There was actually a little-known 2015 movie about our history of alien fascination, called “Area 51,” and Gala’s bingo platform even played into the same history with the introduction of an “Area 75” video game. It’s one of several themed bingo games to embrace fiction or pop culture, and brings up topics and imagery related to Area 51 and UFO sightings.
But a big budget, Hollywood thrill ride about a large-scale alien invasion? It really has been a while. But does our next foray into this popular topic really have to be a shameless cash grab? This is a 20-years-later sequel that’s lacking its biggest star, and while the trailer looks intriguing, I have my doubts. Continuing Independence Day without Will Smith is like if “The Force Awakens” had been made without any of the old timers on board. Sure, it would have made limitless money anyway, but would it have been nearly as interesting? This has flop written all over it.
Oh, Hollywood…. We just can’t drop the sword-and-sandals epics, can we? There really hasn’t been a good one in years, let alone anything close to the impact we saw in films like “Gladiator,” “Troy,” and “300” earlier this century. However, at least the majority of failed sword-and-sandals movies simply fade away into obscurity, or drift to Netflix to be buried beneath better movies. This one might be different.
The 1959 “Ben-Hur” starring Charlton Heston has a certain iconic place in Hollywood history, and messing with it now just seems kind of careless. Not to mention it’s being remade with a relative unknown in Heston’s shoes (Jack Huston, who most recently starred in “Pride And Prejudice And Zombies”), and written by a guy who has a single film credit since penning 1994’s “In Search Of Dr. Seuss.” This really feels like a half-assed effort trying to capitalize on a famous name.
Predicting the worst films of any summer is always a difficult exercise, because there are always a few clunkers nobody sees coming. Furthermore, it’s always possible that something that looks truly awful winds up exceeding expectations! But specifically where sequels and remakes are concerned – and really, those categories make up most of the summer blockbuster season these days – these five look like pretty safe bets to elicit groans from critics.
James Morey is a freelance writer and blog contributor.
TW: Talk of Suicide
I love this film. I love everything about it. It’s an absolutely brilliant story about suicide (although as stated above definite trigger warnings if you’re currently depressed or feeling suicidal). Not everyone’s been there but a lot of us have – that point where you just want to give up on everything. It’s a scary point. But then, if you’re lucky, you’re able to pull yourself out of that deep, dark hole with the help of friends, family, therapy, meds, and mostly yourself. What happens when you can’t leave that place? What’s it like to have an addiction to suicide & death?
“Suicidal ideation: unusual preoccupation with suicide.” In Here Lies Joe, we meet two individuals at a Suicide Anonymous group – a group for individuals dealing with suicidal ideation. Joe is the new guy while Z is the manic-pixie dream girl of the group. Z writes her suicide notes in iambic pentameter instead of trying to NOT want to die; Joe just seems out of place and unsure of why he’s there or anywhere. The two seem to sense kindred souls in one another and Z manages to finagle a ride from the meeting with Joe. Instead of taking him to her home, she takes him to the cemetery instead, where they spend the afternoon. And later that night they spend hours on the phone together, bonding, each lost in their own way. What will morning bring?
As someone who has a mental illness of which suicidal ideation is a key symptom, this film really touched a chord. It was incredibly honest and open. The characters were real and tangible, relatable. Z says she wants to kill herself because she’s “an ugly thing in a beautiful world”, a statement which is so honest and heartrendingly easy to understand. This film is utterly beautiful. And while it is a film with dark elements and themes, they explore them with humor and pathos to arrive at the film’s ultimate message: hope.
While Dean Temple as “Joe” gives a wonderful and sturdy performance, it’s Andi Morrow as “Z” who steals the show (and your breath) away. Her performance is raw and something magical to behold.
I can’t recommend Here Lies Joe highly enough. Visit the film’s website to find out where you can catch it. And remember that there’s ALWAYS hope.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
After last week’s spot of “teamwork”, can the boys handle a bit of creativity?
What’s this? The webseries I co-wrote is FINALLY here? It premiered TODAY?? Indeed it is and indeed it did!
COUNSELING tells the tale of Matt and Tom, who seek the assistance of counselor, Dr. Robbins, in order to become more upstanding members of society. Does it go well? Does it go poorly? Do they become the most upstanding of upstandingest people ever? Well…as I say in my interview:
I really wanted to write two really awful people and make people really like them.
Take that as you will. 😉
So head on over and check out my interview, then watch the premiere episode of COUNSELING below! (RATED R for language and crass humor – aka E., I think you will like)