Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Challenge Totals to Date:

Movies Watched Today: 4
Total Movies Watched: 49
Total First Time Views: 13
Amount raised: $352.80

Today's showcased SCARE-A-THON Charity:

SMART – START MAKING A READER TODAY, sponsored by Patrick Mathewes

To showcase your charity, send an email to drach101@gmail.com with your pledge amount and the charity's website!

End of the Line (2007) d. Devereaux, Maurice (Canada) (1st viewing) 95 min

An impressive and thought-provoking flick from our neighbors to the north, showing once again that budgetary constraints are no excuse for substandard storytelling. A group of transit riders find themselves caught up in a religious cult’s uprising, fleeing for their lives from the blade-bearing bible thumpers through Toronto’s desolate subway tunnels. The impressive practical gore effects and overall execution of writer/producer/director Devereaux’s concept balance out the occasionally iffy performances, and though the “Whaaaaaaaa…?” ending might leave some viewers cold, it’s worth starting the film over for a revisit of the opening 10 minutes to help things click into focus. (Hint: keep an eye on the muffins.) I've chosen the original concept poster art above, as the official DVD cover makes it look like a "monster in the subway" creature feature - I understand why they changed it, anticipating outcry from Christian audiences, but it's a much stronger image and more accurate depiction of the film's subject matter.

The Willies (1990) d. Peck, Brian (USA) (1st viewing) 91 min

Most anthology efforts are uneven by their very nature, but this one really defines the term. Starting off promisingly with two brothers (Jason Horst, Joshua Miller) backyard camping with their cousin (Sean Astin), the trio attempts to top one another with a variety of short (and gross) anecdotes, each lasting only a few minutes and with titles like “Tennessee Frickasee” “Haunted Estate” and “Poodle SoufflĂ©.” Following the opening credits, we get into the meat of the matter with “Bad Apples” about a bullied schoolboy (Ian Fried) who discovers an unforeseen ally in the form of a likeable custodian (James Karen), only to discover that the broom-pusher has a darker, scalier side. The rubber monster (designed by William Stout of Tony Gardner’s Alterian Studios) is fun and cheesy, and there’s a fair amount of graphic splatter to be enjoyed. Unfortunately, the second story, “Flyboy,” lasts nearly an hour and takes a long while to go a short distance in depicting slovenly adolescent sociopath Gordy Belcher (Michael Bower) who spends an inordinate amount of time pulling wings off flies and placing them in elaborate dioramas (castles, churches, diners). There’s also a subplot (in a short subject?) about a farmer with a mysterious fertilizer that causes gigantism, a detail that pays off in the finale, but like our central figure, the overall piece needed to lose some weight. Trivia: writer/director Brian Peck appeared as “Scuz” in the 1985 horror/comedy classic The Return of the Living Dead.

Grim Prairie Tales (1990) d. Coe, Wayne (USA) (1st viewing) 83 min

A surprisingly underrated portmanteau film, considering its impressive cast and worthy storytelling. Set in the proverbial Old West, tenderfoot Brad Dourif’s campfire peace is disturbed by ragged bounty hunter James Earl Jones’ intrusion. The odd couple proceeds to bellow and challenge one another in enjoyably colorful fashion, then gets down to the business at hand – that of spinning dark and mysterious tales to chill the bones and “make bats fly out of your ears.” The first follows a roaming trapper (Will Hare, aka “Grampa” from Silent Night Deadly Night) who stumbles through an ancient Indian burial ground with predictably calamitous results. Next is a boy-meets-pregnant-girl story (Mark McClure and Michelle Joyner) that culminates in an ain’t-seen-that-before “climax,” followed by the darkest of the tales, that of a young girl’s emotional dilemma upon discovering her loving papa (William Atherton) is a murderous, lynching racist. The final tale unfolds the mysterious aftermath of a lethal duel with a deadeye gunslinger (Scott Paulson) haunted by his bested foe, featuring some wild hallucinogenic animation by Anthony Zierhut and writer/director Coe animation. Jones’s final closing-credits line (and delivery thereof) is a winner.

Aliens (1986) d. Cameron, James (USA) (6th viewing) 137 min

What could be more nail-biting than Ridley Scott’s Alien? More Aliens, of course. What could easily have been an unmitigated cash-grab disaster turns into cinematic gold in the hands of writer/director James Cameron, who delivers that rare and wonderful thing: a sequel that actually rivals its predecessor. The action picks up fifty-seven years later, with Nostromo’s lone survivor, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), found drifting in suspended animation. Upon awakening, she reveals her encounter with the creature, only to discover that industrious business types have colonized the infected planet, now dubbed LV-426. When contact with the colonists is lost, a gung-ho group of space Marines is sent to assess and rectify the situation, with Ripley reluctantly accompanying as advisor. The sharply directed film places its emphasis on explosive action and suspense, and the memorable heroes and villains (human and otherwise) in Cameron’s script are colorfully fleshed out by his game and willing cast (including Michael Biehn, Jennette Goldstein, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, and a scene-stealing Bill Paxton). Weaver returns to the role with a vengeance, creating a multi-layered character that believably evolves from frightened victim to machine-gun toting heroine, her efforts earning her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress (astounding not only for the genre, but for a sequel, no less.) Stan Winston – part of the film’s Oscar-winning visual effects team that also included Robert Skotak, John Richardson, and Suzanne M. Benson – pulls out all the stops, giving us hordes of ill-tempered aliens that assault the human infantry with breathtaking ferocity, and the climatic showdown between Ripley and the mother of all Aliens is one for the ages.

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