Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Horrors: Greenlee Gazette's Scary Movies to Avoid

With most of my movie lists, I'm telling you which films are worth a view for your Halloween weekend. In this case, I'm going to tell you what to avoid.

Images from source, Wikipedia

Some movies are so bad, they're good. This list is of horror movies so bad, they're just bad. Some of them may have one or two redeeming features, maybe one memorable scene. But by and large, anything on this list should be avoided. Do not get the DVD if it's at Big Lots for $3. Do not get it for 50 cents at a yard sale. Do not watch it on cable while you're laid up with the flu. Avoid. As in don't watch.

Greenlee Gazette's Top 10 Scary Movies to Avoid

In no particular order. . .

1. The Happening (2008) - This movie was marketed as sort of a psychological thriller/sci-fi/pseudo-horror film, you know. . .like every other M. Night Shyamalan movie. This overrated director/producer/writer hit his nadir with this one, one of the worst major studio films ever made. Technically, it doesn't look so bad. It's not the cinematography or the editing. I'll even give Shyamalan props for the production values in general. That does not make up for the utterly unbelievable, unconvincing and strange dialogue, plot and acting by all concerned. Mark Wahlberg couldn't even save this one. See my full review here:
DVD Movie Review: The Happening

2. Soul Survivors (2001) - This one slid under my radar for a long time. It has cover art evocative of practically every teen horror film of the last dozen or so years, with its lineup of sexy young actors, lead by Eliza Dushku. Or rather, she's featured most prominently on the box, but is a supporting actress in the movie. The film tries to do too much, tries to make itself deep, and in doing so, comes off as a convoluted mess. In fact, it feels like I've seen a similar concept in a different film. It has the type of ending that leves me thinking, "Okay, so why did I just watch that?" Casey Affleck and Wes Bentley are cuties, and I'm a huge Dushku fan, but this one is worse than just "meh." It's a waste of time.

3. The Fog (2005) - Don't ask me how I've avoided the original version of this film for 30 years, but I've never seen it. All the better then to watch the remake, right? I mean knowing nothing about the story, it could work all on its own merits. No. Dreadful. Boring. Pointless. I tried to make it through, and shut it off before it was over (possibly with 5 or 10 minutes to go, seriously). It's long, it meanders, and is not at all what it seemed to promise. John Carpenter has done much, much better than this. Sorry, even Superboy/Superman Tom Welling wasn't enough.

4. Cloverfield (2008) - Given the people behind this film (J.J. Abrams and Drew Goddard), and the premise (big monster attacks Manhattan, in real time), this should have been great. It's not. There are things of technical interest, the way the film is shot and constructed. But the story? No.

5. April Fool's Day (2008) - Unlike the original (see here), this movie isn't particularly funny, nor is it entertaining. It's only nominally a remake, and utterly skippable. Do so.

6. War of the Worlds (2005) - Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg and a concept by H.G. Wells. What could go wrong? Everything. As a long-time Wells fan, I've liked many different versions of this story, from the book to the 80s TV series. But this big, Hollywood "event movie" was even a bigger letdown than Cloverfield or The Happening. Not as bad as The Happening mind you, I just had higher expectations.

7. Psycho (1998 Remake) - Gus Van Sant remade--shot for shot--Alfred Hitchcock's beyond classic original. Why? Nobody knows, not even Vince Vaughn or Anne Heche.

8. Fear Dot Com is a pointless, convoluted, headache-inducing, mess of a movie that isn't worth anyone's time, ever. Not for free, not even if the only other things to watch are The 700 Club, The Nanny, Cop Rock and According to Jim. The acting is odd, the photography is drunken and dark, the plot is threadbare, even the soundtrack sucks.  Play Scrabble by yourself.  Vaccum under your sofa cushions. Count the kibble in your dog's dish. Clean out your freezer. Do anything else besides watch this festering pustule of a movie.

9. Rob Zombie's followup to his remake of Halloween, Halloween II. Terrible.

10. Any post-Scream horror film, with DVD cover-art consisting of 4-6 pretty young actors, lined up for a glamor shot (see Soul Survivors, above).

Halloween Horrors: Greenlee Gazette's Guide to the Scream Franchise

Images from Wikipedia
News has come out recently that Wes Craven's and Kevin Williamson's Scream movie franchise is coming to the small screen as an MTV series. Questions about why MTV has become what it has aside, that's good news if they manage to keep it in the same vein. The series influenced nearly every horror movie that has come since, if not within the films themselves, at least in the movie posters and DVD/Blu-ray box art. That lineup of attractive stars in front of a splashy logo, some drippy, bloody and/or torn looking graphic? Scream did that first. It spawned I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend and countless other imitators, many (including Scream itself) with a string of sequels.

What set Scream apart from earlier slasher movies was a subversion of horror movie cliches, a winking "genre savvy"-ness by characters within the film, a writer that was raised on  pop culture (hell, he created Dawson's Creek), a mixture of humor and horror, and the biggest thing of all: known stars. In the old days, horror movies--especially the slasher type--might have a marginally known character actor (Hope Lange, John Saxon, Betsy Palmer), but were mostly stocked with a bunch of unknowns. Your Kevin Bacons and Johnny Depps became well known of course, but nobody knew them when they starred in the first Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, respectively. Scream started the trend of stocking a horror movie with a roster of up-and-coming young (typically very attractive) actors, often from hit teen TV shows. And all of this new stuff was put into the hands of the very capable Craven, creator of Nightmare and several other standout horror classics.

But Scream was a long time ago now. All of that novelty has been absorbed and trodden and retreaded to death by now. We've segued through (and passed?) torture porn like Hostel and the endless Saw series. Scream--often thought of as something of a horror parody itself--was parodied in the first of the also endless Scary Movie (which curiously was the working title of Scream) films. Indirectly, Scream is responsible for the horrible stream of "Movie" movies that came after. So the movie that started all of that, and its sequels, are now part of nostalgia, with a patina of prestige and respect. But, how do they hold up?

 [Here there may be spoilers]


Scream (1996) starts the ball rolling in a seemingly novel (but cribbed from Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho) way, by killing off the seeming star of the flick early on. Neve Campbell turns out to be the central figure (the last girl, in slasher-speak), and she is aided by bitchy newswoman Courtney Cox and goofy cop, David Arquette. This sets up a sort of triad of stars that runs through all of the films, including the new one.  As in many old 80s slasher pics, the new murders happen one year after another terrible event. Not surprisingly, the events are related in obvious and not so obvious ways. The movie misdirects you into thinking several people could potentially be the killer, and also plainly directs you to doubt yourself. Along the way, several characters comment on the events as though they know that they are in a horror movie. They mostly die anyway. Nothing about the movie hints that there is an inevitible sequel.

Scream 2 (1997) picks up a couple of years later, with Neve's character now in college. Her genre savvy pal (Jamie Kennedy) is there with her, being one of the few to survive the first movie. Neve's got a hotty boyfriend (Jerry O'Connell) and new friends, and she's a budding actress in the college play. And then, suddenly people start dying again, seemingly at the hand of the same ghost-faced killer from the original story. The problem is, the original killer(s) died. Of course, in a horror movie, dead doesn't always mean really dead. Is it the same guy(s)? Is it the new boyfriend? The surviving pal? Goofy cop Dewey? Bitchy reporter Gale? Cotton (Liev Schrieber), the guy who almost got executed when Neve's Sydney character misidentified him? Or someone else? The answer(s) feel a little out of left field, or at least they did on my first viewing. But today, in context with just having watched the first movie, it didn't
feel like such a bad fit. Not as good as part one, but pretty good.

Scream 3 (2000) looks and feels different, and indeed it is largely written by a different person. The setting has also changed from small town America to Hollywood. The movie-within-a-movie idea began in part 2, with Stab, a slasher picture based on Courtney Cox's character's tell-all book. Here, Stab 3 is in production, and much of the action takes place at the movie studio, which has rebuilt the original small town on a set. Movie in-jokes abound, such as "Jennifer Jolie" playing a version of Cox's reporter, and being told "sorry it didn't work out with Brad Pitt."  There are new characters, an old character that comes back (sort of) even though he's dead. And the killer still looks the same, but Scream 3 is an enjoyable movie. But it suffers in comparison to the first two.  Also, Neve Campbell is at best a supporting player in this one, with Arquette and Cox (the latter with an atrocious hairdo) doing the heavy lifting.
is a different person, that manages to tie in to the rest of the story.  By itself,

Overall, they did a commendable job of tying the three films together. It stretches credulity a little, that the killer in the third movie motivated the killers of the first. Much like Back to the Future Part III, where they managed to create back story that worked, and Saw (from part 2 forward) where it got too convoluted, Scream 3 uses story elements from the first movie, and substantially rewrites what really happened, without contradicting anything. One thing I have to wonder though, is if they ever considered casting Neve's brother, Christian Campbell for the role that Scott Foley played? It would have been a very good fit, but might have given away the ending too easily.

Scream 4 (2011) - I'll confess to writing this review using elements of earlier reviews, and at that time, SCRE4M wasn't out yet. I'll have to rewatch it at some point, because it's become a bit hazy. I can give you my impressions: it manages to keep the same flavor of the first three while bringing it into the modern day. It develops some new characters should there be further sequels (unless the series makes that moot). And it manages to surprise and delight, very much like the first one did. I think it accomplished what it set out to do, but was just a little bit underwhelming. It's certainly worth a view, and a must if you liked the first three.

Scream: highly recommended
Scream 2: highly recommended
Scream 3: if you liked the first two
Scream 4: a must if you liked what came before

Halloween Horrors: Greenlee Gazette's Guide to the Halloween Movie Franchise

Halloween (the holiday) snuck up on me this year. I mean, I got into the spirit, but a little later than usual. And among all of my Halloween Horrors posts, I almost forgot to post about the movie series named for the day.


Image from Wikipedia
So, without further ado, here's my take on the Halloween movie franchise. Keep in mind, the ratings are genre-specific, and don't necessarily apply to other movies in general.

Halloween (1978) - John Carpenter struck gold with the original in the series. He created the faceless killing machine (Michael Myers), the "you're dead if you have sex/drink/party/do drugs" horror cliche. And Carpenter's score for the film is amazingly creepy. Easily the best in the series, in fact the best of the genre. And Jamie Lee Curtis was fantastic, as was Donald Pleasence. ****

Halloween II (1981) - Picks up immediately after part one, and holds very close to the tone and the quality. More gore, more violence and more inventive kills are a consequence of the other (copycat) slasher pix being made at the time, and the reason many dislike this entry. Curtis and Pleasence still are in top form, and Michael Myers seems to utterly meet his end. In fact, unless you're fanwanking, you can't really explain his later resurrection. Also notable for the fantastic soundtrack, an improvement on the original. Great to have on the stereo to creep out the trick-or-treaters. ***
 
Image from Wikipedia
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) - The creators decided to drop the storyline, and try a different sort of Halloween movie, which was pretty good, but disappointed most fans. It had nothing to do with the previous films, other than the producers, and similar eerie music. Had it been successful, there were supposed to be other unrelated, Halloween-themed movies in the series. The film had one of the coolest logos in the whole series, as seen in the image on the right. **
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) - They went back to the original story (and dropped the roman numerals), which continued the storyline of Michael Myers, and ignored the ending of the second movie, where Michael Myers clearly died. The great thing about Halloween 4 was that the characters reacted like normal people--trying to get the heck out of dodge--and died anyway. Very close to the tone of the first two, and a great performance by Pleasence. ***

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) - OK, but weaker than the previous films. Continues the storyline from part 4, but adds a psychic angle, shifting the tone of the series. **

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) They dropped the number, and tried to add new elements that weren't in the previous films (Michael was a Druid?). The series was running out of steam. *
Halloween: H20 (1989) - 20 years into the franchise, this entry tried to reinvigorate the storyline. Donald Pleasence had died, but Jamie Lee Curtis was back, and parts 4, 5 and 6 were pretty much ignored. They even brought in Janet Leigh (Jamie Lee Curtis' real mother, and star of Psycho). H20 was an improvement, but the concept was really running on fumes. **

Dreadful. From Wikipedia.
Halloween: Resurrection (2002) - The less said about part 8, the better. It attempts to update the series for the internet era. Not an improvement. Don't bother. *

Rob Zombie's Halloween (2007) - This film was ultimately unnecessary, as the original was impossible to top. The attempt to reboot the series, and bring it into the 21st century isn't a total misfire, but is kind of pointless. As far as remakes go, it isn't bad.  Malcolm McDowell does an okay job as Loomis, but nobody can replace Jamie Lee Curtis.  **

Rob Zombie's Halloween II (2009) - Terrible. That is all. Zero Stars

So, to sum up, if you want to see any of the films in this series, go for the original part I, probably part II, and if that isn't enough for you, part 4 and the first remake. Beware 6, 7 and 8 as well as the second remake, and only watch III for the curiosity factor. And there you have it. Happy Halloween!
 

Chris Christie: the Ebola Nut (A Rocky Mountain Mike Song Parody)

Okay, seriously, how many think that Chris Christie has got any kind of shot at the 2016 presidency now? He just keeps piling up the problems and gaffes, not to mention his famous, tempestuous rudeness. Thankfully, Rocky Mountain Mike has put his latest to music, to the tune of Harry Nilsson's Coconut.

For more Mike, go here. And buy his album, Politically Incoherent on Amazon!


Halloween Horrors: Greenlee Gazette's Guide to Friday the 13th

Okay, another Halloween Horrors repeat. It's not like I couldn't write a new post on the subject, I could recite it in my sleep. But it would be a paraphrase of what is below, so what would be the point? The fact is, the Friday the 13th movie series is one of the highest grossing horror franchises in history. And so, no Halloween movie suggestion list would be complete without it, even though the movie series kind of sucks. And I Love. Every. Installment. I'm a horror movie masochist that way.


Photo from Wikipedia.org

Unlike the original Halloween, I'm not sure anyone would put Friday the 13th in the "classic" category. At least not good classics. The series is loved with a heavy dose of nostalgia, and not a lot else.

Sure, it's iconic, was amazingly influential, and made a whole lot of money for both Paramount and New Line studios. But the Friday the 13th string of movies was easily the hollowest, least plotted, worst acted and least impactful story wise of the horror movie franchises (Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Hellraiser). Each Friday film pretty much follows a mindless killer, stalking stupid people.

There were variations along the way. And if you try to assign a real-world continuity to the films, you'll give yourself a headache that feels like a machete in your skull. Here are some short recaps (star ratings do not relate to the real movie world, only within the horror movie genre!):

Friday the 13th - The first film is by far the best. Jason does not appear (outside of a possible hallucination), but his storyline is set up. Notable for Betsy Palmer's iconic performance as Jason's mother, and Adrienne King as "the final girl." Sets the tone and atmosphere for the first four to seven movies. Genuinely scary for the uninitiated. And pretty much put the slasher genre on the map (even if it did take the cue from Halloween). Plus, Kevin Bacon. ***

Friday the 13th, Part 2 - Almost as good as the first, though very short (especially considering the lengthy recap at the beginning). Notable for Amy Steel's strong performance, the VW bug scene, and the guy in the wheelchair. Struggles to find a reason why Jason didn't drown, and why he was motivated to start his killing spree. Though the explanation is weak, it is used as the basis for the rest of the series. **

Friday the 13th, Part 3 - This (originally) 3D installment is one of the weakest, with very little story, and shots that were intended for the 3D audience. Most notable for hand-walking guy's death, and Jason's acquisition of his iconic hockey mask. Gone is the notion of revenge, Jason just kills everything in his path now. I initially thought this installment was terrible, but it's better in retrospect. *
Friday the 13th - The Final Chapter - Final, yeah, right! It's the best of sequels, and could have served as the finale, but there was more money to be made. Jason ventures out of Camp Crystal Lake, and seems to meet his end. Considering that this was all the way back in 1984, I'm sure you know that it wasn't to be. Plus, Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover(!?). ***

Friday the 13th (Part V): A New Beginning - Close to as good as part 4, reviled by fans for its plot twist, but very much in line with the tone of the first four movies. And Corey Feldman only wishes he grew up to look like John Shepherd!  Woof. **

Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives - Yeah, I guess he lives. Often considered one of the best sequels, it left me cold. It felt like a different studio picked up the reins. This edition has a vastly different tone from the first five films, and the gory kills just aren't there.  But I guess the MPAA is to blame for that. *

Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood - They throw a psychic girl into the mix, and tack on a ridiculous ending, which puts Jason into the same scenario as the end of the last movie--making this one irrelevant. On the plus side the tone of the first five movies is back. And for you gay fans out there, this one is known as FriGAY the 13th for the high number of gay actors in the movie. *

Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan - The Friday feel is still there, but just barely, as Jason stows away on a cruise ship bound for New York. Most of the action is on the boat, and there are some great scenes. But it feels like the series is running on fumes. Not very gory. And that ending. What the hell? *1/2

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday - Speaking of Hell, New Line Cinema took over the franchise from Paramount here, and it is very, very obvious this was made by others. Some of the feel is still there, and the film is undeniably fun. But it adds a bunch of new story elements that wreck any (already strained) continuity from the first 8 films. Also ignores the end of Part VIII. Fun anyway. And it sets up the movie after the next one.**1/2

Jason X - Tenth installment puts Jason in space, with no context to the rest of the storyline. Continuity-wise has no home, and is akin to a comic book "elseworlds" or "imaginary story." Has its fun parts, but utterly skippable. The cryogenic scene, though? Priceless. *1/2

Freddy Vs. Jason - I loved it. They took the monster from the best horror franchise (though it had run out of steam) and the worst (but still loved), and pitted them against each other. Truly, one of the best outings for this type of movie in a long, long time. That said, not the least bit scary. Plays like gory comedy. And I'm still confused by Jason's new fear of water. Maybe the "New Line" Jason is an alternate version. ***

Friday the 13th (Remake) - I was right that they couldn't really mess up the remake. It's a hoot. The twist--apparently--is that most of the characters you kinda want to see dead. And Jason is given a much heftier back-story. Unfortunately, they still don't explain what happened that made Mrs. Voorhees think he died when he didn't. Regardless, I'd put this in the top three with the first two installments. I don't know if there will ever be a part 2 (actually XIII), but I'm game. ***


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lindsey Graham Says White Men in ‘Male-Only Clubs’ will do Great if He's President

Oh, my gay stars. I don't know what's better, his delusions that he'll ever be president. Or his Phil Dunphy-level of double-entendre blindness. Or the fact that he was actually in a men's club (presumably the not explicitly gay type. . .maybe). I can't even. . .

[Excerpt]

Lindsey Graham: White men in ‘male-only clubs’ will do great if I’m president

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who recently began floating the idea of running for the presidency, was caught on tape joking about how well white men would do if he won, CNN reported. “I’ve tried to help you with your tax status,” Graham can be heard saying. “I’m sorry the government’s so f—ed up. If I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency. . .”

Read more at: Raw Story

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Horrors: The Final Destination Series

Here is another in my series of quickie reviews, to help you get your Halloween viewing lists together.

One of the more interesting horror series out there is Final Destination. The name is taken from travel lingo, which is appropriate given that the series begins with an airline disaster. The double meaning is of course everyone's "final destination," death. The series features elaborate, improbable death scenes, and due to the way the stories are structured, many characters die twice.

[Editor's note: the first three movies were reviewed before part 4 and 5 had been released]

Final Destination (2000) - The first film centers around a teenager who has a vision as he's boarding a plane to France with his french class. A very vivid vision, which involves a horrific chain reaction of events which leads to the plane exploding. When he snaps out of it, and details start to match his vision, he freaks out and is removed from the plane, along with several friends, and his teacher. This was before 9/11, which is a good thing, because nowadays they would probably ground the plane, and hey, no movie.

After the group disembarks, the plane does explode, but the group that escaped starts dying one-by-one in the order they would have originally died had they stayed on the plane. A theory is cobbled together, that the characters "cheated death," and that death was working to set its plan right. But death doesn't just get them by natural causes. Death constructs elaborate Rube Goldberg-ian ways to do them in.
 
Final Destination 2 (2003) - The second film follows a similar setup, with a girl foreseeing a horrific multi-car pileup. It departs from the usual "kill the teenagers" formula by incorporating adults who are prevented from entering the flow of traffic by the girl. And it is linked to the previous film in a very novel way. Of all of these films, I've seen this one the most times. Here's a taste of what Part 2 has to offer...
 

 
Final Destination 3 (2006) - Part three again has a girl with a vision, this one predicting a roller coaster disaster, and preventing several friends from riding. It is only tangentially related to the other two parts, since 1 & 2 pretty much tied everything to each other. And while each film probably has realism problems (as do most horror films), the actual roller coaster accident is virtually impossible.

Parts 1 - 3 work very well when watched in sequence. The hook to all of them is the elaborate ways in which the characters are killed off, and the fact that there are both foreshadowing events, as well as red herrings. For the most part, the acting is well done and believable. And the effects are pretty spectacular.

None of these films is particularly scary. In fact, because the death scenes are so wacky, it almost works as comedy. The setups (plane crash, car crash, amusement ride tragedy) are relatable. Very few of us have not imagined such a scenario happening to us when we fly, drive, or pull the safety harness down. So they are unnerving. If you have any phobias about these things, you may actually get a jolt. But mostly, the special effects and gore are pure entertainment. If you're into that sort of thing!

Part 2 was my favorite, because of the novel way they wove the storyline together with the first. And the car crash is spectacular (as is a surprise event that happens right after). This movie had the best fake-outs, making you wonder exactly how they were going to do the characters in. And it takes risks that divert from the usual scary movie pattern.
 
Part 3 disappointed me the first time I watched it, because the link to the other two is tangential, and frankly unbelievable. But upon review--if you suspend disbelief on how quickly the protagonists figure out what is happening to them--it's actually not bad, and a decent entry into the series. And it takes the ultimate risk, with a surprise ending that goes totally against the horror movie rules.

[Now, parts 4 and 5]

THE Final Destination (2009) - Given that moniker, you would think it was the last one. It was also in 3D, and heavily promoted as the final installment. It was fun--involving a NASCAR racetrack-type disaster. I'm a binocularly-challenged person, with the unfortunate inability to see 3D movies. But I liked FD4, just the same. I thought it was better than 3, less than 2, about the same as 1. I'm in the distinct minority here, as part 4 is almost universally regarded as the worst of the series.

Final Destination 5 (2011) - That another sequel followed the "last" one wasn't surprising. What was surprising, was that the fifth movie would be as good as the rest of the series, or better. In fact, it's as good part two, and better than the original. It is also in 3D, incidentally.

Horror movies tend to be derivative. And part five can't offer originality. But the special effects, the acting, the surprises? Part five has them in spades. The only flaw for me was the law of diminishing returns. The spectacular opening can't be matched in later set pieces. While I had a lot of fun, the thrills tend to get smaller by half with each dramatic demise. If they had only ended the picture with a dramatic finale on the scale (or 3/5 of the scale) with the opening.
 
 
In conclusion, if you like elaborate, gory special effects, and you are tired of mindless slasher pictures, any of these films will satisfy you. And while the characters die in horrific ways, this is not Hostel or Saw-type torture-porn. Unlike Friday the 13th-type movies, you don't need nostalgia to have fun with them, and don't have to settle for "so bad, it's good." These flicks are actually well made. Just have your remote at the ready! You'll want to slo-mo something in all five movies!
 
Final Destination: Recommended
Final Destination 2: Highly Recommended
Final Destination 3: Recommended
THE Final Destination: Recommended
Final Destination 5: Highly Recommended

Daily Show: "South by South Mess," The State of Texas with Brad Paisley

Hilarious.

Halloween Horrors: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's Nightmare on MY Street

Here's one you may not have thought of in a while. If I remember right, Will Smith got in trouble from New Line Cinema for using the musical cues without permission. But I suppose that could all have been part of the publicity. Anyway, some YouTuber put together a nifty video to go with it, perhaps a trifle long, but if you are a Nightmare on Elm Street fan, you'll dig it.


What Happens in Vegas: Jose Canseco Shoots Himself in the Hand

Some reports are saying he shot off his middle finger, others shot himself "in the hand." Either way, the story sounds extra stupid: he was cleaning it, and didn't know it was loaded. What? I always thought he looked a little thick, but even I don't think he's that dumb. Something more to the story, I'm thinking.

Image from source, LVRJ.com
[Excerpt]

Police: Former baseball star Jose Canseco shoots own hand

A former professional baseball player accidentally shot himself in the hand while cleaning his gun Tuesday afternoon, Las Vegas police said. Police were called to Market Crest Drive, near Hollywood Boulevard and Bonanza Road, at about 2:30 p.m. on reports of a gun going off inside a home. Upon arrival, officers were met in the front yard by Jose Canseco, who told them his gun discharged while he was cleaning it, Lt. Mark Reddon said. . .

Read more at: Las Vegas Review-Journal

John Fugelsang's Reasons Democrats Should NOT Vote Next Week

Images from source, Raw Story

Of course, he's using reverse psychology. . .

[Excerpt]

Comedian John Fugelsang comes up with great reasons why you shouldn’t vote next week

Why doesn’t John Fugelsang have his own show already? The man is a genius. Today, at his Twitter feed, the comedian came up with a clever bit of reverse psychology about voting in next week’s election, when Democrats may lose control of the US Senate because of poor turnout. . .



Read more at: Raw Story

Halloween Horrors: Greenlee Gazette's Top 10 FUNNY Horror Movies

Every October, I run a series of Top 10 lists of different types of horror movies for Halloween for the people who likely missed them in years past. So, if you're looking for some Halloween horror, but you'd like it tempered with a bit of humor, here are ten options for your movie night!


Yes, horror can make you scream and laugh. Some of these films are straight-ahead comedies with horror thrown in. Some are horror with comedy thrown in. And some may be unintentionally funny. But if you like your scary movies cut with a little bit of humor, these are the films for you.

Greenlee Gazette Top 10 Funny Horror Movies

1. Shaun of the Dead (2004) - This movie is a horror spoof, but it doesn't spare the shocks, or the gross-outs. It's probably the best horror spoof ever made (I don't count the fantastic Young Frankenstein, which is more spoof than horror). It helps if you like British humour.

2. Fright Night (1986) - This film isn't quite a spoof, but it is surely an homage to the old "chiller theater" TV programs of years gone by. Excellent performances, lots of laughs, and a shock or two. It does suffer a bit for its obvious 80s fashions, though.

3. Army of Darkness (1992) - The third of the Evil Dead series was the most mainstream, and more straight-ahead comedy. I recommend getting Evil Dead 2 (which is sort of a higher-budget remake of part 1) in tandem with this one. A classic.

4. Final Destination 2 (2003) - This horror film isn't exactly a comedy. But try not to laugh (maybe nervously) at the inventive and gory kills in this one. Better than parts 1 or 3 by a long shot. And some genuine thrills.

5. Critters (1986) - Riding the Gremlins and Ghoulies wave of the 80s, this New Line Cinema (A Nightmare on Elm Street) offering offers thrills and laughs--most intentional. Actually manages to be cute and scary.

6. Psycho II (1983) - The sequel to the all time classic is not the fright-fest it could have been. Tony Perkins is clearly playing it for laughs. And he gets them. Avoid any further sequels and remakes.

7. April Fool's Day (1986) - One of my all time favorites. Every holiday got its horror movie in the 80s, and this one has a novel twist. Gamely played by actors a notch above the typical horror flick. I recently re-watched this one, and it still holds up. I haven't yet seen the remake, though I've heard nothing good about it, so look for the date on the box.

8. The Car (1978) - James Brolin fighting a car possessed by the devil. This one could have made my "BAD" horror list, but it does have some shocks. But, just try not to laugh when The Car kills the tuba player. . .

9. Freddy vs. Jason (2003) - The terror is long drained out of both of these series, so the kills are mostly for laughs. A good time anyway. But who really won?

10. The Blob (1986) - I've blogged about this one before, and it is one of my favorites. Funny mostly for Kevin Dillon's mullet, and the general 80s vibe. Still has a few shocks and is most enjoyable.

PREVIOUSLY:
Halloween Horrors: Psycho
Halloween Horrors: Top 10 FUNNY Horror Movies
Halloween Horrors: Top 10 SCARY Horror Movies
Halloween Horrors: Overlooked Horror Films
Halloween Horrors: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Movies I Can't Wait to See: Friday the 13th
Halloween Horrors: Top 10 BAD Horror Movies
Halloween Horrors: Top 10 CLASSIC Horror Movies




Unmanned Rocket Explodes in Virginia



For those of us who remember the two space shuttle tragedies, this news gets you at first. Then relief that there was no loss of life.

[Excerpt]

Unmanned supply rocket for space station explodes on liftoff in U.S.

An unmanned Antares rocket exploded seconds after liftoff from a commercial launch pad in Virginia on Tuesday, marking the first accident since NASA turned to private operators to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. . .



Read more at: MSN

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Horrors: Top 10 SCARY Horror Movies

Back in the early days of the blog, I posted a series of lists of my favorite Halloween films. Since then, I've written more, and repost some of them every year, with a few updates and additions. This one is one of the most important, if you actually want to get scared by your horror. . .


Image from Wikipedia.org

There are nearly as many "top 10" horror movie lists as there are horror fans. But, for the list to have any relevance, you have to quantify what you mean by "horror." There's the kind of movie that really scares you, and keeps you up at night. There's the kind that makes you laugh (yes, horror can be funny). And there's the kind that is just iconic--they might not scare you exactly, but leaving them off of your list is heresy.

So, because I'm unable to whittle all of those types down to 10, here is one that is just focussed on the really scary horror movies. Hopefully, you can use this for your Halloween night suggestion list.

Greenlee Gazette Top 10 Scary Horror Movies

1. The Exorcist (1973) - This is the granddaddy of all scary movies. Even better if you're Catholic (so I'm told), or have ever had a devil dream (which I have). Loses none of its punch, 35 years later, except for a few anachronisms that remind you: "Hey, this is a 70s movie," like lighting up cigarettes in a hospital! You know the movie has really got something when it can effect a completely non-religious cynic like me!

2. The Hitcher (1986) - Maybe not strictly "horror," but definitely scary. The first time I watched this, I was on the edge of my seat for the whole film. Rutger Hauer is one of the scariest villains ever on screen. Sometimes the tension is almost unbearable. Though C. Thomas Howell's 80s 'do might take you out of the moment. But, skip the sequel and the remake, seriously.

3. Dawn of the Dead (1978) - The greatest zombie movie of all time packs in the gore, shocks and scares. Possibly the best low-budget horror movie of all time. Even Leonard Maltin thinks so. Mall culture may be dying, but not quite like this! The sequel looks newer and snazzier, sure, but the original can't be beat.

4. The Omen (1976) - Creepy, scary and right up there with The Exorcist for religion-inspired nightmares. That little Damien kid is the archetype for all scary horror movie children. Yet another where you can skip the remake, but the first two sequels have their moments.

5. Halloween (1978) - The godfather of slasher flicks, this film will actually make you jump. Great suspense, good payoffs, and an incredible score. Jamie Lee Curtis is the best movie scream queen in cinema history. The first remake was okay, but not this good (and not scary). But if you like this one, Parts 2, 4 and 5 are pretty good. The rest are rubbish, as is the remake of part 2.

6. 28 Days Later (2003) - A modern update of zombie movies--sort of. It will scare you, and give you a vague discomfort hours later. The sequel? Nah.

7. Phantasm (1979) - This (extremely) low-budget film has more scares than some entire horror franchises. The Tall Man is one of the creepiest villains ever on film, short of Dick Cheney.

8. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) - Sure, you may have forgotten that the series started out scary, but the first film in the franchise delivers the scares, and an eerie nightmare vibe. First time viewers will have a hard time sorting out dreams from reality. Some of the sequels are good, but none are as scary.

9. Hostel (2005) - This is in the current trend of "horror porn," where the camera lingers on the cruelty and gore. But it is undeniably scary, and will freak you out. The sequel? Not so much.

10. Hellraiser (1987) - The series has been diluted by the countless sequels, but the original still gives me the creeps. Pinhead and his Cenobites will tear your soul apart! Again, sequelitis robs this one of its novelty and creepiness. So, avoid them if you're looking to get frightened.

(Bonus) Buried (2010) - While this movie may not quite be typical Halloween fare, it is by far the scariest movie I've seen in years. I'm unflappable (beyond a flinch or two) with virtually anything the horror genre can dish out, but this one? I had to press "pause" five times. Just to catch my breath, and regroup.

See also (from previous years):
Halloween Horrors: Top 10 BAD Horror Movies

Post-Halloween Horror: The 2014 Election

I voted today, finally, after having been busy the past two weekends. We have early voting here in Nevada, and Ready, Set, Vote! voter guides, and it all works remarkably well. So far, though we have a Republican governor, there has been no attempt to curtail or change this system in the name of "protecting the vote," or "stopping voter fraud." Which is amazing when you think about it.

But not as amazing as the brazenness the GOP displays when cutting early voting, eliminating Sunday voting (known to be a big, post-church, African American voting day), requiring IDs (but only certain IDs), and more. . .with very little reason. Sure, they'll handwave the nonexistent in-person voter fraud "problem," but mostly they just make whatever changes will help them ensure that fewer Democrats vote.

Do you think that sounds radical? The fact that I'm saying it is not. The fact that they're doing it, is. Occasionally, they'll even admit it. Here's Paul Weyrich, a founder of The Heritage Foundation and ALEC, in 1980. Admitting it.



That, coupled with gerrymandering, with a politics-weary electorate, and the typical demographics of midterm voters adds up to: a bad year for Democrats, almost certainly. Maybe not historically bad, but not good. Double-plus ungood? Time will tell.

But it is baffling to me. Though I'm fairly a realist about my fellow Americans and their fickle, skewed, illogical voting patterns, I want more from them. I want them to be better than FOX "News" parroting, paranoid conspiracy theorists. I want them not to reward Republicans, when it is Republicans who have given us the obstruction, the gridlock, the governmental shut down, the lack of a Surgeon General. Many, many of the problems people complain about the state of our union, were either caused by, allowed to happen by, or are a byproduct of the GOP.
I'm with you, Jean-Luc.
And their slate of candidates? It really makes no sense to me that they're even electable, but even if they were not a clown car full of bozos, why reward them for what they themselves help come to pass?

I'm not saying that President Obama has been perfect, far from it. I'm still in his corner, and I'm not ashamed to say it (though many a cowardly Democratic candidate is). I think history will judge him well. But whatever you think of him, how does voting for say, Ted Cruz or Louis Gohmert help anyone? Sadly, for my side, Democrats don't offer a strong, defiant message to root for. To me, they are infinitely preferable, but they seem to not be trying. Why the Dems haven't pumped 90% of their cash into Get Out the Vote, I have no idea. That is all we need, matching the numbers or besting them.

I'm not optimistic. But a bad outcome will likely spur me to blog more. So, there's that.

Halloween Horrors: Miles Fisher's Horror Parody Videos

Here's a repost of a Halloween Horrors post I did last year. For the last few years since Final Destination 5 came out, I've been expecting the actor/singer in these clips to get really famous. Not yet, apparently. But he's very talented. Take a look.

ORIGINAL POST:

Miles Fisher is a very attractive young man, looking like a cross between Tom Cruise and Christian Bale. Not surprisingly, he has impersonated both on film. Perhaps his most notable role so far has been in the horror film Final Destination 5, in which he has not one but two death scenes. Apparently, Fisher got on well with his cast from that film, since he got them to participate in one of his music videos, a gore extravaganza that melds Final Destination with--of all things--Saved by the Bell.

So, Halloween is the perfect time to feature both his New Romance video, described above, along with his American Psycho homage, This Must Be the Place. Both are very inventive, and enjoyable, and demented. Plus, he's ridiculously handsome. How can you go wrong?
 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Horrors: A Guide to A Nightmare on Elm Street Movies

This is the latest in a series of re-posts from previous years, to help you with your Halloween weekend scary movie viewing. With a few tweaks and edits.


Image from Wikipedia.com
This is of course October, month of Halloween, and season of the horror film. I've been a fan of horror movies since I was old enough to stay up all night on Fridays, and watch Chiller Theater with Dan Immel, and later with Fritz the Night Owl on WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio. I grew up being fearless in the daylight hours, and terrified at night to go past our attic in the dark--because I knew there was a Frankenstein pull-string doll in there.

Arguably the best of the horror movie franchises of the last 30 years is A Nightmare on Elm Street. Sure, John Carpenter's Halloween jump-started the "slasher flick" in 1978, and Sean S. Cunningham's Friday the 13th kept it going (by ripping it off) in 1980. But Wes Craven's Nightmare injected originality, humor, and the undeniable (and almost limitless) possibilities of nightmares. Anything can happen in nightmares, and everyone can relate to them.

I have watched all of the movies in this series multiple times (some more than others), and all of them have something to offer. Well, except part 6, unless you like Roseanne and Tom Arnold cameos. . .

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) - The first, and best in the series. The movie follows a group of teenagers, all experiencing the same bogeyman in their dreams. The seeming protagonist bites it early in the film, surprising the audience (oops, ***SPOILER***, sorry!). Another protagonist (Heather Langenkamp as Nancy) emerges, and becomes the icon of the series. Fred Krueger (Robert Englund) is far creepier in this film than in the sequels, and you're never quite sure what is a dream and what is reality. Johnny Depp did very well in this introductory role, and the only flaw in the film is the really bad performance by Ronee Blakley (which I've grown to love anyway). Awesome. ****
 

A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) - The obligatory sequel mostly ditches the "is it a dream or reality" hook of the first film, and tries to bring Freddy into the real world. Freddy becomes a little more of a quip-master, and there is a bit of an anti-gay undercurrent to the film. Fortunately, the protagonist (Mark Patton) acquits himself well, for a guy who spends much of the movie in his underpants! This movie is sort of a stop-gap, quickie cash-maker for New Line, before the superior sequel.  It is notable for a few iconic lines ("You've got the body, I've got the brains!"), and for a gay subtext that is so overt, it's just text. It's better than you remember, and doesn't really deserve its bad reputation. Especially when you consider that the other sequels break the rules too.**½
 

Image from Wikipedia
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) - They pulled out all the stops for this one, and what a fun movie it is. Even though Freddy has become almost an anti-hero, this film is nearly as good as the first--better maybe, except that the novelty is gone. Patricia Arquette (of Medium) did a great job, and the effects are top-notch. Several teenagers (in a mental institution) discover that they have powers in their dreams, and can band together to fight Freddy. Heather Langenkamp is back as the iconic Nancy, and the nightmare/reality scenario is played to the hilt. This film begins filling in Freddy's back-story, a theme that would continue in further sequels, sometimes to the series' detriment. ****

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) - Another goodie, with the power of protagonist shifted from Patricia Arquette's character (now played by another actress) to "The Dream Master," Alice, who has mastery of the dream world. Follows the setup of the last movie, with characters having powers in their dreams. The "is it a dream?" vibe is back. Very good, but Freddy's jokes are getting a little too calculated. ***

A Nightmare on Elm Street (5): The Dream Child (1989) - A logical continuation of part 4, but a little thin. Some great moments, and unfairly maligned as a bad entry. Plays like an extended addition to part 4. Still enjoyable, if you liked parts 1-4. **
Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) - By far the weakest of the series, but still a must if you are a fan. Freddy has killed all of the kids, and must now branch out. Adds more mythology to Freddy's history, and feels a little shoe-horned in. Freddy "dies," but he's died in every installment. Still, Robert Englund is great. Finale 3-D sequence--rendered 2D on video--is lame. Johnny Depp has a cameo. Joins Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter in the "false title" game. *½

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) - Wes Craven is back, and it is obvious. This film takes the Freddy character into the real world, with the "spirit" of the character haunting the makers of the original film, including Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon and Wes Craven. Very well done, inventive and original. I love me some Heather. Where is she these days? A must for fans. ***

Freddy Vs. Jason (2003) - The inevitable (after New Line's acquisition of the Friday the 13th series) match up of Jason and Freddy. Much better than you might think (as I reported in my Friday the 13th reviews). A heck of a lot of fun, and the Freddy character has so much more to offer. You almost forget he was a child molester/murderer to begin with! Heh. ***

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) - The remake is itself not bad. While I'm sure future audiences will find things in it dated, it is of course much less so to contemporary eyes than the obviously 80s original. It takes some interesting chances, and veers off into some different areas. But it is not as impactful as the original, it makes the odd choice of eliminating the iconic house, and it suffers greatly for not having Robert Englund as Freddy. **½

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010) - This documentary is an exhaustive (and a bit exhausting) collection of just about everything you ever wanted to know about the series. It his hosted by Heather Langenkamp, and is the best--by far--of its type. An absolute must for any horror fan, but pace yourself. ****

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Palin Family (A Rocky Mountain Mike Song Parody)

The Palins keep making the news, and almost every time, I cringe and weigh the pros and cons of giving those absolutely Kardashian-level celebrities even an ounce more publicity. But when they're getting verbally pummeled? I mean rather than actually pummeling others? I totally dig it. And now Rocky Mountain Mike has put it to song (to the tune of the theme from The Addams Family).

For more Mike, go here. And buy his album, Politically Incoherent on Amazon!

 

Blast from the Past: TV Shows with the Premise in the Theme!

TV theme songs have always been a favorite pop culture thing for me, and occasionally there are still some really good ones, even if they're much shorter than in TV's golden age. But one thing rarely heard anymore is the premise theme song. That's where the entire basis for the show is clearly spelled out in the lyrics of the theme song. Surprisingly there are quite a few.

1. The Brady Bunch (1969-1974) "It's the story of a lovely lady. . ." No matter that this show was rather mediocre, it made a huge splash in America's pop culture pond that continues to ripple. The theme song was a big part of it.

2. Gilligan's Island (1964-1967) "Just sit right back, and you'll hear a tale. . ." Just as unforgettable as the Bradys, and not coincidentally by the same guy, Sherwood Schwartz. Those shows were his two big successes, and he wrung them for every drop he could get out of them!



3. The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971) "Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Jed. . ."

4. Green Acres (1965-1971) "Green Acres is the place to be, farm livin' is the life for me!"
 


5. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-1996) "Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped. . ." A much more recent theme, but already over 20 years old!

6. The Jeffersons (1975-1985) "Well, we're movin' on up!" Arguably, the theme didn't tell the whole story, but if you knew them from All in the Family, the theme told you what happened next!
 


7. The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985) "Just the good ol' boys. . ."

8. WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982)
 


And now you know the story! Or stories. Anyway, that wraps another weekend folks. No fighting it, it's time to start another week. Join me, and try to have a happy Monday!

SNL: Obama and Ebola, Drunk Uncle and "Ghost Chasers"

Here are some of the better bits from this weekend's Saturday Night Live with Jim Carrey. Jay Pharoah is finally getting as good as his early press made him out to be. The rest of the cast is starting to gel better, and Weekend Update is on track to having a real "thing" again, after foundering for a while. Good!

 

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