Read any good books lately?

July 13, 2010

I have, and I’ve reviewed a fair number of them over at Dark Scribe Magazine. I’ve finally updated the nonfiction portion of the site with all the links, so cruise on over if you’d like to know what I thought of Tim Lebbon’s brilliant collection Last Exit For the Lost, or Stephen King’s Under the Dome and Blockade Billy, or Norm Partridge’s amazing Lesser Demons, or…well, you get the idea.

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Freddy’s New Nightmare

May 4, 2010

*SPOILER WARNING*

Caught the Nightmare on Elm Street remake today and, much like the remakes that have come before it, I find myself liking some things and not caring for others. When Nightmare 2010 was trying to be its own thing, it did pretty well. When it was trying to walk in its forefather’s footsteps, however, it tripped.

Robert Englund as old school Krueger circa 1984.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen some of the iconic moments the new version tries to recreate from the original, such as Freddy’s gloved hand emerging from Nancy’s bathtub…while Nancy is also in the tub. That’s a straight lift from the original, as is the scene where a ghostly Krueger bends a wall to his will. Neither of these is executed as well as they were in the original, and were really unnecessary to begin with – there are some clever nods to such scenes later in the film (remember Freddy’s tongue licking Nancy through the phone? This time he does it in person, and it’s even ickier than the first time) that work better because they aren’t exact duplicates.

The movie does play with Freddy’s backstory a little more, and while I like what they were going for – hinting that Krueger may not have been guilty of everything his killers believed – it was brought down by ham-handed execution. The kids quickly jump to the conclusion that the accusations they made against Freddy when they were little were made up, and then just as quickly discover that, no, the parents were right and Fred was a perv. That could have been drawn out a little longer and been more effective.

Jackie Early Haley as Freddy 2.0.

Those things aside, though, let’s talk about Freddy. I was worried about anyone other than Robert Englund wielding the glove…until they hired Jackie Earl Haley. Haley brings a sick, twisted sense of sleeze to the character that Englund was just too charming to manage. Don’t get me wrong, Englund still owns the part, but Jackie has brought us a new version that I hope to see a lot more of.

That’s right. I liked this enough to want more. While it was, like all the Platinum Dune remakes thus far, maybe a little too slick and polished to really capture the spirit of the original, I think this one has come closest so far. The nightmares could be a little more surreal, the characters a little more fleshed out, and there could be less reliance on the jump scares, but all in all this new Nightmare holds its own against a pretty tough standard.

*EVEN BIGGER SPOILER ALERT*
(For the record, the movie geek in me really got all fired up when a character named Quentin used a needle full of adrenaline straight to the heart to wake up another character – just like John Travolta did in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Nice.)


Looking back, looking ahead

April 2, 2010

Been a busy couple of months – not busy updating this website, obviously, but busy nonetheless. I’ve been itching to get back here and write about some of the stuff coming up that I’m looking forward to, but haven’t had the time. I don’t really have the time today, but I couldn’t stay away another minute longer.

So, indulge me if you will as I give you a whirlwind tour of what I’ve been doing, what’s coming up, and a couple of things I’m anticipating.

I’ve been slowly building the content over at my Spec Fiction blog for Examiner.com – some cools interviews recently with guys like Jonathan Maberry, who recently adapted the remake of The Wolfman in novel form. I’ll be adding those links to the nonfiction page over the next couple of days. Also, I’ve joined the staff of Horrorworld as the site’s interviewer. I’ll be talking with a new author each month, beginning in April with Roger Ma, author of The Zombie Combat Manual. I’ll make a not here as soon as that one goes live.

As always, new reviews are going up regularly at Dark Scribe, including a belated look at Stephen King’s Under the Dome. I’ve got several in the pipeline there – and will have a look at King’s just-announced surprise novella, Blockade Billy, appearing there as soon as my review copy arrives.

Movie-wise, I finally saw Black Dynamite after months of anticipation, and had a ball with it. I’m looking forward to the upcoming remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street, although not as much as I’m looking forward to the Blu-ray edition of the original, which comes out April 6. If the HD format does for Nightmare what it did for the original Halloween and Friday the 13th, then I’ll be a happy horror fan.

Here’s the trailer for the new Nightmare, just to whet our appetites:

From everything I’ve read, the people behind this remake are looking to take Freddy back the real (and surreal) horror of the first film, and away from the wisecracking anti-hero he eventually became. I hope they get it right, and I hope that the actual movie isn’t simply the exact replica of Wes Craven’s original that the trailers suggest it might be. Jackie Earl Haley seems the perfect choice to fill Robert Englund’s shoes, though.

Okay, that’s it for now. Hopefully it won’t be two months before I’m back again.


2009: The Year in (Motion) Pictures

December 31, 2009

I watched a lot of movies in 2009. I don’t know if it’s a record number for me, but it feels like it. For one thing, I had the chance to hit the theaters quite a bit this year, and got to see more new release movies in the proper setting than I have in a while. Netflix and a couple of HD movie channels offered by my cable company helped pad the list as well.

Below, for posterity’s sake, is a list of every movie I watched this year. Following the list is my own personal Top Ten. I should mention that, unlike most yearly Top Ten lists, I don’t restrict mine to movies released in the corresponding year. If it was new to me this year, it was eligible for the list.

So, without further ado….my 2009 in moving pictures:

What I Watched (In the order I watched them…)
Wall*E
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Friday the 13th Part VII: New Blood
Ocean’s 11
Ocean’s 12
Ocean’s 13
The Fall
Friday the 13th (Uncut)
Burn After Reading
His Name Was Jason
Friday the 13th 3-D Deluxe Edition
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
The Dark Knight
Friday the 13th (2009)
Pineapple Express
RoboCop
The Midnight Meat Train
Black Sunday
The Green Mile
Salvador
The Human Tornado
Isle of the Dead
Groundhog Day
Two Minute Warning
Diary of the Dead
Saw IV
The Mist (B&W)
Watchmen
Let The Right One In
Reservoir Dogs
Blow Out
Ghost World
The Incredible Hulk
The X-Files: I Want To Believe
Synecdoche, New York
Return of the Living Dead
The Wrestler
Pineapple Express
The Strangers
Unforgiven
In Bruges
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Ronin
Hancock
A Nightmare On Elm Street
12 Monkeys
Star Trek (2009)
The Illusionist
Flesh & Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror
True Romance
Silence of the Lambs
Born on the Fourth of July
Back to the Future
Black Sabbath
Terminator: Salvation
Raging Bull
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Friday the 13th Part 2
Drag Me To Hell
Friday the 13th (2009)
The Driller Killer
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Sideways
Role Models
Ghostbusters
Mystery of the Nile
Friday the 13th Part 3-D
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Runaway Jury
Big Fish
Five Across the Eyes
The Shawshank Redemption
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Sin City (Recut & Extended)
Gran Torino
The 40 Year Old Virgin (Unrated)
Bay of Blood
Uncle Buck
House By the Cemetery
The Conquerer Worm
The Aviator (Blu-Ray)
Blood on Satan’s Claw
Rob Zombie’s Halloween
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Grindhouse: Planet Terror
Grindhouse: Death Proof
Inglourious Basterds
Halloween II (2009)
Dracula (1979)
Audrey Rose
Coraline
From A Whisper To A Scream
The Dunwich Horror
Trick r’ Treat
Shaun of the Dead
Evil Dead II
The Cooler
Friday the 13th (2009)
Lost in La Mancha
The Raven
Fight Club
Adventureland
I Love You, Man
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Up
The Blind Side

My Top Ten

10. The Blind Side: I’ve had a movie-crush on Sandra Bullock ever since Speed, so it’s great to see her having such a good year. This is a feel-good movie that manages to push all the right buttons without feeling manipulative.
9. Adventureland: It’s not just that they got the ’80s right – they did – but they got everything  right. If this doesn’t take you back to the time in your life when you began to realize that you could be your own person, instead of the person your parents and family thought you should be, then you haven’t reached that time in your life yet. Funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking all at the same time.
8. I Love You, Man: Romantic comedy? Bromance? Buddy movie? I don’t know what you call it, but I call it fun. This movie made me want to gather all my guy friends for a weekend of male bonding – I mean, it really, really made me miss the times when I saw those guys practically every day. As they say, it’s funny because it’s true.
7. In Bruges: Speaking of buddy movies, this is one of the best. Two mismatched hitmen hiding out in a small town. Hilarity and a little tragedy ensue. Colin Farrell, if only you could be this good more often.
6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: A beautiful meditation on time and the toll it takes on us.
5. Star Trek (2009): I don’t like Star Trek. Klingons and phasers and the Federation, oh please. So what’s this doing on my Top Ten? Well, it took a series I don’t like, and showed it to me in an all-new way. A really cool, fun way, one that kept all the stuff that was good about the original and brought it up to speed with what’s good today. The most successful re-imagining in film history. Can’t wait for II.
4. Trick r’ Treat: This little anthology film captures the look, feel and spirit of Halloween like no film since, well, Halloween. I’m a guy that loves me some horror movies, and yet only one cracked my Top Ten this year. See it and see why.
3. Gran Torino: Clint Eastwood is in his 70s, and yet he can still convincingly play the toughest SOB on the block. The great thing about this is we get to see what a softy his character really is without losing the fear that he’ll kick our arse if we drop a candy wrapper on his lawn. A movie with a message that doesn’t beat you over the head with it, plus some of the most jaw-droppingly racist language I’ve ever heard in a film.
2. The Wrestler: I’m an old-school wrestling fan from way back, and over the years I’ve watched the guys I grew up cheering for burn out and fade away. This movie tells so much truth: about guys who can’t give up the glory, and about the fans who want to relive that glory through their heroes just one more time. It’s all about taking us to a place when things were better and brighter. Welcome back, Mickey Rourke.
1. Inglourious Basterds: And welcome back, Quentin Tarantino. You haven’t let me down yet, but this one is special, combining everything you already knew about dialogue with everything you learned on Kill Bill and Death Proof about action. I can’t wait to see what you do next…and I can’t wait to see this again.

Finally, while I watched a lot of good stuff this year, I sat through some real stinkers, too. Here are the worst offenders of the bunch:

Four Films I Wish I’d Never Met
The Driller Killer
Five Across the Eyes
The Raven
From A Whisper To A Scream

These aren’t even worth a couple of lines explaining why they are so bad…just trust me on this. I’ve saved you hours that you’d otherwise never get back.


Reviews: HELL HOLLOW and PERSONAL DEMONS

October 6, 2009

Two new reviews are now up at Dark Scribe Magazine: Ronald Kelly’s Tennessee Terror, Hell Hollow; and Gregory Lamberson’s supernatural procedural thriller Personal Demons. And, coming soon to this blog, a look at The Dunwich Horror, a 1970 spectacle adapting H.P. Lovecraft’s story…and starring Sandra Dee! (Lovecraft and Dee – a match made in Heaven….)


Hear ye, hear ye!

September 19, 2009

A couple of announcements today from your trusty town crier.

First, Fifty-Two Stitches, the print version, is now available for order from Amazon.com. 52 flash fiction stories, including my own “Sitting Up With Grandpa.” Don’t give candy at Halloween this year – be the cool house that gives scary stories!

Next, my review of the Ellen Datlow-edited, H.P. Lovecraft inspired anthology Lovecraft Unbound is now live at Dark Scribe Magazine. Enjoy!


A “Shimmer”-ing review

September 17, 2009

My review of David (First Blood) Morrell’s latest, The Shimmer, is now available at Dark Scribe Magazine.