Category Archives: Entertainment

Dominion: Lay Thee Before Kings (Review)

Prophet saving Noma and Alex
This week’s episode of Dominion, Lay Thee Before Kings is a brilliant mix of humor, cleverness, treachery and backstory, pretty much like other episodes…but that little bit better. The previous episode had Alex getting too big for his boots and Nomes got de-winged. Now he and Noma are on the run.

*Sidenote* Surely there cannot be anything cooler than a Wesley Snipe lookalike prophet in full cowboy spaghetti western garb pointing a finger at a rampaging eight-ball and turning it into a ball of flame. Brilliant stuff, although it could have been that little bit better with a touch of fanning six-gun action a’la Eastwood with a quick spin and back into the holster. Just a thought.

This week saw, Nomes and Alex go into the DIY store from Hell, David Whele attempt to take out Claire Riesen once and for all, Julian prove that even evil Dyad’s are pretty stupid, and just where Gabriel learned all that human hatred. All in all a very informative show in term of backstory and comedy/horror.

Perhaps the highlight of the show has to be shared between the splendid Gabriel backstory and the trip to the combination DIY and discount type store, aka Homebase/Home Depot cum Sam’s Club/Costco. While the latter was comically disturbing, and a brilliant idea for an Independent horror film, with the eight-balls perhaps replaced with Shibito from the Forbidden Siren verse, it was also touching, by the end.

Also touching, if not a bit maudlin (Sickly sweet?) was the reveal that Gabriel was actually David’s dad. That kid from the Bible who takes out the giant Goliath with a little rock in a sling. In this version, after this little hero dispatches the “big bad” he is repaid for his feat by King Saul who slings the first chosen off the top of the castle ramparts. The boy is then replaced with a stand-in who the king can control.

As Alex and Noma head into the Dominion version of Home Depot, a “Beep” is heard. Looking over they can see an eight-ball holding a pack of gum and moving it over the scanner. Each time the gum crosses the device, the creature says, “Beep.” A truly funny and jarring moment. Later in the store, after they find a mountain of dead bodies (some of which are disturbingly fresh, according to Nomes) they decide to check out.

The eight-ball asks if they are sure they got everything they needed. A nervous Noma grabs the last hairbrush, “For my hair,” she says, and hands it to the teller. He scans the item and there is no beep. He starts moving the brush back and forth with no noise, Noma and Alex start getting worried.

“Beep.”

“Sometimes it takes a few swipes,” the eight-ball explains.

Julian proves that despite being a unique type of villain, as a Dyad he is, perhaps, one of a kind, he falls into the same trap as baddies since the beginning of time. He suffers from a combination of overconfidence and innate stupidity; the same things that got Lyrae kicked out of his higher angel body to begin with. As he explains the manner of death that he has devised for his brothers, he gloats, never a good sign from an arch villain, and it does not take long for Michael to notice the first flaw in Julian’s design.

Using Empyrean steel to bind Gabriel and Michael, the welds are affected by the power coursing through the pole. The very item that the archangels must grab to avoid certain death is melting the joints that hold the two of them captive.

Julian goes on to “bring back” Clementine for General Riesen, quite possibly another mistake, or overconfident reaction to things learned. When he realizes that he cannot threaten the general, “Dying men don’t have weaknesses,” Riesen says, “they have nothing to lose.” Julian tries another tact to get back his amphora. While we do not know just how the general will react, it seems that he may not be overly pleased.

Perhaps the best thing to come out of Julian’s flawed plan to kill his brothers and take over one of their bodies, is that Gabriel and Michael finally clear the air and become proper brothers once again. Gabriel decides to end his obsession with killing Alex and helps Michael to get free to save the new chosen one.

Stand Out Moments:

Alex and Noma in the DIY store held some of the best comedic scenes in the show. An eight-ball pushing a broom and muttering “Clean up on Aisle four,” a short smiling female eight-ball telling the couple that “everything’s on sale, prices are plummeting!” The teller asking them if they found everything they were looking for and Alex’s glance at Noma before she grabs the brush. The pay-off of this particularly long gag was not the brush’s refusal to “beep” first time, but the “plastic or paper” choice for bag. “Plastic,” says Alex and the teller replies, “Good choice” as another eight-ball locks the couple in. Cue hairbrush handle in an eight-ball’s eye.

Gabriel and Michael picking on Julian as he tries to gloat over their upcoming deaths. Both of his former brothers know which buttons to push and they do so.

Gabriel turning out to be a much more interesting character after his son David’s death. With all due apologies to the archangel, his overwhelming sweetness toward the boy was annoying, as were his protective skills. Much better was the vengeful chap who turned up years later to kill the “fake” David and his family tree.

David Whele still managing to almost take out both the women who are controlling him at the moment. Zoe, who is directly taking charge of Whele, after shooting him in the hand last week and Claire who is still indirectly affecting his destiny. Just before the Whele sniper starts shooting at the leader of Vega while she talks peace with Zoe, Claire tells her opposition that the next time she should shoot David in the head.

Claire Almost dying and as a result losing her last connection to Alex.

By the end of the episode, Zoe grabs David’s accomplice and has him, presumably, beaten to death. Gates votes for war, Michael gets free and Gabriel stays behind, “Besides, I still have to kill Julian” and while Noma has a little identity crisis, the eight-balls from the beginning of the episode have found the couple at the DIY store.

South African actor Carl Beukes was delightfully droll as Gabriel, his pontificate line was brilliant, as was Brit actor Tom Wisdom as Michael (even if his wig as the younger version of himself was laughably bad) but big kudos go to fellow Brit “angel” Simon Merrells this Essex born actor has truly made Lyrae/Julian a brilliant villain.

It looks like Alan Dale may be checking out…again, and this time not to another town. General Riesen looks pretty ill and David Whele (Anthony Head) could finally get that shot in the head. Dominion airs Thursdays on SyFy and this show continues to entertain on a higher level, unless of course, you prefer the eight-ball humor…”Clean up on aisle…”

Killjoys: Enemy Khylen (Recap and Review)

Dutch tracking Khylen in Killjoys
Killjoys started out as a action packed, pretty much straight forward, space opera with a hint of back story and mystery. As the season progresses, the action has not been dialed down but the backstory has shifted into high gear and moved into first place as main motivator for the show’s storyline. Khylen who remained in the shadows, emerged to become an issue and this episode reveals that Dutch’s former tutor and protector is either better than she has given him credit for, or worse.

By the end of the episode the killjoys learn that nothing is what it seems. Khylen is not the “big bad” he first appeared to be, the killjoy trio is disbanded, RAC may be a cover for something else, D’Avin and Johnny get separated from Dutch, and there may really be a level six.

While Enemy Khylen was intense, thrilling and had one great reveal, there were several stand out moments, lines of snappy clever dialogue and a reference to the nanites/torture episode and “red 17.” These back references, there are more than just red 17, show that Khylen has been doing a lot of behind the scene orchestrating. When Dutch asks him why he suddenly showed up after so many years, he responds that it was her taking of a level five warrant, a kill warrant.

“You proved you were done running,” he says. For those who can remember, the level five was taken in episode one so Dutch could save D’Avin, Johnny’s brother who had a kill order placed on him. The first in a, presumably, long line of coincidences (not) that run underneath the main storyline of each episode. The reference to red 17, which should have shocked us as much as it did D’Av, (unless the rest of the viewing audience are much cleverer than I am) was the piece of information that fired off an epiphany.

Once again, looking back at a previous episode A Glitch in the System, the reference to a seemingly unconnected bit of information appears to have much significance. Turin (Patrick Garrow) interrogates D’Avin and asks about red 17. The older Jacobi is surprised and then suspicious. How does Turin know about what was written on the prison ship’s wall in red?

*Sidenote* What was the significance of Dutch’s naming Lucy’s program Freebird? The first thing that springs to mind is the epic ending to Rob Zombies House of a 1000 Corpses sequel, The Devil’s Rejects. The 2005 horror film has the trio, Baby, Otis and Captain Spaulding drive to their deaths with the Lynyrd Skynyrd anthem playing majestically as backdrop. The killjoys are a trio…is this a “nudge nudge, wink wink homage to Zombie’s film and its ending? A hidden message? Answers, not on a postcard please, but in the comment section below.

Hidden messages, or homages, aside despite the intense reveals this week, i.e. that seemingly everything that has happened thus far has somehow been orchestrated by Khylen, the series’ humor continues to impress.

From the very first episode, Johnny Jacobi has been a smart-arse who will quip at the drop of a hat. “Coming in here took big balls,” says a villain at the start of episode one, “There is some chaffing,” replies Johnny. Although things were a bit tense in Enemy Khylen, both Johnny and D’Av took some time to compete for  the “best line” award of the episode.

D’Av’s Groucho Marx-ish quip to Turner who wants answers from the latest addition to, and now divorced member of,  Dutch’s team at the end of their Q&A session:

“You got nothing,” says D’Av. “I got a stick that goes zap,” Turin replies. “Yeah and a fine set of hair. After you’ve just got rumors and theories. Sad.”

Booya!

Johnny’s line after copying Khylen’s voice “I am Khylen the evil a**clown.” The magic of this line has to do with the a**clown finish. Not evil a** clown, but a**clown… his variation of a**hat and it works beautifully. (For those who do not get the difference, meet me at the comment section, I will explain further.)

D’Avin does get more than his fair share of chuckle worthy lines though. Earlier, at Pree’s establishment, he tells Alvis (Morgan Kelly) during their little conversation about Johnny, what he really thinks of the monk. “We [Johnny and Alvis] spent some time together in the Black Rain. He, uh, seemed into sacrifice,” Alvis says. D’Av looks at Alvis and is  a little lost for words. “You’re a creepy little dude,” D’Av finally says. “Thank you,” Alvis whispers.

Plot lines this week deal with who Khylen really is, or at least what he claims to be, and the resistance that Alvis and his people are helping along. The two merge at one point, D’Av keeps the “Little Commander” a targeted pulse grenade that provides further comic relief later in RAC headquarters.

D’Av sets the “bomb” off and lays it on the floor. Dutch and Johnny have a little freak out and all three move away from the device, fingers in ears. The pulse grenade flashes blue and makes a clicking noise. “Anyone else think that would be cooler,” asks D’Av. Nice touch of humor before the climatic second half of the show.

The last of the show deals with Dutch heading up to level 71…The place where Khylen, as a level six (he says) hangs out. With the show’s reference to red 17, it is obvious that Khylen is a part of all this. 17 is 71 backwards and vice versa. The connection is there for all to see and it seems that his “surrogate” father is a bit like “that man behind the curtain” in The Wizard of Oz. Not just smoke and mirrors but someone who really is the” great and terrible Oz.”

He tells Dutch, as he puts her in the escape pod, that their team are still together, “you’ll need each other for what is coming up,” he says.

Here is that bad undercurrent that has been running underneath the good old fashioned action oriented show from day one. Something pretty awful  is coming to Weatherly. By the end of the episode, it seems as though it has already arrived.

Pree is turning out to be a lot more than the guy who pours the drinks. He tries to help Alvis and this is just the latest task this bartender sets himself.  What will he do next to help the killjoys? Stay tuned to see, as his role in the show’s verse gets bigger.

Despite Pree’s best efforts, Alvis is beaten in the street. Turin, who managed to survive  having a sword run through his stomach manages to put on a good show, accusing Khylen  of doing something naughty up there in level 71.

“I know who you are,” he says to Khylen, “I know what you do up there.”

“Really,” replies Khylen as he bends down,  grabs Turin’s collar and  drags him across the floor,

“Let’s chat about that, shall we?” Cue an involuntary shudder and the feeling  that Turin will not survive his second encounter with Khylen.

The feeling at the end of Killjoys is a mixed one of relief; it really does look like the trio are back together, and trepidation. Khylen may not be what Dutch thought he was but this is one dangerous individual with enormous power at his fingertips. While there is something bad slinking its way to Weatherly, Khylen may still prove to be worse than the predicted “dark days” ahead.

Killjoys is part of SyFy Fridays and fans of science fiction should be watching this brilliant blend of action and mystery…and clever, witty dialogue.

Bloodworkz aka Bloodwork (2012): The Things We Do For Money

Travis Van Winkle and Tricia Helfer in Bloodworkz
Bloodworkz, aka Bloodwork, is a 2012 horror film that could almost be seen as a cautionary tale. A look at the things we do for money; for instance taking part in drug trials for big pharmaceutical companies. Directed by Eric Wostenberg, his second time in the chair; the first being the 2005 film Sacrifice which he wrote as well, the film looks at the dire consequences of taking drug tests too far.

Starring Travis Van Winkle (Transformers, Friday the 13th), Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica, Tiberium Wars), John Bregar (Kick-Ass 2, Servitude) and Joe Pingue (Drive, Pacific Rim) Bloodworkz follow a mixed group who participate in the trials of a new drug meant to deal with allergies, instead the corporation is testing a regenerative vaccine with deadly side effects. Eric Roberts is used in a tiny cameo as a bit of typecasting, he is the organization’s “cleaner.”

Two college students decide to take part, for a fee of $3,000. Greg (Van Winkle) and Ira (Bogaert) are typically cash strapped young men, Greg is the extrovert and Ira the more sensible of the two. Once the trials begin Greg zooms in on the woman running the trials Dr. Wilcox (Helfer). Another trial member, Englishman Nigel Denton (Rik Young) shows the two men around and explains about placebos. Something that will Greg will personally know about later on.

The film moves steadily towards its climax. The participants are each affected by the serum, or vaccine the same way; loss of inhibitions, a lowering of resistance to eating grotesque items and an increased resilience to injuries. As easily imagined, this ends badly for all involved and the film could be classed as a disturbing horror film. People eating rotting animals and, finally, other people as they overdose on the drug.

This US/Canadian film is not too dissimilar to the 2012 UK horror film The Facility. Like Bloodworkz/Phase One/Bloodwork/The Last Experiment, the British film deals with paid drug trials that go horrifically wrong. Starring Alex Reid (The Descent, Wilderness) and Aneurin Barnard (Citadel, Ironclad) and written/directed by Ian Clark (See No Evil, Ultimate Warfare) the film is comparable in terms of entertainment and it too can be seen as a cautionary tale.

It is odd that two films so alike came out in the same year. Rather interestingly, on IMDb, Bloodworkz just nudges past The Facility in ratings. The former getting a score of 5.1 and the latter a score of 4.7. It could well be down to a matter of taste, or that the American/Canadian film features more in the way of gratuitous nudity. The Ian Clark film also feel a bit like a docudrama as well as different side effects from the American film’s drug trials.

The two films both feature participants who change dramatically as a result of the trials, with the Brits all becoming psychotic homicidal monsters (literally becoming disfigured) versus becoming superhuman and disgusting eating machines. Each ends badly and preference is down to personal taste in the end although the ratings at IMDb make no real sense. There is nudity in the British film, for around a minute and it is non-sexual in nature. The US film features the obligatory bare boobs and gratuitous sex scene along with an attempted rape.

Both films are available on Hulu and fans of horror films should have a look at both of them. Each film is entertaining and of similar budgets although The Facility seems to have better FX overall. Fans of Alex Reid, one of the best character actresses in film and television, will appreciate her performance in the Brit film.

Bloodworkz does have Roberts in his two second cameo but not much else in terms of star power. As a horror/thriller film it ticks the boxes and provides an interesting story but not much in the way of character development. At the end of the day, the viewer never really gets attached to the two dimensional characters in the film.

This is a 3 out of 5 star film and pretty solid horror fare if not overly impressive in terms of plot and character empathy. Worth a look but not two.

Pretty Little Liars: Last Dance (review)

The liars at the barn prom
Last week Pretty Little Liars was a continuance of “build-up” to the penultimate episode; Last Dance. In FrAmed Alison violated Lorenzo’s trust, Clark was acting very suspiciously and “Rhys Matthews” was obviously a DiLaurentis and part of the Carissimi Group.

This week sees the Liars coping with the reality of a prom ban, and their commencement ban, Clark’s true purpose is revealed, Alison shows her friends that even partial familial blood is “thicker,” Sara shows up for Em’s prom, the one she is not supposed to be at, and drops a hint, but Emily does not catch it. Toby forgives Spencer for the candy fiasco that got him suspended from the force, but Lorenzo has not yet forgiven Ali for her indiscretion/crime.

A lot has been cleared up in Rosewood, even while dropping some big clues about where the plot may be heading.

Question: Did anyone else clock the book in Kenneth’s house? On the small end table that, as Veronica Hastings points out, has DiLaurentis’ scotch on it, there was, next to the drink, a copy of Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train. Since Alison’s father is clearly not a crime/thriller “noir” type this has to be a clue.

The book is glimpsed for an instant and is clearly a signpost of sorts. Looking at the scene that follows, where the mother’s of the Liars meet Rhys Matthews (Charles?), actor Caleb Lane‘s hairstyle looks an awful lot like Robert Walker’s in the Alfred Hitchcock film version of Patricia’s book.

For those who do not follow film-noir or Alfred Hitchcock (or even Highsmith) the plot of Strangers on a Train deals with two chaps who meet on a train and agree to swap murders. This has got to be the big reveal coming up, obviously Charles and A did some sort of swap, or as Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) says in the film a “Criss cross.”

Stepping away from that scotch and book laden end table for a moment: High point of the Liars’ mothers group, apart from getting trapped in the basement, is Nia Peebles getting the line of the evening with her slightly restrained version of “We had one job to do,” without the repeat. They did indeed screw things up, opting to follow Veronica’s lead and drink wine rather than hover nervously in the background looking out for their daughters and “protecting” them from Charles.

The episode provided a little in-depth look at Spencer’s mother. It really is not surprising that Spencer has issues. Even without the body in the back garden event, that mother Veronica will never get over, Mrs. Hasting’s is a real “type-A” force to be reckoned with and must be a real joy to share a house with. Fans of the show who watched it from the beginning know this already, as a Pretty Little Liar noob, however, it was a revealing evening in Casa Hastings.

Ezra shows up for Aria at the “mini” barn prom and later accompanies her to the real deal at the school. These two are a treat to watch. In the untrustworthy stakes, Sara shows up at the prom and rather ominously tells her date, “Emily, I want you to know that whatever happens…you mean a lot to me.”

Uh-oh.

Cue a reveal that will most likely upset the hell out of Em. Something along the lines of Sara lying about just how long she was in the doll house would fit. This little subplot will most likely segue nicely in with the Rhys is Charles main plot. As Aria’s mother Ella (Hollie Marie Combs)says in the DiLaurentis house when they meet the Carissimi Group exec, “I think we just met Charles.” So whoever takes that mask off at the real prom, which prompts Ali to gasp, “Oh my God,” is clearly not Rhys Matthews.

Nor is it Clark, who turns out to be a 22 Jump Street type cop (college man versus 21 Jump Street high schooler). Aria seems almost disappointed that Clark is not a stalker type comrade of A or Charles.

Speaking of Aria, what about that cringe moment where she mistakenly thought Ezra was going to follow her to LA? Almost as awkward as the “will you go with me to the prom” scene from last week. On the plus side for the Liars, Toby has clearly forgiven Spencer for her drug laced candy and Caleb turns out to be a knight in shining armor for Hanna and Lorenzo looks like he may be able to eventually forgive Alison as well.

The mothers being locked in the DiLaurentis basement was a great moment and as Pam Fields says, they had one job…one job! In their defense, it is hard to focus on your kid’s safety when talking about bodies in the garden, drinking wine, and searching for the family next door’s skeletons.

The show’s “Masque of the Red Death” motif at the prom, where a slew of red robed, and hooded, figures can be glimpsed was interesting if not a little wasted as Ali asked the first non-red-robed waiter if he was Charles. Seems that Hanna is not the only Liar who cannot be counted as the sharpest tool in the shed.

All that remains, is for the show to provide that somewhat anticlimactic moment of who Alison is “OMG-ing” about. Certainly with a huge buildup like this, there will be a certain amount of disappointment and disillusionment. Still, that Strangers on a Train hint must mean that whoever fans think is under that mask will not be revealed in the next, episode, aka the mid-season finale. It will be someone else. Who did Charles “criss-cross” with?

‘A’ obviously, but who is it? Next week should clear all that up despite odds that it will not be anyone that fans have placed in the big bad category. Kudos this week to Lucy Hale, Troian Bellisario and Ashley Benson. Honorable mention to Ian Harding as Ezra, “unless I have to dress up as a troll or something…I don’t, do I?” He and Hale have a wonderfully awkward chemistry together.

A personal plea…More Holly Marie Combs please.

Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays on ABC Family, next week is the mid-season finale…do not miss it. Until then, who do you think is going to be under that mask? Answers, not on a postcard please, but in the comment section below and one last thought…

How brilliant was the music this week?

Rowdy Roddy Piper Dead at 61

Rowdy Roddy Piper RIP
Roderick George Toombs, aka Rowdy Roddy Piper has died from cardiac arrest age 61. TMZ.com reported that the wrestler, actor, husband and father of four passed on in his Hollywood home while sleeping. Piper’s representative confirmed the news of Rowdy’s death and told TMZ that he was devastated.

Piper had a long career in the WWE, he was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2005, and he was one of 50 “villains” to be included in that hallowed hall of distinction. He also worked as an actor and has 123 credits under his name on IMDb, appearing in such cult hits as Hell Comes to Frogtown and the iconic They Live. Both films were released in 1988 and it is the latter film that immediately comes to mind when thinking of the pro wrestler.

The bank scene in They Live, “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick a** and I’m all out of bubblegum” is considered iconic. The line, spoken by his character Nada in the John Carpenter film is said before he begins shooting down aliens in the crowded bank, was easily the best thing Piper ever said either in or out of the ring. Piper specialized in being brash as part of his act and he was bigger than life.

While he was well known for the WWE, Piper will also be remembered for the two 1988 films, especially his Sam Hell from Hell Comes to Frogtown although it is a toss up between his other role the same year as to which one is a fan favorite. Rowdy Roddy Piper is survived by his wife Kitty and his four children. In 2006, Piper had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but family members have told the press that Roddy was free of the disease at his death.

RIP to Rowdy Roddy Piper, WWE legend and that guy in the bank. As a sign of respect and remembrance here is the clip from the bubblegum scene in They Live.

Byzantium (2012): Practically Perfect Irish Horror

Gemma Arterton in Byzantium
Were it not for the fact that this film was titled Byzantium, this 2012 movie could have been titled Perfection as this Irish horror tale is a dark “Mary Poppins,” in other words “practically perfect in every way.” This melancholic vampire story leaves the fangs and the long cloaks behind as it follows Eleanor Webb and her mother Clara through a journey of discovery for both the eternally young Ellie and her mother.

Directed by Neil Jordan (Breakfast on Pluto, End of the Affair) and starring Gemma Arterton (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time), Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, Atonement), Sam Riley (Maleficent, The Dark Valley) and Johnny Lee Miller (Dark Shadows, Elementary) and Caleb Landry Jones (Antiviral, Contraband) Byzantium is a dark, slow, melodic tale that moves through time and distance to mesmerize the viewer.

The film starts with Eleanor (Ronan) writing her life story page by page and then crumpling the pages into a ball and throwing them into the wind. An old man has been collecting the pages and he calls to her. Later, she kills him by drinking his blood. At roughly the same time, her mother Clara (Arterton), aka Claire is working as a lap dancer in a seedy club downtown.

After being fired for stealing a customer’s wallet and then assaulting him, she is followed by a man who says he has been looking for her for a long time. She kills him and later comes back with Eleanor to burn the place and his corpse. The two move to another town, a seaside town, where Eleanor says they have been before.

The film moves backward and forward as Eleanor recounts her life, she compulsively writes and rewrites her story throwing the tale away until she gives it to a new friend, Frank (Jones) who is dying of Leukemia. The 200 year-old teenager meets Frank at a hotel dining room where she plays the piano, he “passes the hat” for her “are you busking?” he asks her before she leaves. He later gives her the collected cash and she runs off.

Clara meets a lonely man down by the seaside arcade (she charges him £50 for a “blowy”) and invites herself and Eleanor back to his place, a sort of bed and breakfast that his mother owned before she died. Clara sets the place up as a bordello to help Noel get out of debt. Eleanor’s story about becoming a vampire relates that her mother started out as a whore, set off in that life by Capt. Ruthven (Miller).

As Eleanor and Clara settle in the seaside town, two men are searching for them, Darvell (Riley) and Savella, played by Uri Gavriel (The Kingdom, The Dark Knight Rises) who look like police but are from Clara’s past. These two have searching for the two female vampire for centuries.

The tale of how Eleanor’s mother is created, first as a whore then a vampire, is spellbinding and feels like a twisted Dickensian tale. A chance meeting while gathering cockles turns the young Clara’s life upside down and begins her dark journey after one military officer gives her a pearl and the other takes her virginity.

Byzantium has very nontraditional vampires. Not created by the classic exchange of blood, in this world a demon is searched out on a bleak island, and there are no fangs, instead a long almost tear shaped thumbnail makes the necessary incisions. The vampires can walk in the daylight and are not cold to the touch. Both Eleanor and Clara are the only female vampires in the world and they are hunted not by a version of Van Helsing but by male vampires.

At just over two hours this film should drag but it does not. It is a delight to watch and the cinematography is addictive. Sean Bobbitt (12 Years a Slave, The Place Beyond the Pines) gives the viewer exquisitely framed shots and uses lighting to accentuate every scene beautifully. Arterton holds her own against Ronan, who narrates the film, and if ever there was any doubt that this “Bond girl” could act, this film proves it.

Byzantium is a 5 star beguiling feature that lures the viewer in and seduces them completely. A new favorite and worth all 128 minutes spent watching it, the film is available on Hulu.

Watch this film and prepare to become addicted.

The Unwanted: Tony Todd, Andy Mackenzie and Destin Pfaff Ride Again

Poster of The Unwanter
In 2012, Tony Todd (Candyman, Sushi Girl), Andy Mackenzie (Sushi Girl, True Detective) and Destin Pfaff (Sushi Girl, Married in a Year) all worked on Sushi Girl, Pfaff wrote, produced and had a role in the film. The film was a brilliant look at the total lack of honor among thieves with a great twist at the end and the excellent cast also had a cameo by Japanese legend “Sonny Chiba.” Tony Todd, Andy Mackenzie and Destin Pfaff are ready to mount up and ride again in their latest venture The Unwanted, a film being funded via Kickstarter. The movie is inspired by the real events that took place the same year that Sushi Girl had a limited cinema run and was released on DVD and Blu-Ray; 2013.

The year following their work on that film, a 21 year old Vancouver student named Elisa Lam disappeared and then was found dead in a water tower at the top of Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. The notorious inn, where Richard Ramirez stayed while killing his way through a baker’s dozen of unfortunate women, had footage of Lam’s last known moments via their elevator CCTV. The video, uploaded on YouTube, went viral and fired the public’s imagination.

Lam is acting oddly in the footage, which started a slew of theories about just what went on before her body was found naked in the water supply tower on the roof of the hotel. Hollywood has already jumped to make a big budget version of the events and these three are going to be part of a less expensive and, as Andy promises in the Kickstarter video, much scarier movie inspired by the events.

According to the press release, this film The Unwanted has been inspired by that viral footage of Elisa Lam acting very odd in the Hotel Cecil elevator. The release says that the film will “pull from an expansive range of horror elements from films such as The Exorcist, The Gates of Hell, and The Sentinel” and ask the question of whether one person can be possessed by two entities at the same time.

Both Andy and Tony are very excited about the project, as can be seen on their video at the Kickstarter site, and another name has been added to the cast list, as well as another video on the site, one Rachel Federer aka Mrs. Pfaff and another alumnus from Sushi Girl.

This promises to be an excellent film with one icon from the world of horror, Tony Todd, and Andy Mackenzie, who plays one of the best bad guys ever in front of the camera, and that alone makes this an exciting prospect. The fact that Pfaff was inspired by the viral footage, which is creepy and unsettling, shows what creative muses were influenced in his mind.

There are only five days left in the Kickstarter campaign. Follow the link above and see where they are in terms of funding. While you are there check out the awesome things on offer for donations, things that are over and above being part of what promises to be one scary film for fans of the genre. A donation can get you some Sushi Girl “swag” or a chance to be in the film. *These are just some of the things available.*

The Unwanted is the latest screenplay from Destin Pfaff and there are just five days left to reach deep, or not so deep, and chuck some money into the Kickstarter campaign. It is important to point out that these talented folks are not basing their film on the viral footage of Elisa Lam’s apparently last moments. They were, as stated over at the site inspired by the footage and that is a completely different proposition.

In case you missed the viral video, here is the YouTube video of Elisa Lam’s odd behavior in that elevator. Don’t forget to head over to The Unwanted website to see just what getting involved entails.

Adult World (2014): Poetry and Pain Comedy

Emma Roberts as Amy and John Cusack as Rat Billings in Adult World
Directed by Scott Coffey, it is his second feature length film sitting in the driver’s seat and perhaps best known as the film that brought Evan Peters and Emma Roberts together, Adult World was produced in 2013 and not released till 2014 it has John Cusack doing “John Cusack” and is all about youth, ambition, dreams, poetry and pain. It is a comedy.

A pretty good one in fact. Following the adventures of Amy (Roberts) who is a wannabe poet that has a poster on her wall about Sylvia Plath. She graduates college and has difficulty finding a job. Her father tells her that they can no longer support her dream of being a published “wunderkind” poet and that she needs to find a job. In the middle of winter she learns that these are scarce and ends up working in an adult sex store.

There she meets the manager Alex (Peters) who shows her the ropes after the shop’s owners, Mary Ann and Stan hire her (a delightful pair of cameos by legendary actress Cloris Leachman and longtime prolific actor John Cullum). She also meets transgender “diva” Rubia, played by Armando Riesco (National Treasure, Garden State) who hates her on sight but later helps the youngster out.

Before leaving college, Amy discovers a book of Rat Billings’ poetry (Cusack) and becomes a diehard fan. She meets the man at a book signing and alternatively gushes all over him and convinces him she is a deranged stalker. He ends up becoming a reluctant mentor while acting like an all around heel.

This film is funny, despite the fact that Cusack could have phoned his part in. The role of curmudgeonly “over-the-hill” wunderkind poet was not a stretch for the actor although he pulls it off just by being “John Cusack.” Evan Peters, who proved back in 2010 in Kick-Ass that he could do a comedic role, is brilliant as the slightly quirky sex store manager.

The film belongs to Emma Roberts however. Her performance as the immature Sylvia Plath idolizer, which then changes to “Rat Billings” fan, is just brilliant. Emma, daughter of Eric and niece of Julia, Roberts can do comedy. Full stop. Her timing was good and while she’s proven that she can do horror, Scream 4 (2011) and American Horror Story season four, she shows in Adult World that, like her the rest of her acting family, she can do pretty much anything.

The only real complaint about the film is its message which states, via the vitriolic Rat Billings, that not everybody can be great and that if everyone was talented the world would be a pretty boring place. That one ambiguous statement is tempered a bit by the publishing of Amy’s first story; a bit of sexy prose written by a virgin that is printed in an adult magazine and the fact that one never really believes Billings when he says it.

Adult World works mainly because of the chemistry between Roberts and Peters. Of course the two sparked off one another so well that a real life romance ensued but, to be fair, Emma had great interaction with everyone on the film, even Cusack who did not appear to put a whole lot of effort in his role. (Having said that, his character was pretty non-interactive and fairly weird…so Cusack could have been, in fact, acting his little cotton socks off.)

It is quite nice to see Malcolm in the Middle actress (she plays the teacher who recognizes the boys high IQ) Catherine Lloyd Burns who played Amy’s mother in the film.

The film is on Showtime, via Hulu as add-on, and is worth the time spent watching it. Just the pot scene (“My teeth feel so big!”) alone is enough to make the film a good one. This coming of age feature works and the only shame is that the two love interests are no longer together in real life. A 4 out of 5 star film losing a whole star mainly because of Cusack’s apparent lack of interest.

Atari: Game Over (2014) Urban Myth Deconstructed

ET found in Atari: Game Over
Zak Penn, who has written a slew of superhero films and directed two films of his own before this one, was the motivator and creative impetus behind and in front of Atari: Game Over. Penn decides to follow and deconstruct the facts that made up the urban myth of the ET video game killing off not just a major game company but an industry.

For those of a certain age, the name Atari has special meaning. The first company to really break the boundaries of home entertainment and to bring video games into the front rooms of the world. What Penn’s documentary does is go back to the story of Atari, the company’s meteoric climb and then its sudden end. The film may follow the Alamogordo trail where, in the world of gaming myth, a million ET Atari games are said to be under tons of dirt at the town landfill. The rumor has been that these unsold “unplayable” video game cartridges were buried there way back in 1983 just as the game company was going under.

The journey that Penn takes the viewer on is one of discovery, if the audience is young enough, or a trip down memory lane if the audience are over a certain age. The idea that one single game was so bad that it crushed a company and “destroyed” the video game industry is laughable yet still believable when considering the gaming community and its increased tendency to rip apart games, old ones and new ones appearing on the market.

Atari: Game Over follows the pioneers who developed “coin op” games to be played on the old Zenith or Motorola or (fill in brand name here) televisions in millions of home across the world. It also recounts the birth of game engineer as “rock star.” Speaking to the guy who made the ET game in just five weeks Howard Scott Warshaw; who was and is a legend in the industry, the film lets the gamer into the early world of games development and the free wheeling atmosphere that ruled behind those closed creative doors.

Despite the “backstory” where the filmmaker talks to the people who were part of the action “back in the day,” like a gaming version of Halt and Catch Fire but without Lee Pace and all the smugness that show suffers from, the film is really about all those millions of Atari ET game cartridges shoved into the ground in the town closest to where the nuclear bomb was first tested.

The filmmakers talk to Joe Lewandowski, who maintained for years that the games were indeed buried there and even worked out their exact location. Cameras were present for the actual “dig” and although the work was disrupted by a sand storm blowing in from White Sands Park the cartridges were found. Ernest Cline, the guy who wrote Ready Player One and Fanboys, participates in the film as well.

*sidenote* Cline stops by Santa Fe and borrows the DeLorean from Back to the Future from Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin…How cool is that? (Sorry, fanboy geeky moment over.)

Not everyone will enjoy this documentary or even understand the necessity of Zak Penn’s decision to make it. As one who lived in Alamogordo, from 1980 to 1982 and played on an Atari 2600 for the first time at Holloman, AFB (the USAF base outside the town) during that two years, this film was a delightful surprise.

In the film, the enormous amount of gamers who arrived at the small town to see if there really were millions of ET game cartridges under that landfill looked eerily familiar to the scores of press and public (and vendors) who lined the roads back when the Space Shuttle was diverted to Alamogordo back in 1982. It is amazing that all this occurred back in 2014 and was missed by at least one older gamer who only discovered the documentary recently.

This film is a brilliant look at a part of history that became a part of urban myth. What really destroyed Atari? Perhaps Warshaw’s pronouncement of hubris or a glutted market or the winds of change combined to not only bring the company down, but also put the dampers on ET. Regardless of just why the Steven Spielberg endorsed video game became a part of myth and whether or not it had anything to do with the demise of a company and industry, the documentary is entertaining and informative.

Keep an eye out for the Raiders of the Lost Ark reference that Penn sets up toward the end of the film. Atari: Game Over is a 5 star film; a fun eye opening look at the early video games industry and the unmasking of an games urban myth. This Showtime documentary is available on Hulu as part of its new add-on, gamers head on over if you have not already.

Last Vegas (2013): Fogies Having Fun

Main Cast of Last Vegas
Okay, so it has been an “in fashion” thing over the last couple of years for films to focus on older folks having fun and Last Vegas features four childhood friends who are now old fogies celebrating their last singleton giving up the life. Directed by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and starring Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Mary Steenburgen the film is about Douglas’s character finally tying the knot with a woman half his age.

The four friends meet up in Las Vegas for a bachelor party and along the way Paddy (De Niro) and Billy (Douglas) patch up their differences. When Paddy’s wife Sophie died, Billy never went to the funeral and the two former best friends have never reconciled that fact.

There is a lot to like about the film, Douglas playing his age, for instance and Martin Freeman cutting the rug pretty convincingly. Kevin Kline is on top form and De Niro manages to be pretty convincing as the down-in-the-mouth widower who misses his wife. Steenburgen looks terrific and manages to be alluring as ever.

Is the film hokey? The answer is a resounding yes, but…

It entertains and it hits all the right notes. The “Flatbush Four” are cute together and while there are no in-depth moments reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Hamlet or anything by Ibsen, there is never a dull moment and 50 Cent has a brilliantly funny cameo. Some of the gags in the film never quite mesh, but who cares? It is four old guys who are having fun and not worrying about whether their Depends are working properly.

The underlying theme of being as old as you feel works well and Douglas’ character’s romance with Steenburgen’s August torch singer works much better than the one with Diane Keaton’s similar torch singer in And So It Goes (2014). The son of Kirk seems to be attempting to play closer to his age and doing a pretty respectable job of it.

A comedy of oldsters that ends on a hopeful note and allows Douglas’ character to admit that the whole idea of marrying the younger woman was his fear of being old and alone. Again, not quite Shakespeare but still pretty good stuff set against the superficial glitz and glamor of Las Vegas.

The entire cast appear to relish their time in the casinos and playing the part of old men getting to feel young again. That said, none of the characters are over 70 and in this day and age that is not really too old.

All in all, Last Vegas is a fun little film with a cast to die for and performances from actors who rarely, if ever, disappoint. (Never mind the disastrous miscasting of Douglas in the above mentioned film.) A solid 3.5 out of 5 stars and watching the film is time well spent. The only shame was having the brilliant Michael Ealy do little more than roll his eyes and worry about his father Morgan Freeman. Watch this one if you don’t mind seeing old folks misbehave.