Double Feature: The Platform (2019) & The Predator (2018)

As I took a few days off to get my mind back on track and figure out what needs to be written (because I basically forgot after Fantasia Festival), we’re back on the double feature! As we gear into October’s Halloween Horror month, I’m leaving some horror on Shudder for next month so we’re focusing on the rest of the alphabet with only Netflix choices and maybe some shortcuts along the way.

Picking up where we left off, its time for the P selection. The first is a Netflix movie called The Platform and paired with the fourth movie in the Predator franchise called The Predator. Let’s check it out!

The Platform (2019)

Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia

Cast: Ivan Massagué, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan, Emilio Buale, Alexandra Masangkay, Zihara Llana

A vertical prison with one cell per level. Two people per cell. One only food platform and two minutes per day to feed from up to down. An endless nightmare trapped in The Hole. – IMDB

The Platform is a Netflix Original Spanish sci-fi horror film which works a lot like Snowpiercer where its moving horizontal through a train, this one moves in a vertical structure via a platform that passes from the top levels to the lowest levels. As a man gets trapped there, his conversation with his cellmate becomes one where he starts to notice the patterns and the system and wants to fight for a change to actually survive this ordeal. The backstory and mystery of why these people are there and how do they get out is all a key part to the story. Sure, the platform itself plays a big part as the people shift every while from one level to another so that they can experience the upper and lower levels and the ugly and selfish side of humans in the face of survival.

Netflix automatically started the movie in its dubbed English version for myself which was a decent experience. It would be interesting to watch it again in its original audio. Overall, The Platform is a pretty good film. It builds up on the mystery and the intensity of the situation pretty well and has a decent pacing and execution throughout.

The Predator (2018)

Director (and co-writer): Shane Black

Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey

When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled scientist can prevent the end of the human race. – IMDB

There are days I wonder why we just keep going back to making more and more of a franchise when it should’ve been left at the first movie. It sometimes feels like Predator is one of those situation, maybe because I’m also not a huge fan of this franchise in comparison to Alien franchise, I guess. Although, credit where its due, Predators (review) was a pretty fun one even though I think some people wasn’t a big fan. Back on track to this one, the story here is far-fetched and it runs rather off track the further it goes. The only thing that worked for it was the ragtag team and the twist of the concept of the predators end-game although the whole “twist” of what they wanted wasn’t exactly a twist but fairly obvious.

I don’t hate on this completely since I thought Olivia Munn’s character was fairly resourceful and there’s some familiar faces with Thomas Jane and Keegan-Michael Key, two people that I rather enjoy in movies. Then there’s the little boy played by Jacob Tremblay who right away is different but intelligent for his age. The characters do work rather well. Its a pity that the story gets a little odd especially when the Predator world starts showing up with alien pups which was supposed to add some humor which it kind of did at times especially with whatever it would fetch back.

Its a fairly flat experience. Its not good but not horrible either. There are some glaring issues with it for sure but then, the director definitely has a special place for this movie as it puts in some references to the original film (or at least a very obvious one).

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films?

Blog Tour: Crackle and Fire by Russ Colchamiro (Review/Giveaway)

Check out the upcoming release from Russ Colchamiro! Crackle and Fire is the first installment of a brand new genre-blurring series!

Crackle and Fire: An Angela Hardwicke Sci-Fi Mystery (Book One)
By: Russ Colchamiro

Expected Publication Date: September 1st, 2020
Genre: Sci-Fi Mystery/ Fantasy

Angela Hardwicke isn’t just any private eye.

She’s a PI from Eternity, the cosmic realm responsible for the design, creation, and maintenance of the Universe.

When accountant Gil Haberseau hires her to find an intern with stolen corporate files, Hardwicke soon finds herself embroiled in a deadly case of lies, intrigue, and murder, clashing with vengeful gangsters, MinderNot rallies, and a madman who’s come a long way to get what he wants.

In Russ Colchamiro’s thrilling Sci-Fi mystery Crackle and Fire, Angela Hardwicke learns once and for all that when it comes to being an intergalactic private eye, there’s no telling what threats she may face on-realm and off… including the demons that lurk deep within her soul.

“Crackle and Fire elegantly combines PI noir with science fiction and fantasy.” — John L. French, author of The Magic of Simon Tombs

“Angela Hardwicke is one of the most memorable characters in detective fiction.” — Sawney Hatton, author of Everyone is a Moon

BONUS STORY INCLUDED! The AI-themed Angela Hardwicke murder mystery, “The Case of Jarlo’s Buried Treasure”

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REVIEW

Crackle and Fire is the first book in an upcoming series featuring a female private investigator called Angela Hardwicke. Set in a sci-fi galactic universe, the world itself is very intriguing to discover. The first book gives a good vibe of both the character of Angela Hardwicke as well as her network of friends and helpers that assist her in solving her cases. At the same time, this mystery and first case that she takes gives a foundation to the status of the world that it takes place in. There’s a lot of focus on style, the noir-esque crime and the underworld, the connection of this galactic settting and its connection to Earth.

The mystery itself also is executed rather well. There are layers to the story as it unfolds where this case feels a little like a case in a case as Angela Hardwicke starts connecting the dots. In a case that can easily step on some sensitive toes, there is a whole world that unveils in the process. There’s enough intrigue to want to know more and figure out those many questions and mysteries set out in the beginning and enough answers to unlock a few more elements. Adding in the science fiction elements to expand the location a little more and the technology also gives it a lot of character.

Overall, as a first book, Crackle and First is a good debut for the series. Its sets up a good foundation. There is enough set up for Angela Hardwicke’s character, giving her enough backstory to understand her more while seeing her true abilities. At the same time, she is a flawed character with a little mysterious vibe behind her that lingers in the background. There were some vibes of the Ava Lee series by Ian Hamilton that I’m a big fan of with how the mystery is constructed as well as the general concept of the female character design (although they do have their differences and has its own respective setting and expertise). To be comparable to that series is a compliment on my part. It’ll be interesting to see where this story takes Angela Hardwicke in the future books of the series. We already get a little idea as this book ended with a little bonus story.

Score: 4/5

Pre-Order Link

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Russ Colchamiro

Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the zany SF/F backpacking comedy series Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the SF anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.

Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two ninjas, and crazy dog Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, Camelot 13, TV Gods 2, They Keep Killing Glenn, Thrilling Adventure Yarns, Camelot 13, and Brave New Girls.

He is now working on the first novel in a new series featuring his hardboiled private eye Angela Hardwicke, and the first of three collaborative novella projects.

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(International) digital copy of Crackle and Fire & a $5 Amazon
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August 24th
Horror Tree (Guest Post) https://www.horrortree.com
Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com
Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com
The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

August 25th
Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com
Rajiv’s Reviews (Review) https://www.rajivsreviews.com/
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August 26th
The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com
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August 28th
Mind of Luxe (Review) http://mindofluxe.wordpress.com
Tranquil Dreams (Review)
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Double Feature: Crawl (2019) & Bumblebee (2018)

Welcome back to another double feature! Today, we are looking at an interesting pairing to say the least. One is a creature feature with alligators and the other is another Transformers movie but more of a spin-off of how Bumblebee ended up on Earth. Its a pretty fun double feature

Crawl (2019)

Crawl

Director: Alexandre Aja

Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark, Ross Anderson, Jose Palma, George Somner

A young woman, while attempting to save her father during a category 5 hurricane, finds herself trapped in a flooding house and must fight for her life against alligators. – IMDB

*Originally posted as Friday Film Club on Movies and Tea HERE*

While sharks are primarily the star of creature features, Crawl takes on a lesser used monster as it takes a disaster film and pairs it with a horror film where a father, daughter and their dog gets trapped in their basement crawl space and hunted down by alligators during a Category 5 hurricane. As in any of these films, it is about survival. Directed by Alexandre Aja who is no stranger to directing horror films, Crawl takes on a decent form from the atmosphere and how the whole story goes as it builds gripping tension with these characters and this quiet predator.

Starring Kaya Scodelario as a rising swimming athlete in university called Haley who goes to check on her father Dave played by Barry Pepper, she ends up finding him in a crawl space unconscious and their own salvation is behind these pipes that the alligators hunting them can’t get through. As the crawl space fills up with water, they need to find a way to escape without being noticed by these alligators. Just looking at the character designs, it definitely feels like a rather contrived way to put a swimmer as a central character in a flood and yet, if you can get past that (and you should), Crawl manages to create some gripping moments and build up a decent  bit of tension while also making the whole crawl space experience to play well in the claustrophobic and time-sensitive situation.

There’s a lot to love about Crawl. For one, it uses a lesser used “monster” which definitely needs to be used more as quiet predators create some good surprise attack moments. At the same time, the characters are pretty good. While there is still some family drama to sort out between the father and daughter, the focus on survival is the priority. At the same time, the script makes an effort to give reasoning for why these alligators have gathered in this crawl space and it all does come together in the end. Plus, the director manages to not only use the crawl space and the claustrophobia of that setting to its potential but when it migrates out of there, it still manages to use its environment and the hurricane to its advantage as well. Crawl definitely delivers a great creature feature film that’s well worth a watch.

Bumblebee (2018)

Bumblebee

Director: Travis Knight

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Cena, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Stephen Schneider, Ricardo Hoyos, John Ortiz

On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small California beach town. On the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, Charlie Watson discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. – IMDB

While I don’t have any major qualms with Transformers to this certain point but knowing that its really just mindless entertainment, Bumblebee is a whole different level. I guess nothing looks so bad until you find something better that comes along. Bumblebee is a fun movie and brings so much to the table because its so goofy and really about the unlikely friendship between Bumblebee and Charlie as she learns gradually about what he is, maybe not fully as this movie also shows how he loses his voice and ends up finding it again with the help of Charlie and her mechanic skills.

Hailee Steinfeld has gone a long way in her acting career. She’s had some misses, mostly due to the overall movie and not her. Bumblebee sees her in a blockbuster role that she really does take on very well. Her character is a tad bitter about her life with her own burdens in her current life situation while at the same time, her sarcasm adds to the humor especially when playing off of Bumblebee who also is discovering Earth and just how it all works despite his amnesia. Its a bit of a fish out of water story in a Transformer point of view and its executed so well.

If there was anything that I disliked about Transformers, it would have to be the annoying John Cena character which plays a little like Samuel L. Jackson’s role in Kong: Skull Island who pursues Bumblebee like he is a threat and the army gets manipulated by the Decepticons (because you know, who wouldn’t believe anyone called Decepticons, right?).

Overall, Bumblebee is a fun time. It definitely has much more substance and gives an origin story angle for Bumblebee which works very well. It balances between the comedy, drama and action a lot and also manages to get in a lot of  screen time for the Autobots and Depcepticons instead of the humans. Really good job here!

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Ultimate 2010s Blogathon: Inception (2010) by Drew’s Movie Review

After 2 weeks of blogathon guests, Ultimate 2010s Blogathon is at its conclusion with me and Drew’s concluding movie reviews to wrap-up the blogathon. Drew starts off with a review of 2010’s Inception. You can’t go wrong with this Christopher Nolan directed psychological science fiction thriller.


InceptionSynopsis
Dream extractors Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and their team are hired by Japanese businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) to perform inception, or plant an idea in someone’s mind, on Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), son of Saito’s dying competitor.

Review
Christopher Nolan is a writer and director who is known for films that are bold, that go big, and that are completely original. One of his boldest and biggest films came between the latter two films in his influential The Dark Knight trilogy. Inception has all of Nolan’s trademark elements and, most importantly, the cast to make it work. And it works. It works in a spectacular and unforgettable fashion.

Sometimes movies try to explain their world before getting into the story, often using an overbearing amount of exposition. But Inception doesn’t do that. Rather than use the beginning to set up the technology or concept to enter one’s subconscious, it is used to introduce the notion of dreams within dreams, which becomes an important aspect of the story later on, and also simply give an idea of what it the technology does. The movie accepts that entering dream space is already an established technology so it can start with a bang. However, later in the film we do get the exposition needed to explain such a high concept technology. This information is given to us through Ariadne (Ellen Page), who acts as the bridge between the movie and the audience. But again, it is done in a way that is neither pandering nor dull, somehow making exposition exciting and entertaining.

Although there is a large ensemble, almost everyone gets their fair share of screen time. Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are the main focus but they handle the attention well and give amazing performances. They play off each other humorously and you can feel that their characters are close friends. I haven’t seen many of Cillian Murphy’s films but I’m impressed with his performance here, playing well opposite, and later along side, DiCaprio. Ellen Page is the newcomer to the team and acts a great surrogate for the audience. She offers an innocence and a bit of naivete to the group. However, I would have to say my favorite performances is Tom Hardy as Eames. He brings a charisma that fits his character perfectly.

Cobb has become one of my favorite characters in cinema. He is very complex and it’s easy to forget that he is a thief. He is an antihero but is one because of the circumstances and wants nothing more than to return to his family. Most antiheroes say they have good intentions and only become so out of necessity but secretly enjoy being a thief/killer/whatever kind of antihero they are. Cobb, on the other hand, is truly not a bad person and is only leveraging his skills in a way he believes will allow him to return to his family the quickest, even though it is not a way he would prefer.

I have mentioned many times in other reviews how important the score can be to a movie. Like most other aspects of Inception, the sound work and music beautifully complements what is happening on screen. The movie can get loud to accentuate the action going on but it also gets very quite, making these moments more intimate. Hans Zimmer is my second favorite composer (behind the wonderful John Williams) and for a good example of why he is amazing just look at this movie. His score is memorable and gives a certain gravitas to the events unfolding on screen.

There are some amazing visuals, too. Working inside a dream allows the action to be limited only by the imagination. One of the coolest is an early scene when Ariadne is learning about molding dreams. She is walking around Paris and makes the city fold on itself, among bending the streets and architecture in other ways. There is also a fight scene in zero gravity in a hotel hallway. And these are just a few! On top of that, many of the effects are done practically rather than with computer animation. Even though this film takes place in the dreamscape, it adds a bit of realism in a world that is anything but real. The effects department truly outdid themselves.

I thought Inception was GREAT 😀 Like most of Christopher Nolan’s films, it features a grand and unique concept. Even though the concept is big, it is never dumbed-down or spoon-fed to the audience. The film assumes that they can figure things out for themselves and moves on accordingly, offering marvelous and extraordinary action pieces and character moments. Each character is complex yet relatable and all the actors and actresses play well off each other. Nolan has proven time and again his place as one of the biggest and best storytellers in Hollywood today, and Inception just might be his crown jewel. So far.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Christopher Nolan – Director / Writer
Hans Zimmer – Composer

Leonardo DiCaprio – Cobb
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Arthur
Ellen Page – Ariadne
Tom Hardy – Eames
Ken Watanabe – Saito
Dileep Rao – Yusuf
Cillian Murphy – Robert Fischer
Marion Cotillard – Mal
Tom Berenger – Browning
Pete Postlethwaite – Maurice Fischer
Michael Caine – Miles
Lukas Haas – Nash


You can find all the blogathon entries updated daily HERE.

Ultimate 2010s Blogathon Kick-Off: The Wandering Earth (流浪地球, 2019)

Welcome to the official kick-off of this year’s ultimate decades blogathon hosted by myself and Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews, Ultimate 2010s Blogathon! As we wave goodbye to the 2010s, its the best time to talk about the movies that defined it. Whether its a favorite or one that shows off  an element that represented the decade, both movie choices are good. With a lot of movies to choose from between 2010 to 2019, there are endless possibility.

Kicking off the first two days is myself and my fantastic co-host, Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews. Starting this off on day 1 as I take a look at one of the biggest trends and changes in the movie landscape is the power of the rise of streaming services opening up a variety of movies, giving a platform for distribution and creation of independent and international titles that may otherwise have remained unknown or less accessible.

The Wandering Earth (流浪地球, 2019)

The Wandering Earth

Director (and co-writer): Frant Gwo

Cast: Jing Wu, Chuxiao Qu, Guangjie Li, Man-Tat Ng, Jin Mai Jaho, Mike Kai Sui, Hongchen Li, Jingjing Qu, Yichi Zhang

As the sun is dying out, people all around the world build giant planet thrusters to move Earth out of its orbit and sail Earth to a new star system. Yet the 2500-year journey comes with unexpected dangers, and in order to save humanity, a group of young people in this age of a wandering Earth fight hard for the survival of humankind. – IMDB

Loosely adapted from a novella of the same name by Li Cixin, The Wandering Earth is not only China’s third highest grossing film of all time but also the third highest non-English film of all time. Taking a change in landscape from the normal Chinese New Year movie release, The Wandering Earth is set on Chinese New Year but isn’t the normal happy movie but rather a high budget science fiction film.

wandering earth 2

Set in a future where the sun has become a threat to Earth, the world has united into the United Earth Government and collectively has initiated The Wandering Earth Project, installing Earth Engines across the surface of the planet to propel Earth out of the Solar System 4.2 light years away to the Alpha Centauri to preserve human civilization. However, as they cross Jupiter, the gravitational pull of the bigger planet takes control of Earth and causes a possible collision while causing other side effects. As teams travel with their Lighter Cores to reignite the failed Earth Engines, the dangers that await them are numerous with the unexpected changes in the environment.

wandering earth

This premise alone of creating a future where Earth is being pushed in movement out of the solar system is unique to say the least and one that has so much room for exploration. The story uses its environment to its full potential as it shows off right from the get-go how the world has changed from its inhabitants living in various underground cities that have everything that you’d have when the world lived above ground to the current frozen above ground and its operations. The visuals of these are done with grandeur, showing off the technological advances in both this film but also in showing off slick cinematography and CGI used in the current Chinese filmmaking landscape which is pretty much  on par with the Hollywood blockbuster films at least delivers the same feeling, especially as the film’s story starts stepping into the dangerous elements.

wandering earth

The story is two-fold. On one hand, it takes place with the father and Chinese astronaut Liu Peiqiang (Jing Wu) who left at the initiation of the Wandering Earth Project 17 years ago and now is on the last day before retiring back to Earth but now is stuck on the space station. On the ground, his son, now a young man Liu Qi (Chuxiao Qu), decides to take his grandfather’s driving access card to show his sister, DuoDuo (Jin Miao Jaho) the world above ground, unknowing getting caught up in the mess as they get caught along with their grandfather (Man-Tat Ng) in the midst of the Earth crumbling as the side effects of crossing through Jupiter and as they try to escape, get commissioned to help transport the rescue mission lead by Wang Lei (Guangjie Li).

Wandering Earth

The story here, while isn’t quite as fresh as its premise, managing to add some little comedic moments through some goofy elements and characters and adding in the expected Chinese drama, in this case, mostly within the family drama with the main characters as well as the hardships and loss of hope through the rescue mission and its possibility of failure. However, where the film shines is in its emphasis on keeping on track with the action and giving this movie in its science fiction a certain level of disaster film quality as well that keeps the film propelling forward. The movie runs for over 2 hours and while some of the slower dramatic moments might drag out a little, the film does focus heavily on the concept of being united and keeps itself focused on these everyday realistic characters but never let them be heroes but rather to let them fight for mankind’s survival together. There’s something so precious and touching about this story as it works up to its endgame and reveals a little more about the state of the United Earth Government and adds in the internationalism with the different languages and authorities working together that makes this future feel hopeful and even utopic.

wandering earth 5

The Wandering Earth might not be the best film of the decade (although it definitely is pretty close to at least the Top 20 for myself), but it does achieve a lot and defines a lot of the 2010s. While I would have loved to pick a movie that was also created by Netflix (or some other studio), the global distribution rights for Netflix shows off the change in landscape and how international films are more visible especially as they manage to reach platforms globally and become more accessible especially in the Chinese film market which has its many restrictions and is less openly advertised than other Asian films. As the world moves closer together, these channels give a chance to have access to more international films and especially, those that are as significant as The Wandering Earth with all the success its had in its own country. Its definitely worth a watch to see how far and competent Chinese film are especially great with one that is pretty much a sci-fi blockbuster.


You can check out the full archive of Ultimate 2010s blogathon posts as they go up, updated daily HERE.

Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews to check out my co-host’s kick-off movie review!

Blog Tour Spotlight: Subject A36 by Teri Polen (Excerpt/Giveaway)

Tour Banner (7)

Welcome to the blog tour for Teri Polen’s upcoming release, Subject A36, the first book in a brand new series called The Colony!

Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a signed or digital copy of the book!

SUBJECT A36 (THE COLONY #1)
BY: TERI POLEN

Subject A36

Genre: YA Dystopian/Sci-Fi
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Expected Publication Date: February 13, 2020

SYNOPSIS

If genetic engineering could guarantee you and your family perfect health and unparalleled beauty, would you pay top dollar for it? Would you kill for it?

Residents of the Colony would. And do.

Only the Insurgents can stop them.

Asher Solomon is a premier operative with the Insurgents. He and his team have rescued countless hostages, saving them from painful deaths in Colony labs as desirable genetic traits are stripped from their bodies.

He’s also suffered more losses than anyone should have to.

Then Asher gets intel that might give his people the upper hand. The Colony is searching for Subject A36. If the Insurgents determine the subject’s identity first, they might be able to turn the tide of the war.

Asher and his team embark on their riskiest mission ever, and the stakes have never been higher. But even if he survives the physical dangers, the devastating secrets he uncovers might destroy him.

ADD TO GOODREADS

EXCERPT

“Asher!” Mom gripped the porch railing and called for me. Her voice cracked and was laced with tears. Dad vaulted over the porch railing, landed solidly on the grass, and frantically scanned our expansive yard.

My stomach clenched. Something was very wrong. “Over here!”

Dad’s gaze locked on mine. “Code Exodus! Now, Asher. Run!”

Was this another drill? We’d practiced twice a week, the times always unexpected, without fail for as long as I could remember. Drills were a regular part of our life, like eating, sleeping, and homework. Protocol was pounded into our brains. There could be no hesitation.

But this felt different. Dad’s expression was tight and urgent. Tears streamed down Mom’s face, and I knew. This was no drill. It was real this time. We’d been found. Code Tribe—we leave together. Code Exodus—we leave without our parents.

Code Exodus rules.

Grab the backpack.

Leave immediately.

Don’t stop for anything or anyone.

Run to the Wallaces.

When my sisters could no longer keep up, hide them and keep running.

Pre-order Link

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Teri Polen

Teri Polen reads and watches horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, and anything Marvel-related are likely to cause fangirl delirium. She lives in Bowling Green, KY with her husband, sons, and black cat. Her first novel, Sarah, a YA horror/thriller, was a horror finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Visit her online at http://www.teripolen.com

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You can either win a signed copy of the book (US only) or a digital copy (International)! Click the link below to enter!

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February 10th

B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com
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My Bookish Blitz (Review) http://www.mybookishbliss.com
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February 11th

Lunarian Press (Spotlight) https://www.lunarianpress.com/
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Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1 Misty’s Book Space (Review) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com
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Reads & Reels (Review) http://readsandreels.com
Port Jerricho (Spotlight) http://www.aislynndmerricksson.com
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Double Feature: Mean Girls 2 (2011) & Geostorm (2017)

Welcome to Double Feature #2 of 2020. I’m going to stop counting at a certain point (probably the next one). This pairing is probably the two least liked movie that I’ll put together but hey, why not, right? The first is the (not so) long-awaited sequel to Mean Girls, a whole 7 years after the original. The second is a disaster film which I watched on New Year’s with Gerard Butler in the name of Geostorm which I remember bombed pretty hard at theatrical release.

Let’s check it out!

Mean Girls 2 (2011)

Mean Girls 2

Director: Melanie Mayron

Cast: Meaghan Martin, Linden Ashby, Donn Lamkin, Claire Holt, Diego Boneta, Patrick Johnson, Maiara Walsh, Nicole Gale Anderson, Jennifer Stone, Bethany Anne Lind, Tim Meadows

The Plastics are back in the long-awaited follow-up to the smash hit Mean Girls – and now the clique is more fashionable, funny, and ferocious than ever. – IMDB

Its a fairly certain statement here that no one particularly wanted a sequel for Mean Girls especially when the entire cast had changed. Plus, the Mean Girls thing isn’t exactly something that can merit a sequel. Apparently, my non-creative mind was right because Mean Girls 2 was incredibly predictable and while it changed its characters and the lingo, it was pretty much the same kind of story as Mean Girls but just more mild in its bad deeds. The Mean Girl wasn’t threatening, the new girl that turns bad with power also isn’t all the innocent or whatnot. The whole scheming with friends plot line is all been there done that.

There’s a lot of unnecessary sequels out there and Mean Girls 2 definitely fits into that category. Mean Girls was great the way it was with its one movie as it covered what it wanted to express properly. There’s nothing new that they can add to the content in its original, making Mean Girls 2 quite less impressive especially if its the same structure, showing the same issues that occur in a different decade in the tough high school environment. I can be forgiving about the cast here as I think they did what they could with their flat characters, its really more the mentality that I don’t support that everything at some point or another needs a sequel. Sometimes, you can just leave things alone.

Geostorm (2017)

Geostorm

Director (and writer): Dean Devlin

Cast: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, Amr Waked, Adepero Oduye, Andy  Garcia, Ed Harris, Robert Sheehan

When the network of satellites designed to control the global climate starts to attack Earth, it’s a race against the clock for its creator to uncover the real threat before a worldwide Geostorm wipes out everything and everyone. – IMDB

Disaster films are never really meant to be some award-winning masterpiece. Its just a fun little romp with a lot of explosions and illogical concepts and some overdone action pieces. Geostorm got a lot of crap and lost a lot of money for the studios and its pretty understandable. I mean, Gerard Butler projects haven’t really been all that great in its last few offerings so for myself, it was like I was expecting it to be really good. Perhaps its the low expectations going in or the New Year’s alcohol hasn’t left my system but Geostorm wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

Geostorm tries really hard to add suspense and also tries really hard to be different. Where it misses its mark is in a lot of the overuse of drama and the whole brothers story that gets dragged into the mix. Gerard Butler is Gerard Butler which is pretty decent as he has some alright moments. The story itself has some issues here and there. I’m not a very knowledgeable science person so I don’t go and question too much about the whole technology they are talking about and whether it makes sense because it probably doesn’t if you dissect it.

Honestly, I’m not trying to defend Geostorm. Its just an average disaster movie. There are some funny moments here and then some moments that really stretched the imagination which they chalked it up to the family communication code or whatever. But hey, I always kind of like the charisma that Gerard Butler brings to movies (even the bad ones) and then we get a short role from Daniel Wu and Hong Kong scenes and I have a soft spot for that. The mystery of it all was pretty obvious where they would place the twist. Like I said, nothing too special here. Its just pretty average and I can see how some would think its below-average even. Like I said in the beginning, I’m pretty forgiving for disaster movies but if you aren’t, then just skip this one.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two movies? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Pet Sematary (2019) & Snowpiercer (2013)

As we put the holidays behind us, the normal double feature is back in action. This time, we’re catching up with some 2010s movie. The first film is this year’s Pet Sematary remake of the adaptation. The second is 2013’s Snowpiercer which has been on my to-watch list for much longer than I had intended. Let’s check it out!

Pet Sematary (2019)

Pet Sematary 2019

Director: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jete Laurence, Obssa Ahmed, Alyssa Brooke Levine

Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home.  – IMDB

I’ve never read the source material or seen the 1989 Pet Sematary adaptation so I am basing this review solely on my feeling towards the story interpreted here and how it was executed.

Pet Sematary is an interesting one to talk about. On one hand, Stephen King stories are always quite an intriguing entry to discover as his storytelling skills are quite extraordinary especially with the execution of a story to its characters to the premise. This one is about bringing back the dead and how it all starts with a Pet Sematary and the burial of a cat. The story itself is a lot of fun and remains in that dark and creepy phase because any horror watcher, even the not so seasoned, knows that black cats are bad and bringing back the dead is not a good thing. There’s a lot of playing with bad omens in this story and yet the characters go right ahead to take its viewers into this creepy place as the neighbor takes a new resident of the city deep in the forest. At the same time, simply the different rituals of pet burials at the beginning are enough to bring a little chill down the spine with some creepy kids and scary masks.

While Pet Sematary does build a decent horror atmosphere, it isn’t doing a lot of difference. There are some rather predictable scares, jumpscares and whatnot. Its more expected to happen. At the same time, other than a rather convincing John Lithgow playing the neighbor and the daughter working out rather well, I’m not a huge fan of any of the other cast as Jason Clarke doesn’t stand out of a first choice for this role. He isn’t bad but then, its the normal horror film acting here.

Horror movies are so overused in all its genres that sometimes its hard to find that place of being unique. There’s a good story here and I would assume that it all goes to the strength of the source material and an alright execution. It’d be interesting to hear what others would think of this one: those who can compare to the source material or the first film adaptation.

Snowpiercer (2013)

Snowpiercer

Director (and co-screenplay): Bong Joon Ho

Cast: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Kang-ho Song, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Ko Asung, Ewen Bremner, Alison Pill, Luke Pasqualino, Vlad Ivanov

In a future where a failed climate-change experiment has killed all life except for the lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, a new class system emerges. – IMDB

Snowpiercer sets its story in a future where the world has frozen over and the only survivors live on the train. As the lowest class tries to break forward to the leader at the front of the train, the different sections that the group pass through has its somewhat subtle hints on classes and are a big highlight in this story. I’m not sure why South Koreans seem to thrive on movies set in fighting through enclosed spaces especially on trains (like Train to Busan), but its definitely a great setting. Snowpiercer isn’t just a great setting in its claustrophobic and tight spaces where it does all its action, but its also a story packed with a lot of twist whether its group of characters or its plot twists and the different surprises that it delivers. Its visually very nice as each shot is framed very well, using all its elements and different areas having their different colors and such. Whether its pacing and execution, Snowpiercer does a fabulous job at delivering a good deal of drama, action and thrills.

Any good script also needs a great cast to deliver those great performances. In this case, the casting is right on point. With Chris Evans as the main character Curtis who leads the operation but doesn’t want to be considered a leader to his right hand man Edgar (Jamie Bell) and the no-nonsense mom who wants to find her son back, Tanya (Octavia Spencer) with a powerful presence of a disabled man, Gilliam (John Hurt). Along the way, they pick up the security mastermind of the train to help them escape, Namgong Minsoo (Kang ho Song) and daughter with some odd powers Yona (Ko Asung). As I mention Kang-ho Song which is a fave of this director specifically, Song is a great actor who has a huge range of acting capabilities as seen in another South Korean film I had seen previously called A Taxi Driver (review) The dynamic of this group brings a lot to the table as their personality does contrast each other and adds to their characters. Each having their own depth and further character development as the story moves along.

On the other side, the villainous side are a lot of lesser known group of characters or perhaps well reflected in the whole concept of the top tier always being less people with just more resources. In the forefront, defending the leader of this train is Mason, played spectacularly by Tilda Swinton. Along the way, they have a little cameo performance from a school teacher on the train by Alison Pill which doesn’t do a lot but has its moment. Finally, at the front of the train comes the leader Wilford who is played by Ed Harris. The band of villains might seem small but there are some great ones mentioned here and then there is the more assassin type who just never dies. I think if anything, the unrelenting bad guys or even sidekick always seems to be the most annoying to watch, probably, my only minor issue with this movie.

That’s it for this Double Feature!
Have you seen 2019’s Pet Sematary and/or Snowpiercer? Thoughts?

FNC 2019: Color Out of Space (2019)

Color Out of Space (2019)

Color out of space

Director (and screenplay): Richard Stanley

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Q’orianka Kilcher, Joely Richardson, Tommy Chong, Brendan Meyer, Julian Hillard, Madeleine Arthur

A town is struck by a meteorite and the fallout is catastrophic. – IMDB

SpectreVision has produced some fantastic movies in the last few years. Following the success of Mandy, Nicolas Cage joins this cast of characters of H.P. Lovecraft‘s short story of the same name’s adaptation where the little county of Arkham is hit with meteorite which lands on drops onto his character Nathan’s front yard and ends up having an effect on his family. Color Out of Space has everything that you’d expect from a SpectreVision production whether its trippy twists and visually appealing scenes and designs and creativity that explodes onto the scene. Right from the eerie start of the film, narrating through a dark forest and the secluded nature and raindrops on water, the tone of the film was set right away. Its a bit loopy and leaves a few unanswered questions at the end but that’s half of the fun of odd storylines and where it leaves some talking points. 

Color Out of Space still builds its atmosphere well and gives it a mysterious thriller that gives out a lot of questions that slowly unveils itself. While the answers are never clear and this outer space influence on the family and those in close vicinity never fully explained and understood, it leaves the space for our imagination to fill in those gaps and what gives it the subtle horror. The horror is built upon gradually whether in its subtle presence or unclear motives to how its absorption into the farmland affects every living thing there. It creates some visually stunning moments and beautiful elements (yet again like the previous FNC film Little Joe) through mysterious appearances of red flowers gradually covering the land and its unknown pinkish swirling lights while creating destruction from the inside as well as the disturbing effects. Being able to execute an unknown and unclear dangerous force sometimes makes for something much more unsettling.

Its taken a long time to get Nicolas Cage back to full form and while there is still a level of suitable overacting in Color Out of Space as the father of the house, Nathan Gardner, he still manages to carry the movie a lot as his character slowly infected by this outer space force and making his “crazy” somehow very acceptable and adds to the films most of the time. At the same time, much more grounded in her role and adds in the oddities is Madeleine Arthur (previously in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) who plays Lavinia Gardner, the daughter who wants to escape this remote farmstead. Her role is done really well and has some true development as she struggles with this force and what it has done to her family. While young actor playing the youngest son Jack (Julian Hilliard previously in The Haunting of Hill House) adds in the child element which has some rather unsettling moments. The careful way of how the characters spiral as an aftereffect at different paces and different ways is also what builds the movie and gives credit to how the movie itself is executed very well.

To say that Color Out of Space is perfect would be stretching it a little though. Running at 111 minutes, it does feel, despite its suitably sensually overwhelming and fantastically psychedelic end in sound and visuals, that the film was one or two scenes (if not more) too long. There was a bit of overacting that does pull out from the story a little in parts. Despite its flaws, there is still a lot to like here. As you let the movie sink in a little more, the mysteries the story leaves behind and how director Richard Stanley frames his scenes and how the script builds up is all executed very well at creating this psychedelic terrorizing film.

Color Out of Space has one more screening at Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 19th at 8:15pm at Cinema du Parc. You can find the info HERE.

Twisted Pines by Lane Baker

TWISTED PINES
By: Lane Baker

Twisted Pines

Where have all the children gone? At rustic summer camp Mendocino Pines, that’s the question on everyone’s mind. First one, then two, then three campers vanish—only to reappear a short while later with no recollection of the missing time. The disappearances raise questions about the children’s safety, not to mention the camp’s time-honored reputation.

When Abe, a freshman camp counselor from UCLA film school, stumbles upon a ghoulish-looking humanoid roaming the coast, he suspects this creature might be responsible for the children’s unsettling disappearances. Armed with a camera, a journal, and a thirst for the truth, Abe sets out to pry the lid off the uncanny mystery hidden among Mendocino’s Twisted Pines. – Goodreads

*Received in exchange for an honest review*

There is an obvious fascination of Lane Baker with science fiction and aliens in particular. Following the previous story Slippery Things (review), this new story is also along the same lines. This time around, the main character is a young adult Abe who takes up a summer job as camp counselor when weird things happen and he discovers what is the cause. As the story unravels about this mysterious lurker, the motives come together.

There are few things done well here. The first is execution. It has something of a novella length which gives it space to develop a story but also a quick pace for events to happen without things lingering and dragging therefore making it a nice little page turner, more and more so as the story pulls together and the heart of the situation and the two central characters start interacting.

Another element done really well here is characters. There are quite a few because of the setting in the summer camp with counselor names bouncing around the pages and young campers being caught up in the mystery. However, there is a definite focus on Abe as the main character and a lot of this going from his perspective. Telling a story from a perspective always works well to still create mystery out of what is unknown to the character. The two sided (both good and bad depending on the part of the story) is that while the humanoid does have some character development and as gaps of mystery behind him because of taking Abe’s perspective, it also has the issue that the character doesn’t have quite the depth and is more of a supporting sort of deal. At times, it works and at times, it doesn’t.

Overall, Twisted Pines is a well-paced YA sci-fi novel. There’s an obvious improvement in dialogue here (in comparison to the previous story).  A lot of Twisted Pines is well-written, whether its building up the suspense or how the chapters are structured and the progression of the Abe’s character and his discoveries, especially on how it starts and ends. I can’t say that Abe, as well done of the character as it is, is too memorable but feels suitable in this story. There’s a lot more that can be explored with this story especially in terms of the humanoid however, its a simple page-turner story that keeps things straight forward and because of that, it also manages to keep it intriguing enough to keep want to know more about what happens next. This one is well worth the read.