Chuck Hogan & Guillermo Del Toro’s The Strain bring gruesome Vampires back

The vampires of The Strain appear to be the next step of the Reapers, Del Toro introduced in Blade II. These creatures far removed from the handsome angst filled vampires of True Blood, Twilight, etc and more in the line with the apex predators that caused nightmares.

Below is the breakdown of the hemophagic corpses (via the wiki page)
Vampire Biology
The vector for vampirism is a capillary worm, which, once introduced into the human host’s bloodstream (either through a vampire’s feeding or direct invasion by the worm through a wound or orifice), introduces an incurable and fast-acting virus. By manipulating the host’s genes, the virus causes a human to undergo numerous radical physical changes.

Vampire Physicality
The first and most distinct vampire adaptation is the development of a long, retractile proboscis beneath the host’s tongue, which is able to extend up to six feet from the mouth. This “stinger” is both the vampire’s feeding and reproductive mechanism, shooting forth to latch onto human prey’s throat or thigh, both draining the victim’s blood for nutrition and infecting the human with capillary worms. The vampire’s jaw is set at a lower hinge than a human, the mouth gaping like a snake’s when the stinger is deployed. As the structure of the stinger is actually modified tissue from the human lungs and throat, vampires are incapable of physical speech.

A vampire’s physical appearance is governed mainly by the host body shedding those human traits that are obsolete to its new life cycle. Hair and fingernails are gradually lost, while the external nose and ears atrophy, leaving a fully matured vampire’s skin as smooth and featureless as marble. The vampire’s complexion is extremely pale between feedings, but appears a flushed red after a recent blood-meal. Eye coloration is a black pupil surrounded by a red sclera, with a white nictitating membrane sliding across for protection. The middle fingers of both hands grow and strengthen, and a thick talon develops in place of the lost fingernail. As vampire reproduction is achieved through viral infection of hosts and not through any sexual mechanism, the human genitalia also atrophy, leaving a mature vampire with no discernible gender.

The digestive and circulatory systems of a vampire are simplified and fused, the vampire’s interior organs most resembling a series of connected sacs. Nutrition from a blood feeding is transported throughout this system via a thick, viscous white fluid that forms the vampire equivalent of blood. The capillary worms are present in this fluid, swimming throughout the circulatory system and often visible beneath the vampire’s thin skin. Like rodents, a vampire is unable to vomit, its suction-based digestive process functioning only one way. All bodily waste is excreted from a single rectal orifice in the form of a pungent ammonia-based spray; a vampire will excrete for the entire duration of a feeding, purging old food as it consumes new blood.

The vampire’s body temperature runs extremely high, at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and a human is able to feel their ambient heat from several feet away.

Many of the physical changes from human to vampire occur gradually following the initial worm infection, and are accompanied by great pain. A newly “turned” human will lie in a state of suspended animation for an entire day, rising the next night as a nascent vampire. The stinger is present for the vampire’s first foray, in order to facilitate feeding, but other traits (hairlessness, talons on the mid-digit, lack of distinct internal organs) will develop within the first seven nights following infection. The vampire’s mental state will also be confused at first, and its movements will be clumsy and awkward. As it matures, however, the vampire will become supremely agile, able to leap great distances and climb sheer surfaces with the aid of its talons. Full maturity, physically and mentally, occurs within the first thirty nights.


In spite of the vampire’s morbid biology stripping legend of most of its romance, the most famously admired trait of the undead remains intact: immortality. Unless slain by violence or sunlight, a vampire’s parasitic body structure will neither fade nor weaken with the passage of time, giving them an effectively endless “life”-span. Even in those cases where the host body is damaged beyond repair, a vampire of sufficient power can transfer their consciousness (via a torrential capillary worm transfer) from one human form to another.

Vampire Senses
The sensory apparatus of the vampire is highly adapted for their nocturnal life cycle. Color vision is replaced with the ability to sense heat signatures, and the world is perceived in a monochrome brightened by sources of warmth (such as human prey). Hearing is greatly enhanced, in spite of the loss of external ears.

The vampires’ greatest sensory asset, however, is the “hive mind” that all new vampires share with the Ancient that propagated them. Each vampire, through some undefined telepathic link, is able to send and receive thought and sensory information to and from their Ancient progenitor. In this manner, the Ancient vampires direct the actions of their individual spawn through mental communication, regardless of distance. Perhaps akin to its radiation shielding properties, the element lead has the effect of blocking this mental connection.

In spite of their biological inability to speak, vampires can communicate with humans through telepathy, transmitting thoughts directly into a person’s internal monologue. Those vampires seeking to pose as human can train themselves to move their lips in a pantomime of speech, but the actual communication is still via thought-transference.

An Ancient vampire is also able to use this telepathic ability as a weapon; known as the “murmur”, this mental shock-wave has the ability to completely overwhelm the minds of surrounding human beings, rendering them unconscious.

Vampires also experience an overwhelming compulsion to infect family members and those they cared about as humans (their “dear ones”). They possess a unique ability to locate such targets, this sense being likened to a pigeon’s homing instinct.

Vampire Weaknesses
Many of the traditional vampire “weaknesses” of common folklore remain effective, although their potency is explained in terms of specific effects on vampire biology.

Sunlight is the vampire’s ultimate destroyer, specifically ultraviolet light in the UVC range. This is due to the germicidal properties of the wavelength, as it breaks down the virus-laden tissues of the vampire’s body. A localized source of UVC light, such as a fluorescent lamp, can be used to repel a vampire, much as a burning torch can repel an animal. Complete exposure, either to direct sunlight or a powerful UVC source, will result in complete desiccation of the vampire’s body, leaving behind nothing but ashes.

Silver, whether in the form of a metal weapon or even a fine chemical mist, can also wound or kill a vampire. Much like sunlight, this is due to the disinfecting properties of the element damaging the vampire’s viral biology. While conventional weapons (lead bullets, steel blades) can cause physical damage, they will not repel a vampire. Silver causes vampires both debilitating pain and a certain amount of fear, and binding a vampire in silver will completely incapacitate them.

Severing the spinal column through any method is another effective way to destroy a vampire. While the vampire’s simplified internal organ structure makes them difficult to harm with attacks to the body, decapitation will result in the vampire’s death.

Although there appears to be no biological imperative behind it, vampires cannot cross running water. This is alluded to as having something to do with the origin of the Ancients, but no further explanation is given. This aversion to water can be overcome, however, if the vampire is assisted (or “invited”) by a human.

Traditional religious protections against vampires, such as a crucifix or holy water, display no practical effect. The prevalence of this lore is explained as having been the product of Bram Stoker’s “fevered Irish imagination”.

Garlic, another common folk defense, has no noticeable use in repelling vampires.

Silver-backed mirrors, while they will not harm a vampire, will reveal their presence. While vampires do indeed cast a reflection, it is blurred and distorted, akin to an image vibrating at an impossible speed. Modern chrome-backed mirrors, however, will not have this effect, and the vampire will appear normally in such a looking-glass.



Images courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

6 Trailers To Celebrate Our Winning Season

Welcome to the latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation trailers.  This week, we have six trailers that feature everything from a killer to Santa Claus to a pithy tagline to a mean, bad killing machine to Dennis Quaid. 

1) Gorp (1980)

“Sorry, it’s too shocking!”  I could do with a little less close-ups of moving mouths but  this trailer seems oddly appropriate for a film called Gorp.  Keep an eye out for a young Dennis Quaid.

2) Our Winning Season (1978)

“And I’ll never forget that chicken race…”  This trailer has an oddly somber feel to it, considering that it appears to be advertising a silly high school movie.  Continue to keep an eye out for a young Dennis Quaid.

3) Black Shampoo (1976)

“He’s mean…he’s bad…he’s a killing machine!”  To the best of my knowledge, Dennis Quaid is not in this film.

4) Detroit 9000 (1973)

This is one of those films that I own on DVD but I have yet to actually sit down and watch.  Quentin Tarantino loves this film but I have to admit that I’m having a hard time forgiving Detroit for those obnoxious “Imported from Detroit” Chrysler commercials.  

5) I Come In Peace (1990)

“…you go in pieces!”  Jeff loves this trailer (though I suspect he mostly just loves that tagline) and I’m including it for him. 🙂

6) Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

And finally: welcome to the Christmas season, everyone!

Hugo Review

‘Hugo’ is not only an old fashion and heartfelt adventure with enough whimsy and fun for all ages; but also a love letter to cinema, by one of this generation’s masters, and a plea to support film preservation.

Most of the credit for the its success has to be given to Martin Scorsese, who in an attempt to tell the story about the value of art and the dream like and important nature of films, managed to not only capture the magic of moving pictures but in doing so make one just as magical and beautiful as those he admires. The story follows a young boy named Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield). He lives among the gears and machinery within the walls of a grand train station in Paris where he keeps the clocks in working order. He is alone in this task and spends most of his free time trying to fix an automaton that his father found rusting away in a museum, and attempted to fix before he tragically died in a fire. With his father dead he was sent to work in the station with his uncle, a drunk who has gone missing leaving Hugo to live alone, stealing food from the shops to survive and avoid the orphanage. One morning Hugo gets in trouble with the owner, George Melies (Ben Kingsley), of a toy shop located within the station. Hugo had been stealing small trinkets for parts so he could use them in fixing the automaton, which he believes contains a message left to him by his father. The shop’s owner forces Hugo to hand over the stolen trinkets along with a notebook detailing the machine he was trying to fix. Oddly his drawings cause Melies to get emotional and he takes it. In an attempt to get it back, Hugo ends up getting help from the shop owner’s goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloe Moretzs), who is a lover of books and desperate for some kind of adventure. Together they try to unravel the mystery behind her godfather’s reaction to the notebook and the automaton’s message. It is a slow moving, but richly detailed journey that leads to them discovering George Melies’s sad past, which has important ties to the history of film.

Scorsese’s love for cinema is front and center here. Hugo’s loneliness mirrors his own. Scorsese suffered from asthma growing up and wasn’t allowed to play with other children. Like Hugo, Scorsese looked to machines and cameras to occupy his time, turning to art and film to express himself. Hugo’s automaton, a machine like a camera, which played a key part in Melies’s life, only works with a heart shaped key. It is no coincidence that the heart, love and a sense of wonder are the key to creating art and opening one’s imagination. Scorsese, perhaps more than most directors around today, understands the importance of film, especially for younger audiences and in a way this definitely seems like an attempt to get children to appreciate the medium as much as he did years ago.

My favorite aspect of the ‘Hugo’ would be the world created. It is fleshed out fairly well, with many supporting characters given a good deal of attention. The most important being the station inspector played by Sacha Baron Cohen who when he isn’t out trying to catch potential orphans, is trying to woo a beautiful florist, played by Emily Mortimer. It reminded me of ‘Amelie’ in a way, which I guess also had a lot to do with the tone and setting.

The stuff about Melies is incredible and as informative as it is disheartening. The man was one of the early pioneers of films. One of the first to truly understand its capabilities to enchant the audience with dream like settings. Learning the history of his career, how after making over 500 films he was forced to destroy most of them and his old sets when the popularity of his work dropped after the Great War, is tragic. Luckily for us some of his films survived, like “A Trip to the Moon” which is a highly recognizable and frequently referenced short.

The direction, the long shots in particular, are breathtaking. The opening is one of the year’s best and most spectacular scenes. It is arguably Scorsese’s most beautiful film. The fantastical portrayal of Paris is enhanced by 3D that is utilized better than anything I have seen. The use of depth, especially in scenes towards the end in which some of Melies films are recreated in flashbacks is stunning. For once it doesn’t feel like a gimmick. The score is also beautiful and luckily not overwhelming. It is one that is there but not noticeable because it fits the atmosphere of the story so well. Honestly, everything about ‘Hugo’ feels like one complete and perfect work of art, created with a great deal of passion. The only complaint I’ve really heard is that it is too slow at times. Personally I highly disagree with this. Even at its slowest points it is still totally mesmerizing because this isn’t just a love letter to film, or just a historical depiction of the life of one of its most important innovators, it is also a heartfelt story. It earns its emotions and nothing fells forced, and it does this by taking its time, to flesh out its characters and plot.

Lastly, the performances all around are wonderful. Butterfield gives Hugo a great deal of emotion and depth, as well as the level of maturity needed for the character. Ben Kingsley is absolutely magnificent as George Melies. He makes him a clearly sad man, with a long history that troubles him deeply. Chloe Moretz is also great, doing a surprisingly good English accent, and makes the character easily loveable and fun. Even Sacha Baron Cohen, who toned it down, brings his character to life in an almost classically funny way.

Overall to say I loved the film would not do my feelings for it justice. It is so exceptionally crafted, so fun and smart, and most of all it captivated me like few other films have in recent years. It truly is a magical experience, a must see and one of Scorsese’s best.

10 Random Things I Am Thankful For in 2011

Hi out there!  Did everyone have a good Thanksgiving?  I know I did.  Now, I know that some people will say that this has been a disappointing year in entertainment.  Steve Carrell left the Office, Whitney Cummings got a sitcom, and — while I’ve truly loved a handful of films this year, it’s hard to ignore the fact that 2011 has yet to produce anything close to a Black Swan, A King’s Speech, or even a Social Network.  Instead, the best films of the year have been ignored by both audiences and critics while good but definitely flawed films like J. Edgar are being touted as being the best was can hope for.  Even Pixar failed to tug at our heart-strings this year.

However, I think we’re running the danger of giving too quickly into negativity when it comes to considering 2011.  No, 2011 is no 2010.  But there’s still a lot to be thankful for and below are just 10 examples of some things that, as 2011 reaches its conclusion, I’m thankful for.

10) This.

9) The time I have left with Community.

With The Office current flailing about in its attempts to establish a consistent post-Carrell identity, I have a new favorite sitcom and its name is Community.  Now in its third season, Community has truly hit its stride and Joel McHale is, of course, to die for.  So, naturally, Community has been yanked from the mid-season schedule while NBC continues to heavily promote shows like Whitney.  This is indeed the darkest timeline but I know that I will continue to tweet things like #savecommunity, #6seasonsandamovie, and #NBCSucks for as long as it takes.

8 ) A second season of Game of Thrones

With the current season of Dexter getting bogged down in its attempt to make a villain out of Colin Hanks and the Walking Dead remaining a flawed masterpiece, the 1st season of Game of Thrones is now the unquestionable highlight of an otherwise uninspired season in television drama.  I can’t wait to see what happens in season 2.

7) Higher Ground

Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut is probably one of the best films that you’ve never seen. 

6) Black Swan is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

5) For that matter, so is the original, non-American, non-Hollywood, non-David Fincher, non-Daniel Craig, non-Rooney Mara Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy.

4) Shame is rated NC-17.

What does this mean?  It mean the Full Fassbender.

3) Hanna

This intriguing and criminally underappreciated postmodern fairy tale remains my favorite film of 2011. 

2) Oscar Isaac

Seriously.  Love him.  I still love to imagine him shouting, “And I declare him to be an OUTLAAAAAAAAWWWWWWW!” whenever I’m annoyed at being stuck in traffic.  You know what else I love?  Listening to him as he sang over the end credits of Sucker Punch.

1) And finally…

I am thankful that I have the greatest sister ever!  You may know her as Dazzling Erin and, if you’re on twitter, you can find her under the name TakeSumE.  However, for me, she will always simply be my best friend and my older (but only by 11 months) sister.  Yesterday was not only Thanksgiving but it was also her birthday!  Now, for those of you who don’t know, Erin is not only my sister but she’s also a talented photographer, a great cook, a wonderful roommate, and the greatest guardian angel that anyone could possibly ever hope to ask for!  And on top of all that, she’s hot too.  Happy birthday, Erin Nicole! 

It's Erin Nicole!

Quick Film Review: The Muppets (dir. by James Bobin)

Poster for the Muppets.

Bottom Line: If you’re buying a ticket to go see The Muppets, you’re treating yourself to a Kid’s film. If you’re expecting the film to be life affirming and/or soul changing, you may want to look elsewhere (though it might do that, in some ways). It’s not a knock on the film by any means, but walking into The Muppets with any expectations other than to just enjoy yourself, you might be asking too much. How can you not like this film? It’s got Muppets in it.

Growing up with the Muppets as kid was a weird thing. When I think back on it, I only remember 3 distinct things: I remember the Muppet Intro which I always sung along to, I remember the blue eagle, and I remember Gonzo and his Chickens. I have to admit I spent a lot of time laughing out loud on this one, though everyone’s tastes are different. That’s just me.

The Muppets must have been a really hard sell. Imagine taking something that was popular in the 70’s and trying to present it in such a way that both the original audiences could appreciate it along with those who only knew of the Muppets from Muppet Babies (or worse, never ever even heard of them). The fact that it’s a movie about Muppets and that it really doesn’t take itself seriously makes it work so well. I haven’t any “I wish they had” or “it would have been if they” moments for this. The film has a simple premise and does what it needs to.

Looking at it, I don’t know if I can call it a Kid’s film or a Muppets Fan Film. I have a tough time classifying it, I just know I really, really loved it.

The Muppets is the tale of two brothers, Gary (Jason Segel) and his Muppet brother, Walter. While Walter had his problems growing up, one of his biggest joys was watching The Muppets on TV. His lifelong dream is to visit Muppet Studios and meet his idols. Gary loves his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), but he’s so caught up with Walter’s happiness that he hasn’t asked Mary to marry him. She hopes with their trip to Hollywood, they’ll spend a romantic time and he’ll finally do so. Bringing Walter along with them doesn’t help things.

When they visit the Muppet Studios, Walter discovers that an oil magnate (played by Chris Cooper) wants to acquire the unused Muppet Studios for his own, the decision is made to try to reach the rest of the Muppets and raise enough money to save the Studios. It’s essentially the same premise as The Blues Brothers, but with Muppets. Only here, the Muppets have to deal with an audience where they’re really no longer relevant. Can they really be fun in this day and age? That’s one of the questions that come up in the film.

The film happily pokes fun at itself, breaking the 4th wall a number of times and coming up with some pretty cute ways to move the story along. The musical numbers are plenty (I picked up the Soundtrack when I got home and am listening to it while writing this) and I think only one was worthy of a “Oh wow, they really went there?” with Amy Adams’ & Miss Piggy’s “Me Party”, but again, it’s not trying to be super serious.

For anyone who’s watched The Muppet Show in their lifetime, the movie is a real treat. That my audience actually sung along to some of the songs was a fun feeling. For anyone grown up and new to the Muppets, it might all go over their heads. Kids (young ones at least), should have a lot of fun with the movie.

Here’s hoping that Jason Segel finally gets to do that Dracula Musical from Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

AMV of the Day: Imagica

The latest AMV of the Day comes courtesy of AMV creator “Chiikaboom” whose works I’ve chosen many times for this feature. This one was just completed and released by Chiikaboom less than a month ago and, like her other AMV’s, this one truly impresses.

This latest AMV from Chiikaboom is simply called “Imagica”. She’s taken on the theme of the mahou shoujo (magical girl) genre which continues to be one of the more popular ones in anime and manga both in Japan and overseas. Casual viewers and readers of the “magical girl” genre tend to view them as just cute and peppy, but for those who have actually watched these series from start to finish know that they’re more than colorful, happy characters.

Chiikaboom latches onto the darker aspects of the mahou shoujo genre and runs with it headlong towards one of the songs which made the Sucker Punch soundtrack one of the best of 2011. The song she picks to shine a light on the darker side of the magical girls is the Emily Browning cover of the Eurythmics classic song, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”. The haunting rendition of this song by Emily Browning matches up well with the darker scenes of these magical girls. Scenes which goes beyond young girls and teens with powers, but how such powers weigh heavily on them.

“Imagica” is one of the better AMV’s to arrive on the scene in the last couple months. Once again it’s the one person who seems to have the flair for the dramatic and just the right touches which makes these AMV from Chiikaboom the best.

Anime: Sailor Moon, Houkago No Pleaides, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Movie (1st), Cardcaptor Sakura, Pretear, Mermaid Melody Pitchi Pitchi Pitch, Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, Uta Kata, Princess Tutu, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Magic Knight Rayearth

Song: “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” by Emily Browning

Creator: Chiikaboom

Halo: CE Anniversary

Some of you may remember, back to a day just over 10 years back, when a little console called the XBox launched. It was, at the time, a seemingly suicidal attempt to challenge the dominance that Sony held over the home console market – albeit without much relevant interference from previous juggernaut Nintendo – and to establish a new console master. The XBox had such innovative features as an onboard hard drive (only standard on PCs since they were conceived) and a more interactive BIOS that let the owner of the console do things that had never really been possible with a home entertainment console before. At its launch, the XBox boasted such titles as Dead or Alive 3… Project Gotham Racing… Jet Set Radio Future (and I don’t think this launched in the US!) annnnnnnnd a very tiny game called Halo: Combat Evolved.

Most game fans, at least those who dabble in first person shooters, have played Halo: CE. Even in 2011, ten years after CE’s launch, with a whole new generation of gamers. At the very least, contemporary gamers are familiar with the Halo franchise, which has now spawned seven games (counting the offshoot Halo Wars), as well as novels, comics, and even an animated feature which tried to delve deeper into the mythology of the Halo universe. All of that – a billion dollar franchise – was spawned by this one little, innovative title.

Before I begin my review of the new game, launched a mere week ago, I think it’s important that we take a peek at the significance of Halo: Combat Evolved, as a franchise. Until CE launched, the gold standard for console FPS games was 007: Goldeneye, on the Nintendo 64. Now, Goldeneye is a fine game, and it actually incorporates many of the same elements that Halo would later exploit to their fullest potential, but there was never any danger of Goldeneye challenging PC titles like Counterstrike. At the time, the keyboard and mouse were irrefutably better for the world of the first person shooter. Goldeneye was really the pioneer that taught us how much fun it could be to play locally with a few friends split screen and try to kill one another. But Halo perfected this art; we learned to love the 16 player LAN, with a game that had faster pacing and a shallower learning curve than any PC-based shooter title, and was dramatically more advanced than Goldeneye.

You can look back and criticize the game now. It had poor multiplayer balance (well, really, the balance was excellent, so long as everyone had only a human pistol or sniper rifle), the single player re-used a lot of set pieces and enemy models, and the lack of true multiplayer – to be fair, XBox Live did not exist at this point! – made it impossible for Halo to truly outshine fully multiplayer active PC titles. But there is simply no denying that Combat Evolved launched a franchise which is now viewed as the flagship title of the XBox and Xbox 360, and one of the most successful shooter games of all time. Even Call of Duty, the chief rival in the field, has adapted a number of features from Combat Evolved over time.

Flash-forward to November, 2011.

I belatedly remembered that Microsoft Studios, in a shameless attempt to milk more revenue out of the franchise, was releasing the 10th Anniversary edition of Combat Evolved. Bungie has released the Halo franchise, and stated over and over that they’ll release no new Halo titles. Microsoft Studios, on the other hand, spun off 343 Studios (343 Guilty Spark, anyone?) specifically to create more Halo games. This remake of the original is just the beginning, as Halo 4 is already slated to be released sometime during 2012. Many fans may be turned off by Bungie’s dissociation with the brand, and I assume most every fan is going to look with some skepticism at this Anniversary Edition release of Halo: CE. To be honest; if I’d had to pay $60 US for a copy of this 10th Anniversary Edition, there’s simply no chance that I would have. Instead, I was able to rent the game, and so guilt-free I offer the following review:

The graphics are good. They are not cutting edge, and certainly do not test the limits of the XBox 360’s hardware. In a very real sense, the graphics of this updated remake were obsolete even before the launch. They don’t compare to the visual spectacle that we see in the level and model design of, say, Modern Warfare 3. So, those expecting some kind of visual masterpiece had best look elsewhere. However, the updated graphics are so far beyond the capabilities of the original XBox (the original graphics, like many XBox Arcade titles, are available with one button press). A couple of swaps between the original graphics and the updated ones should be more than enough to demonstrate how far graphical processors have come in such a short time.

If you’ve ever waxed nostalgic for the single player mode of Halo: CE, the Anniversary edition is for you. It adds nothing. Literally; nothing. But it does take us back to a game that many of us now lack the means to play; a classic title, but with beautiful new set pieces. The control setup feels very ‘classic Halo’, right down to the speed the Master Chief moves, and the way that he jumps. This will be unsettling for players of contemporary titles like Halo: Reach at first, but you’ll settle back in without too much trouble.

As for multiplayer, the Anniversary Edition builds on Halo: Reach. It features a number of remakes of original Halo maps, including Battle Creek, Damnation, Prisoner, Hang ’em High, and the Halo 2 map Headlong. All of these maps are set in the Halo: Reach multiplayer engine, so Halo multiplayer diehards will find nothing new here beyond the maps.

Of course, the Anniversary Edition also includes Online Co-Op, so you can play the story mode with friends across the world. Don’t sell that short; Halo’s storyline has always been more involved than people give it credit for.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night: Betrayed at 17 (dir. by Doug Campbell)

It’s been too long since I did a What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night post so allow me to correct that by telling you about what I watched last night.  Last night, I turned on the Lifetime Movie Network and I watched a future classic — Doug Campbell’s Betrayed at 17.

Why was I watching It?

I was watching it for two reasons.  First off, I’m an unapologetic admirer of director Doug Campbell’s previous film, Accused at 17.  I’m hoping that Campbell will go the trilogy route and give us a Convicted at 17 at some point in the near future.  Secondly, this film was on the Lifetime Movie Network and I love LMN.

What Was It About?

Okay, there was a lot of plot to deal with here.  The film starts out with scummy high school football player Greg (Andy Fischer-Price) seducing insecure virgin Lexi (Amanda Bauer) and secret recording the encounter on his laptop because, apparently, that’s the type of terrible things that 17 year-old boys do.  Anyway, Greg’s got an ex-girlfriend named Carleigh (Katie Gill) and we know that Carleigh has some issues because she’s blonde, rich, drives a convertible, and says stuff to Lexi like: “I nearly ran your fat ass over.”  Well, Carleigh finds out about the sex tape and gets so upset that she uploads the video to YouTube and soon, the whole school is watching it and Lexi gets so upset that she runs out into the middle of the street and gets run over by a truck.

So far, we’ve got the makings of a typical anti-bullying polemic and the film seems to be going down that route as Lexi’s mom (Alexandra Paul) demands justice for her daughter.  However, then the film takes a sudden turn and just goes freaking crazy!  See, Greg is feeling guilty about his part in Lexi’s death so Carleigh shows up with a gun and kills him!  Then she steals Greg’s wallet and uses it to frame Lexi’s drug addict older brother (Shane Ross).  So, Lexi’s mom and Greg’s mom (Paula Trickey) team up to try to take Carleigh down.

By the way, did I mention that Carleigh’s Dad is apparently in the Mafia?  Well, I’m not sure if he actually is but he certainly acts like he is…

Seriously, this is a deceptively simple movie that’s really quite odd and compulsively watchable in the best Lifetime tradition.

What Worked?

In many ways, this film epitomized everything that I love about a good Lifetime film.  It took a serious issue (bullying, in this case) and then explored it in the most melodramatic, over-the-top, tawdry, and silly way possible. 

Just the title itself — Betrayed at 17 — is genius.  Seriously, when you’re 17, everything is such a drama!  Or at least it was for me.  And I can remember that everything — and I do mean everything — was framed through the lenses of nonstop, over-the-top melodrama.  Whether it was some other girl talking to “my man” or my best friend failing to answer her phone or any of the countless arguments that I had with my mom over things that seem so amazingly unimportant now, it was always all about being and feeling betrayed.

Finally, while this film is full of histrionic dialogue, there’s one scene that manages to perfectly capture the excruciating awkwardness of being in love when you’re in your teens.   Greg, while admiring Lexi’s legs, asks her about a scar.  “I cut myself shaving,” Lexi replies.  Now, believe it or not, I had almost the exact same conversation when I was 17 and this film got it right.

What Didn’t Work?

Well, originally this looked like it was going to be yet another mawkish, if well-intentioned anti-bullying polemic but once people started drawing guns on each other and desperately trying to take out security cameras, it all worked.  This was two hours of pure, silly Lifetime goodness.

“OMG!  Just like me!” Moment:

Oh my God, a few!  Listen, what 17 year-old girl didn’t get filmed having sex with a jock or accidentally end up shooting her ex-boyfriend?  Seriously, that’s just a part of growing up.

Lessons Learned:

1) Guns are dangerous.  So are videos of your ex having sex with some other girl.  Put them together and inevitably, someone’s going to end up dead.

2) Fortunately, it’s apparently very easy and simple to frame someone for murder.  So, if you haven’t done it yet, hurry up before things get complicated.