Teaser: The Hunger Game: Mockingjay Part 1 — “Return to District 12”

Katniss returns to District 12 in this teaser for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1!

(Incidentally, from now on, I’m just going to call this movie Mockingjay because seriously, that is one long and unwieldy title…)

Mockingjay opens on November 21st!

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions For October

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Ever since March, I have been posting my monthly Oscar predictions.  Because I was so busy with my Back To School series, I missed my chance to post an update in September.  (And, before you say that missing one month is no big deal, you should take into my consideration my OCD…)  However, it is now October and, as the Oscar picture starts to become a little bit more clear, here are my current predictions!

(Interested in seeing my past predictions?  Check out March, April, May, June, July, and August.)

Best Picture

American Sniper




The Imitation Game


Still Alice




(Before anyone asks why I haven’t included Gone Girl or Inherent Vice on the list, I ask them to consider the Oscar fate of both The Master and Fincher’s Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.)

Best Actor

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper in American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton in Birdman

Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

Best Actress

Amy Adams in Big Eyes

Felecity Jones in The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

Reese Whitherspoon in Wild

Best Supporting Actor

John Brolin in Inherent Vice

Edward Norton in Birdman

Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Tom Wilkinson in Selma

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood

Laura Dern in Wild

Kiera Knightley in The Imitation Game

Rene Russo in Nightcrawler

Emma Stone in Birdman

Best Director

Clint Eastwood for American Sniper

Alejandro Inarritu for Birdman

Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher

Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game

American Sniper

American Sniper



Finally — Some Oscar News!

Finally, I have some concrete, nonspeculative, 100% verified Oscar news to share with y’all!

Yesterday, it was announced that the host of next year’s ceremony will be …. Neil Patrick Harris!

Now, that news isn’t really shocking or surprising.  Neil Patrick Harris has been hosting everything lately.  He’s hosted the Tonys.  He’s hosted the Emmys.  It’s about time that he got a chance to host the Oscars.

I have to admit that I think it’s a little bit silly the amount of importance that some commentators put on who exactly is going to host the ceremony.  Usually, it really doesn’t make that much of a difference.  Seth McFarlane was criticized when he hosted.  Ellen DeGeneres was acclaimed.  But ultimately, did either one of them really make a difference?  It all comes down to what the winners are wearing, what they say in their speeches, and whether or not there are any surprises or upsets.  The host is just kind of there.

(I mean, Ellen did a good job and all but oh my God, did I ever get sick of every group on the planet trying to do their own version of the Oscar selfie….)

I know some of my friends were hoping that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler would host the Oscars.  Honestly, though, both Tina and Amy have lately started to remind me of the type of girls in high school who would judge you for wearing a short skirt.  There’s a certain tyranny of thought right now that says we have to love everything that Tina and Amy do but I personally think I’ll be much happier with Neil Patrick Harris.

And who knows?  Gone Girl could be an Oscar contender this year and, depending on how much the Academy actually embraces it, Harris could be both the host and a nominee, an accomplishment most recently achieved by James Franco.

Anyway, the main reason I’m happy about this news is because it means that Oscar season is here!  Soon, all of the Oscar films will have been seen and reviewed.  The critics groups will be voting.  The campaigns will be starting.

And it will officially be a good time to be alive…

"Take me to the Oscars!"

“Take me to the Oscars!”


Horror on TV: Twilight Zone 4.4 “He’s Alive”



Tonight’s episode of the Twilight Zone was originally broadcast on January 24th, 1963 and it’s one of the rare hour-long episodes of the original Twilight Zone. In He’s Alive, a very young Dennis Hopper plays Peter Vollmer, an aspiring Neo-Nazi who isn’t having much luck bringing fascism to America until he meets a mysterious benefactor who teaches him the tricks of the trade.

It’s a pretty good (if heavy-handed) episode, distinguished by both Dennis Hopper’s lead performance and a message that is probably even more relevant today than when the show was first broadcast.

This episode was written by Rod Serling and directed by Stuart Rosenberg.

Horror Retro Review: Shadow Hearts


Role-playing games have been a major staple of console gamers since the days of the Super Nintendo console. It became even more popular with the release of the first Playstation which had as one of it’s biggest selling point the Japanese role-playing game Final Fantasy VII. This title from Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) introduced the role-playing game genre to many gamers who grew up on shooters and action titles.

Final Fantasy became synonymous with Japanese RPG, yet there were other rpg titles out there that were just as good if not better. One such title that flew under the radar, but definitely caught the attention of hardcore gamers during the early days of the PS2 was the Japanese rpg Shadow Hearts from Sacnoth. It didn’t have the polish and epic spectacle gamers were used to with the Final Fantasy titles, but it did bring a new take on the time-tested rpg genre. Sacnoth decided to use horror as the theme of it’s title instead of scifi or fantasy and it’s that artistic choice which made Shadow Hearts such a unique title and one still beloved by it’s many fans.

Set in an alternate reality during the early 1900’s, Shadow Hearts follows the adventures of Yuri Hyuga and Alice Elliott as they attempt to solve the mystery of why the latter was being pursued by the historical figure Roger Bacon (who history says wasn’t just a learned Franciscan friar but one of the preeminent philosophers of his time). The game takes Yuri and Alice through several cities in China and Europe and most of them somewhat heightened-versions of their real counterparts, but where mysticism, the supernatural and folklore have become somewhat accepted.

The game doesn’t flinch in portraying not just the horrors of war, but of the shadow world just bubbling beneath the surface that involves demons, vampires, sorcerers and zombies. the main protagonist, Yuri Hyuga, even unlocks greater abilities and powers by absorbing the souls of enemies he has killed and entering a sort of personal “Dream Realm (or Nightmare depending on one’s interpretation) where he must battle personal demons to gain their powers. It’s definitely not something that Final Fantasy players have been exposed to in the past and I think it’s one major reason why the game appealed to some gamers who wanted something new in the Japanese rpg scene that was becoming dominated and homogenized by the styles pushed Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy franchise.

Shadow Hearts had a unique way of doing combat during the game: The Justice Ring.

The Justice Ring combat system was a nice change of pace to the usual turn-based battle system used in most Japanese rpgs. This battle system was still turn-based, but every action outside of defending was affected on how well the player hits his mark on the rotating Justice Ring. This kept the player from just picking an action and seeing what happens, or even worse, just button mashing the attack action to try and win fights. The Justice Ring system kept the player involved throughout the whole battle. Sometimes perfect use of the Justice Ring was a must to fight and succeed against certain bosses and situations.

Shadow Hearts might not have the pedigree of the Final Fantasy series, but it was a nice change of pace from the the typical scifi-fantasy that series re-used over and over to the point that they became a video game trope that was seen by some as a negative rather than a positive. The game itself wasn’t perfect by any means and had more than it’s fair share of glaring flaws. The dialogue was pretty laughable at times though never to the point that it broke the game’s serious and ominous tone. The graphics, for a PS2 title, was very underwhelming especially when compared to the Final Fantasy franchise.

Yet, despite all its warts and flaws, Shadow Hearts remains one of the more unique rpg gaming experience of the early 2000’s and it became popular enough that it would spawn two more sequels that would explore the alternate reality the franchise was based on. I’m all for the scifi and fantasy worlds that most console rpgs have been using as their templates, but once in awhile I’m reminded that rpgs could also have fun in the horror realm and Shadow Hearts helped make that deviation from the norm happen.

On a sidenote, this game also had a great soundtrack from Japanese composer Yoshitaka Hirota

Horror on the Lens: The Beast Must Die (dir by Paul Annett)

For today’s horror on the lens, we have The Beast Must Die.  In this 1974 film, millionaire Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) invites a group of people to spend the weekend at his mansion.  Tom explains that one of them is a werewolf and therefore “must die.”

But who is the werewolf?  Tom has come up with several werewolf tests but, actually, it turns out that the easiest way to discover the identity of the werewolf is to just let the werewolf kill everyone who isn’t a werewolf.  Or, at least, that’s the way it seems to me.

The best thing about The Beast Must Die is that it features a 30-second werewolf break where the audience is encouraged to announce who they think the werewolf is before the actual solution is revealed!

Seriously, many movies would be greatly improved with a werewolf break.