Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #4: The Watcher (dir by Ryan Rothmaier)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Thanksgiving, November 24th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

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Check out the couple in the picture above.

Wow, they sure do look happy, don’t they?  That’s Emma (Erin Cahill) and Noah (Ed Gathegi) and they have every reason to happy!  They’ve just bought a new home!  It’s a nice big, house and it’s in what appears to be a perfect neighborhood.  Sure, the neighbors are a little quiet and some of them occasionally appear to be giving the new couple a strange look but that’s probably nothing, right?  And sure, the house was a little bit cheaper than expected because, a few years ago, there was a death.  People have died in the house.

But you know what?  People die every day.  And a lot of them do so in a house.  If you refused to live in a house just because someone died in it, you’d probably never be able to live anywhere…

Of course, this house was apparently the scene of a murder but again, these things happen.

The screenshot above is from a movie called The Watcher, which I recorded off of the Lifetime Movie Network on October 9th.  Since The Watcher premiered in the Halloween month, you can probably guess what happens once Emma and Noah move into their new house.  There are strange deliveries.  There are strange noises.  Strange notes, some delivered via a dead animal, start to show up.  The notes inform the couple that they are being watched.

Who is watching them?

The Raven.

Who is the Raven?  And does it have anything to do with a huge black raven that the local neighborhood boy, Mickey (Riley Baron), claims to have seen near the house?  You’ll have to watch the movie to find out…

(Interestingly enough, this was all loosely based on a true story.)

Usually, I’m a bit skeptical of Lifetime horror films.  You can read my review of Amish Witches to find out why but, to put it simply, the Lifetime format doesn’t always lend itself to horror.  But The Watcher actually works surprisingly well.  As directed by Ryan Rothmaier, The Watcher is an atmospheric and well-acted portrait of housebound horror.  The film ends with a twist that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and yet it works because it is just so odd and totally out there.  The implausibility of the twist actually adds to The Watcher‘s dream-like atmosphere.

I recommend watching The Watcher.

 

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #71: Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction (dir by Paul Wendkos)


CocaineNow, I originally saw the 1983 made-for-TV movie Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction on Netflix so I have absolutely no first hand knowledge of how this film was advertised.  However, I have it on very good authority (i.e., I read it on another blog) that the image above is from the film’s VHS packaging.

Just looking at this image, you would be justified in thinking that Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction was an early David Cronenberg film.  Seriously, it looks like a deleted scene from Scanners and Dennis Weaver’s head is about to explode.

But no!  There are no scanners in Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction.  David Cronenberg did not direct this film.  As far as I can tell, it wasn’t even filmed in Canada.  Instead, Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction is about one man who gets seduced cocaine.

You may have noticed that I enjoy reminding you that this film is called Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction.  That’s because that’s a great title.  If the film had just been called Cocaine, you might watch the film expecting it to be set on a 1970s film set.  And if the film had just been called One Man’s Seduction, viewers may have watched the film expecting a Double Indemnitystyle film noir.  But Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction leaves no doubt about what we’re about to see.

Add to that, it’s a very melodramatic title and the name of this series of reviews is, after all, Embracing the Melodrama Part 2!

Anyway, Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction is about a real estate agent named Eddie Grant (Dennis Weaver).  He’s the type of semi-successful white-collar suburban guy who you just know is going to have a really over-the-top midlife crisis.  He has a wife (Karen Grassle) who loves him.  He has a son (James Spader — yes, that James Spader!) who wants to put off going to college for a year.  Eddie also has a job where he’s viewed as being an over-the-hill relic.  People looking to buy a new home simply are not impressed with Eddie’s cheap suits, mild manner, and old-fashioned scotch-after-work style.

What Eddie needs is a new wardrobe and aviator sunglasses.  And, as we all know from watching movies set in the 70s and 80s, nothing gets you into aviator sunglasses faster than snorting a line of coke.

Soon, Eddie is driving a fast car, he’s wearing nicer suits, and he’s keeping a lot of secrets.  Then, one day, his son — JAMES SPADER! — happens to look inside Eddie’s shave kit and discovers where dad has been hiding his cocaine.

Now, this is where I was expecting Jeff VanVondern to show up and say, ” I see a bunch of people that love you like crazy and they feel like they are losing you. And they wanna fight to get you back.”  But apparently, people in the 80s did not need an intervention to get them to go to rehab.  Instead, they just needed to have a dramatic nose bleed at work and nearly overdose on someone else’s kitchen floor.  They also needed to be called out by James Spader.

Of course, it also helps that Eddie is friends with a recovering cocaine addict who is played by a very thin-but-already-bald Jeffrey Tambor.  Jeffrey Tambor is already something of a hyperactive actor (and that’s why we love him!) so when you combine that natural tendency with a character who is supposed to be coked up, it’s something that simply has to be seen.

Anyway, Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction is a fairly good example of the-worst-that-can-happen-will-happen cinema.  If nothing else, it has some worth as a time capsule and it’s undeniably interesting to see James Spader play a role that one would normally never associate with James Spader.

Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction is currently seducing viewers on Netflix.

Horror Review: The Walking Dead S5E02 “Strangers”


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“Nowadays, people are just as dangerous as the dead, don’t you think.” — Father Gabriel

[spoilers]

The Walking Dead as a show has never been more popular than it is now, but there’s been always a group of fans who have always had a bone to pick with the writers of the show. Some of these fans have given up on the series while others continue to watch it hoping that the series will get back on track. These fans are some of the biggest followers of the comic book series that the show is based on. They’ve bought and read The Walking Dead since the very first issue. While most remain steadfast fans of the show for it’s unpredictability in changing up story arcs and characters, there are those readers who hate when the show deviates from the comics.

These fans believe that the stories told in the comic book are strong and rich enough in drama and detail that deviating from them becomes a crapshoot in terms of quality. Yet, it’s the very deviation from the comics which has kept fans of the comics from instantly figuring out what will happen as the show moves from season to season.

The series itself never truly deviates from the main story arcs told in the comics. It’s how small details, subplots and characters get handled in different ways that the deviations come into play.

During the first four seasons of the show there’s been some major deviations on who died and who appeared and when. Characters such as Dale, Andrea, Sophia and Shane have had their roles expanded, reduced and/or changed that made them feel new and exciting (though for some characters like Andrea not so well). Even the mix and matching of subplots have kept even fans of the comics from feeling too comfortable about what to expect next.

Current showrunner Scott M. Gimple looks to be addressing this war between fans of the comics and those who have never read it by gradually pushing the show’s narrative much closer to the comics as early as the mid-season finale of season 4. Now with the second episode of season 5 the series looks to be introducing several details from the comics that should sound and look familiar to fans of the book.

First, we find the group on the move after the events of Terminus. There’s some small feeling out between new additions to Rick’s “family” with the Tara unsure whether the group would accept her since she was part of the Governor’s group which assaulted the prison and got Hershel killed. Rick and Maggie could easily have rejected her apologies of not knowing who the Governor truly was, but they understood how charismatic the Governor could be. Tara might be forgiven but time will tell if the group will truly trust her.

It’s after this brief opening that we come to the show moving towards the comic book in regards to it’s narrative. We meet Father Gabriel who looks to be a figurative babe in the woods. He’s trapped by several zombies and his reaction to being rescued by Rick and events after show him to be one with a naive sense of the new world. Rick and his people don’t know what to think of Father Gabriel. How has he survived almost two years on his own in his church without ever killing anyone (whether in self-defense or on purpose) or even make it this long without knowing how to deal with the zombies just beyond his church’s doors.

Father Gabriel already comes off as something more than what he’s telling the group. This doesn’t bode well for Rick and his “family” since whenever they come across strangers who seem willing to help they end up the opposite of helpful. Gabriel definitely has secrets he’s keeping from the group and Rick seems to have an inkling what it might be (with a little help from Carl), but he’s willing to string the good reverend along until his true colors comes out.

Now, the second part of tonight’s episode which brings the show back on track with the comics is the introduction of the “The Hunters” story arc from the books. Terminus looks to have become the foundation for this story arc. Let’s call it the prequel to what looks to be season 5’s first half story. Carol, Rick and the gang did quite a job on taking down Terminus. It was definitely not the sanctuary they’ve been advertising over the airwaves to potential survivors. Yet, the group’s complaint at Rick wanting to go back and finish the job at the end of the season premiere has come back to become a major danger to all of them.

But what part of that brings the show back on track and in sync with the comics?

The ending which has Bob taken captive by the Terminus survivors with Gareth still alive and hipstering was adapted almost scene for scene from the comic books. While it was poor departed Dale who was taken captive in the comics, it looks like that fate has befallen Bob in the show. This sequence was a major shocker in the comic book and it has a similar effect in the show since Bob has become a well-rounded character and one audiences come to care for. It helps that Larry Gilliard, Jr. has been giving good performances everytime he’s on the screen.

“Strangers” looks like the beginning of a major storyline for the show and might be a way to begin culling the group of it’s growing number. This doesn’t bode well for characters on the show not named Rick, Carl, Michonne and Daryl. If there’s been one thing The Walking Dead has become an expert in during it’s first four season it’s killing off characters when we least expect them to. One thing for sure is that if Rick and his people haven’t stopped trusting strangers before tonight’s episode they may just end up not trusting anyone they don’t recognize by the time the midseason break rolls around.

Notes

  • Robert Kirkman (creator and writer of the comic book) does the writing duties with tonight’s episode. There were some slow spots in the middle, but he nailed that final sequence with Bob and the Hunters.
  • The Walking Dead gets another alum from HBO’s The Wire with the addition of Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel. It’s almost a running joke now. I next expect to see Michael K. Williams, Dominic West and Idris Elba to become cast members in future seasons (not a bad idea when you think about it).
  • Rick definitely doesn’t buy fully into the news that Eugene has the cure for the zombie apocalypse, but he understands that having Abraham and Rosita along just makes the group stronger.
  • Speaking of Abraham, I wonder how much longer before Rick and he begin to truly bump heads over who will be the leader of the group.
  • Carol looks to be having a case of the “guilts” in tonight’s episode. Hopefully, they don’t string out this personal crisis too long and just have her continue on her upward trajectory of becoming the show’s biggest badass.
  • Waterlogged zombies in the food bank reminded me so much of Deadite in The Pit in Army of Darkness. Greg Nicotero promised during Comic-Con that they were going to up their game when it came to zombie make-up effects for season 5 and they’ve followed through on that promise, so far.
  • Talking Dead guests for tonight are Matt L. Jones (Breaking Bad, Mom) and Chad Coleman aka Tyreese from The Walking Dead.

Season 5

Horror Review: The Walking Dead S5E01 “No Sanctuary”


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“Be the butcher or you’re the cattle.” — Terminus Mary

[spoilers]

If people were asked five years ago that a show about the zombie apocalypse was going to be one of the biggest shows on TV then most people would be straight out snickering. Zombies, even just five years ago, was already being seen as overdone. Everything was zombie this and zombie that. Yet, on the basic cable network AMC, we see The Walking Dead coming into it’s fifth season stronger than ever and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

It’s worth repeating that there’s a set of critics and viewers out there who remain dumbfounded as to why The Walking Dead remains such a popular hour of television despite the inconsistencies in writing, character growth (if any) and direction. This is the show that fired it’s creator and first showrunner halfway through season 2. His replacement would also get the axe once season three ended.

The Walking Dead has been called the soap opera with zombies and to an extent it is just that. It’s a show that lives and dies on the melodrama. At times this has been to the show’s benefit, but when it doesn’t work then certain episodes and story arcs just fall flat. Yet, we’re now starting season 5 and it’s a season premiere that doesn’t take it’s time (as some have complained) and pretty much hits the ground running from it’s cold opening right up to the final scene.

“No Sanctuary” begins with a jump back in time as we see the Terminus crew as prisoners in their own compound. We hear screaming in the background and those in with Gareth bemoaning the fact that they let the very people holding them hostages in. It’s a time when the Terminus people were just like Rick and his group. They tried to do the right thing, but this time around their trust and good nature backfired. Now the Terminus people are in charge and keeping Rick and his people prisoner and four new faces since captured since the end of the last season.

Throughout the episode we see the change come to Rick (already seen at the end of season 4) that he must be brutal if he’s to keep his people safe. It’s something that he has tried to avoid since the pilot episode. Even when up against the Governor and his lackeys there was always a sense that Rick was trying to find a peaceful solution to a crisis. Rick has always been one to try and stick to his own personal sense of justice and order throughout the season, but tonight’s episode saw more and more of it chipped away as the banality of evil as shown by Gareth and his Terminus survivors.

To say that tonight’s season premiere was action-heavy would be an understatement. With Greg Nicotero doing directing duties, the episode had the sort of epic scope in terms of action, violence, gore and character moments that fans of zombie fiction crave. Nicotero is still at his best when coming up with ways to rip people to pieces and the many ways zombies look and get destroyed, but with each episode under his belt as director he has improved. And for a show where it’s writing has been criticized nonstop tonight’s episode by showrunner Scott M. Gimple kept things moving. Every piece of dialogue was meant to bring some insight into the mindset of the character (Gareth who has taken pragmatism as a way to justify his turn to the dark side) or a way to move the scene forward.

If there was fear going into season 5 it was that the writers might linger and stretch the Terminus storyline (at least keep Rick and his group as prisoners longer than needed) the way things lingered in the Greene farm, will the Governor attack or won’t he and then the half a season spent getting the different survivors heading towards Terminus in season 4. We didn’t get that with “No Sanctuary” and while it’s a sure bet that not all Terminus people died at least the show will continue to be on the move instead of remaining static for no reason.

There are still many questions left unanswered after tonight’s episode. One major question being where the hell is Beth and who is holding her prisoner (if she is a prisoner). There’s also the question of this cure that Eugene is suppose to know that can reset the zombie apocalypse back to zero. At least we learned that one can come back from the exile the way Carol did as the episode ended. Despite being glad to see that it Carol was alive and she was instrumental in freeing him and the rest of his people, will Rick just forget what she did and take her back in unconditionally. Maybe Rick finally understood what Carol told him during their supply run back in season 4. When things have be to be done they have to be done right then and there for the good of the group.

As a final great moment that should be a major tease for fans of the show….we see the return of fan favorite in the form of Morgan Jones who looks to have left his sanctuary back in Rick’s old hometown and now trying to find his way back to other survivors (or tracking Rick if that’s the case).

Notes

  • We see the return of Robin Lord Taylor (Gotham) as Sam, the survivor with the basket of fruits in season 4’s “Indifference”, just before he gets a baseball bat to the back of the head and then his throat slit over a steel trough.
  • We have a new intro sequence that’s a bunch of new images taken from past episodes to start the credits intro. Maybe this is a sign that the show is now turned the corner from the Darabont and Mazzarra era and the show is firmly in the guiding hands of the Gimple.
  • There was a lot of MacGuyvering in tonight’s episode as the survivors still trapped in the “A” car were down to making makeshift weapons from pocketwatch chains, belt buckles and pieces of splintered wood. Rick and his people really showed that Gareth and the Terminus people were “fucking” with the wrong people.
  • It took four seasons, but Carol has graduated into biggest badass in a show that already loaded with them. Carol is the biggest BAMF on this show as it stands.
  • I’m sure the Carol and Daryl ship will be sailing along smoothly now that the two has reunited. Caryl shippers worldwide are breathing a sigh of relief.
  • Even though people thought Mr. Flashlight and ponytail in the flashback that bookended the episode was going to be big baddie Negan from the comics it looks like he’s the crazy dude Glenn let out of the container who was subsequently eaten by zombies. So, reports of Negan and Lucille were mistaken.
  • Talking Dead returns with Greg Nicotero (make-up FX wizard and show director), Scott M. Gimple (series showrunner) and Conan O’Brien as guests.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #87: Invasion Roswell


Last night, I forever lost 2 hours of my life because I watched the latest SyFy “original” film, Invasion Roswell, with my friends, the Snarkalecs.

Why Was I Watching It?

When I first heard the title of the latest SyFy film, I thought to myself, “Roswell!?  I kinda remember that show!”  However, I quickly realized that — other than taking place in New Mexico and featuring aliens — Invasion Roswell had nothing to do with Katherine Heigl’s old TV show.

Invasion Roswell was actually broadcast on Thursday night.  As we’ve been doing ever since SyFy stopped showing original films on Saturday, the Snarkalecs dvred Invasion Roswell when it first premiered and then we actually watched (and live-tweeted) it on Saturday.

Why did we do this?

Because that’s what we do.

It’s an existential thing.

What Was It About?

This film was a combination Red and about every single alien invasion film that’s even been made.  Aliens invade the Earth and naturally, they chose to destroy large parts of London and Paris (take that, Europe!), as well as Washington D.C.  (take that, IRS!).  It turns out that the only people who can defeat this threat are a bunch of old alien hunters who have been previously forced to retire by a random corporate guy in a suit.

So, while Patrick (Greg Evigan) and Linda (Denise Crosby) attempt to get the old gang of gun-wielding geezers back together again, the aliens continue to progressively conquer every inch of the planet.

(Except for Canada, of course.  Canada’s tough!)

What Worked?

The aliens themselves were effective, especially when compared to some of the invaders who have populated previous SyFy films.  Clad in black armor and firing blue laser beams, the aliens managed to be intimidating and campy at the same time.

The Snarkalecs managed to get Invasion Roswell trending on twitter during the entire two hours we spent watching it.  It was fun to watch non-snarkalecs try to figure out why Invasion Roswell was trending.  “Have we been invaded?!” one random dumbfug toadsucker tweeted.  Seriously, some people are stupid.

What Did Not Work?

Invasion Roswell was literally one of the slowest movies that I have ever seen on SyFy.  A typical SyFy film accomplishes more in 10 minutes than Invasion Roswell did in 85 minutes.  Between the slow pace, the predictable storyline, and the uninteresting characters, there really weren’t many opportunities for Invasion Roswell to actually be entertaining.

As a result, my tweets suffered.  Usually, I think I’m a pretty lively force when it comes to live-tweeting SyFy films but, when it came to Invasion Roswell, I found myself struggling to stay awake.

To put it another way, I thought Heebie Jeebies was bad until I saw Invasion Roswell.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

When I was little, my family very briefly lived in New Mexico.  However, we were in Carlsbad and, as a result, I don’t think we ever met any aliens.  Then again, we were citizens of New Mexico for only a few months so maybe we could have met some aliens if we had just stuck around long enough.  I guess that’s just going to have to be one of life’s mysteries.

Otherwise, there were no “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moments in Invasion Roswell. Maybe someday, when I’m as old as Denise Crosby, I’ll be able to relate to this film.

Lessons Learned

I can forgive a lot of things but I cannot forgive dullness.