Friday, 24 October 2014

Movie Review: Psycho II

Directed by: Richard Franklin, 1983

Pros: interesting story

Cons: some overacting

Norman Bates is released, cured, from psychiatric care.  He meets a young woman at his new job at a diner who’s having boy trouble and invites her to stay with him.  Meanwhile, he starts getting phone calls and notes from his dead mother, making him question whether he really is sane now.

This is a film about how to drive someone mad, and it’s terrifying to watch.  Because you’re seeing the film from Norman’s perspective, you know the notes and calls are real, but it’s easy to see why Norman questions his sanity when things start going wrong.

It’s the sort of film that makes you wonder what could have happened had the people tormenting Norman left him alone.  Would he have stayed sane and been a good citizen or would he have slowly fallen into madness anyway?

Anthony Perkins, reprising his role as Norman Bates, does a brilliant job, though some of the other actors tried too hard, especially towards the end.

Like the original, it’s not a terribly scary film, the interest is in the humanity of the characters, and their madnesses.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Shout-Out: Spark by John Twelve Hawks


Jacob Underwood is a contract employee of the Special Services Section, a small shadow department buried within the multinational corporation DBG, headquartered in New York City. Jacob is not a businessman . . . he is a hired assassin . . . and his job is to neutralize problems deemed unacceptable by the corporation. But Jacob is not like other employees, nor is he like other people. After a catastrophic motorcycle accident leaves him with Cotard's syndrome-an actual condition that causes those afflicted to believe they are dead-Jacob perceives himself as nothing but a "Shell," with no emotions and no tether to the concept of right and wrong.

Emily Buchanan is a bright young second-year associate for DBG, and she has disappeared without a trace. Suspecting that Emily has stolen either vast sums of money or valuable information from the company, Ms. Holquist, Jacob's handler at DBG, assigns him the task of tracking down the young woman and neutralizing her. Jacob's condition allows him to carry out assignments with ruthless, logical precision, devoid of guilt, fear, or dishonor. But as his new assignment draws him inside a labyrinthine network of dark dealings, Jacob finds himself up against something he is completely incapable of understanding.

Shifting with riveting precision from New York to London, Paris to New Delhi, Spark is a thriller that delves into the surveillance state we prognosticate today . . . and will live in tomorrow. In the hands of master storyteller John Twelve Hawks, a unique character's startling transformation comes to life, making Spark a thriller that resonates and satisfies on many levels.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Kickstarter Movie: The Hades Pit

Got an email about a kickstarter project to make an independent film, The Hades Pit, that sounds kind of interesting.  Here's the synopsis (which doesn't quite grab me) and the introduction video (which, I think, does a better job of creating enthusiasm for the project).  The director, Tony Sebastian Ukpo, has made several films already and has some ambitious goals for this one if it's funded.

The story starts with a young woman and her dog on their way to the countryside with her father, on a regular annual father/daughter retreat where he works as a Park Ranger. On this trip however, something is not right, signalled by the smoke coming from behind the abandoned factory on the way to their home. They pay no heed to it, and things slowly start to get stranger and stranger in a suspenseful build up to the fathers abduction from their home in broad daylight by large masked figures. With all the communication posts down, and the nearby service station now manned by a fresh corpse, the daughter emerging from where she was hidden away by her father during the carnage, eventually takes matters into her own hands, heading with her dog towards the one place they must have taken him. She finds an underground facility filled with weird sinister scientists, experimental creatures and an unlikely ally in one of the test subjects, and is forced to put a lot of her gaming instincts (She's a gamer) to use in a real world situation.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

More Interesting Mockingjay Promotions

Rather out of character for me, I planned a very last minute trip to New York City that I recently got back from.  While I was there, I saw this amazing poster set for Mockingjay, part 1 near Times Square.

Then I got an email about some new marketing they're doing for the film.  The following excerpts are quoted from the email:

DISTRICT VOICES is a five episode series on YouTube that brings to life Panem, the fictional world of The Hunger Games, through videos featuring popular YouTube creators. Each episode of the series was created with a different creator, whose channel content aligns with a specific industry from one of the districts of Panem.
The videos were concepted and developed with the team from the YouTube Space LA and filmed on location there, and around Los Angeles. They provide a window into an expanded world of The Hunger Games and deliver original content to the passionate fan bases of both the films and the individual YouTube creators. Presented as programming from CAPITOL TV, the government-sanctioned television network of The Hunger Games,...


View the DISTRICT VOICES trailer now and tune-in to Capitol TV each day this week starting at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT:
Monday, October 20 - District 8:  Rob Czar & Corinne Leigh, co-helmers of the ‘Threadbanger’ YouTube channel, show how to best make use of excess Peacekeeper armor.
Tuesday, October 21 - District 2: Shane Fazen, of the ‘fightTIPS’ YouTube channel, showcases the training and techniques required to be a Peacekeeper in Panem.
Wednesday, October 22 - District 5: Derek Muller, known for the mind-blowing experiments and scientific discussions on his YouTube channel ‘Veritasium’, demonstrates new ways in which the Capitol may generate its electricity in the future.
Thursday, October 23 - District 9: Jimmy Wong & Ashley Adams, best known for their ‘Feast of Fiction’ YouTube channel, demonstrate baking techniques from Panem’s Grain District.
Friday, October 24 - District 6: iJustine’s Justine Ezarik, gives a glimpse at the driving force that proudly supports the transportation needs of Panem’s vaunted Peacekeepers.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 opens in theatres everywhere on November 21. 

Monday, 20 October 2014

Book Review: Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans

Pros: real war feel, lots of slang and specialized vocabulary, superb world-building, varied characters

Cons: tough read, slow beginning

Join the Kingdom’s ‘finest’ as they fight to keep their colony, Luitox, free from the Forest Collective.  But the FnC are hard to fight, hiding deep in the jungle and, though their arrows snipe the troops, they’re never there when the troops arrive.  Manned dragons fly overhead, ferrying troops and flaming suspected hotspots.  Some newly freed dwarves have enlisted but still bear hatred for their former slavers.  New technologies are invented as soldiers face a mostly faceless enemy.  The army must deal with privations and problems galore, even as the war finally rushes towards a conclusion.

This is a fantasy retelling of the Vietnam war.  I don’t know much about the war, but this makes me want to learn more.  If even a portion of what happens in this book is true it was a truly horrific event.  The book touches on all sorts of issues - racism, demonizing the enemy, lack of communication, the incorporation of new and barely understood technology, the horrors of battle, losing friends, those back home not understanding the realities of what’s happening, and more.

It’s a difficult read in that no punches are pulled.  War isn’t noble or heroic, it’s dirty, full of pain and desperation.  You’ll be seeing blood, puke and all other bodily fluids.  Don’t get too attached to any of the characters as the ones that make it to the end do so greatly changed by their experiences.

There’s a fair amount of slang to master, but aside from ‘rag’, short for dragon, which took me a while to figure out as there was no context for it the first time it was used, I picked it up pretty fast.  The book jumps ahead frequently, allowing it to cover more time and give a broader look at the perceptions and realities of the war.  You’re also getting several points of view: a grunt soldier, two thaums (a cross between a magic worker and a scientist), a dragon rider, people in different levels of command, a journalist, etc.  This also helps give a more varied view of the war.

The opening is a bit slow.  There’s an atmospheric prologue and some scenes with soldiers followed by a chapter that consists of a much needed info dump that explains the purpose of the war.  Things pick up fast though and draw you into the lives of the characters.

It’s a compelling read, and sometimes its easier to come to grips with the horrors of reality when they’re presented as somewhat removed from it.  History retelling aside, it’s a great book that will have you wishing that real wars were a thing of the past.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Regular posting starts again this coming week

Sorry for the lack of posts these past 2 weeks.  I was on a trip the past week and had intended to prepare the posts for it in advance, but a death in the family meant I was preparing for a funeral instead.

I'll be returning to my regular posting schedule this coming week.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Brief Hiatus

Due to a death in the family I'll be taking a brief hiatus from my blog.  I apologize that some of my reviews will be out later than intended because of it.