Off to the Movies I Will Go…

…where I learned everything that I know. (paraphrasing)

No news here today – just a rambling train of thought as I head out for a day at the movies.

I love going to the movies.

Unfinished Mural

I keep trying to make my movie room like a theater. There are movie posters plastering the walls, including some prized ones like an original Last Man on Earth, several Etsy Hammer posters, several signed posters, and one from Mister White, the movie one of my daughters worked on. We’re in the process of having a mural done based on an old poster of Quatermass and the Pit. I love my movie room.

I have the largest television we could afford, a 60″ plasma. We sit just a few feet away from it. Of course everyone wants larger but mine is a good size and does the job well (insert your own joke here). We have comfortable seating for three and can squeeze a couple more in but it is not a very large room.

Popcorn

The latest addition was the popcorn machine and, properly utilized, the popcorn tastes better than theater popcorn and is much better for you. For those of you with a machine at home, use the Great Northern portion packs, available from Amazon. We also bought a case of 500 popcorn bags which we are not quite out of.

Captain America: Winter Soldier

Still even though I love my room, I still love going TO the movies. Once a month or so, I run off for a day at the movies. As I write this I’m about to go to Subway for lunch. followed by Noah, Sabotage, and ‘capped off’ by a Captain America double feature. I was lucky enough to find out that my local theater, Epic, was doing a double feature as I hadn’t seen any advertising for it. Also thank goodness that they have unlimited refills on their, admittedly overpriced, plastic tubs of soda and popcorn. Dare I say that today will be Epic?

So why can’t I stay home and buy the movies when they come out? Honestly, you don’t have to wait that long any more – usually about three months. Purchasing a brand new movie on Blu-Ray is usually about $20 on release week so that’s less than two evening tickets.

I think part of it is the enforced setting. At home, we all watch movies but our electronic devices run non-stop. Interruptions are constant from conversations and phone calls to knocks on the door. We pause the movies to do various things, which is normally a plus but pulls you out of the story. I’m getting up every fifteen minutes or so to refill drinks, provide meals/snacks, use the restroom, help four-year-old, et cetera.

At the theater, the lights go down and the magic begins. If one is lucky, no one ruins the movie by being on their phone or otherwise rude. Two hours later, you return to your normal, drab life (which is probably why I schedule marathon sessions).

So I have the best of both worlds. I can watch movies in the comfort of my home with a fabulous meal and periodically I can go to the theater. My life is pretty blessed.

 

American Mary, Mister White, and Why I Watch Low Budget Horror

American Mary is currently available on instant Netflix

One Line Review: Body modification horror is absolutely fascinating.

American MaryAmerican Mary (2012) – Rated R

Medical student Mary Mason is becoming dissatisfied with her path in life, mostly because she’s piling up massive debt. But when she’s offered a lucrative opportunity to get involved in extreme body-modification surgeries, she jumps at the chance.

Rated R for strong aberrant violent content including disturbing images, torture, a rape, sexual content, graphic nudity, language and brief drug use.

First, I have to post my disclaimer. American Mary does include a rape scene, which is normally an automatic ‘no’ for me. I enjoyed American Mary in spite of the scene in question but viewer beware.

Films like American Mary, The House of the Devil and Erica Summers’ Mister White are why I am willing to sit through all the drek that low budget horror has to offer.

I was initially looking forward to this simply because Katharine Isabelle was the ironic star (American Mary is Canadian). I adored the female coming of age allegory disguised as a werewolf movie, Ginger Snaps. The two sequels were also very enjoyable if not up to the level of the original. Unfortunately after that I have only seen her pop up in guest appearances.

Twins Jen and Sylvia Soska wrote, directed, and produced American Mary. They had previously made the cult film, Dead Hooker in a Trunk. Not only do they appear as twins in American Mary but their father and mother, who remortgaged their house to finance the film, also have cameos as Dr. Janusz and a female officer respectively. American Mary is clearly a labor of love and it pays off.

I do not have a great deal of knowledge in body modification. Tattoos and non-ear piercings were not at all commonplace when I grew up yet most of the people I know now have them including my daughters and son-in-law. When the outrageous becomes common, boundaries have to be pushed further for people to establish their individuality.

American Mary is hard to define as a horror movie. It also is not really a revenge film although that is a theme that runs through it. The Soska sisters have found a way to weave as much body modification as they can into Mary’s descent or rise or empowerment (it can be viewed many ways) as possible.

American Mary is best viewed as an entertaining and fascinating overview of body modification. The storyline is somewhat episodic and does not always gel properly but all of the incidents are fascinating and drawn from real life. Katharine Isabel is engaging as Mary. Tristan Risk, a burlesque dancer, plays one of the more fascinating characters, Beatress Johnson. To say more of her character would be a spoiler.

American Mary is highly recommended.

 

 

Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls

Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls is currently available on instant Netflix.

One-Line Review: One of Asylum’s worst – I’m holding out for a hero.

Allan QuatermainAllan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls (2008) – Rated R

I loved Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). It was a wonderful homage to the serials of the 30s and was clearly based, at least partially, on H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain novels. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) was a highly successful sequel with wonderful set pieces but a less than stellar plot and somewhat annoying heroine.

Piggybacking on the success of Temple of Doom, Golan Globus hired Richard Chamberlain, king of the miniseries, as Allan Quatermain and made the low budget King Solomon’s Mines (1985) with a pre-Basic Instinct Sharon Stone. This begat Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986) the following year. The Golan Globus productions ape the Indiana Jones material rather than the actual novels.

Unfortunately they had no idea what made Raiders of the Lost Ark work and were dismal failures. The only thing that makes King Solomon’s Mines look good is the sequel, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986), also starring Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone.

Spielberg made a nice conclusion to his series with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. There weren’t as many cool set pieces but the plot was great. Unfortunately, when you have the machinery to print money, it is very hard to resist using it. Spielberg returned once more to the well in 2008 with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Asylum, seeing a chance to repeat the Golan-Globus gambit, wrote their own Allan Quatermain story (no more copyright for Haggard) and titled it Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls thus alluding to both the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the Temple of Doom. Now you would think that with that title, there would be a Temple of Skulls. Hilariously there is not.

As with this summer’s big budget movie, The Lone Ranger, the titular protagonist is a hopeless, clueless, annoying boob. If you want a heroic Allan Quatermain, either watch the admittedly cheesy The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or go back to the 1950 version of King Solomon’s Mines with Stewart Granger.

I complain about Asylum’s terrible CGI all the time and this film is no different. Still I need to complain about the sound here. Asylum lifts entire native tracks from 1964’s Zulu. According to imdb, Asylum made this movie for less than $50,000. I suppose this is why they don’t have any slumming stars in it.

Side note: Erica Summers made Mister White for less than a tenth of this budget and I really enjoyed that.

One scene has quite a bit of shaky cam as there is an earthquake for no apparent reason. A huge flight of something imperils our adventurers – the CGI was so bad I could not tell if it was bees, birds, or locusts. The train fights are hilarious, second only to the anti-climactic climax in silliness.

You will be thankful that this movie has less than the usual amount of dialogue whenever the actors speak. They are simply dreadful, the script is bad, the movie is deeply anachronistic and idiotic, the CGI is expectedly awful, characters appear and disappear randomly during the movie, etc.

Those Richard Chamberlain films aren’t looking so bad now, in spite of the floating plastic vegetables in the cannibal stew. Sometimes I wish I was making this stuff up.

 

Erica Summers’ Mister White – The Review

I finally had the opportunity to see my daughter’s hard work on the big screen (and of course the hard work of many, many others). This is as unbiased a review as I can manage. Here my daughter is applying makeup to a cast member while her loving husband looks on.

moiramisterwhiteMister White (2013) – Not Rated (but generally ‘R’ material for violence and language) – DVDs available for sale here.

Mister White

“When a motley group of college freshmen choose bizarre Tyler Rooney as the new target for their juvenile pranks, Tyler calls upon hoodoo-cursed Mister White to exact a violent and bloody revenge.”

First off, I cannot believe that this movie was made for a mere $5,000. Admittedly it helps when one person is not just the writer and director but also producer, editor, cinematographer, sound mixer, and special effects artist. Erica Summers manages to do all of that and still avoid many of the pitfalls of microbudgeting. The opening titles, like the rest of the movie, show a mastery of pacing. The music and sound effects were sparingly used and very effective.

Mister White takes a hoary horror trope – a group of attractive twenty-somethings make a terrible mistake and are hunted down for it – and puts a fresh spin on it. Erica firmly and deftly incorporates the currently trendy topic of bullying throughout the film and one particular peer pressure scene was rather difficult to watch, due to its authenticity.

Plotting is intricate with many fascinating reveals along the way. Erica did a fantastic job of knowing exactly when to reveal the titular Mister White. We get a sense of his presence early on as Tyler talks to himself but we don’t get our first good look until we reach the asylum and even then he is kept in the background. Mister White continues to be teased in dribs and drabs, lurking around corners and in the distance until the killing starts.

Acting is generally good if a little uneven. The leads are in good hands. Andy Salgado’s tiny frame, delicate features, and odd mannerisms mark his Tyler Rooney for bullying almost immediately. The beautiful Amber Watson shows a good bit of range as our confused, sensitive protagonist who seems prone to making bad but believable choices, Summer Mills.The other young people have no favors done to them by having to play vile, vapid characters but acquit themselves well. One of the young gentleman appears to have been hired for his very serious six-pack.

Carl Summers and the prosthetics make for quite a menacing Mister White. I love knowing how some of the shots were done from my one day on set. Still my favorite performance has to be that of John Salamone, seen in flashbacks as the evil Benjamin White. He was really scary without any of the prosthetics. The death scenes are carefully managed, with some seriously good special effects.

I really enjoyed Mister White and thought it was a quite well done low-budget movie. Honestly, I was blown away by how much Erica was able to accomplish on that budget. My only nitpick was that I didn’t feel that there was enough done with the chess motif featured in the film and some of the posters. It felt like there was perhaps a scene cut somewhere and it seemed to undercut the strength of a later scene.

Look for Mister White at a horror festival near you or better still support Erica and my daughter by purchasing a copy of the DVD here. Honestly I’ll stop shilling now though I intend to review Erica’s earlier film, Loverboy sometime next week.

 

 

Marion Theater – Ocala, Florida

On my trip to Florida for my daughter’s movie premiere, I got to visit the Marion theater in historic downtown Ocala. I’m sorry that I couldn’t come down earlier. For the premiere of World War Z, they had an awesome zombie block party. They did zombie makeup starting at 4 and then had a zombie walk followed by a zombie block party from 6-7:30. They then had a triple feature for just $15 – World War Z, Zombieland, and Dawn of the Dead (1978). Now that’s my kind of theater.

Marion Theater

The Marion Theater still has one of the old-time theater facades, which is gorgeous. Every Tuesday is customer appreciation day – buy a ticket, get FREE popcorn and a drink. Their summer kids program is $2 but includes drink, popcorn, and the movie. Normal ticket prices are a reasonable $6-$8.

Marion TheaterThe red carpet premiere of Mister White went wonderfully. The film was quite enjoyable (I’m hoping to have a review up tomorrow) and mixing with the cast and crew afterwards was a blast. DVDs and Blu-Rays of Erica Summers’ Mister White are available here. The Marion Theater personnel were helpful and professional, especially one young lady who hung out with us until the last of us left at about 11 o’clock.

Mister White Theatrical Premiere and My Daughter

Mister WhiteSunday June 23rd was the theatrical premiere for Erica Summers’ Mister White. I flew down to Florida to walk beside my daughter on the red carpet. Moira was the makeup artist for Mister White (among other jobs) and appears briefly as a student (my son-in-law Brian has a split-second cameo as a bystander). The director was even gracious enough to allow me to help the day I visited the set, thus giving me an imdb credit.

Moira - Mister WhiteMister White Red CarpetThe premiere was a wonderful success and I believe Erica filled all 300+ seats of the main Marion Theater. Erica introduced the film and thanked everyone. She called three people onstage to thank personally for their over and above the call of duty assistance. One of those was my wonderful daughter. She even (unnecessarily but incredibly graciously) thanked me and gave me one of the three latex Mister White heads used in the film. I’m not posting a picture of it as the Mister White reveal is a highlight of the film. Suffice to say that it now has a place of honor in my movie room.

Erica

After the movie, DVDs, posters, props, and Blu-Rays were sold in the lobby with cast and crew onhand for autographs. For those of you who missed out, the DVD can be purchased online. A couple hours after the film, cast and crew began saying their goodbyes and drifting off. The final remaining people (Brian, Moira, Erica, Carl (Erica’s husband), Jessica (another makeup artist), Ray, Sarsaparilla, and I) departed for a late night Denny’s run.

All in all an absolutely magical night. Kudos to everyone involved, including the extremely helpful young lady from Marion Theater whose name I didn’t catch.

Proud of my Daughter – Mister White Theatrical Premiere

Mister WhiteNo post today as I am down in Florida attending the premiere of Erica Summers’ Mister White. My daughter was make-up artist for the movie and also worked on the set and special effects. She and my son-in-law Brian have cameos in the film as well.

Marion Theater

The theatrical premiere is tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Ocala’s Marion Theater

I am so proud of my daughters. My eldest works taking care of people and my youngest is a makeup artist on a film (and will soon be working on another movie). I just hope I don’t embarrass her on the red carpet. Shhhh!

Mister White and I Get an imdb Credit!

The movie I am most anticipating this summer is not the new Iron Man, the new Star Trek, or even Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim (though I am looking forward to those blockbusters). The film I am most looking forward to is writer/director Erica Summers’ Mister White.

Here my fabulous daughter Moira is plying her trade as a make-up artist on set. Thanks to her enthusiasm and Erica’s generosity (or possibly the other way around), I got to parlay a one-day set visit into an actual imdb credit. They let me help with substitute sound cues and apply slime.

Mister White is premiering sometime this summer (more news as it comes in :)) and Erica has submitted it to many festivals thanks to a successful kickstarter campaign.

On the Set of Mister White & Erica Summers

Pardon a moment while I digress from my streaming opinions.

Last weekend, while my wife and mother-in-law were busy at Disney World, I was blessed to spend all day Saturday with my youngest daughter at work. Why is that a blessing? Because she is a makeup artist and she has spent the past few months working on a low-budget horror movie!

Thanks to my blogging and my ever-supportive wife, I have gotten to attend film premieres and meet actors, directors, stuntmen, and critics but I have never actually been on a movie set.

I spent a marvelous eight hours or so chatting with the wonderful cast & crew between takes. The director, Erica Summers (the link is to her imdb profile), even let me help with some of the sound markers and special effects. I’m not sure that I was actually helpful but it was very sweet of Erica to let me pitch in.

Mister White does not have an imdb page yet (principal photography doesn’t end until mid-September) but Erica’s last two movies, Loverboy and Rag Doll, are listed. I even got a DVD of Loverboy to watch and a Mister White crew hat.

I would love to include a photo of Mister White as the monster is very scary but they are (naturally) keeping that under wraps. I cannot wait for this to premiere next year!