What Sue Is Watching

Since I have fallen so far behind on my PVR-watching, I’ve decided to just write about the shows I’ve been most enjoying the past few weeks, even though I may still have catching-up to do on a few of them.  Sometimes there’s just a lot of good stuff on, and not enough time to write about it all!

So here we go, in no particular order:

 

Mom – I am still a few episodes behind on this one, as I tend to hold the half hour shows for when I don’t have the time or energy to watch another full hour, but every time I watch an ep of Mom, I laugh out loud – usually more than once!  Allison Janney is particularly awesome, and can crack me up no matter what’s going on in the real world!  The episode where she falls of the wagon was hilarious from start to finish!

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Chicago Fire – As if the stakes of life and death aren’t high enough, the guys and gals at our favourite firehouse have managed to raise them all even higher, and for pretty much every character, it seems!  I swear, if Boden (Eamonn Walker) ends up having to leave, I’ll be a very unhappy fan – but for now, at least, it looks like he’s not going anywhere without a fight!

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Revolution – Every time I sit down to watch an episode of Revolution, part of me isn’t sure I want to continue.  And then something inevitably happens on the show that makes me come back the following week.  It’s not my favourite show, or anything, but I’m still engaged, and still care about the characters, so I’m still on board.  Plus, I need to see what Aaron (Zak Orth) does next!  Plus, I keep wanting to like Monroe (David Lyons) and Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito).  I can’t help it!

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Person of Interest – Despite the fact that you killed my FAVOURITE CHARACTER (Taraji P. Henson) – aside from Bear, of course – I still continue to love you, Person of Interest.  You are smart, sexy, stressful, and…a word for funny that starts with an ‘s’…sense of humour!  You provide a rich, detailed, intelligent show each and every week, and the fact that you aren’t afraid to kill off a FAVOURITE CHARACTER actually just proves that you have the balls to continue on as one of my favourite shows.  Sometimes the good guy doesn’t win.  But good shows should, and I hope you carry this level of intensity through for many more seasons to come.  You’re awesome, Person of Interest…even without my FAVOURITE CHARACTER!!!

 

Vampire Diaries – These damn pretty people!  They make me cry even when things are kind of okay!  I cried when Bonnie (Kat Graham) died, I cried when Bonnie came back…good grief!  I missed the first few episodes because the channel carrying it changed and my PVR didn’t know what happened.  I kind of enjoyed saucy sarcastic Silas (Paul Wesley), but was glad to see him go, too.  Do you think that everyone supernatural who dies in The Originals also has to pass through Bonnie now?  Yikes!

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The Originals – I’m actually not usually a fan of spin-offs, but this one I love love love!  Joseph Morgan (Klaus) is someone I could probably watch for an eternity of my own, along with his lovely siblings, but the fact that all of the other characters have so seamlessly forged their existence into this already-established universe is something unexpected, and a true testament to the power of the writers and performers.  It’s easily one of my favourite new shows of the year, and feels the least ‘new’ to me.  It’s like The Originals have always been here…

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Haven – I could talk about Haven for ages, and probably will at some point, because it has been and continues to be one of my most favourite shows that is on TV each year.  I’ve liked it right from the start – kind of filled a hole left by The X-Files, and gives me a bit of a Stephen King kick once in awhile, too.  I love the characters, the setting, the Troubles…well, I don’t love the Troubles, per se, but I do love the mystery and trying to figure things out alongside my intrepid gang of quasi-investigators!  Did that even make sense?  Things in Haven often don’t – at least at first – but it sure does feel like home.  I can’t wait to get back into that world each week, and the end credits ALWAYS come too soon!  So frustrated that it airs in Canada so much later than the US, but at least I’ll have more Haven joy going into next year, whereas they will soon be done for the season, so there’s that.  It’s definitely one of my favourite shows, if not my most fave right now.  I can’t get enough!

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Played – This show just keeps getting better and better, so now it’s my fave new show of the season!  I was drawn in by the names attached, and have stayed for the incredible writing and performances.  Each episode seems to somehow up the ante for our characters more and more, and I find that the hour always flies by far too quickly, but only because I love it so.  Great chemistry between the main group of characters, coupled with amazing guest stars and incredible, intense scenarios make for a sure winner!  Plus, look at all the pretty!

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The Walking Dead – I’ve had many problems with this show pretty much right out of the gate, and I intend to sit down at some point and read the comics, in the hopes that they’ll actually tell a better story with fewer gaping plot holes.  Yet, I continue to watch and enjoy this one, in part because of the characters, in part because I enjoy making fun of it, and in part because I keep hoping it’ll grow into the kind of show I wanted it to be in the first place.  I actually caught a glimpse of what I’ve been looking for in the Governor-centric episodes this season, but it wasn’t long before survival fell once again by the wayside in favour of war against the living, and I returned to my eye-rolling in frustration.  How lucky for the Governor (David Morrissey), for example, that he chose the only day zombies weren’t pushing at the fences to invade the prison.  There weren’t even any bodies laying about – Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and crew cleaned it all up nicely so that the Governor could roll right on in.  Anyway.  It is what it is, and if I hated it, I would stop watching it, but it’s kind of like a car wreck, so I carry on.  :)

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Elementary – I was never a big fan of Sherlock Holmes.  I haven’t read the books, I only sort of enjoyed the Robert Downey Jr films (the one or two I saw, at least – how many are there?), and I haven’t watched a single moment of any of the BBC series episodes.  I do, however, like Jonny Lee Miller, so I decided to give this series a try, and discovered that I quite like it.  To be clear, I’m not a Sherlock fan, so I don’t care about whether or not this series stays true to the character or not.  What matters to me is story, which this has, and interesting characters, which this also has.  That Watson is a woman was of only mild interest to me, but that Lucy Liu pulls off an amazing female character who holds her own with her brilliant detective male counterpart makes for highly enjoyable television, as far as I’m concerned.  Each season has given me more and more to love about this series, and I can’t wait to see whatever happens next!

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Grimm – I was excited about Grimm  from the very beginning, and now that we are into Season Three, I like it all the more!  I find that it stays fresh even as new creatures are introduced, and old characters return to hound our heroes.  I love love love the relationship between Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) and Rosalee (Bree Turner) almost as much as I freaking adore the one between Nick (David Giuntoli) and Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch).  Having Juliette and Hank (Russell Hornsby) as team members who are actually in on what’s really going on is a wonderful addition, and I think it makes Nick stronger to have his friends and loved ones working with him as true partners.  I’d say all we need now is for Wu (Reggie Lee) to be brought up to speed, as well, but I actually kind of love his ability to help without even knowing what the hell he’s actually dealing with – it’s endearing and hilarious at the same time, so it’s okay with me if he stays in the dark.  At least for now.  :)

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Once Upon A Time – This show continues to be strong and refreshing without going the way of mushy and predictable, which makes me love it all the more.  There is always something new over the horizon, and danger comes in more forms than one evil queen (Lana Parrilla), which is good for our heroes to learn.  Plus, the kid who plays Peter Pan (Robbie Kay) is freaking brilliant!  I am mesmerized by his performance every single moment he’s on screen, and even though he’s evil as heck, I still don’t want him to go anywhere.  The dude rocks!

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The Michael J Fox Show – here’s another one that keeps getting better – and funnier – with every single episode!  I about died of laughter during the Thanksgiving ep, and can’t wait to see how things progress!  So happy to have Michael J Fox back on my screen each week!!!

I of course also watch things like Murdoch Mysteries, Lost Girl, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., etc, but since Tim covers those in detail each week, I thought I’d throw in a bit about some of the other shows I have on my plate currently!

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The Mind Reels Visits Murdoch Mysteries

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It was a sweltering July day, the 15th to be exact, when Sue and I disembarked from our bus in what felt like the middle of nowhere. And even then there was a walk through more nowhere, and down an unsuspecting road, until we stumbled ont our destination for the day.

From the front, this rather generic looking, low office-building described as nondescript at best, was plain, practically uninviting…but as we walked through the door, being met moments later by Public Relations Rep for Murdoch Mysteries, Tanya Koivusalo, we realized we were stepping into something amazing, fantastic and for both of us, completely unforgettable. Tanya had gone out of her way to arrange a set visit for us, and had sworn us to secrecy over anything we saw, and since we’re not keen on spoilers ourselves, we were happy to keep mum… until now!

We wandered through a number of production offices with reproduced stills of the, let’s be honest, ridiculously good-looking cast, as well as turn of the century reproductions of pictures, fabric and art. That alone was stunning, examining the pictures, seeing how the city of Toronto had once looked, and does so again for Inspector William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) each week on the CBC.

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We’re here to take a look at the sets and chat to the cast while they shot episode 6 of the show’s 7th succesful season, Murdochophobia (706), penned by Maureen Jenning and Peter Mitchell, which as the name suggests there may be some creepy crawlies to be seen, or maybe other fear-inspiring things as well…

We get a look at the swing sets constructed for this week’s episode there are hotel rooms, a phobia room… we also bump into our very good friend Tanya Lemke, who greets us happily with hugs and smiles. We know so many amazing people!

Before we even have a moment to soak in the busy, and minutely detailed environment, we are swept into the gorgeously appointed office, set rather, of Dr. Julia Ogden (Helene Joy) to chat, with the charming, and very likable Jonny Harris, who portrays the comedic, imaginative, and wonderfully earnest character of Constable George Crabtree.

We talk about whether or not George has any phobias, while skirting spoilers, and our love for Stephen King’s mammoth novel 11/22/63.

After our brief, but enjoyable chat with Jonny, who is as nice in person as you think he would be, we wander out of the office, and find ourselves wandering through jail cells, the iconic morgue set, until we find ourselves standing in the amazingly detailed, and simply stunning precinct.  The level of detail paid to this set is incredible! There are things you will never see on-screen that just enhance the reality of the set and consequently the show. There are typed reports spewing from typewriters, there are hand-written notes and file folders everywhere. You would swear you had stumbled into an actual turn of the century police precinct, the only thing that would ruin that image is the lighting rigs above, and the occasional cluster of electrical cords. We wander through Murdoch’s office, checking out the blackboard, which is ready for the following episode (awesome!!!) sit at his desk, and wander through Brackenreid’s office as well – so fantastic!

We get to watch Jonny and the engaging and charming Georgina Reilly shoot a scene together as they work to discover a murder weapon. Close-ups and reaction shots are shot rapidly and efficiently as we cluster around video village watching the playback.

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Between takes, a body is rolled into the cold room set, with a cry of “Bring out your dead!” Which elicits a guffaw from me, as I love a good Monty Python reference.

During the reverse set-up, Georgina steals away to chat with us about her character, Dr. Emily Grace, cutting up bodies and the fantastic period costumes the cast get to wear. Georgina is a complete doll, joyous, full of light and eager to laugh.

We get to take a peek in the cold room, during the turnaround (which happens incredibly fast, allowing the actors to stay in the moment), and see that there are bodies stacked everywhere… looks like the body count is pretty high for the  episode they’re shooting (707)!

We begin to hear rumors about the following week’s episode, there is talk of a lake monster in Lake Ontario… consider my interest piqued!

Shooting continues, on the cold room set while a smoke machine at the far end of the stage wafts moody ambience over Harris and Reilly. Jonny stabs a block of ice repeatedly with an ice pick to break it down, while Georgina pontificates on a murder weapon.

Scenes are turned out for this brilliantly and deservedly succesful Canadian show speedily, but never without creativity, as the director calls for even slight changes to improve a shot or performance. They move from master shots, to medium to close-ups with the dizzy speed of a well-oiled machine. It’s amazing to watch.

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Sue and I, escorted by Tanya as guide step back into the precinct set, eager to wander it at our leisure and examine all the details, we’re about to settle into our explorations when a blur races over to us, a very happy, and welcoming Yannick Bisson, William Murdoch himself, comes over to introduce himself, shake our hands, and then races off to get into costume.

It is not the first, nor last time that day that I think he is an absolute professional and a genuinely honest and good guy.

Things go from amazing to mind-blowing as we get a chance to step out onto the backlot, and we are in turn-of-the-century Toronto. There are a plethora of stores, a butcher’s, a general store, a hotel, carts, docks, back streets, pubs and alleys. Sue and I have literally stepped back in time, and I think we were both filled with an urge to run around the set and just play!

The most amazing part is the level of detail in the store windows, and open doorways, and then you stick your head around a little further, away from what the camera would see, and then it’s all plywood, and construction material. It’s amazing how realistic everything looks! Some of the false fronts are even on wheels to be moved about to change the shape of streets, and create all new locations and squares.

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Stunning.

Ducking back inside, it’s still sweltering out, but both Sue and I vow to return to the backlot and continue our exploration. We wander towards Ogden’s office, where a side branch of video village is set up. Helene Joy gives us a quick wave as she rushes by to join Yannick on set.

With these fantastic sets and the beautiful costumes I imagine it lets the actors, not just the viewers, fall into the era and their characters easily.

Helene and Yannick run a scene together, their stand-ins stepping from their positions so the leads can step into a set that is completely ready for them.

I grin as I realize that Sue and I are like time-travellers in the biggest way at this very moment.

Through the window, the early 20th century has just come to life, while ducking down under the ledge, Sue and I are interlopers from the 21st. In fact there’s a moment when we realize we almost made it on-screen as we catch our image on the monitors during a quick rehearsal. But when that scene happens on-screen, I will no doubt grin, because I’ll think, we’re right outside that window right now!!

Wild!

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Cut is called and resets and repositioning are underway, allowing for us to sneak away, and return to the morgue set, which is lovely, and you’d be hard pressed to believe it wasn’t an actual functioning place. We’re joined by Helene for an all too brief chat, just as we are getting into the talk, duty calls, and she must return to set.

We’re joined, however by Michelle Ricci, who penned the lake monster episode, as well as a number of fan favorites, including Murdoch Au Naturel. We have a brief chat with her about her writing, and the research that goes into each and every episode, as Yannick does a quick fly-by through the morgue set.

We have a brief but illuminating chat with the showrunner Peter Mitchell. Not only is Murdoch in safe hands, but it’s clear from his opinion and those of the rest of the cast and crew, that there are still many stories to tell, many mysteries to solve, and many sights to see.

We wander back to Dr. Ogden’s office, which is now filled with cages marked for specific phobia inspiring creatures, but they are still empty. We wait for the red light above the stage door to go out, while Yannick’s distinctive, soft-spoken delivery as Murdoch fills the set.

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As the light switches off, Lemke, who works on props, flies by.

We get another brief moment to chat with Helene, while cameras reposition and get the set ready, including the arrival of a snake, and I’m happy to learn that Yannick and I both share a phobia of them.

I also got a huge smile from the fact that unless required Yannick wears an awesome pair of kicks instead of Murdoch’s shoes. It helps to keep him comfortable on set – hidden secrets. It’s not really a surprise of course, it’s just cool.

Then, joyously, we get to chat with Yannick as well. And I came away completely stunned by the interview (I also realize that a couple of my questions could have been misinterpreted in a bad way, which was not my intent…). Yannick is a complete professional. He is everything that you would expect from the show’s lead, he’s warm, gracious, and honest. In short, he’s a complete charmer.

He knows his job, and he does it. Incredibly well. He’s proven to be an amazing leading man, and a strong and positive leader on the set. He helps to set the tone for the show on and off-screen, and while the set seems relaxed, it’s also an efficiently run one, and he and all those who work with him, help to create and foster that environment.

It’s an amazing place to be.

Lunch is called, and we worm our way through the craft services line, piling our plates high and we settled into the lunch room to chat with both Tanyas over lunch. We hear rumors of bugs after lunch, but Sue and I are eager to wander the backlot again at leisure, as well in addition to watching a little more filming.

Rehearsals kick into gear after lunch and the director walks Yannick and Helene through the scene, as they work together to bring the story to screen.

It’s amazing to watch, but it’s almost time to go. We get a wander through the backlot again, which is so much fun to play in.

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From there Tanya takes up to wardrobe where we get a chance to talk with Alex Reda, as we eye the fantastic costumes he and his department create each week. There are stunning costumes here, the level of detail, just like on the sets, is amazing. Alex is happy to show us around and amaze us with items and designs.

Wow.

We begin to wander our way out through the sets, making our goodbyes, not wanting to leave it behind, everyone has been welcoming and friendly.

Murdoch Mysteries has made a name for itself as a brilliant television series, and every one involved goes above and beyond to make it so. Every department gives it’s all, and every week it is on the screen for everyone to see.

It’s no wonder that the show’s fans are so passionate. That passion is shared by those who make the show, crafting each episode, meticulous in performance and detail.

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Sue and I wander through the burgeoning 20th century, making our goodbyes, expressing our thanks, before finding ourselves back in the sweltering heat of the 21st century.

We look at each other, stunned. Did that just happen?!

We cannot express our thanks enough for all that we saw and did, for those who found time to chat with us. Thank you to each and everyone of you.

Season 7 looks to be the best season yet, and that’s saying something given the brilliant track record of the seasons that came before!

What a great day!!

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays on CBC.

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Knightriders (1981) – George A. Romero

knightriders_poster_01I love when the 101 Action Movies brings me something I had never seen. I remember seeing the posters for this when I was a kid, but it never meant anything to me.  Now though, I think I have found my fave Romero film after the original Night of the Living Dead.

And this one is unlike any of Romero’s famed zombie films!

It follows a modern-day troupe of performers who live by medieval guidelines inspired by the stories of King Arthur, who use all the weaponry one would expect of knights and kings, but instead of horses their steeds are motorcycles.

Ed Harris leads the group as King Billy. They travel from town to town, putting on jousting and combat shows and living on whatever meager money they make. Unfortunately there are divisions forming in the group, caused by Morgan (special effects and make-up wiz Tom Savini), who is being seduced by the call of fame and easy money by selling out their principles.

knightBilly is haunted by the dreams of a raven, and believes he has to beat it, causing him to cling to all of his ideals, even if it costs him personally.

The stunt sequences are fantastic, with bikes dueling and jousting, while the crowds cheer them on (including Stephen King during the opening sequence). They are wonderfully choreographed and executed, and consequently I found myself really getting into the film.

Ed Harris has always been a fave and he plays Billy perfectly, a blend of idealism and humanity. His council includes his wife, Linnet (Amy Ingersoll) and his own Merlin (Brother Blue).

knightriders_04-hrThe film, clocking in at 2 1/2 hours, which doesn’t feel like it at all, allows for character development and moments for each and every member of the cast which includes Patricia Tallman, Martin Ferrero, Gary Lahti, Christine Forrest and Cynthia Adler.

The story has the troupe clashing with the law (though in this case the local police are kind of corrupt), infighting, rescuing damsels like Julie (Tallman) from abusive homes (kind of), dealing with agents (Ferrero) and trying to survive in the modern world.

It works as a wonderful film, and I loved the combination of the old, jousting and the like, with the new, motorbikes. It just works, and is probably one of Romero’s strongest films, I was completely floored by how much I enjoyed it.

It’s also fun watching the way both of the major leads, Harris and Savini, change and develop through the course of the film, Billy realizes he has to let go, and Morgan realizes that perhaps the lure of easy fame isn’t what he’s really about.

Knightriders-motorcycle-joustAs mentioned the stunt sequences are fantastic! The fights are long and involved, with a variety of weapons and bikes, and the final duel, the battle for the crown is simply stunning. I was completely engrossed.

And honestly, I had no idea that Romero had ever made a film like this. I wonder how many other people out there, who love his zombie movies were simply unaware that this film existed…

and oh the ending. Loved it!

Did you see it? What’s your fave Romero flick?

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Room 237 (2012) – Rodney Ascher

ROOOS_70_M1V1.inddWhen I first heard about this documentary from Rodney Ascher, it was coming to TIFF, and I very much wanted to see it, I love the ideas of secrets and conspiracies hidden in movies.

Both the opportunities I had to see it fell through, and I was a little bummed.

Then I heard it was returning to the Lightbox as part of a theatrical run. YES! I thought. Now I just need to find time to get out and see it.

It got better, I entered a contest run by NOW Magazine here in Toronto, and I won passes and a DVD prize pack from Mongrel Media.

So today, on a rather moody weather day, Sue and I decided to take a look at what some people thought Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was all about.

We were ready to enter Room 237.

To say I was let down would be putting it lightly. These people seem to be looking for things they want to find, and will do anything to justify their beliefs.

dannyDon’t get me wrong. I’m well aware that Kubrick was a perfectionist in his films, that there are symbols and meanings in them. And while I admit there is a torrent of  possibilities in this film, perhaps that’s exactly what Kubrick wanted to do this time around. He just wanted to put a deluge of suggestive ideas into his film. I mean isn’t that how the best horror works anyway? It’s suggestive, it preys on your mind, it gets under your skin.

Well in the case of some of these folks, it did exactly that.

There are some pretty wacky theories presented, with some flimsy material used to support them.

I take exception to people who say the moon landings were faked. You’re belittling the hard work of hundreds of people who united under common cause to do something amazing, and one of the theories presented in this film is how Kubrick is supposedly apologizing for his part in faking them. Please. Nodding to things like Danny’s (Danny Lloyd) Apollo 11 sweater, the fact that the moon is 237,000 miles from Earth hence Room 237 (changed from 217 in the original Stephen King novel) or Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) tells little Danny that it’s not real, it’s like pictures in a book.

Come on.

There’s another theory about it being about the Holocaust.

I’m more inclined to believe that it’s about the American genocide of the Native Americans, at least that concept is even referred to in the script… The Overlook being built on a graveyard and all.

ullman office wideI did find the shifting layout, disappearing chair and the impossible window in Stuart Ullman’s (Barry Nelson) office kind of cool. That one seems like it could work, the whole Overlook is a maze, not just the hedge maze.

There’s also a theory suggesting that the movie be played the film forward, while simultaneously playing it backwards and superimposing the images, creating some haunting and disturbing imagery, especially centering around Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and Danny.

Well, you can do that with a number of things, syncing them up and saying it was meant to be like that. The most famous being Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz.

I’m sorry. I’m not buying it.

There is no video interview footage (were these folks afraid to show their faces?) it’s all audio, overlaid to clips from The Shining, other Kubrick films, and anything that could be used to represent what the audio track was referring to.

And to be honest, this audio could have been done better, dropping the ums, dead air, and the stupid giggle one of the interviewees had. It not only passed the line of annoying it made me actively start disliking the documentary.

MM The ShiningI do believe that Kubrick was playing with his audience this time, messing with spaces and ideas, playing with continuity, letting them find parts of themselves in the film and as Sue mentioned to me after the film, what you find in the film says more about you than it does about the movie itself.

I think Ascher could have made a better documentary on this film, because I like a good conspiracy theory, but this one just didn’t work for me, and in the end, and I rarely say this, I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for it.

Room 237 is currently screening at the Lightbox.

Did you see it?

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A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) – Jee-woon Kim

twoFor me, there has always been something creepy and disturbing about the horror of Asian cinema, it has the ability to get under my skin and have moments that can actually earn a jump or two from me, so it was with equal parts excitement and trepidation that I turned to the next title on the 101 Horror Movies list, and settled in for A Tale of Two Sisters.

At its heart the film is a traditional Gothic fairy tale.

There’s a house, which could be equally at home in Korea, on the moors of England or in the Stephen King version of Maine and New England, and in this house is a family. There are two sisters Soo-mi (Su-jeong Lim) and Soo-yeon (Guen-Young Moon) – or is there? – a distant father (Kap-su Kim) and a stepmother (Jung-ah Yum) taking the place of a beloved matriarch.

The film doles out information only as it’s needed, leaving you wondering what’s real, what’s mis-remembered, what’s a hallucination, what’s a ghost, and above all, what’s really going on here in this house and family?

The characters all have guilt, sadness, and secrets. When things start unraveling  I literally sat there, looking stunned and said “What?…”

tale_of_two_sisters1There are some frightening moments, Soo-mi’s dream featuring a woman, with a crooked neck, crawling on the floor, and then climbing atop the bed, with blood and a hand sliding down her thigh. It’s a spooky moment, so is the revelation that a house guest sees a girl under the sink, and then the step-mother is crawling around by it, and you know something is going to happen, you just don’t know what or when. The tension coming from that really put me on edge.

There is also the recurring problem of a locked wardrobe, which initially seems incredibly benign, but quickly becomes a  troubling image, right up to the revelations given to the viewer in the climax.

Editing, pacing, the visuals, they all work on this film, and create a moody atmosphere, that brings the Gothic film to the screen in a truly creepy way.

twosI sat there through the film wondering what was going on, who were these characters, and how many of them are actually real or alive?!?!

I love films like that when a movie keeps me guessing and wondering about things that are going on, in a good way. I get involved with it, and my brain starts puzzling over what I’m seeing, what pieces fit where and who is actually at fault, who has secrets and why.

I quite liked this one, and while I wonder about some things I saw in the film, wondering still how much of it was memory, illusion, or just a dream, it definitely had a lot of things I liked, and of course, a wicked little creep factor.

Did you see it?

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Maximum Overdrive (1986) – Stephen King

moSo while I’ve been re-reading a lot of Stephen King, I thought it would be fun to revisit his only directing credit, an adaptation of his short story “Trucks” into the funhouse ride that is Maximum Overdrive.

This is a movie you either like or hate, and while it is fun, there are tons of plot holes, and just some mis-steps in characterization.

For just over a week in 1986, the planet Earth passed through the tail of a rogue comet, Rhea-M, and wouldn’t you know, it caused a lot of electronics to go wacky, take on a life of their own, and do their best to wipe humanity off the face of the planet.

A group of folk find themselves stuck at the Dixie Boy truck stop, struggling to survive as the massive 18-wheelers surrounding them keep them prisoner.

Leading this group is Billy (Emilio Estevez) and his newly acquired sweetie (the sexy)Brett (Laura Harrington – who reminds of someone I know). Amongst the group are some very familiar faces, such as Yeardly Smith, Pat Hingle, Frankie Faison and Leon Rippy.

Also watch for King’s cameo at the beginning of the film.

The trucks have a leader of their own, a giant Happy Toyz truck, with the face of the Green Goblin on the grill, and a painting of a clown on the back of the rig, a clown which could easily be interpreted as Pennywise. I’m just saying.

emilioThere are some pretty wicked kills as the machines begin to take over, and King isn’t afraid to have some of them be kids, as shown in a sequence when a vending machine starts to rapid-fire cans at a little league team, before the stragglers are run over by a steam roller.

How and why the machines get taken over is never really explained, nor how some items can interact with one another, like the M-60 machine gun on a mobile platform… But it’s all in good fun.

It’s obvious though that while King can undeniably write, his directorial skills may need a little polishing. But as I said, it’s undeniably fun, and plays like a 50s Saturday afternoon matinée but with more blood and language.

One of the real highlights of the film is the music. King has always been a huge AC/DC fan, so there is only one group he would want to do the music for the film…

So long before Tony Stark was rocking out to AC/DC on the big screen… King was using those same tunes to usher in an apocalypse.

It works for both.

kingI think to increase the reality of the event, they should have colour corrected the film a bit to highlight the green luminescent trail of the comet that was supposedly bathing the planet. Instead all we ever see is a pulsing green cloud matted in over the action.

There’s a suggestion by Billy about 3/4s of the way through the film, that perhaps there’s something else behind all this, as if to serve as a catch-all excuse for any plot holes or lapses in logic… Aliens did it.

Like I said though, it lends itself to a Saturday matinée kind of vibe, so if you find yourself in that frame of mind, it will no doubt delight, if not pass the time.

For now, I think I’ll stick to King’s books, I’m currently reading Full Dark, No Stars, to be followed up by the two Talisman books and then I think it’s time to revisit The Stand!

What did you think of it?

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Stephen King’s It

I’ve been revisiting Stephen King books, and then when I’m done a title, I like to take a look at the accompanying film, or mini-series.

I recently finished King’s epic book It. I haven’t read that since I was a teen, probably 13 or 14. I used to make sure that my Mom got King’s new book in hardcover every Xmas. She read it, and then I would get my hands on it. Let me tell you lugging that big heavy book around, along with all my school books… I must’ve really liked it.

And re-reading it, it’s still just as much fun as I remember it. Much like the adults coming back to Derry, parts of the story would come back to me as I read it, as their past was unveiled for them, I would recall it as well; and while It may no longer be my favourite King book, that honor falls to 11/22/63, it’s still in my top 5.

I ate it up, King has such a handle on writing his characters. He makes the children’s world and the adults world come to life with a vivid detail that always allows me to see his books in my head like a movie.

Maybe that’s why, on revisiting the mini-series I was a bit disappointed.

I spent the last couple of weeks back in Derry, walking the streets of both 1958 and 1985, racing around on Silver, reading comic books, dodging bullies, and facing the physical incarnation of fear…

And she’s a bitch.

There are so many moments, scenes, and bits of dialogue that I love…

Almost none of them made it into the mini-series. I know, I know, compressing a 1100 page book into a three-hour mini-series – you’re gonna lose stuff in the translation, but with only three hours, the film rushes it. Our seven young kids are thrown together so quickly, instead of taking its time, that it seems no just coincidental, but completely contrived.

There’s no real emotional hook in the film, you aren’t given a chance to get to know the characters, know not only their fears, but the different things they bring to the Losers’ Club, their friendships…

Not to mention the history of Derry, all the back story, all the previous recurrences of It, or Pennywise, throughout its history. I would have loved to have seen the Black Spot, seen a young Dick Halloran before he went to work at the Overlook, the massacres, the destruction of the factory…

So I think that it’s time to perhaps bring the book to the screen again. But maybe this time take a page from HBO’s work on the Game of Thrones series, don’t confine it to 3 hours, make it an epic, season long event.

I would love to see a more faithful adaptation, taking it’s time, setting things up, building the relationships, the scares, the story. I’m a little stuck on how they might do the Turtle, but there are a couple of ideas toying in my head on that one too.

I think it’s a fantastic idea, especially on one of the cable stations, like HBO, FX or the like, somewhere that they don’t have to worry about language or violence, and they could tell the whole story.

And if one book does well, what’s to say they couldn’t adapt another, and another, bringing all of King’s library to life on the small screen in a way it hasn’t been seen before.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are things I quite like about the mini-series adaptation of It, I think the casting of the kids was almost bang on – especially Jonathan Brandis as Bill, Seth Green as Richie and Brandon Crane as Ben. I quite liked Annette O’Toole as Beverly, John Ritter as Ben and Tim Meadows as Mike Hanlon, but more often than not, I though a lot of the characters were interchangeable because there wasn’t enough character development for them.

Tim Curry is always good, he’s Tim Curry and his Pennywise is probably the character given the most to do, but his character and its motivation is kind of lacking as well, in the book, each of them has an encounter with It, but actually escape from It. In this, it seems quite happy to pop up and tease the children and only kill the ones that don’t have large parts in the screenplay.

I do hope it gets put on the screen again… somebody at HBO see this and get to work on it will you? I’d be happy to help out!

Have you seen It recently, read,or re-read the book? What did you think?

Revisiting Stephen King

I’ve been wanting to read something spooky for a while, and it’s tough to come across books and authors who actually can creep me out with a tale of the supernatural.

So I decided to go back to my youth.

Like most folks, I read a lot of Stephen King in my teen and high school years. They were awesome books.

And they still are.

So I’ve started reading King again, in no particular order as well. I’ll read a novel, then a collection of short stories, and I have to say I am having a great time. The novels I’ve read (or reread as the case may be) so far are 11/22/63 (quite possibly my favorite King book of all time, replacing It), Cell, The Dark Tower series (except for the most recent one – which is an amazing epic, worlds-spanning fantasy western series that has no equal), Tommyknockers, The Shining and It. The collections have been Night Shift, Nightmares & Dreamscapes, and Everything’s Eventual.

The man has a gift, whether the genre is your preferred corner of fiction or not, most will admit to that. Yes, there are times when the story can seem overly long, I noticed that in It, but even then, when you take it for what it really is, building and expanding the mythology of the worlds he creates, then it really is enjoyable.

And oh the connections!

It’s easy enough to simply google them, or use wikipedia, but there’s a singular enjoyment when revisiting material you haven’t read in decades, and you see the little threads tying his universes together.

I love that Jake in 11/22/64 passes briefly through Derry, and meets Richie Tozier and Beverly Marsh from It a short time after the epic events of that tale, and that Dick Halloran the psychically gifted cook of the Overlook hotel in The Shining shows up in one of the tales about Derry in It.

Haven, of course gets mentioned a couple of times, Tommyknockers takes place inside that little burg, but it’s not recognizable as the television show that shares the same name and is loosely based on Mr.King’s The Colorado Kid.

There are some undeniable creepy and iconic images in his books, and I tend to like his supernatural tales, as opposed to something like Tommyknockers. The idea of the kind of evil seen in things like The Shining or It just engage me more. I like It, I think because of the fact that part of it is told from an adult’s point of view, and the rest is from the viewpoint of the same characters but as children.

The nostalgia that is so prevalent in 11/22/63 is also right there in It, and I think that’s part of the appeal. That and the fact that a kid’s life can be like that, seemingly facing great evil during your summer days, but still needing to be back at home for dinner and chores. I also love the fact that It, or Pennywise the clown as he is more commonly known (masterfully played in the small screen adaptation by Tim Curry) could appear as one of your greatest fears. The book is filmed with frightening moments and images, the idea of pictures coming to life has stayed with me so long that I worked it into my horror novel.

I do believe my next book may be The Talisman, which I remember starting when I was younger, but never finishing. I’d like to amend that, and of course read the sequel. I’m also looking forward to revisiting Salem’s Lot, because I love a good vampire story.

What are some of your favorite King books or short stories? What one should I read next?

Tim’s Halloween Movies

It’s Halloween!

Always a fun time of year, and while I could sit here and give you my favorite scary movies, I thought perhaps I would just list 10 films that I really enjoy, in no particular order, ones that are good for a spooky movie night. These are movies that are fun to watch, or you can just throw on as background visual noise at a party…

Fright Night (1985) - Having the ever-awesome Roddy McDowall as a tv horror host is one of the best things about this film! That and the whole idea of a typical neighborhood, a horror fan, and the vampire next door.

Yes, the remake is ok, but nothing will ever top the original film, with Chris Sarandon as the menacing and charming Jerry Dandrige, and a much more believable Evil Ed in Stephen Geoffreys than Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s version.

Course, the remake does have the very cool David Tennant, and Anton Yelchin.

But the original is the one to watch!

“Welcome to Frrrright Night… For Real.”

The Lost Boys (1987) – Kieffer Sutherland as a bad-ass vampire, a rockin’ soundtrack (except for maybe that number on the beach with the shirtless guy and the saxophone) this is a wicked film from Joel Schumacher before he went sideways and put nipples on the bat-suit.

The two Coreys (Haim and Feldman) have a lot of fun, as Haim’s Sam tries to save his older brother Michael (Jason Patric) from falling under David’s (Sutherland) spell, while trying to keep an eye on his single mom’s dating prospects.

This was the film that showed me vampires could be cool, and they certainly didn’t have to sparkle, and remember… “when a vampire bites it, it’s never a pretty sight. No two bloodsuckers go the same way. Some yell and scream, some go quietly, some explode, some implode, but all will try to take you with them.”

The Monster Squad (1987) – Written by Shane Black (Iron Man 3, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Lethal Weapon) this is a more family friendly spook-fest. A bunch of kids, who love their horror films, and their monsters, are stunned to learn that Dracula himself is in town, and he’s brought his friends.

Featuring creature effects by the late, and dearly missed Stan Winston and company, the film still stands up as a delightful ride.

You should definitely have a look at this one soon, especially if you’re not sure if your youngest is ready to see some of the spookier fare that makes the rounds at this time of year.

So tool up, gather your squad, know your monsters and remember… “Wolfman’s got nards!”

Poltergeist (1982) – I know I’ve spoken about this one fairly recently, when I got to rewatch it on the 101 Horro Movies list, but I love this film. It’s the perfect suburban haunted house movie.

Craig T Nelson and JoBeth Williams are perfectly cast as parents, and the late Heather O’Rourke as the adorable Carol Anne just curls up in your heart and steals the film.

The special effects are great, and much like Monster Squad, though this one is defintiely stronger in spooky content, is a PG-rated horror movie, so fairly suitable for all (though if you’re sharing with young ones, perhaps you should watch it first to make sure its ok – the scary clown still bothers me).

And the one thing to always remember, move the bodies… “You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn’t you? You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the headstones! You-only-moved-the-headstones!

The Mist (2007) – One of my favorite Stephen King stories brought to life by Frank Darabont, who didn’t shy away from its downer ending. And it is a downer. I remember being stunned when I saw it for the first time.

A monster movie in the true sense, it also reveals that not all the monsters are hiding in the mist, and that the human one can be just as troubling.

This is the Stephen King story that stayed with me long after I read it, even now, I can remember the wonder and fear it created in me as it hinted about the things hiding within it.

And these very thoughts occupy the characters in the film as much as it did me… “I’m not sure I believe it, and I was here. What we saw was impossible. You know that, don’t you? What do we say? How do we… convince them? Ollie, what the hell were those tentacles even attached to?”

The Thing (1982) – This is one of my favorite John Carpenter films (Big Trouble in Little China, Escape From New York and the next title round them out) and was a brilliant update of the original sci-fi classic The Thing From Another World.

Playing with paranoia, this tense, horrifying film showcases some horrifying effects as the creature, awakened from its long sleep in the ice takes people over, using lots of blood, teeth and tentacles to do it.

Kurt Russell as MacReady leads the fight to survive, and he knows he’s “human. And if you were all these things, then you’d just attack me right now, so some of you are still human. This thing doesn’t want to show itself, it wants to hide inside an imitation. It’ll fight if it has to, but it’s vulnerable out in the open. If it takes us over, then it has no more enemies, nobody left to kill it. And then it’s won.”

Halloween (1978) – Carpenter’s classic film, and of course it’s on the Halloween list, it’s right there in the title.

It’s the ultimate boogey-man story, as Michael Myers, simply referred to as The Shape in the script, stalks some poor high-school kids including the feature film debut of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode.

Carpenter’s slasher film set the standard for all those that would come after it, and it shows you that you didn’t need the back story that Rob Zombie’s film had to give to Michael, all you needed to hear was Donald Pleasance’s Doctor Loomis explain it… “I met him, fifteen years ago. I was told there was nothing left. No reason, no conscience, no understanding; even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face and, the blackest eyes… the *devil’s* eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”

Tremors (1990) – A great little monster movie, that lets Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward goof off together.

Working as a pair of handy men in a small town called Perfection, the two of them decide, one day too late, to leave town, as it comes under assault by giant and lethal monsterous worms.

It’s just a fun ride that has some great lines, a fun concept, and never, ever takes itself too seriously.

There’s some wonderful character actors popping up through out the film as well, including Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Ariana Richards, Bibi Besch and Victor Wong.

Earl and Valentine (Ward and Bacon) often solve problems by rock, paper, scissors and always have a plan… “Run for it? Running’s not a plan! Running’s what you do, once a plan fails!”

Underworld (2003) – Vampires versus werewolves? Ok. Kate Beckinsale in leather and latex with guns blazing… SOLD!

This is one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies, and with monster versus monster it seems like a perfect Halloween movie.

And did I mention the Kate Beckinsale part?

But not only that, it also has Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen as well, and those two actors are always fantastic.

The fight sequences are great, and it’s cool to see two classic monsters go up against each other… “Whether you like it or not, you’re in the middle of a war that has been raging for the better part of a thousand years. A blood feud between vampires and lycans. Werewolves.”

Or you could just watch some classic episodes of The Twilight Zone (1959 – 1964).

Rod Serling’s fantastc creation brings you odd, and unusual stories, strange creatures, twist endings, UFOs, aliens, monsters, sounds like a perfect Halloween to me.

There’s a door up ahead… “You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.”

What will you be watching?

Toronto After Dark – After – Ryan Smith

Take a little of the small town spook of Stephen King, a splash of dark scare of Clive Barker and a dose of the magic and wonder of Amblin era Steven Spielberg and you may have a general idea of what to expect from Toronto After Dark’s presentation of After.
Ana (Karolina Wydra) and Freddy (Steven Strait) are on the way back to their hometown of Pearl, two strangers who meet on a bus.

But an accident strikes and the next thing they know is that they wake up in their respective beds and quickly find that not only is the town deserted, but the entire town is encircled by a closing wall of cloud and a dark storm beyond.

Through memories that bring the town back to life around them we learn that the two of them have been brushing up against one another for their entire lives.

But the memories that they are reliving and the darkness of the clouds around them, as well as what it contains all hold the key to what is going on, and how to get out.

Now while the film may not have the emotional resonance of some of Spielberg’s work there is a magic to it that makes it worth embracing as our two characters work together, helping one another survive.

The reveal of what is actually going on is revealed fairly early on, which is nice. It then allows us to wonder about all the other things we are seeing, the chained monster, the massive door with the floor covered in keys, the all-encompassing darkness of the storm and the gold-hued memories that tie Freddy, a comic book artist, and Ana, a nurse, so inextricably together.

The creature and visual effects work brilliantly within the context of the film, as does the lighting, as the storm grows closer everything gets darker but for the revisited memories which are always given a nostalgic gold hue.

Smith has crafted a blanket to wrap yourself up in and share with others. It shows how the events, people and things in our lives create not only us, but the delicate and dreamlike balance of hope, fear, love and redemption that is life.

After is a magic film that was a welcome addition to the Toronto After Dark line up, I feel kind of terrible, because none of them have let me down yet, though I did feel Universal Soldier, but for the action sequences was a bit of a disappointment.

You can find more After here, on Facebook, on Twitter and their official site.