Sunday, October 28, 2012

Movie Review: Silent Hill Revelation

 For whatever reason, we all always associate October with scary movies.  Halloween is only one day of the month, yet the scares seem to continue for the entire month.  If you ask me, December should be a month for horror movies, or maybe February.  In what will be the final horror movie for me this month, I saw Silent Hill yesterday.  I didn’t have high expectations, the first movie was only okay, a slight image of the fantastic gaming series, but the sequel didn’t add much to the storied franchise.

The story follows Sharon, the daughter from the first movie who was returned to her father, her mother being lost within Silent Hill.  As per any horror movie, she moves to a new school, meets a new friend and loses her father all in one day.  Her father is taken by those from Silent Hill, knowing they need her to return to get out of their self-inflicted purgatory.  Sharon travels back to Silent Hill with her new friend Vincent, who she quickly discovers is someone from Silent Hill, but wants to help her, not harm her.  Once they get to Silent Hill, all kinds of crazy, scary things happen.  Unlike the other two horror movies I saw this month, none of it fazed me.

The story was utterly forgettable, the ideas unoriginal and uninspired.  What has turned into an annual occurrence for Resident Evil to be a fun movie, is not nearly as interesting for Silent Hill.  I liked the references to the game, and there were quite a few, the story just seemed stale.  The idea of Silent Hill is about disturbing reveals and terrifying environment, neither of these things occurred in this movie.  From the very beginning, I was unimpressed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Sean Bean fan, but his American accent is just comical.  I found it distracting from the moment he opened his mouth and couldn’t stop being distracted by it.  He just seemed out of place in what I can only describe as a ‘B’ movie.  What makes Resident Evil so interesting is the star power from Milla Jovovich, whereas Silent Hill has no such power and thus no charisma or draw.  The Michelle Williams look-a-like, Adelaide Clemens, was good, but not great.  I missed Radha Mitchell.  She was the perfect protagonist from the original movie, and as per most Silent Hill stories, you rarely identify with Alessa, but as someone being sucked into the lore of Silent Hill.  Of the three horror movies I’ve seen this month, this is one you can absolutely skip.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Supernatural Spotlight: Bitten

Remember those episode spotlights I did for a while last year?  Well, after watching last night’s episode of Supernatural (read SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen it), I feel compelled to pick it up again.  Remember, this ep aired last night here in the states, so if you’re not caught up with SPN Season 8, then please stop reading so you don’t curse me out later.

In this episode, as summarised perfectly at, the story starts as a ‘found’ footage story, a la Paranormal Activity or Blair Witch Project.  We’ve only seen the series do this once with Ghostfacers, but the end result was still pretty amazing.  The story follows three friends, one who is the geeky, timid kid with the cameras, the other is his suave friend and his girlfriend.  As per any episode of Supernatural, there are demons and murder and a good deal of gore.  It would be impossible for me not to spoil the ending without saying why the episode was so affecting, but I’ll do my best to gloss over the details.

While following a local bully, the two friends get separated, one of them attacked by a mysterious creature.  The other friend finds him and takes him home.  Once home, the cuts miraculously heal, and he’s stronger after the attack.  While this is occurring, the Winchester brothers are investigating the story, unaware of the constant filming.  Many long-time SPN fans dislike the minimisation of the Winchester boys, but it actually makes for great storytelling.

As the one friend grows stronger, and somewhat inadvertently kills the bully, the geeky friend decides he wants this power as well.  A scuffle ensues and while the one friend just wants to leave well enough alone, the geeky friend won’t have it and they both become infected with being purebred werewolves.  As insane as this story is, the twist comes with the discovery of the main werewolf and how the video was left for the two brothers to find later.  The big reveal has the girlfriend alive, the only one to survive.  If you’re a fan of SPN at all, you know Dean is known for never letting anything get away.  But in a surprise twist, Dean agrees with Sam, and they decide to give the girl a chance instead of hunting her down.

I’ll be the first to admit that this show screams ‘jumped the shark’ with every other episode, but in this one, they got it right.  The idea for SPN has grown stale, they keep hunting the same demons, trying to defeat Lucifer, trying to defeat whatever the writers can come up with.  But in this episode, you see a lot of character and heart and a story that makes you feel badly for the victim who ultimately is a monster herself.  The girl leaves a pleading message, begging the brothers not to hunt her down, and as per maybe one or two other instances, they let her go.

The draw for Supernatural (SPN) isn’t the scares, but the characters, something that makes Bones never feel old to me.  Just a few weeks ago, I was so bored with an episode of SPN I couldn’t sit still, flipping through games (though, I could also blame the NLCS for being too exciting).  I wish the writers would focus more on compelling characters instead of making bigger, meaner baddies for the boys to fight.  It is rare to see one good episode a year, anymore, but if you only watch one new SPN ep this year, let it be this one.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity 4

If you’re still reading this blog, then you know I tend to watch an awful lot of scary movies, despite the fact that I am a scaredy cat, proudly confessed!  Last week, Sinister had me on pins and needles throughout, with this latest sequel for Paranormal Activity, I may have covered my eyes more often than not, I still didn’t feel petrified.

Paranormal Activity 4 picks up where Paranormal Activity 2 left off.  Katie has absconded with her nephew and she is taken to the hospital was soon as the movie begins.  The boy staying with him is forced to stay across the street with the neighbours and all kinds of strange things begin to happen.  The ‘twist’ in the movie did take me by surprise, but the family that is haunted is truly unknowing of their peril until it is far too late.  The movie follows the oldest daughter as she keeps her webcam on her laptop and phone on at all times, and gets her boyfriend to assist with turning the cameras on all the computers in the house and XBOX.

The beauty of good horror movies is that they make you feel comfortable and then tear that feeling away with reckless abandon.  What the original Paranormal Activity accomplished was to deliver a true ‘home movie’ style movie made famous by Blair Witch Project.  In the first sequel, the story delves deeper into the lore, following the events that occurred prior to the first movie, showing why the demon was following the one sister so suddenly.  The story ties between the first two movies were delivered well. In the third movie, the story flashes back to the two sisters’ childhood and the origin of their ‘friend’ and his connexion to the family.  The ending of the fourth movie lent itself well to the ending of the fourth movie, but at long last, the scares have finally become stale.

I was scared, don’t get me wrong.  But I didn’t find the story nearly as compelling, despite some very believable performances from some young actors.  The idea that the demon keeps haunting people stunts the overall story.  I understand that the endings can’t be ‘good,’ but by the same token, there has to be some end in sight, and yet again, there is none.  I respect what the franchise has accomplished, but for me, this might be my last time going.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Movie Review: Sinister

Rarely does a horror movie deliver scares from start to finish, forcing me to cover my eyes for extended sequences.  The story of Sinister is, honestly, nothing new.  Many a famous writer has gone down this path, but yet the writers made this story seem fresh.  Writer Ellison Oswalt, played perfectly by Ethan Hawke, is struggling to write another break-out novel.  Ten years after his only real hit, Oswalt moves his family to a small town into a house that previously had a murder in it.  His only really successful book was a true crime novel and he decides to track down another unsolved crime.  As they arrive into town, the sheriff greats him, telling him to move along and not paint the town in a bad light.  He ignores this advice and begins to set his office up.  Putting their boxes away, he finds a box left in the attic, one they did not bring.  Part of his method is to delve into every last detail, and he happily jumps into the home movies, made on the old school film, not even VHS, but actual film.

The home movies reveal the actual footage of the deaths of the previous occupants.  Instead of sharing this information with his wife, or two kids, he hides it, resorting to drinking.  As the days pass, more and more strange things occur.  The videos are disjointed, each one as much as several decades apart.  Each film depicts the way the family was killed, one child missing in each one.  Oswalt studies each one, getting assistance from a local deputy who investigates the locations of the murders that are nondescript.  The second time he views the films, he notices a face in the woods of the first film, the one taken outside of the family’s new house.  The face is out of focus, and as he gets up to take a close look, the film catches fire.  Thankfully, Google gives him a way to salvage the super 8 film and he gets a blurry shot of the man, if you can call him that.  At this point he gets some good advice from the local deputy and connects with a local professor to provide some backstory to the person.

The replay of each film proves the man can be seen in almost each one, or a strange symbol recurring.  While this is going on, he encounters various strange things, including a few vermin and a large dog.  During one particularly scary sequence, he hears sounds, but as the viewer, we see the missing children running through the house.  It isn’t until the scares amp up that Oswalt finally realises he has involved his family in.  With a light of the film, he barks at his wife to pack the kids and they leave.  As per all movies from the studios that brought Paranormal Activity, the story doesn’t end there.  Unfortunately, once seen a first time, the entity never truly leaves you.  The end is as chilling as the films of the gruesome deaths.  The only thing more affecting would be seeing the next family to be embroiled into the horror.

Hawke was truly magnificent in this movie.  As a has-been author, Hawke possessed the tenacity to not realise when the story had become all too real, and still endangered everyone he loved to regain some of his past fame.  The supporting cast was mediocre, at best.  The daughter was more believable than the other two main characters.  The deputy and sheriff were both played very entertainingly, as well as the professor through a web came.  The focus of the film is Ethan Hawke and I have to admit, he was really fantastic in the role.  The story itself was terrifying.  I can’t say what made me so scared, save the face of the thing that was haunting, but the scares came in quick succession, the music perfectly setting up each new scare.  The use of light in the movie made things jumping out more obvious, yet I still couldn’t look away.  Surprisingly, I am still kind of scared, and I saw this movie at 10.30 this morning and it is almost 6.30 in the evening.  I rarely see scary movies that actually scare me well after the fact, but this was one of them.  If you want to be scared, this movie will do that and more.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Movie Review: Perks of Being a Wallflower

If you’ve been under a rock, or don’t watch MTV at all, then you may be utterly unfamiliar with this movie.  I first heard about it as the ‘next big’ movie of one of the former Harry Potter stars.  After going being sure to catch Dan Rad’s first outing, a mediocre horror film, Lady in Black, and seeing the recent Tom Felton entry, Apparition, I thought, let’s go for the trifecta and see Emma Watson’s latest entry in the post-Potter mania.

Perks of Being a Wallflower follows troubled freshmen Charlie, played occasionally well by Logan Lerman, as he copes with missing a year of school and dealing with general teenage awkwardness.  Charlie writes letters throughout the book this movie is based on, the sole vehicle of communication for Charlie in the movie and the narrator.  The book plays the angle well, but leaves much out, the movie leaves even more out.  Charlie has two siblings, one away at college, the other there at home with him and his two parents.  His first few days of high school are not great, but his English teacher, played wonderfully by Paul Rudd, takes a shine to him and sees him as the intelligent kid he is.  During shop class he meets the perfectly cast Patrick, played by Ezra Miller.  Patrick befriends Charlie and introduces him to a world he never knew, including Patrick’s gorgeous sister, played by Emma Watson.

The three go through the school year together, Charlie being several years younger than them and feeling the burn of the separation as the year continues.  Charlie has a crush on Sam, Patrick’s sister, but ends up dating their friend, Mary Elizabeth.  The relationship doesn’t end well and Charlie begins to backslide into bad habits.  As Sam is about to leave for college, Charlie has a huge revelation and realises that his late Aunt Ellen did things to him that he had repressed.

The story is romantic, in a way, but I didn’t find it terribly original.  Many of my friends revered this book, raving about how it had gotten them through tough times and dealing with growing up.  And while I can certainly appreciate how a novel like this can be so affecting, but both the movie and the book left me uninspired.  I didn’t feel better or worse, it just was and shortly thereafter, I forgot it.  Maybe it’s because my friends weren’t drinkers, didn’t do drugs or any of the things the main characters did in the story, so it made it impossible to relate to for me.

At times, the casting was pitch perfect, at other times, less so.  I expected to come out of the movie in awe of Lerman and Watson, but neither shined all that much.  Lerman seemed tentative at all times, as if he were afraid to grasp the role fully, allow his inhibitions to truly go.  I was never convinced that he was troubled, just socially awkward.  Watson is stunning, but when I read the book, the description of Sam was more towards promiscuity than beauty.  While her looks can’t be argued, I expected to see a huge leap forward with this role and didn’t quite see it.  Maybe my expectations were too high, but even Radcliffe seemed more in tune with his role in Lady in Black, and even Felton was better in Apparition.  I just felt unimpressed by her performance and didn’t see any aspect of Sam, but just a watered down, bad ass version of Hermione.  Also, the eyebrow moniker that she has can’t quite be shirked, but she’s getting closer.  Like Lerman, I felt like Watson shied away from the difficult scenes, which were practically every other scene in the movie.  Of the three, Miller was the show-stopper.  He had a quiet hilariousness to his actions and made the character of Patrick come to life.

One thing that frustrated me greatly was the misuse of the amazing cast. I would have loved to see the scene of Candace having the abortion in the movie, as Nina Dobrev was surprisingly convincing as the older sister of the troubled Charlie.  Her best scenes were towards the end of the movie, but were just wonderful.  The adults were perfect, Paul Rudd as the caring teacher, Dylan McDermott as the concerned father and Joan Cusack as the doctor at the very end, all well cast and well played.

Despite the rave reviews, I can’t honestly recommend this movie to anyone. If you liked the book, and God love you, then go see the movie.  If you didn’t, then this might be a rental or a wait for on TV. The subject content isn’t for kids under 18, if you ask me honestly, given the sex, drugs, drinking and sexual abuse, but the story can be touching for those in the younger age bracket.  I’m just glad not to be a parent to opt to take, or not, my kid to this type of movie.  The movie itself was well-made, but I noticed the author of the book also directed the movie and it made me wonder if someone with more experience could have guided the two young stars better with the challenging source material.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Digital Revolution

In this day and age, everything is going digital, the world paperless in the oncoming environment awareness.  I was surprised, and disappointed, to see that all three teams I have season tickets for are partaking in this action, abandoning the tradition of paper tickets, authentic pieces of memorabilia and nostalgia.

In the spring, the Washington Nationals sent a letter to all Season Ticket Holders (STH).  Enclosed in the letter were red cards, non-descript, with the STH’s name and account number.  This was to be the ‘ticket’ of the future.  No more would we have to fumble with paper tickets, mistaking one for the other or losing or misplacing them.  No, now we would have this cards, little more than hotel key cards, that counted for our several thousand dollar purchase.  When I saw this, I thought it was a joke, the baseball season does start around April 1.  I threw the cards in a pile of other pieces of mail, quickly forgotten.

Fast forward to the middle of September, I receive an e-mail from the Nationals, reminding me that there will be no paper tickets next year, but to use my fake looking hotel key card as a ticket.  This will make it easier for me to attend games, they tell me, because I won’t have to remember those pesky paper tickets.  Imagine my horror and outrage when I get back-to-back e-mails yesterday from the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals telling me they too are going paperless.

I’m a unique case, I know.  I don’t know a lot of people that have three sets of season tickets.  It started out simply enough, I wanted to make sure I had playoff tickets for the Capitals.  When the option to get season tickets opened, I got on the wait list, with three thousand of my closest friends, hoping that I’d get a chance.  I was shocked and, perhaps, overly enthusiastic when I got my chance.  Tickets were going fast, so they said, and I grabbed the first two seats that were next to each other.  That may sound odd, but they did try to sell me tickets that were in front of one another.  Sounds like the perfect date night, right?  Luckily, I got seats in the VIP section Acela Club, comes with food and a parking pass.  Great deal?  Absolutely.  At upwards of $15,000 a year, not all that manageable to pay solo, so I had to think outside the box.

I’m a top-rated power seller on e-bay, and while there is the option to use Ticketmaster and its exorbitant fees (I’ll revisit this later), I knew I could make more money selling the tickets I couldn’t use on my own.  Is this a violation of my ticket contract with the Capitals?  I asked this to my rep and the answer I got was no, as long as the people using the seats never got thrown out.  This leads me to a very important conclusion, the seats, the tickets, are mine, to do with as I please, not to abuse them, but sell or give them away as I see fit.

The first year I had the Capitals tickets, I lost in excess of $4000 of my own money because I couldn’t sell more than half of the tickets and was unwilling to let them go to waste, so I attended far more games than I meant to.  The following year, Ticketmaster adjusted their online rules slightly, but the best place to sell was still on e-bay, Craigslist or the like.  I found a great buyer last year and didn’t lose money until I got to the playoffs.  This may surprise some of you, but people actually don’t want to pay the cost of tickets for playoff games.  It makes me nervous as I try to sell my Nationals playoff tickets.

So what does all this mean?  Long story short, and it’s too long already, I know, I pay a premium for my season tickets and should be able to use them however I deem.

According to the teams, the new digital tickets will be easier to use.  I’m not sure what they base this off of, but in an e-mail from the Wizards, they want so far as to claim that should you forget your tickets or pull the wrong ones out of the ticket book, now you don’t have to worry.  My counterpoint to this is, if you’re that stupid that you can’t see what game you’re going to and what day of the week it is, you have other issues and probably shouldn’t be spending in excess of $3000 on tickets, and that’s on the low end.

According to the teams, the plastic hotel card is superior to paper tickets.  This one I can’t even begin to understand.  I sat next to a father and son the day Edwin Jackson pitched a complete game (in April) and they had season tickets.  The look on the kids face as he stared at the authentic piece of memorabilia was priceless.  Do you remember your first time at a game or concert?  Do you still have the ticket stub?  I do.  I keep all my ticket stubs, I love the look and feel of them, the care taken in the picture selection, all of it.  Maybe I’m old school, maybe I’m out of touch, but to me, the season ticket holder should be set apart from the rest of the people, having something unique that makes their tickets (not hotel cards) something special and unique.

According to the teams, this change to digital tickets is included in the price we already pay.  Great, so where’s the money I’m paying for the paper tickets?  I know it’s hidden under a by-line in the contract telling me I have no rights, but if you’re charging me for paper tickets or digital tickets, shouldn’t I get to choose?  My season ticket prices have never decreased, not even once, and yet somehow, they’re saving money, no doubt, on the new digital ticket, but am I seeing that savings?  Of course not, that’s absurd.  If you’re going to charge me for my tickets, then give me the paper tickets.

According to the teams, this will be the exact same thing as having real paper tickets from the ticket book.  I’m running out of words to describe the complete idiocy and disrespect exhibited here.  According to the Nationals, Wizards and Capitals, if I print a piece of paper from my computer, with a bar code and a logo of the team, that’s somehow the same as the hard plastic tickets or the cardboard ones I receive in the mail?  When I got my first set of season tickets, only a few years ago, I was awed and humbled by how eye-catching they were, how they made me, as an attendee, feel like I was someone special, because I was in the vaunted group of season ticket holder.  Not everyone can afford it, most don’t care, I agree, but there are many of us that do.  There are games I attend, and I see Caps fans with dozens of pins in their hat or on their lanyard, each pin indicating another year they were a Season Ticket Holder.  In all their brilliance and glory, the teams are taking this right away.  No longer will we have any special ticket to place in the lanyard around our necks.  No, I can print a piece of paper from my computer and somehow that’s the exact same thing.  I may not be a genius, but I’m not that stupid either.

Finally, and this is really all I have left.  If you insist on taking our money, money we paid for paper tickets, at least let us choose to get the paper or digital version.  If that isn’t amenable, as teams are rarely amenable or even willing to listen to their consumers, then how about this: I will pay the $300 or so that it probably costs you for my paper tickets.  Isn’t that a fair deal?  Isn’t that what you want?  As teams, you aren’t providing a service now, are you, you’re taking our money, so if we offer more money, you’ll certainly take it, won’t you? 

To advertise tickets and not actually provide any physical tickets is laughable and deplorable.  I expected to be treated better for paying $3000+ for Wizards tickets, $12000+ for 2 years with the Nationals and $50000+ for the Capitals for 3 years.  This is a sobering reminder to all of us, corporate America is just that.  The concerns of the ‘little’ people who support big business are meaningless.  As long as they get our money, it makes no difference.  Someone else will come along and pay and they’ll win.

If you are a season ticket holder to any of the above teams and are as upset by this change as I am, please, please e-mail your guest service representative immediately.  They are not responsible for the change, but they are the only ones that can let our voices be heard.  I’ve tweeted at Ted Leonisis and gotten no response, and expect the same from those at that level, but as a group, we can protest and hope that perhaps, by the time the season begins for the NHL at least (next season), maybe we can get what we paid for.