San Diego Film Week presents ‘A Life Lived’: For Love or Money?

Posted in comedy, drama, Movies, Romance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Riley Wood

Studio: Not A Camel Productions

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

The journey of a single dollar bill and the lives it affects, inadvertently and directly, along the way.

We as collective humans have more in common with each-other than most of us ever realize, or are willing to admit in some nasty cases. We all covet and desire, love and hate and all kinds of emotions betwixt and between, torn between responsibility and the need to just say, “Screw it all!” Our actions, and occasionally the very lack of acting, ripple-affects those in our lives, and sometimes even outside or our sphere of awareness, in ways we can’t possibly begin to fathom, but are endlessly fascinating to ruminate upon. And it is this circular unknowing that A Life Lived dives into, presenting the journey of a dollar bill with a heart on it for our perusal.

One wouldn’t think that a man who had dumped his wife and gotten a brand-new upgraded girlfriend who need to pay for his sex elsewhere, but there you have it. Our first protagonist went to get change for a $20 from the grocery store and the adorkable eternally smiling cashier was not only super-duper extra-nice to him, she drew a heart on one of the dollar bills. This is of course how we know that it’s that particular dollar bill we’re following, but hey, that works for me. And not too much later, when he decides to go get his rocks off with a motel Dominatrix, that’s where the hearted dollar bill ends up.

We follow the heart to a botched robbery of a convenience store; Tom’s wife is dying, his insurance has run out, and he’s been nerving himself to rob in full view of the store for hours. In trying to be nice and let Tom off with a minor infraction, the store clerk actually made it worse for him, but there are still some avenging angels in the police force, and a certain Mr. Jackson pockets the hearted bill in an actual theft for a genuinely good cause.

We follow the heart unerringly through a thievery sleepover, a cocaine slide from whacked-out performer Dixx, the revenge of Dixx’s assistant and her attempt to break the 4th wall inside the movie, the plight of homeless George, a disgusting attempt at sexual coercion when the bill goes “missing” from a diner till, and finally Delby Madison gets a lawyerly consultation fee from Peter, Tom’s brother, for, you guessed it, a single dollar bill with a heart on it.

We’ve come round to the end, at least the end of this bill’s particular journey, and as many journeys do, this one ends in death. The death of Tom’s beloved wife Martha, yes, but he was sprung from jail in enough time to say goodbye to her, in tears and lamentations and perhaps even a little relief that her pain had finally come to an end. Tom will have to do some time in jail, but it’s likely to be very little, and he’s allowed some extra time off for the funeral and a night of mourning after. As Tom sits and ruminates over a life he lived, with Martha, and now the life he may have to live without her, he needs some way to light the very fine Cuban cigar his brother gifted him. Wooden matches aren’t doing it. And then, finally, Tom’s eyes fall on the dollar bill with a heart drawn on it that made its way back to him – a fitting end for the life lived of that one single solitary dollar bill.

Of course there is a wonderful little easter egg after that, we see the morning routine of the kooky cat lady grocery store clerk, as she prepares to be eternally cheerful and smiling no matter what comes her way, and always and forever drawing random hearts on peoples single dollar bills. What lives will these bills lead, how will they cross us in unsuspecting ways and bring us together, or apart, depending on the choices made with these little green pieces of paper that can move the world?

After the showing of the film, which I greatly enjoyed, there was a Q&A session with filmmaker and director Riley Wood, who delightedly told me about more easter eggs and tidbits to be found in A Life Lived. Such as the number 13 myth, referencing the original 13 colonies and said to be found hiding all over in our currency, connecting to all sorts of mysticism and ancient secret socities; director Wood subtly inserted the number 13 in many places in the film. Wood confirmed that the cocaine legend was indeed inserted into the film, for it is after all part of the dollars own legend, and that every named character in the film was named from a person somewhere on U.S. currency (Jackson, Jefferson, etc.). And lastly, Wood talked about giving each of the main characters a few moments alone in their vehicle as a spotlight into their heads, because every one of us is at least a slightly different person when we’re alone in our car.

The film is still working on distribution rights, but believe me when I say it is a delightfully heart-strung romp and should be viewed whenever possible.

A Life Lived Trailer from Riley Wood on Vimeo.

‘Sadako vs. Kayako’: Now there’s a twist we didn’t see coming

Posted in Action, Foreign, horror, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Spoilers haunt your everything!

Most of us of the Horror fan world are aware of the huge J-Horror craze that went out years back, the triple threat of the films Ringu, Ju-On, and The Eye had everyone talking. And if there’s one thing the U.S. does well, or at least a lot of, is remakes. The Americanized The Ring, The Grudge and the controversial The Eye, spawned a new generation of Horror remakes, often touted as nothing other than huge epic American loving tributes, riiight, to some wildly popular Asian film. This actually turned out to be unfortunate for the American Horror market, as the remake has literally been done to death now, and many of us are heartily sick of it. Horror is the one place in the movie-making world with literally no boundaries – fear is, after all, one of the most basic human instincts. So imagine my surprise when Sadako vs. Kayako turns out to be the exact same thing, but from the opposite direction – an Asian version of the highly notable hugely popular American mashup film Freddy vs. Jason.

Generally from mashup films, at least from American ones, you can expect a certain zany feel and some comedy somewhere, and SvK struggles with that concept, because there’s never been a thing funny about either of their origin stories or subsequent films. There are a few wacky moments, mostly from the flippant priest Keizo, but of comedy there can be easily said none. But that’s not what made Ringu and Ju-On great, right?

So what do we know? The Professor in the movie, Morishige (Masahiro Komoto), teaching an urban legends class (how many of them did you know?) reminds us briefly of the origins of Kayako (Runa Endo), the rage house, a cursed house with the cat child and the contortionist ghost his mother, with her ever-creepy iconic door-closing moan, yes them. But he prefers to focus rather on the story of Sadako (Elly Nanami) and the cursed video tape, hell, he even wrote an entire book on the subject and blatantly entices students to purchase and read it during his lecture. Sadako and the cursed video, she comes from the well and shadow walks out of your television to execute those who don’t do her bidding in two days’ time, often in the most horrific way unimaginable.

Okay, so we’ve introduced the wise character who knows all about one of our opponents, now what? This seemingly-random mess begins with college student Natsumi (Aimi Satsukawa) asking her friend Yuri (Mizuki Yamamoto) for help with transferring her parents old wedding VCR tape to a DVD. No-one uses VCR players anymore, so they have to go to a used shop to find a deck, and sure enough, an unlabeled tattered older video sits in it already.

Meanwhile elsewhere, Suzuka (Tina Tamashiro) is silent because her family had to move recently and the house across the way, well damnit, it’s all condemned and boarded up and calls to Suzuka in the creepiest way. These moron children, wanting to rag on the runt of the group who somehow insulted their leader, send him in to the condemned house with a backpack full of rocks, and I bet you can guess how that turned out. Actually, wait. I guess we could say we found one, rather unintentional it seems, moment of humor in Sadako vs. Kayako – the small boy, insulted and put upon, trembling with borrowed rage from the cursed house, as he unerringly lobs a rock into the center of the forehead of the leader – POW.

This is kind of fast but we need to pick up the pace if we want to have origin story, current bloodshed and Sadako and Kayako duking it out in here somewhere too. Only Natsumi ended up watching the cursed video, Yuri was watching her phone, okay, sure. This becomes important later, because her voluntary sacrifice is supposed to give her more power or purity of purpose or something, I’m guessing. So Natsumis on the clock, now we’ve infected the Professor, he wants to send the girls to a Japanese onmyouji, or exorcist priest, to see if she can get the ghost now haunting Natsumi out. This is something I failed to understand, since I never thought Sadako ever tried to eat another person, Kayako did that – cursed video woman would literally frighten you to death and that was all. (However, the latest Americanized version of the Ring legacy, Rings, does address this very issue, so maybe that’s another tribute.) Doesn’t matter, onward we go!

The exorcism scene is one of the better ones of the movie, and it does get darkly wacky when Sadako rises in Natsumis body and proceeds to just wreak bloody fucking havoc with her own two bare hands. After the execution of the poor exorcist too, we’re introduced to mischievous priest Keizo (Masanobu Ando) and his little blind red assistant Tamao (Mai Kikuchi), who, for all his saucy attitude, rather reminded me of Constantine from the TV show. This is another bastardized American tribute kind of thing, because for all his bluster, just like Constantine, Keizo is still a completely competent priest and quite capable of performing exorcisms and planning to trap ghosts, all the while ready with a quick quip that makes you feel about five for asking such a question. And with the help of little red blinding hood there, Keizo hatches a daring plan – pit Sadako and Kayako against each-other in the ultimate ghost-off that will hopefully cancel out all the curses being lobbed everywhere.

This plan, too, is a very American thing to do; I can’t help thinking that Asian spirit folklore honestly wouldn’t have room for this sort of out-of-the-box thinking. And hey, it turns out that out behind the Grudge house is a disused well, what a coincidence, which Keizo and pals prepare for use as a last resort trap, just in case. Here I get to remind us the audience that Freddy vs. Jason did the same exact thing, learn the baddies origin stories and attempt to use the environment against them, and that didn’t turn out particularly stellar for them, either.

So we’ve come down to the wire and the attempt to trap a pair of ghosts that have long-spanning legacies and a string of movies to attest to this. Suzuka and Yuri will enter the Grudge house and play the cursed tape inside, thereby squaring and sharing the curses between both of them, in the hopes that when the two baddest wraith mommas come for their collective prizes, they’ll be too preoccupied fighting each-other to care much about their prey escaping. But it’s not working and Keizo proceeds to announce very calmly that one of them needs to sacrifice herself so Sadako and Kayako can merge together in her inhabited body. Think about that for a moment – these killing spirits, these onryo yurei, are going to slam together, mix their incredible power, and then eat and inhabit her living body. ‘Oh shit,’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

This brand new entity, the utter twist of Sadako and Kayako merging, is now apparently called Sadakaya and for the most part (to me anyway) Kayako looks the most dominant in the equation. That iconic noise and the contortions, plus the prehensile hair Sadako is noted for, proceed to flat dominate Keizo and his magic, and even the blessed and sealed well can’t stop Sadakaya (also Mizuki Yamamoto) now. Everyone’s dead, or about to be disappeared-dead like they do in Ju-On, the cursed women have merged and have a brand new young body to inhabit and wreak havoc with, and a new generation of fear can be born. There’s even an easter egg way at the end of the credits, much in the style of the severed Freddy-head wink, so make of that what you will.

For something that began life as an April Fool’s joke, the fan response to Sadako vs. Kayako has been as encouraging as possible. It’s hard to do the enduring legacy of both movies justice in one mashup film, but I think director Koji Shiraishi made a fine attempt. Did he succeed? Only you can tell me if Sadakaya is the ultimate curse.

You can twist in the mashup of Sadako vs. Kayako on Shudder.com right now!

‘Trash Fire’: All in the Family fault

Posted in drama, horror, Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Richard Bates Jr.

Studio: Circle of Confusion

MPAA Rating: R

Review Rating: 6.5 out of 10

So Owen (Adrien Grenier) just seems like a flat-out asshole. I mean, yes, he’s bulimic and apparently clinically depressed, but his strained relationship with girlfriend Isabel (Angela Trimbur) doesn’t appear to be helping either one of them become a better person. Attempts at couples therapy don’t do squat, and I swear the first thirty minutes of the movie is just Owen being an asshat to everyone he interacts with, but primarily Isabel. Then Isabel tells him she’s pregnant, and things change rather abruptly.

Far as I can tell, every single last one of Owen’s issues seem to stem from the troubles of his past, wherein a horrendous house fire killed both his parents and caused burn scars on eighty percent of his sister Pearl’s (AnnaLynne McCord) body. She now lives with Owen’s crazy religious fundamentalist grandmother Violet (Fionnula Flanagan), and the two of them seem content to hide from the world and snipe at each-other for the rest of their existence. But then Owen and Isabel make the momentous decision to, despite their misgivings about each-other, keep the baby and attempt to raise it together, so Owen decides he needs to reconnect with what’s left of his family and maybe get some answers as to why he’s so screwed up.

Grandma Violet seems like a fairly standard racist religious nut, most of us have at least one in our own families, and she sure doesn’t welcome Isabel with open arms, especially after hearing of the pregnancy. As far as Grandma believed, Owen couldn’t have children, and taking Pearl entirely out of the equation, that meant this cursed family line would die with him. It isn’t until she primly puts on blacks like she’s going to a funeral and has her own confession in the office of her priest, that we realize the depths of how fucked up Grandma really is. I personally would’ve liked to have seen more flashbacks of the rather threatening confession Grandma gives, more the of the killing fire that led to and from all this madness, but somehow this perfectly-real setting and entirely possible story makes it all that more quietly creepy. And yes, there is a Grandma masturbation scene too, you were warned.

Owen does seem to genuinely care for Pearl, and wants desperately to talk with her and gain her forgiveness before he and Isabel depart Grandma’s house. Forgiveness for what, you might ask? It’s not terribly hard to convince a child that he did something horribly terribly wrong and then blame him for it forever afterward, but that also means Pearl blames him for her face and body aftermath too. Isabel tries to make friends with Pearl and about halfway succeeds, I guess, given that the sister has her own psychosis to deal with.

So where does all this quiet menace and murder attempts and buried secrets leave us? With a dark night of confrontation, shotgun blasts from a pair of surprising hands, and far too many blood splashes on the walls. Being an asshat does not qualify Owen for the killing list, but I guess it’s true his family really is cursed – at least on the women’s side.

Guard your sleeves from the Trash Fire on Netflix!

‘Legion’ Premiere: It’s all in your head, dear

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

So any geek and nerd out there worth their salt has at least heard of the X-Men by now, right? Long-running comic books, several animated TV shows, plus multiple movies with even more offshoot films that sprung from them; yes, we all know the multiple mutants who wear the X in a circle and fight for their freedoms for our glorious entertainment. This new show, Legion, bears the X in a circle on the O in the title, but after that rather psychotic premiere, I’m betting some of you are still wondering why. So let’s clear up a few things before getting to the main event.

Spoilers mutate everywhere!

David Haller (Dan Stevens) is the son of Charles Xavier, you heard me right, Professor X himself, and yes, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a very young age. Of course, any child of the Professor is likely to have all kinds of mental issues, considering it’s entirely possible that he’s inherited not only all of his fathers mutant gifts, but without knowing who David’s mother is, it’s also way possible his powers surpass that of his fathers. For those of you who are longtime fans of the X-Men, knowing how much the Professor suffered in his far-too-long life, the idea that David could be more powerful than Xavier should be very scary indeed.

When we catch up with David as a semi-adult he’s already had plenty of problems with mutant powers as a child, and now he’s gotten himself landed in the nut-nut factory, I mean, psychiatric hospital. His powers are manifesting whether he likes it or not, and while some of the hospital staff are trying to convince him that he’s mentally ill and that’s all, only that and nothing more, the arrival of David’s dream girl Sydney Barrett throws things into further disarray.

“Dream girl” is an interesting way to introduce Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller), for she could just be another of David’s hallucinations, or not, the show is given us in such a hysterical mental light that initially, it’s hard to tell if Syd is even really-real. She posits that perhaps the patients problems aren’t actually in their collective heads, and what if they aren’t even problems at all? Mutant powers manifesting in the 70’s can certainly seem that way. (That’s another thing of note: David seems to age incredibly slowly, but we’ll come back to that potential why in a bit.) Syd doesn’t like to be touched, despite agreeing to be David’s girlfriend in this kind of oddly loving relationship without any physical contact of any kind. And while such a thing is, I think, certainly possible, it raises all sorts of interesting thoughts and questions about how we relate to each-other without any physical contact.

So the timeline, while never really understandable already, now gets very confuddled, as all sorts of strange things begin happening to and around David in the hospital, including visions of what he calls “the demon with yellow eyes”. These other interrogators who are asking David about his time in the hospital are incredibly leery of his entire presence, but they do seem to actually exist and as far as we can tell, the guards that most definitely aren’t cops who mutter about David being potentially the most powerful mutant on the planet, are telling the truth. But that’s all up for debate, because here is where we speculate on who the demon with yellow eyes could possibly be.

Noting reality-changing abilities and yellow eyes, my first thought as to who the demon could be, was Dark Phoenix. But the current best theory I’ve heard ‘round the internet is that the squat, yellow demon creampuff with the topaz eyes is Mojo, an 80’s era X-Men villain dictator who rules his own pocket universe called, obviously, the Mojoverse. Given the ever-changing reality of the show, both in and outside of itself, and the appearance of the yellow-eyed demon towards the end when David is dubiously rescued by an apparently mutant-friendly group, I choose to call him Mojo for now.

So what else? David did seem to get rescued from his interrogators towards the end of the episode, but how trustworthy his rescuers are and what their hidden motivations are, remains to be seen. The entire introductory episode is like a fever dream, like what it would be like to be living in David’s head, where one is never entirely sure what is really-real and what isn’t, along with seriously scary powers and a desire to be left in peace, all at the same damn time. Showrunner Noah Hawley, creator of the hit FX show Fargo and now Legion, has taken great pains to make the show as different and edgy as possible, while always mindful of aiding the actors to bring forth their greatest performances for his vision. Hawley created a 160-track playlist of experimental sounds, strange mental mood music (Pink Floyd and the like) and such to aid Dan Stevens in his portrayal of David for the show. And the name of David’s girlfriend, Syd Barrett, is an acknowledgement of the full of impact of music on the show’s writing, for Roger “Syd” Barrett is a singer of the rock band Pink Floyd and that makes total sense.

In an era of far far too many superhero shows and movies that are all way too formulaic, Legion is like shooting opium straight into your brain – new, entirely different, dreamlike and beautiful but terrifying in equal measures. FX is already known for being edgy and unusual, here’s hoping the entire season of Legion will have us all chasing the mutant dragon in the same visually hallucinogenic state as the first episode.

Expand your mind with Legion on FX, Wednesdays @ 10/9c!

‘Antibirth’: Drugs are bad, mmk?

Posted in horror, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Danny Perez

Studio: Traverse Media

Review Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Don’t-give-a-shit druggie Lou, after yet another night of wild partying, finds herself pregnant with something possibly out of this world!

Since watching this film I discovered that the director intended it to be looked at as a psychedelic horror flick, and while the dictionary defines “psychedelic” as both having to do with the drug LSD and the trippy kaleidoscopic visions it causes, I don’t recall ever seeing Lou pop LSD in the movie. Sure, she pops everything else she can get her hands on, like a kid in a candy store, but the movie doesn’t get real specific on what the pills being popped are. Which is, actually, I think kind of the point, one of the very few plot points the film actually has.

Like most other contracted-STD horror flicks out now, the very beginning is where Lou (Natasha Lyonne) apparently gets knocked up, and the whole experience is kind of a drugged-out blur trip. Annnd then we cut to Lou and her friend Sadie (Chloe Sevigny) in the nasty-ass trailer Lou sorta lives in, where Lou complains about the mess of her life and endures pregnancy-like symptoms, all while getting high and noshing and generally not changing a single thing about the way she lives. Lou remains this way pretty much through the entire movie, with her give-zero-fucks attitude and near constant abuse of drugs and alcohol, all through the visit to the veterinary friends office for advice, the few hours of “work” at some rundown motel with another druggie friend of hers, and of course the rest of the time spent getting high on one thing or another and complaining.

It’s really hard to keep a linear timeline of whatever the hells going on in this movie, but I gather Lou’s “pregnancy” only lasts about a week or so. We the audience learn that Lou’s dealer Gabriel (Mark Webber) is also Sadie’s boyfriend, and he and his partner Warren have been keeping all sorts of secrets from the both of them. Mostly this newfangled experimental drug that already destroyed the face of one of their many hooker girls, supposedly some kind of hormone supplement that was discontinued but that Gabriel and Warren decided to distribute anyway, and guess who they administered it to.

Little happens as we follow Lou from one drug score and gripe session to the next, until damn near the very end of the movie when suddenly Lou’s stomach and nightmare psychedelic visions go into overdrive. This strange woman, Lorna (Meg Tilly), that Lou met at the motel shows up at the cottage right as Lou’s about to give birth to whatever’s straining in there, but as the mess and the sheer strangeness of it all reaches a fever pitch, these military-like guys in fatigues with big guns show up and shit gets even weirder!

Barely qualifying as a Horror flick, Antibirth rather reminds me as more of a kind of Sci-Fi warning against promiscuity, the taking of virtually any drugs or drinking, and perhaps even a tiny message against the Pro-Lifers stance of all life being sacred and a woman pregnant of rape or incest being forced to carry the baby to birth. There are some fairly good slices of that misunderstood subgenre of Horror, the Body-Horror category, but the big reveal at the end kind of moved away from that in a big hurry. A good deal of the film does indeed sport psychedelic imagery and swirling visions, characterized as a kind of acidic fever dream borne of a woman’s own desire to not be involved in the incredibly messy and, let’s face it, often downright disgusting process of giving birth.

Make sure you wash your hands after catching Antibirth on Netflix!

‘APB’ Premiere: Gave that cop a Cadillac, cops love Cadillacs

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

So Gideon Reeves (Justin Kirk) is a genius engineer with far too much money and time on his hands, and yes, a need for attention. Sound like anyone we’re all familiar with? Comparing Reeves to the likes of Tony Stark is a bit of a stretch, but only a bit of one, because this story doesn’t involve mutants or killer gods or anything like that. Instead we’re introduced to Reeves in much the bombastic way we first met Stark in the movies, with fire and noise and arrogant showmanship, but also a proposed hidden inner core of the desire to do good in the world. So the death of his closest friend and business partner in a convenience store robbery propels Reeves to take his enormous fortune, humble engineering genius and need to see justice brought to Sully’s killer together and do something with all of them.

Then again, marching into a meeting with the Mayor of Chicago and instructing him to give over control of the 13th Police Precinct to Reeves himself, along with actual threats of being ousted out of the Mayors seat entirely, will not earn you any friends or allies. And no-one asked the cops of the 13th their opinion on the entire department getting a multi-million-dollar upgrade, complete with FBI-like computers and screen setups, new body armor and brand new high-powered zap gun to replace the traditional firearms, an oh-so-modern phone App for victims to use, and oh yes, don’t forget the overly-helpful presence of the madman who made it all possible, Gideon Reeves. But that is where we are now, so suck it up buttercup and onward we go to try out all these newfangled gadgets in the field. Hey, the new cars, which happen to be super-powered Cadillac CTS-Vs, are pretty bitchin.

In the real world, how does super-modern technology compare to the straightforward actions of the cops using the stuff? Murphy (Natalie Martinez) is Reeves favorite pick for the cop who’s going to help him find Sully’s murderer, so he gets very nervous while creepily sharing her body-cam movements with the entire precinct. The use of body-cams and drones and all that affords the show the opportunity to do shaky-cam shots and wide angles from other POVs and sure it hammers home the use of all this techno-crap but I just don’t need it. And in the real world for the first time, the techno stuff demonstrates its drawbacks, when the body armor fails and the drone wasn’t prepared for everything. The death of a cop, especially on the first trial run in the field with all this engineering genius crap, weighs heavily on everyone, perhaps extra hard on Reeves himself, and having the Mayor haul his ass off for the closedown warning doesn’t help. What will Gideon Reeves and the 13th Precinct do now?

The show is good fun and has all the hallmarks of a good Fox jaunt, but a good deal of it hinges on the performance of Justin Kirk as Gideon Reeves, and playing the Stark-like character that this nonsense is based on has to be nerve-wracking. I absolutely love Ernie Hudson as Captain Conrad of the 13th, though his characters slack-jawed admiration for the newfangled technology may get a little tiresome. As for the newfangled technology itself, trying to turn a Chicago Police Department into the equivalent of a combination military base and FBI headquarters may look cool, but is far too potentially damaging, in our times of hacker terrorists and other baddies. Just don’t turn into another attempt at Minority Report, where fancy techno visuals tried (and failed) to make up for flaccid story, and we’re good. APB has the chance to be a good entertaining diversion, and we could use casting cops in a good light right about now.

Catch the flying drones of APB on Fox, Mondays @ 9/8c!

‘Rings’: The Ouroboros has no end

Posted in horror, Movies, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: F. Javier Gutierrez

Studio: Paramount Pictures 

MPAA Rating: PG 13

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

While I know perfectly well that it was the Japanese Ringu movies that started this whole phenomenon and what the Americanized versions are based on, for the purposes of this movie review we’re just sticking to the Americanized Rings film series. Gore Verbinski directed the first The Ring movie, and did his level best to keep the creepy movie about a video that kills you seven days after you watch it as a murder mystery with horror overtones. This new modern jaunt into the Rings world is a throwback to that murder mystery feel, and I think it’s wonderful.

So what do we recall from the original movie? There’s this video tape of a rather raw  film full of disturbing images, and after you watch it you get a phone call informing you that you now have seven days to live. Why seven days? Because the misunderstood maven Samara was tossed into a well by her malfunctioning adopted mother, and down in a well you won’t dehydrate, but in approximately seven days, you will starve to death. Samara the ghost doesn’t believe in things like mercy or pity, and indeed, even after her bones are found and put in the process of being laid to rest, she’s still off on her inexorable mission, to kill in the most horrifying way those who saw her message but didn’t share it. The curse is, after all, like the well itself, a ring.

A whole bunch of other stuff happens in the first two Rings movies, but this current-day counterpart focuses on two main things: the ever-widening ring of Samara’s righteous revenge, and her actual parentage, where this evil all began. And after an admittedly awesome scene on a plane, where Samara (Bonnie Morgan) proves that all she needs is a screen to get to her latest victim, we begin at the start of a different life, with Holt (Alex Roe) preparing to leave his girlfriend Julia (Matilda Lutz) for college.

Spoilers bubble up from the drains!

Okay so, college these days seems a bit different than it did in my day, at least more permissive and underground or something. Because apparently there’s this science Professor Holt was enamored with, who himself has this super secret club where he introduces various students to Samara’s cursed video and ring, all in the name of scientific experimentation of course. … Alright, I’ll buy it. I wouldn’t expect a science Professor (Johnny Galecki) to be doing paranormal studies in quite such a fashion, but hey, more power to him. Except now, the “tail” (what Professor Gabriel calls the seven day waiting period where Samara’s ghost hunts you down) has Holt in its clutches and he missed the next human sacrifice sent by the Professor, so Julie takes it upon herself to watch the video and save Holt.

But then, shit gets extra weirder when the Prof discovers two whole minutes of extra footage on Julie’s copy of the Ring video, and here finally is where we launch into the real greatness of the film, the murder mystery of Samara’s dubious parentage.

In theory, the only way to actually stop Samara’s ring once and for all is to destroy her remains by fire, which is relatively simple and straightforward. Right? Except it never really is. Samara’s remains were taken from the town with the well where she died to some other town called Sacrament Falls, where inevitably a disastrous flood killed a whole bunch of residents soon after. The former church has been made over into an addicts recovery meeting hall, if for no other reason than the former priest doesn’t work there anymore. The town still carries a whole bunch of secrets very close to their collective chests, though the blind man Burke (Vincent D’Onofrio), even plagued by out-of-hibernating cicadas, seems uncommonly pleased to deal with Holt and Julie, Julie especially. And why should that be? Because, if Holt and Julie are so determined to root out the circumstances of Samara’s birth and finally lay her ghost to rest for really-reals, well, there needs to be a replacement to fill the void. Oooh, foreshadowing.

(I want to state for the record without totally spoiling it that I have always loved Vincent D’Onofrio in whatever he’s in, and his character in Rings is absolutely no exception.)

The idea that the ring curse is a mantle that can be handed off to another person is a very J-Horror story trope and I personally am fine with it, however. Throughout the movie, Julie is rather wooden and while, yes, there are a few scenes here and there where she actually emotes and states she can feel Samara’s pain, or jumps and screams, for the most part Julie has done diddly to deserve being the next monster ghost that crawls out of the screen to get you. Overcoming your own fears doesn’t necessarily make you the right person for spreading those fears, or even righteous wrath, onto others. Holt too, for that matter, is a very blocky standard boyfriend-type character, the one who swears up and down he’ll protect his little girlfriend when in reality, he’s the one who got her into this mess in the first place.

Many questions are answered in this installment of Rings, including some of the original segments of the cursed video that were never explained – until now, if you pay attention. Having a third film that is both prequel story and modern sequel continuation in the same movie isn’t impossible, but it doesn’t leave a lot of room for innovation. More or less the same lighting and atmosphere is good, I think, but so many attempts at getting the same jump scares that made the original movie The Ring infamous is a little sad. Of course, with all this modern technology we the audience may just be jaded as hell at this point, and I’m betting that’s why Rings felt the need to prove at the very beginning of the film that Samara and her ghostly vengeful legacy, really can come get you anywhere, today, tomorrow and forever.

Many thanks to the Horrible Imaginings crew for the preview screening of Rings, out in theaters now!