Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book updates

Just wanted to make a quick post about a couple books I had recently bought at a Barnes & Nobel not too long ago. I got the hard cover editions of not only Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, but also Dracula by Bram Stoker. These two books are published Barnes & Nobel, however the nice part of these novels is that nowhere on the actual covers do they say this. You do not know that they are publish by the store until you look at the pages and see on one of the pages.

The covers for each of the books are simple, yet very nice and represent each of the novels very well. I will post the respective books covers as I review them.

Now, I will not be reviewing either Dracula or Frankenstein in this particular post, as I haven't read either one and I'm currently reading a Micheal Connelly detective novel. Although I do plan on reviewing the novels in the near future, just know that they are a number of weeks and blogs down the line.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Prospectors Curse

About a year ago, I received an e-mail from from a man named Josh Heisie informing me on a film he wrote and directed, titled The Prospectors Curse. After looking over the press release he attached, I agreed to write a review since The Prospectors Curse looked as though it had potential. However, due to there being unforeseen events, Mr. Heisie was unable to release the film by his Summer 2012 deadline.

Then recently, I've received another e-mail from him. He stated that not only was the trailer finally available for viewing (which you can view here), but so was the film, and that reviewers would get the first chance to take a look at it.

Upon viewing the trailer, I must admit, I wasn't sure what to think. It was almost as if it were a horror/comedy, mostly due to the actors facial expressions. When I first saw the section of the trailer of the prospector writhing on the ground with another guy kneeling beside him, my first thought was that the two were out joking around, not that one was badly injured. Then, the trailer got serious and dark, until the prospector jumped out of the shadows to scare the wits out of his unsuspecting victim, which made me think it was slipping into the comedy section once more.

I then viewed the film right after seeing the trailer. Keep in mind, the following once again contains spoilers.

The film opens with a darkened night, where we see that a man was murdered. Standing over him is the dead mans brother, vowing vengeance against the murderer. According to a young woman named Rosie, who is sitting with a bloody nose beside the dead man, the killer was Theodore Elsworth. She claims that Elsworth would constantly become jealous of any man who who showed any sort of affection towards her, and killed him in the heat of passion.

At the same scene, we see a group of workers approach and state that all the workers have been conned by a confidence man by the name of Jack Smith, who stole them of their wages by promising fake medicine. The group, as a whole, then plans to hunt down the two fugitives, and hang them both on the same day.

Then cut to Elsworth and Smith, both of which are traveling through the woods. Elsworth states that he goes by the nickname Tubby, and that although he feels bad for leaving his girlfriend behind, it wasn't his fault for what happened and that the victim had it coming. Smith then tries to "cure" him with a whistle and an elixir. They then stumble upon an injured prospector (fake beard and all, sorry guys, I think I saw the glue). The prospector demands that his little bit of gold and his watch gets sent back to his loved ones, to which Smith demands if there was more gold to be had. The prospector then dies, taking the location of more gold with him.

That evening in their small base camp, we see that Elsworth writing a letter to be sent to Rosie (which will be either be sent by carrier pigeon or when they ever enter another town, it was never actually stated how it would be sent). We learn that Elsworth and Smith haven chosen to keep the prospectors gold for themselves. Elsworth also appears to be hearing things coming from outside, and decides to go and check it out, which he sees his beloved Rosie who then kisses him. Upon doing so, he starts choking and coughing stuff up, causing him to turn away from Rosie. As he turns back, he sees the prospector, telling him to burn in hell, then attacks him like a rabid zombie.

Smith runs out to find Elsworth alone and hysterical, who then runs off to bury the prospector. Smith quickly follows, but as he does he is suddenly attacked by the zombie prospector and then drowns in quicksand. As Smith drowns, Elsworth is attacked by the men who sought justice against him, and ask if he has any last words before he hangs in the morning.

We then cut to Elsworth hanging in a noose and the credits begin to roll.

Upon viewing the actual film, it was very clear that this was meant as a horror comedy, but there were moments where the comedy felt forced and a tiny bit awkward. However, for a short film made by up and comers, it's not too bad at all. Upon asking Mr. Hiesie, his inspirations for this film were Evil Dead, Abbot & Castello, and a bit of HBO's Deadwood. He had told me that due to too many cartoons growing up, that he was always attracted to comedy and always wanted to incorporate it in his projects.

My main gripe upon this film was that the film seemed to end abruptly. It ends on a sense of total ambiguity to the point where it feels like it just ends. I don't mind ambiguity in film, I think a good horror film can do a lot with it, but when it comes to feeling as though there's no resolution whatsoever, then I think it just falls flat.

Also, when it came to the actual characters, I found no sympathy in any of them, except for maybe the man who sought justice for his brothers murder. Maybe it was because that the majority of the characters felt like they were bad people who were aware that they were doing bad things, only to not care. But as with many of the short films that I had reviewed, lack of full character development seems to be a common trait, simply because they are in fact short films.

In many short films such as these, there's plenty of focus on making these characters "human" and when I say that, I mean giving them flaws. But it almost feels as though as we don't have enough time to care for these people. If we were to take something like the show Breaking Bad for example, and trim it down to fifteen minutes, we'd miss out on all the times we would sympathize with Mr. White, a man who would go to any lengths to make sure his family is financially well off after he is gone.

I must admit, however, that I very much enjoyed the filming and costuming. Other than the prospectors goofy look, if there is one thing this film does right it's making it feel like was truly set in the gold rush days. This is the very thing that really attracted me to the movie. This film felt very authentic and other than the prospector, felt very believable. I give credit to all these people in making a visually pleasing film.

I also very much enjoyed the films soundtrack. This film certainly had a fitting soundtrack and it never once felt intrusive or out of place. The films composer, John Borra, certainly did his job well on the film, giving an old school banjo feel to put you in the mood.

Upon its official release, I suggest that you would give The Prospectors Curse at least one viewing, for the visual aspect if for nothing else. Keep in mind that it is in fact a horror comedy, to the point where some of the comedy feels forced. If you can handle that, then I think you'd certainly be impressed by this one. If you can wade through some of the minor flaws of the film, then I think The Prospectors Curse would be a fun fifteen minutes spent.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dark City

Well, readers, here I am, finally getting back into the swing of things. It's taken me forever to actually come out with a legitimate post, and I realize that.

This time around, I'll be discussing a film that I had heard of many times, but never got around to viewing. This is mostly because of the fact that it draws from many surrealist films and I typically don't go for those types of films. However, Dark City is only sort of a surrealist film. I say that because once you get to a certain point in the film, you realize that is not a surrealist film, but rather a cleverly disguised one. Keep in mind, this post will in fact contain spoilers.

Dark City is one of those types of films that I only sort of knew what to expect when I first sat down to watch it. I knew that it was supposed to be a film noir type film mixed with dark and brooding, almost horror inspired visuals, with a slight bit of sci-fi thrown in. But apart from that, I knew nothing of the story, creators, or who even starred in it. I finally sat down and watched the Directors Cut of the film, which according many fans of the film, is the superior version.

Directed by Alex Proyas, who also directed The Crow, the film stars Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, and Rufus Sewell, and was released in 1998. The film was one of those films that can be considered by many as a cult classic, mostly due to the film being as dark as it is (hence one of the reasons it being called Dark City, of course).

The film follows the story of John Murdoch, played by Rufus Sewell, as he wakes up in a darkened apartment bathroom, not knowing how he got there or what is happening. As he stumbles his way into the bedroom and starts finding clothes to put on, he gets a phone call from a doctor, played by Kiefer Sutherland, named Daniel Schreiber. Schreiber tells John to seek him out, and during the conversation, John notices a dead body in his living room. John soon flees, finding himself pursued by not only by the police, but also by a group of pale skinned men wearing all black suits. These men are able to manipulate peoples actions and the things around them with their minds, as shown by being able to put people asleep, defying gravity, as well as the size of the buildings, all on a whim.

As I stated, I've watched the Directors Cut. The main difference is the fact that the theatrical release contained an opening narration from Doctor Schreiber. Supposedly this narration was forced upon the film makers by the studio to clear up any sort of confusion that the film may have caused its viewers. This narration, after doing a quick search on Youtube and watching the opening with it, practically spoils the main plot behind the film, which is not officially revealed until about two thirds of the way in. I was immediately able to see why fans were so overjoyed when this little tiny piece was removed.

In addition to the removal of the narration, from what I read, there's a few scenes that were added for the sake of character development as well.

This movie was actually one of the very few films that can be considered surrealist that I've actually enjoyed. Typically, I don't go for surrealist films, reason being is that I can't seem to enjoy the whole "this is a dream" type of vibe surrealist film makers go for. I enjoy a good fantasy film, because a good fantasy tends to feel as though they are grounded with some sort of logic and structure. Surrealist films, on the other hand, feel more random and disjointed to me, and there never seems to be an concrete reason why something is the way it is.

However, the reason why this particular film caught me was because, like I said, it is a film that it's actually a sci-fi film cleverly disguised as a surrealist. That right there gives the film a good reason why something typically random would happen in the film. I enjoyed the fact that these strangers, who are revealed to be some sort of dying alien race, were using humans as forms of guinea pigs for study. It was interesting that they these strangers would create certain scenarios for people in order to study how the human soul worked, and that they would "reset" peoples memories every time they chose a new scenario.

In this sense, the film seems as though it could have easily inspired films such as the Matrix. It's darkened streets, and the fact that our lives are manipulated by mysterious and malevolent forces, really shows that The Matrix could have easily drawn from this film. The menacing atmosphere from Dark City seemed to have transferred to The Matrix trilogy, and according to IMDB.com, even many of the set pieces from this film were later used in the first Matrix film.

I highly suggest that if you're into any sort of film that's dark, check this film out. Even if you're like me, and absolutely cannot stand surrealist films, I still say check it out, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with just how good this movie is. It's a sci-fi at heart and is certainly worth watching.

Next time, expect a review of a horror film, this time from a independent film maker named Josh Heisie.