Tag Archives: drama

New York Focus: Airbnb Learn Stand-up with a Comedian

Comedian John Kim and me.

The biggest fear for many, apart from death, is a fear of rejection! Well, I say, Fugetaboutit! In fact, if you’re in New York City, I encourage you to consider doing what I did: go up and do an open mic at a comedy club! Yes, that is what I did as part of an Airbnb experience, “Learn Stand-up with a Comedian,” hosted by Rishi and John, both NYC-based comedians there to show you around the NYC comedy scene. You can certainly just observe but I felt I was ready to jump in and go on stage.

New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world–and that definitely includes comedy. Within the closely knit area of Greenwich Village, are a number of comedy clubs all with their own energy and history. And, at the epicenter is the Comedy Cellar where on any given night you might get to see such legends as Amy Schumer and Jerry Seinfeld. With the help of my mentor for the evening, comedian John Kim, I got quite an immersive experience. I learned a lot and was fueled with plenty of inspiration which made going up on stage for open mic all the easier. And what a stage! I couldn’t have asked for a better venue for a first-timer, The Lantern Comedy Club!

The Lantern Comedy Club

The great challenge is in confronting any doubts: Is the material good enough? Am I good enough? Yes, trust me, you’re more than worthy to go up on stage and just give it a try. More than likely, or let’s say it’s just about a guarantee, any misgivings will melt away once you start. Something will trigger in your brain: Go! Okay, here’s the next hook! Stop, try to pause. Go! Add this. Don’t say that just yet..okay, say it now.

As in anything, you get what you bring to something. I’ve been working on a particular character and his story arc for quite some time. I decided to put together a comedy bit and featured Maximo Viaje, a guy form Mexico City who has somehow stumbled upon a journey of self-discovery in the U.S. even though he entered the country illegally. For Max, that’s just a small problem in a much bigger picture. Okay, so this is a fictional character that I’m bringing to life on stage. Now, for all you fellow writers, tell me: Wouldn’t this be a very useful exercise for you? Check it out:

You get into a frame a mind and, yes, your mind is a beautiful thing and it’s in it to win it. Thanks to my beautiful mind and to such an insightful and inspirational guidance from John Kim, I did more than just get through my set. I really learned and grew from the experience. And, just like hitting the gym, you know when you’re in the zone and you know you want to get back to it again and again.

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Filed under Airbnb, Comedy, Greenwich Village, New York City

Seattle Focus: Review of DAY JOB at Ballard Underground, 7/18/2015

From clockwise: Caitie Auld, Kara O'Connor, Molly Tellers, & Nicole Santora

From clockwise: Caitie Auld, Kara O’Connor, Molly Tellers, & Nicole Santora

The sketch comedy troupe Day Job presented two shows at the Ballard Underground this last Friday and Saturday. Day Job is made up of what could very well be the only all-female sketch comedy group in Seattle. The members are Caitie Auld, Kara O’Connor, Molly Tellers, and Nicole Santora. The foursome is currently a threesome as Nicole is out on maternity leave. I caught the Saturday show which featured the comedic talents of Clara Lewis, Casey Middaugh, and Brittany Tipton.

The show kicked off with a long music intro as Clara Lewis took the stage. She wasn’t expecting so much music but gladly shimmied around. Then she launched into a most inspired set on millennial woes. There was also perfect use of fart jokes. In my view, a strategically placed fart joke will carry you through thick and thin. Placement one: Clara clued us in on how she craves letting her guard down and be able to fart if she chooses. Okay, something the audience can instantly relate to. Placement two: Clara distinguishes between letting a fart fend off a bad date before it happens and avoiding a fart end a good date before it happens. All very funny stuff. Clara provided a very quirky and charming set.

Music was everything for Casey Middaugh as her set was a mix of spoken word accompanied by a ukulele. Casey has a winning smile and easily won over the audience with her whimsical sense of humor. It seemed to come from a sweet, and lovingly loopy, place with a touch of Andy Kaufman and Lily Tomlin. Casey gracefully gave us a short tour of her childhood via anecdotes and even a song she wrote when she was six years old. It’s quite an awesome song involving teenagers, Hawaii, and Hula hoops.

Millennial woes from a different vantage point made up Brittany Tipton‘s set. Brittany was very generous in opening up to the audience. From where she sits, low expectations are nothing to sneeze at. But, if you want to hear a more ambitious attitude, then Brittany was game. She invited the audience to take part in a quick and free therapy session before she became a professional and would have to charge an arm and a leg. One brave soul came forward and claimed he was having misgivings about his career choice. Brittany, with a wink and a ton of irony, did the best to reassure him.

And then it was on to a variety of freewheeling and fast-paced sets by the Day Job comedy group. Let me say here that I was very impressed with everything I saw. When you think about it, on any given night, a comedy club is likely to have an all-male show. Of course, we have great female comics and we need to see more of them. Saturday’s show was an excellent example. Is the female sense of humor any different from the male view? Equal, at least. Maybe even better. It seems that certain details in character studies might be handled with more care from a feminine perspective. Sometimes males need to tap into their feminine side. That said, the Day Job crew were on their A game.

One of the most inventive and fully realized scenes from the Day Job set was Molly Tellers as a father clumsily trying to help his teen daughter, played by Caitie Auld, match up with the coolest boy in her high school, played by Kara O’Connor. I’ll break this one down as best I can. Molly has a gift for taking on her characters with a fun and physical gusto. Much of it depended upon just the right goofy voice along with spot on body language. It’s an immersive quality she achieves as she channels her version of a Homer Simpson-like dad. Caitie, as the teen daughter, is a whirlwind of emotional despair. She nails her teen character with determined grace. I think Caitie is a wonderful talent with a delightful presence. Kara, as the most eligible bachelor, is hilarious. With effortless ease, she taps into all the bravado and posturing of a hot teenage boy.

Be sure to catch DAY JOB (Caitie Auld, Kara O’Connor, and Molly Tellers) at Seattle SketchFest where they will be on September 26th at 7pm at The Annex Theatre.

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Filed under Comedians, Comedy, Seattle

Review: ‘Marilyn: The Story of a Woman’ by Kathryn Hyatt

Marilyn-Monroe-The-Story-of-a-Woman

“Marilyn: The Story of a Woman” is a graphic novel originally published in 1996 by Seven Stories Press. It caught my eye on my last visit on the last day of business at Seattle’s Cinema Books. Funny how we find our comics sometimes. A perfectly compelling work was just sitting on a shelf waiting for me to finally take notice. Kathryn Hyatt proves to be a devoted and thoughtful fan of all things to do with Marilyn Monroe, one of the most celebrated and misunderstood of Hollywood stars.

Stars burn bright and then they burn out. While this holds true for the career of Marilyn Monroe, that is only the briefest of descriptions. What Hyatt does is pay tribute to the human being and the artist. A mountain of books have been written about Marilyn Monroe but her unique life and work forever fascinate generating more and more stories. Hyatt carves out a path in search of some clarity.

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Marilyn Monroe was the committed innocent artist. She was innocent in the sense that she was uncompromising in her pursuit of purity of purpose as she saw it. She had to overcome many obstacles none the least of which were her own feelings of low self-esteem. Even when she seemed to have a control over her own sexuality and image, she was still haunted by misgivings. Hyatt lovingly brings us into that world. For instance, the photo shoot that would lead to the iconic centerfold in Playboy was bittersweet. Hyatt evokes the scene with great empathy. Monroe may be thrilled by the attention upon her beautiful body but, at the same time, she only agrees to pose in order to get her car back from being repossessed. And she continues to replay harsh criticism from earlier years that she is “unphotogenic.”

Hyatt has a nice feel for capturing the mannerisms and movement of Monroe. It’s a mixture of a crunchy underground vibe and a more smooth and polished approach. The zest for pursuing her narrative is clearly there. What I’ve come to find in comics biographies is that the cartoonist’s depiction of the subject is akin to an actor’s portrayal. The best versions aren’t direct impersonations but are the creator’s unique interpretation. Hyatt mapped out in her mind the quintessential Monroe and everything that came before and after. She also had to map out what to focus on in the larger-than-life world of Monroe. And that process is akin to a novelist’s work. The overall result is quite stunning.

Marilyn-Monroe-Kathryn-Hyatt

Monroe’s sexuality was, and remains for us in her work, the undeniable focal point. There are a number of well-chosen scenes where Hyatt addresses this key issue. There are a certain number of depictions of Monroe nude which Hyatt handles with grace. Those depictions wouldn’t work if they were simply meant to titillate. If Hyatt had felt a need to really get provocative, she could have taken a lewd turn but, instead, she is interested in humanizing. In that regard, Hyatt includes a scene of Norma Jeane as a little girl appearing naked before her family. It’s an interesting harbinger. We come to see that Marilyn doesn’t have a problem with her own skin but that will not prove to be as simple out in the world.

Much in the same way that the Kennedy dynasty will forever fascinate, the life of Marilyn Monroe will always have something to say on a personal and a universal level. The theme of Hyatt’s book is a close look at a particular woman who managed, by sheer determination, to place herself in the forefront of public discourse. We see Norma Jeane’s struggle to become Marilyn Monroe. It happens gradually, by fits and starts, as she navigates casting couches and fickle to malicious critics. Through the process, she fully appreciated the status she achieved and gave back as much as she could. However, the misgivings would never go away. She was an innocent artist and that is the deeper layer that sustains her legacy.

“Marilyn: The Story of a Woman” can be found at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Biography, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, History, Hollywood, Kathryn Hyatt, Marilyn Monroe, Sex, Sexual Politics, Sexuality

TV Review: HENRY DANGER

Cooper Barnes as Ray, Jace Norman as Henry, and Riele Downs as Charlotte on "Henry Danger"

Cooper Barnes as Ray, Jace Norman as Henry, and Riele Downs as Charlotte on “Henry Danger”

Last week’s episode began with a somewhat obscure reference to the classic holiday chestnut, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” A girl comes into the shop and tries out a piano only to have Ray really lose it with a lame Jimmy Stewart impersonation. Ray flips out. Charlotte pleads for him to get a grip for the sake of the children. And then the moment is gone. Very funny. If you were a fan of the offbeat humor of “iCarly,” then you’ll love this new show, “Henry Danger,” from the same creator. Dan Schneider is the co-creator with Dana Olsen. And you’ll know Dana Olsen from his writing for the movies, “George of the Jungle” and “Inspector Gadget.” If you’re new to “Henry Danger,” or if you’re already a fan, read on. This is something very different.

Ray Bradbury was fond of saying that he read every genre. And he was especially keen on keeping up with books for young readers. In that spirit, I present to you, “Henry Danger,” one of the smartest shows on television, whatever your age. This is on Nickelodeon and, for the purposes of this review, we’ll consider what I’ll conveniently call, “kid humor.” Now, here’s the thing, kid humor is awesome and pretty darn universal.

Kids, let’s just say, are closer to knowing what they want than adults. It seems like they understand things, like a sense of humor, at a purer level. They appreciate a well-constructed sight gag right along with an ironic aside and that’s that. Kids know all the tropes. They know what adults find funny better than some adults realize. At the end of the day, kids get a good joke better than some older folk. Kids will accept something funny at a highly sophisticated level, whether it’s silly or surreal, or preferably both at the same time.

What “Henry Danger” does is live right in that kid humor zone. The creative team understands. They understand things like beloved characters are larger-than-life and can also suddenly explode. They appreciate that kids understand the great duality: fiction can be more real that everyday life while, at the same time, it’s also just fiction. There are numerous examples of how the show relishes breaking the fourth wall, as they say. Part of the fun comes from inverting and subverting. For starters, this is a wonderfully deadpan and absurd send-up of superheroes. Our superhero is simply known as Captain Man (played by Cooper Barnes) and his secret lair is, wait for it…the Man Cave.

Henry-Danger Cooper-Barnes

Captain Man’s origin story is a perfect satire of all origin stories. Little Ray was simply too close to a crazy experiment that his mad scientist father was conducting. An accident led to Ray becoming indestructible. And this led to a relatively easy-going career as the superhero protector of the small town of Swellview. And, just as things started to get a little hectic, Ray hired a teenager, Henry Hart (played by Jace Norman), to be his assistant, aka Kid Danger. Both Cooper Barnes and Jace Norman exude a winning charm and exemplify what makes this show so smooth and fun to watch. Rounding out the inner circle are Henry’s closest friends, Charlotte (played by Riele Downs) and Jasper (played by Sean Ryan Fox). Everyone on the show contributes to a particularly zany vibe.

The first rule of comedy is that nothing is sacred. Kids witness all too often the strained looks of concern from adults. And kids know there’s hardly any reason for all the worry. Are we really having a crisis, mom? No, actually, we’re not. Maybe that’s why Henry’s parents (played by Kelly Sullivan and Jeffrey Nicholas Brown) are so utterly clueless. A pure act of rebellion from the writers! And when Henry’s little sister, Piper, (played by Ella Anderson) acts up and gives everyone a hard time with her rudeness and crazy demands, what should Henry do? Well, he could always take his nifty raygun, entrusted to him by Captain Man, and knock his sister out. Reasonable? No, but funny!

We are told that kids hunger for resolution. But have you asked a kid lately what he or she hungers for? When it comes to comedy, what’s most funny is the opposite of resolution. Just as the final scene is set to lull us back into a sense of security, that’s a perfect time to have things topple over. In one episode, the running gag is that no one is safe from falling off a rooftop, even after the last precaution is supposed to be in place. In another episode, Captain Man and Kid Danger have botched things up so badly with a neighborhood father and son that the only solution is to wipe away their memories and leave them in an alley. Disturbing? Yes, but funny!

It’s a combination of the writing and the particular actors. The writing is bubbling with irreverence and the actors run with the sophisticated absurd humor. The energy of the cast in undeniable. The chemistry is pitch perfect. It’s simply one of the smartest shows on television. You can see it Saturday at 8pm/7 central, on Nickelodeon. For more details, visit our friends at Nickelodeon right here.

Henry-Danger-Jace-Norman

And for a sneak peek at the next episode, “Elevator Kiss,” on this Saturday, visit Dan Schneider’s website right here.

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Filed under Dan Schneider, Dana Olsen, Nickelodeon, Superheroes, Television

Blu-ray review: BIRDMAN

Birdman-Michael-Keaton-Edward-Norton

There’s the legendary tragic story of 19th century American actor, Edwin Booth. He was so celebrated for his performance as Othello that he kept to that role, made a career out of it, and died with it. If only actor Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton) were so lucky. He’s stuck with being known as the guy behind the Birdman mask in a ridiculously successful superhero movie franchise. “Birdman” is about a lot of things, including Riggan’s journey toward redemption. After so much water under bridge, he feels he’s found something meaningful he can do with all that he’s learned. He’s adapted Raymond Carver for the Broadway stage. It’s an audacious move and one that rankles those who position themselves as arbiters of taste, specifically the New York theater critic, Tabitha Dickinson (played by Lindsay Duncan). The role of Tabitha is relatively small and yet so pivotal. She’s the one who, for better or worse, holds the fate of Riggan’s play and perhaps much more. And she’s the one who should be most eloquent on matters of culture except her delivery is all too pointed. In a great balancing act, “Birdman” arrives at its satire with grace.

“Birdman” is one of those films that hits the nail on the head so well that it leaves you wanting more. The winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director for Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman” is an instant classic. Forget about anything you may have heard or read from naysayers giving it a nonsensical label of being “pretentious.” I read that’s what, of all people, shock jock Howard Stern labeled this film as being. That absurd assessment, that twisted view of culture, is the sort of thing that is lampooned in “Birdman.” It’s as if Federico Fellini and Paddy Chayefsky were both alive today and created a masterpiece speaking to where we find ourselves. And where do we find ourselves? We find ourselves with the Howard Sterns of the world making empty gestures each day to countless fans.

We are stuffing ourselves with pop culture that often, some would say always, proves to be as fulfilling as cotton candy. In a film full of great conflict, the resounding head-butt is between high and low culture. Not only do we have snooty critics like Tabitha, but we have snooty thespians out to make life a living hell for Riggan. Enter Mike Shiner (played by Edward Norton). When Riggan finds himself in need of a replacement for a lead role, Mike is fortuitously available. He also happens to be notoriously rude and unstable. He thinks Riggan is incapable of genuinely caring about anything. He laughs at Riggan’s personal story about Raymond Carver. Mike also realizes that he has a very crazy way of showing that he cares.

And to care about something is at the heart of this film. Riggan is given many reasons to care, including his daughter, Sam (played by Emma Stone). There’s a wondrous scene where Sam lashes out at her dad. What’s remarkable is how much is said and conveyed. Sam goes from being triggered into conflict, to full-on rage, to a descent into regret. It’s the sort of sustained moment you would experience in theater. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu pushes the boundaries of what can be conveyed in film, particularly with a series of awe-inspiring continuous shots. It’s theatrical on one level. It’s hyperreal on another. And, you better believe it, it makes you want to care.

“Birdman” is available now on DVD and Blu-ray. The feature with a behind-the-scenes look at the film is priceless. For more information, visit Fox Searchlight right here.

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Filed under Academy Awards, Hollywood, Movie Reviews, movies, Superheroes

TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE, SEASON 2 LIVE!

Tales-From-Beyond-The-Pale-2013

Happy Friday the 13! You are likely in a good sinister mood and so consider checking out this devilish and delightful series of horror radio shows for the digital age!

TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE, SEASON 2 LIVE!
Launches with FREE streaming of THE CRUSH by Glenn McQuaid and CAPER by Larry Fessenden

Featuring the voice talents of Sean Young, Mark Margolis, James Le Gros and the regular TALES stable of audio artisans.

All 8 episodes available for download at TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE right here and on Audible, iTunes and Amazon

(NEW YORK, NY—September 13th, 2013) Yearning for something suitably sinister to do this weekend? Well look no further. Prolific production outfit Glass Eye Pix (I SELL THE DEAD, STAKE LAND, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, THE LAST WINTER) is pleased to present season two of the cult favorite TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE, audio tales for the digital age. And to mark the occasion, they’re streaming a double bill of terror — right now, for free!

This weekend check out Glenn McQuaid’s crime suspense shocker THE CRUSH and follow it up with Larry Fessenden’s phantasmagoric heist tale CAPER in a new online listening room at TalesFromBeyondThePale.com. All eight explosive tales are also available for download in the online store and are coming this weekend to Audible, iTunes and Amazon.

Inspired by the classic radio shows of Alfred Hitchcock, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Orson Welles, each TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE is chillingly brought to life by the extraordinary vocal talents of Sean Young, Vincent D’Onofrio, Mark Margolis, James Le Gros, Michael Cerveris, Kate Lyn Sheil, and Jonny Orsini, to name just a few.
Hosted by Glass Eye Pix CEO Larry Fessenden, each thirty-minute episode is written and directed by one of today’s horror auteurs including Joe Maggio (BITTER FEAST), Clay McLeod Chapman (HENLEY), Jeff Buhler (THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN), Ashley Thorpe (THE HAIRY HANDS), Kim Newman (ANNO DRACULA), Glenn McQuaid (I SELL THE DEAD), Simon Barrett (YOU’RE NEXT), and Larry Fessenden (BENEATH).
Conceived during a fog-drenched car ride by Fessenden and frequent collaborator Glenn McQuaid (I SELL THE DEAD, V/H/S), TALES continues the mission at Glass Eye Pix to celebrate and elevate individual voices in the arts and to bring the vast palette of moods that comprises the horror story to fans everywhere.
For more information and the latest news, please visit http://www.talesfrombeyondthepale.com Follow on twitter: @talesbeyond

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Filed under Entertainment, Horror, Radio

Interview: Steve Kriozere and FEMME FATALES

Femme-Fatales-2013

"Bad Medicine" episode: Director Darin Scott, Actress Christine Donlon, Writer Steve Kriozere

“Bad Medicine” episode: Director Darin Scott, Actress Christine Donlon, Writer Steve Kriozere

Steve Kriozere is a writer/producer with an impressive resume that includes work on “NCIS,” “Castle,” and “Femme Fatales.” If you have not gotten a chance to try out “Femme Fatales,” it is a show worthy of your consideration. You can leave any preconceived notions at the door, and start out with “Femme Fatales: The Complete First Season,” which is now available and you can purchase here. You can read a recent review of the show here.

The following is an interview with Steve Kriozere where we discuss what “Femme Fatales” is all about from various points of view. We also talk about “Elvis Van Helsing,” (review here) an offbeat horror graphic novel that Steve co-wrote with Mark A. Altman, who is also a writer/producer involved with, among other projects, “Castle” and the co-creator, with Steve, on “Femme Fatales.” We wrap up with a discussion on the writing process and what lies ahead for “Femme Fatales.”

We begin by discussing the tricky position that this show finds itself in. It’s a show on Cinemax. That carries a unique set of issues. For instance, the concept of “less is more” can be a hard one for the network to grasp. The creators and writers on the show must find ways to deliver the goods, the sexual content, in new and creative ways while also building up a show. Here’s the thing, this is, at its heart, a clever show. There are so many things going right with this show, from its charismatic host, Tanit Phoenix, to its exploration of genres and, well, embrace of geekdom. The show, at the end of the day, retains its potential which, by all rights, should remain forever elusive.

The full interview with Steve Kriozere follows and includes the podcast at the end.

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Filed under Cinemax, comic books, Comic-Con, Comics, Entertainment, Femme Fatales, HBO, Noir, pop culture, science fiction, Superheroes, Television

Movie Review: THE DAY

“THE DAY,” is a surprisingly good horror movie that makes the most of its bleak environment. Stripped down to the essentials, this post-Apoc B-movie-style film presents us with a group of ragtag survivors who are on the run. It’s only later that we find out what it is that they’re running from. The group is made up of just enough members to give us a Scooby gang. There are two women and three men. At first, you really can’t tell them much apart since none of the actors stand out. Two of the actors may as well be twins: two mellow young guys with beards. It’s not until we get some sense of conflict that one actor emerges from the pack. It’s a scene early on in the movie, after the group has found the usual horror movie abandoned farmhouse to camp out in.

The two women have been sent out to forage. While they’re out in the woods, one woman turns on the other. She complains to her companion that she had better learn to socialize, that she had better start speaking up, say anything, since they are all family now. The woman just stares back. And that is our rising star, Ashley Bell, who made her mark as the possessed Nell Sweetzer in “The Last Exorcism.” In an impressive cast of actors, it’s Ashley Bell by a mile. It’s on her shoulders that this whole movie pivots. Bell knows how to brood and to build up tension. Before you know it, when she finally speaks, you are hanging on her every word. That, my friends, is not what usually happens in something that’s just a B-movie.

Another point of distinction: Luke Passmore’s script. There are plenty of clever twists in this film to keep any horror and film buff content. It is also noteworthy in how we are lulled into believing in these characters. The dialogue is earthy and what you’d expect from a group of young people, especially a group in a crisis. Director Doug Aarniokoski has created a musky and creepy world with little, if no hope, for survival with the light only coming from what the characters may still do to make sense out of it all. Because, remember, this group was running away from something and that something is determined to find them.

Shot in black and white, with muted colors (along with some full color flashbacks), “The Day” has the look and feel of an old scary movie as well as the intelligence to know how to take things further. It does push limits. There are some scenes where the violence is raised to a fever pitch. In lesser hands, that could easily have become too much but this movie strikes a good balance. If you stick with it, brave through the blood and gore, you’ll see just what a gem it really is.

“The Day” enjoyed a successful world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and was released in theaters earlier this year.

“The Day,” from WWE Studios and Anchor Bay Films, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

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Filed under DVD Blu-ray Reviews, Horror, Movie Reviews, movies