Tag Archives: Thrillers

Movie Review: HANGMAN

HANGMAN

A good crime story is about seeing all the elements in a set of circumstances falling into place one by one. “Hangman” fits the bill as it proves to be a competent thriller. This has Al Pacino, a personal favorite. The lead, however, edges a bit closer to Karl Urban, who commands the screen with a measured presence. There are enough chills and thrills to this for me to recommend it. I would not put it up there with anything iconic like, say, “Silence of the Lambs,” but it is well-crafted. I don’t especially seek out serial killer thrillers. I do understand their popularity so I remain open-minded to the genre. In this case, like the title suggests, this is a crowd-pleaser. And, for at least one particular scene, it did keep me on the edge of my seat.

Again, keep in mind that the great Al Pacino plays Ray Archer, a homicide detective here. Pacino brings some very compelling moments to this movie. His authority gives everything on the screen legitimacy. He makes the gritty that much more gritty. And he’s definitely a thoughtful and generous actor who brings out the best in his co-stars, Karl Urban and Brittany Snow. Urban plays Will Ruiney, the detective still grieving over the mysterious murder of his wife. Snow plays Christi Davies, the embedded reporter in what rapidly becomes the greatest case ever confronted by Archer and Ruiney. Pacino also inspires other key players: Sarah Shahi as Capt. Watson; Joe Anderson as Hangman; and Sloane Warren as Dr. Abby Westlin.

If you’re a fan of police procedurals, especially of the CSI variety, there is plenty to like here. I thought the scenes in the morgue were well above average. Sloane Warren steals the show as the coroner, Dr. Abby Westlin. She turns out to be an old pal of Archer who, by the way, has come out of retirement for this big case. It seems as if every bit of her background is put to use. There is another scene, as things are heating up, where Westlin’s skills of deduction lead everyone closer to finding the killer. And that is essential since this killer is killing people as casually as a game of hangman.

As an ensemble cast, Pacino, Urban, and Snow work quite well together. Their characters make sense and naturally grow as the plot develops. This is directed by Johnny Martin, with a script from Michael Caissie and Charles Huttinger. It is currently available for viewing through Google. While this is not exactly going to put you in the holiday mood, it may hit the spot when seeking a change of pace in your movie viewing this month. Who knew “Krampus” would do so well, right? Think of this as sort of a “Krampus” crime thriller.

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Filed under Crime Fiction, Movie Reviews, movies

Review: SPILL ZONE by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland

SPILL ZONE by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland

A young adventurous woman, her pro camera, her motorcycle, and a most top secret site bursting with supernatural activity. All these elements come together nicely in the new graphic novel thriller, “Spill Zone,” written by Scott Westerfeld, drawn by Alex Puvilland, colors by Hilary Sycamore, published by First Second Books.

You can’t stop a girl and her Canon camera.

One thing I do want to tuck in here: you rarely see a brand name in a graphic novel. But no harm in showing one on occasion. In this case, our main character relies upon a Canon camera. I say to that, bravo. You can’t stop a girl and her Canon camera.

Back to our story: something really weird happened to the little town of Poughkeepsie, New York. Was it an accident involving nano technology and the local nuclear power plant? Are space aliens involved? No one dares to enter the Spill Zone, except for the local thrill-seeking artist, Addison Merritt. She sneaks past checkpoints, takes photos, and sneaks back home.

Rules of the Game.

It’s now just Addie and her younger sister, Lexa, ever since the accident took the lives of their parents. Westerfeld’s script seamlessly brings in various details. Puvilland’s lean style sets the tone. Sycamore’s colors dazzle the eye as they match the story’s mood.

The best thing about this graphic novel is that it successfully takes a lot of crazy fun ideas and lets them run wild. For a while, we don’t know why Addie keeps risking her life to take photos within a toxic spill zone. A big part of it has to do with her stumbling upon a way to support herself and her sister. She sells her photography for top dollar to art collectors. But it gets more complex than that.

Addie and some toxic rats.

Both Addie and her troubled little sis Lex are being lured into something far more dark and sinister. By the end of this book, we have gotten to know these two girls fairly well. We have also gotten to know Verpertine, the doll that talks only to Lex. Vespertine dials up the creepy factor whenever she appears and is one of the compelling reasons to look forward to the next volume to this series.

SPILL ZONE is a full color 224-page hardcover available as of May 2nd. For more details, and how to purchase, go to the Spill Zone website right here.

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Filed under Canon cameras, Comics, First Second, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Photography

Review: FATHER’S DAY #1 (of 4)

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Mike Richardson has hit a home run with “Father’s Day,” which shows no signs of losing momentum with its first issue. As the founder, president, and publisher at Dark Horse Comics, Mr. Richardson also finds time to write and has contributed a variety of work (The Secret, Cut, Atomic Legion). With “Father’s Day,” there’s a palpable sense of purpose to this story of conflict between a daughter and her long estranged father, twenty years of estrangement to be exact. And there’s more to this quirky crime thriller, plenty more.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics, Gabriel Guzmán, Mike Richardson

Sci-Fi Thriller ‘Third Contact’ Seeks Funds To Support Movie Tour

“Third Contact” is a dark, mind-bending, surreal sci-fi thriller which has been gathering momentum after selected shows in Europe. For its final cinema event, there will be a film tour of the USA and Canada. Support the Indiegogo campaign here.

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Filed under Crowdfunding, Indiegogo, movies, Sci-Fi, science fiction

Movie Review: DO YOU LIKE MY BASEMENT?

Jessica Green in DO YOU LIKE MY BASEMENT?

Jessica Green in DO YOU LIKE MY BASEMENT?

Meet Stanley Farmer (played by Charlie Floyd). He’s an aspiring filmmaker. Only problem is he has a psychotic way of expressing himself. But, as this dark and witty horror film makes clear, a lot of people are willing to overlook such a thing. Putting one’s life in danger, even pretty much guaranteeing your life is in danger, won’t stop some from seeking a touch of glamour and fame, even if it’s of the most dubious sort. We live in such a disposal and alienated society. Some would call it, hyperreal. Times like these demand a good shock to the system that a good meta horror movie can deliver.

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One moment, you could be passively lurking on your laptop and, the next, you could be inside some stranger’s home on the verge of engaging in something. Something? That’s what each person who answers Stanley’s ad is wondering about. What is the “something” that will happen if they choose to spend the night in his basement? Stanley won’t tell. It would ruin the surprise. He explains to each of his potential victims, or…actors, that he is after authentic responses to fear. And like perfect lemmings, each one readily accepts the reality television model.

One participant, a pert and lovely young woman named Sylvia (played by Jessica Green) only asks for some nominal reassurance, “You’re not going to kill me at all?” Stanley lays on what still sounds like a suspicious charm and that is enough for Sylvia to follow him into the basement. What makes such a scene work so well is that it rings so true.

We don’t know what is real anymore, do we? Well, sure, we do but–do we, really? The clever self-aware quality of “Do You Like My Basement?” provides the right amount of satirical bite that pulls you into the humor as well as the horror. Writer/director/producer Roger Sewhcomar set out to create something special, an intelligent horror film, and he truly succeeds. This is a thoughtful thriller with references to the Michael Powell 1960 classic, “Peeping Tom,” but with an utterly contemporary sensibility. Camera work is both slick and jittery when needed. A strong cast will keep you glued to your seat. The contrast between pleasant big city apartment and dank and creepy basement is truly jarring and, even if the characters are easily lured in, it will prove an effective reality check for you, the viewer.

Early on, we witness a tragic murder caught on tape, a little “something” that occurred at some point. By the time we view the first audition to Stanley’s experimental film, we’re so invested in the safety of the poor young man, Chad (played by Devon Talbott) that even the slightest sign of danger leaves us queasy. Adding to the suspense and disturbance, again, is how easily Chad is willing to put up with insults, innuendo, and unveiled threats of danger. The screws keep being turned, people keep entering Stanley’s apartment and not leaving. Stanley even gets a bit sloppy, seeming not to care if he gets caught. But he’s also a resilient chap as you’ll come to see for yourself.

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On Wednesday, May 29th, NewFilmmakers presents its Experimental Documentary Series, a Short Film Program, and the new horror feature, DO YOU LIKE MY BASEMENT? View details here.

And be sure to check out the DO YOU LIKE MY BASEMENT? website here.

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Filed under Horror, Movie Reviews, movies, NewFilmmakers

INTERVIEW: CRAIG FRANK AND JKF SECRET OPS: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

JFK SECRET OPS: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL by Craig Frank

JFK SECRET OPS: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL by Craig Frank

JFK survived the assassination and is out for revenge. That is the premise of Craig Frank’s humorous and thrilling work, JFK SECRET OPS: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL. It is currently the subject of a fundraising campaign that runs through May 25. You can visit the campaign HERE.

JFK-Secret-Ops-Craig-Frank

As you’ll see in this video interview, Craig is a down-to-earth guy. He’s very gracious and thoughtful. His idea for this book first took root after a visit to Dealy Plaza and visiting The Sixth Floor Museum. He is a seasoned animator and painter. He has always loved the comics medium and the limitless possibilities of the graphic novel. He comes to this project with the skill and the storytelling sense required for the job.

JFK-Secret-Ops-Kickstarter-2013

As a fellow participant in Kickstarter (I have my own campaign here), I fully appreciate where Craig is now. The timing is just right for his book in more ways than one. It’s the perfect time for him to be taking on such a project. And, it just so happens that we’re observing the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination this year. 50 years later and that event still has the power to haunt, confuse, and strangely fascinate.

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced how appropriate this seemingly “inappropriate” graphic novel really is. It didn’t fully occur to me until after the interview that we can’t lose sight of the fact that John Fitzgerald Kennedy was only human, right or wrong, and the man could be egregiously, horribly, wrong with his treatment of women. What happens is we get caught up in the myth, fostered by powerful interests, run by the Kennedy family, the Democratic party, and, perhaps, the whole damn system that we can only imagine in all its machinations.

There is, of course, the fact of his tragic death that seems to wipe the slate clean for eternity but maybe not exactly. And the fact, and this is even as tragic, is all that was genuinely good about the man. It’s complicated for sure. Give an inch and admit the shortcomings of one leader and look at his lesser rivals swarm to exploit it. All that said, hell yeah, bring the icon down to earth. This graphic novel is a good and healthy thing.

Enjoy the video interview!

Support JFK SECRET OPS: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL at Kickstarter right here.

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Filed under animation, Comics, graphic novels, Humor, JFK, Kennedy Assassination, Kickstarter, Marilyn Monroe, politics, pop culture, Satire, Thriller

Movie Review: ANTIVIRAL

Caleb Landry Jones in ANTIVIRAL

Caleb Landry Jones in ANTIVIRAL

“Antiviral” is a film that spreads like a virus. We see our main character, Sid March (Caleb Landry Jones) on his long downward spiral, doing his dance with death, almost all at first glance. We know he’s sick. We even know he’s doomed. All from our first view of him, up there on a rooftop, the billboard staring down at him, promising the impossible.

That is what Sid March peddles, the impossible. In a society that has nosedived into complete and total obsession with celebrity, Sid’s employer, the Lucas Clinic, offers its clients an opportunity to be closer to their obscure object of desire. For a fee, anyone can literally own a piece of a superstar. They can own the same virus inhabiting the body of that superstar. They can experience the same sweet pain: the fever, the convulsions, the bleeding. This is what turns society on in the future and Sid March is at the forefront. The only problem is that perhaps the dealer has gotten too close to the poison he sells.

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Caleb Landry Jones knows how to command the screen with just a stare or a sigh. He reminds one of Tilda Swinton when she first came onto the scene. He has those same arresting features and attitude. “Antiviral,” to some degree, even brings to mind Swinton’s breakout role in 2002’s “Teknolust,” which revolves around human folly with human genetic modification. In the case of “Antiviral,” the comedic breaks are in the service of an even darker and juicier satire. You even have Malcolm McDowell in this, for crying out loud! Oh, yes, the tension runs through like a high fever. It is a very consistent vision that writer and director, Brandon Cronenberg, maintains to great effect.

As Cronenberg points out, this obsession with celebrity is not new. Just consider the worship of a finger bone from a saint. That doesn’t make it any healthier, of course. Today it’s not saints. It’s the products from the entertainment industry. Cronenberg’s theme is about “the mania that drives that industry.” In an interesting scene early on in the movie, the director of the Lucas Clinic, Dorian (Nicholas Campbell), is asked by a reporter to answer allegations that he is contributing to a mental sickness by providing a means for clients to contract a celebrity’s sickness. He states what Cronenberg has said himself, “Celebrities are not people. They’re a group hallucination.”

The mania is totally out of control. People’s desire of celebrity knows no limits. Prime cuts of human beef grown from celebrity cells are the norm. Given an insatiable desire, a black market is sure to follow. Syd sealed his fate long ago when he decided to traffic in celebrity product stolen from his employer. Couple that with his own celebrity obsession, and it is clear that Syd’s future is far from bright. And you just can’t continue to transport human viruses inside your own body without some really weird and tragic consequences.

The fact that celebrities are not real people, but an impossible ideal, is the real topic up for discussion in this film. It’s about humans entrenched in a belief beyond human. And we see this played out on an often stark, clinical white, backdrop, only relieved by the close-up of the goddess. In this case, it is one Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon) who is described over and over again as perfectly beautiful beyond human terms. We see the real flesh and blood Hannah Geist for brief intervals. She is human, vulnerable, all too human. But even when confronted with the real live Hannah Geist, all some can see is the ideal. Like Marilyn Monroe, the celebrity will endure and can fully manifest itself once it’s done away with its human shell.

“Antiviral” is an engaging mix of horror, thriller, and sci-fi, sharing a sensibility with the filmmaker’s father’s work, David Cronenberg. It is fortunate for us and a sign of great works to come from this young filmmaker.

IFC Midnight will release ANTIVIRAL theatrically at The IFC Center and on VOD April 12th 2013.

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Filed under Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi, science fiction

Review: COMPLEX VOLUME ONE: WAYS OF LIFE

Complex-Malkin-Kay-2013

“Life is the biggest trap you’ll ever get caught in because it’s impossilbe to get out alive.”

— Gillian McBride

I have no idea who Gillian McBride is. I will have to ask Michael Malkin, the writer of this really spooky and engaging comic, “Complex,” published by Alterna Comics. Maybe the name is just a stand-in for an anonymous quote. How fitting for this work since everything in this story is a stand-in for something else! And it fits right in with what we here at Comics Grinder have been pondering over as of late. You know, the whole internet thing and reality vs. virtual reality. You just can’t shake that off now, can you? Gillian McBride. What are perfect avatar, if that is what she really is. Have her help in adding to your list of witty quotes to Twitter about. Alright, back to the subject at hand….

The cover to the first volume of “Complex” grabs your attention and makes you want to see more. It’s a dude screaming holding a crystal ball of a dude screaming ad infinitum. Intriguing, no? I say, yes. Just something about it. And definitely the same reaction, if not more so, to the VW van floating above the suburbs with a big moon in the background. There’s some “Twilight Zone” sort of pitch at the start about things being more complex than they appear and I’m cool with that. By the time we reach that bug in the sky, I am starting to be won over. That’s what the creators of “Complex,” ask for, just a little time to settle in and take off. There is a lot going on….

Alterna-Comics-Complex-Ways-of-Life-2013

Meet Zach King. He should be living the dream. He is a young man with a bright future. He just married Helen, an attractive young woman. He has a nice job. Together, they have a nice home. Why can’t he remember any of it? His life is a nightmare but if only he knew how much.

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If you liked “Alias” or “Lost,” you’ll enjoy this. Hey, it really has that “Twilight Zone” vibe working for it. Things are not what they seem, right? Zach is a valued employee at Towne Power but he only thinks he is. The whole town of Towne doesn’t really exist. It’s all staged in the service of something far bigger, to big to even be spoken of lightly. As you’ll see from these samples, the art, by “Kay,” has an organic and expressive quality to it. The lettering, also by a one-name artist, “Dekara,” fits in well with the sketchy atmosphere. Vladimir Popov adds to the mix with color for the covers.

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The first time you see poor Zach engaged in his true, albeit forced, purpose in life, will definitely hook you. The eerie command of the group’s leader will stick with you: “Turn on the lights, Zachary!”

Alterna Comics have offices in Levittown, New York, which is the classic example of 1950s conformity, the mass-produced houses that Pete Seeger mocked in a 1962 song: “They’re all made out of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same.” (Check out this version of “Little Boxes” here) Looking alike being the key problem. No African-Americans were welcome back then. Happy communities are not massed-produced and, even at best, take work. It’s an apt subtext to this clever comic.

Complex-Vol-One-Ways-of-Life-Alterna-Comics

“Complex Volume One: Ways of Life,” is a 160-page, b&w, trade paperback, $11.99, collecting the first arc of the digital smash hit.

Vist our friends at Alterna Comics here.

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Filed under Alterna Comics, Comics, Comics Reviews, graphic novels, Sci-Fi, science fiction, The Twilight Zone