Monday, July 21, 2014

TV Review "The Strain"

Director Guillermo del Toro and writer Chuck Hogan came up with their own twist on vampire mythology in their trilogy of novels "The Strain," "The Fall" and "The Night Eternal." The first novel pays homage to Bram Stoker's "Dracula," substituting a plane for ship Demeter, but later delves into epidemiology; the logistics of plague and the spread of disease using one of horror's oldest tropes, the vampire. The cable channel FX has developed the trilogy into a TV series, with Del Toro and Hogan at them helm, assuring audiences that the series will be at least as good as (if not better) than their novels.

Hottie Cory Stoll ("House of Cards;" The Normal Heart) is CDC doctor Ephraim Goodweather, who is brought in when a plane from Austria arrives at JFK "dead." All equipment is off, all the lights are out and all but one window shade is closed. Of the 210 people aboard, only four are alive, though by the end of the first episode, it is clear that none of them are 'dead.' Eph is also in the midst of a custody case over his young son, Zach, which serves as both a distraction from his work and a stress-factor in life. Meanwhile, aged pawn-shop owner Abraham Setrakian (Harry Potter's Argus Filch, AKA, David Bradley) knows that an old enemy has come to America and is determined to stop him, at any cost,

Drawing on classical vampire mythology. "The Strain" adds virology to the mix, adding an intriguing (and often disgusting) element to the genre. Del Toro has directed the first three episodes and written (along with Hogan and others) the first 7, staying close (so far) to novels' plot, while adding and/or subtracting for TV audiences. The cast, which includes Sean Astin; Kevin Durand ("Lost's" Keamy) and several other TV vets, seems well up to the task at hand. And the effects are downright disturbing. Blood-sucking worms and supernormally fast & strong creatures are abundant, while subtler motifs ("Papa. I am so cold") abound. Two episodes in and I am totally hooked. Hopefully, the series will not totally rely on all three of the novels, the second and third of which left much to be desired. So far, though, the series is excellent! ***1/2 (Three and a Half Stars Out of Four).

Happy watching!

More, anon,

Friday, July 18, 2014

Feeling Old & Young at the Same Time

Uncle P?
In about two and a half hours, I will officially be ** years old. Regular readers have undoubtedly taken the time to figure out Uncle P's real age, though truth-be-told, I sometimes have to look at my drivers' license to know for sure. 

I don't feel or look my age (at least that's what some people tell me). A recent escapade with a a much younger partner had me feeling good, despite the pain in my thighs and glutes the next day (he told me he thought I was only about 5 years older than he was). 

All of my life, I have been genetically blessed. I was first served at a bar at 15 (yes, I know - shameful!) and since then have been confused for much older or much younger than I am. It's the combination of German, Hungarian, Scottish and Welsh genes that keep people guessing. Until my late 20's people have thought I was older than I actually was. In my 30's, people started guessing I was much younger than I was. I always win a prize at the "Guess Your Age" carnival booths. If I am anything like  like my late mother and grandfather, I won't start showing my true age for another 20 years or more. 

Of course, my premature gray hair (which started to develop in my early 30's) is a dead give-away. And I'm not sharing this as a boast. It's simply fact. Only my (shrinking) family and closest friends (and the smartest of my regular readers) know exactly how old I am. And that's okay with me. The old adage "Age is just a number" is true. In my mind, I am perpetually 25. Though in my joints and muscles, I often feel that I am 117. 

Here's the thing: One is only as old as one allows oneself to be. I can laugh at the most immature joke or pun while dismissing the right-wing attitudes of many of my contemporaries. I still love a good rollercoaster ride while decrying the mostly terrible state of modern pop music. I may be yelling at the the neighborhood kids to get the hell off my lawn, though I can still bust a move to a truly great dance song or get it on with a hottie 15 or more years my junior (TMI?). Personally, I have no intentions of giving in to my age, no matter what it may be. I'm just glad to wake up on the right side of the dirt each day! I just know that I'm not ready to retire from work or my favorite activities any time soon and I hope that will be the case for many years to come.

Happy Birthday to Me!

More, anon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


A short post about a short film. I'm not sure which Facebook page led me to this, but Spanish director Aritz Moreno's short horror film Colera (via) is actually quite impressive on several levels. 

Shot in a single take (I wonder how many takes it took to get it right), Colerea is reminiscent of so many great 'long-takes.' You know you've seen them: The opening sequence of The Bird Cage or the amazing battle scene near the end of Children of Men* or the brutal slo-mo fight scene in Park Chan-wook's Old Boy (*Some links in this post contain NSFW language).

I'm not sure how they managed to get all of this in one take, especially given some the angles Moreno managed to capture. It's chilling, disturbing and creepy all at once and could even serve as a prequel of sorts to Eli Roth's insanely funny debut film, Cabin Fever ("Pancakes!")*. Add the gruesome makeup effects and you have just under 7 minutes of brilliance. 

Cólera from Sr.&Sra. on Vimeo.

Colera has plenty to say about mob-mentalities; fear of those who are different and the spread of disease, among other things. It's brutal and disturbing and exceptionally well-made. I can't wait to see what Moreno does with a feature length film!

More, anon.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Review: "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"

I really liked Rupert Wyatt's 2011 re-boot Rise of the Planet of the Apes and was very much looking forward to its sequel Dawn of te Planet of the Apes

It's 10 years after the events of Rise and the so-called Simian Flu (a result of the virus used to introduce the drug that made the apes smart) has wiped out most of the human population.  The apes, living in a wooden village in the Redwoods, haven't seen one in the last two years and their leader, Caesar (Andy Serkis) assumes they are all dead. After his son, Blue Eyes (adorable Nick Thurston) is attacked by a bear while the tribe is hunting deer, Caesar warns him to think before acting. Soon, Blue Eyes and his young friend Ash come upon Carver (Kirk Acevedo of "Fringe") who shoots Ash and brings the entire village down on them. It turns out that Carver is part of a team sent to restart a hydroelectric dam in the mountains to restore power to San Francisco, which only has a few weeks of fuel left before the few residents are plunged back into post-apocalyptic chaos. Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty; The Great Gatsby) is Malcolm, who decides to appeal to the apes' intelligence and ask for permission to repair the generator. Along with his wife Ellie (Keri Russell) and son Alexander (Let Me In's Kodi Smit-McPhee) and several others, they make their way and plead their case to Caesar, who agrees to let them try, provided they give up their weapons. Caesar's right-hand Koba (Toby Kebbell) and father to Ash, doesn't trust the humans and after finding Carver hid a gun among his things, heads into San Fran with a team, where they discover the humans' huge weapons cache. Koba advocates attack, though Caesar doesn't want a war, just to be left alone. Gary Oldman is along as the human group's leader who turns out to be a bit over-zealous.

Matt Reeves (Let Me In) directs the effects-laden movie well, enough I suppose. And the cast is outstanding, particularly Sirkus and the rest of the 'apes' who give astonishing motion-capture performances (Sirkus seems to be a pioneer in the field, despite earlier attempts from actors like Tom Hanks and Jim Carrey in films that fail to make their human characters anything but dead-eyed and creepy). The real stars of the film are the effects and the cinematography. We opted for the 2D version and it was still spectacular to look at. Shot on location in the Redwood Forest, there is never any doubt that the apes swinging through the trees are actually doing just that (imagine the opposite of the terrible monkey sequence in Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). 

Sadly, what Dawn... has in effects and performances, it sorely lacks in script. Borrowing from any number of better films including The Lion King (right down to the leader's nemesis having a prominent scar across the left side of his face), it seems cobbled together rather hastily and actually (to me, anyway) dragged at times (though Q didn't think so). Dale and I were mostly entertained while K (as usual) had issues with the noise levels and the themes of Man's (and Ape's) Inhumanity. Unfortunately, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was not THE summer movie I hoped it would be, despite its rather amazing FX work. *** (Three Out of Four Stars). Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is rated PG13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language."

Oh, well. There's still plenty I want to see this summer, including director Luc Besson's (The Professional; The Fifth Element) take on the Superhero movie, Lucy, which despite having a flawed concept, looks awfully fun!

More, anon.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

TV Review: "Extant"

I don't usually review new TV series until after at least two episodes, but I was so intrigued by the trailers for CBS's new Sci-Fi drama "Extant" and so taken by so much of it (some of it, not so much, but we'll get to to that in a bit). Spoilers ahead.

It's the not too distant future. Technology is obviously advanced and it seems the world is run by tablets. Halle Berry makes her small-screen debut as astronaut Molly Woods, who has just returned home after a 13 month solo mission aboard a space station. Solo? Isn't that a bit dangerous? What if something were to go wrong? Oh, well. Screw logic. Her gorgeous husband John ("E.R." alum Goran Visnjic) is happy to have her home, but their obviously not biological son Ethan is suspicious and knows something's off. Wait... what? Ethan is a robot? Okay, sure. Whatever. It had better be germane. On the same day John is presenting Ethan to a group of investors, Molly finds out that she's pregnant. (Dun-dun-DAH!!). And while John is earnest in what he wants to do, can he really be surprised that no one wants to invest in an artificial intelligence that doesn't follow Asimov's Rules (or at least have a kill switch). Weird things happen: Space exploration is now privately funded The International Space Exploration Agency is run by a nefarious Japanese investor who is obviously up to no good and Ethan throws a temper tantrum, after which he may or may not have killed a bird. So, let's take parts of The Astronaut's Wife; Rosemary's Baby; Alien; and A.I., mix 'em all up with a dash of Starman and a pinch of "The X-Files" and you have "Extant."

Not that it was terrible. There were some cinema-worthy effects in the pilot and some genuine performances from Berry and the supporting cast of TV regulars, including Camryn Manheim; Michael O'Neil ("Bates Motel"); Maury Sterling and Brad Byer. TV Sci-Fi is hit or miss, and this rather obvious-starting show had better have some tricks and amazing plot-twists up it's sleeve because despite the excellent cast, the pilot was so full of cliches, plot-holes and red-herrings I actually groaned more than once. I will give "Extant" a chance, but it had better find somewhere new to go, real fast. **(Two Out of Four Stars).

More, anon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Gayest Trailer You'll See This Week. (Up Dated)

Sorry for the very generic graphic there on the left. The short documentary I am about to talk about doesn't have any logo or poster on line, that I could find. 

This is actually a very overdue post about a stand-up comic I met at the end of May. I had a date in New Hope and thought I'd been stood up (I wasn't, and it's too long a story to go into, now). The bartender, Adrian and I struck up a conversation and discovered we knew many of the same people who were working out of the theatre which JMTF had used. He also told me he was moving to L.A. soon, because he had a short documentary about to hit the festival circuit. We exchanged emails and I honestly didn't expect to hear from him, but he has kept in touch and the film, The Joke's On You has apparently already won an award. Now living in L.A., Adrian is posting lots of fun stuff on Facebook and it looks like his career is moving the way he wants.

Anyway, here is the teaser trailer for The Joke's On You, about and starring Trenton-born gay comedian Adrian Colon:

I don't know about all the hyperbolic 'trailer' language, but I do know and like Adrian (a genuine, sweet, funny and fierce cutie-pie with a good ear and the right things to say) and I want to support him and hope he succeeds. So if The Joke's On You is playing at your local LGBT film festival this summer, check it out!

More, anon

Adrian sent me the poster:


Monday, July 7, 2014

Two New Obsessions or The Most Terrifying Thing You'll See This Week

Verruckt - German for "Insanity"
A quickie, tonight, because one obsession has led me to another and if you know me at all, I must obsessively share my obsessions. Carnivals, State Fairs, Amusement and Theme Parks are places where Uncle P has had some of the best times of his life. I've ridden coasters and water slides up and down the East Coast. I've always wanted to visit Schlitterbahn Water Park in Texas, where they had the first water-coaster which pushed riders up a hill with water and had no idea they had a sister park in St Louis until the first reports that they were building the world's tallest, fastest water slide. My Dear D has suggested a long-weekend road trip, just to ride Verruckt. M is on board, but the sled requires four riders. Anyone care to join us? 

Honestly, it's not the ride that bothers me. I think it would be amazing! It's the friggin' climb up 260+ stairs. They couldn't put in an elevator? (I'm old, damn it!) Plagued by rumors of test-dummies flying off the slide amid several delays in opening, the park has released the amazing video below, of the first human test-ride, featuring the slide's designer in the front seat! 

Wow! That looks amazing! I truly do want to ride this. How about you?

I know I promised two obsessions and the second is a direct result of the first. I had heard part of AWOLNATION's "Sail" at least once before and liked it, but had no idea who they were. Thanks to the Verruckt video, I looked the song up and found the artists. I have yet to listen to any of their other stuff, but I love it. It harkens back to the 90's Hungarian duo,. Enigma with a harder edge. I dig it.

Should I have known about AWOLNATION a long time ago? Had you heard the before? I'm going to check out other tracks and see if the rest are as good "Sail."

More, anon.