Friday, September 22, 2017

Notable Horror Movies To Watch

I’m very picky when it comes to horror films. They need to be just “right”, which is difficult when they get so incredibly dumb. If a movie is great and has a worthless ending, I don’t enjoy it. Simple. If a movie is sorely lacking in any department, it gets forgotten.

Horror is a subjective genre, so what works for one person doesn’t work for another. This is a list of horror films that work for me, and the reasons they do. They range from straight horror to comedy. In no particular order, I present you this list.

Idle Hands: Stoner-comedy at its finest! It’s kind of horrifying, and then turns into a cartoon. I have probably seen this movie more times than I can count. One of my 'take on a desert island' movies.

The Thing: A horror classic that still holds up today. You never knew who would be The Thing, so the paranoia perfectly mounts as the film goes on. Kurt Russell has the perfect amount of cool and leading man, but not vulnerability to make you think even he isn’t safe. And the film is mean, but bittersweet.

Friday the 13th Remake: A lot of people hate it, and for justifiable reasons, but Marcus Nispel knows how to make a movie look good! Derek Mears was a phenomenal Jason Voorhees. And let’s be honest, the first few Friday the 13th films are not very good. It took until the 4th film to get a decent film out of this series, which had a good Tommy Jarvis run.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation: Does this one hold up? Not really. Doesn’t stop it from being completely weird! Other films, like the original and even the remake are superior, but there was something about seeing this at 2 in the morning and just being bewildered that can’t be replicated.

Return of the Living Dead: The superior zombie movie. The zombies are unrelenting. Characters who we like are killed off, and when they come back, it genuinely feels like a worse situation. Yeah, it’s funny, but it’s also horrifying, all the way until the end.

Cigarette Burns: I love John Carpenter, as this list shows, but Cigarette Burns is the last enjoyable movie he directed. Good mythology, good performances, good payoffs. It did the “this thing is so evil and will drive you crazy, but we can’t show you it” well.

Event Horizon: Speaking of “this thing is so evil and will drive you crazy, but will show you” is Event Horizon. Part Alien, part Warhammer 40K, Event Horizon is a sci-fi classic, and you can take that to the bank! I’ve seen this movie about four or five times, and remembering it, I could go for another time.

In The Mouth of Madness: Amazing! A great Lovecraftian film if you take it that way, and also a phenomenal movie, in movie, in book plotline. Real dread, great monsters, despair, despair, despair! My meta plot interpretation (which I have to share in a video one of these days) makes this film a classic.

The Hills Have Eyes Remake: This is how you do a remake. Tense, a tilted power dynamic in the villain’s favor, and continuing breaking point of the characters, until it suddenly changes. You will throw your fist in the air as the main characters grab their own agency. It’s fucking glorious!

Fright Night (Original and Remake): These are classics, through and through. Like I mentioned with The Hills Have Eyes, this is how you do a remake. Both films are unique to one another, while still following the same story. I really wish we had gotten at least a sequel to this. This film had no business releasing in August when October would have been a much better release. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Re-Animator: The film that set the tone for Dr. Herbert West. An iconic performance by Jeffrey Coombs, with a solid straight-man dynamic of Bruce Abbot. Speaking of Stuart Gordon . . .

Dreams in the Witch House: From Stuart Gordon’s episode in Masters of Horror. Let’s be honest, any of Gordon’s works are worth watching. This man knows how to get great performances with little budget. Literally, a great and underrated director.

Dagon: Stuart Gordon. Read the two above.

The Blair Witch Project 1 and 2: What makes these films great is they are horror that sticks in your head after the film stops. Like the characters, your imagination plays with you that there is always a malevolent force, without having an actual malevolent force show up. A creeping fear, so to speak. Blair Witch lost me when it went surreal and gave us monsters. This series’ strength is that it’s always plausible there is no supernatural force, but maybe there is, but maybe there isn’t.

Cube: People are trapped in booby-trapped rooms, and they must use their wits to maneuver. Smart storytelling that surprises the viewer with each new room, and makes them think about they would solve it while the characters do as well.

Pandorum: Kinda Event Horizon-y, Pandorum is a surprising hidden gem. I saw this in theaters, and I’m glad I did. This movie kicked ass in the looks, the scares, and the thrills.

The Collector: A nightmare playground. The Collector’s main hook is a thief is hiding in a house with a killer who has set lethal traps all over the place for the family living there. The suspense is built by just how quick Arkin is able to think on his feet and avoid detection, and avoid the traps for so long. This movie is so good!

Saw: The original, and the best, thanks to James Wan’s direction. The heart of this series was lost when the franchise became an annual release. What makes Saw so frightening isn’t the blood and gore, but the lack thereof. Most of our main POV character survive the traps, so like Cube, it’s more terrifying to think of the aftermath. Once Saw 2 hit and afterwards, we saw every possible way the human body could be cut, impaled, and maimed.

The Fair-Haired Child: Another Master’s of Horror film, this time directed by William Malone. This may be my favorite Master’s of Horror episode out of the entire series. Moody, Gothic, and tight bottle storyline. It’s a wonderfully romantic movie. Love it!

Venom: A decent slasher with a fun monster. It’s pretty standard by all counts, but it looks good, has good actors, and it has enough twists to make it worthwhile. Fun fact, this is based on a video game! A video game that never got made. It would have been a survival horror where the player must escape the lead killer. You can spot the name of the town, Backwater, at the train station in the movie. That is the one connection. Also I heart Agnes Bruckner and always thought she was a good actress.

Cry_Wolf: Kind of a “baby’s first mystery thriller” but it’s made with enough good actors and good enough direction to still make it memorable. Also, can I say, this is a good example of PG-13 horror? I never felt this should be R-rated.

Dead Silence: This one almost didn’t make the list, because the ending is pretty dumb. It just kind of rushes to the conclusion. I did add it because dolls are scary, and this one does a great job with it. So, it’s like 95% good.

30 Days of Night: Pure survival. You are with these characters as they hide like rats, hoping the vampires assume they’ve eaten everyone and move on. Good actors, good plot points and conflict, an underrated vampire film.

Tucker and Dale vs Evil: Another great horror-comedy. The two rednecks are actually the nicest guys in the world, and the teens are so stupid they think they’re serial killers. The whole hook to the film is that when the teens attempt to surprise attack our protagonists, they accidentally kill themselves, which just leaves the surviving teens to think our two rednecks killed their friends. So good, so clever!

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer: The hook, Jack Brooks has anger problems. Monsters show up. The film builds to Jack getting angry enough to engage in a rage-filled monster bash. Does this succeed? Yes! Could this have been better? Absolutely.

Videodrome: Long live the new flesh!

Citadel: I learned of this movie while going through newspapers for a class project. The title and the premise sounded intriguing, “A young man must protect his baby from hooded hooligans who killed his wife. He suffers agoraphobia. Do these thugs have ulterior motives for wanting to take his baby, or is he crazy?” Super solid movie. I felt it was a tiny bit underwhelming the first time I watched it, but that feeling went away after subsequent viewings.

Puppet Master: Listen, we’re only talking about the good ones, but I’ve seen the shitty ones too. The puppets work best as anti-heroes instead of villains, but the suckiness extends to all facets of them. A big reason is because the first film was such a direct-to-video success, that sequels started receiving less and less budget. This meant they couldn’t afford the puppeteers and animators, so slowly less puppets were shown, less screen time, worse looking effects, and more boring. Full Moon has never given them the same kind of budget, or hired the same kind of talent.

They did a psuedo-reboot, and Mark from The Room is the lead.

The Resurrected: An adaptation of H.P. Lovecarft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. It was one of his longest stories, and it also leaned on the boring side. I liked it, but I can understand people who don’t, because this film captures the slowness. It’s a pretty good movie, and underrated, given the fact no one mentions it. Worth watching, especially given how terrible Lovecraft adaptations can be. This is one of the better ones.

The Devil’s Rejects: The film where Rob Zombie earned my respect as a director. The Devil’s Rejects is almost literary given how the story plays out, how it plays on emotions, and how it conglomerates in a sick, twisted, slimy, and grotesque mess. House of 1000 Corpses is terrible, but this is top shelf storytelling.

Slither: This movie is fun as fuck! I’m glad it’s a one-and-done, because this is lightning in a bottle. A gross alien invasion film that balances the horror and the comedy. Other movies on this list are more comedy than horror, but this is both. You’ll squirm, you’ll laugh, you’ll be entertained.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker (Original and Remake): This one might be controversial, because the remake is not well regarded. Yes, it’s an X-Files derivative, but it’s a good derivative. The mythology behind the show was fascinating, and I like Stuart Townsend as an actor. The original is one of the best shows that is well worth an entire viewing. It’s so much fun to see an ordinary reporter deal with the strange happenings in the city. It’s a plucky, scrappy show.

And that’s it. I have more horror movies in my collection, but these are the must-watch. All of these have something to them that make them unique. I could include movie like Botched, but while it is good, I also forgot it was in m collection. There are movies like that, and this list is already too long as it is. Films like Evil Dead and things like that were left out because everyone else already knows to watch them.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

September Charity

Edit: Fuck it, all sales for the next week. Pick up whatever book I have that looks good to you.

Growing up in a Catholic household, volunteering got in my blood. I’m used to giving up a few hours to help with a breakfast, or organize and work in a food closet. Since life has made it more difficult to spend my IRL time, I’m changing up my author time to compensate.

The plan is, a book will be chosen for one week out of the month, and that week's profit is given to that month’s charity. A tab is on the top to show just how much money we brought in each time.

Rivalry (All the books) is selected for this week's charity. The charity is the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

The reason I'm picking the Center for Disaster Philanthropy is because I remember what it was like to survive a hurricane. In 2004, South Florida was hit by Francis and Jeanne. For many years, Florida was not hit by a major hurricane, and our state government became lax. Our infrastructure was not in place to handle the storm.

My family did not have electricity for three weeks, and we were the lucky ones. Because the roads were blocked, the mosquito population couldn't be controlled, and boomed 400%. I remember those mosquitoes. Marshall law took place, and a hard curfew was put on the county. I vividly remember being in the car with my sister avoiding the police so we could get to her house because we ran out of clothes.

For years, someone we knew had a traffic light in their living room, because the lights were ripped from their posts. They're really big up close.

The reason I chose the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, instead of the Red Cross, is because Facebook switched all their donations to them. I've always liked the Red Cross, but right now, they're terribly mismanaged.

So, for the next week starting today, all sales of Rivalry (all of them) go to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. You donate to charity, you get a book in the process. I think that's a pretty sweet deal. If you're interested in how much money will be raised at the end, look at the tab for Charity tab on the website in a week and a half (it can take 72 hours for sales to appear on certain retailers).

Updates may be infrequent as Hurricane Irma potentially hits South Florida. My house may or may not survive it. Depends, we'll see how things turn out.

Thank you for giving.

Buy from:

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Let's Talk Logan

I finally got a chance to watch a movie recently, and when I went to Redbox, I rented Logan.

What a great decision.

Now, everything to be said about Logan has been said about Logan. I'm going to try and avoid going over the many things that have been discussed.

Logan feels real.

The narrative is visceral. It limps across to the finish line, and it's glorious. The story has a heart all its own, and it feels like a real story. It's touching, it's mean, it's cynical, and optimistic. What makes Logan special is its confidence to be what it is, and there is good reasons to dislike it, but the viewer doesn't, because it's different; it's unique.

And uniqueness has an intrinsic value. Maybe not in a logical sense, but in a practical one. When we're surrounded by mediocrity, our soul is refreshed by creativity.

Perhaps I'm caught up in the hype, and that may be true. All I know is that Logan captured my attention in the loud and quiet moments. It surprised me the whole way through. It displayed that taking a chance is worth striving towards.

I had a good time. Not bad for a movie that started with Looney Tunes-esque special effects.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Amazon, the Bully

(A screenshot when the Kindle Store was filled with scam books filled with nonsense to drain money from Kindle Unlimited.)

I have a number of friends who worry about the monopolizing growth of Amazon. Amazon is everywhere. They bought Whole Foods outright for $13.7 billion, and they have bookstores, and they're going to be everywhere. Soon, we're going to live in Prime Houses, working gig jobs on Amazon, all to pay our Prime Mortgage.

Am I worried?


The reason is simple, Amazon isn't that much of a threat. It really isn't. Like other tech companies, such as, Google, Facebook, and Apple; they seem big, but they're not as powerful when it comes to the other big companies.

The secret of all these big tech companies is they talk a big game. They say they're world-changers, they're powerful, they have reach and influence. They say this so people will believe it, so when it comes time to make a decision, the person thinks, "There isn't a decision. It's already been decided by the market."

It's the same mentality where Netflix is stocked with thousands of great and interesting titles, but movies like Transformers dominate the watch list. It's easy, it's a known name, and people don't like to take chances.

These giant companies rely on these myths so that consumers, workers, and legislators don't have to think or look too deep.

Let's look at what happens when these big companies have to deal with real competition.

Google Fiber is essentially dead because they're getting sued and out-legislated by the other Internet Service Providers. Facebook continues to grow, but they are quickly running out of ad space to continue said growth, which is why they're going into video. Video, the land controlled by traditional studios, and Netflix, and Amazon Video, and Hulu, and so on, and so forth. Apple is worth a buttload of money, but Android owns the majority of the market in every market.

Amazon is no different. They are a bully, in many respects. Bully has a negative connotation, but it's not wholly inaccurate. Amazon decimates markets with few, if any, big players. An important note of that last sentence, I'm referring to multiple big players, not just one.

Take for example, the Amazon App Store. Their app store died the day Blackberry couldn't carry its own OS and the Fire phone flopped. I'm sure the Fire line of tablets helps out, but iOS and Android slapped the store so bad that it's not even a concern. Apps I have on Android still receive updates, whereas once they go on the Amazon App Store for the first time; that's it, no more updates. That is, if they show up at all. Even the major apps, like Twitter, haven't been updated in forever.

Fun fact, the Fire Twitter app is great and doesn't have any of those stupid recent cosmetic updates. Enjoy it while you can.

How about another market? I mentioned the Fire phone. Amazon couldn't hang with any of the big players with their own phone, and a year later, left the space. They have carved out a niche of selling subsidized phones with their lock screen ads. There's always a silver-lining.

And another one. Amazon's competitor to Wattpad was Write On. That was shuttered.

Another One. Amazon Register, their answer to Square and PayPal Here. It only worked on a few phones. They provided better rates than the competition, but that wasn't enough to save them. I actually have one gathering dust. Amazon Register was also closed because that card reading business is a tough one.

Remember when Amazon wanted to compete with YouTube with Amazon Video Direct? Yeah, that isn't faring too well either. Terrible user-interface with byzantine instructions. It hasn't been killed yet, but do expect it to.

There are more if you type in your search engine of choice, "Amazon Failures". You know what I like about Amazon? They (generally) treat failure as a challenge to do better. Good for them. More people should take that approach.

The way Amazon managed to get where they are is because they were friendly with their competition. The problem is, the cat is out of the bag. They can't pull the same stunt twice. Everyone sees Amazon as a competitor.

Amazon is getting into the grocery business with Whole Foods. Good luck. Whole Foods was already in trouble and looking to get bought out, so I don't see them as a great deal. Every other supermarket is ready to take them on, plus expanding competition from international stores, such as Aldi, and then local supermarkets, and then dollar stores.

Their main competition is also Walmart, who very much wants to go pound-for-pound with them. Walmart bought Jet last year for $3.3 BILLION, which was a very costly, and very needed hire. Walmart kept up the best against Prime Day sales. Walmart is also expanding pay and pick-up approaches to more stores. Watch out for them in two or three years when all their expensive warehousing renovation kicks in.

Walmart can out-muscle them in cities, but most importantly, in rural towns, where they are felt when they open, and when they close. Whole Foods stores were primarily located in wealthy areas, which means Amazon gets to rural places by mail. You know what's getting better for those rural demographics? Walmart. They have a reach that can't be matched.

One last point on the Walmart rivalry. Barnes & Noble recently had an activist investor write an open letter for the bookseller to go private or have a bigger company buy them out. The hope is to take Barnes & Noble out from the stupid world of a public company on Wall Street, that way Barnes & Noble can concentrate on making its business the best it can be. In 2010, Walmart looked at purchasing Barnes & Noble. I have a feeling this will come to pass.

Walmart would have an expanded reach in metropolitan areas, where Barnes & Noble holds. A new warehousing system between stores. A significant chunk of ebook retail with Nook, where Walmart can put right on their site, make money on the hardware, and make money on all ebooks sold.

Finally, the kicker, Amazon is a U.S.-centric company, with a significant market in the U.K. That's about it. There is an Amazon Canada, but I have friends there who tell me the deals are not like the deals I have. There are Amazon branches everywhere, but they don't have nearly the same market penetration they do in the U.S.. Asia has been lost to Alibaba. Africa is not in play. Nowhere else does Amazon have a hold.

And if I were Amazon, I would worry about ever getting the same kind of hold in the EU. The EU just slapped Google with a $2.7 billion fine, which can be described as a warning for further actions. Things look better in the U.S. though. Even with a number of congressmen and senators looking to take Amazon down a peg, I don't think it will have any effect at all.

Other countries have big markets with their own big players. There is very little worry about Amazon taking over there.

Here, we're going to take a look at one last example of how Amazon can't hang with real competition. Several years ago, Best Buy was in fear of going the way of Circuit City. One of the killing forces on Best Buy were "window shoppers", the kind of people who would come to Best Buy to check out merchandise, and then buy it on Amazon because it was cheaper.

Best Buy complained that their higher prices were due to the fact that they can be reached on foot and they train staff. How could they compete with Amazon?

Price match.

Best Buy created a new policy. If they carry a product, and it is shipped and sold from Amazon for a cheaper price, Best Buy would price match it in store. I've personally done this several times with Blu-rays and smaller items.

Now, price matching helped, but Best Buy is a retail business. If they are as good as they say, if they can bring people into the store, they can have them leave with one product or more. That's where Gamers Club Unlocked originated. A GCU subscription allows a customer to receive a 20% discount off any new game from Best Buy, which then gives Best Buy points, which gives further discounts, which is further assisted by coupons. I picked up The Witcher 3 new when it had a sale, with 20% off, with a coupon, and paid, like, $26 or something like that.

And that was close to launch. The DLC hadn't even hit yet.

That got me, and plenty of other people into their stores. 

The combination of competing directly against Amazon and successful ventures such as GCU revitalized Best Buy. Consumers came back in, because it was convenient to do so. That's why Best Buy stocks are the highest they've ever been! Best Buy adapted, and was rewarded for doing so.

Good for Best Buy, but this is about Amazon. Amazon saw just how well GCU was treating Best Buy and wanted to cut that off. Amazon offered their own 20% discount on any new games if the consumer has a Prime subscription. Now, the Prime discount isn't as good as GCU. The discount only applies for the first two weeks of a game's release. And let's be honest, two or three weeks after launch the publisher takes off $10 to $20 for a weekend sale somewhere.

But, hey, Amazon competes as well, and all consumers are happy, right? No. Best Buy is winning this fight for video games. Amazon Canada no longer offers the 20% discount anymore. In the U.S., the Prime discount only applies to pre-orders now, following a similar trend that Amazon Canada did. They blinked. Done. This also ties into my previous statement that Amazon is centered around the U.S. and the U.S. only. They just can't hang.

The only way to fear Amazon is to buy into their shadow. And I don't. I don't buy into Google's shadow, or Facebook's, or any of them. The easiest thing to do is not use Amazon, and buy from somewhere else. What could be easier?