Sunday, October 30, 2016

Tennies top horror picks for Halloween 2016

Since moving to the US, fall has become my favourite season. And its not because of all the pumpkin spiced food and drink. You noticeably see the season change and the rawness in the colours which line the streets with its amber and yellow fall leaves. In Australia we never really celebrated Halloween with much of a bang (well our close friends did with parties sometimes) but here, they really make a BIG deal about it and EVERYONE gets involved including kids and parents!

It makes the week in the lead up to where our mortal world and the spirit world is it's thinnest exciting! TV celebrates with horror and thriller movie specials on every evening. Syfy network show a different classic horror film each night and Netflix has recently launched the "Scream" series based on the classic 90's movie. So without further adieu, here are my top 5 picks to warm up to the spookiest eve on earth:

5. The Cabin in the Woods - 2012

It's a given that any film written and produced by Joss Whedon is going to be of quality scare. He was the master of classic series like Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly (which sadly only survived one season but my husband still rates that as one of his all time top favourite series). So with undertones of the morbid scattered through some of his works, it was no surprise to see him direct this excellent film.
Cabin in the Woods
Cabin in the Woods
A group of teens visit one of the groups cousin's abandoned cabin in a forest to have a wild weekend. Little do they know that the scares they will encounter are being manipulated by a psych facility who are keen to spook the teens with various monsters and ghouls. What the teens don't account for is the already lingering dark past of the cabin itself. You find yourself questioning the actual reality of the monsters whether they are part of the test or for real. There is an awesome twist at the end of this film which will get you on the edge of the couch, and I still to this day, I rate it in my top 5 of all time scare flicks for it's originality and surprise.

4. 30 Days of Night - 2002

30 Days of night vampires
Vampire crew - 30 Days of Night

Forget all your run of the mill vampire movies, this chilling (and I mean literally chilling as it's set in a wild part of northern Alaska) film will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. The town of Burrow experience 30 days of night and when the night falls, a group of vampires use this time to lay carnage on the towns folk by having a month long feeding frenzy. The new town sheriff is keen to put the carnage to rest and sets upon devising a plan to try and kill the head vampire. I spent most of this movie huddled up against my partner because of my epic fear of teeth. The stylisation of the vampires are that of Nosferatu (the original depiction of vampires) and for me, teeth has always been an element which freaks me out. The sheer violence and audacity of the vampires in this film set a new precedent making True Blood seem like a childrens vampire series (lol). Don't watch this one alone!

3. Paranormal Activity - Film series (1 - 5) 2007-2015

Apparently you are meant to be less scared when modern technology can film odd occurrences and paranormal sightings in the family home, because at least you have proof that you aren't god damn crazy right?
Paranormal Activity 3
Scene from Paranormal Activity 3
The series of films is based on the story of a young lady named Katy who believes she has a demon attached to her, which is causing chaos in her life and her home. The series then goes on to elaborate on this evil demonic possession which makes it's way into Katy's extended family and their neighbourhood. Hailed for it's real life scares and anticipation in some horrific scenes, this is another series of films you won't want to watch alone. I recommend watching during the day time!

2. The Blair Witch Project - 1999

The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project

Hearing stories of the Blair Witch, 3 film students go off in search of more information and to try to uncover more about the myth of the witch in the Black hills near Burkittsville in Maryland. The film is shot in a documentary style, making their journey more realistic for the viewer. The students decide to take their search to the woods one night to disprove what the locals have told them, and of course...everything takes a turn for the worse. Armed with nothing but their camera's, every horrifying encounter with the unknown is shown before the viewers eyes, making this high up on the list of top scares for the last 20 years.
When I watched this as a 20yr old, I went off searching for more fan theories long after viewing this film and seeing the ending as it left me with so many questions and open ends to the plot.

1. The Shining - 1980

Originally written by Stephen King, the master of 80's scare, and directed by legendary Stanley Kubrick, this film will stay with your thoughts long after you've watched it. Jack and Wendy Torrance with their young son Danny, take on the care taking role for the winter (October- March) at a large hotel (originally filmed in northern Oregon). The hotel becomes snowed in for the winter and the Torrances aren't aware of the hotel's sordid history, as the main hotel building has been built over an Indian burial ground. There are stories of the last care taker and his family being murdered because he went mad but they refuse to believe the folk lore until things start going crazy.

Axe scene from The Shining movie
"Here's Johnny!" Horrifying scene from The Shining

I only watched this film around 5 or 6 years ago for the first time, but since then, it has always stayed with me. The beautiful pop culture of the cinematography has been used over and over time and time again for music film clips, meme's and other such media. Jack Nicholson's most famous crazy line "here's Johnny!" is truly hysterical the first time you watch this. One of the scariest films of ALL time!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Which witch?

In the lead up to Halloween, I thought I'd write about a few of my favourite scare watches of 2016! It's been a genre I've always loved. We've seen good witches, bad witches and just down right scary witches! From watching "The Blair Witch project" back in 96, wanting to research more fan theories after viewing it, to the southern "voodoo" witch, made famous from "The Skeleton Key" starring Kate Hudson, through to American Horror story's season 3 - Coven, the last decade has produced some creepy and comical tales of the witch. I'll be talking though about 2 tales of seriously freaked out witches sure to make your skin crawl. If you are looking for something to beef up your halloween scare, then read on!

The Conjurring - 2013, Warner Bros

Reading about the history of this interesting horror movie concept, the plot of the Conjurring was actually written 14 years prior to it actually being made. It's based on a "true" story from the 1970's making viewing of this film all the more spooky. Ed and Lorraine Warren studied and taught students about the afterlife and demonic possession. As well as this, they were hands on in assisting people with "paranormal" situations. Lorraine being a recognised psychic used her gift to try and talk to surrounding sprits (good and bad) and Warren was there to try and trap those unwanted ghosts so that they could never harm or scare their tormented again.
Lorraine and Ed Warren - The Conjuring
You meet the Perron family. A family of 7 (they have 5 daughters) buy an old farmhouse in Harrisville Rhode Island. The year is 1971 and they soon learn the sordid history of the house which they now own and the horrible witch which haunts every square inch of the grounds. This film has huge scares pretty much from the onset and I regard it as one of the best horror films to come out in the last few years. You learn of a few trapped spirits trying to help the family, help the children but the witch has other plans for their mom Carolyn Perron. Add demonic possession to the mix and you have an all out jump off your couch cinematic experience! Give it a watch this Halloween season.

The Witch - Rooks and nest entertainment/A24

For a film which had originally a 3 million dollar budget, The Witch grossed an excellent takings after opening of 40 million. Featured initially at the Sundance film festival, this American / Canadian piece really takes the original raw fundamentals of the horror/supernatural genre and beautifully executes these to give a tale of scare and woe. Set in the historical period of 1600's when the original settlers came to the America's and settled in "New England", it shows the exile of a young family who had challenged the word of the new testament. Being highly religious back then, many folk based their livelihoods on what god and the land could produce for them. They wander far deep into the woods to build their own farm but the land is sour and returns no yield or corn.

Thomason - The Witch
Thomason, the teenage young daughter senses a danger in the woods preceding their small wood shack and the family's fears are confirmed when her baby brother goes missing out of plain sight. Her mother becomes distraught with grief and the other children venture into the woods to try and see whether they can find him. Thomason takes off into the woods with her slightly younger brother who has twitches of teen romanticism going on, and eventually he does meet his fate by being tempted by the evil female entity which has cursed the forest.

The music through out this film contributes to 70% of the suspense and scare factor, with the score being eerily beautiful and haunting all in the same breath. Again, demonic and possession are featured later on in the film with all members of the family descending into chaos. Without spoiling the ultimate ending, I urge you if you are a horror film fan to give this film a watch. It embodies every horror element precisely, from lighting, fear, through to anticipation of what we cannot see. Some of the forest scenes and the honesty of the child actors really makes this film one of my top scare watches this year.

Creatures from the other side...

Growing up in the late 80's, like many of my fellow friends, I was lucky to be allowed to watch at a young age of 7-8 years old, an assortment horror flicks such as Pet Cemetery, IT, Friday the 13th, Carrie, Nightmare on Elm street and along with these, add classics like Stand by Me, E.T, Alien...the list goes on.

When I heard Netflix Originals series had put out this nice little 8 episode 80's themed extra terrestrial/horror series called "Stranger Things" I was a bit reluctant to give it a watch as Alien series aren't really my thing (and also a genre which truly bring out the scare in me!). After watching the first episode, I was sheerly blown away at the stylization, soundtrack and so much more that it begged me to write this blog post. Enjoy! oh....and warning...there are a few spoilers ;)

Stranger Things - 2016 - Netflix Original 

The year is 1983. 4 young 12 year olds are playing dungeons and dragons in the basement of Mike Wheelers house in a small town in Indiana. They are yet to learn of their fate that evening when they decide to sneak out and go riding on that cold winters night. Track forward to a hidden government institution where you see a young female patient escape. Who is she? And why was she being kept prisoner? Episode then flashes back to Will riding through the woods near this institution in the night, one of the young boys falling off his bike and then a shadow of a creepy "thing" rushing through the forrest appears. Will doesn't come home that night and his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) knows this is unlike him. We're introduced to a frantic Joyce at the moment when she realises its not normal for Will to just go missing. She makes several attempts to contact the town police and after a day, the police do start to search the woods for Will.

Flashback to the girl who went missing from the government institution. She has the number "11" on her arm. After her trying to take shelter in the local diner and be-friending the owner (of which she can't actually speak because she's been locked in a cell for the last 6 yrs) she make's haste and leaves only to then be taken in by Mike and his friends. They hide Eleven in his basement trying to communicate and figure out who she is. Meanwhile the evil government agents try to track down Eleven after she was spotted at the diner. As the boys and Eleven get to know each other, Mike claims that her nickname will be "El".

There is a little side story going on with Nancy Wheeler (Mikes 16yr old sister) and her new jock boyfriend Steve. This part of the story vaguely reminds me of Donnie Darko, but with Nancy as "Donnie" she's a little bit nerdy and weird but has the attention of the popular guy. Lots of teen romance infused into their relationship, made all the more awkward with Will's older brother Jonathan who attends the same school and has a talent for photography. He's known as an odd ball kid and made fun of by Steve and his friends. It's portrayed that Nancy and Jonathan have a weird chemistry and later on you find out why this is. Nancy has a bestie called Beth, and you find out what happen's to Beth when the teen's decide to have a sneaky night at Steve's home without the parents. I won't spoil it for those who are yet to watch the entire series, but you have to feel bad for Beth.

Meanwhile, missing kid Will is trying to make contact from "the upside down" (the dimension accidentally activated by El when she escapes from the institution) and begins to try and contact his mother through the lights in his house. Will's mum becomes frantic convinced that he is trying to reach her and goes crazy buying strings of Christmas lights trying to contact her whilst hiding from whatever terrors threaten him where he is. The chilling scene from the film echo's something from the Poltergeist where she paints a makeshift Ouija board  on to the wall and strings lights under each letter so that Will can speak to her. At any one moment when the lights go crazy, you can bet that horrid "thing" appears trying to pierce through walls, making Joyce seem more insane. Now that Joyce has seen the "thing" she knows that Will has a chance to survive and at this point we are all left asking, just how she can get to him?

The intensity builds in several more episodes with the Sheriff and Will's mum trying to piece together what has happened, who the mystery "El". I think the reason I and so many people loved this series is because the Duffer brothers (creators and writers of the script) based the feel of the boys friendship on that from the film "Stand By Me" and you see the iconic scene of the boys walking along the train track which instantly brings back that moment from the 80's classic. You can read more about the inception of the Duffer brothers idea on Variety.

The imagery of some of the scene's is sheer art and it's these scenes which stay with you moments after you have watched them. To recap, here is a brilliant take of some of the best moments from the series.

And finally, the soundtrack. If you love mysterious synth's which sound John Carpenter-esque, heavy keyboards and deep electronic drums, then the soundtrack will surely bolster your love for this show. Spotify has a playlist created by Netflix with some of the 80's hits featured on the show. There looks to be an official soundtrack being released soon too. A huge 80's music fan myself, it was the era where electronic sounds made a break through, giving new dimensions of sound to music and the birth of "electronic music". This genre and style really emphasises the setting of time period with this series. Everyone who watched and loved Stranger Things are holding their breath for a second series. Something may have given it away in the final episode, but only time will tell whether the Duffer brothers decide to visit the upside down again.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

80's teen trifecta

Nothing beats teen movies from the 80's. Or more so, the teen movies made by our favorite teen angst director John Hughes. For most of my friends and older family, we grew up with some of the best teen generation of films of our time. It was a time before crazy green screens and special effects. Where romance and love was raw, sometimes sleazy but not often as it is seen in today's millennial world. I recently had the pleasure of re-watching 3 of my all time favorite 80's teen movies over the weekend (all which star Molly Ringwald) and it's safe to say, no matter how many times I watch these films, I never get sick of them! So I am dedicating this blog post to these 3 flicks.

Sixteen Candles - 1984 Universal Pictures

We've all been there. Dorky high school student, surrounded by annoying family life. You feel like you don't quite fit in and you have some weird and wonderful friends. Have a major crush on the popular guy who most likely doesn't know you exist. May sound familiar! Well, I may be speaking for myself (haha) but the above description sets the scene for Samantha (Ringwald) as her 16th birthday is upon her. Thinking this particular birthday is a life changing experience, she wakes on this glorious Friday, gets ready for school just like any other day. Her house is thrown into a bit of disarray with her older sister getting married the following day. Grandparents are due to flood the house in the afternoon and among it all of this, her parents and siblings completley forget that it is her birthday even though she hints and ahh's at them. Nope, nada. No birthday wishes for you. She finds this highly odd and expresses her frustration but without actually coming out and saying it. So with this intro setting the tone of the movie (and Ringwald plays the angry angsty teen so well) she set's off on her Friday school day.

Jake, Ted and Sam - Sixteen Candles
You're introduced to Sam's rocker friend while they are in class and while they are sitting there, Sam fills out a teen sex quiz someone has asked her to do. She's meant to hand it to her friend cheekily but her friend doesn't get the note and it ends up in the hands of Jake Ryan, the senior rich guy who she has a crush on. Nervously after class her friend admits to not having the note so Sam freaks out a bit. On her way home from school on the dreaded school bus, Sam runs into Ted, a freshman (junior) who seems to have a major crush on her but is not at all shy in showing his affections towards her. Sam is totally put off by Ted's geekiness and forwardness, completley brushes him off and hopes that she won't see him again for a while. Later that afternoon the grandparents decent on her house and her gran and pa bring Long Duck Dong (Watanabe) an exchange student from China. When the film came out, there was a bit of controversy about the depiction of Watanabe's character, as the script written for him came across quite racist. Needless to say, the scenes with Watanabe are still quite hilarious (especially when he trashes the grandparents car and gets ridiculously stoned). Later that night, Sam attends the school dance where you see Ted (Michael Hall) in his geek glory trying to win the affections of Sam, even though Jake has eyes for Sam and Sam is too nervous to actually speak to him.

Sam gets her guy - Sixteen Candles
Theres an endearing scene where Sam runs off and is sitting in the schools car workshop, this is where Ted decides to try and make his move, but learns of Sam's crush on Jake. You see, Ted's bet his geekoid friends that he can "go all the way" with Sam so in exchange for having a trusted D and M, Sam reluctantly loans Ted her underwear to put to rest the bet he has hedged with his geek buddies. From there Ted and his geek buddies crash Jakes after party and its there that Jake learns from Ted how keen Sam really is on him. Jake wants a serious girlfriend and not the party girl Caroline who is he supposed to be dating. And then you can guess the ending and what happens from there on in. While completley predictable, Sixteen Candles still lights that torch for our eternal first love which is why so many of us can relate to it! John Hughes knows how to subtly add that comedy to an already nervous emo storyline and he does it perfectly in this film. The soundtrack to this film is a great addition too. They released a full soundtrack of all the great 80's hits like Altered Images, The Dyvinals and Billy Idol just to name a few. Thats one thing you can count on for 80's movies is the soundtracks were always awesome.

The Breakfast Club - 1985 - Universal Pictures

I only ever watched the Breakfast club at the age of 13 or 14 and when I first watched it I thought " of high school kids, in detention on a weekend, running a muck, smoking drugs, getting crushes etc. It wasn't until in my 20's and I re-watched this movie that everything made more sense. After dealing with the rush of emotions and hormones growing up as a teen, the penny dropped where anyone who watched this film could relate to one or more than one of the characters and the angst they were feeling within their own sphere of growing into young adults. The nerd, the jock, the basket case, the princess and the criminal. Any present teen at any one moment is living one of these persona's. 

The Breakfast Club
Hughes loved featuring Ringwald and Michael Hall in his teen flicks and this film is no different. Since he saw the eternal geek in Michael Hall from the previous film Sixteen Candles, he cast him as the feature nerd, originally wanted to cast Ringwald as the basket case, but Ringwald fiercely objected and wanted to play the princess role so the basket case was given to Ally Sheedy (one of her first acting roles). There were some casting drama's too when Hughes was casting 'the criminal' as this role was between Judd Nelson and John Cusack. Nelson scored the role as he came across as more "bad" even trying to hit on Ringwald long after the camera's were off! The film's soundtrack only featured 3 stars when it was released in 85 with the hit song "Don't you forget about me" by Simple Minds making its way upon debut to no 1 on the US Billboard charts.

Paul Gleason who plays the assistant principal 'Vernon' who has to oversee the misfits makes it clear to them he isn't going to put up with their nonsense and you get an instant sense of loathing him from 5 minutes into the film. The funny thing about his role is that EVERY school kid can relate to having that one teacher or authoritarian body who they just couldn't stand nor get a break from. It was almost like that one teacher constantly woke up on the wrong side of the bed every single day and slay their wrath on any student which pressed their buttons. 

It isn't until you see Vernon run into the janitor Carl in the afternoon, where you learn on his tough stance with the kids. And that wise wise janitor who tries to reason with Vernon, has become a hero to many of us grown up adults because he speaks truth of oppression of which most young teens of today experience from the older generation. I don't think it matters if you watch this film in your teens, or as an adult. Hughes has a genius way of evoking the inner adolescent in all of us through how he builds his characters. I really wish this was a staple film in every high school because if goes so much further than just another teen film, more so an entry level insight into the tribulations of growing.

Pretty in Pink - 1986 - Paramount Pictures

Girl is senior. Girl is weird, comes from a broken home. Has an equally whacky best friend (Ducky) who she's known since primary school who coat tails on her every move (and secretly likes her too) they both have a whacky 80's dress sense and are both certainly not one of the more conservative or preppy types.

Girl gains the attention of senior popular guy and he then gets a crush on her. Another one of Hughes classic teen flicks where Ringwald leads the cast as Andy, the weird fashion loving gal described above. Andrew McCarthy plays Blane, the preppy guy with the crush. His best friend disapproved of Blane's new found admiration for the weird girl which sparks. You can guess the rest of the general vibe of this movie. Does Andy end up with Ducky or Blane? Who will she take to her final prom?

I recently went to the 30 year viewing of this film with my husband and I was surprised to learn at the time, that Hughes had actually planned the alternate ending for the film and part of the showing was that they viewed what the ending would have looked like had Andy picked the "other guy". It seemed awkward and after a peer group review of the alternate ending way back then, Hughes decided to go with..... aha! You will have to watch to find out if you haven't already seen this classic.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Time travellers

Oh what a fantasy to be a time traveller back to past centuries and decades, disguised as someone from that era only to try have some sort of mission or trying to get back home. Maybe it was Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure which sparked my interest as a young kid back in the 80's. In this blog post I'm going to feature 2 current TV series which I've really taken a liking to which touch on the above mentioned themes, and one cult movie which to this day, remains one of my favourite films of all time.

11.22.63 - Hulu 2016 (TV Series based on the story by Stephen King

James Franco heads the cast of this time travelling drama thriller first set in our modern day millennium but then spins back into 1963. I've always really liked the roles Franco has played, he has a certain old school charm about him, that gracious smile and classic character appeal (maybe it's the fact he's born and raised in Palo Alto! A valley boy at heart). I guess my least favourite movie he starred in was 127 hours (because no one wants to watch a guy saw his arm off!) and his character in that was a bit cocky.

Franco spying on Oswald - 11.22.63
In a nutshell the plot of this series goes something like this: Jake Epping is an everyday school teacher in2016 who's friend Al (Templeton) that owns an old diner, entrusts him with a secret before he passes on due to illness. He shows Jake that he has a very special...broom closet(?) in his diner...which is actually a worm hole which leads back to 1960. Before Al passes, he gives Jake a run down on what he has been trying to achieve for the last 15 try and prevent the assassination of JFK (1963). Without giving too much more away, you kind of then get the idea that Jake now is entrusted a mission and travels back to 1960 and stays there establishing his life as a teacher back in that decade.

There are a number of intense scenes in the lead up to him slowly crossing paths attempting to spy on the accused Lee Harvey Oswald. The one thing I enjoy with this series is that Jake is immersed in staying in the era he's travelled to and the thought of him travelling back to 2015 doesn't really cross his mind too much, enabling the viewer to really get into the plot for him to try and put that curve ball into histories time line. Of course there is a love interest and a few heart stopping moments in episodes 4 and 5 and this is much needed to keep the momentum rolling. Still watching this one but I highly recommend to give it a go if you like the time traveller concept (and US political history).

Outlander - Starz 2014 (TV Series based on the novels by Diana Gabaldon)

Recommended to me by a friend who knew I absolutely adored the drama, mystique and vintage appeal of Downton Abbey, I thought I'd give this english / Scottish series a whirl and I was pleasantly surprised to be hooked by the end of the first episode. This series also follows the time traveller theme and ties in Pagan ritual to attributing to the sacred stones of which act as a wormhole back into the year 1743. The main character Claire (Catrionia Balfe) is a war nurse working on the WW2 front in 1945. The war ends and she returns to her life back in London where she is re-united with her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies) who was an english war captain responsible for arranging the secret missions into Europe. Being separated for 5 yrs thanks to the war, they decide to renew their marriage vows and take to the Scottish countryside to celebrate their second honeymoon. They stay in a quaint village where Frank knows the priest and there are many lazy days spent discussing ancient Scottish history and the victorian era when the English were under the rule of King Arthur and trying to over-throw the Clans to regain Scottish land. 

Jamie and Claire - Season 1: Outlander
While Frank and the priest discuss the history of the countryside, Claire is taken into the kitchen to speak with the priests housekeeper who reads her tea leaves and her palm and reveals an unusual premonition about Claire's future. There are a few more strange instances which follow this encounter and in the middle of the night, Frank and Claire decide to see if the fable of Pagan rituals run true by visiting the ancient rocks of Craig Ne Dun. They secretly discover an ancient female ceremony of dancing in the moonlight within the circle of the rocks and this ritual fascinates Claire to the point where she ventures back there the next day. After hearing a strange thunder role, she is drawn to touch the stones and then is thrown back into time to the year 1743. 

On her travel back to the 1700's and in a daze, she comes across the english army who think of her as a spy and the Captain tries to rape Claire in the process until the handsome red haired Jamie (Sam Heughan) appears. A fight ensues and Jamie is able to fight off the captain but is hurt by gun-fire. Claire is able to rescue him and treat several war wounds he attains from the English "redcoats" or soldiers. And from there....the story is born. I adore the antique styling and edict of the time. The sexism for me is highly confronting (I am feminist in nature) so the way the men treat the women in this time is appalling (and Claire seems to think so too!) yet she is vocal about this and does call it out (much to the dismay of the men) and makes you realise how forward 1945 actually was for women's rights (even though to this very day us ladies are still fighting for some pretty basic equality). The romantic chemistry between Claire and Jamie is intense and when telling my husband about the unfolding plot, he seemed a little jealous of my newfound "man crush" on the red head hehe. I highly recommend this series, especially now Game of Thrones has made its Season 6 appearance. It's a nice little filler in between waiting for other series to commence. Amazon has the entire 16 episode first season available for a small fee. Season 2 has commenced but I am yet to watch. You will find watching this show that every episode will be more intense than the last. 

Donnie Darko - 2001 (Flower films) 

Not sure what other folks think of this, but I hail Donnie Darko as one of the epic cult movies of the early millennium. The cast of a few familiar faces (Barrymore and Swayze) joins the brother and sister team Gyllenhaal's. They actually play brother and sister in the movie so this adds a real raw dynamic to the relationship between Donnie and Elizabeth. This film boasts of a timeless and haunting movie soundtrack which stays with you long after the film has ended. Set in the year 1988, the setting and scenes are strangely futuristic yet still have that 80's charm about them without being too over the top. Donnie isn't your run of the mill typical teenager. He's not a jock, a bit weird and has a number of different talents. He could even be mistaken for slightly autistic but this doesn't stop him from embarking on a series of unfortunate events which ultimately pave the way for him discovering the power of time. His parents think he needs psychiatric help as he references an imaginary friend "Frank" who when he sees him is dressed as a scary bunny rabbit.

Donnie and Gretchen  - Donnie Darko 2001
It's a movie with so many symbols and sub plots which fit together like a broken puzzle that I found myself needing to watch it a second time after my first viewing as there were so many scenes where if you blinked, you would miss something essential to figuring out. You learn about Donnie's alter ego, his visions, flashbacks and early in the plot, an aeroplanes engine actually falls through his bedroom ceiling. From there the story then spirals into weirdness with Donnie trying to piece together clues to why all these things are happening to him under the guidance of his imaginary friend "Frank" and some of the clues provided pointing to time and how it can be altered.

Barrymore plays Donnie's english teacher and her role in the movie is one of support for Donnie and his weird teen behaviour. Swayze makes an appearance as a do-gooder motivational speaker sent in to talk to the students about life and his cameo role is actually quite comical, as he explains to the teens about the 2 extreme's of life - "Love and fear". Donnie in his quest for protecting those he loves and holds dear, finds he needs to complete his search to be able to 'edit' time. Once with the help of 'Frank' he realises he has the power to do this and brings the tale of these 2 teen star crossed lovers to its finale.

When I first watched this film, I actually thought it was a twisted love story. Donnie has a love interest Gretchen in the film...she's the "new girl" at school and is almost as weird as Donnie. They both hit it off straight away and she becomes embroiled in Donnie's world. The emphasis on their teen connection is so strong that I guess that's what drove me to think of it as a twisted kind of love story, until I watched the directors cut which came out shortly after the main film and there are added scenes in it which then really reveal the "time travel" theme. Without rambling on too much more, this is really a film you have to see with your own eyes. There are a crazy amount of awesome one liners in it too and there are moments of comedy, sadness and disbelief. All the big emotions you would expect from this kind of cult film. Grab the popcorn and really enjoy it!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Home inspiration!

Fixer Upper - HGTV 2014 - ongoing

I've recently caught on to the TV series "Fixer Upper" where a Texan couple whose business is to renovate and restore dumps of houses. I stumbled across it on Netflix around 3 weeks ago and have been hooked every since. Interior decorating is a small passion of mine, and I thought that watching this show would give me a little inspiration.

We're introduced to Chip and Joanna (JoJo) Gaines and their business Magnolia designs. They have 4 kids who you meet through out the series, mainly on their farm which they are also building and renovating their own house through out the first series. What I love about this show is the fact that the Waco couples who come to Chip and JoJo have some kind of idea what they want, but then get the choice of usually 3 houses (mainly dumps or weirdly out-dated homes in the Waco area) and then they place their trust in both of them to spruce the place up. When I watched the first series, houses were going for a song! $80K - $150K. It looks like $200K + in Waco gets you some kind of mini mansion so I don't even want to know what $600K would buy you (considering that's the median house price range here in San Jose California and also back home in Perth Australia the Texan's have it pretty darn good!)

I came across this funny Mashable article on what 21 things you can expect from every episode of watching this series and it pretty much hits the nail on the head so to speak hehe.
You realise that Chip is a bit of a goofball in the first series but then his dorkiness really takes off in the second series, along with many reveals of his rotund belly lol. He's really cheesy, but get's away with it because JoJo just thinks he's hilarious. There is also always the dreaded phone call to the prospective new owners on something that has potentially "thrown" the budget out by a bit of money. It seems to be the added "suspense" theme on every episode and after almost 2 seasons becomes quite predictable. 

There are a few things that I love about JoJo's design style and a few which grate on me a little. 
I love is her ability to take furniture junk and transform it into gorgeous rustic pieces of gold. I really like her idea's on removing walls and raising ceilings, adding windows etc. Those are all difficult things to do back in Australia as we build our houses with brick and concrete so it's more difficult to effect the overall houses structure and support. She also likes to simplify things to make translating changes to her customers easy to understand. Some of the husbands in the couples they do work for simply don't have the imagination to picture JoJo's updates, and watching her express these with her expert computer design software and their delight, is always entertaining to watch. Another enjoyment is seeing some "left over budget" options and then trying to predict which one the home owners will go with. Sometimes I found their decisions not ideal but Magnolia's finished end product really never lets the viewer or the home owner down.

The downsides to JoJo's style: I find her rustic and somewhat antique vintage style doesn't sway or vary away from the same kinds of colour palette's, room layouts, kitchen layouts and styles. There is always a metal plaque here, crown mouldings in the ceilings and hard wood floors. Where I understand it must be "the in thing" to want a fireplace, dark wood floors, mint green or grey everything on the walls and those large roman clocks / rustic and victorian up-cycled furniture, we are yet to see her transform a house using some modern flare, primary bold colours and modern furniture. I think my favourite 2 episodes emerged in season 2 where JoJo's home buyers pick a very awesome 1960's mod house which looks like a trailer from outside and inside is like an open shell. Even Chip and her expressed how they never had taken on something so retro future modern before and the final reveal was pretty awesome. The other favourite for me (which I think was episode 12 season 2) was the large 2 story house with entry on the second floor, being made into a "beach house" look and feel, with modern wrought iron stairwell and wiring, more modern furniture and kitchen. That house even had my husband gasping on the re-work they did.

It's also obvious that the "customers" coming to them are people they know, whether friends or families from schools their kids go to, I don't see a variation away from couples. I saw one episode where it was a mother and her older daughter, but how about throwing in a gay couple or friends who may be buying the property as an investment. Those would be interesting to see and also the couples offering more to do with the overall colour template. And those farmhouse sinks. Really? Every house needs one? Or a kitchen isle bench? Black counter tops? All starting to look the same as the episodes roll on. 

I look forward though to watching the last few episodes I have of season 2 on Netflix and look forward to season 3 this year. Hopefully there will be some sway in the styles they use to keep all of us home decor nuts inspired :)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Goofball island. Population you.

Now for a more light hearted entry after that very sombre "end of the world" tone from my last blog post! When Disney's Inside Out quotes Riley as having a "goofball island" I'd like to think we all have a bit of goofball in us. Some of us lose part of it as adults, but for most of us, that silly spark remains with us at heart :) I'd like to dedicate this post to some of my favourite goofball TV shows and movies that I recommend to anyone wanting a giggle and a laugh, guaranteed to pick you up out of your blues, make you cringe and in general just give you a good giggle. The 80's was a particular favourite of mine with the likes of Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, John Candy and Dan Akroyd.

National Lampoons Vacation - 1983 (Warner Bros)

The cast of National Lampoons
Clark Griswold and the family set off on a cross country adventure from Chicago to California to experience "Wally World" (America's favourite theme park) and along the way everything that could possibly go wrong does. Yappy loud teenager kids Rusty and Audrey, pouty wife Ellen and their trusty wagon almost don't survive the epic adventure their goofball father sets out for them, with a stop at their hillbilly cousins house half way, their crazy aunt adds to the already cringe worthy family mix. True 80's style, the naff fashions and mishaps will have you covering your eyes and shaking your head. Chevy Chase is at his most supreme dork and sadly I think this was the peak of Beverly DeAngelo's career. Anthony Michael Hall goes on from this role to star in other 80's teen flicks which will make the "teenage heart throb" blog post list. Add this one to the list for your cheesy movie night... it's a classic!

Coming to America - 1988 (Paramount Pictures)

Happy endings - Coming to America
Dubbed a "romantic classic" of the 80's, this one also in my opinion falls under best goofball movie of the 80's too. Murphy who plays Akeem - the prince of an African dynasty Zamunda, goes on a quest to find his Queen after being presented with total flops by his parents (King of Zamunda played by James Earl Jones). He decides that America's glory will present him with a fine selection of bride material and he and Semmi (Arseno Hall) take to America but to hide his wealth, Akeem goes under cover as a poor guy (much to Semmi's disgrace) living in Queens NYC. He meets Lisa McDowell (Shari Headly) when he applies to work in her fathers rip off McDonalds restaurant "McDowells" in Queens. This is one of my all time favourite goofball movies because Eddie plays the eloquent goofball so well. There are a list of one liners which you'll keep in your heart forever. "Sexual Chocolate!" comes to mind (in the 80's Murphy had a knack of dressing as alternate characters) such in this film where he actually plays all the different gents in the barber shop - from the barber himself to all the clients, and then the lead singer of the band playing at a's a hilarious part of his breakthrough movie comedy niche which was largely unique too. 

Revenge of the Nerds - 1984 (20th Century Fox)

The Nerds in action
No goofball comedy night is complete without a viewing of the movie which put nerds on the map. I think any modern day nerd could watch this film and instantly relate to it. When 4 buddies enrol in college to study computer science, they are faced with the fraternity onslaught and college woes to fit in. Main star is Robert Carradine and by the looks of his extensive movie role list, he stuck to the goofball genre quite heavily through out his career. Just like National Lampoons, this film will get your cringe factor going and perhaps take you way back to your college days. Thank god for these guys though social media and the internet as we know it wasn't around during all the embarrassment.

Ghostbusters - 1984 (Columbia Films)

Who ya gonna call? 
Hailed as one of the best comedy cult flicks of the last 30 years, Ghostbusters has an all star cast with king of the goofballs Bill Murray, there to serve the classic one liners. Along side him Dan Akroyd and Rick Moranis. Sigourney Weaver plays a very more seductive role (worlds apart from her Alien character!) and the only one liners you will ever need to remember for the rest of your life will be "Are you a god?" No. "Then diiiiiie!" and "You are the key master and I am the gate keeper". Along with your awesome 80's computer generated gouls ghosts and such, this is one of my all time favourite which I could happily watch on repeat a kid, I think I actually did!