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There’s always a well of playful joy that courses through my body anytime Evil Dead comes up. Whether it’s rewatching the original films or watching previews for the upcoming show (Ash vs Evil Dead!!), a part of me regresses to a fifteen year old, all giddy with excitement. Even the subpar video games were playable because of this.

  
And it was with this excitement that I sat in an old, uncomfortable seat in Renton, Washington for Evil Dead the Musical.
For a musical I’ve seen four times, I was still able to easily find enjoyment in the production. While it wasn’t the best production I’ve seen, it did manage to surprise me with some creative dialog, and even adding a character. 
The vocal performances were not great, however. Cues were hit and the dialog was funny but with the exception of one or two performers, the singing was average at best. The actors could hit all their notes but the harmonizing was off, perhaps because of the changing of ranges needed to accommodate the differing styles of the actors. The acting was decent and silly when it needed to be and serious for the few moments of poignancy. The performers and crowd seemed to be feeding off of each other, the latter of which loved it. This was perhaps due to the subject and knowledge of the source material rather than the performances. Or perhaps it was the copious amounts of fake blood that was unabashedly thrown and splattered onto the pre-warned crowd. Squirt bottles, small balloons, and even a hose were used within the “splatter zone” (roughly the front half of the theater). The end was especially messy. There was so little pretense that the actors, supposedly in the midst of a climatic battle, would bring out buckets full of red liquid and dump it over the heads of select audience members. Not the most verisimilitude for a show but the crowd couldn’t care less.
This musical has become almost a tradition for me. Whenever it’s playing at a theater in town, I try to see it. I’ve never regretted that decision. I had a great time, as did my wife who, never having seen the movies, found the experience a good one. I just need get her into the splatter zone next time ūüėČ

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I didn’t know Alexander Payne’s film¬†Nebraska was rated R, before or after watching and I was flabbergasted when I found out. Even writing the title of this post I mixed up the rating before realizing and correcting it. It didn’t seem plausible that an intimate look at a father/son relationship would be rated more harshly than a revenge action film. Looking at the rating on IMDB, I found the reasons why. Here is the page:

NEBRASKA

Sex & Nudity

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NOTE: The *only* reason this film is rated R is because there are two uses of the f-word.

Sex & Nudity: 4/10

There are some innuendos and sexual jokes, along with mild crude terms and slangs (“screwing”, “run the bases”).

Violence & Gore

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Violence & Gore: 2/10

An elderly man falls in the dark and his son finds him on the floor with a large gash on his forehead. He is then shown getting stitches. (The entire film is in black and white, so it isn’t explicit.)

Two men get into a very brief and comical slap fight.

Characters argue and yell at each other.

A man punches another man in the face, causing him to fall down. He is later shown with a black eye.

Profanity

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Profanity: 3/10

Two f-words and a few mild obscenities.

Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking

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Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking: 3/10

Some casual drinking. A main character used to be an alcoholic and is shown drinking beer in a few scenes.

Frightening/Intense Scenes

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Frightening/Intense Scenes: 3/10

There are some dramatic moments towards the beginning and end, and some brief conversations regarding death.

Total explicit content estimation: 15/50

*****
Stupid bullshit right? By contrast, here is the MPAA rating for Taken, which is rated PG-13:
*****

TAKEN

Sex & Nudity

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4/10

Throughout the movie you will hear about and see prostitutes. However, the scenes are not too uncomfortable to watch with children, although they may sound so in the description below.

A man walks through an area where curtains are strung up creating rooms where young women lie in cots (most are unconscious from drugs) and men have sex with them (not shown on screen but implied); we see a man in a room with one young woman kissing the back of her neck.

A man talks to a woman, asking how much she charges and what the fee includes (she is a prostitute).

A young woman says, “I’m going to sleep with him… I hear French guys are amazing in bed.”

A young woman is described as a virgin and that she is worth more at auction.

A man talks about another man’s wife being sexually aroused, using a crude term.

A man talks about a man “hitting on rich widows.”

A man makes a comment to another man about being competitive, using a crude anatomical reference.

There is a scene when young women have to dance naked for money.

Many young woman are dressed in little more than bikini underwear throughout the movie.

There is a scene whereby Liam Neeson’s daughter and one other prostitute is being auctioned on a boat wearing only her lingerie.

Violence & Gore

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7/10

A man is strapped into a chair, and a nail is then stabbed into each thigh. Liam Neeson then straps electrical cables to the nails and tortures the victim for information. Several jolts of electricity are sent through the cables and the man yells and twitches; the switch is flipped one last time and the man is left to die (we hear him screaming).

A man shoots a innocent woman in the arm, she falls off her chair (we see a bit of blood on her shirt) and the man threatens to shoot her in the head.

A man shoots another man in the leg and the arm and then shoots him dead (we see blood).

A man shoots another man in the stomach, and then strikes him and the man falls to the floor motionless (we see blood).

Men shoot at each other, and we see bullet holes opening in walls and furnishings.

A man holds a knife to a young woman’s throat, another man shoots him in the head and he falls back dead.

A man is chained by the hands over a pipe, another man wraps a strap around his throat and begins to strangle him, but the pipe breaks striking one man in the head and spraying another man in the face with steam (we see his face becomes charred).

A man jumps off a bridge and onto a moving boat below, he strangles a man on board, kicks and punches another one and throws him overboard.

A man shoves a young man into a taxi, punches him repeatedly in the ribs, another man pulls the man out and he lands hard on the ground; they fight briefly and one man’s head is slammed into the car knocking him unconscious.

Two men fight with punches and kicks, one man pulls a knife, they continue fighting, one man strikes the other with a bottle and one man is stabbed and falls to the floor motionless.

A man fights several men: he stabs several (there’s blood on wounds and shirts) and then shoots several others (we hear groans and see them flinch, but there’s no blood).

A man fights with several men punching and kicking them, and shoots one man (he falls back and onto the ground), but he is shot at by several men as he speeds away in a car and there’s a large explosion and fire.

A man holds a gun on another man, pushes him into an elevator and punches him (he falls unconscious).

A man in a car chases a young man through traffic, and the young man jumps from an overpass onto a truck below and then to the street where he is struck by a car (we see the body being struck and hear a thud).

A man with a knife lunges at a woman, another man fights him off with punches and kicks and the man and woman drive away in a car.

Cars with men shooting guns chase another man in another car: one car is pushed over a hill and rolls over and another car drives into a bulldozer shovel that cuts the top of the car off.

A young woman hiding under a bed is pulled out by her feet by a man, and we hear her screaming and we hear glass breaking as she is taken away.

Two men grab a young woman by the arms and legs and carry her out of an apartment (we hear her screaming and see her struggling).

We see two young women being kidnapped by several men.

We see a young woman dead presumably from a drug overdose (her lips and skin are tinged- blue).

Profanity

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4/10

Some language, nothing too bad.

One finger gesture.

Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking

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5/10

We see in two scenes numerous prostitutes with scarred arms by injections. Likely from heroin.

We see a young woman dead presumably from a drug overdose.

After being rescued from captivity, a young woman is seen being detoxed from presumably being forced to take heroin.

People drink alcohol at a party.

A man holds a beer bottle.

Another man drinks from a beer bottle.

A woman pours three glasses of wine at a dinner table.

Three men carrying beer arrive at another man’s house.

Several men sit at a table with beer bottles.

A man puts a cigarette in his mouth but does not light it.

No actual use of drugs is shown

Frightening/Intense Scenes

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7/10

Some people may find the theme and some scenes disturbing or upsetting.

The scene in which the kidnapping takes place is very realistic and may disturb viewers. This scene is hard to watch and happens all of a sudden. The idea of having a loved one lost in another country may itself upset viewers as it is very easy to feel empathy towards the main character and his situation.

*****
So…how the fuck does that work? Taken‘s list of offensive material is twice as long as¬†Nebraska‘s¬†but because they don’t say ‘fuck’, it’s suitable for a younger age group. Then, we are so appalled by mass shootings in our schools and things like the knockout game.¬†There’s something wrong with society when we judge language more harshly than physical violence. By setting¬†Nebraska‘s rating at a harsher point, less people are able to see such a touching story about people trying to understand each other. Instead, the film with multiple murders and several acts of violence and mentions of rape is much more accessible. Good on you MPAA.
If you haven’t seen it,¬†South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut does a marvelous job of sending up such a backwards and flawed system. In it, Kyle’s mother Sheila, starts a war with Canada over the potty language in one of their movies. It’s so ridiculous and most people dismiss it because it’s A) a cartoon and B) contains some crude humor. Dismissing it on these merits alone is small minded and just because it’s mixed in with some questionable material doesn’t make it all worthless.
It’s a shame that such well-intentioned people such as the MPAA have their priorities so backward because they can be helpful. They’re just not in this case. While Taken might be a more exciting film to watch,¬†Nebraska will teach you about life and that’s something we can all use a little more of.

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I remember this film coming out months ago and wanting to see it but it slipped past me. From all accounts, it was the funniest film of the year so when it finally was released on Blu-Ray, I snatched it up. Then, it sat on my shelf for a few months. I just couldn’t find the right mood to watch it. I wanted to be in maximum humor receiver mode so I could enjoy everything I had heard so many good things about.

Before too long, my friend saw it gathering dust with my other movies and figured he’d give it a shot. He had heard the same things I did and went into it thinking it would be a laugh riot.

He turned it off at the fifteen minute mark.

He couldn’t get past the acting of Seth Rogan, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and crew, which, to be fair, isn’t always acting…especially in a film like this. Nearly everyone of the films when they’re together are improv’d. While it can lead to some fun and unexpected things, it can also drag out in a film.

With my friend’s criticism in mind, I waited another couple weeks to finally sit down and watch it. Immediately, I understood why he didn’t finish the movie. The acting, especially the beginning is horrible. It’s very stilted and jerky and I could almost see them thinking about what they were going to say. It’s very real life speak but watching it in a film is awkward and tedious. It gets marginally better as the film goes on but the believability of people reacting the way they do about things is painful. Granted, it is a comedy and laughing at people’s lack of knowledge has always been an easy way for comedies to go but I just wasn’t into it.

I think it’s the film’s subject matter that made the biggest difference. For those that don’t know, this is an end of the world movie – one of my favorite genres. From Dawn of the Dead to¬†Mad Max,¬†I’m really fascinated with the subject matter of society as we know it being gone and the survivors finding out the best way to do things. Like¬†Robinson Crusoe¬†or¬†MacGyver in making something useful out of the things we wouldn’t expect. I wanted to see more of this world, not watch actors struggling to outdo each other’s jokes. It has it’s place but I wished they were two separate movies.

That being said, there were plenty of funny and interesting things that happen within the two hour running time. The story centers around Seth Rogan as himself showing his fellow actor and childhood friend Jay Baruchel a good time in Hollywood. Seth takes Jay to a party at James Franco’s house that is full of other actors. Since everyone is playing themselves, there is some good natured ribbing between the principle actors. It’s fun to see them bash each other’s films as well as their personal lives. I think it could have been even funnier with some quick and well executed jokes instead of the rambling we got but that’s what we got. The beginning is full of cameos that the current generation will recognize, some playing hilarious and obscene versions of themselves. Micheal Cera and Danny McBride are especially great in their portrayals of themselves.

I also liked the world outside. There isn’t much screen time for the ruins of Hollywood but it really opens the story up nicely. Just hanging out with the guys in the house, it’s easy to dismiss their time as maybe just a paranoid delusion that the world around them is gone. Once they get outside and see what happened to the rest of the city, the true scope of what happened really sits in. There are scenes scattered throughout but they are used more as establishing shots instead of set pieces for the characters to play in.

Overall, I liked this movie just as I liked Pineapple Express, Knocked Up, and Superbad. There are plenty of laughs and some fun imagery but, like those other films, This Is The End is not a movie that will really stick with me.

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After all the flash and action of the films I’ve been watching lately, I needed a good character piece where character was the focus. I went into this film not knowing much about it. My sister saw it last week and she told me that 1) It’s an Alexander Payne film, 2) it was playing at the Guild theater on 45th, and 3)¬†it’s in black and white. The first two were enough to get me interested. I really liked Payne’s other films,¬†Sideways being one of my all time favorites. My sister also swears by the Guild theater, saying that it has the best popcorn in the city (I think she’s on to something). The fact that this film was in black and white didn’t excite me in the least. I don’t mind black and white movies, especially if they’re that old where they had no choice, but there better be a very good reason to make a film with that aesthetic.

I don’t think there was a good enough reason.

I knew we were in for a treat when my girlfriend pointed out that we were the youngest ones in the theater. The median age must have been around fifty-three and true to form, there was a couple in the row behind us that talked throughout the film, like older people do. It wasn’t heckling – only memories of a time long ago that the film brought to the surface for them. It was mildly endearing to me – not for the lady in the row in front of us who kept shooting the talkative pair shaming glances.

The story follows David, played by SNL alum Will Forte, as he drives his father Woody, played by veteran actor Bruce Dern, to Nebraska from Billings Montana to claim a million dollar prize. The relationship between the two is the film’s primary focus but there are some interesting family elements that come into play and that’s when the film picks up. ‘Picks up’ is a real overstatement. This is a slow film, especially the beginning. Payne’s previous films had a similar pace but it was infused with fun, jokey dialogue. This film, while heartfelt and intense, lacks the fun conversations of¬†Sideways or¬†Election¬†that really made these other films fun. As a result, I wasn’t fully invested in the film until the fifteen minute mark.

The acting was alright but there was hardly a scene with any outward emotion that it was difficult to really care about the characters. The acting was all deadpanned and held carefully under the surface, save the David’s mother, Kate, played by June Squibb who was a feisty bit of color amidst the drabness. She didn’t hesitate to call people out, insult them, or speak her mind. She was fun to watch, just to see what she would do next.

So maybe there was reason enough. I think that’s what Payne was going for with the black and white palette. With all the characters showing very limited emotion, they are fairly colorless and the monotone conveys that. It’s very artful. It’s just a shame that the gorgeous shots of middle America were held back by the color scheme.

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I specifically wanted to watch this film at Cinebarre, an over 21 theater that serves booze and food while you watch. It’s the douch-hole in me that wanted to watch starving people fight for their lives while I stuff my face with chicken strips and fried pickles. I’ve never felt more like a villain. I was cosplaying as one of the capital party goers in the film! I didn’t go as far as puking for the sole reason of eating more, like some characters in the film but…I…<ahem>…

On to the review!

It took watching a few scenes of this film for me to get into it. Having been a while since watching the first, it took that long to get back into the world of¬†The Hunger Games. That’s a problem many sequels face, especially when continuing the same storyline from the first. Where do you pick the story back up and how much exposition do you give? Films like¬†The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers pull this off really well by injecting a scene from the previous film into the beginning of the next. This reminds the audience where they are and gives a context for the next few scenes, like puzzle pieces fitting together. Other films like¬†Evil Dead 2 give a modified synopsis of the first film, quickly bringing the audience up to speed with everything they need to know so it can be enjoyed by anyone who hasn’t seen the original. I watched¬†Army of Darkness (Evil Dead 3) before I even knew of the other two films and I enjoyed the hell out of it because of this technique.

Catching Fire does have a small nod to the finale of the first film but everything in the beginning feels like jumping into the middle of a word jumble without knowing what to look for. And I’ve read the books so I knew what to look for.

That being said, once it got going, the film was enjoyable for the teen melodrama that it is. Things move more into the adult realm, however, as the Hunger Games becomes more of a backdrop for revolution and the heroes from the first film are thrust into it unaware. The dystopian world of the first film is there but it isn’t really expanded on, despite seeing more of the districts in this world. I don’t know why that’s so. We see more of reluctant heroine Katniss Everdeen’s home district, which looks great in a very bleak and hopeless way, and people from some of the other districts but those are restricted to one compound and the land outside of that is nowhere to be seen. These compounds could just be public viewing areas with a farmer’s market next door for all we know. The only evidence that this is a dystopian world is the presence of the capital’s peacekeepers who viciously beat anyone who even gesture anything hinting at revolt. Just like¬†1984‘s Ministry of Love causes pain to any who don’t comply, so do the peacekeepers. I like this aspect of the story just as I like most dystopian oppression stories and I think it worked to create a scene of dread over the entire film.

The only other glaring problem with this is the end, which really wasn’t an end. It was a setup for the next film which will be split up into two. I knew it would end on the unfinished cadence it did but me girlfriend looked at me and asked “Really?” That sums it up. It’s a decent film but expect to be in this franchise for the long haul or live through the unsatisfied feeling for the next two years.

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I almost forgot. The horror exhibit at the EMP in Seattle, while cool, wasn’t the only area there. There was also a sci-fi room and a fantasy room. Both were cool, with the fantasy exhibit being slightly more exciting because of the room and having a display for Shannara creator¬†Terry Brooks, the Northwest fantasy author with over 21 million copies of his novels in print and someone I’ve actually met! That put it over the top for me. There was also a few pages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s¬†Lord of the Rings that were very cool and the only thing that no one was allowed to take photos of. Other items of interest include costumes from The Princess Bride, concept art from¬†The Dark Crystal, and David Bowie’s tight pants from¬†Labyrinth.

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The sci-fi wing contained lots of movie props, most notable for me were the guns from¬†Men in Black, the T-800’s skull from¬†T2: Judgement Day, and Data’s uniform from¬†Star Trek: TNG. As fun as it was to see these things, they all looked like things you could buy at any costume and toy shop. You could easily tell the guns were made of plastic and the model ships from¬†Independence Day looked like cheap toys. It was laughable but a testament to the film makers would can take these silly looking props and make them believable. We also watched a short, sci-fi film that was surprisingly engaging. It looked like a film school final project but it was impressive nonetheless.

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These, along with the horror exhibit, make for a fun time. I only wish there were more displays. Walking through all three of these rooms, took about an hour. If we had watched all the horror movie videos, it would have added a half hour, but it seems a cheap way to extend the museum experience. You watch youtube for short videos like that. A museum needs to have things you can’t see anywhere else, in person. Hopefully, they’ll expand each of these sections in the coming years.

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I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with this blog since I started it. Initially, it would chronicle my life and how I would go about changing the things I wanted to change about myself. I quickly realized that isn’t interesting to people. It’s something I really care about and am always working on but it always feel like I’m writing with invisible ink. I’m writing and I know it’s there but it’s non-existant to everyone else.¬†

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Maybe I’m not that good of a writer or maybe I’m not interesting enough to follow, I don’t know. It’s probably a combination of the two. One of the main reasons I began this blog was to practice my writing, to improve and stay in that habit day after day and month after month. And I think it’s working. I think I am improving and I want to continue to improve because writing is what’s important to me, more than the money I make and probably, at times, more important than my music. I’m able to express myself in ways that I am unable to do in conversations and interactions with others. It’s as purely me as anything I’ve done, with the exception of my latest musical project. Read my writing, you’ll know me.¬†

That being said, I need people to read my writing. I’ll do it regardless but it’s so much more rewarding when someone reads something I wrote. And feedback! Interaction! Those things are great! Every time I notice another visitor or like on my blog, it’s another reason to continue putting stuff out there, to continue my writing journey.¬†

Last month and even the beginning of this month, I’ve had many more consistent readers and much more likes than the previous year and that was all from movie reviews. Granted, Roger Ebert still gets several thousand more readers at his website than me and he passed away so I’m not exactly reaching a lot of eyes. But it’s a feeling I think I should follow.¬†

So, I’ll be concentrating on reviewing films, stories, music, and games from now on. I’ll still throw in the occasional personal story but I’ll continue to put out a review or two every week, top five lists, or some other recommendation that strikes me.¬†

AND I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR SOME FEEDBACK!! Have something you want me to review? Let me know and I’ll do it. I want to start interacting with others and hearing what you like and what you don’t like. Feedback is essential for improvement and that’s my goal.¬†

Now, on to writing!Image

 

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