Monday, February 28, 2011

The Man-Cave Interview: director Greg Kurczynski



A couple weeks back, I had the opportunity to check out the horror short Risen in The Man-Cave before it screens at the Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa next month. If you have not checked out the review already, you can read it hereSleeping Weasel's production stars Al Mauro and Jennifer Ward (Simone) as the leads in a flick with all whole lotta stuff happening in the short running time.

And that brings me to my next guest, director/writer/editor/producer Gregory G. Kurczynski. This "utilityman" extraordinaire brings torture porn, zombies and network news all into one neat package with his debut effort Risen. Please welcome to the Man-Cave, Greg Kurczynski!


The Man-Cave (TMC): Hello Greg! Welcome to The Man-Cave. I guess Jennifer Ward's survival in the Man-Cave for her interview last month signaled it was safe for you to join me for an interview as well?

Greg Kurczynski (GK): Thanks, Geof. I'm happy to be here. And I probably wouldn't be in the hot seat if it wasn't for Jennifer, so I have her to thank for that.

 
TMC: Greg, why don't you tell us a little about Risen, for those not initiated with your film?

GK: Risen is basically the story of a hookup gone horribly wrong. During a particularly slow night at a bar, Jenn, a somewhat desperate woman whose life is on a fast track to nowhere starts a flirtatious conversation with Henry, a meek, nerdy looking guy that Jenn is attracted to because she's lonely, he seems non-threatening and is, well, different from the abusive men that she's used to having in her life. This is a terrible judgment call on her part, because beneath Henry's mild exterior lurks a psychopathic murderer with some serious relationship issues of his own and he's chosen Jenn to be his next victim. He drugs her and takes her back to his basement torture room to "test" her ability to understand love and pain. This is where we find out more about the inner workings of Henry's sick brain and the reasons behind his compulsion to torture. And by the way, this is all happening on a night when the dead are returning to life to kill and eat the living.  


TMC: I have been explaining this film, in short, as "a zombie film that is not really about zombies". I mean there are zombies, serial killers, news shows. Where did you get the idea for this film? 

GK: Risen started as a short story called "Same Night, Different Farmhouse", which I wrote and had published about ten years ago. I can't really say where the idea came from, other than it was a random combination of ideas and genres that interested me. I've always been fascinated by serial murderers and the possible reasons they do what they do. In fact, Henry is not a willing murderer at all. When you really look at his motivations, even though he does some really sick, depraved things, he's not a killer. When his victims die he considers it a failure, the ultimate rejection.

And of course the early Romero "Living Dead" movies were a huge inspiration. In fact, zombies fans who know their trivia will find several references to Romero's films in Risen if they look and listen carefully. As for the news segments, they were a way to establish the background of a zombie apocalypse without actually having to show mobs of reanimated corpses in the streets as well as being a satire on news commentary programs and how people have become so wrapped up in politically correct ideology that they have lost touch with reality and common sense.  

I also like the way you describe the movie, because I've always felt that the best zombie movies have never really been about the zombies. The undead work best when they are portrayed as soulless and unthinking. The only human element left in them is the primitive need to eat. The zombie horde is a force of nature like a hurricane or any other disaster, and the most engaging stories are those that focus on the conflicts and reactions of the human characters when faced with having their world fall apart.


TMC: Risen is a flat-out horror film, so let me ask you if horror is your favorite genre?

GK: Absolutely. I'm a huge fan of horror and have a great appreciation for not only the contemporary artists who contribute to the genre but also the work of those that came before like Lovecraft and Poe, or early filmmakers like F. W. Murnau and Tod Browning. You can't really have a clear idea of where you are going creatively without an understanding and appreciation of what has come before.


TMC: What were some of your favorite films growing up and did any of them inspire you to get into film making?

GK: Wow, if I were to give you a complete list I'd be here all week. The most vivid movie memories I have from childhood come from watching monster movies on Saturday and Sunday afternoon or staying up late on weekends to catch whatever movie was served up on The Ghoul Show or Chiller Theater. A couple that I remember really scaring the hell out of me as a kid were Hitchcock's The Birds and The Tingler with Vincent Price. But I can't say that any one movie or filmmaker inspired me to make movies. I've always been fascinated by the filmmaking process but my decision to seriously pursue it as a career is relatively recent. It was only when I started actively writing horror fiction back in 2000 and began making connections with writers and filmmakers that I started to realize this is something I could realistically do.


TMC: Where did you receive your training? Film school, university, etc.

GK: I received my Bachelor's Degree in Film from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL this past November. I'm sure I wasn't the world's oldest film student, but I definitely was in my class. It was a wonderful, challenging experience but a bit strange to be in an environment where I was old enough to have fathered many of my peers, as well as being older that most of my instructors. But I don't regret a minute of it and I can't wait to see where things go from here.



TMC: Let's talk more about your film. I've read that Risen was an official selection at EnzianBuffalo Screams and Horrorfind in 2010. How has the film been received up to this point?

GK: It was also an official selection of Reel Terror 2010 in Tampa and most recently was selected for the Gasparilla International Film Fest which you mentioned earlier. I was unable to attend them all, but from the screenings I was able to attend as well at the feedback I've received from others, reaction has been positive. Of course, very few people will confront a filmmaker directly and tell him they thought his movie sucked, unless that director is Uwe Boll. But audiences tend to wince and groan in the right places and laugh when I intended them to, so I'm very happy with that. Jennifer received a well deserved nomination for Best Actress at Buffalo Screams and the movie received an award for "Best Faux News Broadcast" at Reel Terror, so those are two accolades I'm particularly proud of. 



TMC: How much did this short cost to make?

GK: The total cash expense came in somewhere just shy of $1200. Most of that was spent on prop rental, paint and building materials, feeding and accommodations for the cast and crew, music rights, and some special effects makeup. But I was very fortunate and grateful to have access to Full Sail facilities and equipment. This was one of the main reasons I decided to shoot the movie while I was still a student there as I was able to get permission to use all the wonderful toys. We used the HD television production facilities to shoot the news segments, modified existing sets on the soundstages to  shoot the cellar and living room and had complete access to professional sound recording, lighting and grip equipment. If I'd had to pay rental fees on all of this, the budget would have easily reached five or six thousand dollars. And I am also grateful to have had a wonderfully supportive and hard working cast and crew that gave a hundred and ten percent effort for no monetary compensation. 


TMC: And how much of that was spent on gore?

GK: Very little. I think the breakdown went like this... one gallon of methyl-cel blood, $49.99. One latex replica human heart, $45.99. Skin-Tite silicone appliance material for wounds, $65. Real animal organs purchased from the Publix supermarket butcher shop, $12. Having the opportunity to personally hose down Jenn with fake blood pumped from a pressure sprayer... priceless. But really, and maybe I'm a bit jaded after watching so many horror movies, I don't think Risen is all that graphic and gory when compared with some of the very extreme stuff that other directors are putting out. In fact one of the criticisms of the movie I've received is that it doesn't go far enough. But I can't agree with this. I've always had faith in the ability of the viewer's imagination to take them places that are far worse than I could ever show them on screen.


TMC: Any funny, interesting or notable stories that happened behind the scenes? 

GK: Several, but a couple stand out. I remember that shooting the cellar scene was very uncomfortable for me. I was especially concerned about my lead actress having to spend the day tied down and screaming on a huge work table, as well as keeping in mind the fact that Al was brandishing a utility knife with a real razor in it. But the only real danger during that day was presented by me when I was demonstrating to Al how I wanted him to handle a very real, very sharp butcher knife that slipped out of my hand, flew in a graceful arc through the air and missed striking my DP, Enrique Mendoza, by just a few inches as he ducked for cover. The final day of the shoot was the most enjoyable, with everyone joking and having fun. My biggest concern was about completely destroying a 32" HD television. We knew we only had one shot at it, and covered it with two cameras to make sure we got it right - if we got it right. On the first take, Al heaved the jar with the force of a Roger Clemens pitch... and completely missed high and outside. Once we finished laughing our asses off about fifteen minutes later, we got the second take and he nailed it. 


TMC: Besides budget, what were some hurdles you had to deal with during production?

GK: Mostly scheduling. We shot the source video of the news broadcast and "Straight Talk" segment in late February of 2010. I still had to cast the principals, and my original intention was to shoot the rest on location and be wrapped by the middle of May. Of course, indie film production means that things will never work out as planned, and as location shoots kept falling apart I had to examine other options. Eventually it all worked out, but with each delay and the clock ticking as well as me managing my class responsibilities, there were more than a few sleepless nights where I seriously considered contacting the cast and crew to say this is it, Risen is done, it will never be finished, thank you for your time and effort. I am so grateful that I was too stubborn to let that happen. We finally wrapped in late July.


TMC: Where was the film shot? The bar, in particular.

GK: Ah, the bar. Junior's Lounge in Englewood, FL. I used to frequent the place in the past and I knew it would be the perfect location for the opening scene. No need for art direction, and I wanted to see if I could get away with shooting only with available light. My father Stanley, who is rightfully credited as exec producer on the project for his assistance and support, knew the owner and introduced me. He was happy to help out and donate the time for us to use the place. We shot there on Easter Sunday of 2010, the irony of which is not lost on me considering we were making a movie about resurrection. The cellar and living room scenes were shot on the Full Sail soundstages using existing sets from class projects that we modified and redressed. I'm particularly proud of these as many people who've seen the movie ask where we shot and are surprised to hear that they were not location shoots. 


TMC: You had a great cast to work with. What made you decide on Al Mauro and Jennifer Ward? Did you happen to see Ward's work in Simone prior to her audition?

GK: I came across both Al and Jennifer during an open casting call. I think it's now safe to admit that neither of them embodied my original vision of the characters, but their reads blew me away and they truly took command of the roles. Al was the perfect uncomfortable nebbish, barely concealing the psychopath underneath until he has no choice but to explode. Jennifer had a self-assured but still very vulnerable quality that was perfect. I did not see Simone until after she was cast. In fact, if I remember correctly I didn't see it until after we started shooting. I thought it was very impressive and she did an amazing job.

But if you don't mind, I have to give credit to the rest of the cast as well. Patty Mesar, a bartender whom I've known for years, absolutely hates having her picture taken and agreed to do this only because it was my project. Paul Boffano, who I'd known from his work on one of my student projects and asked to give his best Bill O'Reilly riff for the "Straight Talk" segment and he happily agreed. And Lynne Hansen, who is primarily known as a writer of young adult horror fiction and is as obsessed with zombies as I am, was my first and only choice to play the zombie-rights activist Dr. Foster. 


TMC: As a first time independent filmmaker, do you have any advice or guidance you can share to others who are interested in entering this arena?

GK: If you want to make movies, make movies. Don't talk about it, don't dream about it, do it. The technology has become so cheap you can go to any Wal-Mart, Target, or Best Buy and get a camera that can shoot full HD video as well as editing software. But having an HD camera does not make a good filmmaker - you also have to take the time to learn to use these tools. Watch your favorite movies - analyze them. Figure out what you like about them - story structure, editing, camera angles. Listen to the director commentaries on dvds; sometimes they contain a wealth of information about filmmaking that others pay thousands of dollars for in film school. Learn to make the most of the resources you have available, and you can produce something others will want to see.


TMC: Give us some details on the happenings at the Gasparilla in Tampa on March 24-27. Do you know the what dates/times Risen will be screened for those who attendees reading who want to check it out?

GK: As of now the schedule has not been finalized, but I will make this information available on the Risen facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/risenmovie -  as soon as I receive it. I can say I'll be in attendance for the entire festival, and I look forward to meeting any of your readers who will be there.


TMC: What's next for Greg Kurczynski? Do you have any other projects currently in production or plans to do do other projects in the future?

GK: Currently I'm in pre-production on a film called The Adventures of O.P.I.E., a comedy I'm directing about a group of paranormal investigators. Public distribution of the Risen dvd is not far away. There are also two other projects ready to go into development, a J-Horror inspired ghost story and another dealing with witchcraft at a strip club - and I know THAT got your attention - so the Sleeping Weasel is ready to awake and disturb you!


TMC: You are right! Witchcraft in a strip club? I'm in!

Greg, the floor is yours for anything you want to plug and promote.

GK: Well, if I have to make a recommendation, it would be to watch for the release of Gregory Lamberson's Slime City Massacre, coming on DVD in May from Shriek Show Entertainment. Yes, Greg's a buddy of mine, but I can say without hesitation that this sequel to his original cult classic Slime City is worth looking out for.


TMC: I appreciate you stopping by The Man-Cave and can't wait to see what you have coming next.

Folks, if you are in the Tampa-area on March 24-27 or if you already attending the Gasparilla Film Festival, make sure to check out the film Risen made by today's guest, Greg Kurczynski. It's a buffet of subgenres merged to make a zombie film extremely different than any one you have seen before.


LINKS:



Thursday, February 24, 2011

Heavy Times (2010) are great times


An obnoxious loudmouth kidnaps his brother-in-law along with his two friends and takes them on a road trip where they are subjected to both his horrible company and other unexpected annoyances.


After recently reviewing several films in the horror genre, it is refreshing to check out something in the realm of comedy. It's even more of a bonus when an indie film like Heavy Times, sent to The Man-Cave by directors Benjamin Mark and Ryan McKenna, brings major stomach-busting laughter on such a low budget.

The film begins with a trio of pals from the northeast part of the U.S. who finish up their working day and head to a party. Mark (Adam Lauver) is a used car salesman, but not a very good one. Hugh Siemens (Jay Brunner), who physically resembles the Mac character from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is a kids' sports coach. Then there is Dan (Brian D. Evans), who unintentionally invites trouble into all three of their lives when he takes the guys to visit his sister.


In all honesty, these boys are a little awkward, which is a fact assessed from their failed interactions at the aforementioned party. Mark gets into an argument over his vocabulary and how no one understands what he ever says to people. His dispute goes south once he tries to break down the definition of the word "behooves", which he states has something to do with behavior and horses' hoofs. Dan trips all over himself when he tries to impress an old crush. She doesn't even remember who he is and bolts out the kitchen to dance with her friends rather than engage further conversation with him. And finally, Hugh's attempt to rap battle manifests into the most one-sided rap battle since Eminem got played out in the opening scene of 8 Mile.

After Dan brings the other guys to visit his sister, things really take off when they meet her husband Rick, played by the hilarious Jeff Koen. Rick is nothing more than an obnoxious loudmouth, and also out of work for over a year, whose only pleasure in life seems to be insulting people like our trio. In a moment of foreshadowing during dinner, Rick keeps preaching repeatedly with such passion that apparently Montreal is the "place to be" and they all need to go there so they can party like it's the millennium. 


First, he takes the boys out for some brew at a bar, then Rick enacts his plan once they pass out. They are essentially kidnapped and taken to, you guessed it, Montreal. No this is not the end of the journey, as the heavy times are just about to begin.

The main standout of the cast is comedian Jeff Koen, who ingeniously improvises his lines a majority of the running time. From his first onscreen appearance, he chews the scenery alive as well as his co-star victims. It seems that a lot of what he brings to his character Rick stems from his own personality and that is truly a wonderful, wonderful thing. If ballbusting was an international sport, like the World Ballbusting Federation, Koen would be its Hulk Hogan. The man clearly has a 20th degree black belt in the art and does not hold back in his insults at all. As funny as this film is, he just makes it that much funnier.


Another memorable character is Gunther, played by Keaton Farmer. Gunther is a sarcastically stereotypical goth/emo character who the guys interact with during their trip. Sure Farmer is given some great lines, as well as some hysterical props to work with, but it is the way he sells his dialogue that is what makes his portrayal so unforgettable. In fact, you would think the man was a seasoned actor with a SAG card and not a rookie acting in his first film.

Even though Farmer and Koen are fantastic, the rest of the cast is nothing to shake a stick at either. The trio of friends are all great delivering credible portrayals of their characters. Wherever the directors mined their acting talent, they definitely found some diamonds among the coal. Just wished there was more of Melina Chadbourne, who plays Anna, the unfortunate sibling of Gunther. She definitely receives The Man-Cave's Babe seal of approval.


Any hint you might smell of The Hangover or Road Trip should just remain a hint, because this is an original road trip-style flick unlike any that have come before it. The dialogue addresses so many instances in every day banter we would all like to deconstruct. For example, when someone mentions that "everyone" thinks a certain way and you want to ask that person if they took a poll to gauge that "everyone" truly thinks this way. Or the overuse of the word "like" in our society. Nothing is "like" anything, just ask Gunther.

The film starts off a bit slow with a rather bizarre and seemingly irrelevant title sequence that might not catch your interest right away. But once the guys head to the party, get ready for some fun. "The Blast!" game is certainly something that should be required for the Man-Cave (and your parties') drinking game agenda in the future. And Times' use of talking to a skull is the best since Hamlet.


"We are all going to get stabbed with the toothbrush sooner or later", but for right now, be on the lookout for Heavy Times, which is still seeking distribution and looks to hit the film festival circuit this summer. The bumper sticker states "Super Sox, 1986 Champs, this is the year!", but maybe 2010 will be the year for this film to be a hit.

Click on this link to access the official Heavy Times website for more information.

 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Virgin Mobile's Stalker Ads



Virgin has recently launched their new ad campaign that promises to feed your inner "stalker" if you use their mobile service. Instead of concentrating on the "happy-happy, joy-joys" of network usage, Virgin is targeting members of the psycho circuses in our world. Sure, we all have a little inner stalker in us from our social media consumption, but these focus on people who are flat out crazy, level 5 clingers that stalk your whole life (per Pauly D from the Jersey Shore). They may be parody, but you can tell there is a lot of truth in them. 

I like the ads because I really dig crazy chicks and this loon happens to be really hot too. Plus the music is hysterical! Enjoy...






Monday, February 21, 2011

The Man-Cave Interview with author Alex J. Cavanaugh



Last Thursday, I reviewed blogger, friend and author Alex J. Cavanaugh's sci-fi book, Cassastar. Even though Alex and I are interweb buddies, I gave an unbiased review and in all honesty, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Alex has been on a virtual book tour since late '10 when his book hit the shelves, and one of his last stops is The Man-Cave.

It is a real treat to interview today's guest. He is not only a published author and runs an interesting and very popular blog, but he always hosts the coolest bloghops in the blogger-verse and has been a strong supporter of my site since we crossed paths early last summer. Ladies and gents, please welcome to the 'Cave, Alex J. Cavanaugh!!!


The Man-Cave (TMC): Welcome, Mr. Cavanaugh! Say hi to the cute chicks I hired to paint themselves green like aliens for today's sci-fi theme. Yeah they are not a permanent part of the Man-Cave unfortunately, but I paid for them to be here just for you, big guy.

Alex J. Cavanaugh (AJC): Green chicks? Thanks, I feel like Captain Kirk!


TMC: Let me tell you, I have been following your blog tour for a long time and it is going to be hard for me to come up with some original questions, but I promise you we will have fun today. In fact, let me have one of the cute alien chicks sit on your lap. Cindy, go sit on Mr. Cavanaugh's lap and make him feel at home. He's a respected author for God's sake, so go earn your $5 an hour.

AJC: Let’s make it $10 and hour but I will ask you to wash my car.


TMC: Get to it, Cindy. Double coat of wax too! Alex, I loved your book and trust me when I tell you that I would have said it was horrible if I really thought it was awful. I am not a big reader, but I purchased Cassastar for my Kindle to give you some support and in return you gave me a good read. So now for the most generic, yet important, question...where did the idea for your book come from?

AJC: I was a fan of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica, so I came up with the original idea when I was a kid. Yes, that was a few years ago…


TMC: The original Battlestar got me into the space battle genre as well. Allow me to mine down that previous question a little further...where did the idea for the Cassan race stem from? A humanoid race that implements their telepathic abilities into everyday life is fascinating.

AJC: Telepathy is just a cool ability. I was a shy kid, so the idea of speaking without having to open my mouth was appealing.


TMC: Our main character Byron has the ability to teleport his craft through supernatural means opposed to the other pilots who have to use the teleportation equipment in their crafts. He's like one of those little bastards who cheats when you play Call of Duty on XBOX Live. Do I smell a little Luke Skywalker/The Force in there?

AJC: No Luke, no Force, and it’s less supernatural than you think. The Cassan’s mental ability to fold space requires the use of a teleporter device, and when the unit’s energy is drained, they can’t teleport. Byron’s mental powers are strong enough that he can funnel his own energy into the device and continue jumping, at least a few more times anyway.


TMC: Oh I'm not implying anything. It's just that I've heard Lucas is a little lawsuit happy, so I'm looking out for you.

AJC: Thanks, but I think Byron could kick his butt!


TMC: I mentioned in my review last week that one of main reasons I enjoyed Cassastar is the main story outside of all the laser blasts and hyper jumps. Not only are we treated with some fun space combat but we also have a story that mainly deals with personal relationships. Care to expand on that aspect?

AJC: The original draft was crap, but it was the strength of the characters that prompted a rewrite. They were always the heart of the story, and since they are all that survived the changes, I really focused on their interaction.


TMC: Take us back to the moment where you said to yourself, "You know what? I am going to write a book and get published. I'm going to go for it." Where were you, what were doing, etc.?

AJC: Dude, I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night! I was probably just letting my mind wander at the time…


TMC: Is Sci-Fi your favorite genre? What are some other genres you enjoy in any medium whether it be literature, film or television?

AJC: It’s one of my favorites, especially movies. I probably read more fantasy, though. I also like thrillers with a horror twist.


TMC: In line with the last question, who are your favorite authors? Which authors has inspired your writing?

AJC: Preston & Child, Terry Brooks, and Timothy Zahn. My writing is probably more in line with Zahn’s rapid pace and light description, although I’d love to emulate Preston & Child. They are masters.


TMC: That's probably why I like your style. I thoroughly enjoyed the post-Star Wars trilogy books he wrote in the 90s! You created a story with endless possibilities for the Byron character. So are we going to a sequel to Cassastar and if so, when?

AJC: I’m revising a sequel right now and hope to submit it to my publisher this summer. I’ve introduced a female lead, so the tone will be a little different. (Hey, everyone wanted to know where the heck the Cassan women were in the first book!)


TMC: Yes...women who can read minds. Hmm. Just kidding. That is great news to hear a sequel is in development. What's in the pipeline for your next book and blog?

AJC: After I complete the sequel, I have no idea! As for my blog, I’m gearing up for the A to Z Challenge this April and will do another blogfest in May or June. In between, it’s movies, music, and mayhem!


TMC: More blogfests! Excellent! Anything else you would like to promote? The floor is yours.

AJC: Join the A to Z Challenge! It’s a blast.


TMC: Well thanks for stopping by The Man-Cave, Alex. I am sure to be catching you around the
interwebs soon enough.

AJC: Appreciate it, Geof! Is it Happy Hour yet?


TMC: It's ALWAYS Happy Hour here. Folks, if you have not purchased a copy of Cassastar, check out the links below in order to do so. And also make sure to check out one of my favorite blogs owned and operated by today's guest, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

INFO:
CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science fiction/adventure/space opera, Dancing Lemur Press LLC
ISBN Print 9780981621067 $15.95  eBook 9780982713938 $2.95

To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…
Few options remain for Byron, a talented young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude. Slated to train as a Cosbolt pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life. Much to his chagrin, Bassa, the toughest instructor in the fleet, takes notice of the young pilot. As war brews on the edge of space, Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive. Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit? 

“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He’s experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Currently he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Book Review: Cassastar (2010) by Alex J. Cavanaugh


A young new pilot with extraordinary abilities joins an intergalactic war mentored by an older officer that provides him something he has not possessed his entire life, true friendship. 


This is only the second book review on The Man-Cave and I saved it for a good cause. Cassastar by author/blogger/bloghop king Alex J. Cavanaugh was released late last year to some raving reviews across the interwebs and for good reason. The book is an interesting and fast read that will appease to both sci-fi and non sci-fans, simply because it's content is more than just spaceships and laser blasts.

Cassastar tells the story of a new hotshot pilot named Byron as he sets off to the moon base Guaard for training. Byron has always been a loner in life, due to his unwillingness to place his trust in others. This is notable in a awkwardly brief moment where his sister visits him to bid adieu. Besides these issues, his goal has never faded. He is determined to pilot a Cosbolt fighter craft and contains the natural abilities to do so...but we learn that he also has the supernatural abilities to do so as well. 

Byron hails from the planet Cassa whose inhabitants, the Cassans, have extremely competent telepathic abilities they use in everyday life, such as talking and reading others' thoughts. While Byron maintains these abilities, he also transcends them. Most pilots are able to "jump", to quickly teleport short distances during battle, using their in-ship teleporter equipment and in limited quantities, whereas Byron is able to jump simply by using his mind. And it is a fact that he is keeping under lock and key for fear of being outed as a freak of nature among the other Cassans. 

During his training on Guaard, it is no surprise that Byron has quickly jumped (no pun intended) to the head of his class. Meanwhile, lead instructor Bassa, a well-established veteran and high ranked officer in the fleet, has taken an interest in Byron from what he learned tracking the young pilot's progress for a long time before his arrival on Guaard. Knowing that Byron is something special, Bassa pays extra attention to Byron's efforts in hopes of keeping him mentally grounded and in turn, alive. 

Once Byron graduates and is sent to active duty, his current navigator decides to pursue other career options since he cannot stomach space combat. This is a major concern for Byron since his old navigator is probably the only person he ever trusted in his life. The void is not vacant for long when Bassa leaves his instructor position and forces an assignment as Byron's navigator aboard a frontline battleship. Why would a high ranking, well decorated officer like Bassa would agree to a dangerous assignment at a such a low level? Sure Bassa is well aware of Bryon's jumping ability, but it might also stem from something secretive in Bassa's past. 

Trust issues flare up right from the start of their new union when Bryon and Bassa clash due to Bryon's shielding his thoughts. Will Bryon finally let down his guard and trust Bassa's genuine intentions? They are going to have to get on the same page soon since the war between the Cassans and the enemy Vindican has reached a turning point. The Vindican has found a way to neutralize the Cassans' telepathic advantage in the war with their latest mind-frying weaponry and Byron's hidden power might be the race's only hope for victory.

To be complimentary, Cavanaugh's style is very straightforward and inviting to all genre readers. This is a major positive when reading a story with topics including alien races, telepathy, fighter ship jump systems and other things that are not in our daily vernacular. Most of all, there isn't any vocabulary masturbation happening here, which is refreshing for a science-fiction based literary work.

This book is not without any flaws though. One major negatives is the lack of backstory between these two feuding civilizations and their utter hate for one another. Also, the ending was definitely entertaining and well written for reader visualization, but needed to be more extended. There was a lot of build up for the final confrontation and a need for urgency to execute certain tasks, but then it seemed to be wrapped up in under 9 pages, like it was Tic-Tac-Toe. 
 
That being said, this is a great story that is more about personal relationships then explosion and enemy fighter kills, but we get enough of that space action side of the coin too. The universe that Cavanaugh has definitely created a solid base to launch a series of Cassastar sequels, so lets hope Alex gets on that real soon.

It is currently available for sale (see below) as a paperback or an E-book/Kindle. And at $2.95, it is a steal that you can't go wrong with.

Stay Tuned for my interview with AJC next week! 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dead Island trailer



I know what game is next on my list to purchase. You can never have enough zombie games (never!) and now Dead Island is coming to console systems. From what the trailer depicts, this one takes place on a tropical vacation resort. Which means one thing....Zombies with Suntans! 

Check out the fascinating trailer below, courtesy of IGN! They weren't kidding when they stated this trailer was easily the best of the year.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy V- Day & For Those Who Missed the Grammys parody


Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. No Monday updates today. I'll make it up to you all. 

But I do have some shocking news. What did you all think I posted that up there to be a pig on V-Day? Come on now, give me some credit.

Well I decided that I am going to bring back the Booze Reviews on a permanent basis and make them a Friday special at least twice a month and maybe more. As of early summer '10, I have been posting Mondays through Thursdays with some time off during the holidays. While posting 4 times a week has been tasking, I have been tasting some great brew that I want to share the world with. Share my opinions, not my actual brew stash. An idea that I have been toying with for a while would be to do a live beer review, so we'll see.   

In the meantime, treat your loved one to a romantic evening and see you all on the interwebs tomorrow.

AND FINALLY FOR ALL OF YOU WHO MISSED THE GRAMMYS LAST NIGHT, HERE'S A RUNDOWN OF HIGHLIGHTS....

1) Lady Gaga hatched out of an egg

2) Gaga is an alien...spiked forehead appendages, pointy shoulders and all

3) A singing peacock played a piano

4) Muppet thingys played instruments as well

5) Gwyneth Paltrow sang with the aforementioned muppets and peacock

6) Will Smith's kid tried to steal Justin Bieber's thunder; looked foolish

7) Joel David Moore's doppleganger is a member of Lady Antebellum

8) The Bride of Frankenstein presented an award to Eminem

9) Marc Anthony showed why he is still referred to as "Mr. Jennifer Lopez"

10) Jason Segel had the best joke while semi-defending Lady Gaga

11) Arcade Fire is awesome and a BMX supporter no less!

To sum it up, it was a bad acid trip that Miley Cyrus was on. Like when she smoked that funky stuff on video.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Risen (2010) - Psychos and Zombies and Revenge, Oh My!

During a bizarre night of humans committing random acts of violence, a deranged serial killer picks the wrong time to slaughter his latest victim.


Buffets are always fun and filling no matter how many items are put in those silver containers heated by Sterno flames. You can always mix different types of food to create buffet themes like brunch, steak and seafood and Indian-Thai fusion. Sometimes these culinary combos gel and sometimes they are flat out gross. In the case of director Greg Kurczynski's debut effort Risen, it is one of those buffets that indeed work. In 23 minutes, he serves up implied pedophilia, psychopaths, torture, GHB, zombies, and CNN TV parody all into those little aluminum buffet dishes for us to enjoy. 

Fresh off her amazing performance in Simone, Jennifer Ward stars in another lead role as Jenn, a young woman who doesn't heed her own advice when it comes to "sick bastards". Jenn is out at a bar having some beer when she takes a liking to a Clark Kent-esque stranger named Henry, played by Al Mauro. Henry seems completely harmless, munching on beer nuts and sipping on soda, as he watches the newscast about people performing strange attacks nationwide. Sound familiar?


Although Henry has "creep" written all over him, they both seem to hit it off. She's looking for a nice guy, and in turn, he wants some female companionship. When the bartender announces she's closing down the bar early due to the attacks mentioned on the newscast, Henry offers to take Jenn out for dinner which she accepts. Just when these two look like they are going to hook up and make their power couple name "Jenn-ry", Henry spikes her drink with some GHB-type substance. Guess when he mentioned dinner, he meant a liquid one. Game on.

As predictable as this film seemed to be at first, the second and third acts played out differently than what was expected. Sure any novice moviegoer is going to recognize that these random acts of violence are related to flesh-eater activity, but how the story pans out is what makes this film unique against its' peers. Kurczynski ultimately makes a flick about a zombie outbreak without directly being about a zombie outbreak. The Henry-Jenn angle is almost like a side story that occurs during the outbreak, but not in the same fashion as The Walking Dead.


Towards the end of this flick, we are treated to a Hannity and Colmes/Bill O'Reilly/Crossfire type of programming, in which the host is having a debate about the all the national chaos. It's funny to hear the host try to drive home the fact that it is a zombie outbreak whereas the guest is in total denial. The parody of these types of talk shows is in full effect. Meanwhile, Henry is completely oblivious to what is going on in the world because, let's face it, he is over the rainbow crazy.

Thankfully, Mauro picks up his performance after the bar scene, which felt very unnatural. Then he nails it in the second and final acts when he shows off his inner lunatic. Maybe that was the intent. Meanwhile, Ward is becoming the next indie scream queen with her role. Unlike in Simone, she really gets to show off her pipes here and boy can she turn on the waterworks.

Once the film gets past some awkward dialogue and character development in the first few minutes, this one puts you on a cool ride. Again, Risen is a whole MSG-less buffet on display for you here, so it is best to go in expecting a zombie film completely different than what you are used to. And change is a wonderful thing nowadays, especially with all the recent zombie saturation.


In hopes of not revealing any major spoilers, it is best to end the review here. But not before telling you that Risen will be screened at the Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa, FL on March 24-27. If you are in the Sunshine State, I would definitely head there and see if you can get in on a screening and show your support.

Here are some links to the Production Company's official site, Facebook fan page and The Man-Cave's interview with Jennifer Ward for her performance in Simone.

Sleeping Weasel Productions          
Facebook Fan Page
The Man-Cave interviews Jennifer Ward for Simone



RATING:
3 out of 5 Creeper Santas

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Man-Cave Remembers: Spirit of Truth


 
Do you remember the Spirit of Truth, the angry preacher whose 90's cable access shows went completely viral during Youtube's climb to superpower?

Well back in the late 90's, Spirit of Truth (SoT) had a late night religion-based cable access show in California called "One Man Show". Somewhere in the 2005-2006 range, his videos were uploaded to Youtube and became extremely popular under the name "Preacher X" when his identity was still a mystery.
But you see, SoT's sermons weren't filled with your usual Sunday mass material. The man would talk slang, drop curses and insult a majority of his call-in viewers. The funny thing is that you can't hear what the callers are saying and you never even knew there were people on the phone line speaking to him due to some technical difficulties, so he appears to be ranting to himself. After a few episodes, he was kicked off cable access...which I did not know was possible.

SoT meant well, I think, but he was just simply misunderstood. He came from Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, as he repeatedly reminded us in his sermons, and was here to crush Satan. Some people called him vulgar, some said he was crazy. And while those two factors are true, he was fucking hilarious!

After a recent appearance on Tosh.0 last season in the Web Redemption segment, I wanted to take everyone for a trip down memory lane and/or initiate those who have never heard of the enigma known as Spirit of Truth.

It's always been a goal of mine to interview this guy, so if you are reading this Mr. Truth, contact the Man-Cave immediately.


Here is the video that started it all. And edited version from Ebaums World that hits all the highlights. Please hang around for the end...






Here is the SoT on Tosh.0. He's still provoking that, huh....


Tosh.0Tuesdays 10pm / 9c
Uncensored Web Redemption - The Angry Black Preacher
tosh.comedycentral.com
Tosh.0 VideosDaniel ToshWeb Redemption

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Legion: Final Exorcism (2010) - we can only hope so




 

 A priest out of favor with his religious order is summoned to save the soul of a young teenage girl, even if he must defy his order by performing a mandatory exorcism.


From the opening credits sequence, complete with jazz music pumping while our lead delivers some exposition to catch us up in the proceedings, one has to assume that Legion: Final Exorcism must have been a failed TV series pilot edited to appear as a full length feature. It has to be. From the "boo" scene a couple minutes in to the opening credits sequence, it reeks of a CBS supernatural series like Forever Knight or Moonlight and with a touch of Highlander. It also looks like it was shot in the 90's. It's really hard to describe unless you see it for yourself. Maybe it's the stock, the lighting? 

Four minutes into this flick, you will realize why it sat on the shelf for four years. Try not to break into laughter when our soon-to-be possessed Tatiana (Ariel Teal Toombs) is confronted by a demon-channeling pig speaking with some audio reverb. Seriously, try not to laugh because it is unintentionally hilarious by all accounts. In fact, all of the horror scenes are just too goofy to be scary. Reverbs, zooms, fish-eyed lenses, boo jumps...more comedic than anything. 


Aren't they all?

Out of nowhere, "Hot Rod" Roddy Piper arrives on the scene as Tatiana's uncle Lucas. After it takes him three screen appearances before he delivers one line, you can tell that he is playing a somber role, which is a bit out of his element and different from the "Rowdy" one we all love. In this dramatic supporting role, Piper does not embarrass himself, except for his scenes with the demonic piece of talking pork that also taunted Tatiana in the beginning. Then again, even Pacino would have looked silly in those scenes.

If this was a failed TV pilot attempt, it's best to call a spade a spade then call it day. So if Legion was really made to be a film that stands on its' own, it rates from well below average to absolutely terrible. The stock used to shoot the footage, the score, the level of acting, the lighting all have the look of what you'd find in the TV medium. The comparison to a television program keeps being mentioned because it is honestly that much of a distraction.


No bubble-gum chewin' this time around

David Heavener, who plays our holy man hero Michael San Chica, is not only the star of this film, but also the writer, director and producer. That's a great deal of hats, not to mention the biggest hats, to wear all at once in film making. Heavener has directed 13 other films an starred in about 28, so this is not his first time at the rodeo. Here, he made a low budget film with Legion on what appears to be a modest budget, but this flick is a little too boring and derivative of other films of this kind to make an impact. Heavener certainly deploys some creative editing, lighting and camera angles, especially in the plethora of dream-like sequences, in attempt to take his film to the next level. Unfortunately, his stylish flair is ruined by a turtle speed pace and scare moments that become unintentionally hilarious. 


The infamous demon-channeling pork chop

Legion's second chance for life seems to coincide with the success of this past summer's The Last Exorcism. Even the screener copy's image resembles Exorcism's teen demon Nell. Again, if this film is a standalone movie, it gets an F, but receives a C- if it is in fact a failed TV pilot. With the adrenaline shot the exorcism subgenre has recently received, Heavener might be sitting on a lucrative project that a network SyFy could pick up and roll the dice with to make an original series. So if you're reading SyFy, give David a call.


Rating: WARNING! YOU HAVE ANGERED THE CREEPER SANTA!
0.5 of 5 Creeper Santas 


















Buy it here:



Monday, February 7, 2011

Electric Feel performed by Showbiz Pizza's Rock-afire Explosion



If you remember Showbiz Pizza Place, you are truly a part of a special breed. And I would love if you shared your stories here.

If you don't know of Showbiz Pizza Place, it followed on the coat tails of the Chuck E. Cheese franchise, only it seemed like it was like ten times better at the time. So if you are familiar with Chuck E. Cheese, same concept. These two companies eventually merged, yielding to be rebranded Chuck E. Cheese nationwide back in the early 90's. 

The only things I miss slightly less than drive-ins are Showbiz Pizza Places. Games, pizza, beer for the parents, entertainment, and animal cyborgs that used to spout songs. I used to spend so many tokens on games like Dragon's Lair, Donkey Kong Jr., Star Wars, and Spy Hunter, but when you are like 6-10 years old, it ruled the universe. And for the older folks and parental guidance, they had pitchers of beer to keep them happy while us rugrats scattered.

Personally, the joy of running around in the game room far outweighed the stage show, the Rock-afire Explosion. This amimatronic band consisted of fuzzy musicians who would put on a talking show, while also incorporating some tunes they would sing throughout their program. If the nostalgia factor for me wasn't so high, I'm sure I would think the Rock-afire's show would be stupid if I saw it nowadays. Which takes us to today's video. 

The other day, I searched Youtube to find some old videos...only I surprisingly found some new ones. Looks like programmers for the few remaining Rock-afires has been programming newer tunes by requests down in Wonderland, and two funny videos I wanted to share were "Electric Feel" by MGMT and "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira (there's more songs after that). Yeah they definitely wouldn't play songs like these usually with kiddies in the room back in the day. Enjoy...


Electric Feel by MGMT:



Hips Don't Lie by Shakira





A couple years ago, someone made a documentary on The Rock-afire Explosion that I am attempting to track down sometime soon.

I might post more of these at another time. But in the meantime, please share your Showbiz/Chuck E. Cheese childhood memories.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Shellter (2009) review - "Gimmie Shellter"





In the aftermath of a post-apocalyptic fallout, a woman awakens in an underground medical shelter and is forced by a deranged clinician to perform sadistic experiments on other survivors in order for her to survive. Why does she do it? 
Because those experiments are either performed on them...or her.


Even though Saw promised the franchise’s final chapter in October, it seems that new age kidnap-torture films will continue carrying on the trend. Thankfully, directors such as Dan Donley will make films like Shellter with the intention to entertain his audience by focusing on interesting plots and meaningful characters in the forefront while keeping carnage as a supplement.

Shellter begins with our lead character Zoey (Cari Sanders) waking up from a peculiar slumber, finding herself flat down in a hospital bed of some eerie underground medical facility. The Doctor (William David Tullin) comes into her room to check on her vitals and provide an update on why she is in his care. You see the world as she knew it has gone all Omega Man (beauty, eh?), as an infection turned a majority of the Earth’s inhabitants into mutants and left only a few remaining human survivors. The good news is that Zoey is one of few lucky human survivors and is safe with the Doctor in his “shelter”, secluded from all harm. The bad news is that she is going to have to spend the rest of her existence down in the creepy shelter because good alternatives simply do not exist.

For one thing, this infection has not only mutated humans and poisoned the air, but also tainted the food and water. If Zoey leaves, the potential for infection is high and will not be allowed to return, per the Doctor’s constant threats. If she does leave the shelter, she will forever have to wear a gas mask and figure out how to survive without any sustenance. If that is not bad enough, she will constantly be dodging the numerous amounts of mutants who would want to kill her. In a “pick your poison” moment, Zoey decides to remain with the Doctor, his creepy assistant, known only as Nurse (Maria Olsen from a Man-Cave indie fave, Die-ner), and his shady rescue team who brings back other survivors like Zoey to the shelter.

Life in the shelter is pretty grim. The Doctor is a bit deranged, but he seems to mean well. On the other hand, The Nurse appears to be warning Zoey about the Doc’s bad intentions but keeps coming across as a crazed psycho. This is partially due to her lips being surgically glued shut by the Doctor because, well, she told lies about him. Fair enough, no? 


If that doesn’t turn you off of our Doctor in charge, how about him serving up human meat from both infected and non-infected corpses for food? Apparently all of the real food remaining in the world has been affected, so it’s either cannibalism or starvation. If that doesn’t even make you want to stock on apples to keep the Doc further away than arm’s length, how about his tests? No, not like written exams and filling in bubbles with #2 pencils. More like stimulation tests.  For example, strapping a survivor to an electrically-charged chair, asking them questions, and shocking the hell out of them if they answer incorrectly. Only he does not push the button to physically initiate the electrocution. He makes Zoey do it. If she refuses, she would be forced to trade places with the person in the chair. And it is not a stretch to say that the other person would trade with Zoey in a heartbeat if given the chance.

While not for the weak-stomached or weak of heart, Shellter contains a large deal of gore along with a share of uncomfortable scenes that were not put in the film just to showcase some carnage either. Believe it or not, these scenes help develop the story towards an exciting conclusion and are not there just to create complete shock factors. The elite of all unnerving scenes in this film is the aforementioned electric chair trivia game and the thespian trio of Sanders-Tullin-Sophie King, the latter portrays the unwilling contestant/rescued survivor Rose, completely sells it. Especially Sophie King. Since it is awards season in Hollywood, someone needs to throw an Oscar her way. Her performance creates some real seat squirming moments in her brief screen time.

One great way to effectively operate on a low budget is to limit your surroundings. Donley nails that with the film's claustrophobic setting inside the dingy below surface clinic that has "back alley" written all over it. He also develops a nice pace that gets you all amped up by about the film's midpoint and executes a great visual style - like in the dream/flashback sequences. It's looks like old school 3-D stock, but it works. There's also steady plot curves being thrown around for the first half of the film that keeps you from deciding on certain conclusions. Is the Doctor really telling the truth about the outside world? Is he just a kook who is perfectly fine living underground and eating people? Has he simply developed a God complex? 


The film is reminiscent of Misery mixed with some post-apocalyptic and torture gore subgenres...and that is meant as a genuine compliment. Supported by some great acting from leads Sanders and Tullin, Shellter is a film worth viewing and a real nice change of pace from the usual formula seen in these type of flicks, separating it from the pack. Don't miss this one!

Click here for the official website



RATING:
3.5 out of 5 Creeper Santas











BUY IT HERE: