Podcast: In The Equalizer, Denzel Kills, Summarizes Hemingway, Kills Again

Categories: Film and TV

Photo by Scott Garfield - © 2013 CTMG
Denzel Washington in The Equalizer: "It's about a guy who is a knight in shining armor, except he lives in a world where knights don't exist anymore." He's talking about Don Quixote but he's really talking ABOUT HIMSELF.
As Bob McCall in The Equalizer, Denzel Washington plays a regular Joe who turns into an eye-gouging, brain-drilling nightmare for Boston's Russian mob. At first Washington "toodles about a Home Depot-like store, helping customers, decked out in New Balance shoes and jeans so last-century you'll be looking for pleats," writes the Village Voice's Alan Scherstuhl. That's before he turns DIY crime-fighter in Antoine Fuqua's latest crowd-pleaser. Scherstuhl, along with the Voice's Stephanie Zacharek and Amy Nicholson of the LA Weekly discuss that movie, along with kiddie-charmer The Boxtrolls, which will make you laugh, cower and think of Hitler, naturally. The trio also dive into the Jimi Hendrix biopic starring Andre Benjamin, Jimi: All is By My Side, plus Amy gives us the highlights from Fantastic Fest. It's all on this week's episode of the Voice Film Club podcast.

Could a Houstonian Be the Next Millionaire on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Categories: Film and TV

Photo credit Heidi Gutman/Disney-ABC Domestic TV
It's not everyday a Houstonian is on a nationally televised game show. Especially one where the top prize is a million dollars. I had the opportunity of being on The Price is Right in August and although I wasn't lucky enough to be a contestant, host Drew Carey did speak to me during a commercial break. That was a win for me as being on The Price is Right has been a dream of mine my entire life.

We caught up with Natalie Poranski, who filmed for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? this past July and asked her the questions on everyone's mind since her taping.

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Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
The Equalizer

Title: The Equalizer

Cool, Does Edward Woodward Have A Cameo? Woodward died in 2009, you insensitive clod.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three Breaker Morants out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Mysterious loner likes teenage hookers, dislikes Russians.

Tagline: "What do you see when you look at me?"

Better Tagline: "Hold still, there's something on your neck."

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The Pick-Axe Murders III: A True Old-School Slasher

Categories: Film and TV

Jeremy Sumrall got the idea for The Pick-Axe Murders III: The Final Chapter in 2007. Back then he was know more for his scriptwriting and for playing roles like The Beast in Sweatshop. Still enough people told him that he should give it a shot that he started making plans.

You know how in general slasher film franchises get slightly less impressive and more ridiculous with every subsequent entry? Sumrall knew it, too, so he decided his skill level would work best by writing and directing the crappy second sequel first. Then when he got better he'd write the sequel, and by the time he'd got enough experience to craft a really great film then he'd be ready for the original.

It's a good plan... if a little nuts. You don't have to worry, though, because Pick-Axe Murders really does deliver on its promise of an old school horror outing in a big way.

It's a very lean film full to the top with bare breasts, big bush, booze, and bloody brutality. The overall premise is that a Satanically-enhanced murderer named Alex Black has been resurrected from the bed to wreak havoc on pot smoking naked teenagers. Nothing original, nothing fancy, but it's quite inventive on how fast the film takes you and how smart it is not to waste time trying to be something it's not.

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Houston Film Critics Society Hosts David Fincher Double Feature at the Alamo Drafthouse

Brad Pitt (and his abs) star in "Fight Club."
This Saturday, September 27, the Houston Film Critics Society is hosting a David Fincher double-feature at the Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park:

Join us for two back-to-back films from one of our great modern directors. We're showing FIGHT CLUB, an adaptation of the once-thought unadaptable novel from Chuck Palahniuk - a film that pummeled its way into audience's psyches, changing everything we thought we knew about reliable narrators, male bonding and social satire. It's inventive, heart-racing, breathless filmmaking that became an instant cultural mainstay. The first rule of FIGHT CLUB is that everybody talks about FIGHT CLUB.

And we're pairing it with a special SURPRISE SCREENING of another Fincher title to be announced later. But c'mon: it's Fincher. You guys can trust us.

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"45 Days: Explore the Arts in Houston" Initiative About Halfway Through Its Run

Photo courtesy of Houston Arts Alliance
Houston Cinema Arts Festival
More than two weeks into this year's "45 Days:Explore the Arts in Houston" initiative, Jonathon Glus, president and CEO of the Houston Arts Alliance, says the campaign "to drive cultural tourism and to drive people who already partial to the arts to do something new " is working well.

"The response has been great. More than 50 organizations are participating.," Glus says. They've been encouraging an Instagram program through social media, asking people to send in their photos of themselves having fun at arts events.

The program's efforts seem to be working, Glus says and the crossover factor -- where someone interested in one type of arts attends others -- is especially high in Houston. And he and his office later provided statistics to back that up:

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Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
The Maze Runner

Title: The Maze Runner

Finally! I've Been Wondering What Happened to Tom Hanks After His Psychotic Break. You're thinking of Mazes and Monsters, though Dylan O'Brien does kind of resemble a young Pardieu.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Three Goblin Kings out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Amnesiac young man wakes up in mysterious place that's part Lord of the Flies, part Pac-Man.

Tagline: "Get ready to run."

Better Tagline: "Despite all my rage something something cage."

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Reality Bites: Toughest Place to Be a Taxi Driver

No air conditioning? What could go wrong?
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

In my lengthy and casualty-ridden campaign to avoid Bravo programming, I decided to check out a channel not often known for frivolous time wastage, namely, Al Jazeera America.

And wouldn't you know it, the program I finally ended up with was actually re-aired from the BBC. Toughest Place to Be A Taxi Driver is part of that network's (surprise) "Toughest Place to be a..." series, in which seasoned British professionals are thrust into unfamiliar environments in an attempt to do their job, kind of like when Michael Phelps hosted Saturday Night Live.

Previous episodes sent coal miners to Mongolia and midwives to Liberia (presumably pre-Ebola outbreak). The Episode I Watched, on the other hand, sent one of London's vaunted cab drivers to Mumbai, India.

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8 Unconventional Vampire Films That Don't Suck

Categories: Film and TV

Photo by JoshBerglund19
After suffering through so many awful vampire movies over the years, I wish I could've taken them all out with one of these.
As a lifelong horror movie fan, I've grown to dread most vampire films. How can such a venerable and classic film monster be so off-putting to me? Most vampire films just seem to suck, and not just in the cool, neck-bitey way. I guess that I see a particularly common lack of originality in most vampire movies, as most of the modern ones seem to just rip off Anne Rice or go the pseudo-super hero route like the Blade movies. Very rarely are vampires even portrayed as scary anymore, they're more often black vinyl clad immortals with complicated sex lives and super powers.

A lot of people like those types of vampire movies, so to each their own. I've tended to enjoy ones that break from the mold in one way or another, and bring something new and interesting to the mythology. Sure, the old style, cape and coffin vampires are fun, but it's difficult to really take them seriously anymore. It's just such an old fashioned image, and has been done to death. Yes, I like Hammer horror films, and the old Universal monster movies, but they don't generally scare me, they've become somewhat quaint over the many decades since their releases.

While this is not a comprehensive list, here are a few vampire films I really like for one reason or another.

8. "The Hunger" - 1983

OK, The Hunger is not a "great" film, but it's definitely heavy on atmosphere and was a break from the typical, caped Dracula mold. The film has a great beginning that used footage of Bauhaus playing their iconic song "Bela Lugosi's Dead," and it's no wonder that so many goths I've known love this movie. Despite having more than a few flaws, "The Hunger" also has David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, and Catherine Deneuve, not to mention an odd take on the idea of immortality and everlasting youth, making it a memorable entry into the vampire genre.

7. "Martin" - 1976

This is one of George Romero's '70s era films that's not as well known as his zombie masterpieces, but it's a very good unconventional vampire movie. John Amplas plays Martin, a young man who may or may not be a real vampire. Whatever he is, Martin has problems, because he has visions from the distant past that indicate he's an old world vampire. Then again, these may be fabrications of his own mind - it's never entirely clear. After a train ride in which Martin drugs and kills a woman by slashing her wrist with a razor and then drinking the blood, he is taken in by an old relative who believes Martin is a real nosferatu. The film never lets on whether Martin is a supernatural being or a mentally deranged killer, but that is part of why the movie is so interesting. I'd rank Martin as one of Romero's best films, it's certainly worth a look.

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Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
The Drop

Title: The Drop

Is This Set In Boston Like Every Other Dennis Lehane Story? No, Brooklyn. Maybe Gandolfini couldn't do a Southie accent.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three-and-a-half Members Only jackets out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Good-natured bartender finds a dog, a girl, and a heap of trouble, sort of in that order.

Tagline: None. Expect them to get a lot of mileage out of "James Gandolfini's final film appearance."

Better Tagline: "And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive ... look, a puppy!"

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