Beauty and the Best

"It Follows" - A Unique But Not Especially Frightening Horror Movie

It Follows Poster
Just what the world needs: another review of “It Follows.” But I’m writing this review because, with the deluge of praise heaped on this film, I think we could use a little clear headedness.

It Follows
is a unique “horror” film. The cinematography is excellent, the direction thoughtful and the acting solid. This is what I’d call an art house horror movie. I saw it at the Arclight Cinemas and there was a Q&A with director David Robert Mitchell moderated by Edgar Wright after the screening. Mitchell is a soft-spoken, articulate, sensitive person and that comes through in his filmmaking.

Having said all this, how do we reconcile fulsome praise such as Follows being called “
the best horror film in a decade” with the fact that it’s not actually that scary. Suspenseful in parts, yes; slightly unnerving in parts, yes. Actually scary -- like make you want to keep the lights on at night -- no. To be fair, I am a grizzled old horror veteran. I fall asleep to horror movies like bedtime stories and wake up with the DVD splash screen and scary theme music playing with nary a problem.

So what do I consider scary? Not much anymore. Over time, certain movies have stuck with me – the original Japanese “Ringu,” “The Exorcist,” the first “Alien,” “Audition” was troubling, “A Tale of Two Sisters,” “Halloween” (original). Of recent times “The Conjuring” impressed me. Then there are movies that just had scary scenes, like when the old witch’s shadow appears outside the tent of heroine in “
Suspiria” or when the little girl in “Don’t Look Now” turns out to be a knife wielding midget.

These are movies that made me think about them later, and especially at night. But I walked out of “It Follows” feeling the buzz of having partaken in something cool, but not something scary. I said the same about the “Evil Dead” remake on this blog. I’m interested to hear others thoughts. What do you consider scary?

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"Seconds" by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 10.20.26 AM
From the author that brought us Scott Pilgrim, Seconds is Bryan Lee O’Malley’s reset story, in the vain of Groundhog Day and Live Die Repeat. In a reset story there is typically a deus ex machine device that allows the protagonist to reset the day and relive the experience, always with the goal of perfecting it. The problems usually arise when the time space continuum is befouled by such shenanigans, and that’s no different here.

Seconds tells the story of Katie, the executive chef at the restaurant of the same name, and her group of friends. Despite her outward success, at 29 Katie has no ownership in Seconds so she is trying to start a new restaurant that she owns (Lucknow). She’s also trying to get over a relationship and deal with some supernatural going-ons at her residence (which happens to be the upstairs of Seconds).

While things are hectic, they don’t really go bad until an accident occurs one day at Seconds that burns one of the waitresses, the lovely Hazel. Katie is so remorseful about this situation – she partially caused it by fooling around with Andrew, her protégée – that she makes a deal with the devil of sorts. That night when she goes to sleep, she has a strange dream where she finds a red mushroom, a pad and a pen. There’re some instructions which tell Katie to write out her wrong, eat the mushroom, and go to sleep. She does this and the next day when she awakens she is able to play out the same scenario, but without causing the accident.

But other problems crop up. There is a house spirit at Seconds that is rather covetous of the red mushrooms and does not want Katie eating anymore (and for good reason). Also, with each iteration the world becomes more bizarre and uncontrollable for Katie.

The artwork in Seconds is far better than Scott Pilgrim. Katie’s cantankerous personality is humorously conveyed through O’Malley’s drawings, reminiscent of Charles Shultz at times. The colors jump off the page. It is truly a visual delight.

The story itself is likable enough. I get the feeling the movie Coraline had some impact on O’Malley, as you can feel the influence of that movie on this story. But Seconds stands on its own and it’s a real page-turner once it gets going. It also has some nice touches of reality, which are usually missing from O’Malley’s work. For instance, Katie drools when she sleeps. There’s also a great sequence where she meets her ex and gets a case of the runs due to eating a bad hamburger.

I’d give Seconds a strong recommend. It’s an enjoyable story with improved artwork over Scott Pilgrim.

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"Selma" Review

Ava Duvernay's Selma is one of the best bio pictures produced in a while.  For most people, it's difficult to watch a film of this kind. We know the outcome for its subject and we know what type of things to expect in a film like this - lofty speeches, brutal beatings and a good dose of historic footage. Instead of retreading old ground seen every February on the History Channel, the director chose a different route.  This film focuses on events leading up to the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama (about a 54-mile trip) which eventually led to the Voting Rights Act.  What I really enjoyed about this film was that we saw MLK as a normal human being. We saw his fear and his passion co-existing side-by-side. And more importantly, we finally had a chance to get to know Coretta, which gives a better understanding of how MLK was able to achieve what he did in such a short amount of time.  Behind every strong man, as they saying goes.  Coretta was holding it down at home and supported him through thick and thin despite his less popular indiscretions. 

Selma Still
While there has been some criticism of the portrayal of Lyndon Johnson, I felt it was accurate given the time.  As president, Johnson seemed intent on supporting MLK but would not press forward without massive public opinion supporting him.  The shooting death of Jimmy Jackson (who was African American) by Alabama State Trooper, James Fowler, was not enough to motivate Johnson to act. (Interestingly, Jackson’s death echoes police sentiment toward African-American males still prevalent today, half a century later). Meanwhile, the stark contrast of the public outcry that followed the death of James Reeb, a white minister from Boston who’d also come to support MLK during the March, revealed the nation’s covert racism. Reeb’s family received a phone call from the president but there was no such call for Jackson’s family. 

I also think it was important to have a relatively unknown female director handle the subject matter.  Duvernay avoided being heavy-handed with the violence and offered a well thought out balance between the female and male characters. Even Oprah Winfrey managed to just come across as an activist fighting for a cause instead of pulling us out of the story. The film made me proud of where we've come but also reminded me that we have a long way to go. Choices like not calling the film “MLK” and highlighting the contributions of so many others to this movement make it clear that this isn’t just a black issue - it ’s a human rights issue. If you haven’t seen Selma make it a point to do so immediately.  It’s an important film that demonstrates the power of free speech and the courage of those who believe wholeheartedly in a cause.

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Jennifer Faustino/Lauren Wood Tutorial

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Every now and again AGT gets lucky and finds a new host with all the ideal qualities - cute, curvy, wholesome and fun. In this case we got lucky because we were already working with her! Jennifer Faustino is the official make-up artist for AGT and she’s made other hosts look great, but in fact she could’ve been doing this herself. One of Jenn’s cooler qualities is that she’s very comfortable with being curvy on camera. Refreshing! Check her out on Instagram here.


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Olivia Jensen and Gracie Burwell - "Iris" - AGT's Halloween Special

This is our entry in Legendary Picture’s and YouTube Space LA’s horror competition. I wish I could say this was easy, but as low key as it may seem, even with sets provided, this took a lot of work. So help us win this competition so we can do more exclusives like this with Olivia and Gracie. Tell your friends to re-watch it.

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blogEntryTopperThis is my third year straight at Comic Con, thanks to a friend who works in the games industry. For those of you attending next year, here are my thoughts:

1. Book your hotel early and make sure it is one of the hotels close to the convention center (Hilton Bayfront, Omni, Marriot). The reason for this is that there is so much going on at Comic Con, you can easily forget something and wanna return. You do not want this to be a hassle.

2. Research before you go. Don't wait to attend to try to figure out what's cool and what you wanna see. It's way too overwhelming for that. So figure out which panels you want to attend and which toys or cool t-shirts you want to get at least a week before attending. Not everything that's hot requires waiting in a long line, but it does require pinpoint focus on the first day.

3. Get in shape/be ready. Bring good walking shoes - the floor is grueling.

4. Bring business cards and be prepared to interact. You'd be amazed who you can run into at Comic Con, from celebrities to your favorite artist to some super cute girl in cosplay. People tend to be in groups and on the go, so you'll need to act fast if you see an opportunity to connect with someone.

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New Hosts Jenny & Gracie Coming Soon to AGT

Jenny Gracie Combined PromoIMG_2978-Jenny-Gracie-Promo2

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