January 23, 2011


I have a few too many things going here so I am moving this blog to another host. The new address is spoonbenderpress.wordpress.com so update your bookmarks.

The blogs here will still be here, the links from bending-spoons.com will still work, but future entries will be at the new address. Everything will still be linked from the website.

Hopefully, having this hosted in the same place as my personal blog will encourage me to post more often.

Don't forget... New issue of bending spoons coming out in April (submissions due March 20) and the theme is music. Send your submissions embedded in the body of an email to submissions@bending-spoons.com with the words fiction submission somewhere in the subject line.

January 17, 2011

Dread - Rental Review

Part of the 2010 Afterdark 8 Films to Die For 4 Horrorfest, Dread stars Jackson Rathbone as film student, Steven Grace, and Shaun Evans (who looked very familiar but apparently only looks like someone else because I've never seen anything else on his filmography) as Quaid and is based on a short story by Clive Barker from the Books of Blood collection.

The premise: three college students set out to make a documentary on fear (dread). Simple enough plot but with good potential, right? So far, the score: horror movie, 1 point, Jackson Rathbone, 1 point, Clive Barker, 1 point.... Up by three.

Steven meets Quaid outside a bar while having a cigarette and reveals that he is a film student and his brother died in a car accident when he was 15. Quaid decides, based on this information, that Steven would be the perfect vehicle for his fear study and recruits him to help make a documentary. Steven recruits a fellow student, Cheryl (played by Hanne Steen, TV's Ideal), and the three of them embark on a journey through stories of fears of clowns and Mickey Mouse and the dentist.

In the next scene, we learn, through his memories, that Quaid is the sole survivor of a home invasion murder where he watched a stranger bury an ax in his mother's forehead. For reasons we never find out, the killer spares the life of the young boy (eight, maybe ten years old in the memory) who grows up suffering perpetual nightmares from the incident. Built-from-a-kit sociopath - half a point.

Quaid becomes ... frustrated, for lack of a better word, with the "quality" of the fears people are bringing to the study and I have to say at this point in the movie, I'm beginning to understand his frustration. Boring beginning - lose a point. Current score - 2.5

About two and a half hours into the movie (which is a super amazing accomplishment, given that it's only 108 minutes long) things start to get interesting as Cheryl volunteers to be interviewed. But it's still another decent portion of the movie before Quaid finally snaps and decides interviewing people about their fears is not enough, he needs to make them live them. Horribly drawn out journey to get to the "meat" of the story (pun intended...just watch the movie) - lose 2 points. Current score - .5

OH Shush! That wasn't a spoiler. You all knew where the story was headed. Clive Barker wrote it, it's called Dread, and it's about college students doing a fear study. There weren't a lot of avenues available for it. One of the, ahem, guinea pigs decides he didn't appreciate Quaid's research methods and ... misdirects his revenge. The "right" ending that sucks because the wrong guy dies - ummmm breaks even. Add a point for not going the Disney route but lose a point for misdirected anger.

Pretty much, starting from zero, it looks like Dread ends with a score of half a point, down from three out of a possible.... I have no idea. Basically, I didn't love it. I didn't hate it, probably won't watch it again, at least not unless everyone else at the party wants to watch it. Overall, I give it a hearty, resounding review of "meh."

October 2, 2010


I have a tendency to approach films from certain writers/directors from a very biased place. M. Night Shyamalan is one of those writer/directors. I think the man is a bleeding genius. Maybe it comes from the twisted place where my mind exists most of the time, or maybe it's because we have a similar writing style, but when the majority of the population is busy hating what he's putting out, I am seeing aspects of his films as brilliant and amazing.

That out of the way, here is my take on Devil, without giving too much away. I read somewhere (that I can't get back to now) that this is the first of a three film project so I am not putting a lot of stock in anything right now until I can see the whole project in its entirety.

The movie opens with an inverted flight over the city of Philadelphia as we hear the voice of Jacob Vargas as Ramirez, telling us a story his Catholic mother had told him as a child, a story of how the Devil would take human form and punish the damned before taking their souls. According to the story, the Devil would integrate himself into a group of people and systematically kill them (i.e. take their souls). The events would begin with a suicide and end with the Devil killing the last person in the group in front of the person who loves them the most in their life.

We first meet Chris Messina (Vicky Christina Barcelona, Julie & Julia) who plays as Detective Bowden of the Philadelphia Police Department, a recovering alcoholic widower who we later learn lost his family in a hit and run accident five years prior to the events of the story. Bowden has been called to process the suicide foretold by our narrator and figures out that it actually happened several blocks from where the body was found.

As Bowden and his partner are processing the site of the original suicide, our narrator then tells us that innocent bystanders are often claimed as part of the Devil's game and to punctuate this, a shard of glass falls from the window the jumper had destroyed in his fall, nearly landing on Bowden's partner.

In the midst of all of this we meet five more people as they enter an elevator in the same building, unaware of what had just taken place in the floors above. Two of the faces in the elevator are very familiar if you are fans of the TNT network dramas. First we meet a security guard played by Bokeem Woodbine, fresh off his stint as Leon Cooley in the Holly Hunter vehicle, Saving Grace and then later we find Logan Marshall-Green, currently undercover as Dean Bendis in the cast of TNT's Dark Blue. Also in the elevator are Jenny O'Hara (most recently recognized as Nita from TV's Big Love), Drag Me to Hell's Bojana Novakovic and Geoffrey Arend (TV's Trust Me and Body of Proof).

When the express elevator these five people are riding in stops between floors, we finally meet our narrator, Ramirez, a security guard, and his partner, Lustig played by Matt Craven (Public Enemies, Distrubia). As the lights in the elevator car begin to flicker, Ramirez becomes obsessed with an image of the Devil's face in the security footage, bringing his narration into the action of the movie.

As told in Ramirez's fable, the passengers in the elevator car are systematically picked off one by one and we as the audience begin to speculate which passenger is the Devil. Or what if it isn't one of the passengers? What if Bowden's the Devil? Could it be Lustig or Bowden's partner, Markowitz? What about Ramirez himself, his fable just a clever ruse?

I won't tell you who the Devil is but I will say, Shyamalan succeeded in surprising me, once again. While I ran the gamut, suspecting all the major players, including the one who was "just too easy," the true Devil was in fact the one I suspected the least. And to be perfectly honest, I don't know why I dismissed the possibility. I just did. To me, that is a sign of good twist writing.

I don't think I am going to back a trip to the theater for this one, at least not 100%. There were no big action scenes or special effects or a great soundtrack to be diminished by watching it from your own couch. If you find yourself with nothing to do one weekend and want to go to the cinema, Devil isn't going to be a waste of money but you are also not going to miss anything if you wait for it on DVD.

July 9, 2010

Touch the Dark by Karen Chance

Cassie Palmer is a clairvoyant who was raised by a vampire mob boss.

It sounded like a good idea when I first bought the book. And probably could have been if not for some glaring annoyances that I just couldn't get past.

To Chance's credit, she did tweak vampire lore a bit and make it her own; debunking the Christian/Stoker ideology that we've all grown so used to... can't go out in the sunlight, garlic is like poison, the demon that has replaced their soul makes them fear (sometimes even burn in the presence of) holy relics... and creating a semi-unique world for Cassie and her team of undead.

Now... to the complaints...

For starters, while there is nothing wrong with adults reading Harry Potter or similar stories, Touch the Dark is an adult novel. Not XXX Adult (although it does take a couple of detours into a R rating), but definitely not intended for the 12 to 16 category. However, enchanted window locks that scream when a hostage tries to open said window...very Harry Potter in context. Little annoyance, and it did go away after only one appearance...

Which leads me to my next complaint. There was just too much going on for one book. Chance really needed to make the story of Cassandra Palmer at least a trilogy, if not a series. As it was, she crammed too much information into a dimestore paperback and the end result was a lot of unanswered questions and dangling threads.

I'm never quite sure how much of the plot to "give away" in these reviews but basically, you start out reading one story, about a clairvoyant in her twenties who lived with a vampire mob until she was 16, at which time she ran away. Now the Boss has a price on her head and that's where we pick up Cassie's story.

But... about two thirds of the way through the book...yes, two thirds... the whole thing shifts and we find out that Cassandra isn't just a name that Chance plucked from the baby name book. Following a brief and somewhat muddled Greek mythology lesson, we learn that the Pythia of Delphi is an ongoing "title," as it were. As one Pythia grows old ("old" here means 2-300 years) a sybil is chosen and trained to take up the mantle when the current Pythia dies. And this is where I stop sharing the plot, for fear of giving away something important.

And my final, major complaint is...It's not uncommon for dark fantasy authors to speculate about famous (or infamous) figures from history. How many times have you read that Elvis was an alien and he didn't die, he just went home? Jack the Ripper a vampire (or nobleman, or both)? Sure! Why not? Karen Chance, however, took this plot device to a whooooooooooole new level of absurdity. Special guest stars in Touch the Dark include Cleopatra (the asp was actually a vampire), Dracula's two sons (Mircea and Radu), a Frenchman named Louis-Cesar who was turned in the seventeenth century (put that one together on your own; I did), Raphael, Rasputin, and Jack the Ripper.

Final judgment... good premise, not a bad story but way over the top, sometimes to the point of distracting.

May 31, 2010

Doctor Who - Season 5.... Almost to the end

As we near the end of season 5 (or "series" as they say it in the Doctor's homeland), I feel I am a little more qualified to "review" the Eleventh Doctor than I was in the beginning. A little less "knee-jerk," a little more informed opinion this time around.

While I still don't "love" Matt Smith the way I did David Tennant, I have to say the kid has spunk. The production team promised that the adventures we went on with this newest Doctor would be darker and more terrifying than in the past and I am seeing that prophecy come to fruition. Definitely darker, if not more terrifying.

I've chosen to do this now, after the airing of episode 9, rather than at the end of the season, because I am hoping for big things from the season finale, episode 13, and with that hope I carry the hope of something worthy of writing about here.

Basically, as I said, I'm not in love with Smith but he has earned my trust and respect as a Time Lord. And Karen Gillan, Miss Amy Pond, is definitely pulling her weight. If I am not in love with Eleven, I am most definitely in love with Amy Pond. That girl has more than earned her stripes (as I am two episodes ahead of my friends here in the States, I'm trying to avoid sharing spoilers...suffice it to say you may find yourself cursing the writers in a couple of weeks).

Next week is the obligatory "celebrity guest" week, where the Doctor and his companion find themselves elbow to elbow with a shining star from the Earth's history. This season it is Vincent VanGogh so that should be interesting to watch.

April 10, 2010

Doctor Who - Season 5 - less "review" more "opinionated editorial commentary"

Well, fellow Whovian Spoonbenders, I just finished watching the Beast Below, episode two of season five of the British sci-fi action dramedy Doctor Who. Season five brings with it mixed feelings of sadness and eager anticipation with the introduction of the Eleventh Doctor.

I waited until I had watched a second episode with the 26-year-old Matt Smith (this is important only because it marks the point in the show's history where I am older than the Doctor...in fact, had his mother waited another five days, we'd be exactly two years apart in age...but I digress)...I waited until I had watched a second episode with Matt Smith in the role before really forming an opinion. After all, I am one of those who helped to make David Tennant the most popular Doctor in the show's 37 year history. I wasn't at all ready to let him go.

Matt Smith has his work cut out for him, to make me love him. He doesn't exactly make me want to lay on an anthill, as I feared he might, but I don't love him, yet. I do, however, think I kind of love Amy Pond, the Doctor's newest companion (played by Karen Gillan). I can't quite put my finger on it but she's definitely got some qualities that are winning me over after saying such a heart wrenching farewell to previous companions, and after falling head over feet for Lady Christina de Souza (played by Michelle Ryan in the episode Planet of the Dead) and hoping that she was going to be the next companion.

I still say the bowtie has got to go...but I think I can get used to the Eleventh Doctor. I haven't seen enough yet to say whether or not I'll ever love him the way I did Ten but there's hope for the young man yet.

**EDIT** Five episodes down, eight more to go so I thought I'd stop back in and update my Spoonbending Whovians on my thoughts up to this point... Somewhere along the way, I heard from the powers that be behind the Doctor (I think it was Steven Moffat but don't hold me to that) that this new season/Doctor would be darker and in some cases scarier than the show has been in the past. And having been revisited by the Weeping Angels in a stellar two-part episode that culminated tonight (if you are watching in the UK...in the States you still have two weeks before the new Weeping Angels episode comes to a close...unless you are the staff of bending spoons or any number of other devout and internet savvy Whovians, then you are on the UK schedule despite your Yankee status)...Having been revisited by the Weeping Angels in a stellar two-part episode which culminated tonight, I have to agree. This season is definitely getting darker and scarier. There are still some little details about Matt Smith that I'm not crazy about but I don't hate him.

March 8, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

When a movie like Alice in Wonderland comes along, I have to take a few days to step back from it and let the wonder (*ahem*) wear off before I come on here and gush over how amazingly spectacular it was and how much I love love loved it. The truth of the matter is that I have loved Alice in Wonderland as a story for the bigger part of my life, seen eight or ten different versions, and when Tim Burton casually mentioned, four and a half years ago, that he'd love to get his hands on the story, I started watching every corner of the internet waiting for word that he had, in fact, gotten his hands on it. After all, I am convinced the man should be considered for god status.

I've been glued to every word of news about this project since roughly August of last year so as I approached the ticket window Saturday morning my nerves began to flutter. What if it doesn't live up to the hype I've given it in my own mind? What if it's not amazingly spectacular?

Repeat after me. Thou shalt never doubt the Burton/Depp duet. They have yet to disappoint me. And Alice follows that pattern perfectly. But this time it wasn't Depp who wowed as the Mad Hatter, because I don't think anyone doubted he could make that work; nor did we doubt Helena Bonham-Carter (finishing the triad) could be a convincing evil queen. For me, the show stealing performance went to Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts. While such a small role in earlier visions of the story, this was a Return to Oz-esque rewrite and Glover was given a much larger role than I had expected for him. And whether he wear the white hat or the black hat, "George McFly" will always hold a special place in my heart.

Cliche' as it may be, the Cheshire Cat has long been one of my favorite characters in all of literature and Stephen Fry gave him a most delightful treatment. I don't think I could have been more pleased. Absolom, the Blue Caterpillar is given life by Alan Rickman, rounding out the star-studded cast. In case you hadn't figured out where I stand on this one...Run. Go. Now. See it. Several times.

About Me

My photo
a literary collection devoted to showcasing works of new and established fiction in the SF/F/DF/H genres. Our blogspot is an extension of the magazine focused on reviews and rants regarding that which is new and exciting in the world of SF/F/H