Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014's Most Anticipated Genre Movies (part 2)

Continuing from part 1

#8. Big Bad Wolves (January)
Kalvet (Rabies) was my #2 horror movie for 2012, and gave us a solid episode of Dark Discussions. Big Bad Wolves is the sophomore film for writing-directing team Aharon Keshales and Narot Papushado, who at the very least showed a talent for creating effective scares and kills in their first outing. It hit several top 10 lists in 2013 (including a #1 ranking but Quentin Tarantino), and those of us who missed it on the festival circuit will soon be able to catch it at home.

#9. Sacrament (May)
Ti West and Eli Roth team up to bring us this tale of cannibal religious cultists. I get that some may see this pairing as unholy, but I've already gone on record supporting Roth, and I am no less a fan of Ti West. True, his films make the typical slow burn look like a raging inferno, so I can see them not working for everyone (indeed DDP co-host Phil loathes The Innkeepers),  but this time West is working with Roth to make something more palatable for a broad audience. Will it work? Will it fail? Will I see it? Hell yes.

#10. Tusk (TBD)
Let's roll with the controversial filmmakers and drag in Kevin Smith. He's very hit and miss for me, at times witty and insightful, and others smug and insufferable, but I can't deny I enjoy Red State more than I expected to. This time he's jumping into body horror, which I've discovered creeps me out more than other. I don't know if he's going for laughs or scares, but the one piece of production art that's been released already gave me quivers.

#11. Horns (November)
Alexander Aja and Daniel Radcliff team up for this adaptation of Joe Hill's hit novel. Aja is one of my favorite horror directors right now, consistently surpassing my expectations with films like Piranha 3D and The Hills Have Eyes. Radcliffe is doing all he can to put Harry Potter behind him, and with this, Woman In Black and Frankenstein he seems to have embraced the horror genre. Wonder if they can bump this up a few weeks for Halloween?

#12. Interstellar (November)
There is probably no one bigger in Hollywood right now than Christopher Nolan, and that Dark Knight/Inception money will ensure that he'll get any project greenlit for the rest of the decade. So now that he can do whatever he wants, what has he done? No one knows for sure except that its about space travel. The enigmatic trailer didn't shed much light, but then mystery worked very well for Inception. But really they had me at Chris Nolan, so take my money already.

#13. Guardians of the Galaxy (August)
I'm still amazed at the wealth of comic book films coming out these days, but even with Spider-Man and Cap returning, my most anticipated was a toss up between Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men: Days of Future Past, but the mutant franchise is an old friend at this point, and no matter how ambitious, can't tickle my curiousity like the latest entry from Marvel Films. The merits of the Marvel movies are debatable, but their success is undeniable. While many saw second-tier heroes like Thor and Iron Man as long shots, Guardians has to be their biggest gamble yet. The Marvel Universe casts a wide and weird net that I'm not sure mainstream audiences are ready for, but Marvel is (again) going against convention and going with the bizarre. Say what you will about the B-levelness of Iron Man and Thor, at least most people had heard of them. The Guardians are barely third rate heroes, and Green Lantern would have most studios running fast from cosmic comics. Yet here Marvel is, taking a film starring the chubby clown from Parks and Rec, teaming him up a green woman, a blue archer, a talking tree, and a gun-toting raccoon inspired by a Beatles tune, and handing the whole package over to the director of Slither and Super. It's like Kevin Feige did this on a dare. Regardless, this is going to be a key entry in Marvel's "second wave", and I would love to see them pull it off.

#14. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July)
I am an unabashed fan of the Apes franchise, which I think is too often overlooked for its kitsch factor (you can hear more on this topic in the rough, early episodes of Dark Discussions). Rise was an unexpected surprise three years ago, handling the franchise with respect and intelligence, and giving real heart to the new Caesar. Andy Serkis thankfully returns, and while I was at first sorry to see Rupert Wyatt go, I was even more excited to see Cloverfield and Let Me In director Matt Reeves step in. The new cast, headlined by Gary Oldman, looks to be an upgrade in every way, and with a probable war between apes and the surviving humans, this could be an even darker entry for the franchise. But then I would be first in line to see this if Uwe Boll was making it for Asylum.

So those are my most anticipated films for 2014. What are yours?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2014's Most Anticipated Genre Movies part 1

The Dark Discussions Podcast will soon be doing its annual year-in-preview episode, and we hope to have the 2014 installment a bit better focused than 2013's rambling marathon. To that end, I've taken a break from finishing my 2013 list to look down the road, and choose the 14 genre films (i.e. horror, fantasy or science fiction) that I am most interested to see. These may not end up being the best of the year, but they are the ones that have my curiosity piqued.

In no particular order:

#1. Knights of Badassdom (January)
Tyrion Lannister, River Tam, Jason Stackhouse, Abed, and DJ Davis fight a she-demon? That's all I needed to hear. Directed by Joe Lynch, who did the ridiculously over-the-gory-top Wrong Turn 2, this shows us what happens when a group of LARPers accidentally upset the Renn-Faire by summoning a real demon. Should be a fun way to start the year.

#2. The Jungle (TBD)
Nature-horror is one of my favorite sub-genres, and Andrew Traucki's Black Water and The Reef are two of its finest entries. This time he goes first-person (which, when well done, I am still a sucker for), following a group of conservationists trying to find the elusive Javan Leopard. I am sure that all goes well.

#3. Willow Creek (Spring?)
Speaking of first-person nature horror, how about a bobcat? I am speaking of course about comedian Bob Goldthwait, whose gone from being that guy who screamed in the Police Academy films to one of our most interesting directors. World's Greatest Dad and God Bless America were deliciously black comedies, and I can't wait to see what he does with the horror genre. Word from the festival circuit is that he's finally made a good, funny and scary bigfoot film.

#4. Green Inferno (September)
OK, let's stick with environmentalists in danger of being eaten, this time by Eli Roth. I know some hate the guy, but I am an unapologetic fan. Roth has an unbridled enthusiasm for the genre, and his films (Cabin Fever, Hostel, Hostel II) consistently made me squirm. It has been too long since he sat in the director's chair, and I'm hoping his Cannibal Holocaust-inspired serves up some gruesome dishes.

#5. Godzilla (May)
It isn't easy being green. Perhaps the ultimate statement in environmental horror, the great Japanese icon celebrates his 60th anniversary with his biggest film to date. Hopefully enough time has passed for audiences to forget his last visit to the states, because all the pieces are lined up to make a terrific monster film. Director Gareth Edwards' Monster was a thoughtful brush up against the giant monster genre, one which I dug but disappointed those wanting more kaiju carnage. This time he has the money and tools to wreak havoc across the globe, and he's bringing red-hot Bryan Cranston along for his first post-Breaking Bad role. When the teaser played in front of The Hobbit , a small voice behind me squeaked in awe "I want to see Godzilla...." Me too, kid.

#6. RoboCop (February)
The most hated movie no one has seen since World War Z, fans have been determined to kill this reboot in its crib. I get the love for the original, but Peter Weller ain't donning that hot, heavy costume at his age, and the later entries (which included a children's cartoon for godssake!) steered the franchise into a deep gulch. As a 27-year old  politically minded action-science fiction tale, this seems to be exactly the type of franchise we should be rebooting. The original is very much mired in its time (whether that's good or bad is up to you), and the modern world is not short of issues that could use satirizing. Plus technology, and our relationship to technology, has changed greatly. What rang true to me in 1987 would not be remotely familiar to the 17 year olds of today. Sure, I'll miss the hard-R rating, but so much else offers promise. The film's director, Jose Padhila, may be a newcomer to us, but his Elite Squad was one of Brazil's most popular films, and well reviewed to boot. And the cast is phenomenal - The Killing's Joel Kinnaman is a great choice to step into Murphy's shoes, and he'll be backed up by Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Sam Jackson, Jackie Earl Haley and Michael K Williams. Sure it could very well suck, but I can't wait to see how those pieces all fit together.

#7. Transcendence (April)
The box office for Dark Shadows and The Lone Ranger indicate that audiences have grown tired of Johnny Depp, but whether he succeeds or fails, I find him interesting. Here he plays a scientist who is forced to upload his mind into a computer after a terrorist attack. What happens next? Who knows, but I'm hoping for a modern take on Colossus: The Forbin Project. At the very least it will look pretty, as it is the first feature directed by Wally Pfister, Chris Nolan's long-time cinematographer (Pfister also brought along Nolan stalwarts Morgan Freeman and Cilian Murphy for good measure).

#8-14 will be posted on Wednesday, January 8th  can be read here!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013's Best Dark Discussions

2013 is a year I will be happy to be rid of. Yes, I grant that it is naive, foolish and superstitious to place any emphasis on a largely arbitrary calendar turn, but for once I will bow to the convention and flip the year the finger as it recedes in the rear view mirror. My normal procrastinatious (well it should be a word) tendencies were compounded by various work, family, feline and health related stresses, which is why I haven't written anything these past six months.

And so it is that I am even more grateful than ever for those fans who support the Dark Discussions podcast (whether that it because of or in spite of my efforts remains a mystery). For a couple of hours every week or two I can set aside the rest of the world and just chat with friends and fellow fans. It has been my pleasure to be a regular contributor since Phillip Peron invited me aboard for episode 6 back in 2011, and its a bit of a surprise to see us going strong 2 and half year later, creeping up on episode 125.

In recognition of the show, I thought I'd take a moment to dwell on the positives, and pull out my five favorite episodes from 2013 (listed chronologically). All episodes feature myself, Phil Peron, and Eric Webster (also host of the excellent Askancity podcast). While Abe Spinney became a regular co-host later in the year, he didn't feature in any of the five I picked as my favorites. That should not be seen as a reflection on Abe, and you "reely" should check out his reviews at .

Mike's Five Favorite Dark Discussions Podcasts of 2013:

Episode 97: Evil Dead (2013) 
Controversy is good for ratings, or so they say, and this provided plenty of fodder. It started even before the podcast, with Phil exploding on the film on our Facebook page (we normally hold back out thoughts until we've done the episode). Author MJ Preston (The Equinox) came aboard to pile on the remake, and when the real Ice Road Trucker kicks a film, he does it hard and with steel toed boots. Without question this was our hottest topic of the year.

Episode 100: The Exorcist
It's my wife Pam's favorite movie, a benchmark episode for the podcast, and prompted DD UberFan Michelle Barkely to unintentionally launch the Great LaserDisc Quest. It is always nice to revisit a classic, and one this rich gave us plenty to chew on. Once again, author MJ Preston joins in the fun.

Episode 103: World War Z
Noteworthy for being the first (and to date only) gathering of the Dark Discussions hosts. We had been talking for almost two years and finally got the chance to meet each other in the flesh. Perhaps those good feelings colored our opinions of the film, which we all seemed to enjoy more than the other reviewers. Recorded "live and on location" immediately after viewing the film, it captures one of the better days from 2013. As a bonus, Pam gets to join in as a guest host.

Episode 108: The Conjuring 
Author Kristi Peterson Schoonover returns to Dark Discussions and brings along her husband Nate, podcaster and Demon Hunter. They add much needed balance to the skeptical views of DD's regular hosts, and really enriched the discussion about a fine film and the events that inspired them.

Episode 120: Gremlins  
I don't know if this episode is as fun to listen to as it was to record, but it was a great walk down memory lane for the DD hosts - a long, winding walk that often went off the beaten path. Kristi joins us again to discuss Disney, Speilberg, the 80s, and occasionally the Joe Dante classic.

All in all it was a good year for the podcast, and I again want to thank our fans for supporting us. Special thanks as well to my wife for making the Monster Mania episode possible (, and to Frederic Dominguez for inviting me to cohost the Man of Steel episode of Dirty Bay Horror.

Dark Discussions home page:
Eric Webster's Askancity Podcast:
MJ Preston's Page:
Kristi Peterson Schoonover's Page:
Nate Schoonover's Page: