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John Upton "fiction-fiend" RSS Feed (Connecticut)

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TV Show Quiz
TV Show Quiz

3.0 out of 5 stars Good Game but could be better, March 11, 2014
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This review is from: TV Show Quiz (App)
I have only played for a short time and while the game is enjoyable, it can tend to be a little monotonous and can offer more of a challenge.

4 Actors 1 TV Show
4 Actors 1 TV Show
Price: $0.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Frivolous Fun, December 27, 2013
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This review is from: 4 Actors 1 TV Show (App)
I have only played for a short while but the majority of the questions are basic at best. As the game goes on, I hope to see more challenging questions instead of points based on the speed of my typing ability.

Unrest (After Dark Horrorfest)
Unrest (After Dark Horrorfest)
DVD ~ Corri English
Price: $8.64
112 used & new from $0.01

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All about the Atmosphere, April 26, 2007
Alison Blanchard is a medical student who is beginning a course on Gross Anatomy. Unfortunately, there seems to be something wrong with the cadaver her group is assigned. The body is of a young woman who appears to have committed suicide due to the wounds on the corpse. The audience actually meets the young woman in the very beginning of the film as she stares at her reflection in a mirror with an unsettling intensity (fans of the game show "Deal or No Deal" will be startled to learn the young woman is played by the model Marissa who usually holds case #18). Alison seems to be the only one who notices something is wrong with the cadaver. She has a feeling something isn't right. This is the general tone of the film. Its all about atmosphere.

The movie is never really about what you see but what you don't see. There is always a tone of menace and dread. A scene early in the film summons it up nicely. Alison has to live alone in an abandoned part of the hospital the students train in due to financial aid complications. The lights activate by motion and immediately turn off when you leave a section. The camera moves along with Alison, who is framed by darknes before and behind her. There is a constant fear of something lurking in the dark around her and you clench up waiting for the motion activated lights to reveal some unspeakable nightmare. In this department, the movie gets it right. Too many films go for the gore and shock factor but forget to be suspenseful. Thumbs up to the filmakers.

Now, the reason the movie only gets 3 stars (maybe 3 1/2) is because there is never a payoff. I love suspense but suspense needs to be released. I kept waiting for something to happen and it never did. I am one of those few people who did not like "The Blair Witch Project". It was a great idea but I needed a sense of menace. Everyone was running around, reacting to things only they seemed to hear and see. If just once during that film the camera passed over a quick moving image in the distance, something to instill physical harm, I would have been hooked. This is the same with the Unrest. You'll get bodies (there is a storage tank filled with formaldehyde that almost becomes comical when every time it is opened it reveals another victim), you'll get an explaination (original but a little underdone), but never a "watch out for the killer" moment. It left me a little flat.

I recommend it as a rental. There are some creepy moments worth the time and I will definately keep my eyes out for any future endeavors from the film makers.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 27, 2008 7:02 PM PDT

Wicked Little Things (After Dark Horrorfest)
Wicked Little Things (After Dark Horrorfest)
DVD ~ Lori Heuring
Offered by Knowbodybeatsdawiz
Price: $20.00
114 used & new from $0.24

14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wickedly BAD, April 26, 2007
A recently widowed mother of two moves with her daughters to a remote mountain home she finds a deed for among her late husband's belongings. The home is located near an old mine, where nearly a century ago an accident occured that cost the lives of many children who were working in the mine. This is the extent of the story you will get when you watch this lackluster film. I approach every film I see and every book I read wanting to enjoy the story. I love to be entertained. This is why it is so disappointing when a bad one gets through.

Basically, Wicked Little Things is like a made for Sci-fi Channel movie with slightly better effects but huge story gaps. At night, the ghosts of the children killed in the mine haunt the woods, killing anything straying into their path. But when they kill their victim, they proceed to eat the remains. I guess this means they are zombie ghosts. Another flaw is people die and no one comes around looking for them. There is supposed to be a town nearby but you never see it. Most of these films at least have a sheriff but I guess there wasn't enough in the budget. The locals seem to consist of a crazy old hermit (played by Ben Cross) who knows the local yore, a local handyman (Geoffrey Lewis), a trans-am filled with teenagers, and the clerk at the local store (who I couldn't figure out if he was supposed to be semi-retarded or a closet child molester due to the creepy way he seemed to dwell on the youngest daughter).

The make-up effects for the zombie kids was pretty good but special effects do not make a movie (unless its directed by Michael Bay). The most frightening thing about the film is the fact the DVD is an Unrated Director's Cut. This usually means things were added to the film since the theatrical release. I can't believe the movie I watched actually had added footage. All I can say is I feel worse for the people who saw this film in the theaters. Then again, maybe not. At least their version was shorter.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 29, 2011 8:02 PM PST

MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror (Meg)
MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror (Meg)
by Steve Alten
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
55 used & new from $0.01

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ironically, A Fun Beach Read!, April 11, 2007
The Meg referred to in the title stands for Carcharodon Megalodon, the long since extinct grandfather to the great white shark. Except in this novel, the species is still hanging around.

Jonas Taylor is the stories protagonist and he is part of a deep sea excursion to explore the mysteries of the Mariana Trench, the deepest area of the Earth's oceans. Science believes nothing could possibly survive in these depths but the brave team of adventureres plan to prove them wrong. Upon arriving at the Trench the team sees their hypothesis is correct. The bottom of the trench teems with life supported by heat radiating from open fissures in the Earth's crust. Unfortunately, the long believed extinct prehistoric shark also thrives in this pocket environment and through tragic and bizarre circumstances, is accidently released into the ocean above. Cue "Jaws" theme music.

Let me start by saying I enjoyed this inaugural novel from author Steve Alten but let me explain why I'm only giving it 3 stars (it would be 3 and a half if Amazon had the ability). I enjoyed the characters but thought they could have used a bit more development. The ending is fine but it doesn't satisfy the novel's build up. The shark is the book's true star. I loved the fact the shark is luminous at night because the idea of being out on a boat at night and seeing this glow under water the size of a city bus would freak me out. (There is a movie in the works, due in 2008, which will hopefully get the effects right).

I really think the biggest problem with the book though, has nothing to do with Mr. Alten's writing. I think the biggest problem is my own doing and I bring this up because I could see it happening in other readers.

We are tainted on killer sharks.

Don't get me wrong. People are fascinated by the shark. Go to the library and there are tons of books, both fiction and non. Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" is celebrating it's 20th Anniversary this summer. We love sharks because they scare the hell out of us and that is because we have all seen "Jaws". This is where we are tainted. We compare everything to the Spielberg classic. I found myself picturing scenes from the movie when I was reading "Meg". Our imaginations act out the books we read in our mind but our imaginations are fueled by images previously scene. Perhaps the characters in the book didn't seem fully developed because I was waiting for them to do what Quint, Brody, and Hooper would have done. It's not fair to Mr. Alten's book but it can't be helped. Every film nowadays that does the slo-mo high flying jump effect is compared to "The Matrix". We saw it there first. Mr. Alten chose to write about a subject that is very ingrained in the human psyche and its hard not to make comparisons. I don't know many people who do not hear the "Jaws" theme music in their head every time they are about to go into the ocean. (I hear it in my head when I'm in a swimming pool!)

The moral of my little tangent is to just enjoy the book. "Meg" is a fun story and I am definitely not disappointed I read it. I also recommend the sequel's "The Trench" The Trench and "Meg: Primal Waters" MEG: Primal Waters (though "Primal Waters" is the weakest of the books).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 24, 2008 2:50 AM PDT

The Rising
The Rising
by Brian Keene
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
108 used & new from $0.01

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Zombie tale for the 21st Century, April 10, 2007
This review is from: The Rising (Mass Market Paperback)
George Romero introduced the world to the hunger of the living dead Night of the Living Dead (Colorized / Black and White). His initial three films are tentpoles in the realm of horror and remained untouchable even to this day. If you wrote about zombies then you looked to Romero's vision for guidance and inspiration. It wasn't until films such as "The Evil Dead" The Evil Dead/Evil Dead 2 - Book Of The Dead Collection and "Re-animator" Re-Animator that the zombie began to evolve. Instead of the slow ambling gait the public had known and trusted, we are introduced to zombies who could run. If the idea of being eaten alive wasn't bad enough, now we were being chased and no amount of cardio was going to help us (Zombies are dead so its not like they are going to get winded). This little change improved the zombie's status in the pantheon of monsters. I figured this was as far as the zombie genre could be taken. What other changes could be made to make zombies worse?

Then I read "The Rising".

If you are a fan of horror fiction then Brian Keene's "The Rising" is NOT unknown to you. This book is one of the most original ventures into the zombie genre you can find and I guarantee it will be emulated in the years to come. Brian Keene's zombies still hunger for the living and have the capacity to move fast after you but the worse aspect is that they think. These zombies operate vehicles, use weapons, and work together. They actually plot courses of action. How screwed is the human race?

If this wasn't bad enough, re-animation of the dead is not exclusive to the human animal. Prepare for flocks of undead birds and other forms of wildlife. Still don't think there's enough danger? Another threat in the book, probably the worst, doesn't come from the dead but from the living. There were points in the book where I was actually rooting for the zombies because the human characters were so evil.

Every great horror writer has a book that puts them on the map and "The Rising" is Brian Keene's announcement of his arrival. There are already a lot of people calling him "the next Stephen King" but I think Brian Keene stands on his own. He takes no prisoners in his style of writing and isn't afraid to take risks. If you want a "safe" read that rehashes the same old genre standards then go somewhere else. I think there will come a day when we will be calling a new horror author "the next Brian Keene". Jump on board now while the journey is just getting started. I have a feeling you won't be disappointed.

(On a side note, pick up Brian Keene's "City of the Dead"City Of The Dead which is a direct sequel to "The Rising". There are a lot of people who hated "The Rising" because of the end. The sequel begins immediately after.)

Daredevil Legends Vol. II: Born Again
Daredevil Legends Vol. II: Born Again
by Frank Miller
Edition: Paperback
38 used & new from $5.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Born Again can be read again and again!, April 10, 2007
Many people may be more familiar with the name Frank Miller nowadays with the film versions of his graphic novels "Sin City"Frank Miller's Complete Sin City Library and "300"300 but there was a time when his name was known predominately to fans of the comic community. His "The Dark Knight Returns"Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is considered one of the greatest Batman stories of all time (rightfully so) and helped to elevate the genre to new heights of storytelling. It was the character of Daredevil, though, that put Mr. Miller on the map.

Daredevil was a bit player in the Marvel Universe when Frank Miller was first hired to draw, then write the vigilante superhero. His stories revolutionized the character and turned the book into a bestseller. Daredevil by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson Omnibus

After years away from the character he returned to write the story line "Born Again". Collecting issues # 227-233 of the original series, Born Again tells one of the darkest story of Daredevil's life.

Daredevil is secretly attorney Matthew Murdock, blinded in an accident but bestowed with heightened senses and trained in various forms of martial arts. "Born Again" opens with The Kingpin of Crime, Daredevil's greatest foe, learning the heroes true identity. Murdock's identity was sold by former girlfriend Karen Paige, who has become a drug addict and sold the secret to obtain a fix. The Kingpin sets about to slowly destroy Murdock by chipping away at his life.

This is not a story about Daredevil but a story about Matt Murdock. One of the most remarkable aspects to the story is the limited use of the Daredevil persona. It is Matthew Murdock's personal life that is assaulted so it is Matthew Murdock who confronts the threat. Frank Miller crafts the slow deterioration of Murdock with brilliance. Every time you think the character has hit bottom, Miller manages to further the descent. Not only is Murdock affected but so are the loved ones in his life. The side story involving friend and reporter Ben Urich adds enormous depth and empathy to the story. The reader becomes invested with the characters and cannot wait to see them rise up from their circumstances.

The art by David Mazzucchelli gives the story grit. His characters have a haunted quality with facial expressions that convey just as much as the script. He is equally skilled at crafting scenes of quiet repose or action. When Murdock finally dons the Daredevil identity, not in defense of himself but to protect the neighborhood he watches over, you almost feel like cheering at the page.

This story will impact long time fans of the character as well as entertain first time readers.

Penny Dreadful (After Dark Horrorfest)
Penny Dreadful (After Dark Horrorfest)
DVD ~ Rachel Miner
Price: $8.10
66 used & new from $1.15

42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A horror film that has its moments., April 7, 2007
"Penny Dreadful" is one of the 8 After Dark Horrorfest films that saw theatrical release over the course of one weekend in 2006. I considered going to the movies to see a few of the films but figured the DVD's would probably cost me less than the fare of a movie ticket (I was right based on the sale price the week they were released). Besides, I can deal with disappointment watching a bad movie on disc than seeing one in the movies.

I'm a big fan of horror movies and can be pretty lenient in my opinion of them as long as they aren't a complete disaster. (See my review of "The Beast of Bray Road"The Beast Of Bray Roadfor an example of complete disaster. "Penny Dreadful" falls somewhere in the half way point.

The film focuses on Penny Deerborn (Rachel Miner) who is terrified of automobiles after a tragic accident when she was young took the lives of her parents. Penny is embarking upon a road trip with Dr. Orianna Volkes (Mimi Rogers), a psychiatrist trying to help rid Penny of her amaxophobia. During the trip, the two cross paths with a hitchhiker. This, of course, is the point in all horror films when everything goes to hell.

I'll start by saying that the hitchhiker is a very creepy character and there are scenes of great tension in the movie. I enjoyed the idea of the car, a source of terror for the character, having to serve as a refuge. The biggest flaw with the film is it's too long (92 minutes). Instead of being released as a feature film it should have been part of Showtime's "Masters of Horror" series. There are a few side characters introduced in the film who serve no real function but to be potential victims. They could have been cut from the film without even being missed.

I also thought the movie ended a bit suddenly. I don't need movies to be wrapped up nicely in a little bow but a person wants some sense of closure. There may be a possibility the director wants to do a sequel in the future but I wish film makers didn't approach every topic to be serialized. The director captures some great moments of tension and Rachel Miner is believable depicting her character's phobia.

All in all, I wasn't sorry picking up the DVD but I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. The film would probably work better as a rental and I suggest viewing it alone late at night to heighten the mood.

Horror: Another 100 Best Books
Horror: Another 100 Best Books
by David A. Sutton
Edition: Paperback
18 used & new from $3.16

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Sequel (which hopefully becomes a series), October 28, 2006
I picked up "Horror: 100 Best Books" back in 1988/89 because I wanted to read something exciting. I love horror novels and the 80's saw a boom in the market but 90% of the material coming out was cliche and weak. Here was a book listing 100 horror novels, and not chosen by reviewers but by authors in the field. My first thought on buying the book was to see how many I had read of the 100. I was a savvy teenager (in my mind) and I had read tons of books. I felt I had probably read half the books listed. It turns out I read 9 of the books listed. (Just tape the L to my forehead).

I went out to read a fair portion of the books listed but I'm falling off track. This review is about "Horror: Another 100 Best Books".

I enjoyed this one leaps and bounds over its predecessor (which is saying something). First off, the original only covers books published from 1987 back. A lot of the titles listed are old or they are major classics (remember, I was looking for new blood; I wanted to try books which slipped under the radar). The essays by the writers are very short and in some cases cold. These authors are discussing the books that influenced them but their essay reads like Joe Friday's "Just the facts, Ma'am".

There is none of that in the the new book. The new time frame covers books from 2003 back. The essays feel expanded and are filled with the wided eyed awe you would expect from authors discussing their inspirations. There are some well known books listed but many more "new blood" titles to put me on the hunt. (I had read 17 of the books listed but I've picked up 10 more of the recommended material without a shred of disappointment).

Each essay begins with a synopsis of the author whose work is being covered (what else they wrote, a brief bio, and a history of the books publication) and ends with a brief bio on the author covering the book of choice. There were a few cases when the discussion felt more focused on a film version of the selected title or the book covered is questionable as being of the horror genre but they are easily dismissed when moving on to the next installment (though these reasons account for the 4 out of 5 stars).

I recommend this book for any fan of horror fiction (even fans of fantasy and suspense). The essays give enough material to let you know what the book is about without giving away spoilers (for the most part anyway).

There is even an appendix in the book that lists futher reading and it's not a sparse appendix. Basically, if you enjoy reading Amazon's reviews to see if a book sounds good to you then this is required reading. Not everything is for everyone here but it will arouse your curiosity.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 16, 2007 11:11 AM PDT

The List of Adrian Messenger [VHS]
The List of Adrian Messenger [VHS]
Offered by VHS movies for your VCR
Price: $17.65
31 used & new from $5.97

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Looking for a DVD (and might I suggest a Re-make?), September 18, 2006
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
First of all, I have no idea why this film is not available on DVD yet. You might be looking at my rating right now and thinking "He only gave it 3 stars? Who cares if it comes out on DVD!" Let me explain.

"The List of Adrian Messenger" is a standard murder mystery but it is done with a unique twist. Someone is killing off heirs to a family fortune and its a race against time to stop the killer (i know, it sounds cliche) but the twist here is that several big name stars from this era make cameo's in the film in disguise. This is in conjunction with the killer, who commits all of the murders while wearing various disguises. This is meant to throw the audience off. The viewer is supposed to wonder if the police are talking to the killer or just some innocent bystander. The only flaw here is that the make-up is not the best quality it could have been and some of the actors in disguise don't do the greatest job of disguising their voice. These were the flaws that forced me to give the movie 3 stars. It's an enjoyable film (and I do own a VHS copy) but you know who the killer is almost from the start and can usually tell when he's in make-up. Its also fun to see actors like Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, and Kirk Douglas in these make-up disguises.

On a side note, I cannot figure out why this hasn't been attempted as a remake. A director could modernize the story a bit (the original was made in 1963) but the true gold lies in the make-up techniques currently available. With the make-up techniques available today, people would be hard pressed to figure out who was in disguise. I'm sure a lot of actors would love to do a cameo. Place them in small scenes, something that takes up a day of their time (most of it in the make-up chair) and audiences would go just to figure out who is their favorite actors. The original film used five actors but a re-make could use as many as 20. See if the cameo actors would work to have their day's wages go to their favorite charities. That could be an additional incentive to get people involved. I think the film would be a lot of fun and, as far as remakes go, this one would be a winner. Watch the original and see what you think.

Hopefully the studio is working on the DVD. If not, you can probably find the tape for a cheap price.

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