SubscribeStar Saturday: Hammer Films III: Universal Horror Films, Part II

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Last week I wrote some reviews of the first four films on the The Hammer Horror Series, a collection of Hammer horror flicks.

The collection includes eight films in total:  Brides of DraculaThe Curse of the WerewolfThe Phantom of the OperaParanoiacThe Kiss of the VampireNightmareNight Creatures, and The Evil of Frankenstein.  Today I’ll be reviewing the second four films:  The Kiss of the VampireNightmareNight Creatures, and The Evil of Frankenstein.

The rest of this post on SubscribeStar might be a tad delayed; I’ll have it completed as soon as possible.

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Lazy Sunday XCVI: More Movies: Movie Reviews, Part I

Way back in “Lazy Sunday LVI: Movies” I looked back on some movie reviews and posts analyzing movies.  That was long before I began Monday Morning Movie Reviews as a semi-regular feature on the blog.

Since then, I’ve dedicated more of the blog to discussing culture, especially music.  I’ve also written more about films and the cinema.  Even with large theater chains still closed and film-viewing shifting increasingly to streaming services, movies are still a powerful way to convey ideas and to shape cultural attitudes.  Indeed, I think the importance of film has only increased in The Age of The Virus, as we’re able to consume more and more of it in quarantine.  That our political elites have essentially recommended we just sit around watching television as some heroic form of self-sacrifice is suggestive—of what, I’m not sure, but it can’t be good!

Regardless, during this quieter, slower season, I thought it’d be fun to look back at some Monday Movie Reviews (to be be fare, not all of these were published on Mondays or in the morning, but they’re still movie review!—one out of three ain’t bad, to very loosely paraphrase Meat Loaf).

Here are three for your enjoyment:

  • Monday Movie Review: The Empire Strikes Back” – Seeing The Empire Strikes Back (1980) on the big screen reminded me powerfully just how great Star Wars used to be before the new trilogy ruined it with SJW nonsense and incompetent direction.  Empire is widely regarded as the best entry in the history of Star Wars films for a reason.
  • Morning Movie Review: Brazil (1985)” – This one had been on my RedBox wish list for some time, and I finally rented it on-demand back in October.  It’s a great, dreamlike flick about an excessively bureaucratic dystopia.  Brazil captures the thousand tiny tyrannies of bureaucratization beautifully—and scarily.  That we’re heading down a road towards mandatory vaccination passports and ever-growing globalist conglomerates suggests we haven’t learned the lessons of Brazil.
  • Movie Review: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)” – I stumbled upon this flick on Hulu, and it was one of those rare gems among the garbage that streaming service typically serves up (and yet, I continue to pay my $2.15 every month for the pleasure of streaming terrible horror movies and Bob’s Burgers).  It stars a very young Jodie Foster as a young teenager living completely on her own in a hostile New England town, attempting to avoid Martin Sheen’s inappropriate advances.  The film is a bit of a thriller, but also an endearing coming-of-age story in which the young Rynn—Foster’s character—learns that life isn’t meant to be lived alone.  As I wrote in the review, “It’s a lost gem, one worth unearthing.”

That’s it for this weekend.  Happy Sunday—and Happy Viewing!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

food snack popcorn movie theater

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Hammer Films II: Universal Horror Films, Part I

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Last April I wrote a detailed review (preview) of the Hammer Films Collection.  I’m currently making my way through Volume II of the collection, both of which feature Hammer Studios films that Columbia Pictures distributed.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to complete the second volume in time to review it today, but I will do so in a couple of weeks.  However, Christmas brought a bumper crop of films from the famous Hammer Studios, including a collection of four Dracula films distributed by Warner Brothers and an eight-film compilation of Universal Studios horror flicks.

I’ll be reviewing the first four films on the Universal Studios-distributed collection, The Hammer Horror Series, and reviewing the second four next Saturday. At the time of writing, the collection is only $17.21 on Amazon for the DVD ($34.99 for the Blu-Ray edition); at that price, I’d definitely recommend picking it up to enjoy these flicks yourself.

The collection includes eight films in total:  Brides of DraculaThe Curse of the WerewolfThe Phantom of the OperaParanoiacThe Kiss of the VampireNightmareNight Creatures, and The Evil of Frankenstein.  Today I’ll be reviewing Brides of DraculaThe Curse of the WerewolfThe Phantom of the Opera, and Paranoiac.

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Mississippi Meanderings

At the tail end of 2020—and into the New Year—I visited the small town of Lucedale, Mississippi, to meet my girlfriend’s family.  I flew in last Wednesday and we drove back Saturday.

I’ve driven through Mississippi before, and was in Jackson a couple of years ago for a friend’s wedding.  This time I was much further south, as Lucedale—located in George County—is very close to the Gulf Coast, and about fifty minutes from Mobile, Alabama.  It reminded me a great deal of my dear South Carolina—pine trees and deciduous forests; ample farmland; small, rural communities flung across open land between larger municipalities.  In many ways, it felt like my home, just with small regional variations.

For example, my girlfriend’s family eats black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, like any good Southerner does (for them, the black-eyed peas represent good luck; for us, they represent pennies and wealth), but instead of collard greens (also for wealth—they’re the dollars), they ate coleslaw.  I suspect that’s because none of her family liked collard greens, but the difference goes further:  my girlfriend’s father had never heard of Hoppin’ John.  For my Yankee readers, Hoppin’ John is a mixture usually consisting of black-eyed peas, tomatoes, and okra, and served over white rice.  It’s good.

Other than a world without Hoppin’ John, Mississippi also had some local chains I’d never heard of before.  My girlfriend’s mother kept raving about Dirt Cheap, which I think is like a Lowe’s-meets-Ollie’s that sells mostly “dirt cheap” home improvement supplies.  There’s also a regional chain called Foosackly’s, which is essentially a smaller-scale Zaxby’s with clever advertising and a hilariously bizarre name.  My girlfriend quickly became annoyed with my fascination with this obscure chicken joint.

One highlight of the trip was building a fire with my girlfriend’s dad.  He is a man of few words, clad in suspenders, and incredibly resourceful—he maintains much of their land himself, and has built several sheds and garages.  He also has added to their home, which has been in the family at least two generations, and will stay there (his mantra:  “never sell land”).

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TBT: O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting

Christmas is looming large—a mere eight days away—and I have been enjoying an unexpectedly quiet exam week.  After returning from Orlando Monday evening, I’ve enjoyed some sleepily productive time at home, writing Christmas postcards and letters, watching movies, and enjoying the warm glow of my Christmas tree.  I’ll be spending next week with family, and all the hustle and bustle of my niece and nephews, so this quiet time at home has been a welcome calm before the joyous storm.

Despite the lack of serious deadlines (other than waiting for final exams to roll in so I can grade them), I’ve managed to get quite a bit done, and I hope to get a bit ahead on the blog.  I enjoy writing daily posts, but it’s nice knowing I have a few posts squared away some days in advance, as it relieves some of the pressure to produce.  I’ll be doing more throwback posts and the like as Christmas approaches, as it’s the time of year when we’re all scaling back our efforts and taking a bit of a break.

That all goes to the point of this TBT post, “O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting.”  The story behind the sweetly iconic carol is one of last-minute inspiration and hasty songwriting.  There is something about the intense pressure of a time-crunch that turns the coal of writer’s block into glistening diamonds.  Not every songwriter works this way, but I know for myself that a hard deadline does wonders for motivating this songwriter’s pen.

Indeed, during the height of distance learning in the spring, I fully anticipated I’d be churning out new hits, maybe even finalizing a long-delayed follow-up to my piano-and-vocals debut, Contest Winner – EP.  Instead, I squandered my newfound time (well, “squandered” is a strong word—I quite enjoyed taking that time to work on the blog, to travel, and to do the other things I’m usually unable to do).  Without a deadline pushing me to create, I didn’t get anything done!

Or maybe that’s just my excuse.  Regardless, I imagine it’s something many songwriters can relate to, and it’s certainly the story behind “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

With that, here is December 2020’s “O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting“:

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Universal Studios Trip No. 4

Against all odds, I recently took an unprecedented fourth trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida this past weekend.  The occasion was visiting my girlfriend’s family, and to take advantage of an Orlando Informer meetup.

Apparently, Orlando Informer is a blog dedicated to the major theme parks in Orlando—Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc.—and various deals and special events in the parks.  In scrolling through their website on our trip, I found, for example, a post about a one-day-only Beetlejuice haunted house that Universal slapped together for Halloween (I was able to get to the other two, longer-running houses on my last trip).  For theme park enthusiasts, it seems like a great website.

The publication also organizes vacation packages, as well as twice annual “meetups,” special after-hour events that give guests extended park time and—and this one is huge—unlimited concessions.  We had passes for the 12 December 2020 meetup, which meant we could stay in the park until 1:30 AM.  Access with the passes began at 3 PM, so we used our Seasonal Passes to enjoy the park beforehand.

It truly made for an unforgettable—and long—park experience.  We hit Islands of Adventure around 9 AM Saturday morning, and did a long stretch there until we went to get our meetup passes (we did manage a late lunch at Mythos, a must-visit on any trip to Islands of Adventure).  As we were essentially in Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios for fifteen hours—essentially two park days—we managed to hit up almost everything we wanted to ride and see on Saturday (other than the ever-elusive Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, which is virtually impossible to get into via the Virtual Line feature).

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Monday Movie Review: Unhinged (2020)

I’ve been on the road this weekend to my fourth Universal Studios trip in the calendar year. I’ll be writing about that more tomorrow, but the time on the road reminded me of a flick I picked up on RedBox last week, Unhinged, starring Russell Crowe.

The movie’s premise is terrifyingly simple: a harried single mom, running late to get her son to school after being fired from her job for excessive tardiness, ticks off the wrong driver.  When a large truck fails to pull out from a green light, the mom lays on the horn and swerves around the distracted driver.  He then pursues her for the rest of the day, systematically killing her family and friends.

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The Virus and Live Music: The Story of The Roasting Room Lounge

Christmastime always puts me in a musical mood, as blog posts this week suggest.  Christmas is the perfect season to illustrate the power of music, as so much wonderful music has been written about Christ’s Birth.

In The Before Times, in the Long, Long Ago, before The Age of The Virus, it was also a lucrative season for musicians.  Other than wedding gigs (a market I haven’t managed to crack into yet), nothing pays better than a Christmas party.  They’re fun, full of free food, and they pay well.  The spirit of free-flowing generosity (and the generosity of free-flowing spirits) results in some warm winter paydays.

Of course, this year has been particularly tough for musicians, as I’ve detailed many, many times before.  Revenues from private lessons and gigs seem to be bouncing back (at least for me), and the struggles of The Virus brought forth a burst of generosity.  Bandcamp Fridays really helped inject some much-needed cash into the coffers of independent musicians (myself included).

Musicians have also had to get creative.  That’s why I hosted my annual Spooktacular from my front porch.  Venues are constrained by various local and State laws (and sometimes dictatorial edicts) limiting their capacities, and many eateries have been slow to resume live shows.  That’s created real limitations on venues and artists, but it’s also opened up opportunities.  My Spooktacular was mildly profitable, but it also brought people together for desperately-needed fun and camaraderie (and put a few bucks into the pockets of the musicians involved).  I don’t know if that model will endure once The Virus is defeated, but it’s something for musicians to consider in this strange new world.

But for all I’ve written about the damage The Virus has caused to musicians’ finances, I haven’t looked at the impact on venues at all.  That’s an unfortunate oversight on my part, because a venues’ success or failure can directly impact that of an artist.  Many musically-inclined venues are coffee shops or small restaurants, so they largely cut live music as they went to take-out-only and delivery formats.

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