“The Howling” (1981)

“When we were making these movies, the general feeling was they would play the theaters and then they would go into syndication and then they’d end up as the midnight movie and that would be the end of it.”
Joe Dante

Karen White, portrayed by Dee Wallace (Cujo), is a television news, anchorwoman, for KDHB television. At the beginning of the film, she is out on an assignment, in a seedy part of Los Angeles, working as a part of a sting operation, in conjunction with law enforcement. Karen is headed to meet serial killer, Eddie Quist, acted by Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager). He has been communicating with Karen, and will only give his story, and his reasons for killing, to her. Quist, the viewer will learn, is more than your average psycho. He has arranged to meet Karen in a peep show booth of an adult video store. Once inside the booth, Eddie, who is already there, lets Karen know that she is the only one who can understand him; additionally, he has something he wants to show her. While the obvious jokes can be made, given the location, what he wishes to share is neither sexual nor comedic; turning around to face Eddie, Karen screams. A rookie police officer, after hearing she is in distress, fires a series of bullets into the booth, and fortunately, only Quist is killed.

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After the attack, Karen is haunted by nightmares, but can’t remember particular details of what exactly took place when she was inside the booth. Returning to work, too soon after the attack, when it is her turn to talk during a live broadcast, she freezes and remains mute. Her actions prompt the ire of the station manager, Fred Francis, played by Golden Globe winner, Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers). Francis will not have her return to live television, until she works out her issues from the traumatic experience she suffered interacting with Quist. In addition, Karen has no desire to be touched by her husband, Bill (Christopher Stone). Her friends and fellow colleagues, Terry (Belinda Balaski) and Chris (Dennis Dugan) want her to get away for a while.

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Karen and Bill, head off to a place known as ‘The Colony’ for some rest, as well as for her to get therapy. ‘The Colony,’ is a densely wooded retreat, that also has its own private beach, and is run by Patrick Macnee’s (The Avengers) character, Dr. George Waggner, who is a psychologist. At the start of the film, while Karen was on her way to meet Quist, the news station was interviewing Dr. Waggner. He was discussing the self-help book he wrote, which deals with human beings repressing the more feral side of their nature, and the stresses that can be caused by it.

The well executed film, “The Howling,” was directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins). The movie was written for the screen by two time, Academy Award nominee, John Sayles (Passion Fish). The source material was taken, although altered quite a bit, from the novel of the same name, written by Gary Brandner, which was published by Fawcett Publications in 1977. The movie, which has a runtime of 91 minutes, premiered at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival in France, in January of 1981, where it won the Critics Award. Pino Donaggio (Carrie) provides a fantastic score for the film, which captures just the right balance of eeriness to compliment what is transpiring on the screen. Oscar winner, Rob Bottin (Total Recall), did an excellent job, within limited budgetary constraints, of producing high quality and imaginative special effects, especially for the time period. (As an aside: Jack Conrad (Country Blue) was originally hired to direct the film, but had trouble with the studio and left the project, also Terence H. Winkless (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) was working on early versions of the script, but what he envisioned wasn’t what the studio had in mind, so he too, exited the production).

After arriving at ‘The Colony,’ Karen and Bill meet an assortment of people: one couple is married and seem to possess cheerful dispositions; others, like Emmy award winner, John Carradine’s (The Grapes of Wrath) character, Erle, wants to commit suicide; another of the group’s members, the sultry looking, Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks), who lives at ‘The Colony’ with her brother T.C. (Don McLeod), takes an immediate interest in Bill and the feeling is mutual. Karen receives therapy, while Bill does his best to occupy his time with activities such as going on a hunting trip with the other men of ‘The Colony,’ which include among their number, Slim Picken’s (Dr. Strangelove) character, Sheriff Sam Newfield. Instead of helping to ease Karen’s dark thoughts, the place is having the opposite effect. Cows are being mutilated, and during the evenings, while trying to sleep, she is kept awake by the howling of wolves. One night, Bill takes it upon himself to investigate, and for his trouble, he is attacked by something. Afterward, Bill, who was a vegetarian prior to his encounter in the woods, not only takes to eating meat, but he can’t resist his urges to cheat on his wife, with Marsha.

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Karen calls Terry and asks her to come out to ‘The Colony’ to keep her company. She and Chris have been investigating the life of Eddie Quist, and have made some startling discoveries; not the least of which, is that his body has disappeared from the morgue. While at ‘The Colony’ Terry figures out, based on a drawing she and Chris found while searching Eddie’s apartment, that he spent time there. Rather than letting Karen know what she has learned and making the case that they should leave, Terry, instead, places a phone call to Chris, and while talking to him, she gets to meet the real Eddie Quist. Chris, who is very concerned, and rightfully so, heads off to ‘The Colony,’ but not before purchasing silver bullets, at an occult-bookstore he and Terry had been to during their investigation. The store is owned and operated by Dick Miller’s (Piranha) character, Walter Paisley.

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What was at first meant to be a relaxing and therapeutic escape, turns into a nightmare, when it is discovered, that the other guests at the secluded location, are anything but human. Instead, they are werewolves, and ‘The Colony,’ acts as a place for them to be their true selves. Will Chris make it in time to save not only Terry, but Karen and Bill as well? Is it too late for Bill? Has whatever attacked him, and the fact that he is under Marsha’s spell, made him lost to the outside world? What is Eddie Quist’s connection to ‘The Colony?’ What are Dr. Waggner’s motivations for setting up such a place? Is it just to have a hunting ground for the werewolves, or does he have another agenda?

Trivia buffs take note: The special effects for the film were originally worked on by Rick Baker, but he left to work for director, John Landis on “American Werewolf in London.” Ten character names, (for example, George Waggner and Freddie Francis), used in the film, were taken from the names of directors of movies about werewolves. One of the sequels to the film, “Howling IV: The Original Nightmare,” was also based on Gary Brandner’s novel. Forest J. Ackerman, the editor of “Famous Monsters of Filmland” has a cameo in the movie as a book store patron; he can be seen carrying copies of the magazine. In addition, B-film producer, Roger Corman, also makes an appearance, toward the beginning of the movie, as a man waiting for Dee Wallace’s Karen to get off a pay phone. Screenwriter John Sayles play the morgue attendant in the film, who relates a story to Terry and Chris, about a man named Stu Walker. Walker was the first person to direct a werewolf film, “Werewolf of London,” after films began to have sound. For fans of 80s horror, and werewolf films in general, who have never seen the movie, this is a must watch.

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“The Hills Have Eyes” (1977)

This October, in keeping with the spirit of my posts of the last several Octobers, as a countdown to Halloween, all posts from robbinsrealm will feature reviews of horror or supernatural films and television shows, ranging from cult classics to silly fun. In addition, there will be a review of a documentary, as well as one piece spotlighting an individual who has made an impact in the genre.

The Carter family, retired police officer, Bob (Russ Grieve), his wife, Ethel (Virginia Vincent) and their children, Brenda (Susan Lanier), and Bobby (Robert Huston), as well as their married daughter, Lynne, Dee Wallace (E.T.) are on a trip to California. Accompanying the family is Lynne’s husband, Doug (Martin Speer), the couple’s baby daughter, Katy (Brenda Marinoff), and two Alsatian dogs named Beauty & Beast. Getting off the main road, they pull into a gas station to refuel. Fred (John Steadman), the lone, weathered looking owner, is getting ready to close up shop – for good. He warns the family not to go searching for the silver mine that was gifted to Bob and Ethel by Ethel’s aunt for their silver anniversary; the reason why the Carters left the main road in the first place. Fred lets them know that there is no silver left in the mines. When one of the family members inquires if anyone lives out where the mines are located, Fred doesn’t hesitate to respond, that whoever is out there, is no one any of them would want to meet.

Ignoring the gas station owner’s advice, the family continues on their journey, only to have their station wagon, and the trailer it is towing, veer off the road and crash. After regaining their collective composure, Bob and Doug set off in opposite directions to look for help. Bob heads back to the gas station, and Doug continues in the direction the family was headed prior to the accident.

The atmospheric, disturbing, and tension filled “The Hills Have Eyes” was written and directed by Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street). The horror icon, sadly, passed away recently in Los Angeles, California on August 30th, after a battle with brain cancer. The movie, which has a runtime of 89 minutes, premiered on July 22, 1977. Parts horror and thriller, the original title for the film was supposed to be “Blood Relations,” but was changed after test audience screenings. (As an aside: The Apple Valley, California location was a challenge for cast and crew alike. Temperatures for daylight filming would reach upwards of 120 degrees, and at night would descend down to 30 degrees. In addition, the rocky landscape, which was hard to walk on, became even more difficult for the actors who were required to run during their scenes).

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Once Bob makes it back to the gas station, he is attacked by Fred, who mistakes him for someone else. After the attack, Fred quickly attempts to hang himself; Bob puts a stop to it. Fred begins to tell Bob an unbelievable story, which begins with his wife dying while giving birth to his son, their second child. The viewer will soon meet the murderous, cannibalistic offspring, now known as Papa Jupiter (James Whitworth). Fred lets Bob know, that he tried to put an end to his son, but the boy survived, took a prostitute for a wife (Cordy Clark), who subsequently gave birth to four children: Mars (Lance Gordon); Mercury, played by Emmy nominee, Peter Locke; Pluto, a role acted by character actor, Michael Berryman, who has appeared in everything from horror movies and the Motley Crue video “Smoking in the Boys Room,” to bit parts in mainstream films; and a daughter, Ruby (Janus Blythe). No sooner, has Fred spoken about his son, Papa Jupiter arrives and kills him, and takes Bob for a hostage.

Doug returns to the site of the accident. He informs the family, that he found nothing but a dead end the way he travelled. Bobby is concerned that his father hasn’t returned yet, so Doug promises him that if he’s not back by a certain hour, together, they will go looking for him. Little do they know that Father Jupiter has tied Bob to a stake and is about to set him on fire. His screams alert the family, who rush to his aid, but they are too late.

Strange feelings and the uncomfortable knowledge of being in the middle of nowhere, are forgotten. The family now knows that someone is out there, watching and waiting for an opportunity to do them each harm. Only Bobby, who has been on edge since discovering Beauty’s mutilated, dead body, which he kept from the family, has suspected, all along, that things were worse than just the mere broken axle of the station wagon.

As if the burning of Bob’s body wasn’t horrific enough, Brenda is raped, and Ethel and Lynne are murdered by the sadistic Mars and Pluto. In addition, Katy has been taken by the clan members; their moral depravity knows no bounds, as they plan to make a meal out of her. Standing in their way, however, are Doug, Bobby, and Brenda, who abandon their own civility, in order to fight the crazed clan and rescue their loved one. They will be aided by Beast, who was referred to earlier in the film as a silent stalker, whose prey only knows when it is too late that he is ready to strike. Will Doug and the Carter siblings be successful in retrieving Katy before it is too late? Do any of the family members survive and escape back to rational society? Do the cannibalistic clan people live on to do the same or worse to the next unsuspecting family that drives their way? All of those questions, as well as a twist some viewers might not see coming, will be revealed by film’s end.

The film’s plot is straightforward and easy to grasp, but does make a viewer wonder: how would I react under the same circumstances? For those of you who’ve never seen the movie, what you might expect to watch, and what actually transpires, will perhaps come across as two very different things. The film is, without question, violent, but is tame when compared to some of today’s gratuitous and gore for gore’s sake movies.

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“De Niro’s & Scorsese’s first teaming, “Mean Streets,” is must see viewing for serious movie fans.”

The movie “Mean Streets” was not only a landmark film in both the careers of Academy Award winning director Martin Scorsese (Casino) and two time Academy Award winning actor Robert De Niro (The Godfather: Part II), but it was also the first time the two collaborated on a film together. The passionate and raw, 1973, crime drama, has all of the trademark characteristics that cinephiles have come to expect in a Scorsese directed feature. The noir movie draws the viewer in with its diverse soundtrack, emotional intensity, eruptions of violence that take place within a split second, lurid color and lighting, and fluid camera work.

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Unlike the first film in Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather saga, which had debuted a year earlier, “Mean Streets” examines the lives of small-time criminals that pervade the landscape of New York’s Little Italy. Crime comes naturally to the movie’s characters, the foot soldiers, who are attempting to make a quick score of cash without getting killed. The main protagonist of the 112 minute film, co-written by Scorsese and Mardik Martin (Raging Bull), is the anti-hero Charlie, played by talented actor Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs). (As an aside, originally the financial backers wanted actor John Voight (Midnight Cowboy) to play Charlie, but he turned them down).

Keitel’s character is a man that is conflicted by his catholic guilt combined with his unending desire to do what is necessary to ascend to a higher rank within his powerful uncle Giovanni’s (Cesare Danova) criminal organization. Charlie circulates within a world of darkly lit bars, pool halls, and movie theatres. He looks uncomfortable in the sunlight while standing on the beach dressed in his suit and overcoat almost, as if Scorsese is trying to convey to the viewer that Charlie knows that he should relegate himself to only nocturnal activities.

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Two people are keeping Charlie from reaching the heights of becoming an established and respected Mafioso. Firstly, his loyalty to Robert De Niro’s character, that of the self destructive Johnny Boy, a spot on performance which combines desperation, joviality, and swagger. De Niro’s Johnny Boy is a continuing source of frustration for Charlie especially since Johnny keeps crossing the silently seething, local loan shark Michael (Richard Romanus). Secondly, Charlie wants to maintain the normalcy of life with his girlfriend Teresa (Amy Robinson), who both suffers from epilepsy and scorns his gangster lifestyle; she wants him to break free from the confines of his inner city neighborhood and move away with her to a new life.

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The aesthetically and thematically truthful film, budgeted for an estimated $500,000, contains dialogue between the characters that sounds very genuine. From the beginning voice over, which, while showing Keitel’s character of Charlie on screen is actually spoken by Scorsese, to the opening credits that look like a home movie one would watch at a family reunion, all the way through to the climax, realism is the word I would most associate with the film. Kent L. Wakeford’s (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) cinematography is gritty and the use of hand held cameras, as well as tight close ups on the characters facial expressions, gives the movie a documentary feel as opposed to a conventional, linear plot structure. Those aspects of the film, as well as the use of subtitles at the beginning where key characters are introduced, fights that are filmed in one single tracking shot, and the swaying use of the aforementioned hand held camera to create the look of Keitel’s Charlie being heavily intoxicated, which are routine today, were definitely not commonplace back in early 70s cinema.


Trivia buffs take note, although the movie has an authentic New York look to it, most of the filming was done in Los Angeles. The original title was “Season of the Witch.” The title change was inspired by a Raymond Chandler line, “Down these mean streets a man must go.” Film critic Jay Cocks suggested the change to Scorsese who thought it was too pretentious at first, but eventually changed his mind and agreed that it would be effective. Catherine Scorsese, the woman who comes to Teresa’s aid when she is having an epileptic fit, is Martin Scorsese’s mother. In addition, the character of bar owner Tony is played by Dave Proval, who many of you might remember as the volatile Richie Aprile on the second season of “The Sopranos.” One of the film’s highlights is its soundtrack which contains a well selected mixture of 23 tracks that includes authentic Italian music intercut with songs from groups such as Cream, The Marvelettes, The Rolling Stones, and The Ronettes, among others.

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As with all of Martin Scorsese’s movies there exists a prevailing sensuality that is both horrific and beautiful as well as, in certain scenes, deeply moving. In “Mean Streets,” due to his incredible talent as a filmmaker,  Scorsese paints a visual canvas that showcases the indiscriminate aspects of the character’s lives with wonderful vividness. Don’t go into the movie thinking you’re going to watch a film with the same style as “Casino” or “Goodfellas”  for the whole and sole reason that it is a gangster film directed by Scorsese because you will probably be sorely disappointed. “Mean Streets” has to be viewed through the prism of the time in which it was filmed and with the awareness that it is a deeply personal film for the director, arguably the most personal of Scorsese’s prolific career.  For true devotees of the director and his work this is must-see viewing if for no other reason than to see the catalyst for De Niro’s and Scorsese’s working relationship. The two men have collaborated on a body of work that, including “Mean Streets,” has produced eight motion pictures, among them “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” and “Goodfellas,” which according to The American Film Institute are three of the 100 greatest American films of all time.

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“The Secret in Their Eyes”

One day in my teens, I was watching a film retrospective on television; during the program clips were shown from F.W. Murnau’s 1922 masterpiece, “Nosferatu.” I immediately took a trip down to the video store in my neighborhood, found it, and rented it. From the first frame to the last I sat entranced at what I was viewing, and from that day forth I’ve been hooked on foreign cinema. The subject of this week’s blog is the 2009 Argentinean film “The Secret in Their Eyes.” Directed and written by Juan Jose Campanella (Son of the Bride) based upon the book “La Pregunta de Sus Ojos” written by Eduardo Sacheri, who also co-wrote the script. It is a crime thriller that took home the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd annual Academy Awards.


The role of Benjamin Esposito, portrayed in a true to life manner by actor Ricardo Darin, (Carancho) is that of a retired Argentinean federal justice who is writing a novel about a case that two decades later still perplexes him. He begins to play out his memories of the events that surrounded the case. By doing this Esposito begins a journey down a path that gives him a greater clarity as to the truth of why certain things transpired the way they did and what happened to a particular individual who is central to the crime. The case involves the vicious rape and murder of Liliana Coloto, played in flashback sequences in her debut role by Carla Quevedo. The aftermath of the terrible crime leaves Liliana’s grieving husband Ricardo, portrayed in a haunting performance by Pablo Rago, (Belgrano) to conduct his own investigation into trying to catch the killer. The movie shifts effortlessly from present to past to present again in a style, that causes no confusion.

In the scenes of the film that deal with the past, the viewer learns that Esposito had the help of both his assistant, Sandoval, a hardcore drunk who demonstrates flashes of intellectual genius in the film, adroitly acted by Guillermo Francella (Marziano’s), and their immediate superior, Irene Hastings, convincingly played by Soledad Villamil (Red Bear). Initially, Esposito thinks that he has in custody not one, but two killers who committed the crime, but he quickly ascertains that the real killer is still on the loose. Thereafter, he spends the greater part of the remainder of the film attempting to track down his lead suspect who seems to come and go unseen at will as if he were an actual phantom. This movie never delves into the supernatural, so the suspect is not a ghost, but rather a flesh and blood man played to sleazy perfection by Javier Godino (Deception).
Coinciding with his search for the killer, Esposito comes to terms with the fact that he is in love with Irene, even though he knows that she is engaged to be married to another man. Not only is the engagement an obstacle to his pursuit of her, but also his station in life and background, he feels, are much too beneath hers for her to get involved with a man such as himself. Benjamin allows his heart’s passion to fall by the wayside, and avoids showing his feelings to Irene. In the present day, the two treat one another as old friends, and Esposito seeks Irene’s input regarding the novel he is working on. They both are displeased with the manner in which the case ended.

This is a piece of cinema that truly is tied to its title. There are countless films I can think of where the dialogue the characters are speaking is sometimes slightly different, and other times radically different, from what they are really trying to convey. It happens all the time, but this film takes it a step further. In this movie the implications of what is really meant is being expressed more so through the character’s eyes than their words…And the scenes that were shot between Esposito and Hastings made for particularly powerful use of this technique.

I often hear the complaint from individuals who don’t like foreign films that the reason for that is because the subtitles move too fast. I will agree with you if you have that mindset, but only up to a certain point. If you go out to the movies and are sitting and watching a foreign film in the theater you might miss something because the words are moving too fast, but in the comfort of your own home you have the wonderful invention of the pause button on the remote. If you’re a fan of films in general, but normally don’t see foreign movies, make an exception in this case. It is an all encompassing piece of cinema that is rich in story, engrossing, well acted, thoroughly entertaining, and will keep you guessing as to its ultimate outcome until the end. See for yourself why Argentina was given the honor of being the only Latin American country to ever win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film twice, the other winner was the 1985 movie “The Official Story.”

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“Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany Co-Stars in Cas & Dylan”

At the start of the film “Cas & Dylan,” Dr. Cas Pepper, portrayed by Academy Award winning actor Richard Dreyfuss (The Goodbye Girl), learns he has a terminal brain tumor. Rather than choose to live out his last days dying in a hospital bed, he opts to make the drive from Winnipeg, where he lives, to a cabin he owns in Vancouver. Emmy and Golden Globe nominee, “Orphan Black’s” Tatiana Maslany, is along for the ride, playing the role of the free spirited, talkative, Dylan Morgan. The unlikely road trip companions first see one another in the hospital where Cas is on staff and where Dylan, an aspiring writer, is looking for inspiration for her work. (As an aside: Dreyfuss and Maslany each gave the best performance possible, given the material they had to work with.)


The film marks the directorial debut of two time Golden Globe nominee, Jason Priestly (Beverly Hills, 90210). The 90 minute movie was written for the screen by Jessie Gabe (Patch Town). Parts comedy and drama, the film premiered on September 16, 2013 in Canada at the Atlantic Film Festival.

Dylan, who has just gotten off the phone with her boyfriend, Bobby (Christopher Cordell), after he has refused to come pick her up, needs a ride. She observes Cas sitting in his car and approaches him in hopes of getting him to drive her home, informing him that she lives close by. After some persuasion on Dylan’s part, Cas reluctantly agrees. During the drive to where Bobby lives, Cas learns Dylan is a writer; he had to listen to some of her dreadful prose, which she read to him from her spiral notebook. Cas notices that Dylan forgot to take the book with her, when he dropped her off. At first, he throws it out the window, determined to continue on his way, but feeling guilty, drives back and retrieves the notebook. Returning to where he dropped Dylan off, she jumps into his car, as her gun wielding boyfriend chases after her and stands in front of the vehicle. Fearing he has no other choice, Cas runs him over and drives off. Thinking he has killed Bobby, Cas trades in his automobile for an orange Volkswagen, which Dylan names Jennifer. At this point, the road trip antics and adventure, more like a misadventure, begins.

My main problem with the film is that it goes nowhere. Nothing of an exciting, or for that matter really interesting nature takes place. For example, in one scene Dylan spikes the coffee she is about to give Cas. I thought the humor factor of the film would start to pick up. Instead, the viewer is treated to Cas wanting to put the top down in the Volkswagen because he is feeling hot, donning a blonde wig, and howling like a wolf for several seconds. In addition to that riveting piece of cinema, we see the two road trippers stay overnight in a motel, where Cas teaches Dylan how to make sauce. The duo get into a minor accident when they swerve off the road. While at the repair shop they cross paths with Rose (Corinne Conley), a kindly, older woman, who invites them to stay the night at her home, where she lives with Jack (Eric Peterson), her amorous husband. They also have a visit to the office of a publisher, who for some reason, which will be made clear upon arrival to the office, has contacted Dylan about interest in the manuscript she sent them. At best, the scene is mildly entertaining.

There are only two scenes which contain any emotional depth. One scene is when Cas, as a result of not receiving proper medical treatment for his condition suffers an attack and is taken to a hospital. The other scene involves the significance of why he wants to travel to the cabin in Vancouver; it goes beyond just his wanting to have a serene atmosphere to view in his final moments of life.

One of the few aspects of the film that I did think was well executed was Gerald Packer’s cinematography. He does a wonderful job of capturing the beauty of the Canadian Rockies. Even given the movie’s short duration, and being a fan of Maslany on “Orphan Black,” the film, unfortunately, was a struggle to get through; I checked my watch several times, which is never a good sign. I can’t recommend this movie to anyone, except those, who like myself, are fans of “Orphan Black” and Maslany’s outstanding portrayal of her various clone personas, and who want to see her in something different, even given the caveats I have set forth about this film.

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“The Girl On The Train”

The debut novel by British journalist turned author, Paula Hawkins, “The Girl on the Train” is a cleverly plotted, well written, psychological thriller. Published by Riverhead Books on January 13, 2015, the 336 page novel, centers on the main protagonist, Rachel Watson. She is someone who has low self-esteem and struggles with an addiction to alcohol. Her liquor consumption sometimes causes her to suffer blackouts; it has also led to her being fired from her job. In order to keep that fact from her friend, Cathy, whom she shares a house with, Monday through Friday Rachel dresses as if she is leaving for work, and boards the same train to London.

Rachel looks forward to one stop in particular during her commute. The train line she takes travels past a number of houses, the backs of which are visible to the commuters. In one particular house, she frequently hopes to catch glimpses of a couple who she has taken to calling Jess and Jason. She projects onto the couple an idyllic existence. Part of Rachel’s wishful thinking is manifested by her own relationship shortcomings. Several houses down from where Jess and Jason live, is the home Rachel used to share with her ex-husband, Tom, who she is still in love with. He has since moved on and re-married Anna; the couple have an infant, daughter.

One day, an event transpires that destroys the ideal world Rachel has created for Jason and Jess, when Jess, whose real name is Meagan Hipwell, vanishes. Making matter worse, is that prior to Meagan’s disappearance, Rachel observed her sharing an intimate moment with another man. After the police discover a body, that may or may not be Meagan’s remains, she is convinced that what she viewed from her seat on the train is directly linked to what happened. Rachel resorts to dangerous tactics by inserting herself into the investigation. She attempts to befriend Scott Hipwell, even though, being the husband, he is a prime person of interest to the authorities.

Rachel’s story is one of three perspectives the reader is given. The chapters that convey her point-of-view, which is unreliable, given her drinking and frequent forgetting of subsequent events, are interspersed by those which convey the mindset of Anna and Meagan. The chapters which Megan narrates involve her life before the night she was last seen, and deal with her far from perfect marriage to Scott. She details: her infidelity with Dr. Kamel Abdic, her psychiatrist; the lies she uses to carry out her deceptions on her husband; and the guilty feelings she has over a dark secret from her past, that I won’t spoil by revealing. Whereas Rachel struggles with her addiction to liquor, Megan has an unyielding thirst for intimacy that she can’t seem to get in her marriage. Anna, however, who cheated with Tom behind Rachel’s back, is seemingly guilt free. She revels in the fact that she was the victor in the battle for Tom’s love. Her character comes across as thoroughly unlikable, whether it be her put downs regarding Rachel’s appearance, in comparison to her own looks, or her arrogant attitude. One of the only redeeming qualities she possesses is her love for her daughter, and the fear that Rachel might harm the child based on an incident from the past.

The suspense and tension are kept at a good level throughout the novel, all leading up to a satisfying conclusion. I didn’t want to get into too many plot points, or reveal anything that would ruin the reading experience for those of you who haven’t had a chance to read the book yet. This is the sort of novel where the less you know before reading it, the better. From the gripping beginning, through its twists and turns, I found it a real page turner, that was difficult to put down.

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When I sat down to watch “Wolves,” for the most part, I knew what to expect. I have no problem watching campy, B-movies, or straight to DVD films, as long as they’re entertaining. Judging the film by that criteria, “Wolves” delivers a watchable movie, the formulaic plot of which is easy to follow. The film, which is parts action and horror, marked the directorial debut of David Hayter (X-Men), who also wrote the screenplay. The movie has a runtime of 91 minutes, and was co-released in Belarus and Russia on August 28, 2014.

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Lucas Till’s character (X-Men Days of Future Past) high school quarterback, Cayden Richards, is the lead protagonist of the film. The movie opens with a few rapid images that are the product of a nightmare Cayden is having. He discovers, soon afterwards, that he is a werewolf. This new found persona is revealed during several incidents. One is the retaliation he delivers to an opposing player who took a cheap shot at him during a football game. Cayden’s actions nearly kill the guy. Next, while out with his girlfriend, Lisa (Kaitlyn Leeb), and the two are about to have sex, Cayden can’t control himself and the wolf is released, causing the terrified Lisa to run off. Cayden doesn’t know it at the time, but she is headed to the police station to report him. The cops show up at his home, right after he has awoken to find that his parents, Dean (Stephen Sparks) and Janice (Jennifer Hale), have been murdered. Not knowing what else to do, he flees into the night.

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While at a truck stop, Cayden is approached by a prostitute who tries to proposition him; he turns her down. A short time later, the same woman is being brutally beaten by two men, who are filled with maniacal laughter at the sight of the damage they are inflicting on her. Cayden warns them to stop, but they don’t perceive him as a threat, so he steps in to save the woman. Afterward, he takes the leather jacket and motorcycle of one of the men he has decimated, and continues on his journey, no longer dependent on hitch hiking.

Arriving at a bar, he runs into a mysterious, disfigured man, named Wild Joe (John Pyper-Ferguson). Joe knows what Cayden is, but even though Cayden is desperate for answers, Joe is reluctant to help him. Before leaving, however, Joe takes a dart and throws it at a map; it lands on the town of Lupine Ridge, then he disappears.

Till’s character sets out for the place to get the answers he seeks. Cayden enters the town’s only bar, where most of the characters that appear in the remainder of the film are socializing. Using the fake name Danny, Cayden doesn’t make any friends, and after a potentially troubling incident with the girlfriend of one of the town locals, decides to leave. Two people, however, take a chance on Cayden, Stephen McHattie’s character, the good-hearted, farmer, John Tollerman, and his wife, Clara (Janet-Laine Green). John hires Cayden to work on his farm. John, who is also a werewolf, has taken a keen interest in Cayden; the reason for his interest is revealed later on in the movie.

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Additionally, during his brief stay at the bar, Cayden meets, and immediately takes a liking to, the attractive, Angelina (Merritt Patterson). She owns and operates the place with her sister, Gail (Melanie Scrofano). Cayden’s interest in Angelina brings complications, in the form of Conner, a werewolf pack leader, portrayed by Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones). Unbeknownst to Cayden, Conner, who is getting older, wants to have a child, and he has chosen Angelina to procreate with. Angelina has agreed to the deal, because if she didn’t, Connor and his rabid followers would destroy all the residents of Lupine Ridge. As the film progresses, Cayden and Angelina fall in love. Once that happens, Cayden is determined to make sure that Connor not only doesn’t get to make Angelina the unwilling mother of his child, but that he ends his reign. Will he succeed?

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Nothing that I saw in “Wolves” elevated the genre. Hayter attempts to add his own mythology to the werewolf lore by having Tollerman’s character state that those who are born with the werewolf blood are more powerful than those who are bitten. The purebreds can heal quicker from damage. The werewolves in this film also have the ability to transform whenever they feel like. The transformation scenes in the movie, however, were for the most part ignored. A viewer will know when a character is going to become a wolf, but not much will be shown in the way of the process. The acting by all involved was passable; McHattie and Mamoa, were especially good, doing their best with what they had to work with. The cinematography by Gavin Smith was well executed, and the makeup, which was done by too many people to list, was also quite good. For those of you who don’t mind B-movies, and like horror films (watered down), that depict werewolves, then “Wolves” should be an enjoyable watch.

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