’28 Weeks Later’ is a Shockingly Effective Sequel

28 Weeks Later movie poster

When I heard that they were making a sequel to Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later,” I couldn’t help but wonder why. How could you make a sequel to a movie like that without it being the same old thing? 20th Century Fox put together a company called Fox Atomic which specializes in horror movies and sequels to horror movies because god forbid the money stops there! They made “The Hills Have Eyes 2.” I thought “The Hills Have Eyes” remake was great, but I was not as excited about seeing the sequel because it had a different director who made some bad horror films.

Now they have released “28 Weeks Later.” That’s great, milk it as much as you want. No mercy or respect for the franchise. Then again, these were my thoughts before I actually watched the movie. It had the good luck of at least having Danny Boyle and Alex Garland on as executive producers, so I was assured this follow-up wouldn’t be of poor quality. Under the tense direction of Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who previously directed “Intacto,” “28 Weeks Later” adds itself to the list of sequels which equal the original in terms of vision and sheer terror, and it ends up delivering what it promises; an extremely intense and unsettling movie going experience.

All the main characters from “28 Days Later” are absent here, so we have a whole new cast of characters trying to stay alive while stranded in a part of the world engulfed by the rage virus. It starts off with a group of English people who have managed to find refuge in a home where they hide from the infected. The main characters are a married couple played by Robert Carlyle and Catherine McCormick who are seen preparing dinner when the movie begins. Most of the actors here are not too familiar to audiences, and this helps the movie in its approach. Carlyle will definitely be familiar to those who remember him from “Trainspotting” and “The Full Monty,” and each of those movies show off how much of a range he has as an actor.

The opening of “28 Weeks Later” has a supreme amount of tension that never lets up. I got to see it at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and I sat in the back with my hands over my ears because I was eagerly anticipating all hell breaking loose as soon as the movie started. I typically watch most horror movies like this because it’s not what I see that gets to me, it’s the sound. Look no further than the original “Halloween” for an example of this.

The opening is brilliantly shot because you feel like you are right there with these people inside the house. You don’t see the outside world until they do, and it ain’t pleasant. When the infected make their inevitable entrance, Carlyle’s character ends up abandoning his wife who screams at him from a window in disbelief. He runs away from the infected at warp speed, and the fact he escapes with his life is both astonishing and shameful.

The story then moves to London after the outbreak with things finally returning to normal. The United States Army has taken over, and the first of the survivors are now coming back into the safe zone to start their lives over in a land now free of infection. We get to meet the children of Carlyle’s and McCormick’s characters who are played by Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton. Carlyle’s character is, of course, unprepared to tell his children how their mother perished among the infected, and he lies to them about what happened. As much as you despise him, you can’t help but feel a little sorry for him. Don’t you hate that?

Anyway, his lie about their mother being killed gets exposed when she is found alive in a closed off area of England. She has been bitten by the infected, but somehow has not been overtaken by the rage virus. Her blood seems to have some sort of immunity from the virus which keeps her from going completely psychotic. It is incredibly tragic that husband doesn’t have the good sense to keep himself from kissing her. A kiss is just a kiss? Not in this movie!

As you can expect, all hell breaks loose, otherwise there wouldn’t be a movie. The military tries to control the situation and they end up resorting to, when nothing else works, code red as they quickly see there’s no stopping the spread of infection. They can’t tell the difference between who is human and who is infected, so they resort to killing everyone to keep the situation contained. What makes this scenario so terrifying is how realistic is presented here, and the depressing solution the military takes to contain this horrifying situation is painfully understandable as it threatens the rest of the world. So, those young kids now have to find their way out of the “safe zone” and run away from those who have no choice but to bite and infect them.

There is a lot of shaky handheld camera work in “28 Weeks Later” which gives the movie an immediacy which sucks you in just like the original did. I have been back and forth in regards to hand held camerawork because it can veer easily from being exciting to the becoming relentlessly annoying. Don’t even get me started on the later movies of Woody Allen. I can’t even begin to tell you how nauseous I got while watching “Deconstructing Harry” on the big screen.

But here, the shaky camerawork is perfect as it brings us right into the chaos these characters are feverishly trying to escape. The camera goes all over the place to where we can’t tell where the exit is or if we can trust the person next to us. Fresnadillo is excellent in drawing you into the mindset of the chaos and confusion of what the characters are forced to experience. What if you can’t find your way out? What if the person next to you is infected? Where is the safest place to go? Everyone is running for dear life, but in which direction does one head?

What also makes “28 Weeks Later” work is it’s not just based on thrills and chills as there is an intelligence at work here. There’s a subtle critique of the seemingly endless occupation of military forces in other countries as they futilely try to control a situation completely beyond anyone’s control.

Aside from those kid actors who are terrific and very down to earth, there are a few others worth mentioning. Jeremy Renner plays Doyle, a military shooter who quickly develops a conscience when he decides not to follow orders and instead save a little boy who doesn’t deserve to die. I also want to mention Rose Byrne who plays Army doctor, Scarlet. I like it when a movie where there is a very strong female character who thinks she has found the key to eradicating infection. Of course, no one listens to her because the quick fix-it answer is to kill the host and everyone else if it comes into contact with. Byrne is very believable as a soldier who has no choice but to hold it together when the world around her quickly crumbles.

“28 Weeks Later” is an incredibly tense ride from start to finish, and it never lets up. There’s an unnerving sequence where the main characters have to flee from a chemical attack by going into the underground subway which is pitch black, and the only way they can make their way through is with night vision. This proves to be one of the scariest scenes I have seen in a motion picture in the longest time.

Whereas “28 Days Later” found a measure of hope at its conclusion, “28 Weeks Later” is unrelentingly bleak. Any hope is vanquished by the end, and its last shot features a famous landmark which shows how inevitable it is infection will spread from country to country. This sequel proves to be very respectful of its predecessor, and it goes even further into the nightmare the world is caught up in and beyond everybody’s control. It makes me eager to see “28 Months Later” which I hope will at some point in the future become a reality. But personally, I am waiting for “28 Millennium Later.” The way things are going right now, humanity is doomed in one way or another.

* * * ½ out of * * * *

Advertisements

A Longer Than Expected Pablove Recovery Run

Pablove 12 Mile Run

After running 16 miles through the unwanted humidity of Burbank and Glendale, I figured this week’s run would be half the distance since it was a recovery run. Well, I was in for a bit of a shock when I learned we would be running 12 miles. Considering I ran only one maintenance run this past week, this left me worried I would suffer more than usual. But on the upside, the weather was much colder than the previous week, and I figured as long as I got back to Griffith Park before the temperature rose above 70 degrees (and it did), I would be alright.

Before I go on, you probably are wondering why I did only did one maintenance run instead of two. To be honest, I think depression began to overtake me this past week. I’m not saying this to make an excuse, but instead to offer an explanation. Over the last few days, I found myself very unmotivated to do much of anything, and it got to where getting myself out of bed was impossible. Sleeping is wonderful, but oversleeping, while it sounds great, has became a rather nasty habit. I was determined to make enough money to take care of my escalating Visa bill, but I only made a tenth of what I usually make because I just couldn’t get myself to do what needed to be done. It is at times like this where I am reminded of how training for the Los Angeles Marathon has been a lifesaver for me. Exercising helps release endorphins and gets those serotonin levels up to where they need to be, so I have to remind myself of this when it comes to next week’s run as cardio training helps elevate my spirits during a time where we are forced to endure a terrible Presidential administration.

Truth is, I have suffered from anxiety and depression most of my life, and I am often reminded of how easy it can be to fall into the dark pit of despair. I am taking medication to combat these two illnesses which can be the best of bed buddies to one’s own detriment, but there’s more to taking care of these mental afflictions than just medicine. Also, maybe I need a little more caffeine and sugar in my diet.

Anyway, this run took us outside Griffith Park and into Burbank and Glendale, and there was a hill involved as we ran up Grandview Avenue. However, we did make a left turn on Kenneth, so this particular hill wasn’t as torturous as the one we endured in Griffith Park. Coach James encouraged me to run at a 3:1 pace, and I did just that to see how I would do. For the most part, I kept up with the pace, but I did find myself eager to take a walk break before my watch informed me with its beeps that it arrived during the last few miles.

I always have two water bottles on me while I run these miles which can at times feel incredibly endless; one which contains water, and the other which contains a liquid filled with electrolytes. This other bottle typically has Gatorade of a certain flavor, be it grape or orange or lemon-line. This week, this bottle had the closest thing to Pedialyte in it. Why? Because Pedialyte or its generic equivalent is filled with electrolytes and zinc among other things, and it doesn’t contain too much in the way of sugar. Pedialyte is meant for babies suffering from dehydration and diarrhea, the latter of which no one wants to talk about during a lunch break, and it came to my rescue after a night of eating sushi I bought from the supermarket. I won’t go into specific details, but my body kept pushing out unwanted materials even after my stomach felt completely emptied.

Pedialyte and alcohol

Thanks to the generic Pedialyte, I was never lacking in electrolytes. In fact, I began to wonder if I had too many of them floating around in my body. I need to get more sodium into my body even if it means eating salt. Yes, eating salt by itself can be rather disgusting, but it has the same effect on me as when Popeye eats his spinach. I suddenly become energized as the salt absorbs the water in my system, and I am able to escape the clutches of fatigue even if it’s only for a little while.

When it came to keeping up with my fellow runners, I did manage to catch up to them at one point. Of course, this was near the beginning of the run when we had yet to run past Walt Disney Studios. Still, it was nice to have them in my sights a little longer than usual before they inevitably disappeared. I also look forward as I always do to smelling the yeast coming out of the bread factory we past by on the way to Sonora. I always get a rise out of it!

Upon arriving back at Griffith Park, I was greeted by the sound of bagpipes and, of course, I thought it was all for me. Whoever was playing them was messing up the notes a lot to where I wasn’t sure what music he was trying to play. All I can say is it sure didn’t sound like “Amazing Grace.”

Coach James was on hand to welcome me back and did so with a smile, saying he didn’t actually wait long for me to return. To hear James say this made me feel especially good because it means I am making good progress in increasing my running endurance. He also confirmed that the bagpipes were not there for my benefit. If they were, I would expect much better playing of them.

Next week, we are going to be running 18 miles, so I will do my best to prepare for it and try to keep my depression demons at bay. There is much I have to be motivated about, so as long as I keep that in mind, I should be fine.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: With my Pablove and Facebook pages combined, I have now raised $419 towards my fundraising goal of $1,500 for The Pablove Foundation. Every little bit helps, so be sure to make a tax-deductible donation today. If you can get me up to $800 by this Saturday, January 20, 2018, I will run through the streets of Burbank, Glendale and Griffith Park with an Eeyore by my side.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE ON MY PABLOVE PAGE

CLICK HERE TO DONATE ON MY FACEBOOK FUNDRAISER PAGE

An Easy Three Miles in Burbank

Ben Kenber The Triumphant Runner

WRITER’S NOTE: This article was written on October 25, 2014.

It was another cool October morning when I stepped out of my apartment and got into my car for the drive to Griffith Park. Still, it’s not too cold to where we were forced to start wearing layers of non-cotton clothing on our runs just yet. Here in Southern California we are still dealing with 80-degree days even though fall has arrived, and yet summer remains stubborn about overstaying its welcome. I brought my black Nike jacket with me in case it was colder in Burbank than I expected, but I was fairly certain I wouldn’t need it, and I didn’t.

I managed to make it to the Team to End AIDS meeting spot just in the nick of time, having resisted the almost irresistible pull of those “Batman” reruns from the 60’s which were being shown on IFC (do they even show indie movies anymore?). The runners were still milling around when I got there, so I didn’t miss a thing. Then Coach JC came out and shouted, “GOOD MORNING T2!!!” For a guy who claims not to be comfortable speaking in public, he can now yell so loudly to where the employees at A Runner’s Circle in Los Feliz can hear him from miles away. Heck, I bet even the workers at Sports Chalet could hear him to where those in the shoe department looked at one another as if to say, “What is pronation?”

Today’s run was three miles, but some of the alumni were still open to running five. I decided to just stick with running three as I don’t want to overdo it at this point. I was under the assumption I had everything I would need for a short run: my Saucony running shoes, my Nine Inch Nails hat, my red Team to End AIDS shirt, my sunglasses, my water belt with two bottles of water and two bottles of orange low calorie Gatorade and a GU packet leftover from the 2014 Los Angeles Marathon. There was one slight problem; I forget my watch which has interval timing. I usually bring my iPhone with me in case I need to call one of the coaches or take pictures, but this time I had to use it for a different purpose as it had a timer on it.

When I walked over to the starting line, I didn’t realize I was with the wrong pace group. Chris eventually pointed out how I was about to run with the 12-minute pace group, and Coach JC looked at me with a shock as if I was trying to turn this into a race for myself. Realizing my mistake, I was a little embarrassed but recovered in time to join the not yet named 13-minute pace group. JC also informed me we would not be doing a “Bette Davis” on this run. I’ve been training for the LA Marathon for several years now so the running lingo is something I should know by now, but somehow this term continues to elude me. Hopefully I will relearn it again soon.

This run took us outside of Griffith Park and into familiar parts of Burbank as we went down Victory Boulevard before turning left on Riverside. We were again running against traffic like before, and the bike riders we passed by were nice and not the least bit territorial. Let’s hope there’s more of them on the road in the coming weeks.

After running with the same people for the past few years, I found myself with a new group of people who I have no business being shy around. I got to meet Winston and John who were nice and, like the other people I should have said hello to, were careful to obey the traffic signs. No one was above the law on this October morning.

This week I found myself focusing on my form as Coach JC gave a speech before hand about running to where our body is open to where it gets the most oxygen. No running in a hunched position and no ridiculously long strides that have us landing on our heels as that will cause irreversible damage our bodies will despise us for as we get older. I know my knees will never ever let me forget all the marathons I have ran, and when I get to the age of 60 (at which point I hope to still look like I’m 50) I know they will be telling me, “That’s what you get fool!”

When we got to Keystone, we turned around and went back the way we came. Dammit, the term “turn around” still reminds me of that depressing song by Bonnie Tyler called “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” My dad loved this song when it first came on the radio in the 80’s, but listening to it always leaves me sad. How am I supposed to feel after listening to lyrics like these?

 

“(Turn around)

Every now and then

I get a little bit lonely

And you’re never coming round

(Turn around)

Every now and then

I get a little bit tired

Of listening to the sound of my tears

(Turn around)

Every now and then

I get a little bit nervous

That the best of all the years have gone by…”

 

That last line keeps messing with my head…

Anyway, we made it back to Griffith Park in one piece, and Coach JC had to double check his board to make sure I didn’t run five miles at warp speed. If only such a thing were possible. “The Flash” may have returned as a television series, but I have yet to match his velocity. Hey, anything’s possible!

So, week two is over and done with, and it feels like everyone, including myself, is getting off to a good start. It also makes me glad I got those two maintenance runs in during the week as my body would have been pissed at me if I didn’t. I say bring on the more challenging runs sooner rather than later. Bring on the hills!

YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE: It is now 2018, and I am training for the Los Angeles Marathon for the eighth year in a row. This time I am running in support of The Pablove Foundation which is dedicated to finding a cure for pediatric cancer. With my personal fundraising page and my Facebook fundraising page, I have raised $419 towards my fundraising goal of $1,500. I am asking for your support to get me to my goal and to donate only what you can. Even if it is just $5, it will still go a long way towards helping me reach my goal.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE ON MY PABLOVE PAGE.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE ON MY FACEBOOK FUNDRAISING PAGE.

Pablove Foundation logo

Back in the Marathon Saddle Again!

2015 LA Marathon training day one

WRITER’S NOTE: This article was originally written in 2014.

It’s back in the saddle again! Four times wasn’t enough for me, so now I’m back training for the Los Angeles Marathon for the fifth year in a row. Training with Team to End AIDS began again on October 18, 2014, and I actually found myself eager to get up early in the morning for a change. All my running clothes still seem to fit and haven’t developed any holes, so I don’t need to get new threads just yet. However, I think I should consider getting some new running socks.

For once I got to the running site with plenty of time to spare. I was eager to catch up with a lot of friends I haven’t seen in a while and to greet the coaches who always approach the start of a training season with a wealth of enthusiasm. It was great to see Coach JC Fernandez, Kerry Quakenbush and Dene Preston back in action as they welcomed us with the usual speeches about fundraising goals and what to expect this time around when it comes to training. We were also reminded again of how territorial the bike riders are when they’re out on the road, and this was before we began running.

Scott Boliver tree 2014

One of the best sights to take in when I arrived at the park was the tree planted in the memory of Scott Boliver, our former marathon coach who left this world far too soon. It was planted on the grounds a few months ago, and it continues to grow tall. It’s a wonderful tribute to a man who inspired us all.

When it came to reuniting with friends I have trained with in the past, I got to meet up with Chris who I ran the 2012 Los Angeles Marathon with, and this is the first marathon he has trained for in a couple of years. I also got to catch up with Kerry who, along with me, survived the vicious monsoon which was the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon. A lot of our run together had us reminiscing about the memories of that exceedingly wet day, the kind which, ironically, we could use a lot of right now in California so we can get over this drought. Yes, leaping over the puddles back then was impossible as they quickly became rivers we could only hope to levitate over (if only such a thing were possible).

It also proved to be a throwback to that training season which had us running through a snowy Burbank when frost began forming on our clothes to where steam was coming off of them on our last few miles. It says a lot about us 2011 Los Angeles Marathon veterans that we came back for another marathon after it because it proved to be a clusterfuck of epic proportions (or a “shittacular” as others described it). For me, it was my first full marathon and a time to realize how wearing cotton sweats was completely counterproductive.

Today’s run was a simple one to determine which pace group we would be running in for the next few months. We ran two miles through the streets of Griffith Park, and we were encouraged to run at a comfortable pace to where we didn’t fund ourselves huffing and puffing. I did well for a guy who has kind of let myself go since the last marathon I ran, and I never ran faster than I needed to. After the last marathon, my hope was to run in other events around Los Angeles or in other parts of California, but this didn’t happen for a variety of reasons. Now certain parts of my body are much bigger than they should be, and they are not the parts I am eager to see increase in size. Hopefully I can trim a few pounds off my aging body before marathon day in 2015.

When I got to the finish line, I asked Coach JC how badly I did (jokingly of course). He said I did fine and that I would be back in the 13-mile pace group. This sounds perfectly fine to me, and it means I will be again running at a pace of 3:1; running for three minutes and then walking for one. It soon turned out to be the most popular pace group as those who were in the 14 or 15 groups found themselves merging their way into ours. I guess we 13-minute runners are still the hip crowd to hang out with!

So, the easy work is done. Next week we will be running three miles and then increasing our mileage from there. I’m looking forward to another great marathon training season.

2015 LA Marathon CEO addressing the troops

YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE: This marked the fifth time I trained for the Los Angeles Marathon. I am now training for it again, and this time marks the eighth year in a row I have taken on this admittedly insane challenge. This year, I am running it in support of The Pablove Foundation, an organization formed with the determination to find a cure for pediatric cancer. My fundraising goal is $1,500, and to date I have raised $306. I could really use your help, and invite you to make a tax-deductible donation to this wonderful organization. I thank you for your support.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND TO MAKE A DONATION.

James Wan Prepares Audiences for ‘Insidious: Chapter 2’

James Wan Insidious 2 trailer day

WRITER’S NOTE: This aritcle was originally written and published back in 2013.

The first trailer for “Insidious: Chapter 2” debuted online on June 5, 2013, but some very lucky die-hard horror fans got to see it the day before at one of the film’s shooting locations in Los Angeles: Linda Vista Community Hospital. In addition, the fans also got to take a tour around the creepy hospital, eat fine catered Mexican food and enjoyed cocktails, and they were treated to a Q&A with the movie’s director, James Wan. The cast of “Insidious,” Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey and Ty Simpkins are back for the sequel as well as Wan’s frequent collaborator, screenwriter Leigh Whannell.

Insidious Chapter 2 poster 2

Before anyone got to see the trailer, the fans were taken on a tour through Linda Vista which was closed down 20 years ago. For them, it truly looked like something out of a Stephen King novel as the walls were drained of color and marked with graffiti which said “Hail Satan.” Tiles were falling off the ceiling, trash covered the floors of various rooms, and cobwebs were visible on various objects like a staircase or an old wooden chair. There was even a room filled with medical files and the tour guides invited the fans to look through some of them to see why patients were unluckily committed to this haunted establishment.

Linda Vista Community Hospital

Once in a while people could hear noises coming from the darkest corners of the hospital. Were these noises the result of some evil spirit lurking around, the catering people bringing food into the building for guests, or was the film company that’s releasing “Insidious: Chapter 2” trying to play a cruel trick on the fans? No one was ever really sure.

Linda Vista 1

After taking in some fine Mexican cuisine and Spanish beer, the fans were ushered into the hospital’s chapel where the trailer made its world debut. It showed Josh (Patrick Wilson), his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) and their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) moving in with Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) after the horrific events of the first film. But of course, bad things start happening very quickly as a baby carrier moves around the house by itself, and Renai is greeted by a creepy woman who goes into the next room only to vanish a second later.

Now whereas Dalton was possessed in the first film, it turns out that Josh is the unlucky one in this sequel as a poltergeist invades his body and won’t leave him alone. The trailer also included a piece of Thomas Bangalter’s music score from “Irreversible” which succeeded in unsettling the audience even further as Josh is met by a scary looking spirit who tells him “he’s got your baby.”

James Wan Insidious trailer day 2

Once the trailer ended, Wan entered the chapel and was greeted with a loud and enthusiastic applause from the fans. He made it clear from the start that he and Whannell were not out to make a photocopy of “Insidious” but to instead continue the story exactly from where the first movie ended. Wan also said that with “Insidious: Chapter 2,” he wanted to take the story into a different genre.

James Wan: Whereas the first movie has a twist on the classic haunted house genre, the second one is a slightly different movie so it has a twist on different subgenre. It’s more in the vein of the classic domestic thriller but with a pervasive supernatural undertone. We wanted to take a movie about astral projection, astral traveling, and we felt that was a great premise to use in a scary movie. When Leigh and I started talking about making a haunted house movie we thought the whole astral projection angle could be something that’s unique and different to the haunted house movies. We combined those two together and we got “Insidious.”

Wan also delighted the audience when he told him that the sequel will deal “a little bit with the element of time travel.”

When it comes to special effects, Wan said that he prefers to use practical ones and did so with “Insidious: Chapter 2.” It’s not that he has anything against computer generated effects; it’s just that he finds practical effects are much scarier.

James Wan: For me it’s not necessarily seeing the scariest monster that makes it scary. It’s a character waking up in the middle of the night and he or she thinks that someone’s standing at the foot of their bed. That’s what makes things scary for me. So, for ‘Insidious’ it was putting those scares that I have personally in a movie.

Along with his longtime collaborator Whannell, Wan has made several horror movies including the original “Saw,” “Dead Silence” and “The Conjuring.” One fan asked Wan where he gets all his ideas for movies, and he responded by saying he finds inspiration by scaring himself late at night. While it might seem like very few things could ever scare Wan, he unabashedly described himself as a “chickenshit” and said everything scares him.

James Wan: When I was designing some of the scares for “Insidious” and my previous scary movie that I shot, one of the things that I would do, I would walk through my house with all the lights out and think up these really these really tricky, creepy scenarios. If I get really creeped out then I know it’s working and I’d run back to my computer and write it.

Wan also recollected how one time while writing a scene for a movie, his dog started barking at something. He described how his dog would stand in a corner of a room at 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning and just start barking, and then once the dog stopped, she would track whatever it was she was barking at around the room. While Wan freely admitted he loves his dog, he also said “she scares the heck out of me sometimes.”

Even after making several horror movies, Wan said that it is still a challenge to scare audiences as they always try to stay one step ahead of the filmmakers. With “Insidious: Chapter 2,” his goal was to ground the sequel more in the real world as he felt the story would be more effectively scary. When asked if the sequel will answer any questions the original did not answer or if it will bring up new ones, Wan replied that this one will “answer questions, but hopefully not in the way you expect.”

“Insidious: Chapter 2” will be unleashed in theatres on September 13, 2013 (yes, Friday the 13th). Up next for Wan is “Furious 7” in which he will be taking over the directorial duties from Justin Lin. But when asked what his dream project as a director is, Wan gave the audience an answer many did not expect.

James Wan: I’m a big comic book fan, I’d like to do a comic book film. I’m a romantic at heart, so a pet project of mine that I’ve always wanted to do is a big screen version of “Beauty and the Beast.” That way I can play with the scary creatures, the horror of that and it has this great story.

‘Insidious: Chapter 2’ is More of a Continuation Than a Sequel

Insidious Chapter 2 poster

My feelings towards “Insidious: Chapter 2” are not much different from how I felt about “Insidious.” Neither movie scared me in the way they scared my friends, and they don’t really hold a candle to the “Paranormal Activity” movies in terms of making you jump out of your seat, but I did admire their cleverness as they turned the genres they were exploring upside down, and both films gave me something I wasn’t expecting. But moreover, the real strength of “Insidious: Chapter 2” is it doesn’t feel like a sequel as much as it feels like a continuation of what came before it. Part of me was expecting a simple retread of the original, but the filmmakers succeed in adding more to what came before.

It reunites the horror team of director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell, both who made the first “Insidious” movie as well as the first “Saw.” What drove me nuts about “Saw” and its sequels wasn’t the gore (the way I see it, the gore the merrier), but the plot twists which ended those movies left me with the most enormous of headaches as they expected me to believe Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) could pull this or that off, and I didn’t buy any of the conclusions for a second. The “Insidious” movies, however, don’t make the same mistake, and what I admired was how certain questions from the original film got answered here. Perhaps a close analysis would reveal plot holes, but both movies seem to connect together in a way which makes sense.

Like “Halloween II” (whether it’s the original sequel or Rob Zombie’s), “Insidious: Chapter 2” starts off where the original ended. Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) has successfully rescued his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) from the Further, but after a peaceful moment where the family is reunited, his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) discovers paranormal investigator Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye) has been strangled to death. Josh is suspected to have strangled her, but he convinces Renai he did not. Soon after that, things slowly get back to normal as Josh moves his family into his mother Lorraine’s (Barbara Hershey) house, but it doesn’t take long for certain objects to move around on their own. The question is, did Josh really return from the Further, or did someone else come back in his place?

Now Wan and Whannell had a lot of fun playing around with the haunted house genre with the first “Insidious,” but now they are forced to up their game with this one. “Insidious: Chapter 2” is more of a domestic thriller with a bit of astral projection and time travel thrown in to mix things up. While it does deal with the same elements which made its predecessor a success, this sequel never feels like a simple repeat of the original. Both these films were made by people who have seen just about every horror movie known to man, and they have gone out of their way to subvert all those clichés we are used to seeing. With this movie, I was never entirely sure of what to expect, and that’s just the way I want it.

Wilson, Byrne, Hershey and Simpkins are every bit as good as they were in “Insidious,” and they don’t look like they have missed a bit between the original and the sequel. Angus Simpson and Whannell also show up again as Tucker and Specs, and they provide the comic relief this sequel needs, and they never overstay their welcome.

Joining the “Insidious” franchise this time around is Steve Coulter who plays Carl, Elise’s protégé in the paranormal arts. I am not familiar with Coulter’s work, but he gives a strong performance here as he works to help the Lambert family deal with what has been haunting them so viciously. It turns out he is a journeyman actor who has made many appearances in both film and television, and his veteran status serves this part well as Carl is an expert who has dealt with these situations extensively, and this makes him very believable as someone who has seen the worst things life has to offer.

Some fans may complain about the lack of scares in “Insidious: Chapter 2,” but for me, I’m just glad this sequel kept me intrigued throughout. Whether you find it terrifying or not, it’s a film which does keep you on edge from start to finish. When the movie ends, it turns out that there just might be room for another “Insidious” sequel, and there is a sequence at the end which implies a follow up will be coming our way. But even if it doesn’t, you can be sure the spirits (evil or otherwise) will be haunting you while you sleep.

* * * out of * * * *

A Pablove Run in Memory of Scott Boliver

Scott Boliver photo

It’s hard to believe it has now been five years since we lost Scott Boliver, our LA Marathon coach for several years. He fought a brave battle against cancer and beat the disease to a bloody pulp, but his body took a lot of damage and he passed away at far too early an age. On January 6, 2018, we arrived at Griffith Park to run 16 miles, and it also served as a reunion with many Team to End AIDS runners coming out to celebrate Scott’s memory. For those who knew him, he still inspires us to this very day.

Scott Boliver tree and family

It was great to see so many familiar faces who have been absent this training season. Among those in attendance were Scott’s parents, Ray and Pat, who were always on hand to give us peanut butter and pickle-covered Ritz crackers and banana bread. Also, there was Scott’s wife, Dolly, who told us how his coaching us kept his spirits up through his fight against one of many indiscriminate diseases. Like them, we still very much miss Scott, but a part of him lives on in each of us to where we feel his spirit urging us to continue on to the finish line. This may sound cheesy, but there you go.

JC Fernandez at the Boliver tree

One of the best speakers of the morning was JC Fernandez, the man who took over coaching duties from Scott upon his passing, and would continue to coach T2EA runners for the next few years. He also works on the ABC series “Scandal,” but you did not hear this from me. Anyway, JC spoke at length about the effect Scott had, and continues to have, on him and others:

“Scott had an ability to see the light inside you and draw it out to the surface so it can shine brightly for others. I can honestly say that not a day goes by that I do not think of him. Not with sadness and longing, so much as recognition of the role he’s played in shaping who I am today. Because of him I became a coach. Because of him I found my voice.”

JC even said he saw a lot of Scott and himself in the blogs I write about my marathon training, and the struggles I have been enduring seem stronger than ever before. The fact JC even mentioned my blogs, or articles as I like to call them, meant so much to me as it is always nice to know someone is following what I write.

Scott Boliver and JC

With this run, I was determined to run at a 3:1 pace instead of 2:1 as I felt it would be best if I finished these 16 miles sooner than later. Granted, I knew I was going to be the last one to cross the finish line, but I didn’t want to keep Coaches James and Kerry waiting too long.

For once, I got to start a run off with an opportunity to talk with a fellow Pablove Foundation runner who kindly described me as being the little turtle that could. Yep, this is who I am these days. As much as I would love to finish a marathon in under 6 hours, I feel those days have long since passed me by. She was running at a 6:1 pace, so once I got to my first walking break, I knew it would be a while before we would see each other again.

For the record, I did my two maintenance runs this past week, but I still feel like I need to do more cardio work during the week whether it is on an elliptical machine, swimming, or playing around with Wii Fit back at my apartment. The more exercise I can get in, the more pain and challenges I can endure.

During the run, I saw JC running in the other direction, and we waved to each other. Next thing I know, he’s coming up alongside of me and said how much he admired my endurance and everyone who takes six, seven or eight hours to finish a marathon. With him, he just wants to finish it in under five hours, be done with it and get his drink on, and I can certainly understand that. I used to be able to finish marathons in under six hours, but those days may be over. Still, after all these years, the only thing which matters is crossing the finish line. As great as it would be to set a new personal record this year, right now it doesn’t look very likely.

I very much appreciated JC coming up to talk with me about my blogs and continued determination to run even as I run behind everybody else. I hope he knows that.

img_20161105_093504277_hdr

I kept up with the 3:1 pace for a bit, but I found myself slowing to a walk before my walk break came up, so I adjusted my pace to 2:1. The one thing which threatened to do me and other runners in on this day was the humidity. For the past weeks, the Saturday mornings in the Los Angeles area have been frigid, but this particular one was a lot warmer. Coach James even told us to drink more water than usual as a result because the odds of us getting dehydrated sooner were much higher. I certainly did take the time to drink more water as I didn’t take in as much of it as I should have on past runs. After a bit, it felt like too much water wasn’t nearly enough.

Porto's Bakery

I ran by Porto’s Bakery at one point which had yet to open, and there was a long line of people outside of it waiting to get in. I remember going there once after a long run, and am a witness to the infinite number of incredible treats this bakery has to offer. As I ran past it, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window, and it looks as though I have visited Porto’s one too many times even though I have not. After all these marathons, I thought all this belly fat would be a thing of the past, but it is still around like the unwanted house guest you can never get rid of.

As I continued running up and down the streets of Burbank, I kept waiting for the fat shamers to come out to ridicule me. They did not, but if they had, I would remind them how I have run the LA Marathon seven years in a row, and this marks the eighth year I have trained for it. Size may matter in certain cases, but not in this one.

Once I had made it to the mile eight marker and turned around, I ran into Coach James, figuratively speaking, who encouraged me to run at a 3:1 pace to see how I would do, and I decided to give it a shot. I did well for a time, but the sun continued to rise up to where it felt like a decently warm summer day. It may be the first month of 2018, but Southern California constantly defies the winter season with weather we should never expect on the east coast.

Coaches Kerry and James were constantly driving along the route to make sure we had all the water, electrolytes and other fuel we needed to get back to Griffith Park. They also had the Bolivers’ peanut butter and pickle covered Ritz crackers and their banana bread for us to consume, and I didn’t even hesitate to take advantage of either.

By the time I arrived back in Griffith Park, I expected there to be a sign waiting for me at the finish line which had written on it “Five Years Later…” I remember seeing this same sign at the start of “Ghostbusters II,” and we all know how that sequel turned out. Nevertheless, I did cross the finish line withthe coaches applauding me with endless enthusiasm. Coach James advised me to do my first maintenance run on Tuesday so I could give my legs an extra long rest. While I love to brag how I ran 16 miles, the soreness will remind me of how distance will leave me incapacitated for much longer than I intend.

I did have work to do following this 16-mile run, by I ended up spending most of the day in bed sleeping . Getting out of bed is never as appealing as it should be, and perhaps this should change in the future. Complain all you want, but I want to sneak in a few more minutes of shut eye.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: I have now raised $306 towards my goal of $1,500, and I strongly encourage you all to keep the ball rolling. I have many friends who are afraid I will look down on them for donating only $5, but I will not. If $5 is all you can give to the Pablove Foundation, it will still go a long way towards defeating the causes of pediatric cancer. Click here to make a donation.  

Boliver treats

Boliver family at tree

Bubba Eeyore at the Boliver Tree

Scott Boliver, Gone But Never Forgotten

Scott Boliver in New York

WRITER’S NOTE: This article was originally written and published in 2013.

Scott Boliver was a great person on top of being a superb marathon coach. During the 2012 Los Angeles Marathon, he made sure we had what we needed to cross the finish line, and he always greeted us with a big smile and a warm demeanor. The past year or two had him dealing with two different types of cancer which threatened to get the best of him physically and financially, thanks in large part to our still deeply flawed American health care system, but he fought against this indiscriminate disease long and hard and eventually beat it. We all got wristbands which had Scott’s nickname for his cancer fight written on them: “Slay The Dragon.” As a result, he became one of the most inspirational people we had ever hoped to meet in our lifetime.

Slay The Dragon armband

So, it was an enormous shock when we got the news Scott died on January 3, 2013. I had last seen him only a few days earlier while training for the 2013 Los Angeles Marathon, and he appeared to be in good spirits and still had that great smile of his for all to see. While had been to the hospital a few days earlier due to some swelling in one of his legs, a runner in my pace group had been in contact with him and said he was feeling fine. Even as we ran 12 miles in the rain and freezing wind, Scott was with us and keeping an eye on what we needed work on. At the end of the run, he made sure we didn’t stay outdoors long because we were all soaking wet and didn’t have much of an excuse to deal with hypothermia or pneumonia.

The word of Scott’s death spread like a wildfire on Facebook, and I remember staring at the screen in sheer disbelief and saying, “No, no, no, no, no!” Two other people who played a big part in my life, Jim Kirkwood and Grant Martin, had also died from cancer, but their deaths were not a surprise. They had fought their own fights against this indiscriminate disease, but it eventually took a huge toll on their bodies to where the damage was irreversible. When the end came for them, it was very sad but also kind of a relief. Although we missed them, we took comfort in the fact they were at peace and no longer suffering.

While I wanted to weep for Jim and Grant, I never shed tears when learning of their passing. I wanted to, but the tears never came for some odd reason. But the news of Scott’s death reduced me to a total wreck, and I was crying like never before. How could this man who had inspired so many with his constant slaying of the dragon that was cancer leave us so suddenly? Scott seemed to be in such great shape even after all he had been through, and yet fate proved to be unforgivably cruel in taking him away from us. Leonard Cohen said it best: “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.”

I cannot even begin to imagine what Scott’s family is going through right now, and they have my deepest sympathies. He leaves behind a loving wife, wonderful children and his parents who have just endured one of the worst things any parent can ever experience, outliving their child.

Scott Boliver Coach

Those who have trained with Team to End AIDS have had the opportunity to meet Scott’s family, and his parents have been especially wonderful to hang out with these past few months. They have spent so much time preparing snacks for us to consume during our training and always have plenty of water and Gatorade for us to refill our water bottles with. Remember, these are the same people who introduced us to the delicious peanut butter and pickle covered Ritz crackers, and we all live for those now.

I read a blog by Sara Catania entitled “Week 34: The Scott Boliver Experience,” and she shared some things about Scott I didn’t know about until now. He worked as a prison psychologist and lived in the city of Brea out in Orange County. The marathon training for Team to End AIDS takes place at Griffith Park in Burbank which means he has to make a round trip of 80 miles by car. Regardless of the distance, he still made it out to Griffith Park and typically got there before anyone else did, and we started running at 6 a.m. on certain mornings. I used to make a 70-mile round trip to and from Disneyland when I worked there, but I got nothing on this guy!

I also remember him putting together games and contests for the longer runs which had us guessing what songs came from which musicals, or what foreign country a certain kind of chocolate came from. This made our training all the more entertaining, and this was especially the case if you had those people in your pace group who could actually answer those questions without a doubt (I’m at a loss when it comes to musicals and chocolate). The winner of these games got a breakfast or some other special meal courtesy of Scott who paid for these wonderful prizes out of his own pocket.

Looking at this kind of dedication makes me admire Scott all the more because it seemed like he spent all his free time outside of his day job doing things for other people. Nothing seemed to bring him down even as the cancer diagnosis caused him a number of headaches which would have driven anyone else to insanity. Catania said it best:

“Coach Scott exudes empathy. When runners would ask him about every little pinch and blister, he’d take it all as seriously as the questioner required. He never talked about his own aches and woes. When the wildfires last fall came within a few feet of his home, he didn’t mention it to the group and didn’t miss a training.”

One of my favorite memories of Coach Scott came during the 2012 Los Angeles Marathon as I ran up San Vicente Boulevard. Now those familiar with this marathon will know San Vicente is the part of the run which lasts far longer than it has any right to. You are running up a nice street filled with beautiful houses you can’t possibly afford, and it feels like you will never reach the end of it. Just when you think you’ve reached the corner which leads you towards the finish line, you haven’t. That darn boulevard goes on forever, and it feels like it is designed to torture you psychologically more than anything else.

But eventually I did see Coach Scott on the side of the road, and seeing him was a huge relief as I was seriously on the verge of going completely mental. He was waiting for us all with that wide smile of his, and he picked the perfect place to meet up with us. It didn’t matter how many hours it took for us to finish the marathon because he was always there to make sure we had everything we needed. Seeing him there to greet me and give me a hug was exactly what I needed to cross that seemingly elusive finish line.

Now he’s gone and I just don’t get it. Perhaps his body was irreparably weakened from all the surgeries and chemotherapy treatments he was forced to undergo. His death feels so unfair, so unwarranted, and if there is a God I want to verify with him, or her, if they got the right person because I feel he, or she, made a serious mistake.

In his passing, however, we have come to see how far the love for Scott goes, and it goes an infinitely long way. His friend Larry Jacobson set up a memorial fund on Go Fund Me to help out Scott’s family who has suffered financially in the wake of his cancer fight and various medical bills which are far more than any family should ever have to pay off. Before Scott’s death, his family had to move out of their house and into an apartment, and now his wife and children find themselves with little money for food and rent.

The goal for the memorial fund was $20,000, and this amount was raised within the first 24 hours after it was set up on the internet. In the next couple of days $30,000 was raised. 11 days later, over $66,000 was raised. If this doesn’t show you how deep the love and respect for Scott goes, nothing will.

Here’s to Coach Scott Boliver. We all hear about these inspirational people in the news and we get a little cynical about them because we’ve become conditioned to believe no one can ever be that good a person. Scott, however, was the real deal, and the way he lived his life will continue to inspire every single person who ever knew him. No one who worked with him will ever forget the effect he had on their lives. There’s no doubt in my mind everyone loved him.

The Boliver family

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SCOTT BOLIVER MEMORIAL FUND AND TO MAKE A DONATION.

Here’s a couple of articles written about Scott Boliver:

“Goodbye, My Friend” by Michelle Gottlieb

“Just Keep Going” by Shane Texeira

img_20161015_0846163181

Duncan Jones Revisits ‘Moon’ at New Beverly Cinema

Moon movie poster

Filmmaker Duncan Jones was the guest of honor at New Beverly Cinema on November 19, 2011 where his first two movies “Moon” and “Source Code” were being shown. Right after “Moon” finished, he leapt up to the stage like a contestant on “The Price Is Right” for a Q&A alongside his “Moon” producer Stuart Fenegan. Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey were not in attendance, but Jones brought along Rockwell’s spacesuit and a balloon of Gerty’s face as their stand ins.

Jones explained how he had worked in the advertising industry for years with the goal of eventually working in movies. He originally wanted his first film to be “Mute” which takes place in a futuristic Berlin, but he and Fenegan came to the conclusion it was too big for them to make into a movie at that point. It’s amazing to learn “Moon” only cost $5 million to make, and Jones said he was determined to squeeze as much out of that amount as possible. Fenegan was quick to point out what was at stake and said, “With the first movie, commercial success is far more important than critical success as it determines whether you’ll make another.”

There were two distinctive sets Jones had to work with on “Moon;” a 360-degree space station set which everyone got stuck in for the day once it was sealed, and another for the lunar module which Rockwell’s character uses to travel outside. As for Gerty, the “2001” Hal-like character voiced by Spacey, Jones described it as a beautiful model which could be moved around the set, but that it was a CGI effect in the wide shots. The special effects ended up getting a polish from Cinesite, a digital visual effects and post-production facility in London.

One audience member asked if Rockwell’s character was named Sam on purpose, to which Jones said yes. “Moon” was made with Rockwell in mind for the lead, and since he plays different clones of the same person, Jones really wanted to mess with his head during the 33-day shoot. This way, Jones said, the actor would be constantly reminded of the movie’s thematic elements. While this made Rockwell uncomfortable at times, Jones described him as a good sport overall.

In terms of influences, Jones said “Moon” was inspired by many science fiction movies he watched in the 60’s and 70’s. Specifically, he cited Bruce Dern in “Silent Running,” Sean Connery in “Outland,” and the first chunk of “Alien” as the biggest influences on the movie’s story. The characters in these films came from a working class or blue collar environment, and the portrayal of it in an outer space setting made everything seem more real and relatable. As for must see movie recommendations, Jones replied “Blade Runner” is the be all and end all of science fiction. You could follow any character in Ridley Scott’s film, he said, and you would still have an amazing movie.

When asked of his future plans, Jones said that he has finished polishing his latest script and will be sending it to the one person he wants to star in it (he wouldn’t say who). It is another science fiction movie, but the director is eager to move beyond this particular genre. With “Moon” now being considered as one of the best science fiction movies of the past few years though, I’m sure his fans will be begging him to revisit the genre more often than not.

Sandy King Carpenter on the Failure of ‘Vampires: Los Muertos’

 

 

Vampires Los Muertos movie poster

While at New Beverly Cinema on November 19, 2011 to talk about her husband John Carpenter’s movie “Vampires,” producer Sandy King also took the time to discuss its sequel “Vampires: Los Muertos.” Not many know about this one, but this is largely because it went straight to video and features none of the cast from the original. King went into detail about its making, and she summed up Screen Gems handling of it by saying, “They fucked it up!”

The original storyline for “Vampires: Los Muertos” had all the original slayers dead which necessitated that a new team be put together. Tim Guinee was set to return as Father Adam as his character was intended to be the through line for both films. Sheryl Lee was also expected to return as Katrina who had since become queen of the vampires. King never mentioned if Daniel Baldwin would be back, but I’m assuming this was not a real possibility.

The problem with this sequel, King said, was the studio thought they got the movie, but really did not. This was quickly proved when they introduced some changes during the film’s production. Guinee ended up not being brought back, and we see Father Adam’s grave at the movie’s start. Instead, they ended up casting a Mexican soap opera star named Cristián de la Fuente as a completely different character named Father Rodrigo. King was also perplexed as to why they cast rocker Jon Bon Jovi as the lead vampire hunter, Derek Bliss. Granted, Jovi is not a bad actor, but King best described him as looking like a “New Jersey surfer.”

At one point, the studio called both King and Carpenter and asked them, “Can you tell us how to fix this?” To this, King replied quite bluntly, “No.”

In the end, King made clear how the studio’s interference is what messed everything up. She said if you don’t understand the myths and legends involved in the original “Vampires” movie, then “you’re going to fuck it up.” Also, if your main villain of a female vampire is not the hottest lady, then the story won’t make a lick of sense. All of this, in her opinion, showed a lack of respect not just for the audience, but also for the genre as well.

In all fairness, “Vampires: Los Muertos” is an okay movie if you expect nothing more than a decently entertaining B-movie. Even King said director Tommy Lee Wallace, who had directed another sequel to a John Carpenter movie with “Halloween III: Season of The Witch,” did a lot of neat things which were fun to watch. I myself loved the kick ass rock and roll score by Brian Tyler who has since gone on to compose the music for “Rambo” and several of the “Fast & Furious” movies. But when all is said and done, this sequel was a missed opportunity, and it serves as yet another example of why studio executives would do best not to interfere too much, if at all, in the moviemaking process.