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Retro Review: The Phantom Carriage



The holidays are almost over and the new year is slowly approaching. This year has been tough politically and socially with all the weird and crazy happening in the news. This has been a year for reflection and hoping that, maybe next year, things can turn around and people can start believing again in the human spirit.

The human spirit is a tricky thing to discuss. Are we inherently born flawed or is it something that is exposed to us as we grow older whether we want to accept it or not? What causes people to shift their personalities and change their belief structure when the past they were never like that? Psychological studies can offer more in-depth details but this is the subject for the movie that I have viewed that shows us how the human spirit can change and whether redemption is justified or a hopeless attempt. The Phantom Carriage is a silent Swedish film made in 1921 that, as a modern viewer of cinema, has some future influences with It’s a Wonderful Life and The Shining. Those kind of movie titles can be appealing, so, we’re going to discuss the plot (spoiler free), the acting, and the overall message that the film is expressing. Let’s keep warm and cover our mouths as we discuss The Phantom Carriage.

In the slums of a city in Sweden (or it can be any town in the world), we have a dying sister from the salvation army requesting a man to come visit her. The man is David Holm, the local drunk and downright horrible human being. At the request of the sister, people start looking for David and they find him drinking in the graveyard with some friends before midnight. David tells the story his friend Georges told him a year earlier in which the last person to die before midnight will become the new death for the year and will ride the phantom carriage as the representative and collect peoples souls and send them to their afterlife. After the story, when he denies seeing Sister Edit, the drinking buds start fighting with David.

They clock him on the head with a bottle and David is unresponsive. They flee and the phantom carriage and death arrive and find David. The rest of the plot delves into why David is such a horrible human being and that alcohol basically killed his relationship with family, friends, jobs and life as he also suffers from the consumption. Over the rest of the movie, death sort of represents the ghosts of past, present and future (from A Christmas Carol). The plot is simple but it’s executed in such a way that seems fresh. The main character of David is so heinous that you wonder why so many people want to help him with his problem and yet, he denies everyone because he has such a frozen heart that he doesn’t accept help from anyone, especially women. The whole movie is about redemption and how far a man can fall from grace and yet, with some support from unknown powers and opening your eyes to what could be and what might happen, one can try and find a way to change and seek forgiveness from past transgressions.

The acting is very good for silent movie actors. With no dialogue, and some text frames, you can figure out who each actor is and what they represent. David, is acting very well showing his young naivety, to his angry drunken psychological and physical abuser to all the women that comes across him, including his wife and Sister Edith. He has a nice range of tipsy drunk to sloshed with subtle nuances with how he walks, smiles and looks at people. Each motion he takes has a purpose and it shows as well how much he has had to drink when he took that movement or strike. Sister Edith is naive and acts with a kind heart. She has the look of the innocent angel who wants to change the dregs of society with denying their vices and find G-D and try to be better human beings.

David’s wife, Anna, is a woman scarred by the past of David. She acts with frailty and uneasiness due to his drunken escapades. I think there is some parallel between Anna and Shelly Duvall’s character in The Shining. Anna wants to be free from David and does whatever she can to escape it. She showcases some strength when it comes to her children but throughout the movie, shows its wearing on her and she is just tired and weak and cannot handle David. Her acting shows us what some people go through when they are in a bad state mentally and how it’s not always so easy to escape.

The message of the movie is all about redemption. It shows us that even the most vial and unlikable human being who shows no remorse for his actions and the effects it has on other people, can have his eyes opened when you have a clear head and see what happens when you act like a complete ass to loved ones and friends who want to help. David is one of the most awful human beings, in that, he has no redeeming factors throughout the movie and his main motivation is revenge and anger toward his wife. He would cough on people to give them consumption thinking that he will take some others with him. It’s only when death comes marching at your door that you seek redemption. Which also begs the question will David actually follow through his redemption story or will he relapse. You see, its only when death comes at your door that you ask for forgiveness and seek salvation and peace. However, if given a second chance with life, how long will it take to go backwards and relapse? David is given a second chance with life and he seeks forgiveness from his wife. His wife accepts the forgiveness and the movie ends with them both crying.

The main thing is that David is an addict and it doesn’t seem like the kind of person who will willingly keep trying to better himself since he cannot give up the alcohol. I think, overall, though this movie is about redemption, I think it is also about never taking life or a second chance for granted. The few in life get second chances and you cannot take those as so matter of fact. You have to constantly work and strive to be better in your everyday life. David finds his second chance and, in terms of the movie, I wonder how long until he squanders his opportunity.

This movie is a good and dark movie. I found the movie on YouTube, so, feel free to watch it when you have the time. The New Years theme of new year, new adventure and new outlook is felt throughout the movie and it’s a good message to share with the audience because not every person will be rewarded with a lot but even just given a second chance to be with your family might just be enough for some. I think the theme and the setup of the movie. It uses nice cyan filters and sepia as well to showcase the night time and the inside lighting changes. The acting is very nicely done and it shows how you don’t need strong dialogue to showcase raw emotions and use your facial structure to get across what kind of tone you’re trying to tell the audience. I’d recommend this movie to anyone before or after New Years as it shows a nice message and it can also make you feel grateful for what you have and what you want to strive for.

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Joy Ride Is An Extremely Raunchy And Hilarious Comedy



Joy Ride is an extremely raunchy and hilarious comedy that takes the mantle of ensemble risky
comedies that at times, leave your mouth on the floor. Joy Ride focuses on two best friends
Audrey and Lolo (Ashley Sullivan and Sherry Cola) end up getting roped up into a trip to Asia,
they end up on gals pal cross-continent trek to find Audrey’s long lost birth mother so she
doesn’t lose a huge business deal.

The chemistry in this movie is superb. Every character has their moment to shine and there’s
rarely a scene where you don’t get a belly laugh. I was shocked at how crazy and bold this
movie got, continually pushing the line to get a laugh. The movie does a good job of getting to
the point and getting to the scenes that really make you chuckle. There are some editing choices where the story flies by some stuff, and it feels a little incomplete, but never at the expense of really enjoying being around for the journey.

I thought that this was a sleeper for this year and certainly a movie worth watching with your
friends some weekend. It’s great to throw on if you want a laugh and really just enjoy some
great actors riffing off each other. The focus on culture was a nice touch and really elevated the movie to another level. While I would say if you’re easily offended, this movie is not for you – if you’re looking for a no holds barred comedy, Joy Ride is a trip worth taking.

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Who Doesn’t Want To Wear The Ninja Suit Of Snake-Eyes Or Dress Like The Mandalorian?



Hasbro has had their pulse app out for a while now. It allows for access to items to buy, preorder, and a look into future projects and releases. It also allows for a very cool thing most nerds (a group of which I am a proud card-carrying member) have always wanted, the ability to make yourself into an action figure. I’ve contemplated making one for a time but, I finally got my chance to get my hands on one at Comic-Con this year. Now, of course, I had to wait in line as it was a pretty sought-after item. Who doesn’t want to have themselves wear the ninja suit of Snake-Eyes or dressed like a Mandalorian? I was approached by one of the booth staff as I was showing my nephew all the cool ways we could get him his own MIles Morales action figure with his face (as he’s a massive fan) and invited to take a seat and scan our faces into the Hasbro Pulse app with the help of their awesome team and make this dream a reality. My wife was with us, so of course she got in on the fun too. We scanned our faces in and it was very simple and quick. Then we all selected our figures to add our heads to. We all chose Power Rangers(Me as the Black Ranger, my wife chose the pink ranger and the nephew got the red ranger). Then we were told that we needed to wait about 4-6 weeks and we’d have our custom action figure team in our hands. This was a major part of our Comic-Con adventure and definitely, a memory my wife and nephew won’t forget (as it was both of their first Con ever). Thank you to Hasbro for being so generous(also getting me brownie points that home) and I highly suggest checking out Hasbro Pulse and all the cool stuff it has to offer.

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The Last Voyage of the Demeter: Double-knock on wood!  



Adapted and written largely from the Captain’s Log chapter of Bram Stoker’s magnum opus Dracula, The Last Voyage of the Demeter tells the story of Dracula’s journey by ship from Carpathia to London, and what happened to her crew in the interim.

So here we are in Bulgaria, middle of 1897, and Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham) of the Russian schooner Demeter is here to take on some strange cargo from some unknown client and transport it to Carfax Abbey in London. In need of some extra hands, the Captain sends out his capable Second Wojchek (David Dastmalchian) to scout for some, and initially the roving black doctor and aspiring philosopher Clemens (Corey Hawkins) is passed over in favor of more work-roughened men. The adorable cabin boy of the Demeter, Toby (Woody Norman), narrowly misses being crushed by the mysterious dragon-marked crates being loaded onto the ship, saved by Clemens himself and switched out with the superstitious sailors running from the Demeter like they had been poisoned by the sign of Dracul. And now, armed with some nine or so crewmen, Doc Clemens, and Captain Eliot himself, the twenty-four strange what looks like coffins adorned with dragon signs brought mostly safely aboard, the Demeter can make for open water and the Hell that awaits them there.

The duty of showing Clemens around the ship falls to a cheerful Toby, who proudly shows him the living areas, the Captain’s quarters, the very-large cargo hold, the galley and kitchen where the overly-devout Joseph (Jon Jon Briones) cooks the crews meals, the various above decks, even the sails, and the rigging are all at least touched on, and the livestock pens that Toby himself is in charge of, including the handsome good-boy doggy Huckleberry, or just Huck. We the audience get a very clear feeling of what it’s like to actually be aboard the Demeter, just how large she really is, and what living on a ship for months at sea is really like, the reality and practicality and the dangers of it.

Everyone more or less settles in for a hopefully uneventful voyage, taking mess around the common table and exchanging ideas or aspirations for when they arrive in London early thanks to the fair winds, and receive a handsome bonus for their troubles. But that involves being alive and making it to London to spend said bonus and pay, and the coffin crates spilling dark soil from the motherland and disgorging all sorts of other nasty secrets, have some serious plans to the contrary.

First, it’s the livestock, innocent and shrieking in their locked pens as a monster takes great furious bites out of their necks, and of course, the creature just straight up ruins poor doggy Huck. Then there’s the fully grown girl that gets dislodged from an open coffin-crate, covered in bite scars and as pale as death, she eventually starts interacting and talking after several blood transfusions from Doc Clemens, Toby learns her name is Anna (Aisling Franciosi). And then, as the weather turns foul and the winds begin to be a serious problem, the attacks turn toward the remaining humans onboard the Demeter.

Most people these days are familiar with Dracula, that gorgeous cunning vampire Elder who can supposedly transform into a bat or a wolf, seducing women to voluntarily offer up their veins like an unholy sacrament, a being at once beautiful and powerful, but also horrific and murderous if given half a heartbeat to smell your blood. This is not Dracula.

Instead, the creature that hunts the humans occupying the Demeter is an absolute monster, not a single human feature left to it, barely even recognizable as humanoid-shaped, instead boasting not just full-length bat wings but an entire exo-skin of bat membranes that can be used for feeding, a mouth full of needle-like teeth akin to a predator of the deepest darkest parts of the ocean, those yellowed Nosferatu eyes that will not tolerate light in any way, and of course giant pointy bat-ears. This is a thing, a grotesque straight from the depths of Hell, and no amount of glamor magic can make this Dracula (Javier Botet) seem like anything other than what he, is – a parasitic demon who only wants your blood. There is no reasoning with it, no trapping it, not even really any talking to it (kinda hard to talk when your throat has been ripped out), and, like the much more frightening Dracula stories of old, no amount of pure faith behind a symbol does anything other than give false hope.

Coming face to face with an actual abomination does different things to different people. The formerly delightfully foul-mouthed Abrams (Chris Walley) dissolves into a blubbering mess; poor Larsen (Martin Furulund) didn’t even get to see his own death coming; and it turns out Olgaren (Stefan Kapicic) wants to live so badly, he’ll suffer becoming a blank-eyed Renfield if that’s what it takes. All of Cook Joseph’s purported pure faith didn’t stop him from trying to take the coward’s way out and didn’t save him anyway when the sound of unnatural bat wings descended on him. I find that kind of irony delicious. Dear Anna, resigned to her fate to be eternal food for the horror that terrorized her village, nevertheless wants to try and save whoever is left of the Demeter with her own sacrifice, and there aren’t many. Wojchek of course wants to kill Dracula, but for all his logic and solid practical nature, has no experience whatsoever with this sort of thing, and sure doesn’t want to sacrifice the Demeter, the beloved ship he called home that was promised to him by Captain Eliot himself, in order to destroy that demon. Even poor sweet Toby isn’t safe from the creature’s clutches, and what happens to the cabin boy of the Demeter is what finally sends Captain Eliot over the blooming edge. And who could blame him? For this sort of thing to happen during the last voyage of such a proud, solid ship as the Demeter, is some serious bullsh*t.

To leave such a film open for a potential sequel, especially when called the last voyage of something, was a pretty hefty ask, and somehow the filmmakers managed it. I personally think a different version of Van Helsing, the infamous vampire hunter, teaming up with a certain black doctor who nurses a serious grudge against Dracula, could be a kickass sequel. Until then, experience the doomed final journey of the Demeter and her poor crew in all it’s bloodstained glory, in theaters now!

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