23 Minutes to Sunrise (2012): A Old Fashioned Sort of Film

Eric Roberts as Daniel in 23 Minutes to Sunrise This small budget feature uses a lot of local talent to tell its tale, except for the presence of Eric Roberts who plays a sinister, or at least rather nasty, character who shows up at a diner 23 minutes to sunrise. Roberts’ does nothing outside of his normal range, but damn it, what he does is good regardless of how big his role, or just what it entails. Julia Roberts’ sibling is infinitely watchable regardless of what his part is.

In this low/no budget feature film, Roberts’ mysterious man, whom I at first thought was Death, but who turns out to be much more, enters the graveyard shift of an all night diner. The establishment feels like a throwback to those eateries of the 1950s. Like the one featured in the film Diner and the waitress actually pours every customer a cup of coffee, whether they ask for one or not.

Roberts, who plays Daniel, points this out when she fills his empty cup while the waitress explains to his young lady friend that it is the late night menu, so only what is on the back of the list can be ordered.

This is a small ensemble piece that features a middle-aged couple (Bob Zany and Nia Peeples), a young couple (Tom Sandoval and Kristen Doute), Daniel and his lady friend, Hannah (played by Haley Busch) the cook (a vet who has issues), played by Dingani Beza, and a waitress (Jilanne Klaus). There are other characters who appear fleetingly, the waitress’s drunken bully of a husband, a simple minded man who dresses as a superhero and a couple of cops. Each of these other cast members appears, some like the wastrel husband, two or three times, and their presence helps to round out the film.

23 Minutes to Sunrise is about immortality, whether it is a gift or a curse, and how someone would react if offered this chance to “live forever.” In Eddie’s case, the Gulf War veteran turned cook initially refuses point blank, despite being shown that the young lady is not delusional.

The film has an old fashioned feel to it. Almost like a film version of the play about three friends who discover the fountain of youth. A sort of morality tale with a confusing end and yet, it is oddly watchable. The dialogue often misleads the viewer just enough to keep things interesting.

When Daniel comes in with his teenage friend, the two speak in such a way that it seems that the older man has groomed the young lady. The dialogue screams pedophile and victim. However, after listening to the couple for a bit longer, it turns out that she took him up on the offer of immortality, not underage sex.

She has the last 23 minutes of the night, before the sun rises, to convince someone in the room to take over the “gift” of living forever. The eternal 17 year old wants out, as she says earlier, she has no family, friends and no life. The character also has not learned a lot during her 250 years of being a teenager as she cannot convince any of the diner’s customers or staff to take the gift at first.

There are things in the movie that annoy. Apparently the budget was so small on the film that blanks and a working pistol could not be provided. The use of sound, light, and the actor jerking his hand while pulling the trigger did nothing to convince me that he had shot off the weapon.

This one “cheat” did not spoil the film but did let it down considerably. The overall rating of 23 Minutes to Sunrise on IMDb is pretty low with a figure of 4. The one review by a customer is scathing and insulting. The film is interesting and definitely does not deserve the severe pasting received. Perhaps not worth the $3.99 paid at the truck stop, but worth watching if it turns up on Netflix or YouTube.

Considering that 23 Minutes to Sunrise  was made with local actors, with the exception of Roberts and Nia Peeples, the overall feature is pretty impressive. Certainly interesting enough and no worse than many other low/no budget films on offer. Worthy of a look as the film does make the viewer think.

Miley Cyrus Beaten by Taylor Swift

Miley Cyrus Beaten by Taylor Swift

While Miley Cyrus is making headlines and waves for her controversial actions, there is a side to the former Hannah Montana that not many know about. Last year Miley was named one of the top five young charitable celebrities who take the time and make the effort to help those less fortunate. Though Miley is generous, she has been beaten by Taylor Swift, who was named the number one most charitable young star of 2012.

Soldiers of Fortune (2012): A Video Game Film

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I like Christian Slater. I first saw him in the cult classic 1988 film Heathers where he played teenage burnout and cool-guy flake J.D. and he knocked his performance out of the park.

He’s a more than capable actor who has a voice I’d kill for, yet, his role choices have not always been the best. He was, perhaps, the only good thing about Alone in the Dark (2005) and his very short-lived television series – My Own Worst Enemy – died a quick death.

But since I am a fan, when I saw Soldiers of Fortune on Netflix, I had to watch it.

Directed by Maxim Korostyshevsky (his first film) and filmed in the Ukraine for a budget of an estimated eight million dollars and a fairly impressive cast, Soldiers of Fortune looks like a video game war film.

The cast, as I’ve just mentioned, is pretty impressive, Sean Bean, Ving Rhames, Colm Meaney, James Cromwell, and Dominic Monaghan all do a good job despite the two-dimensional characters they play. Again, as I like all the actors that appear in the film, I find it hard to diss them or their performances; given that their roles weren’t that deep to start with.

The film opens using CoD type graphics with a voice over to describe the events. In a scene straight from a video game’s version of war, a two-man team are infiltrating a suspected Taliban stronghold. While Slater’s character, Captain McCenzie, observes, Captain Reed (Freddy Rodriguez) walks into the camp disguised as a woman.

He gets quickly spotted and taken prisoner. McCenzie decides to get him out, but before he can act a jeep pulls up with CIA man Carter Mason (Meaney) and the whole operation is called off by the “higher-ups.” McCenzie ignores the order and goes in to get his man out.

Walking into the village, he dispatches a slew of bad guys, finds where his guy is being held hostage and after shooting Mason, collects Captain Reed. The next time we see both men, they are civilians and have been dishonorably discharged from the military.

Christian Slater as McCenzie a one man calvary to the rescue.
Christian Slater as McCenzie a one man calvary to the rescue.

After this opening scene, we know where this movie is headed. It is not to be taken seriously (at least I hope  that was the film makers intention) and if you view it as a bit of very unrealistic fun, you’ll enjoy the film.

You could be forgiven for feeling like the film is a “made-for-television” movie of the week. The stunts aren’t too spectacular, the action not too violent or gory and the props; looked like props. I lost count of the amount of times that the guns being bandied about had plugs in the barrels and were obviously “movie” guns aka replicas.

Playing out like a film version of (fill in game title here) the film almost feels like a third person shooter war game that has opted to lose the players input and just be a video game cut scene, albeit a long cut scene.

Still the action moves quickly and fairly painlessly. It was a fun film to watch and besides the video game aspect, it felt a little like the redheaded stepchild of The Expendables. *And before you start screaming, I mean absolutely no disrespect towards redheaded stepchildren. It’s just an old saying. Okay?)

I’d give the film a 3.5 stars out of 5 only because of the great cast list and, props aside, the film looked stunning with brilliant locations and a cinematography that showed where a lot of the 8 mil went.

FUNFACT: (courtesy of Wikipedia) – When the film was finished it only premiered on 50 screens in the US. Understandably, it did not pull un too much in the area of Box Office returns. In Russia it opened on 500 screens and did a bit better but its overall profit is still under 2 million dollars. It appears to have been fairly popular in the United Arab Emirates as well.

An "action" shot.
An “action” shot.

House at the End of the Street (2012): Naughty Neighbours

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Looking this up on IMDb after I’d watched it, I was amazed to see quite a few folks just flat-out did not like this film. Apparently they were expecting some type of horror slasher flick and not what they got which was a physiological thriller.

I’ll admit that as a “horror” film, this falls flat. As a thriller though, it hits all the right marks and had me on the edge of my seat through at least half of the film. Hats off to the director Mark Tonderai for coming up with an effort that kept the suspense tight and the mayhem to a minimum.

The Plot:

At the film’s start a daughter kills her mother and father with a hammer and then runs off into the surrounding woods. Years later a divorced mother and her daughter move into the house next door. After being told that the house is empty after the tragedy the new neighbours find out that the couple had a son who survived the young girls murderous onslaught and he now lives in the house.

The Device:

You have to look very closely to see what is right in front of you and you can’t choose your neighbours.

The Cast: 

Jennifer Lawrence
Max Thieriot
Elisabeth Shue
Sarah
Gil Bellows
Weaver
Eva Link

*Cast courtesy of IMDb.*

Elissa and Ryan in a bonding moment.
Elissa and Ryan in a bonding moment.

The Story:

Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) moves into a lovely house in a rural setting that is to die for with her daughter Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence). Sarah explains to Elissa that the only reason that they can afford to rent this house is because of the brutal double murder that occurred in the house directly behind them. This event has driven the property prices down and therefore the rent price as well.

Soon after moving in, the two women find out that Ryan (Max Thieriot) lives in the house where his sister murdered their parents. Slightly spooked, Sarah becomes a bit too over protective of Elissa who has bonded with the strange young man.  While our sympathy lies with Ryan, it soon turns out that there is more going on here than meets the eye.

The Twist:

You can’t always choose your family members either.

The Verdict:

This film received a lot of bad reviews from some folks because they misunderstood the genre of the film. That is probably down to the marketing of the film more than an actual poor performances from the film’s main cast. If you watch the “official” trailer it promises a more roller coaster ride of a film, where as in actual fact the film builds at a steady pace versus a breakneck one.

I found it to be a taut suspenseful build up of tension. The main characters, Lawrence and Shue especially interacted well as the two victims of a marriage gone bad and their awkward attempts at bonding in their “new life.” Thieriot made me think of a young Casey Affleck gone bad. He exuded an air of wounded vulnerability that bordered on the dangerous. Unfortunately the “secondary” members of the cast could have been replaced easily. (With the exception of the local cop Weaver (Gil Bellows) who felt like every conscientious small town cop who likes the new pretty woman in town.

All in all, I’d give this film a 4 out of 5 stars because it was a superb thriller and not a horror film. It loses a star because of the wooden and one-dimensional secondary characters.

Neat Fact:

This is at least the second time that the lovely Elisabeth Shue has been threatened by a scary youngster, the first being her deadly encounter with a young Dakota Fanning in Hide and Seek.

The ever lovely Elisabeth Shue.
The ever lovely Elisabeth Shue.

My Life in 2012: Rock on 2013…

I sit here with the silence of the house ticking like a murmuring death watch beetle and I rack my brain on what to blog about today. I’ve already cheated a bit by just posting my 2012 statistics up that WordPress so helpfully provided me with this morning and not wanting to be too lazy, I’ve decided that I need to do a “proper” post.

As usual, I do have a blog-post that I should do, that lovely chap Rich over at Sunday Night Blog has nominated me for the Super Sweet Blogging Award. I will do a proper thank you to Rich, but I wanted to do a link to his site just to show that I had noticed and do appreciate his thoughtful kindness.

But the silence surrounding me is a little un-nerving. Usually if I am alone in the house, I have the next door neighbour’s kid running up and down the stairs and across the first floor (that’s second floor to you relatives of Uncle Sam) in his concrete over-boots. His shoes must be made of concrete because he is a little teeny chap who cannot weigh more than a couple of stone (if that).

*a stone, by the way, equals 14 pounds*

And yet this one little chap sounds like a herd of elephants thundering in stampede across the floors and up and down the stairs whenever he is at home with Mum or Dad. The fact that the house next door is empty is a blessing, just one that I’ve only had the pleasure of when Meg and I first moved in here. And before you ask, yes we were here before the heavy footed neighbours.

Meg has gone off somewhere to celebrate the New Year with friends and I am left to my own devices. Re-reading this last bit makes me feel like I should be fiendishly rubbing my hands together whilst hatching some world dominating plot. But, no; this is me I’m talking about here. I have no immediate or long-term plans to take over the world. I have no wish to do so and, more importantly, do not have the capability to.

So I have reverted back to staring silently (there is that wonderful word again) around the living room and wondering if I really should think about taking down and packing up the Christmas decorations that were only put up on the 23rd of December or if I should get the Hoover out.

*again for those relatives of Uncle Sam, Hoover equals vacuum cleaner (which I’ve only now just discovered that I have been misspelling for a lot of years)*

I can never manage to look this happy when I Hoover…


Since cleaning up or pulling down decorations both require something resembling physical effort, I have decided that I will do neither. I will instead finish up this blog post, edit it and publish it. That is about as taxing as I want to be taxed. This being the last day of 2012, I don’t want to ruin it by being too over industrious. So instead, I’m going to reflect, only in the most broad terms possible, over my year.

My 2012.

The year  has been a very strange one.

It has been a year of injury, pain, surgery (times two) and rehabilitation; along with discovery and shocking revelations. It has also been a year where I have worked hardly at all. There are those I work with who would claim that I don’t work when I do show up, but that is another story. Counting the time before my work injury and the time I spent “returning to work” I have only been “at work” for just under two months this year.

But 2012 has also been a year of meeting new folks and making new friends, Marilyn, Gary and Tyson just to name a few. There are loads more friends that I’ve met via the auspices of WordPress and their wonderful blogging community. I have been blessed with support and well wishes from lots of you and that has helped me to get through the more “agonising” and maddening aspects of my year.

2012 is also the year that I finally realised that my daughter Meg was a grown up. She stepped up smartly to the plate, bat in hand and hit a home run with how she dealt with my near death and all the vagaries that went with it. She has also been there to help me deal with the work side of things and its ensuing trauma.

The most amusing aspect of this entire year (apart from the amount of time it took me to realise that I was having a heart attack while smoking three cigarettes and drinking two cups of coffee) is that I had my heart attack while I was returning to work. A scheme that allows you to increase your work week hours on a steadily increasing rise. Deliciously ironic.

When I was told I was going to receive an ill-health retirement certificate, apart from being shocked (I’d been told you had to be practically dead to get a medical retirement certificate, which is what an ill-health retirement is) I already felt that I’d pretty much already been retired for the whole damn year.

Of course that was on full pay. Now of course, when the dust settles, I’ll be on less money; a  lot less money. I am still reeling over the ill-health retirement deal and scrabbling around to find out what I am entitled to. When I called the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) the earliest they could see me was the 15th of January. Rather than panic, I’ve been doing the, “I’ll just ignore it and it’ll get sorted when it gets sorted,” approach.

I’ve not ignored it completely though. It interrupts my sleep on a regular basis in the form of disturbing dreams. The last of which had to do with living in the world’s largest cardboard box and getting into a tizzy about where all the furniture was going to go.

Photo courtesy of paksil.blogspot.com

It is nice to know that on the last day of 2012, I can take a break from spinning all those damn plates and not care when a few of them come crashing down to the ground. Like Scarlet O’Hara says, “Tomorrow is another day.” But in this instance tomorrow is not just another day, it’s another year. A year where my son is going to be marrying his beloved (lovely girl) and “good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise” Meg and I will both be attending.

It is nice to have at least one thing to look forward to in the New Year.

Until then, or at least for the rest of today, I am going to put off doing anything that could possibly be related to work or industry. I’m going to procrastinate my way right up to the New Year.

I am going to leave you with Happy New Year Wishes just as soon as I’ve finished my cup of coffee.