Saturday, October 31, 2015

Horror Movie Scary Stories or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Steven Spielberg

I wrote a little piece for about my experience watching scary movies as I was growing up. When I was thinking about some of the films that scared me the most there was one name that kept coming up; Steven Spielberg. Films he has directed and produced, ranging from Jaws and E.T. to The Land Before Time and Jurassic Park, all contained moments that freaked the living daylights out of me.

Click the link below to check it out:


What was the first time you were truly frightened by a film?

That is a question I posed to blog readers and followers on Twitter. All October long as part of the "five star frights" series of posts I'll be sharing some guest writers "first frights", their first memories of getting scared by a movie. Today Steven Cash (Twitter: @officialCelebV) shares his experience of watching Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and the 2012 horror flick Sinister.

Steven Cash:

I've been in love with films since I was young, especially the classics. From an early age, films like The Thin Man were among my favorites. But an untapped genre for me was horror. Partly because of my religious upbringing and parents that regarded ghosts, demons and such as cinematic material to avoid, there are certain films I haven't seen until recently. Two of them I consider, even with my limited experience, to be the scariest I've ever seen.

The first would be Hitchcock's classic The Birds. That film is one that causes me, to this day, to give the side eye to any flock of birds. The most terrifying part was that I'm an animal lover, so seeing these precious creatures becoming terrorizing monsters... Well that was the stuff of nightmares.

The second film would be Sinister. I only watched it because of a YouTube video I was creating. I ended up, against my better judgement, watching the film in my room in the dark with earbuds in. Even though I'd seen a film review of it, I was terrified with just about every jump scare-- especially the attic scene.


You can check out Steven's YouTube channel "CelebrityVersus" HERE.


I'm still accepting submissions if you'd like to share your own "first frights". Let me know in the comments below, or contact me on Twitter (@FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks) using the hashtags #FiveStarFrights and #FirstFrights


What was the first time you were truly frightened by a film?

That is a question I posed to blog readers and followers on Twitter. All October long as part of the "five star frights" series of posts I'll be sharing some guest writers "first frights", their first memories of getting scared by a movie. Today Al Robinson (Twitter: @Al_Rob_1982) shares his experience of watching Army of Darkness, Independence Day and Marilyn Manson's music video "The Beautiful People".

Al Robinson:

I am an only child, so growing up, I never had an older brother or sister to show me scary movies.  That, and my parents were kind of square.  My mom’s never really been into movies all that much except for a few ones like Caddyshack, Jaws, and the James Bond films.  As for my friends, they never watched scary movies either, except for one memory I had of being at my friend Jack’s house one Friday night and they put Army of Darkness on.  I don’t remember much though since I was only around 11 years old.  So for me, the first film I remember that really haunted me was, believe it or not, Independence Day in 1996.  By then I was 14 and much more into teenage to adult rated films.  The reason why Independence Day stuck with me so much is not because I was scared watching it, but after the film was over I couldn’t get an image out of my mind.  It was the image of New York and Los Angeles destroyed after the alien spaceships blew up the cities.  That was a scary thought because at that age I was first realizing that we as people are vulnerable to catastrophes and forces beyond our control.  It was much more of a physiological scare than an “ahh!” kind.


That same year I saw another video that scared me, and that was a music video from Marilyn Manson.  The song was “The Beautiful People”, and it was full of satanic imagery that to this day I can still see in my mind.  At the time Marilyn Manson was a mysterious singer who had all kinds of rumors being spread, and one of the most famous was that he was a Satanist who was trying to spread the word of the devil.

Those are my first real scares. To this day I still enjoy watching and experiencing them, even if they don’t scare me anymore. 

I'm still accepting submissions if you'd like to share your own "first frights". Let me know in the comments below, or contact me on Twitter (@FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks) using the hashtags #FiveStarFrights and #FirstFrights

Thursday, October 29, 2015


What was the first time you were truly frightened by a film?

That is a question I posed to blog readers and followers on Twitter. All October long as part of the "five star frights" series of posts I'll be sharing some guest writers "first frights", their first memories of getting scared by a movie. Today Will Mavity (Twitter: @mavericksmovies) shares his experience of watching Frank Marshall's Arachnophobia.

Will Mavity:

The first horror film I remember seeing was Arachnophobia when I was in first grade. It should be stated beforehand that I suffer from a crippling fear of spiders nowadays. When I see them, I freeze up and have trouble speaking. I did not have such a fear before I saw Arachnophobia. In fact, I was fascinated by spiders at the time. My dad thought it would be absolutely hilarious to show me the film Arachnophobia. So we sit down to watch it (this was back in the day of VHS tapes), and discover the tape has not been rewound. Instead, the film starts at the moment when a deadly spider crawls out from within someone's sinus cavity. To a kid who has thus far been watching nothing but Scooby Doo, this was...startling. I figure, eh, it can't all be that bad. So I settle in, just a little bit more aware of the bare feet dangling beneath me into spider territory on the floor. 

After the film finishes, I don't really say much. The effect hasn't entirely settled into my consciousness. After all, my dad is with me. What could happen? And then I go to use the bathroom, and sit down on the toilet and remember that shot of a deadly spider hiding within the toilet bowl. Then I ponder the fact that one could be hiding in the shower beside me ready to strike. I peer up to make sure one wasn't slowly descending on a web from that air vent above me to kill me.  Suddenly the bathroom doesn't seem like the place to be. I make my way to bed, and then realize: the spider was hiding in that explorer's sheets at the beginning. I can sleep on top of them so a spider can't sneak up on me. Of course then I realize: but one could be in my pillow. Or dangle down from the upper bunk onto me. 

Suffice it to say, I didn't sleep that night. 

I did not sleep under the sheets for three months following that film. I knew that the spider in that film didn't exist. My dad told me we only brown recluses and black widows to worry about in the US. I didn't care. There could be a NEW spider, I figured. I stopped eating popcorn (from that scene), always checked my shoes, my baseball helmet, everything. A year's worth of behaviors were influenced by that film. To this day, I cannot handle spiders, and it is all due to that film.

I'm still accepting submissions if you'd like to share your own "first frights". Let me know in the comments below, or contact me on Twitter (@FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks) using the hashtags #FiveStarFrights and #FirstFrights

Enter Studio 360 and Jenny Slate's "It’s a Wonderful Short" Contest

Do you have an idea for a really, really, REALLY short Holiday film? Enter Studio 360's "It's a Wonderful Short" contest, judged by the hilarious Jenny Slate (Obvious Child).

Here are the details:

"Studio 360 wants you to make your own super short holiday movie. It can celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah — even Festivus. Actor and comedian Jenny Slate will pick a winner. Your entry must be 30 seconds or less."

The deadline to be considered for the challenge is 11:59pm ET December 7th. Click on the link below to enter:



So I said "What about Breakfast at Tiffany's?"

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


The AFI Fest will run from November 5th-12th in Los Angeles, and feature the world premiere of several prominent films including Adam McKay's The Big Short, Angelina Jolie's By The Sea, and the Will Smith football film Concussion. Other big festival screenings include Patricia Riggen's The 33, about the Chilean miners who were trapped back in 2010, Michael Moore's latest doc Where To Invade Next, and Todd Haynes already Oscar-hyped Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

Packages and passes range from $375 to $5,000, but many screenings are actually free to attend and still have tickets available, including Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa, Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cottiard, and Paulo Sorrentino's Youth, starring Michael Caine. They are also showing the Harold Lloyd silent film Safety Last! and the new documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut on the famous pairs weeklong conversation that became the bestselling book of the same name as part of their "Cinema's Legacy" series.

For more information and to purchase tickets (including FREE screenings), click HERE.


What was the first time you were truly frightened by a film?

That is a question I posed to blog readers and followers on Twitter. All October long as part of the "five star frights" series of posts I'll be sharing some guest writers "first frights", their first memories of getting scared by a movie. Today Kip Mooney (Twitter: @kipjmooney) shares his experience of watching Dario Argento's Suspiria.

Kip Mooney:

The first time I saw Suspiria, I was far too young. Old enough to be scared, sure. But I was not prepared for Dario Argento’s gorefest. It was in the summer. My sister and I were giving my parents a break by staying with our grandparents for a couple weeks. We had taken a detour to Austin to see the Capitol and visit our beloved uncle Mitch. After dinner, we all hung out at his apartment, chatting until the wee hours of the morning like we always did. While flipping channels, Mitch stopped on Suspiria, playing on some distant cable channel that probably doesn’t even exist anymore. It was already halfway through, and it was late, but he insisted we stay.

I distinctly remember his chuckle as Suzy (Jessica Harper) throws out the food she’s been given, thinking it’s been poisoned. It hits the water in the toilet with a sploosh. There’s a lot of dark humor for a movie in which women are hanged, stabbed and stuck in a pile of razor wire. The first time I jumped was when Daniel’s (Flavio Bucci) seeing-eye dog attacks him in the plaza. It was a masterful bit of misdirection from Argento. For the longest time, I remained convinced there was a figure on top of the roof in that scene. It certainly wouldn’t be the last time I was fooled by Argento or scared out of my wits.

What really stuck with me was the haunting score by the Italian rock band Goblin. I remember heading back to the car, feeling a summer breeze and having the theme replay in my head. But while I was somewhat terrified, there was a new twist to the feeling: I liked being scared. It would still be many more years before I discovered horror classics like The Silence of the Lambs, The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby. But Suspiria, with its black humor, colorful palette and bone-chilling scares, got me hooked.

For years now, re-watching Suspiria has been a Halloween tradition. Yes, I know all the story beats: the blood-soaked opening, the terrifying chase through the academy in the middle section, and the confrontation at the climax, which never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. But seeing it for the first time all those years ago helped me conquer and own my fears. Horror movies still unsettle and stick with me, of course. But Suspiria helped me keep what I saw on screen in the fantasy realm where it belonged.

Here's Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) talking about the Suspiria trailer on Trailers From Hell.

I'm still accepting submissions if you'd like to share your own "first frights". Let me know in the comments below, or contact me on Twitter (@FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks) using the hashtags #FiveStarFrights and #FirstFrights

BEST OF THE WEB: CineFix's Top 10 Movie Monsters of All Time #FiveStarFrights

Found on the CINEFIX YouTube channel

Sunday, October 25, 2015


“I'm just a soul whose intentions are good,
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.”

The lyrics to this song, one that has been recorded by Nina Simone and The Animals among others, couldn't ring more true for me today. I wrote a blog post discussing the fact that Mattel introduced a Film Director Barbie doll and that I thought as a film-loving uncle this was a positive albeit small step in the right direction regarding positive role models for young girls, including my nieces. I also talked about the fact that I was frustrated by the way certain people, including the director Lexi Alexander, try to separate the feminist movement into factions, specifically using the term "White Feminism".

A spirited conversation was had on Twitter with many people voicing a concern over the fact that I was a white male trying to give opinions on issues that supposedly did not affect me. There were many great points raised, and I agreed with much of what people wrote. I am very open to constructive criticism, and I welcome the feedback. Most of the replies were well thought out, valid, and many were eye-opening.

When people discuss issues regarding discrimination based on race, I am under the assumption we are talking about racism. When people discuss issues regarding discrimination based on a woman's gender, I am under the assumption we are talking about issues related to feminism. You know what they say when you assume something, don't you? It makes an ass out of you and me. Well many people thought I was an ass today. I expressed an opinion as an empathetic outsider making a critique on a flaw I perceived in the strategy being used by certain people in the woman's rights movement, and some people did not appreciate that.

When I say I believe in equal rights for woman, I am talking about ALL women. As it was expressed today, many women of color look at feminism in a whole different light, as they are forced to deal with both sexism and racism simultaneously. As a white male, I have never had to deal with those horrible issues. I think a change needs to be made, and I want to be on the side that helps make that change a reality. That was my intention, and I sincerely appreciate all of the feedback today and look forward to more of these conversations in the future.

Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks

Saturday, October 24, 2015


The internet, a world wide web of information, ideas, stories, and often times, outrage. Twitter, with its 140 character limit, is a great place to share a fleeting thought, tell a quick joke, or make a witty remark. The character limit helps prevent people from rambling on, but it also tends to lead to a lot of misunderstandings, because key information is sometimes left out.

"Are they being sarcastic?"
"Are they serious?"
"Are they making a joke?"

 One person can read your tweet and totally get your intention, while someone else can read that same tweet and take it totally the wrong way. Today I got a small taste of the best of what social media can do, and also experienced some of the unfortunate negativity that runs rampant across the weird wide web. I sent out what was intended to be a 100% positive tweet about the fact that Mattel had a "Film Director" Barbie doll in stores, and that they named it the "career of the year" for Barbie. I tagged a few people on the tweet who I thought might be interested in this, including actress Jessica Chastain, an outspoken champion for women's rights in Hollywood. She retweeted it to her 144,000+ followers, and my phone's notifications immediately began to blow up.

Now it may seem a little odd for a grown man with no children of his own to be wandering down the Barbie aisle in the first place, but I have two young nieces who live 2,000 miles away, so my wife and I often send care packages in order to stay in contact. I am a huge movie buff, plus a card carrying feminist (just kidding, we don't really have cards), so I got excited when I saw the most famous doll in history teaching young girls about film directing, and encouraging them to become directors themselves. What a perfect gift!

Here are the full pictures from the tweet:

Overall, most people seemed to get my intention, and they in turn shared the tweet with their followers. As I write this, the tweet has been viewed close to 100,000 times, with several thousand engagements and a few hundred retweets and favorites. I certainly didn't break the internet or anything, like a Kardashian or Justin Bieber might, but the message traveled a good distance to say the least.

I followed up the initial tweet almost immediately, implying that the Hollywood establishment should follow Mattel's lead and do more to promote filmmaking as a career option for girls and women.

I also added that I was planning on buying the doll for my nieces for Christmas, both the original doll in the picture, plus the African-American Film Director doll.

A strong advocate for women's rights in the entertainment industry, Sasha Stone (founder and editor of added "Probably the only way a woman COULD get to direct in Hollywood".

I then tweeted about one of my biggest frustrations when it comes to the lack of female directors in Hollywood, the stereotype that women only direct, or only SHOULD direct, Romantic comedies. I pointed out that Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling), Wayne's World (Penelope Spheeris), American Psycho (Mary Harron), and the Best Picture Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow) were all directed by women, and none of them can remotely be considered a sweet, gentile Rom-Com.

Almost immediately after Jessica Chastain's retweet the replies started pouring in, some of which I'll share here. Most of them were incredibly positive and encouraging, showing just how many girls and women out there are craving this sort of validation that their dreams of working in the entertainment industry matter. This was my intention, and I am glad that so many people responded positively to this message.

Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect 2) came to many people's mind, as she has recently turned her successful acting career into a blossoming career as a director:

This tweet from Sinead O Hara might be my favorite reply of the whole day, and the one that gives me the most hope for the future:

This one about hover boards made me laugh the most:

Film Independent, the L.A.-based organization that puts on the annual Independent Spirit Awards the day before the Oscars, also replied that they wanted one of the Barbies. Their organization does a great job supporting diversity in filmmaking, including a strong emphasis on supporting female producers, writers, directors and executives in the independent film world. For more information check out

A few hours after the initial tweet went out I thanked Jessica Chastain for her retweet and noted that 10,000 people an hour were viewing the tweet, and that Hollywood execs should take note that this message was connecting with people:

One dad asked if he should buy these Barbies for his daughters. I said yes, or better yet he should buy them a video camera so they could start their way down the path to being a director one day, if age appropriate:

There were a fair share of people who were not entirely convinced that a Film Director Barbie was a good thing, many pointing out that Barbie dolls may lead to negative body images in little girls, which is an entirely valid point:

Some people who only saw the initial tweet also assumed that the doll only came with white skin and blonde hair, which I tried to point out was incorrect:

This is where I start to get kind of annoyed. You can't please everyone all the time, I get that, but I felt the positive meaning behind the tweet was so obvious that it really bummed me out that people have to start nitpicking the message.

Terms like "white feminism" are all the rage right now, where people imply that somehow if a white woman or man speaks out about feminism, they must also have a hidden racist agenda, where women of color are excluded. These are the people who jumped all over Patricia Arquette when she called for equal pay for women during her Oscar speech last year. These are the same people attacking Meryl Streep and the film Suffragette. Patricia Arquette and Meryl Streep are on your side! Don't you get that?! White, Blonde Film Director Barbie is on your side too! It is important that diversity of all kinds is supported, whether it be women's rights, minority rights, gay and transgender rights, whatever, they are all important. But it is not going to happen all at once. Change will come a lot sooner if the people fighting for the same cause stop breaking into factions and stand by each other instead of attacking each other.

Lexi Alexander, director of the films Green Street Hooligans and Punisher: War Zone, was brought up by many people as well, as she is a well known critic of the way Hollywood treats females, specifically women of color. She often makes very valid points, and never holds back her opinion, even when she probably knows it hurts her chances of landing a job. A lot of the time I agree with the points she makes, but it also feels like sometimes she just wants to fight. Often times she acts as if the entire world is out to get her, and a victory is not a victory unless it is a complete victory. There is no bargaining, it is all or nothing. Small victories are not worthy of celebration, and only the complete annihilation of the enemy will suffice.

My opinion of Lexi Alexander is not based on these few replies, which are more snarky than actually rude, but rather the way she acts on Twitter in general. I've never met her in person, nor have I had a face to face conversation with her, so I have no idea what she is like in the real world. Like I said previously, I think she makes a lot of valid points about the sorry state of the female director in Hollywood. She is incredibly brave to put her name on the line in order to attempt to get the needed changes made.  In the end though, I just don't see the point in alienating so many people that are trying to be on her side in the first place.

This is my main complaint about "internet outrage" in general. A Barbie doll promoting female directors should be hailed as a good thing, even a great thing, if you believe that we need to have more female voices in the entertainment industry. The people complaining about a white Film Director Barbie, or a skinny Film Director Barbie, or a blonde Film Director Barbie are missing the point: When the most recognizable toy for girls in the world says it is cool to be a film director, that is a message that should be praised.

When McDonald's introduced apple slices to the kids menu as an alternative to french fries, that was a good thing. Should kids be eating at McDonald's? Probably not. If they are going to eat at McDonald's though, shouldn't we be glad they have the option to eat Apples now?

I get it, I'm a white male, so me hollering about women's rights or minority rights comes off as disingenuous to some people. I also grew up as a short, chubby, freckled, redhead, so I know what it is like to be ridiculed and prejudiced against based on attributes that don't define who I am as a person. The teasing I faced as a child gave me a strong desire to work for social justice and provided me with a wellspring of empathy for those who are discriminated against.

As a loving uncle to two beautiful young girls, I can't wait to give them a Barbie doll that says look, YOU TOO CAN MAKE MOVIES! I will not apologize for that, because I know their mother, my sister, will have the appropriate talk with them about body image, which I will reiterate. I will also keep fighting the good fight not with, but rather alongside Jessica Chastain, Sasha Stone, Elizabeth Banks, Lexi Alexander, Patricia Arquette and Meryl Streep, so in the future my nieces will have a chance to make movies if they so choose.

So that is my two cents on that. Overall, I'm just glad most people were as excited as I was that young girls now have a chance to play with Film Director Barbie. If you want to get one for yourself, here are links to Mattel's website:


Let me know what ypou think in the comments below, or contact me on Twitter @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks