Friday, October 2, 2015

A "New" Classic

I made a terrifying decision this year.  After much contemplation and soul-searching, I cancelled my cable subscription.  I just couldn't justify paying that bill anymore when I could get almost everything I wanted on demand from Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.  It was a peculiar feeling, to give that up.  Cable is something I have lived with all my life and felt as necessary as electricity or the telephone - not things that we would probably die without, but things we've come to take for granted as regular parts of modern life.  Once I got past the fear and anxiety, I found it remarkably freeing.  No more being tied to my television!  I could watch what I wanted anywhere in my house thanks to my tablet.  And it was wonderful!  But now, as Halloween approaches, I find myself, for the very first time, missing it.  I loved the Halloween rituals of my most-watched television channels.  SyFy's 31 Days of Halloween.  The somewhat disjointed 13 Days of Halloween on ABC Family.  And the granddaddy of them all - AMC's FearFest.  How was I ever going to live without them?

The answer, of course, was to make my own Halloween film celebration, which I am sharing here with you!  Aren't you lucky?  I started yesterday with The Monster Squad because it was fresh in my mind, but today I have a much better offering.

Those of you under a certain age probably don't remember this, but AMC, one of the first cable networks to recognize Halloween for its rich plethora of film offerings, used to be a station for old people.  I know, hard to believe, but true. The current home of The Walking Dead used to play nothing but boring black & white films that most of you never heard of.  And once in a while they'd have a musical marathon that would have my grandmother glued to her chair all day.  This actually made sense if you are aware that AMC stands for American Movie Classics.  But it probably didn't make for the greatest viewership.  So, gradually, AMC started weaving newer movies into their schedule and branding them "The New Classics."  How classic these movies were is really debatable, because they slapped that label on every movie they managed to snag the rights to and some of them were as far from classic as you can get.  But some they got right, like Die Hard, Scrooged, and today's offering, Children of the Corn.
AMC seems to have the rights to a number of Stephen King adaptations, and they play them A LOT.  To the point where you never want to see them again.  So I had avoided this one for some time.  But when I saw it was available on Hulu (through the Showtime upgrade), I decided to give it another chance.

I don't know that I have actually watched this movie all the way through, uncut, since I was a kid.  And back then, it was terrifying.  Growing up in Maine, I didn't encounter all that many corn fields, especially not ones that went on for miles the way the ones in the movie did.  And thanks to Children of the Corn, corn fields have terrified me for most of my life.  Was I way too young the first time I watched this?  Well, maybe.  My mother worked at a video store from 1986 to 1989, and in that time, I was allowed to watch literally hundreds of movies that she brought home.  And for those of you thinking she was a bad parent, you couldn't be more wrong.  I was just a really great liar.  I had my mom convinced that nothing scared me.  So what if I didn't get much sleep as a kid?  I got to watch the same stuff the grownups did, dammit!

The first thing that struck me rewatching this film was that it was nowhere near as gory as I remembered.  Maybe it was my overactive 8 year-old imagination, but I recall that opening scene in the diner as being horrific, with people vomiting bloody foam from the poisoned coffee and the poor diner owner's hand being pureed in some sort of grinder.  Of course, they would never show this on television, so I was stunned to see that none of it was there in the uncut version.  Did I really imagine all that?  Perhaps the images of children gleefully murdering their parents just so offended my young mind that I made the deaths even worse than they were onscreen.  It was still chilling, but not in the way that I remembered.

As the film progressed, I was further surprised by how much better it was than I recalled.  The children are a mixed bag, with some far better actors than others, but it actually works well in setting the tone.  Some of these kids are zealots, believing deeply in He Who Walks Behind the Rows, and others are just little lost children swept up in their town's mass insanity.  Courtney Gains is always given the most credit for his turn as the sadistic and psychotic Malachi, but I actually found him a bit over the top.  When he's parading Linda Hamilton down the street screaming, "Outlander!" it really is hard not to chuckle.  But that's part of what makes this film so creepy - the demented level of conviction these kids have surrounding their beliefs.  Other movies have featured gangs of killer kids - like the deeply disturbing Who Can Kill a Child? from 1976 - but none with such a fucked up motivation.

Let's look at that for a moment, shall we?  We are told that Isaac is the motivator here, that the kids follow him because he was a preacher when he was younger.  And he's either new to town, or he's always been there depending on which story is true.  This confuses the hell out of me.  First off, are child preachers common in the Bible Belt?  And , if so, how old is Isaac now?  In fairness to John Frankln, the actor portraying that little shit preacher, he suffers from Growth Hormone Deficiency and was actually about 25 when the film was made, but to me at least, he looked a hell of a lot older.  And isn't it kind of natural human behavior to single out the weak and different?  Children are especially cruel when it comes to peculiarities amongst their peers.  I have a really hard time understanding how this kid became so influential.

Perhaps it was the power of the demon?  Because, let's face it, that thing behind the corn rows was most definitely not God, in any sense.  The way the kids have desecrated religious images throughout town, and perverted religious rituals and symbols is disturbing on a almost visceral level.  It is abundantly clear to the rational viewer that something satanic is afoot.  Add in the Omen-evoking musical score, and you start to see the devil in the details.  Sadly, in 1984, the producers of this film were a bit more ambitious than technology, and maybe their budget, would allow.  When the Row Walker is finally revealed, it's a bit more cheesy than I'm sure anyone wanted.
I think these filmmakers missed the point.  The terror here is right in the title.  Whatever is behind their actions, the true nightmare here is found in the children.  As adults, we underestimate them.  But trust me, after more than a decade working in a public school system, I've seen the truth in the tale.  Real kids need no crudely animated fire-demon to influence them toward evil.  Fortunately, I don't live in the land of child preachers.  We're safe until they're united - I hope.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sometimes it's Better to Remember Things Fondly...

Happy Halloween!  Shut up.  I know it's only October first, but my local grocery store has had their giant Grim reaper inflatable up since mid-August.  And it's awesome.  As is the huge blow-up cauldron with the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup spider on top.  Love it!  But Halloween is my holiday, so I'm okay with that.  You can rest assured, however, that I will be the first to bitch when, three days before Halloween, that same grocery store starts putting out Christmas decorations.  If that makes me a hypocrite, so be it.  Halloween is FUN.  In spite of the fact that it is merchandised to death in the same way as Christmas, there are just no downsides to it.  It's not a sappy emotional holiday that requires you to socialize with friends and relations.  You can be a hermit in a cave and still enjoy Halloween - provided you have wi-fi.  You don't hear about a drastic increase of suicides around Halloween.  Murders, maybe, but not suicides.  Because Halloween is a good time for everyone - even sociopaths and serial killers!  It's a level playing field kind of holiday.  And that's why it's my favorite.  That and the fact that Halloween provides an excellent excuse to submerge myself in all things horror.  Granted, this is not much different from the rest of the year, but given the season, it feels somehow more special.  So, with that in mind, my goal is to share my seasonal joy and post a new review each day in October - or at least for each day in October (my tech has been having issues, so I am sneaking tech time on the sly whenever I can).

My first post for you this month is currently available on Netflix.  It's an old childhood favorite that I forgot about for a really long time.  I had always wondered why it didn't achieve the same cult status as The Goonies.  In fact, it seemed to disappear off the face of the Earth for a long time.  Then it celebrated an anniversary and was re-released on a special edition DVD, as all movies seem to be lately.  I considered buying it then, but I was really broke at the time and the price of the DVD skyrocketed fast.  I'm kind of glad I didn't waste my money, because this film was definitely better when I was ten.

 This tarnished nugget was given the promising title of The Monster Squad, and it is quite clearly a ripoff of inspired by The Goonies.  You have the fat kid, the older kid that joins because of a girl, and the completely improbable legend that sends the kids on an amazing adventure.  Unfortunately, what you don't have is Steven Spielberg's magic touch.  At least, that would be the kindest explanation, because I'm sure there are many people out there who remember this as I did and still think it's a classic.  The truth is a little harsh, but I've got to give it to you.  There's a reason this movie sank to the bottom of the dust heap.

It sounds like a great premise - a small band of kids obsessed with monsters encounter monsters in real life and  face them in a battle to save the world from eternal darkness.  Awesome, right?  Well, kind of.  This is a movie full of great moments, with some really fantastic monster designs by the legendary Stan Winston - I absolutely love his underutilized swamp creature.  The problem is those moments just never fully gel into a believable whole.  What elevated The Goonies to greatness was, no matter how implausible it actually was, you fully believed in what was happening.  Why couldn't there be a pirate ship full of gold in a hidden cave system, found by a bunch of kids more or less by accident?  That could happen, right?  But Dracula, gathering a band of monsters to find a magic rock and cast the world into darkness?  That requires a bit more suspension of disbelief.  And The Monster Squad just hasn't got the goods to get you there.

The problems?  First off, the script doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.  I know!  It's just a movie, and a movie sort of aimed at kids, no less.  But movies often underestimate the intelligence of children, and even as a kid, I remember thinking the plot here was paper thin at best.  The movie opens with infamous Dracula foil Van Helsing leading a band of soon-to-be-dead-people into Dracula's castle.  There's some nonsense about a stone and a girl reading a book, then vampires start busting through the floor and it's game over.  So, the plot basically hinges on this scene, since we are later told that Van Helsing and company botched up this ritual and it must take place again - correctly this time - one hundred years later, which puts us in present day.  And here is where it all falls apart.  How has this stone come all the way from Transylvania to the US of A?  How the F did Van Helsing's journal wind up in the exact same place - not to mention that the mother of the Monster Squad leader's randomly buys it for her son, even though it's written in freakin' German?!  And furthermore, since we see only vampires in that opening scene, why in the holy hell is Dracula suddenly traveling with Frankenstein?  Did we miss the part where the two became best buds?  Also must have missed the part where they said that magic stone summoned monsters, because the Creature (of Black Lagoon origin, one supposes) appears randomly after Dracula arrives, a mummy wakes up in a museum, and a man turns into a werewolf.  And they all naturally defer to Dracula because...?  Oh, and did I mention how the monsters seem to conveniently randomly pop up in the vicinity of the Monster Squad kids?  The youngest member of the gang - more on that later - has casual run ins with both the Creature, who pops out of the water right outside Monster Squad's clubhouse, and the Mummy, which manages to find its way into this child's closet without ever being detected.  WTF?

I could get past all this.  I really could.  Because the idea of it all is just so damn much fun.  But I can't do it for one simple reason: these kids can't act.  Harsh?  Maybe.  But true.  There is a never ending supply of child actors being churned out of Hollywood like one of those Playdoh Factory noodles.  Most of them are mediocre at best.  But there are some really good ones out there.  Those are the kind of kids that get cast in a Spielberg film.  This bunch would never have made that cut.  To be fair, the lines they're supposed to be delivering aren't the greatest either.  I mean, what child is not going to feel stupid debating whether or not the Wolfman has "nards."  And for those of you that have no idea what nards are, it was the 80s Godammit, and us old folks think your slang is every bit as stupid as ours was.

Don't get me wrong.  The Monster Squad is not a terrible film.  It's watchable, which cannot be said for a lot of the films I loved as a kid.  There are some chuckles scattered throughout, and some moments that might be genuinely scary to a child.  So probably not the best thing to view with the toddler set on Halloween.  But if you've got a bunch of eight year old boys at your house for a sleepover, you are definitely going to be the cool parent introducing them to this.  And for us old folks, it's not so bad either.  The music is pretty sweet.  The relationship between Frankenstein and Phoebe tugs at the heart strings.  And - SPOILER - the scene where the Wolfman blows up and comes back together is pretty damn nifty.  Just don't expect much, and The Monster Squad will surely meet those expectations.

My one word of warning - this is a movie that dates itself pretty quickly in an early fight scene.  If, like me, you're someone that cringes at ignorance, you may want to be forewarned that the word "fag" gets thrown around a few times more than it should.  But, like Bing Crosby's blackface routine in Holiday Inn, it was part of the times.  Doesn't make it right, just makes us look stupid.  But then again, you knew that.  ;)

The Monster Squad

Monday, August 25, 2014

Re-viewing The Cabin in the Woods

See that image?  It's really cool right?  This was the poster image used for The Cabin in the Woods.  And incredible as it may be, I have to say I think it was a bad choice for this particular movie.  Stay with me here.  I'm not denying its awesomeness.  I'm just saying it was a lot to live up to.  And there may be haters out there for me saying this, but I'm not entirely sure the movie was quite as awesome as the image.
     Are you done screaming obscenities?  Good.  Because I know there are a lot of deeply devoted Whedonites out there who refuse to hear any sort of criticism of their idol.  Trust me, I'm a fan myself.  I own the soundtrack to the Buffy musical episode for fuck's sake!  But I am also a realist.  And in spite of all the gushing, The Cabin in the Woods was ultimately a disappointment.
     Now before you tell me that I'm crazy, that I missed something, that I just didn't get it, please take note of the title of my review.  This is my take after re-viewing the film.  That is, watching it again.  Because I deeply love horror films and believe they should (almost) all be given a second chance.  Almost, because even the most hardcore horror fans have their limits and some films reach such epic levels of suckitude that no one, not even war criminals, should be forced to watch them more than once (yeah, rambling, idiotic Resident Evil sequels, I'm looking at you).
     I saw The Cabin in the Woods shortly after it was released.  I pulled it up on Amazon because it didn't get much love from the movie theaters in my area, and I didn't want to wait for the DVD.  I had seen all the trailers and I knew Joss Whedon was behind it, so I came to the film fully prepared for awesomeness.  Unfortunately, by the movie's end, my only thought was, "That's it?"  I was expecting to have my mind blown and instead, meh.  I was bummed.
     They say time heals all wounds.  I disagree.  But I do believe time brings perspective.  It's been a while since I first saw The Cabin in the Woods, and I've seen enough glowing reviews to make me think I missed something.  So, in all fairness, I decided to go back and rewatch the movie with fresh eyes.  Going into it already knowing what to expect, there should be no room for disappointment, right?  Well, sort of.
     If you haven't seen this movie, be aware, I hate spoiler-free reviews.  If I wanted a surprise, I would just watch the damn movie now wouldn't I?  If I'm reading a review, it's because I want to know if the movie is worth my time, or get someone else's perspective on a movie I've already seen.  Don't tease me by saying - "You've got to see this."  No.  No I don't.  There aren't enough hours in my lifetime to waste watching every movie ever made.  Sometimes I just want to know what the hell the hype is about.  I have no intention of ever seeing the friggin movie.  So, that being said:
Got it?  Good.  Because I'm not pussy-footing about here.  This whole movie is designed to screw with the conventions of the slasher film, which happens to be my favorite subgenre.  And it announces its intentions pretty early on, if you're paying attention.  The film even opens with a prologue of sorts featuring the two characters who will be screwing with our "heroes" all throughout.  You just don't know who they are yet.  But you will.  And, if you're anything like me, you will wish the movie had been more about them and less about the victims.  More on that later.
   So, after the psych out beginning with the two office workers, we meet our supposed main characters: boring redhead, annoying blonde, surprisingly sweet and intelligent jock.  Hmm, already playing with conventions.  Good.  Redhead (yeah, I don't care about character names here) has apparently been bumping uglies with a professor who has now dumped her.  This should make her the slut of this movie but, because her friend is blonde - recently dyed - that mantle falls on her.  Um, okay.  Blondie and her boyfriend the jock, whom we will call Thor because he is portrayed by Marvel man-meat Chris Hemsworth, are trying to set up Red with one of Thor's teammates.  This should make him jock number 2, but instead he is labelled the academic or something equally stupid.  Possibly because he puts a pair of glasses on later in the film.  Or because he isn't a neanderthal.  Dunno.  Moving on.
    Both couples are headed to Thor's cousin's cabin for some apparent reason.  They're travelling in a motor home they insistently call a van all the way through.  I mention this because it is annoying.  A motor home is not a van.  Anyone who has ever seen Scooby Doo knows what a van looks like.  And everyone has seen Scooby Doo at least once in their lifetime so this misnomer really pissed me off.
    It would have been more appropriate if they did have a van when the fifth wheel, inexplicably invited stoner friend shows up.  Here is the movie's first coup, the brilliantly funny Fran Kranz pulling up in a beater with the windows rolled down and smoke billowing out.  IMDB tells us that his custom made aluminum travel mug bong cost 5 grand, and I think it was worth every penny.  Don't worry my stoner friends, you will see this masterpiece again.  Fran is the perfect stereotype pothead, spouting profundities at every lull in the conversation.  Except, unlike most weed warriors, Fran is actually quite astute and seems to be the most alert and aware member of this party.
     Flash ahead, because I'm getting bored.  Stuff happens.  There is an encounter with a backwoods gas station owner who warns the gang to turn back.  They don't.  Even though the cabin is located on the other side of the most awesome mountain tunnel I have ever seen - which is made even more bizarre by the fact that it goes around an easily bridgeable gap that makes you question the sanity of its builders.  "Dude, why don't we build a bridge across this canyon here?"  "Naw man, I want to blow up the mountain."  "Yeah, but the canyon isn't that far across.  We could build a suspension bridge.  Easy."  "I WANT TO BLOW UP THE MOUNTAIN!!!"
     So, you get that there are some serious logic gaps here, right?  And if the protagonists of this film had any brains, they would see that too. True horror fans are used to such leaps of faith though, and we take them blindly and gleefully, knowing full well the outcome will not always be worth the trouble.  But in this case, the stupidity is intentional.  The filmmakers are counting on you noticing the little details - except for the stupid van gaffe perhaps.  There is something at work here and you're meant to notice the cogs of the machine.
     I won't get into the weirdness that happens at the cabin.  There is a one way mirror for no good reason, hidden behind an ugly ass painting.  The blonde chick starts acting dumb.  Thor becomes a bit of a douche.  And the redhead continues to bore the hell out of me.  Only Fran notices anything strange and thus, he is the only character worth giving a damn about.
     All of this typical horror movie tripe is intercut with scenes of our two office workers from the prologue.  They are not only observing the proceedings, they are tweaking the actions of our gang of morons - all except for Fran.  It is of great concern to them that the stoner is the only one whose actions they can't seem to control. also the only one who seems to be aware that his friends are acting different.
    By the time the cellar door blasts open - "Must be the wind," says Thor, like that makes perfect sense - you are totally ready for most of these assholes to die.  Seriously, anyone over the age of twelve who plays truth or dare is just begging for a machete to the face.  When the group ventures into the cellar and finds a virtual antique store full of bizarre and intriguing goodies, I was ready for something awesome to happen.  So are the office workers, who run a betting pool on what the group will awaken. 
     Now this is the point where the movie started to upset me.  When you have a treasure trove of messed up objects, how can you pick just one?  Especially a stupid one that awakens some freak zombie family.  I wanted more out of this sequence.  I wanted to get the stories behind more of the objects, a la Friday the 13th the series.  There was just SO MUCH there.  And it really felt like a letdown.
   So once the zombie family is awoken, the slaughter begins.  Blondie first.  Then our friend Fran - but not really, we find out later.  Thor bites it in a dashing attempt to jump the canyon when he crashes into some sort of giant bug zapper forcefield.  Then that other gut gets it and we're down to good old Red, who would have been the first one to get it if it was up to me.  Meanwhile there is partying in the office worker compound as they have managed to succeed where all other parts of the world have failed.  What have they succeeded at exactly?  Yeah, we'll get to that.
     Oh, wait, did I mention Fran isn't really dead?  Yay!  He comes back, even though we saw him stabbed in the back, and he's swinging his big ol' bong like a baseball bat.  He saves that annoying redheaded bitch and takes her to this hole he found in the ground.  Except it's not a hole.  It's some kind of maintenance port.  Yeah, Fran is awesome.  And this movie is working its way past suspension of disbelief into full blown stupid.

So Fran tells Red this hole he found opens to an elevator.  And they get in.  And it goes down.  And sideways.  And the viewer gets a view of all the other, much cooler monsters that could have, and should have been in this movie.  Except they will be.  Briefly.  First we get a view of the Cube homage/ripoff that is the "zoo" where all the beasties are kept.  Eventually Fran and Red find their way out and are chased after by a swat team.  They hide out in a control room and Red makes her first and only interesting move of the entire film, pushing a button to release all the monsters into this weird underground complex.  The carnage that ensues is the best visual we've yet encountered and makes you wish this were a different movie, where we got to see all those awesome creatures at work.
   Okay, so I totally hated this movie, right?  No.  Actually I enjoyed it much more this second time around.  I was aware of what was happening and it felt like being part of an inside joke.  I still wish there was more development of backstory and the office workers/other creatures.  In fact, I think that a prequel would be awesome (there is a reference made to a previous near-failure that might work great), or even a series of webisodes tapping into some of that wasted potential.  But we haven't gotten to the end of the movie yet and here is where it failed for me a second time.
     So Fran and Red have escaped the cabin, gotten themselves into this bizarre underground bunker and are trying to find a way out.  Only, they can only seem to go down, where they encounter some sort of effed up pagan temple - and Sigourney Weaver in a business suit.  She explains the whole human sacrifice deal in some of the worst expository dialogue I have ever heard.  She even almost convinces Red - dumb bitch - to shoot Fran.  Because, you know, the good of the world and all.  Then the movie ends with a giant, very human looking, hand coming out of the ground and reaching for the screen.  Um, okay?  
     So all of this was to appease a pagan god?  And there are strict rules.  And multiple locations all over the world attempt this sacrifice.  But they have different rules?  Because Sigourney clearly states there must be five archetypes in the sacrifice, yet the Japanese were just going after a classroom of little girls.  Was one of them a slut?  I kind of doubt it.  See this is where I get upset.  I suspended disbelief.  I ignored flaws in logic.  But there all seemed to be a good reason.  We were supposed to play along with the characters.  But then you introduce a set of rules that pisses all over everything your movie was about.  And I say, "What the fuck?"
     Was The Cabin in the Woods a bad movie?  No.  And I don't feel like I wasted precious minutes of my life by rewatching it.  But I also don't think that I can excuse all its flaws either.  This was a good movie with potential for greatness that wound up being weighed down by its own hype.  I would love to see more movies like this, but ones that don't drop the ball in the last five minutes of the game.  That incredible poster deserves better.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Birchbox July Review

Well, it's 1pm on a Sunday and I'm just rolling my butt outta bed.  Eating a cold, leftover BBQ Pork sandwich from Subway and I figured, why not right about beauty products?  I can't tell you why I decided to subscribe to Birchbox.  I'm so not the girly-girl type and I totally suck at putting on make-up.  But I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  As a little girl, I was over the moon whenever my mother came home with a new Avon order.  She liked their jewelry as stocking stuffers.  I just wanted the samples.  Those miniature lipsticks were just the right size for me and I loved rubbing on perfume samples no matter how much they stank.  So when I started seeing Birchbox all over the internet. I think it sent me into flashback mode and I just had to try it.

The Breakdown
Subscription: Birchbox
Price: $10/month
Type of box: Semi-blind
Billing date: 1st of the month
Shipping date: "shipping confirmation by the 10th"
Shipping cost: Free to the US (Birchbox also has sites set up for France, Spain and the UK) 

What's the deal?
Birchbox appears to be one of the longest running subscription box services.  Each month they send out a box of five sample sized beauty products, individually customized based on a profile survey filled out by the subscriber.  I call Birchbox a semi-blind subscription because they've started offering their users the chance to choose one of the five items they will receive each month from a set selection.  Be advised: this appears to be a very new  concept for them and they haven't worked out all the bugs.  The website froze up and/or crashed on me several times when I tried to make my August selection and, by the time I was able to get through, I was told that the item I preferred was no longer available.  I'm hoping they get the kinks worked out on this because their subscribers definitely seem to enjoy it.

So, my first box arrived within a few days after shipping and I was a little shocked.  I've seen several images online of what the Birchbox looked like, but none of them quite represented the scale.  The box itself is roughly the size of a paperback book.  It comes in an easily opened outer box, which made it seem, for me, that much smaller.  But size isn't everything - at least in some situations.  Birchbox teamed up with Women's Health Magazine for July and they actually came up with a very cute box design.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm still a little new at this and, eager beaver that I was, I couldn't wait to open this package.  So you'll have to just trust me when I say the presentation was really lovely.  Everything was tucked neatly inside and covered up by blue tissue paper.  But that was a few days ago, and I had to play with everything before I did my review.  I promise to try taking my pictures as I open things with previous boxes but, hey, I can't make any guarantees.

The first product is this lotion that I was really happy to see because I'm a lotion addict.  Partly because I hate having dry skin, but mostly because lotion works way better than perfume in the fragrance department.  So I was incredibly disappointed to find that this stuff reeked.  Seriously.  It's supposedly made with olive oil, but it kind of reminds me more of the smell you get when you leave frier grease out too long.  Plus, they added some kind of citrus overtone - possibly to cover the oil smell - and the two just do not mix.  It's too bad really, because I've heard olive oil is great for your skin.  I just can't get past the stink.

This next product was another disappointment.  Not that there's anything wrong with it, as far as I know.  But just because I've never gotten the hang of eyeliner.  I just can't seem to avoid poking myself in the eye with it unless I make the line way too far away from my lashes, and then it just looks stupid.  So I'm not really sure what to do with this.

Here we have a perfume by Harvey Prince called Imperial Gardenia that you can see has already gotten some use.  Ha!  It was actually packaged really nicely, in a little folder with a goofy story on it, which was itself tucked away in a little red pouch.  Yeah, I'll definitely try taking pictures earlier next time!  The funny thing with this perfume was I hated it when I first smelled it.  It made me think of something an old lady in a nursing home might wear.  I accidentally got some on my shirt and had to smell like it all day.  Strangely enough, the more I smelled it, the more I liked it.  Now I may actually wind up buying the full size.  Damn.

This was probably my favorite item in the box.  You can't really make out the name here and I tossed the box - insert evil grin - but it's called a 3-minute peel.  Now I took that to mean a mask that you peeled off after it dried, kind of like the ones my mother used to love from Avon.  It's not.  It's actually this clear, scentless gel that you smear on your face and then rub until your cheeks are numb.  Okay, I'm being a little dramatic, but the fact is the stuff really seems to make your skin softer and smoother.  Of course, that's hard to tell from just one usage and the full size version is $48, but I'm really tempted to save up and buy it.  Damn, again.

The last sample in the box was this stuff and, in case you can't tell from the pictures, it was a REALLY small sample.  Turns out, that's okay.  A little goes a long way - and this is going straight in the garbage.  I had to look up what the hell CC cream is - "color correcting," for the other beauty oblivious out there.  This product claims to have a "self-adjusting shade" but when I tried it my best friend said I looked pale as death.  Um, is this mortuary makeup?  Supposedly it's a sunblock type of lotion for your face but seeing how I'm inside 23 1/2 hours a day, I don't really have a need for it.  Not to mention the fact that it slicked up after only a few hours and caused my naturally oily skin to go full oil slick.  Sorry folks, but this one's a bust.

In addition to the beauty samples, Birchbox included some other little goodies for July.  On the right is a motivational goal booklet that I'm hoping was the brainchild of Women's Health, because I'm not looking for inspiration amongst my beauty products.  In the center is a nice little card describing the products in the box and giving their full-size values.  I liked that.  Since I am admittedly a total makeup noob, I had never heard of most of these products so I appreciated a little cheat sheet letting me know what they were for.  And the last card on the left is a one-year subscription voucher to Women's Health Magazine, something I really couldn't give a crap about.  Then I saw the fine print.  At the bottom of the card it tells you how to get a $9.99 rebate instead if you don't want the magazine.  Score!

Final Judgement!
Well, this particular box wasn't really a win for me.  I have only two products that I actually intend to use and the rest will get tossed.  But, on the upside, the rebate from the magazine will cover the cost of the box, so I'm really not losing out.

Bottom line: Keep it or Trash it?
I'm going to stick with this one for now.  Even though I didn't care for much of this box, I'm not going to discount Birchbox just yet.  At $10 a box, they're one of the most affordable subscriptions out there.  They obviously put a lot of thought and creativity into their product and the products are all new to me.  Better yet, they have a great reward system that allows you to earn points for everything from signing up to reviewing their products.  And you can use those points in their store to buy the full-sizes of the sample items you liked.  So overall, this is a pretty cool service and I'm going to stick with it.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Volupties - First Shipment

Okay, can I start off by saying I was SO crazy excited to get these?  I am 5' 10'' and not supermodel skinny.  I got my height from my daddy and my hips from my grandmother, and I loved that woman, but she had a big old shelf butt.  Fortunately for me, I'm almost a foot taller than she was, so I carry those hips better than she did.  But clothes shopping for me has always been a nightmare.  Trust me, most stores aren't catering to girls with curves anymore.  Finding underwear that doesn't look like a diaper is even harder.  And most underwear subscriptions are for the little Twiggies out there.  Volupties is different.  Not only are they catering to girls with booty, they're serving up something sexy.  So relegate your crummy old Hanes to the period panty section of your drawer and check these out.

The Breakdown
Subscription: Volupties
Price: $17/month
Type of box: Blind
Billing date: 10th of each month
Shipping date: "between the 11th and the 19th"
Shipping charges: free to the US, $7 to Canada, $9 international (um, except Canada?)

What's the deal?
Volupties sends you three pairs of underwear in the size of your choosing.  It's what I call a "blind" subscription so, other than telling them your size, you don't get to make any choices as to what you receive (Which pisses me off a little bit, because their sister site for skinny bitches - Splendies - has a "no thong" optionI know there are fewer options out there for bigger girls, and the company is just working with what's available, but it's still annoying.  Okay, enough bitching.).  It arrives in a plain white mailing envelope - you know, those annoying plastic ones that you usually have to tear open with your teeth?  This is cool though, since nowhere on the envelope does it indicate that there's underwear inside.  So no snickering from the mailman, glares from your nosy landlady, or creepy ogling from your next door neighbor who always has his hands down his pants.  Totally discreet.

Inside are three pairs of underwear wrapped in really pretty tissue paper.  Now, I am going to attempt to show these to you, but bear with me if my pictures suck.  I'm a writer, not a photographer, and I'm teaching myself how to do this as I go.

Pair #1

Holy crap, that's not as bad as I thought!  Granted, it's not the best picture on the web, and my bedspread makes for a funky background, but it's not terrible.  Ahem, sorry!

You cannot see in my mediocre photo, but these are actually ruffled waist to groin in alternating black and white.  The material is silky soft and slightly transparent.  The brand is Seven Til Midnight and, before Volupties I had never seen or heard of this maker.  That, in itself, made me pretty damn happy.  One of the hardest parts of finding underwear when you're a bigger girl is knowing who carries your size.  Finding a new brand is always awesome.  A note on Volupties sizing, however: my experience buying underwear has always been with sizes 5-10.  Volupties works in X's, 1 through 4.  Full disclosure - and you better appreciate it because this is not something I'm thrilled about sharing - I normally wear an 8.  Because I wasn't sure about the system here, I ordered a 3X.  All three pairs fit great, if that helps anyone out.  This pair in particular were actually a little bit loose, but I'm not complaining.  They're really sweet and kind of sexy.  Not something I'd wear under anything tight, but they're breathable and comfortable, so I'm stoked. 

Pair #2

Okay, I saw these and went, whoa!  I haven't worn a thong since high school and, in case you couldn't tell by my picture, this is definitely a thong.  I was a little bummed because I don't have the greatest memories of thongs.  You spend the whole day with a wedgie, sometimes in the back and the front, you sit down and the damn things slice you and two, and by the time you take them off at the end of the day you've got a bruised tailbone and probably a yeast infection, too.  Thongs suck.  But this one is SO pretty!  And I've never owned a pair of underwear this sexy.  So I reluctantly tried them on.  And was crazy surprised.  They fit.  Comfortably.  What the hell?  I could sit and everything.  Maybe I just didn't have the right size before.  Like I said, not a lot of people really catering to girls with curves.  Again, the brand is Seven til Midnight and they call this a "shaping thong."  I gotta say, they do pull you in a little bit, but not to the point where you feel like there's a boa constrictor around your waist.  The lace is very soft and the hot pink lining underneath just made these seem super sexy to me.  The fit is awesome and, I can't believe it, but I know I'll actually wear these. 

Pair #3

These were definitely my favorite in the bunch.  They're made of a silky soft material, high cut in the back, with super soft lace covering your butt cheeks.  I took a second picture of the back to show you the coverage.

I've heard people refer to these as "cheekies" and it's pretty self-explanatory as to why.  The brand name is Youmati, another one I've never heard of.  A little online research makes me think they're kind of a west coast boutique outfit, in the region where Volupties is based.  Don't really care though.  The fit on these is absolutely perfect and they feel weightless on.  My pic doesn't make it clear but the lace doesn't ruffle or stick out in any way, so these will be fine under any article of clothing.  I absolutely love them.

Final Judgement!
I gotta say, I was really impressed with my first shipment.  The underwear are all beautiful and they fit!  That's definitely a huge plus in my book.  For those of you who are looking for a bargain in your subscription boxes, I did a little googling to find the retail on these.  The first pair I found on eBay for $11.49.  The second ones I found on Amazon for $4.95, BUT they were only in a small and we all know curvy girls pay more for their undies.  The last pair I couldn't find anywhere and I think that's cool.  So are they worth the $17 subscription price.  I definitely think so.  My only caveat has to do with shipping time.  I don't particularly care for the 9-day shipping window.  It seems a little vague.  And my first package seemed to take forever to get here.  I subscribed on July 22, and got an e-mail saying they were shipping on the 25th (new subscribers' orders are shipped "within 7 days after purchase, sometimes sooner").  The package wasn't actually received by the post office until July 30th, even though there was a tracking number.  So that kind of perturbed me a bit.

Bottom line - Keep it or Trash it?
For me, this was a win and I'm going to keep the subscription, for at least a little while.  My underwear drawer is sadly in need of some sprucing up and I really liked this first package.  $17 seems like a fair price for three pairs of really cool underwear and I don't think I could find these brands in stores in my area.  My butt and I are really happy! 


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Let Me Entertain You...

An introduction is, I believe, in order.  I am the freaky chick in the office.  The horror fanatic.  The one with all the toys in her office.  And they all know Halloween is my favorite pagan holiday.  Secretly, many of them probably think I've got a few dead bodies stashed under my bed.  I'm a little bit... odd.  I admit it.  I never quite clicked with the other girls my age.  I chalk it up to bad timing and shitty location.  You know the drill - wrong place, wrong time.  If I had been born in a more metropolitan area, where culture was more diverse - or where they at least knew what culture was.  If I came along a few years earlier during the punk era, or a few years later during that brief period when Goth was a lifestyle instead of a bad horror movie trope.  But I grew up in a town with Mayberry aspirations, in the era of the hair band.  And for those of you who think Motley Crue and Poison are punk rock, may Ozzy and Sid Vicious torment your dreams.  There's nothing badass about Bon Jovi.  So I had to assimilate - at least on the outside.

But times have changed.  We live in an era where the odd and unusual are making their way into the mainstream.  And so weird may become the new norm.  Perish the thought.  And yet, why do I feel guilty now for enjoying some little "acceptable" pleasures?  I feel as if I'm betraying the standards of the fringe society. 

Okay, what the hell was I talking about again?

Right... So - the point of all this.  I write fiction mostly, along with these occasional streams of self-conscious nonsense.  But I mostly keep it to myself.  Because it can get a little strange.  You probably noticed.  Some time ago, I started putting some of my work into a blog.  And I got sidetracked.  Or bored.  Whatever.  This is attempt two. 

I had warned my meager number of followers that I might do reviews, but I never got around to it.  I do write the occasional review on Netflix or Amazon.  Mostly I just review stuff in my head.  But I recently came across a new world of bloggers.  People who review subscription boxes.  And what I noticed - I couldn't relate to any of them.  There are Mommy reviewers; blech, kids.  There are some beauty-focused reviewers that kind of come across as crazy shallow (sorry ladies).  And then there are the great vloggers, who I can totally relate to, that obviously have WAY more technical know how than I do.  Hell, I'm still trying to figure out how to take decent pictures with my digital camera.  But most of these guys - and yeah, most of them are guys - don't so much review their subscription boxes as make videos going, "Wow, this is cool!"  And while I'm sure the folks who run these services think that's awesome, it doesn't really tell me anything.  Shit, some of these services are expensive.  I want DETAILS!

So what can you expect here?  Well, reviews, duh.  Of subscription boxes, definitely, but maybe other stuff eventually too.  Thus, the title of the blog.  I promise to be honest - no kissing up to anybody to get free crap.  I also promise to tell you what I think of both the boxes AND the products.  Too many sites telling me, "Oh, I like this," or "This is a really great brand."  Um, I don't care.  Like I said, DETAILS.  Tell me what I'm getting, is it worth it?  Yeah some of these services provide product reviews on their websites, but not all.  I want a one-stop review.  And that's what I'm going to attempt to provide.  Maybe I'll even eventually learn how to use my camera so i can put in pictures.

First review will be up soon.  This weekend if not sooner.  I'll either do a review of Birchbox or Horror Block.  Feedback is definitely welcome.  Especially if you're tech savvy.  Because I'm a bit of a noob here.  And if you don't know what that means, this isn't the site for you.  Oh, and in case you hadn't noticed, I'm not always G-rated in my lingo.  If that offends you, too damn bad.  I'm the one writing here.  If you want rainbows and unicorn farts, I'm sure that's out there somewhere.  You're welcome to it.