Monthly Archives: April 2011

Beer Review: Saint of Circumstance

Emily and I walked passed our local alcohol shop when we saw that they were hosting a beer tasting. Since I don’t turn down free alcohol (EVER), we went inside. The brewery was Berkshire Brewing Co., a local brewery that has a fairly wide selection to choose from (including one that tastes like coffee).  I grabbed their Saint of Circumstances IPA, as well as their coffee thing (which I’ll definitely be reviewing later).

Saint of Circumstances is not their regular IPA. The guy running the tasting told us that, due to a fire, they got the wrong shipment of hops. As a result, they ended up brewing a completely different IPA of which they have only a limited quantity and that they’ll never be able to recreate since they don’t know which hops they were shipped.

The moment I heard that it was of LIMITED QUANTITY and soon it would be GONE FOREVER, I had to have it, because I have no willpower when it comes to marketing. As far as rare, soon-to-be-extinct IPAs go, I think this might be one of my favorites. Unlike some recent IPAs I’ve had, it’s not overwhelmingly bitter. It still has some bite, but just enough to make it interesting.

It’s smooth and light with a good clean finish. I didn’t taste the smokiness that the bottle talks about, but there is that vague flavor of grapes that IPA all seem to have in common.  I recommend it if you happen to be in the area and have a chance to actually try it. And if you like IPAs. Or beer in general I guess.

A plusses!

Dylan Charles

Additional: Also, awesome name.

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Pick It Apart

I have a bit of difficulty watching a movie or reading a book. If it’s horror or thriller or anything to do with monsters, I constantly take myself out of the experience by critiquing it the entire time. I can’t help but ask myself how I would have written it or how I would have described a character or if I would have gone that route with the monster. Or I just get grumpy that I didn’t come up with the idea.

It makes it a little hard to get invested in a fictional world when I spend the entire time nitpicking the thing from start to end. “Well I don’t know if that’s a realistic way to depict people running in fear.” “Why would the ghost kill people that way? That’s entirely contrary to the nature of ghosts!” “This helldog is entirely too verbose.” I can’t turn off the critic, the writer, the little guy in my brain that wants to do this for a living.

If I want escapism, I usually go for movies or books that aren’t in my genres. That way, I spend less time thinking of how I would’ve done it and just enjoy the ride. Horror is for educational purposes only. It’s how I learn and develop what I do and how I become a better writer. And that is my excuse for why I watch so many terrible horror movies.

Dylan Charles

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The Cutting Edge

I’ve always loved gadgets. I like to read about the newest advances in gizmos and watch videos detailing their functionalities and doodads. When the Kindle was first announced, I pored over the specs, watching every available video. I followed the iPad and, to a greater degree, the Courier, Microsoft’s now cancelled tablet PC.

But I never bought any of it. I was always behind the curve, technologically speaking. I have an eleven dollar cellphone and I’m happy with it. Why would I want it to do anything else? Sure, I think the iPhone looks nifty, but I need my phone to make phone calls and not charge me crazy amounts for it.

That’s slowly started to change. After three years, I finally bought the Kindle. I got as cutting edge as you can possibly get with a book. And now, I’ve taken another, terrible step. I got an iPod Touch. I’m listening to it as we speak. It gives me information, almost whenever I want it. I’m now more in contact with the people around me than I used to be.

I’m slowly, steadily plugging in. And I’m terrified. I’m turning a corner where soon I’ll be one of THOSE people; wearing a blue tooth headset and talking to people no-one else can see. I’ll snap pictures of my pets and my lunch and then tweet them. I’ll be so busy emailing someone while playing Angry Birds that I won’t realize that the apartment is on fire

So, in conclusion, have a picture of my guinea pig:

Dylan Charles

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Movie Review: Laid to Rest

Article first published as Movie Review: Laid to Rest on Blogcritics.

A young woman (Bobbie Sue Luther) wakes up inside of a coffin with no recollection of who she is or how she got there and she is, perhaps understandably, a little freaked out about the whole thing. After breaking free, she ends up on the run from the lunatic who put her there. It’s a screamy, amnesiac against a dangerous madman wearing a chrome skull mask and it’s no holds barred.

There are a few things to recommend Laid to Rest, although it is ultimately a subpar horror flick. For every obnoxious, cardboard cutout character, there’s someone who I actually cared about. Tucker (Kevin Gage) felt like a human being and I was actually concerned about his well being. Steven (Sean Whalen) was a quirky nerd whose bizarre idiosyncrasies weren’t overwhelming or obnoxious. I ended up liking them a fair amount, making it nerve-wracking when they were put in danger.

Of course, to balance this out, the script called for them to do mind numbingly dumb things that made me want to slap the stupid out of the movie. Tucker spends a lot of time telling everyone they need to stick together and then wanders off on a whim to split up the group. There was also the character who pointed a gun at the killer and then allowed the killer to walk up to him and shoot him with his own gun. Every brain-bendingly stupid action felt like the director was just padding out the film, adding precious minutes to the run time.

Speaking of the killer, he was strangely lackluster for a guy wearing a metal skull mask. Beyond the fact that he liked his camcorder and was on the sadistic side, there’s not much going for him. He had no real hook or personality. He was just the Killer of the Week, another loony in a mask to cover the camera in blood ‘n’ guts. And lord, were there blood ‘n’ guts.

This was probably one of the more gruesome movies I’ve seen in a while, with scenes that genuinely shocked me with how brutal they were. Generally speaking, I don’t need to see people putting their guts back where they belong. Less show, more tell when it comes to eviscerations. If you’re a fan of goo, then you’re in the right place. There’s a lot to see and it’s extremely well done, with faces, heads, and limbs a’flying every which-a-way.

Even more off-putting than the gore, was the first ten minutes, where we’re treated to a schizophrenic’s view of reality. The amount of edits and jump cuts is jarring and there are spaces of time where I was unable to piece together what happened. Someone gets stabbed in the eye, but god only knows how that happened.

For all that, Laid to Rest was not as bad as I was expecting. Decent acting, engaging characters and a ruthless, viscious killer hunting those characters kept me engaged for the duration, but I won’t be thinking about it after I submit this review.

Dylan Charles

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Movie Review: The Baby’s Room

Article first published as Movie Review: The Baby’s Room on Blogcritics.

Sonia (Leonor Watling) and Juan (Javier Gutiérrez) are a young couple with a baby. They’ve just moved into that house: the one that needs a lot of work, has had five different owners in as many years and is probably infested with helldemons. Then, the unexpected happens and strange noises and creepy figures start menacing the family. It’s up to Juan and his video camera to discover what’s trying to kill them.

The Baby’s Room (La habitación del niño) is a Spanish made-for-TV movie, part of the Films to Keep You Awake series (Películas para no dormer). It’s similar to the Masters of Horror series of Showtime, in that there’s blood and nudity and an astonishing amount of cursing en español.

It’s a strange mix of quirky humor and gritty, stomach dropping creepiness. It has a very similar tone to Poltergeist, where there were those funny moments right before the audience is dropped into a pit of horror. Things will be hunky-dory, with Juan joking around with Sonia and then two scenes later, there’s a dead body slithering across the floor. All the scenes with Juan and his camera in hand are stomach clenchingly creepy. The camera can see what he can’t and he wanders through his rambling house witnessing terrible things.

For all the creepiness, there are problems. The Baby’s Room is a brutally quick 79 minutes. As a result, the pacing feels rushed. Juan believes he’s in a haunted house without even pausing to consider other alternatives. Juan’s wife runs out the door at the first sign of trouble and their marriage goes from idyllic to broken in the space of a day. Character development is hinted at, but there’s never any follow through. At one point halfway into the movie, the boss tells the Juan that all they ever talk about is soccer. This is funny, because up until this point, they’ve never mentioned soccer. There’s just not enough time to develop the plot, so it all feels condensed and forced.

The music is also unnecessarily bombastic. It kind of ruins the tension when violins and drums suddenly barge their way through the scene. What’s worse is the music is so generic. I know I’ve heard this scary music before in other movies. Sometimes, scary music hurts a horror movie more than it helps and this is one of those cases.

Overall, The Baby’s Room succeeds in being a creepy little movie, but bad pacing, a lackluster soundtrack and odd character moments keeps this from being more than an average thriller.

Dylan Charles

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Beer Review: Dogfish Head Red & White

Beer recommended by Stan Stolowski 

I’ve decided I really like these aged beers. They have more complex flavors and those flavors are far more appealing. For example, I’ve had cherry flavored beers before and I’ve also had Sam Adam’s American Kriek, which is a brew aged with Hungarian cherries and barrels and other things.

Cherry flavored beers taste like someone dropped a jar of maraschino cherries into a vat of some lightweight pale ale. It’s like an alcoholic’s version of cherry cola. Bleh. The American Kriek, however, is imbued with the flavor of cherries. It’s not overpowering, but it’s definitely there. It has an underlying layer of good things.

Dogfish Head’s Red & White is similarly complex. There’s not just one, overriding flavor. It, in fact, has three discrete tastes. It starts off Belgian, which is fine.  It doesn’t have that hard, thick flavor of a stout. It’s lighter, with more of punch to it than your average Belgian ale.

Next comes a sweetness and the taste of oranges. At first I was worried I was afflicted with a brain tumor and was suffering from low-grade gustatory hallucinations, but it turns out that it’s supposed to taste like oranges. Citrus is not a bad follow-up to Belgian.

And lastly, it ends on a bitter, crisp note,  which is great because I don’t think I’d want this to finish with an overwhelming flavor of oranges or Belgians.

It’s this kind of complexity, the three flavors so separate from one another, that gives aged beers their appeal. The only problem is that it’s twelve bucks per (giant) bottle of the stuff. Otherwise, I recommend the Red & White for anyone who wants something more interesting than your average Belgian, but not as daunting as last week’s Bourbon Stout.

So…an A. Yeah.

Dylan Charles

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Beer Review: Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout

This beer scares me. I won’t lie to you on that front. It’s a beer that’s been aged in a bourbon cask. It has a scary high alcohol content for a beer(13%) and its qualities out of the bottle are terrifying.  I’m actually taking notes, because I’m worried I won’t survive the tasting process.

This beer is the darkest  thing I have ever seen. It’s an abyss beer, a beer from which no light escapes. Deep within the glass, one can almost make out the movements of some ancient thing lost to the light aeons ago. The head is almost nonexistent. And what little there is almost a caramel color. It pours like syrup.

Immediately, the smell of bourbon fills the air after pouring. And on a closer inspection, there are a lot of smells lurking in this darkness. Emily says it smells like chocolate, which makes it a little less terrifying and makes my hyperbolic ramblings seem silly now.

Time for the first sip.

Good lord, it does taste like chocolate. And it’s a syrup. And it hits more like a liquor. Which is problematical.

Second sip verifies. Strong chocolate flavors and this is a stout that means business. I’ve begun to eat a sandwich. Both because I’m hungry and because I think a good beer should go well with food.

Whoa, there are more flavors coming out. It’s combining. It seems like…cinnamon. Some cinnamon has come out to play with the chocolate and beer. Strong flavors come barreling out to start and then the lighter ones follow in their wake.

This is not a beer you drink regularly. It’s too much flavor and kick for that. It’s most definitely a special occasion beer. The kind of beer that you crack out to show people just what a beer can do, especially when it’s been aged in a bourbon cask.

This is a kick-ass, rockin’ rolla kind of beer. So that’s like…an A.

Dylan Charles

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