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I am a multimedia designer and aspiring writer from Central Illinois who dreams of bigger things. You are entering the hub of my online world. Welcome. Make yourself at home, read some stuff, click a few things, maybe check out my online portfolio. And of course, if you enjoy your stay, please subscribe.

*NOTE* This blog occasionally contains coarse language. Please use discretion when viewing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Coaster Compendium - UPDATED to 71 coasters!

So here I am again...It's been some time since I've been to any new parks to experience new rides, and my home Six Flags park keeps adding carnival-type rides instead of coasters. However, we are planning a possible trip back east over Labor Day weekend this year, and we'll hit Six Flags America for the first time, and maybe even revisit Six Flags Great Adventure.

In the meantime, I've added two new coasters to the list, one being the second Justice League 4D I've ridden, which was in 2016 when it was new at SFGA. (By the way, my new personal high score is in the 59,000-point range. Still only in the top 1% all-time though.) The other new one I just experienced this past weekend at SFGA: The Joker Free-Fly Coaster. HOLY WOW! This is one of those that looks pretty cool in the videos, looks not quite as intimidating when you actually see it, but totally blew me away upon riding it. It was amazing but way too short for me. It was, however, plenty long for my 15-year-old son, who absolutely HATED it and refused to ever ride it again.

If you're not familiar with the concept of the free-fly coaster, let me fill you in. The harness and seat situation is similar to X-Flight in that you sit on either side of the track, two abreast, but it's there are two rows to each car so that your two seats begin by facing two other seats. The major difference is that these seats all rock back and forth--and even completely 360-degrees around--on the z-axis (like a Zipper carnival ride) throughout the entire ride--which has been designed specifically to thrillingly send you flipping end-over-end repeatedly by doubling back on itself several times throughout the duration.

This was obviously taken before we rode,
because he was not nearly this happy afterward.
The Joker also has a completely vertical lift hill. It's literally straight up. That was pretty cool in itself. It's a one-of-a-kind experience, and it's incredible. I highly recommend this coaster. The wait wasn't too bad this weekend--about 40 minutes. It did break down the first time we waited so we came back around later to ride it as a rainstorm was blowing in, but thankfully there was no lighting so nothing got shut down.

This puts me at a current count of 71 coasters. Seems like 100 is actually going to be doable, God willing. If we end up going on this Labor Day trip and also taking our 20th anniversary trip to hit both Texas Six Flags parks, I'll be creeping up there in no time.

I'm kind of irritated at myself for not riding the Cyclone when I was at Coney Island a few years ago. Not that it looked particularly fun, mind you, but simply because it's such a historic coaster and a cultural icon. Oh well. Maybe I'll get another chance someday. Won't catch me passing up an opportunity like that ever again, I assure you.

OK, so stay tuned! more to come I'm sure!
  • American Eagle (Six Flags Great America) [details]
  • American Thunder / Evel Knievel (Six Flags St. Louis) [details]
  • Avatar Airbender (Mall of America) [details]
  • Batman: The Ride (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Batman: The Ride (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Batman: The Ride (Six Flags Great America)
  • Bizarro / Medusa (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Blue Streak (Cedar Point)
  • Boomerang / Flashback (Six Flags St. Louis) [details]
  • The Boss (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Cedar Creek Mine Train (Cedar Point)
  • Corkscrew (Cedar Point)
  • Dahlonega Mine Train (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Dark Knight Coaster (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Dark Knight Coaster (Six Flags Great America)
  • Demon (Six Flags Great America)
  • Disaster Transport (Cedar Point)
  • El Toro (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Fairly OddParents Fairly OddCoaster (Mall of America)
  • Gemini (Cedar Point)
  • Georgia Cyclone (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Georgia Scorcher (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Goliath (Six Flags Great America)
  • Great American Scream Machine (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Green Lantern (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Iron Dragon (Cedar Point)
  • Iron Wolf (Six Flags Great America)
  • The Joker Free-Fly Coaster (Six Flags Great America) **NEW**
  • Justice League Battle for Metropolis 4D (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Justice League Battle for Metropolis 4D (Six Flags Great America) **NEW**
  • Kingda Ka (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Little Dipper (Six Flags Great America)
  • Magnum XL-200 (Cedar Point)
  • Mantis (Cedar Point)
  • Maverick (Cedar Point)
  • Mean Streak (Cedar Point)
  • Millenium Force (Cedar Point)
  • Mind Bender (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Mr. Freeze (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Mr. Freeze Reverse Blast (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Ninja (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Ninja (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Nitro (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Opa! (Mt. Olympus Indoor Theme Park)
  • Pandemonium / Tony Hawk's Big Spin (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Pepsi Orange Streak (Mall of America)
  • Ragin' Cajun (Six Flags Great America)
  • Raging Bull (Six Flags Great America)
  • Raptor (Cedar Point)
  • River King Mine Train (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Rolling Thunder (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Rolling Thunder [bobsled ride] (Six Flags Great America)
  • Runaway Mine Train (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Screamin' Eagle (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Shockwave (Six Flags Great America)
  • Skull Mountain (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Space Mountain (Walt Disney World)
  • Spongebob Squarepants Rock Bottom Plunge (Mall of America)
  • Superman: Ultimate Flight (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Superman: Ultimate Flight (Six Flags Great America)
  • Tidal Wave (Six Flags Great America)
  • Top Thrill Dragster (Cedar Point)
  • Tornado (Adventureland)
  • Twister (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • V2: Vertical Velocity (Six Flags Great America)
  • Viper (Six Flags Great America)
  • Whizzer (Six Flags Great America)
  • Wicked Twister (Cedar Point)
  • Wile E. Coyote Canyon Blaster (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • X-Flight (Six Flags Great America)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Recent horror gems can be found among the garbage

I am a fan of horror and suspense films. Working part-time at the world's largest family-owned video rental chain for the past two years, I've seen a lot of horror titles come through those doors. Let me tell you, the digital age has been both good and bad for the indie film industry. It's truly a double-edged sword, and especially in the case of horror it's mostly the dull edge we get to see.

Digital filmmaking is great in that it puts usable creative tools into the hands of whoever wants them for a very negligible price tag compared to the expense of a major studio's equipment. So many people are shooting on digital now that an indie film can easily look quite professional if they manage to get lighting, sound, and the performances themselves right. This has really opened the door for independent filmmakers in the last 10 to 15 years. In my mind this new age of low budget horror treasures was initiated by The Blair Witch Project.

Say what you want about BWP and I'll honestly tell you it scared the bejeezus out of me. For the minuscule budget, bare-bones script and lack of recognizable cast, it was a masterpiece. But this is not a column about that film in particular. What I'm concerned with here are the handful of horror films from the last couple of years that have genuinely shaken me at least to some degree.

These are the films I recommend to people at the video store when they ask me for a good, recent scary movie. this list is not about mindless slasher horror, bad acting and writing, gross-out flicks like Human Centipede 3 or torture porn garbage like Green Inferno.

As Above So Below - Mockumentary horror movie about a film crew investigating secrets in the catacombs of Paris. Shit turns scary. Shit turns bloody. Shit turns upside down. Crazy film. Somewhat unnerving. Should appeal to both the bloodbath lovers and the suspense fiends.

It Follows - Simple, effective horror film that has a real '80s retro feel. Girl gets a supernatural curse passed on to her by losing her virginity to someone she doesn't know very well. Someone is chasing her. Following her. Slowly and methodically. Who, you ask? Hard telling. It's an entity that hops from person to person, kind of like in that Denzel movie, Fallen. What'll it do when it catches her? Let's hope we don't find out... The soundtrack on this one, by synthwave master Disasterpeace, is nothing short of amazing. Creepy AF.

The Visit - Once throwing a seemingly endless run of gutterball after gutterball, M. Night Shyamalan finally picks up the spare with The Visit! This movie creeped the living shit out of me several times. A couple of kids go to meet their long-estranged grandparents for the first time after their mother finally makes amends with them online for a fight that happened before the kids were even born. Much effed-up Shyamalaniness ensues.

Creep - First impression: "Oh no, not another low budget, first-person shot, crap horror movie with a $20 budget..." WRONG. Definitely worth a watch. A guy goes answers a classified ad to he;p someone shoot a film. It turns out that the subject of the film is chronicling the life of a terminal cancer patient (the guy who placed the ad) so that his unborn son can get to know him - you know, like that Michael Keaton movie My Life. Then it gets creepy to say the least. Very creepy. Only two people are on-screen throughout the whole film, but their performances are very convincing and the threat is real, present and palpable. My heart was in my throat a couple of times.

The Boy - Yet another person answers an ad, this time it's an American woman (Lauren Cohan of Walking Dead fame) traveling to the UK to play nanny for a British boy. When she gets to the remote estate, she finds that the elderly parents actually want her to nanny a four-foot, poseable porcelain doll as though it's alive. They seem convinced that it's not actually even a doll, but that it is in fact their human son, Brahms. It's silly, right? But they're paying her major bankroll, so she stays. Then it turns from silly to creepy. Then it gets downright supernatural, and finally, dangerous. I really liked this one more than I expected to. I was totally along for the ride, and I experienced every revelation along with the main characters. It's not the most original, I'll admit; I've seen a lot of the plot devices done better elsewhere, but they were recycled efficiently.

The Witch - I'll start by saying this one is NOT for everyone. And I'll give that caveat when it starts renting on May 17. It's not a "smack-you-over-the-head-with-scariness" horror movie. It's a subtle, slow creeper that builds methodically toward a horrible crescendo. It's a period film set in the mid-1600's New England, and as such, so is the language. If thou art not ready for language that speaketh as though it hails from a far distant time, thou ought not partake in this drama. A family makes their home on the edge of a forest after being ejected from town after the father committed a crime. The kids come to believe a witch lives deep in the forest. Shit starts happening that backs up that theory, not the least of which is the unexplained sudden disappearance of the baby from under his eldest sister's nose during a game of peek-a-boo. Psychological and supernatural tensions rise as the family deals with their predicament, and as the shite hitteth the fan, I squirm and want it to be over. Without spoilers, I love the final scene of this movie. I can't wait to give this film another viewing next week. Another killer soundtrack too. This one is minimal with frequently dissonant, sometimes screeching strings that brings to mind portions of Kronos Quartet's fantastically jarring Black Angels album. Add to that an occasional layer of Damien-worthy choir vocals and some extremely agitated chanting, and you have Mark Korven's deliciously creepy complement to this cinematic creepfest.

Don't Breathe - Not a supernatural horror picture, but rather a more plausible-in-real-life sort of storyline. Normally I have a hard time relating to film characters when they've displayed criminal behavior. In this case, we have a small group of young adults who decide to rob an old, blind hermit whom it's rumored has a large sum of cash in his house. Turns out this dude is a former marine and he's kinda like an old, pissed off Daredevil. He locks everyone in, secures the house, shuts out the lights, and chases these would-be criminals around the house, hunting them down one by one. It's hard not to be on the side of the millennial loser wannabe crooks by the time they become the victims. This is one nail-biter of a film that I've recommended countless times lately.
So anyway, there's a handful of recent thrillers that I'd recommend checking out. They're sparse treasures among the glut of common, low-budget dreck that litters the video store wall. Have fun with them! I'll have more recommendations for you another time.