Favorite Things: Birthday Movies Pt 2

Today is my birthday! To celebrate I wanted to create a fun movies list for you all. I couldn’t decide what the basis for my list should be so I’m giving you not one, not two, but THREE movie lists! This list features my favorite films released in the month of January (my birthday month). January is generally considered a “dump month,” which sucks for me, but I found a surprising number of awesome horror films that were released during this month.

Here are my top five favorite horror films that were released in the month of January (in no particular order):



Demon Knight is an awesome Tales from the Crypt horror comedy starring Billy Zane (Titanic) and Jada Pinkett Smith (The Matrix Reloaded). Zane plays a demon trying to get a relic to end the world, and Pinkett Smith is one in a group of unfortunate souls trapped in an old church turned boarding house. This film has awesome creature design for some of the demons, and Zane shows yet again that he can play one hell of a bad guy. This is arguably my favorite film on this list.



This is one of the better found footage style films. During a going away party New York is attacked by a giant monster and a small group of parygoers has to try to find their friend and escape the city before it’s completely destroyed. The film is really tense and I love that the filmmakers managed to take a Japanese-inspired giant monster movie and translate it into the not always love found footage format. Cloverfield has a killer creature design and keeps me at the edge of my seat from start to finish.



Two bank robbers hijack a family in their RV to cross the Mexican border and meet a friend at a remote bar. Unfortunately for them, the bar is infested with vampires. The group has to band together to stay alive until the sun comes up. This was the first Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror) film I had ever seen, and he quickly became a favorite director. This film has copious amounts of gore, amazing creature design and practical effects, plus several great actors. It’s hard not to love this movie as you’re watching the limbs fly and laughing at the dark humor.

4. PHANTOMS (1998)


Phantoms has a really unique plot that still gives me chills to this day. Based on the novel by Dean Koontz, it follows a group of people as the enter a remote town where everyone has disappeared. From there it only gets more dark and twisted as an evil entity threatens them. Many of the cast members were just starting to become household names when the film came out, and their performances are stellar. The evil in this film is really anyone’s worst nightmare, and the film conveys that so well. No matter how many times I watch the film it still freaks me out.

5. DEEP RISING (1998)

deep rising

Imagine going up to a fancy cruise ship with the intention of robbing the place, only to find a giant sea creature has already taken over and eaten everyone on board. That is what you get when you watch Deep Rising. This is a criminally underrated film that is probably one of the best water monster movies to date. It has a great cast and does a good job of bringing some fantastic scares and gore. This is a monster you wouldn’t want to meet, but it’s definitely a movie you should see.

Honorable mention: The Relic, Split, House on Sorority Row, Tremors, My Bloody Valentine (2009).

The Cloverfield Paradox


There is an energy crisis on Earth. In an effort to come up with an alternative energy source, a group of scientists travel to a space station orbiting earth. With the use of a particle accelerator the group attempts to create infinite energy. After two years of testing the crew nears the end of their experiment, as they are almost out of fuel. On one of the final attempts something happens that rattles the entire space station. The crew survives only to discover that the Earth has vanished, and they may be dealing with what conspiracy theorists call The Cloverfield Paradox.

This is the third installment of the Cloverfield franchise, produced by J.J. Abrams. While the first two were said to be part of the same cinematic universe, they are really standalone films. The Cloverfield Paradox is meant to be the thread that ties all three films together. The filmmakers came up with a relatively simple way to explain what monsters and aliens were doing on Earth in the previous films, while also leaving room for the rumored fourth installment. It comes down to one thing; the particle accelerator that was meant to create infinite energy instead ripped open the space-time continuum. This leads to time travel, people and things from one reality being thrown into another, and all sorts of mayhem.

The plot of this film has many highs and lows. One of the high points is that the characters are interesting and entertaining to watch. While we only get in-depth character development for Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the filmmakers still give the audience a good sense of who each character is once they are all together in the space station. The internal and external conflicts of the characters are very well done. Each character deals with their own issues when they learn about the movement between worlds. It makes each character complicated and shows the duality of human nature; someone may do something perceived as evil, but they may believe they are doing the right thing. Another high point is how the film explains the rip in space-time and the negative effects that follow. It allows the filmmakers to create some excellent twists, turns, and shocking imagery. Unfortunately, this also contributes to one of the low points of the film. The rip in the space-time continuum gives the filmmakers the freedom to do a lot of amazing sci-fi effects and incorporate monsters, aliens, and anything else they can think of to create the Cloverfield universe. But these things still have to make sense. Virtually everything that happens surrounding the character Mundy (Chris O’Dowd) after the rip occurs simply does not make sense. It creates some intense and visually interesting cinematic moments, but there is no logic surrounding them. While watching the film audiences may enjoy these scenes, but then afterwards they will be scratching their heads at the nonsensical events.

The entire cast does an excellent job. Everyone from Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) providing comedic relief as Mundy to Daniel Bruhl (Inglorious Basterds) giving us someone to generally dislike as Schmidt. The shining star of this film is Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Black Mirror) as Hamilton. Hamilton is such a compelling character that goes through the struggles surrounding everything that happens on the space station. At the same time she is battling her own personal issues that are exacerbated by the rip in the space-time continuum. Mbatha-Raw portrays both sides of Hamilton in a way that makes audiences instantly empathize with her. Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Everest) also shines as the mysterious Jensen. In many ways the struggles that Debicki’s character goes through are similar to Mbatha-Raw’s character. Debicki brings a lot of intensity to her performance, making it quite memorable.

The Cloverfield films are known for being intense, exciting, and filled with sci-fi action. The special effects of this film are stunning. The third installment likely has the largest amount of CGI (considering it primarily takes place in space), but it doesn’t feel like you are watching CGI. This is always a sign that the effects are very well done. Another thing these films are known for is having unique marketing campaigns. Cloverfield had months of marketing, but much of the plot was kept secret. 10 Cloverfield Lane was only announced one month before the release date, again being shrouded in secrecy. The Cloverfield Paradox, as most of America learned, had its first trailer released during the 2018 Superbowl. What made this so shocking is that viewers learned the film would be released to stream on Netflix immediately following the game. This unique marketing campaign definitely made the film stand out, and I’m sure thousands of fans rushed to stream the film as soon as it was available. Despite the success of the marketing, I can’t help but feel that a sci-fi film with this fan base and with these special effects would have been better served by being viewed in theaters on a big screen.

The Cloverfield Paradox is a worthy addition to the franchise and does a lot to connect the films, but it is also the weakest of the three films. It holds a lot of the same intensity and excitement fans have come to expect from the franchise, making it fun to watch. It also has an all-star cast with stellar performances. Where the film loses me a bit is how the filmmakers seem to use the multiple-universe idea as a way to throw random events into the plot that make no sense. If those scenes were removed or altered to be a bit more logucal, then the film would have been closer to the same level as the rest of the franchise. While I find myself a bit underwhelmed by The Cloverfield Paradox, it still makes me look forward to what else they can do with the franchise.


10 Cloverfield Lane

After a horrible car accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakes locked in an underground bunker. The man who owns the bunker tells her that he pulled Michelle out of her car after the accident. What’s worse, he says there has been an attack. Supposedly everyone above ground is dead. Trapped in this bunker with a stranger, Michelle finds herself wondering if she is being told the truth.

I am going to do my best at reviewing this film without giving away any spoilers. To help in avoiding this, let’s start by talking about the acting instead of the plot. This was the first leading role I have seen for Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing, Death Proof) in a while. She perfectly blends two opposing characteristics; she is terrified and usually panics in tough situations, yet she shows strength in her fight for survival. This sounds like it would be coming from two completely different characters, but Winstead manages to seamlessly bring these traits together in a way that makes sense for Michelle’s back story. The biggest surprise in this film was John Goodman (Roseanne, The Big Lebowski). He played the owner of the bunker, Howard, who brought Michelle down to his lair after a car accident. This is quite possibly the most disturbing character I have ever seen Goodman play, and he did a superb job. He typically plays lovable comedic characters. While Howard is still a character that is funny at times, he is also incredibly creepy. You find yourself questioning his motives throughout the film. Did he kidnap Michelle? Is he just a bit weird? Is he hiding the truth about what’s going on above ground? The third inhabitant of the bunker is Emmett, played by John Gallagher Jr. (Newsroom, Jonah Hex). The fact that I didn’t even realize this was the same actor from Newsroom just goes to show that he is incredibly talented.

10 Cloverfield Lane is very different from Cloverfield. Cloverfield was a found-footage style monster movie that was very action packed. The filmmakers took a different approach for 10 Cloverfield Lane. This film focused much more on intrigue. Being trapped in a windowless bunker with no means of communicating with the outside world, it is impossible to know if Howard is telling the truth. The setting makes you feel claustrophobic, while Howard and his stories give you a feeling of paranoia. One of the most successful aspects of the plot in this film is the number of twists. Obviously, there is going to be a huge twist ending, but there are smaller twists leading up to the big finale. These twists add to the paranoia because you are never fully aware of what is going to happen next. You are forced to follow the clues along with Michelle and Emmett. Without giving anything away, I can tell you that the end of this film will likely divide viewers. Some people will absolutely love it, and some will hate it.

There has been a ton of hype about this film. Most of it has surrounded speculation as to whether or not 10 Cloverfield Lane is a sequel to Cloverfield. Again, without giving too much away, I can tell you that there really is no answer to this question. After watching the film, I could see it being both a sequel and a stand-alone film. I believe the filmmakers purposely created a film that could go either way, leaving it up to the audience to decide if they thought it was a sequel or not. This was incredibly smart because it allowed them to use the Cloverfield name in all their advertising, bringing in fans of the first film, while also giving them the freedom to come up with a new story without being constrained by what took place in the first.

Whether this film is a sequel or not, it was a very entertaining experience. It was so intense right from the start, and it didn’t let up until the epic climax. The climax was probably one of the biggest movie twists I have seen in a long time. It was something I never saw coming and it made everything even more exciting.  10 Cloverfield Lane is an intense ride that constantly throws you for a loop the minute you start to feel like you know what is going on. It has something that will appeal to horror fans that are looking for more of a mystery, as well as those that want a lot of action.