Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Flashback Review: DEEP RED (1994)

Original VHS Cover
Glum Sci-Fi thriller with a murky script. But an endearing cast led by an intense Michael Biehn, and energetic, stylish direction by Craig R. Baxley [Dark Angel (1990), Stephen King's Storm of The Century (1999)] keep things afloat. A watchable curiosity from the 90's TV/Cable movie craze.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2016.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Quick Review: NINJA (2009)

Weakly written but fast-paced and energetic martial arts/action film. Benefits from tight direction and an impressive visual style. Scott Adkins is stiff as usual, but he's an impressive action man. And it's always fun to see Sensei Fumio Demura - who helped choreograph the fights - in action. Recommended for fans of ninja/martial arts pics.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2016.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


There is no easy way to describe the first season of The Path (2016). It's so original, daring, and unique that words utterly fail me. It is part mystery, part epistemological/mystical thriller, part domestic drama, part love story, and a helluva story.

The main plot: a member of a religious movement known as "Meyerism" is beset by strange visions that lead him to have doubts about his faith, setting in motion a chain of events that soon spiral out of control. Meanwhile, and unbeknownst to most of the movement, the founder of "Meyerism", Stephen Meyer, is dying of cancer in a secluded room in Peru, and his disciple, a charismatic sociopath, pounces on the chance to take the reins. Telling any more would be unfair to first time viewers, as this is a great, sinuous tale, terrifically told, with a cast of characters brought to perfect life by an endearing and capable cast, headed by the ever impressive Aaron Paul (who also co-produces). And thanks to nuanced, sharp writing by creator Jessica Goldberg and her team, The Path becomes one of the greatest TV/web series (and first seasons) to ever grace our screens.

This is a heartbreaking, addictive, touching, disturbing series, which is best experienced slowly and with rapt attention. Unmissable.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2016.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Book Review: CELL by Stephen King

One of King's darkest novels in a long time, Cell is a compelling, tense, unsettling read. While apocalyptic novels have been done to death (with King himself penning a few prior to this one), Cell sets itself apart by its unflinching focus on its characters' plights, tragedies, and tenacity. Despite a central premise that is conceptually and scientifically wobbly (a cell phone-transmitted pulse that turns people into violent, senseless beasts), the book works because of the characters, a bunch of superbly drawn, if not always likable, individuals, whose actions are almost always believable and whose fates we truly care about. Cell is also one of King's bleakest and most daring novels since Pet Semetary, with King at his most brutal and graphic. A haunting, disturbing read. Highly recommended.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2016.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


The complete first season of Z Nation, a low-budget show about a zombie apocalypse, starts with a bang, only to lose steam halfway through and never really recover. The entire season of 13 episodes reportedly cost a third of what most cable shows cost nowadays, with each episode coming in under a million dollars. And that's the best and worst thing about the first season of Z Nation: its low budget forces the writers to do the best with what they got, creating stories that don't require a huge cast or multiple locations, and what the writers come up with is occasionally impressive. But trying to do the best with what you got is a very challenging task if what you got is very little, and that's the case here. As by the second half of the season it's clear that the writers are panting for breath, trying to outrun the limitations of their budget, with stories becoming repetitive and the action slowing down considerably.

What saves the show is a likable cast, led by the charismatic Kellita Smith and the quirky Keith Allan. The season finale tries its best to be exciting and suspenseful, and it succeeds to some extent. But one can't help but wonder how the show can improve if the budget doesn't. Time will  tell.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2016.