Cruz Family Christmas Card

For the past nine years, all I've wanted to do is send customized Christmas cards. The most important part of this process? The photo. Thankfully Markus booked a couple nights at this awesome bed and breakfast, Goldberry Woods, for my birthday. Goldberry is in Michigan and just an hour and half outside the city. It's definitely an idyllic spot and the perfect place for a festive photo.

On Saturday morning, we woke up early and donned our matching outfits. It snowed the night before and it created a beautiful winter wonderland. We trekked through a nearby forest and found so many great spots. We took so many photos and in the end, had way too many to choose from. The photo above is the one we ultimately chose. We thought it was playful and perfectly showcased our personalities. I'm a bit sad that we can't use any of the other photos, but at least I get to share them with you!

Apple Picking at County Line Orchard | Hobart, Indiana

Autumn came and went in such a hurry. I feel like I barely had the chance to enjoy cool evenings, sweater weather and pumpkin treats. A couple months ago, Markus and I drove to Indiana to County Line Orchard and pick some apples. It was my first experience at this Midwest tradition. There weren't many apples left, so we spent most of our time frolicking in cornfields and picking flowers. We had such a great time and can't wait to visit again next year!

Noelle & Ashley | Detroit, Michigan

I love my best friend, Ashley. We've known each other for a long time now and she totally gets me. A few months ago, we spent a long weekend in Detroit and had a grand ole' time. We even made a quick stop in Canada for breakfast. We spent most of the weekend stopping at places to take photos. It was fantastic and I hope you enjoy our photos!

Creepy Cinema: Total Invasion | Week 3

This week was packed full of intense and entertaining movies. I watched some hilarious and campy films, but also some bleak and depressing ones. It was a great seven days and I'm excited for the final ten films of Creepy Cinema 2014: Total Invasion.

1. Slither - 2006
This film is directed by James Gunn, who also directed this year’s amazing Guardians of the Galaxy. Since I loved that movie immensely, I quickly agreed that we should add Slither to this year’s list. The film opens like most other films in the sub-genre, with a meteorite crashing to earth and releasing an alien parasite in a small town. In Slither its a small South Carolina town. Slither is actually really great,  and I enjoyed it immensely, screaming at every turn. It’s everything you could want in a horror movie. It’s gross and disgusting with parts that are almost too much. Throughout the film there are some genuine scary moments, but there are funny moments peppered throughout to relieve some of the tension. It’s a great film and one that I recommend you watch. 

2. Big Ass Spider - 2013
This film has one of the greatest openings I’ve ever seen. The film opens with exterminator Alex Mathis, played by the delightful Greg Grunberg, standing in the midst of chaos on a city street. A haunting song starts to play and we see Mathis intensely staring up at something. Everything moves in slow motion and then the camera pans over to a tall building and literally, a big ass spider scaling it. Unfortunately, the movie isn’t as good as it’s opening. The premise follows Mathis as he tries to take down a spider that has been exposed to alien DNA, causing it to grow immensely. I did enjoy that the plot was a bit original, I’ve never seen an exterminator as the hero, and his sidekick, Jose, is the best part of the movie. Jose is hilarious and spits out tons of one-liners that are simply comedic gold. As for the rest of the film, it’s just okay. The CGI isn’t  the best and the movie is definitely cheesy, but it’s worth at least a one time watch.

3. Day of the Dead - 1985
This film is the last of the George A. Romero Living Dead trilogy. I’ve seen all three and this one was a doozy. I’ve been told by Markus that this movie is for real trolls who love zombie flicks. The film follows a small group of survivors consisting of an army unit and a few scientists, who are researching zombies. They are hoping to find a cure or a solution for the epidemic. I can see why zombie aficionados love it, but it was really hard for me to watch. I had to stop watching in the middle, because it was too intense. The acting was great because all I felt was depressed and desperate. The villain in this film is so awful and disgusting that I was waiting for his inevitable death. Of the three films, this is probably the one that I wouldn't watch again. It’s a great movie and really captures the desperation of a helpless situation, but it’s just a little more than my sensitive heart can handle. 

4. 28 Days Later - 2002
Even though I used to steer clear of horror movies, my friends managed to coerce me into watching 28 Days Later. Strangely enough, I loved it and I’m still a huge fan. I have to admit, I think a lot of my love comes from my adoration of Cillian Murphy, but it’s hard not to get lost in those baby blues. The film follows Jim, a bicycle courier, who wakes up from a coma and has to deal with a world that is reeling in the aftermath of a highly contagious virus.  I’ve seen tons of  zombie movies, thanks to Markus, and I can honestly say that 28 Days Later is one of my favorites. It’s real, gritty, and focuses on how people react and deal with extremely dire circumstances. At times, it can get really intense, but it’s such a great movie that I’ll suffer the stress of suspense.

5. Cloverfield - 2008
An action-packed entry in the Found Footage subgenre, this film takes place in New York where a mysterious alien rises out of the depths of the ocean to terrorize America’s most iconic metropolis. I remember Markus being so excited for this movie because it was the closest he was going to get to an American kaiju movie. Cloverfield is very successful due to it’s originality, and at the time of its release there weren’t many giant monster movies, especially ones that were found footage. This film was really clever and I spent most of the film sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen. Even though this was another alien movie, it was unlike anything on the list. The CGI, effects and acting are exceptional and this is definitely a must-see invasion film.

6. They Live - 1988
This film was made by the prolific and delightfully cheesy John Carpenter. I haven’t seen many of his films, but one that will always stand out is The Thing. That movie terrified me and I still cringe whenever Markus talks about it. I thought that They Live was going to be just as scary, but I was surprised to find that it wasn’t. Despite They Live being a popular, cult classic, I knew nothing about the movie. I even knew the famous line, “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum,” but I didn’t know where it originated from. The film follows Nada, played by Roddy Piper, an unemployed drifter as he discovers a huge secret about the upper class. I really enjoyed They Live, the acting might have been stale at some points, but I think Piper was quite good as the lead. The campiness of this movie is what makes it so great. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and I’ve seen a lot of serious movies this month. It was like an oasis in the midst of body snatchers and meteorites, and for that alone, I loved this movie.

7. Signs - 2002
This is easily one of M. Night Shyamalan’s better movies. Once there was a time when people enjoyed his movies and actually rushed to see his films, alas the Shyamalan empire is no more. Signs follows an ex-preacher, played by Mel Gibson, who discovers a series of crop circles in his cornfields. He becomes convinced that the occurrences are not manmade, but created by extraterrestrials. The film has genuine scary moments especially when they are trapped in the house. I really like Signs, despite the ending being a bit weak. How could the alien’s weakness be something that is so prevalent on earth and conveniently all over the house? Despite all this, Signs is one of the strongest of Shyamalan’s movies and one that I enjoy immensely.

Creepy Cinema 2014: Total Invasion | Week 2

The second week of Creepy Cinema was chock full of alien invasions. Despite sharing similar premises, the films were all so different. I saw one of the most depressing films I've ever seen and it was a bit difficult to watch. The other films were less depressing, thank goodness! Right now, we're at the halfway point and I'm a bit sad. This month is moving way too quickly. Can't wait to share the rest of Creepy Cinema: Total Invasion with you!

1. The Mist – 1997
This is the second film based off a Stephan King novel on this year's list. The Mist is a classic bottle movie, with a large ensemble cast spending a majority of the film trapped in a supermarket. We basically see these people slowly begin to unravel as they deal with unforeseen monsters. Despite having terrifying creatures invade the world, the real villains are the people. The writing and acting were so good in this film, because I really began to resent the antagonists. They were so awful and I spent the whole time being annoyed. As the film progresses, everything slowly erodes to a very dismal and hopeless situation. I mean it genuinely shifts to an oppressive tone, and it’s hard to want to watch something like this again. I felt depressed afterwards.

2. I, Frankenstein - 2014
After being thoroughly depressed watching The Mist, I needed to see something a little lighter and a bit more fun. I, Frankenstein was exactly what I needed and even though it has a B-movie quality, it was still enjoyable. This film follows Frankenstein's monster as he prowls about the earth, brooding about his existence and soon becomes a pawn in the war between gargoyles and demons. I know it sounds slightly ridiculous, and it was, but it was the levity that I needed in between dark and depressing films. The storyline is a bit convoluted and hard to follow. There was so much potential with this movie and it could’ve been something really awesome, but it fell a bit flat.  

3. Seed People – 1992
When we were creating this list, we watch the trailer for Seed People. Just from the trailer, we thought that this would be another Troll 2 and be full of bad acting, classic lines, and non-stop fun. We were so wrong. The film is based in a small town where people begin to act strangely. Like most of the movies I’ve watched this month, aliens are converting humans into “seed people.” The design for the creatures was really good, but that was the only good thing about this movie. I had a hard time watching this because it was so slow and the acting was terrible, but not in a good way. By the end of the film, I was ready to watch something else.

4. The Day the Earth Stood Still – 1951
This is one of two 1950s films on this year’s list, which makes me a little sad. I love old movies and it’s slightly crushing that there aren't more for me this year. The Day the Earth Stood Still is a great movie and has been regarded as one of the greatest films released in 1951. There are so many iconic things about this movie and it’s highly recognizable. This film follows an human-like alien that travels to earth with a powerful robot that is charged with delivering a message to the people of earth. Despite being a film from the 50s, the look and feel was quite impressive. The design for Gort, the robot companion of the main character, is really cool and has that retro atomic age look.

5. The Faculty – 1998
I don’t know how I escaped the late 90s without seeing this movie. There are so many famous people in this film, directed by Robert Rodriguez, and serves as a who’s who of 90s teen actors. It has Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Usher and that girl that always plays a manic depressive goth (Clea DuVall).  This movie follows a group of misfit teens as they fight against an alien species that has taken control of their teachers. I really enjoyed watching The Faculty. Even though the themes and plotline are similar to other film’s on the list, it was different because there was never really a feeling of helplessness. It stars a band of teen outcasts that normally can't stand each other, but eventually have to work together to save the world from an alien invasion. It’s kind of like The Breakfast Club meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s a great movie and I’m glad that I finally had the chance to see it.  

6. Starship Troopers – 1997
The year 1997 was a great year for movies. There was Titanic, Batman and Robin and Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Of all these great movies, there was only one that won its way to my heart, Starship Troopers. I know it sounds strange to think of 14-yr old me being obsessed with this film, but I was. I had an intense and unreal love with it and everyone knew. My brother even bought me the dvd for my 15th birthday. Starship Troopers, originally a novel, stars Casper Van Dien as Johnny Rico, a man that made my teenage heart flutter. Arachnid aliens are at war with humankind and it’s up to Rico and his comrades in the Mobile Infantry to overcome their enemy. It’s a fun film and one that I still enjoy to this day.

7. War of the Worlds – 2005  
This film is based off the classic novel of the same name by H.G. Wells. It’s such an iconic book and any version of film should be amazing. The movie follows Ray, portrayed by Tom Cruise, a divorced father reunited with his two children during an alien attack. Ray treks from New Jersey to Boston in the hopes of reuniting his children with his ex-wife. The aliens in War of the Worlds are so memorable because of their look, and I love their design in this film. It’s something that originates from the novel, and the huge tripod machines that loom over their prey gives such a strong feeling of dread and hopelessness. I’ve never read the novel or seen the 1953 version, but this adaptation was very enjoyable. It’s not the greatest movie I’ve seen, but it’s definitely not terrible. It was overall pretty enjoyable.

Creepy Cinema 2014: Total Invasion | Week 1

I'm so excited that Creepy Cinema is back. This first week had a lot of great films and helped me once again become acclimated to scary movies. Despite having quite a bit of alien story lines, every film was different and had it's own unique story to tell. I hope enjoy my thoughts and opinions and continue to join me on this journey through the month of October! 

1. Phantoms - 1998
Originally, Phantoms was a book written by Dean Koontz. The film is set in a small town and something isn't quite right. Everyone in the town has disappeared and a force of evil takes over. The story is quite original and doesn't follow the same tropes you see in scary movies. It’s mildly Lovecraftian in the fact that it deals with a shapeless evil. The film was well acted with veteran, Peter O’Toole and relatively unknown actors Ben Affleck and Liev Schreiber. Every time I heard the song "I Fall to Pieces" in the film, I knew something bad was going to happen. As for Affleck, he was totally the bomb. (If you get that reference, you're okay in my book).

2. Them - 1954
Them was one of the first atom age monster movies from the 1950s and formed a cult following. The film is about giant radioactive ants that begin terrorizing human civilization. For a film made in the 50s, it was very impressive. The ants themselves looked amazing and very believable. The special effects team were even nominated for an Oscar. Despite being an older film, I was hooked from the beginning. I thought it was going to be a poor B-movie similar to Plan 9 from Outer Space, but it wasn't even in the same realm. Them is a clever movie which uses science fiction to it's advantage to create a world where giant ants could possibly take over the world.  

3. Evolution - 2001
This film is one of the funniest on this year’s list. I was so pumped to watch it again. Following the same tropes as its 1950s predecessors, a meteor crashes on earth and is, of course, infected with some sort of alien substance. Then, two community college professors, Orlando Jones and David Duchovny, investigate the meteor, only to realize that the substance is an extraterrestrial organism that evolves at an extremely rapid pace. There is so much to like about this movie. Jones and Duchovny are hilarious and carry the movie with great comedic delivery. I was surprised that even 13 years later, this movie still holds up and is a great popcorn film.

4. Night of the Creeps - 1986
This 80s classic is often overlooked and definitely one that I’ve never heard of. The film is an homage to 50’s horror films as well as some of the big names in the horror genre. The main characters are all named after a famous director like Romero, Raimi, Carpenter, etc. The film is a grab bag of all the things that make horror movies great.  It has aliens, zombies, axe murderers, you name it, it's in here. Surprisingly, this movie is a lot of fun and better than some of the movies that it pays an homage to. I think that’s partly due to the fact that it’s a comedy wrapped in horror. Sure the acting is a bit off, the lead female is hard to watch, and a lot of things don't make sense, but that’s 80s at its best. I enjoyed it immensely and it definitely deserves, at the very least, a one time watch.

5. Monsters - 2010
Of all the movies we've watched so far, Monsters is my absolute favorite. The film takes place in a world that has been invaded by aliens after an infected NASA probe crashes on earth. We follow the main characters, Sam and Kauler, on their journey from the "infected area," in Mexico, back to America.  It's an intense, intelligent, and dramatically moving film. The actors are brilliant and it’s their chemistry and character development that really drives the movie. If you only watch one movie from this year's list, I highly recommend Monsters. You won't regret it.

6. Invasion of the Body Snatchers - 1978
If there was one movie that was on all the lists of alien invasions movies, it would definitely be Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s one of those films that everyone knows about and has seen. The 1978 version is a remake of the original 1956 version and stars Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy and a hunky Jeff Goldbum. The story revolves around an alien species that begins to replicate and replace human beings to form a conformist society. Despite the film being iconic and highly regarded, I didn’t really like it. It felt really long and suffered from what Markus calls “The 70s pacing.” The special effects were great, there were a lot of great scenes, and the story was well done...but it was just way too long. In the end it just fell flat for me. Unfortunately, this isn’t a film that I would watch again.

7. Invaders from Mars - 1986
This film follows David Gardener, a young boy, that watches as his parents those close to him slowly become overtaken by aliens. It’s similar to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In order to overcome these aliens, he enlists the help of the military and his school nurse. Sounds a bit ridiculous right? Well it was! Out of all the movies this week, this one was probably my least favorite. The acting was horrific. The actor that played David was the worst. In fact most of his co-stars were just as bad, and I cringed so many times during the film. There were certain parts that were good, like the creature designs. I was really impressed and creeped out, but I thought that maybe the ending could’ve saved the movie. However it was the worst! I would rather watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers again than sit through this film.

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