Bob here. Speaking for everyoe
As noted from the over 200 mini-reviews I wrote for everything I saw from 2019 and 2018, I watch a lot of titles. And these are only a portion of what I see. And I read a lot too. From December of 2018 though July of 2019 I tried to keep up a short review section, updating as best I could, trying for daily. I stopped this when starting the daily 100 Days of Horror Log.
In this new year, I have decided to post day by day what I watch and give a review, either short notes or a long form article or video. I’ll also note what books I finish and give some notes. I’ll save TV Seasons to completion as well. Bob’s writing here, but all four of us can contribute as needed and wanted.
This should be fun – if you have any thoughts, comments, and/or suggestions, please leave them below. Send any complaints to Cody.
We Go On; 2016; horror; Written and Directed by Andy Mitton and Jesse Holland; Starring Annette O’Toole, Clark Freeman, John Glover, Jay Dunn. NR. 1h29m. First time watch; on Shudder.
We Go On is about a troubled man who offers $30,000 to someone who can prove to him the afterlife exists. After a few false starts (one featuring John Glover!), he meets someone who opens up the doors and he now absolutely knows its’ real, and terrifying. It’s at this point, the movie starts really move forward, but this is too far into the movie around the 40ish minute mark. A little cut and a stronger film. This and a new lead actor. While the writing gives him life, Freeman as Miles is stiff and wide-eyed, stumbling through scenes. There is a lot of the Sixth Sense in here , and a good drama within the horror.
Good Place Season 4; One of the best shows comes to an end. I’m not going to spoil a thing for you even if you haven’t seen a single episode. Watch it. At 4 12-13 episodes seasons, you can get through pretty quickly. It’s been a great ride watching this fantastic program. It continued to re-invent itself and its premise every few episodes, but never lost its core. You may, without seeing the show, say “Why would a shifting show be a good thing”. Well, friend it keeps it fresh and keeps us on our toes. And the shifts are very natural, keeping the show from being an issue of the week and more into the larger story. A lesser show would keep the premise of “a bad person is accidentally in heaven! What issue will come up this week, and how shall she get out of it?” and stretched it. I’m so glad Michael Shrur and company went off and made something smarter and stronger. I’ll admit the start of Season 4 was not nearly as strong as the rest and it does feel like it’s aiming at an end, but it’s still a solid show then. All of the leads give their best performances, making several new stars and re-introducing the world to Ted Danson and Kristen Bell.
Community Season 1; 2009-10. Finally getting into this great show, led by the Russo Brothers who would go on to do great work in the MCU. I’ll admit, I was skeptical with all the praise given to the early seasons (I hear each season is slightly less than the last), but the lauding is right. This is hilarious and smart (like the one above) with great character dynamics and chemistry ( hell I even like Ken Jeong in this). It works because it’s staring sitcoms while they’re at it, both directly with Abed’s commentary and more subtly. Can’t wait to see Season 2.
The Gentlemen– 2020- Written and Directed by Guy Richie. Theatrical release. Guy Ritchie returns to fast-talking-british-crime flicks, for better or worse. Not a great film, but a lot of fun. Hugh Grant and Colin Farrell steal the show away from other well-known performers. But Jeremy Strong is awful. I’ll review it soon; but for now- here’s Tony’s.
Bob watched four more KTMA era episodes of MST3k (see below). City on Fire is another star-studded disaster flick. This one has Leslie Nielson! After an explosion it turns out all of a mid-sized city is flammable due to the oil that went boomy. The story is mostly based around the hospital at the epicenter. Silly and overwraught. The best part is Neilson hosing people down before they run through the fire. Time of the Apes, Sandy Frank again cuts a Japanese TV show into a movie. This finds three morons – a woman and two kids – who get flash frozen and wake up on the Planet of the Apes. Antics ensue. Million Eyes of Sumumu – A lady Bond flick that claims to be feminist but also features sexy outfits. It’s a slog. Hangar 18, space pilots encounter aliens. We get bored.
Dragonwyck; 1946; Written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (first feature!) from the novel. Starring Vincent Price, Gene Tierny, Walter Huston. First Time watch. 1h45m. Owned disc.
The film Guillermo Del Toro used as the base for Crimson Peak. That and as part of a “Fox Horror Classics Volume 2” box set, I’ll admit I was let down that there wasn’t a great deal of horror. There’s a ghost (real) and a curse, and a few moments that slide nearly that way, but this is more of a drama. A young girl is invited to be a nanny to Vincent Price (Yea!) and his sickly wife. The wife dies, and he marries the nanny. (at this point the girl vanishes.. weird). I did enjoy the film, but I feel it’s missing a lot. I need read the novel. I’m interested in learning more. There’s family and culture intrigue, a deep history, and a beautiful house. And VINCENT PRICE!
book: Sweet Tooth deluxe edition Volume 2 (issue 13-25) I continually love this graphic book series I’m reading for the first time. The characters grow and change naturaly with the details we’re given and the world is further expanded. I really have enjoyed the greys of morality in this world, the villains of last time are humanized and we learn to see them as good with new forces. I have volume 3 from the library now and I cant’ wait to dig in.
The Phantom Carriage. (1921). Drama Written and directed by Victor Sjostrom. Starring the same, Hilda Borgstom, Tore Svennerg. First time watch. Library Disc. 1h46m
I’m glad I finally got to see this important and highly influential film. It’s based on a Swedish legend that states the last person to die in a give year must take on the role of Death’s driver, moving around the country taking souls until being replaced in the next year. With this concept, we see the story of David Holm, a ne-er-do-well drunk who is killed as the clock strikes midnight. He meets with the last year’s reaper, an old friend who led him down the path of sin. Through David, there is a somber look of how we affect others ad the choices we make when others try to help. Touching and heartbreaking with pretty nice double exposure effects, Phantom Carriage is a damned fine movie. Be on the look out for Kubrick taking Jack attack the door in The Shining from a sequence here.
The Color Out of Space 2020. I LOVE THIS MOVIE. I’m not going to write a thing further for I’ll end up raving and writing a messy long rambling review. I’ll have a real one up soon.
Street Fighter (1994) Action. Written and Directed by Steven E DeSouza, from the Capcom video games. Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme he did a lot of cocaine on this set, Raul Julia, Kyle Minogue, Ming-Na Wen. Seen a few times before. On Starz.
Street Fighter is awful, and dammit I love it. Of that era in the 90s where everything like this was over-produced and silly looking; see also The Shadow, The Phantom, Rocketeer, Super Mario Brothers, and many others. I love this all for that reason. I give De Souza credit, he attempts to make a story out of the games, although it has major logic leaps, and gathered a whole set of actors who are in on the joke – outside of Van Damme, who outside of JCVD, doesnt’ seem to be self-reflexive in the least. Best of all is Raul Julia, giving all the energy he can into his last performance. OF COURSE! He really does do a darned good job. But he always does – giving a good performance for him is just a Tuesday. And don’t fuck with Ming-Na Wen. I forgot she was Chun-Li until it started. Unfortuantly, like In The Name of the King below, the fight scenes are poorly staged making them a quick cut mess, but the silliness around it makes it a lot of fun.
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! (1992). Written by Blake Synder, William Osbourne, and William Davis. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode (I think I had a friend who had that in the Navy). Starring Silvester Stallone, Estelle Getty. 85 minutes. First time watch. Starz.
Another notorious bad movie. But not the good time, more of the slog. On one level, it’s a competent film. The plot moves forward in the way in should, the shots are basic but get it done, and there aren’t too many cringey moments of “why they hell did they do that?” -even the idea of the movie isnt’ all that dumb. But this is an outline, a placeholder script that no one ever went back to give it life. So in that way, it just lands with a dull plop. It doesn’t help Stallone can’t do comedy in the same way Arnold can (he famously was tricked into this by Arnold feigning interest), so that’s one thing – although I’ve been told to see Oscar, and Estelle Getty is annoying as hell in the “Don’t do the thing… I did the thing” chararacter type I hate. I think I laughed one total time in the course of the movie.
I got nothin’
Fall of the House of Usher (1928). Horror. Directed by Jean Epstein. Written by the same and Luis Bunuel based upon the story by Edgar Allen Poe. 63 Minutes. NR. 2nd Viewing. From my watched disc.
This silent, surreal flick is the first feature length Poe adaptation and the second screen credit for Luis Bunuel, who would go on to a long career in film after being fired from this after arguing with Epstein, stating the screen story strayed too far from the short story. Funny about that, as for the most part it follows the story outside of changing sister Madeline to wife and they all survive the collapsing house (we don’t see the exterior or its crack). It’s pretty straight forward, although given a surreal coating in the stage design. Dreamlike and filled with powerful imagery, I recommend it.
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. 2007 Written and directed by Uwe Boll. Starring Jason Staitham, Burt Renyolds, Matthew Lillard, Ray Liotta, John Rhys-Davis, LeeLee Solbeiski. TWO HOURS AND FORTY MINUTES. It hurt writing that. first time watch. From owned blu-ray.
Boll’s string of awful video game adaptations continues with adapting Dungeon Seige, albeit with a minimal amount of either of those. (Cue Nelson “I can think of at least two things wrong with that title.”) An a very minimal amount of effort in anyone involved. The most amount goes to the audience for sitting through over two and a half hours of Boll’s attempt at Lord of the Rings. Boy this was hard to watch. A nonsensical plot with far too many characters (who travel so damned fast) and acting sliding from a barely caring Ray Liotta (who seemed to be filmed away from everyone else) to Matthew Lillian spit-yelling every line (dude is better than this, what possessed him to perform this way) not to mention the mannequin that is Claire Forlani. I did enjoy how awful most the movie was for its awfulness but damn the fight sequences are too long as so badly shot they stop the movie in its tracks. The humor is forced, the characters dumb as bricks. Boll has made worse movies, but that’s hardly an accomplishment.
Bob: Tammy and the T-Rex: Gore Cut. (1994) Written by Stewart Raffill and Gary Brockette. Directed by Stewart Raffill; Starring Denise Richards, Paul Walker, Terry Kiser, George Buck Flowers. 85 minutes. on Shudder; first time watch in any form.
Shudder and Vinegar Syndrome recently reawakened interest in this nearly forgotten 1994 horror-comedy by releasing an unrated cut with the hilarious and bloody gore gags cut when the film was released in a PG-13 form back in 1994. I look forward to watching that version at some point to compare, because I had a damned good time in the gore cut.
That’s not to say Tammy and the T-Rex is a good movie, but honestly I’m a bit impressed. Raffill had a little over a month to pull together the film from scratch. Apparently some guy came to him and said they had an animatronic T-Rex that was going to be shipped away in a month and wanted a movie made around it. So Pre-Production and Production had to be done very quickly. And for that, it works. There is a sense of fun and goofiness in every level. To Raffill’s credit, he made a movie that seems like everyone involved genuinely enjoyed making a silly movie for the joy of it, rather than the slumming cynicism of similar movies made by others (coughSharknadoCough). This could have been more bottom of the barrel and made easier choices, but Raffill just jumps in and goes.
The ways he works around the T-rex and it’s limitations of movement were both clever and hilarious. Denise Richards is for once the exact right pick and it’s weird to see Paul Walker so young. And fuck yes little Isaac from Children of the Corn! His rapport with the muscle dude is great. And Terry Kiser chews whatever scenery is left after the T-Rex is done with it. Tammy and the T-Rex is a ton of fun with wonderful gore gags and a sense of fun.
Let Us Prey – 2014- Written by Daid Cairns & Fiona Watson; Directed by Brian O’Malley. Starring Liam Cunningham, Pollyanna Macintosh, Niall Greig Fulton. Horror. 92 minutes. Seen before, but this time at Jennifer Lovely’s movie nights.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have a legitimately good, scary, and serious horror film. On her first shift at a rural police station, Pollyanna Macintosh (The Woman) has a hell of a night. A mysterious stranger (Cunningham, Game of Thrones & Dog Soldiers) shows up at the station, populated by a bunch of ne’er-do-wells, police and criminal alike. Everyone’s boundaries and histories are tested. Blood is spilled. People get killed and it gets WILD. I’m being vague, so vague, as you NEED to see this movie. It slipped under many radars but it shouldn’t have, it is honestly one of the best horror films of the decade. Let us Prey has amazing pacing and build of action and reveals and atmosphere for miles. It oozes tension and unease. So taut as it feels like intense violence is just about to break out at any moment. The hold is delicious. And the movie is fantastic. Without spoiling – it has one of my favorite endings of all time. Thanks Jennifer for showing it. (and you! Listen to her podcast)
Dracula Episode 3. Full review coming once I catch up on this (as I’ve promised below) but dammit I’m peeved. I really enjoyed the first two parts (see below) but this was a mess of ideas. I get the feeling between filming Ep 2 and 3, Gatiss and Moffatt were told they didn’t have a multi season show but one more episode and the remainign 2 seasons were shoved into 90 minutes. A Rise of Skywalker for Dracula. More to come…
Tony saw The Gentlemen
Bob saw The Turning.
Bob also: Panic in the Year Zero! (1962) Directed by Ray Milland; Written by Jay Simms and John Morton; Starring Ray Milland, Frankie Avalon, Jean Hagan, Mary Mitchell. NR; Drama/horror/post-nuke. 93 Min. From disc. 4th viewing.
One of the earlier post-apocalyptic flicks, along with Five (1951) is a solid flick that is nearly forgotten and often overlooked as a B-picture from American International Pictures (the king of the Bs). An LA family is on the road to go fishing when the bombs start to go off behind them. So we get a look at people on the cusp of danger at the first breaks in society, as all this takes places in the upper country between LA and Sacramento. It’s a sobering, but not gritty and dark, take on stretching morals for survival. It’s great in the film is kept low key – only a handful of people are seen on both trying to survive and still be good people (Despite the acts they might have to do), and those who take advantage. But even the advantage folks portrayals stay clear of marauding gleefully evil gangs or mutants; instead scared teenagers stuck in this same situation. The family dynamic is very well written and performed, with a real sense of connection. While I have it on disc, check it out on Amazon Prime.
Books: The Incomplete Jane Austen, 220. Contains the fragments of Austen’s unfinished books: Lady Susan, Sandition, and The Waltons. More of the same, if you like Austen – these will be of interest. What’s weird is I don’t care for Austen as a writer. Her style doens’t work for me. It’s that and not the plots as I tend to really like adaptations of her work. Can’t wait for the new Emma.
Sweet Tooth: Deluxe Volume 1 (Issues 1- 12) by Jeff Lemire. I don’t want to say much before I finish all three volumes of this comic collection recommended to me by my friend Gage Davis. What I’ve seen so far is fantastic. Nine years after a plague wipes out 99 percent of people, all children born are animal-people hybrids. One such hybrid has lived in a cabin with his dad until bad things happen and he hits the road with a gruff loner. You’ve seen that aspect before, but a familiar skeleton is fleshed with a wonderful worldbuilding and character. Can’t wait to read part 2.
Kim saw the Color Out of Space
Bob: I watched to more MST3k KTMA epsiodes (See below), Mighty Jack and Superdome. I wanted to like both more than I did. This is still early in MSt3k so the riffing isn’t fully there yet so the movies do the heavy lifting and both movies are meh. Mighty Jack is Sandy Frank taking two episodes (1 and 6) of a Japanese television show and presenting as a movie. Kinda drawn out and boring. Superdome is another star-studded cast in a terrorist activity before the Superbowl. But an awful script (no duh) and too much drama over action (and no football) make it a slog to get through. It’s led by Dick Butkis for some reason and he’s not an actor by any means. It’s the type of flick where the main characters are rather unaware of the bad guys even existing so not a lot of suspense.
Book: If You Can See Me Now (1977) Peter Straub. 215 pages.
An asshole returns to his childhood town after his wife dies to find himself imbroiled in a series of murders and a secret of the past. I really enjoy Straub writing such a dick of a character. Made something I’ve read in other forms much more interesting. Dude comes back at the same time as someone has started to kill teenage girls. Girls who match the description of his 21 year’s dead cousin everyone thinks he killed. He’s back as he thinks she’ll appear to him on a particular day. The truth of the murders is a pretty easy mystery to solve and the story gets repetitive but I still liked it.
Bob: Strictly Ballroom ; 1992; Directed by Baz Luhrman; Written by the same and Craig Pierce. Starring Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice. Dance comedy-drama. 1h35 Minutes. Netflix. First time watch.
Baz Luhman’s first film bursts from the gate and onto the dance floor with such energy, one can’t see a bright future for the filmmaker. Luhrman’s camera dances with the audience and players, immediately drawing the viewer into the world of regional ballroom dancing. In the story, we find young Scott, an amazing classical dancer, he wants to add new life and steps into his routine. This causes issues for everyone but wallflower Fran. The dancing is wonderful, the characters are charming, and there is a lot of fun.
Rescuers Down Under (1990); Written by Karey Kirkpatrick and Jim Cox, Directed by Hendel Utoy and Mike Gabriel. Featuring the voices of Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, John Candy, George C Scott. First time since a child. Disneyplus.
While the script is essentially a find-and-replace of elements from the 1977 The Rescuers, that doesn’t mean this sequel is any less good. For one, George C Scott as the villain gives just as much over-the-top Scottness in his voice performance as he does on screen. I’d kill to see him in the booth for this, it must have been entertaining as hell. It’s a good mix to the understated Bob Newhart – he’s great as Bernard, not something you’d expect with his standard delivery. And Eva Gabor is just delightful as Bianca. While the plot is incredibly light and goddamn is the kid they are rescuing is an idiot but watching this again made me feel like a kid. I remember being wowed seeing it theatrically back in the day and I see why.
American Crime Story Season 1: The People vs OJ Simpson.
I skipped this when it was released in favor of the excellent documentary released around the same time. While I liked the documentary better, American Crime Story is a damned good show. It did a great job of potraying all sides with an even hand. The proseuction’s mistakes and hubris combined with the public thoughts of the time, and the showboating of the defense leads to a hell of a drama, even knowing the outcome. I could have done with less winky “hey you know where this goes” moments (Kardasan kids…). The performances were all amazing, especially Courtney Vance as Cochran and David Schwimmer as Robert Kardasian. Continually gripping and infuriating, a great show. I was 12 when all this happened and I remember it from a 12 year old’s memory (along with the documentary). Some of the details were so wild I had to look them up to see if they weren’t embellished for TV…. and mostly they weren’t. What a farce of a trial but a heck of a show.
Bob: SST Death Flight (Mystery Science Theater 3000 Season KTMA, Episode 13;
This 1977 Made-For-TV flick is a hoot, even without the riffing from the local channel first season of MST3k. We need to have more star-studded disaster flicks! On the first flight of a super sonic jet, passengers and crew Burgess Meredith, George Mahais, Peter Graves, Bert Convey, Lorne Greene and Billy Crystal (among other people who would be very recognizable in the 70s) have to deal with a airborne virus and jammed landing gear. Oh no! This type of flick was wonderfully parodied in Airplane! and its hard not to see Airplane when watching (trivia: Airplane is an almost shot for shot remake of a 1958 filmed called Zero Hour). Silly in its overdramatic nature and awful effects like the model of the plane, I had a blast.
A bunch of early Wizard of Oz flicks from 1910 – 1925. Before the big 1939 version we all know (and love), the books of the Baum series were adapted a few times, in varying degrees of success, and often with Baum’s hand involved (it actually bankrupted him making the three 1914 flicks). As film relics of chilish attempts to adapt the property, they are interesting. But motstly not very good on their own. They base on the audience knowing the stories so often shove through anything to that effect. I love the giant animal costumes – people in furry suits. I honestly enjoy Patchwork Girl of Oz as a flick though. My favorite of the books, one where Baum actually gave a shit instead of shoving out for cash. Do skip the 1925 one, even with Laurel Hardy as the Tin Man. Most of the story is deleted in favor of Larry Semon presenting the Larry Semon show. If you don’t know Larry, it’s okay. He desperated wanted to be Chaplin, Lloyd, and Keaton but didnt’ have the chops for it. Think the “funny guys at church” type of humour acting. Instead of the Oz plot, we have 35 minutes of the one hour run time of Larry bumbling around trying to be a clown. Ugh.
Bob: A Woman of Paris (1923); Written and Directed by Charlie Chaplin. 70m; first watch from an owned DVD: Chaplin’s first (of two) drama (and doesn’t feature him outside faceless cameo) wasn’t a hit with critics or audience upon it’s release and I can see why. While knowing it’s a drama of a history of a relationship going in and unlike other Chaplin films, it’s not particularly good. Just a boilerplate melodrama with nothing to separate it out from any other of the era.
Weathering With You (2020 in the states, 2019 Japan). Written and Directed by Makoto Shinkai. Sci-fi Drama anime; 1h52m More details when I write my review soon (once I get caught up with this post expect review for this, Uncut Gems, and the Turning). The follow up to Your Name isn’t as good that flick, but what is? That’s one of the best of the last decade. Seperating it out from the previous film of the director, Weathering With You is a great flick. Beautiful if standard animation, with a compelling storyline, and charming characters. But there are some issues with underwriting; the story presented should have more weight to it and more drive. But still a damned good film. It’s playing in limited release, so seek it out.
Bob didn’t finish anything…
Bob: Book: Tale of Tales aka The Pentamerone. By Giambattista Basile. (1636). 525 pages. The oldest collection of fairy and folk tales, older than Grimm or Perault featuring early version of tales you’ll know from those. I had a good time reading these 50 stories, although there were times I felt that was way too many. I appreciated the ribald and crude nature of the jokes and the way people talked. Such wonderful insults. It’s interesting to look at what functions as “children’s tales” in a different culture 400 years ago. I saw the film a few years ago, and I don’t recommend.
Uncut Gems (2019) I’m gonna be quick here as got a draft for a full review. Adam Sandler leads a cacophony of noises and energy. The Safdie Brothers create a fascinating film filled with easily unlikeable people. Sander puts in a solid performance but don’t think it was as great as lauded. It’s nearly a horror film in how tense it is. Hell, everyone is amazing. An amazing score drives the movie along and it has a Coen-esque feel to it in the way it plays out that really worked.
Jan 15: no entries.
Bob: The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu (1930) Directed by Rowland V. Lee; Written by Lloyd Corrigan and Florence Ryerson from the novel by Sax Rohmer. Starring Warner Oland, OP Heglund. 73 Minutes. NR. First time watch. via YouTube
Yes, Dr. Fu Manchu is a problematic figure, the Asian criminal mastermind is a broad stereotype. And always played by white men – Warner Oland here (before he played Charlie Chan… that’s a whole another topic), Boris Karloff (watching that one soon, I have a DVD with his – why I’m watching this one), or Christopher Lee in a five-movie series later on. Anyway, this is a sequel to a film I didn’t’ see because it’s not available. Dumb lost films!Wiki got me up to speed, to watch people talk for a while. Not much going on. some danger and Dr Fu manchu expected action at the end, but for much of the film nothing much goes on. I talked more introduction than film but I have not much more to say. I’ll check in again for the Karloff one soon enough (and the ones in between if available)
Chinatown Nights (1929); Directed by William Wellam; written by Ben Grauman Kohn; 1h23
Another movie featuring Werner Oland as an Asian man. Watched this one as an early David O. Selznick production. A solid little flick, putting the yellow-face aside. A girl ends up in the center of a gang-feud in Chinatown. It’s notable as an early talkie, production was halted to make it into one and the baby steps of the art form are interesting as a film over two types of the medium. But really, as a story, it works. Florence Vidor puts in a solid show.
Cincinnati Kid w/ commentary by director Norman Jewison. I watched the non-commentary version below. An alright commentary. Some good notes on the story development, studio fights, and stories of the big personalities involved. But also slides into “this is what every one is thinking” comments.
Book: Julia by Peter Straub (1975) Horror. 175 pages.
Below I said I didn’t care for Under Venus, but Julia – I really dug. The titular character is separated from her abusive husband after the death of their daughter. After buying a house that called to her in London, strange things begin to happen after she sees a vision of the dead girl nearby. But the ghost might not be her daughter, but an older and deadlier spirit. Her husband is snooping around, and Julia is becoming unbalanced. A great case of unreliable narrator. Straub sets up and pulls the narrative strings very well, and is able to sell Julia’s descent into madness without coming off cliche.
Kim has a new episode of her and Gabi’s Ghoulish Tendencies podcast. Check that out here!
Bob: Dracula Episode 2 – as I noted below, after I finish the BBC/Netflix update I’ll post a full review but as feature length, I want to give some notes. From the opening, I had questions over how this part of the story would be told. Made be very intrigued. As the episode description notes, this episode tells the Voyage on the Demeter part of the story. Incredibly expanded with a dozen or so new characters and a different focus. I’ll admit, the overall feel to the epsiode could have been a repurposed unused Doctor Who episode and doesn’t really move the story forward, in favor of character (a real issue with later Sherlock seasons)- except one particular moment that may prove to sink the series or bring it somewhere very different. I had thoughts if there is going to be Season 2 as Castle and Voyage of Ep 1 and 2 are about a third of the traditional tale and to shove the remaining into 90 for ep 3? We’ll see. I’m not as turned off about the change I mentioned than so many others have noted they are so I’m open.
Wicked Darling (1919) Directed by Tod Browing; Written by Harley Gates; Starring Priscilla Dean, Wellington A. Playter, and Lon Chaney (!); Drama; 73 minutes; Silent. Via YoutTube.
The earliest surviving Tod Browning (31’s Dracula) work is a pretty darned good melodrama, considering the time and style of films of the moments, along wit the extreme workman nature of Browing at this point. From 1919, we’re above two dozen titles of shorts and features in for Browning after but 4 years. We see the story of low-rent thief Dean, allied with Chaney. After stealing from Playter and feeling guilty for it, she goes good. This is fine until she runs into both men again and things get complicated. Chaney may be your recognized name and he’s good but Dean is great. Such a expressive face. Very sly, but also plays the trying to be good aspect well too. For a quick shoot, Browning displays great work in camera and shot choice rather often.
Books: Under Venus by Peter Straub. 1974; 200 pages. Straub’s second novel (but oldest still cheaply available) is rather dissimilar from what he’ll be known for later – aka not horror. Interesting to check out early work for a later master (as the above review and a few below show, I’m doing a lot of that lately), but found this family drama to be very slow and I didn’t connect with it at all. A couple return to their hometown while people in and around their family fight over the rezoning of some woods. Didn’t work for me.
Finders Keepers by Stephen King; 2014 435 pages. Read the second of the Bill Hodges trilogy (after Mr Mercedes and before End of Watch) in the lead up to reading The Outsider before watching the HBO Show (apparently the book is a sequel to this trilogy). While I liked Mr Mercedes a great deal when I read it at release, I didn’t care for Finders Keepers. The main issue is the conflict doesn’t’ start to move forward until over halfway through and doesn’t turn into danger to the last hundred pages. Getting to know the characters, good, but not giving a drive, bad. Hodges himself doesn’t enter the narrative to well over half way. Plenty of set up can be done well, and has in King work before, but much is unnecessary since it’s pretty obvious where things are going. I hope End of Watch is better. I read 30 pages so far at I don’t know the plot yet but at least Hodges is in that. But it looks like we’re bringing up supernatural stuff and that saddens me. I liked the first two being grounded and non-fantastical. We’ll see.
Bob: The Marshes (2020); Written and directed by Roger Scott; Horror; Starring Dafa Kronental, Sam Delich, Mathew Cooper. Shudder-exclusive. 85 minutes. First time Watch. 85 minutes. NR.
Don’t venture into the Marshes. Even at 85 minutes, this is a slog through a wet bog of a movie. Three university students/teachers/researchers? ah who cares? head into a marshy part of Australia and come across trouble… after a while of futzing about. There are a few times where they come across some asshole poachers but they annoying shrug off these folks, even though they are obviously dangerous. But they’re just a red herring (spoilers for a shitty movie) for a supernatural (I think, there is a half-assed rural legend given but it’s convoluted and under-thought) killer pops up with a half hour to go. Even after it’s a VERY OBVIOUS danger (and a killer who can appear at will. You’d think everyone would see each other in wide-open spaces), still don’t really take seriously. Check this out – one of them, right after escaping the killer.. goes on his own to take a shit. No shit. What the hell. Before and after danger, The Marshes is blandly shot and performed, with no tension or rising action (when there should be). D
Deadly Companions – (1961); Directed by Sam Peckinpah; Written by Albert Sidney Fleisherman from his novel; Western; Starring Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith (Keith and O’Hara were both in Parent Trap the same year…), Chill Wills, Steve Cochran. Amazon Prime; First Time watch; 93 minutes.
Peckinpaw’s first feature (after some TV Western episodes) is a really good flick. I’m not a western fan on the whole but this one worked for me. Post Civil-War, our white hat Yellowleg joins up with a villainous Rebel he recognizes: for he wants to kill him for revenge. Things when complicated when the Rebel’s friend joins up and by accident, Yellow-leg kills a saloon dancer’s child. In remorse, he forces her to allow him to escort her over Apache territory to bury the kid. So we have a great number of forces crossed over – the bad guys don’t know he’s a good guy and look for trouble, he feels like hell for the accidental shooting but is also trying to get his revenge, and she doesn’t want him there but reluctantly admits she needs his help. The writing and character is the strength here, along with the performances. Peckinpah’s direction is good enough, zipping the story along. I dug it.
One-Eyed Jacks (1961); Directed by Marlon Brando (his only one), Written by Guy Tosper, Calder Willingham, and an uncredited Sam Peckinpah and Rod Serling. Western. Starring Brando, Karl Madden. Amazon Prime. 2h21 minutes. Bob’s review. First time watch.
Look at that run time, 2 hours 21 minutes. Apparently Brando’s first cut was 5 hours and he was mad the studio cut it down to 2h21. And that was far too long. There is only a bare story – two former bandits meet up 5 years after one went to jail and the other became a sheriff in the mean time. They threaten eachother and the younger falls in love with the step-daughter of the old one. Cut it down, and could be a compelling western melodrama but there is so much “actor-directing-for-the-first-time” excess and fluff. Brando and Madden are both great, but the stand out is Pina Pellicer as the step-daughter. She is a revelation. Too bad she killed herself a few years later.
Mothra vs Godzilla (1963) with Commentary; 2nd time watch. review by Bob.
A great entry to the series (watched for the first time back in Sept for 100 days of horror. The Commentary was solid work, talking about how the creation of the script and monsters. I learned a lot about the process and the speakers had plenty to say in a good way.
Monster’s Inc (2001); Directed by Pete Doctor, David Silverman. Starring Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Jennifer Tilly, Steve Busemi. 1h31 min. zillionth time watch. Bob’s review. watched from DisneyPlus though I own the blu-ray
Ninteen years and probably a dozen viewings, Monster’s Inc is probably still my favorite Pixar film. May be pure nostalgia by this point, but dammit I love this flick. Not only monsters, which I just love to start with no matter the context, but a great story and character-chemistry between Sully and Mike made the film instantly iconic. I particually love the story progression, all of the climax is expertly set up with the perfect world-building. But it doesn’t feel like Chekov’s gun being pointed at your face due to how well it’s put togther. The climax through the door storage room is one of my favorites of all time. I need to rewatch the prequel, only seen that one once.
Bullitt (1968); Directed by Peter Yates, written by Alan Trustman and Herry Kliener from the book by Robert L Pike; Cop Action; starring Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, Jacqueline Bisset; 1h54 min. From my own disc. First time watch. Bob review
I cannot believe I’ve never seen this before. It’s so iconic that I’m sure I’ve seen the whole thing in clips, parodies, homages/rip-offs, etc. But still such a great, twisty story. But the star here is the 10 minute car chase that has been ripped off so many times (looking at you Cobra). I loved watching the story unfold, as the truths are uncovered, recovered, and turned around. A solid flick, I see why it’s the classic.
Star Trek Deep Space 9: Season 1 (1993)… embarrassed to say first time watch, all the way through at least. Netflix. 20 Episodes
A while back I started a complete watch through of all things Trek but I moved and I stopped but now I started up again. I had originally dismissed the show as “I’ve seen and loved Babylon 5, why do I need to watch its copy?” but glad to finally get to it. Yes, there are similarities to B5, but is not a clone. I like the shift of a ship going around interacting to a meeting place of multiple cultures (that part does sound familiar). Adding in the follow up for a culture rebuilding after a genocide and makes even more fascinating. Duet was one of the best episodes of TV I’ve seen yet.
Underwater – Review here.
Cincinnati Kid – 1965. Directed by Norman Jewison, Written by Ring Ladner, Jr and Terry southern from the Richard Jessup Novel. Starring Steve McQueen, Karl Madden, Edward G Robinson, Ann-Margaret, Tuesday Weld. 104 minutes. First time watch; owned disc.
McQueen stars as a cool as hell young card shark going up against Robinson’s elder statesman of gambling. Yeah, rather low stakes but is a fascinating character piece of the lives of these gamblers. Surprisingly suspenseful and bound together by engaging performances and a sharp script.
Cat People (1942) Dir Jaques Tourneur; Written DeWitt Bodeen; 73 Min; Owned BluRay; 5th watch.
The first feature from the collaboration of producer Val Lewton and studio RKO is a masterpiece of being tense and thrilling without showing a damned thing. It’s all in the sounds, shadow, and shots. This very-low key version of a werewolf and Jekyll/Hyde story is notable for many things, the otherworldly performance by Simone Simon for one, and inventing the jump scare for another. Take three minutes and watch the clip below and you can see the start of what will become the bane of bad filmmaking but incredibly effective in its first use.
On top of this, the story is compelling and layered, finding a Serbian immigrant who internally battles with her sexual needs compared to guilt for having them – she believes she will turn in a cat person if she gives in; and the triangle between her husband, herself, and Alice – a coworker of the husband. Seek it out if you’ve missed it so far. Look for an early performance by Alan Napier – Alfred from 1966’s Batman. (for what it’s worth, I like the remake too).
BBC’s Dracula: Episode 1 (2020)
I know I said I’d wait for season completion but I want to give some preliminary thoughts after the first 90 minutes. Hell 90 minutes is a feature length so close enough. So far, I love this adaptation of Dracula. More when I get to the full review at finish, but Dracula is a fascinating property, in countless adaptations they follow the same basic outline but the fun comes in how it’s told within that. Every telling is revisionist. They all play on the previous editions and this one is no different – taking bits of previous versions to adapt the novel and bring in new ideas too.
The first portion follows the Harker at the Castle portion of the story and expanding on their relationship and how Harker is affected by what he sees and experiences. The expansion of the nunnery is wonderful – I love Agatha the Commentary Nun (say no more, can’t wait to see how she works in for the rest). Claes Bang is a new icon for the titular character. His smarmy, gleeful, direct evil is so damned entertaining. I’ll cut myself off before part 2.
Little Women -2019- Written and directed by Gretta Gerwig from the novel by Louisa May Alcott; Theatrical; First watch. I quote my write up in the 2019 Retrospective. I’m going to write a full one in the coming days. Keep an eye out.
” I just watched this two hours ago and maybe it is hyperbole to immediately place it so high when I’ve had the time to really think about the others in some form, but this film hit me hard. I’ve not see any previous version nor read the book. The most I know if from culture and playing Mr. Marsh in a truncated high school play version twenty years ago. I’m going to write a few in a day or so, so I don’t want to go into all the details. But I had a tear in my eye the whole film, whether in happiness or sadness. Little Women is a joyous film of life and love – zippy and joyous. The women have amazing chemistry, and everyone gives amazing performances. More Florence Pugh!”
Simpsons Season 1- 1989- The first season of the still running at 30 year animated sitcom comes out of the gate a little uneven but still strong. Its fun watching as it teases out what works and what doesn’t. Season 1 isn’t as strong as the show will become and the animation is wonky as hell but one can see the genius that will soon appear in the form of family bonds and world-building.
Book: The Subtle Knife: His Dark Materials Book 2 by Phillip Pullman. I’m re-reading the novels due to the new show as it’s been about a decade since I read them. Pullman expands on the ideas in the first film without repeating himself in a new worlds and characters. I’m interested in seeing how this is adapted as there is less action big plot points than the first.
Batman V Superman: Directed by Zach Snyder; 3rd time through. Ownded disc
Still a mess of a movie that misunderstands the core of its characters. Bad meandering storytelling, villain plans, too dark to see what is going on cinematography and the shoving in attempts to make a universe. I’m still confused over the “Is she with you” line from Batman when Wonder Woman (real star of this franchise) shows up. Dude.. YOU EMAILED HER TWENTY MINUTES AGO.
Patchwork – 2015; written by Tyler MacIntyre, written by same and Chris Lee Hill; watched on Shudder; first time watch.
I’m sad I missed I seeing this horror-comedy at Bonebat Comedy of Horrors Film Festival (hey, you should go. April 11th at SIFF Uptown. 11 hours of horror-comedy shorts and features!) A mad scientist murders three women and patches them together in one body. Lots of physical humor fun in how they move the body, lots of character fun in the 3 women in one head, and a lot of blood and violence. I had a lot of fun. MacIntyre wears his influences on his sleeve (Re-Animator, cough), but he knows we all know and thus we can put it behind and enjoy.
Paid to Love – 1927 – Dir by Howard Hawks, Written by Harry Carr 76 minutes. Youtube. First time watch
Another early Hawks film. (see below) Didn’t like it nearly as much as Fig Leaves. A banker gives a loan to a failing nation with the note the crown prince must fall in love with a girl he picks. Has its moments but lots of nothing.
Star Wars: A New Hope – You know the details. nth time watch. This time with Commentary by George Lucas, Ben Burrt, Carrie Fisher, and others.
One thing with the Star Wars commentaires, books, interviews, etc with Lucas is how much the story changes in what ideas he had when. He claims early on he wrote the original trilogy in one go, the broke it up and made some alterations. But this doesnt’ line up with other details. Anyway, the commentary covers much of the same details we’ve heard all over for 40 years but always good to hear them. Loved the fun and shade Fisher gives but I always love reading and listening to Burtt talk the sound and production design. These are really what gave the property its edge early on. Astounding.
Disneynature’s Bears – 2014 – directed and written by Alastair Fothergill, Keith Schloley and Adam Chapman. Voiceover peformed by John C Reilly. 73 minutes. First time watch; disney+
So freakin’ cute. I say that about all the Disneynature docs I’ve seen (Penguins, African Cats, Monkey Kingdom… maybe others? I dunno) but it’s true. I love Animals being Animals documentaries and Bears is no exception. The conflicts of just surviving create fantastic drama and allow us to fear for and feel for animals in the wild, no humans around that we can see (we know there is a production crew and always wonder “how the hell did they get that shot?”). Does it’s job admirably and adorably. And damn Alaska is gorgeous.
Books – Star Wars: Doctor Aphra Volume 6. 112 pages. 2019
The wily archeologist is one of my favorite non-film characters (the best will always be Hondo). She claims amorality but is somehow always ending up doing the right thing in the end, no matter how much she tries to be the villain. There’s no Triple Zero and the other murder droid who’s name i forget currently but even without them, Aphra’s adventure is a solid well written and drawn one.
Books: Star Wars: Age of Resistance: Villains. 120 pages. Various.
This comic collection is the last of the series – after each Age (Republic, Rebellion, Resistance) with Heroes and Villains. Fills out stories of Phasma (you know she is named after Phantasm because her outfit reminded Abram’s of the balls from his favorite flick), Hux, Snoke, and Kylo Ren. Good stories that build on the characters without betraying them or being too informing (if that makes sense).
Journey’s End – 1930; Dir by James Whale, Written by Gareth Gundry, Joseph March; based on R C Sherriff’s play. Starring Colin Clive. 120 mn. First time watch; Youtube
The first film from Frankenstein‘s James Whale is a look at the soldiers of World War I in the days leading up a nasty battle. As Whale served in the war, there is an sense of versimilitude in the moods, comments and actions of the soldiers. On top of the looming death (as it is in any WWI movie; hey go see 1917. It starts this weekend wide), there are personal conflicts that occasionally mull the story into melodrama but still a compelling feature.
Fig Leaves – 1926; Dir by Howard Hawkes; written by Hawks, Hope Loring and Louis D. Lighton. 70 min. First time watch; Youtube
Another early film from a notable director. A modern update of Adam and Eve, with bookends in pre-historic times (complete with giant dinosaur and gags the Flintstones would use later), it is both progressive in Eve wanting personal freedom and recieving it, but as expected for the time in Adam (Sunshine‘s George O’Brien) as heros actions. Rather funny with a nice pep.
Book: Star Wars: Force Collector by Kevin Schnick. 2019; 384 pages.
You think Rise of Skywalker was pandering? Then you haven’t read this book. So. much. pander. Just before The Force Awakens, Karr is teenage with Force sensitivies in post-cognition. He can touch an object and see it’s past. Wanting to know more about the mythical Jedi, he and others go on an adventure to find more. Of course, everything he touches is a big moment in the franchise and he visits all the familiar locations to touch said objects. Alright the first time it happens, but by time Karr is on Jakku in the Millenium Falcon and sees Luke practicing with the ball, it’s tiring. One interesting note though: it confirms Syfo Dias did in-fact order the Clone Army on his own idea. I had always thought it was really Count Dooku on Palpatine’s orders. So that’s something.
Nothing But Trouble. 1991; Directed by Dan Ackroyd. Written by the same and Peter Ackroyd. Starring Dan Ackroyd (twice), John Candy (twice), Chevy Chase, Demi Moore. 94 minutes; 1st time watch; Vudu
🙂 This notoriously awful movie was everything I wanted it to be. I had such a good time watching this culmination of piles of bad decisions. How, from script stage onward, did anyone think this was a good idea? Their hubris is my fun. Bonkers and ridicoulous at every turn, at halfway through I commented this was an ugly ugly ugly movie. And this was before we met the 6 and a half feet tall babies covered in filth. Then it got uglier and weirder. I love it.
Amazing Adventure; 1936 Directed by Alfred Zeiser; Written by JOhn L. Balderston from the novel. Owned disc; 1st time watch; 61 minutes.
An early Cary Grant vehicle, I was reminded of a more innocent Life Stinks. A bored millionaire wagers his fortune he can live for a year starting at only 5 dollars. In that time, he helps along those he meets who are needing help, finds himself, and finds love. Harmless light entertainment.
Jan 1st – whoo boy, what a shart of a start of the year…
Rings, 2017, Directed by J Javier Gutierrez; Writted by Jacob Estes and David Loucka. Starring Johnny Galecky, 2nd watch; Amazon Prime. PG-13, 1h42 mn
The last of the (re)watches of The Ring and Ju-on series before the new The Grudge (they merged with a versus movie) is one of the worst in either series, but better than I remember it being. Unfocused with so much blue tinting it hard to see, Rings has ideas but doesn’t really have the writing to follow though. There enough plot for a short though. Bland performances from everyone except Galecky don’t help either.
Cats – 2019; Theatrical. 1st watch (but there will be more). Once I get caught up on this article, this will be a full review but for now – my mini-review from the Best Worst write up linked above
The Tom Hooper helmed adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway adaptation of TS Eliot poems, that in turn presumingly based on nightmares Eliot had of size-changing anthropomorphic cats with human hands and feet. I’m going to write a longer review soon so I don’t want to show my hand – but I had a great time with this trainwreck. It’s jaw-dropping insane. I will admit the Cat People (hey great movie) looked pretty good separated out, the whole of it is incomprehensibly weird and off putting. CODY’S REVIEW.