Last Update 3/31/16

 

It Came from Another World (2007)

This is part of a series of movies which claim to be pastiches of low budget 1950s SF and Horror rather than parodies, but they're actually both. It's filmed in black and white with really silly special effects, most of it filmed with a static camera. The acting, for one thing, is bad and over the top in a way that the 1950s rarely saw. This one opens with a scientist on a camping trip who sees something odd fall from the sky. His monologue is pretty bad. And why the long wistful scene with the coffee pot? The star speaks with constant short pauses in his dialogue, apparently intentionally, and it's very annoying. "Something quite...unusual." "I have absolute faith in your...abilities." "After all, you are...in my bed." Something from the object takes possession of the scientist, but our hero shows up with two Keystone Cops style policemen. They study the object, which is too heavy to move. The professor's pack appears to be bottomless. After taking out a variety of scientific instruments, he also produces a large guitar and other items. This would have been tolerable if the story had moved a bit faster, but not much happens after the opening scene until very late in the movie. The possessed scientist acts perfectly normal. Eventually he proclaims himself "king of the universe" and things pick up. This is the kind of movie you sit around in a group and make fun of. 3/31/16

Deadpool (2016)

I have never read a Deadpool comic so I came into this movie with no preconceptions. It was a very pleasant surprise, if somewhat out of tone with the other Marvel movies. Deadpool was a kind of mercenary for hire who contracted cancer, agreed to a secret procedure that gave him super powers, and discovered late in the game that his benefactors were villains. He sets out to track down the chief villain, hoping he can reverse his disfigurement. The superpower is that he can heal from just about anything. This is an action movie, obviously, but it's also extremely funny, witty, and at times even unsettling. The cast is superb - even the CGI character - and I loved almost every minute of it. 3/24/16

The General (1926)

Buster Keaton stars in this silent film - later remade as The Great Train Robbery - in which he is the single man who steals a train during the Civil War. Pursued by outraged soldiers, he slowly dismantles the train in order to slow them down and prevent them from recapturing the locomotive. The special effects would be good today and the lack of dialogue is not even really noticeable once you settle down into the story. I've seen this half a dozen times and it feels fresh and new on every occasion. 3/22/16

Mr. & Mrs. North Volume V (1953)  

Four more low key but entertaining episodes of this early television show. The Norths go away for a weekend and are present when one of their friends is poisoned. A baby is left on their doorstep in the next, and is promptly kidnapped. A confidential formula is left in a library book that Pam North takes out, with scary consequences. The purchase of a large trunk presents the Norths with a surprise when they find a body concealed inside it. 3/21/16

Zoombies (2016)

Silly title for a silly movie - zombie animals in a wildlife refuge/amusement park, sort of Jurassic Park with zombies. A mysterious disease is attacking the apes at the outset, and they return from the dead. And they're pissed off. Mediocre CGI and makeup effects follow. Next we meet a bunch of prospective guides, all of whom are required to turn in their cell phones, conveniently enough. Most of them are the usual annoying jerks whose deaths the viewers will not lament. The woman who is supposedly managing the whole enterprise is blatantly incompetent, although I don't think we're supposed to draw that conclusion. The actors are barely competent and the dialog doesn't help. Oddly, the acting seems to get worse as the movie progresses. There's the usual annoyingly cute kid - more annoying than usual actually - and a gorilla suit that might pass in a costume shop. Some of the scenes where the actors are struggling with obvious stuffed animals are really bad. At one point one of the apes repeatedly attacks the wall of a grass hut, ignoring the fact that one entire wall is open to the air. The zombie giraffes are particularly silly. "Endangered animals have the opportunity to choose their destiny," claims the "scientist."  I ended up laughing at several points where I wasn't supposed to - our heroes ride some CGI elephants because it's faster than walking, except that it isn't because the CGI people didn't know how to animate anything more than a leisurely waddle. At another point, they take refuge from the monkeys - in the trees! Goes from bad to really bad to ridiculously bad very rapidly. Oh, and if the only member of a species left alive is a male, then saving him will not save the species. 3/20/16

Range Rider Vol V (1952) 

Another set of four television westerns. In the first, our two heroes go undercover to trap a group of crooks who are fleecing settlers of their money. In the second, Range Rider has to negotiate a peace between greedy prospectors and a tribe that wants them to stay out of their land. Our hero works for the Pony Express in the third, and has to hold off an unscrupulous rival service. And finally, a murder mystery. Who killed an infamous gunfighter and why. Relatively minor episodes of a relatively minor show. 3/16/16

Mr. & Mrs. North Volume IV (1953)

Another selection of four mystery stories. Jerry North is searching for some lost historical papers which happen to be located near a cache of money stolen in a bank robbery. Pam North visits a modeling school just in time to become involved in murder. One of the better episodes has them on a country vacation when a body is discovered in the inn’s pantry. They are also thrown into conflict when a married couple that they know begins plotting against each other. A good mix of plots in this one. 3/13/16

Mr. Holmes (2014)

Ian McKellen plays an elderly but still sharp Holmes. He is suffering from the early stages of dementia and is trying to bring his only unsolved case to a close, although it started thirty years earlier and he remembers only fragments. There is no Watson, who is married, and Holmes himself has retired to a small village with a housekeeper and her son. This is rather slow paced, and matches the novel by Mitch Cullin upon which it is based. The sets and atmosphere are all very well done, and I've yet to see McKellen play a part badly. This isn't a movie to watch if you want action, suspense, or melodrama, though it is certainly nicely done. 3/12/16

Range Rider Vol IV (1952) 

Another selection of four episodes. The first involves a crooked gambler who committed murder. The dead man’s sister wants revenge. Next, Dick Jones gets involved with a young woman who might be involved in the holdups of several stagecoaches. Then the twosome helps a female newspaper editor in her battle against a gang of rustlers. And finally – best in this group – is a kind of murder mystery in which a killer uses an unusual new weapon. Fairly typical of the show, and of more interest historically than dramatically. 3/11/16

The Scorch Trials (2015) 

Sequel to The Maze Runner. The teenaged survivors of the maze test are not out in the world, but they're handlers are still lying to them about the plague that destroyed civilization. I have not read the books and I've read that the plots are significantly different than the ones in the movies. Our heroes escape the obviously evil corporate minions and find themselves in a zombie apocalypse. Apparently there were no zombies in the books, judging by the outraged comments I've seen online. Some of the individual elements of the movie are all right, but they don't hold together into a unified whole. And why are the zombies only active when the power is on? Supposedly a solar flare destroyed the infrastructure, but where did the zombie plague come from? There are some really nice sets but a more substantial and logical story would have made better use of them. The reluctance of the female character to accept that they need to run, particularly given what happened to them already, makes no sense at all. Lots of coincidences and short cuts. Gets steadily worse and more chaotic as it progresses, and some of the acting toward the end is awful. By the end, it is so stupid that it defies easy description. One of the final scenes inexplicably has a man with a mounted heavy rifle ignoring the easy target of a large helicopter, on the ground nearby, filled with enemy troops.3/10/16

Puppet Master: Axis Rising (2012)   

More animated puppets vs Nazis. This time the Nazis are using the secret serum to create their own band of military puppets, the forerunners of a master race or some such nonsense. The two heroes of the previous movie find themselves on the losing end of an assassination plot, so the puppets have to come to the rescue again. If it wasn’t for the terrible acting and dialogue, the mediocre plot, poor special effects, sound recording that echoes tinnily, bad German accents, the strutting Nazi woman who shows less life than the puppets, and generally low production values, this would almost be a reasonably not awful movie. Oh wait… 3/9/16

Mr. & Mrs. North Volume III (1953)  

The third in this series of samplers has the Norths concerned that one of their friends may be taking bribes. Then they hire a new butler who turns out to have a shady past that includes someone who wants to kill him. A visit to a boxer’s training camp becomes tense when one of his sparring partners dies under mysterious circumstances. And finally Pam finds a body in a pond while visiting a novelist’s country estate. 3/8/16

Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010)

Another revisionist retrospective in which Toulon’s puppets are rescued by a man who uses them to fight Nazi and Japanese saboteurs.  We are told that the story is set in 1939, but why then is the hero complaining that his 4F status prevents him from fighting the “Japs and Krauts.” They even mention the attack on Pearl Harbor! The photography is somewhat better – it had been seven years since the last movie, but the financing apparently came from someone in China, where it was mostly filmed, and the sets are atrocious. You can even tell at least once that it’s a set on a soundstage if you watch the edges of the picture. Needless to say, you shouldn’t waste your time. 3/7/16

Range Rider Vol III (1952) 

This early 1950s western tv show broke no new ground but it was reliable and entertaining when I was a kid. This selection has a nice adaptation of “The Ransom of Red Chief,” and a plot in which an outlaw pretends to be a lawman to effect the escape of his buddies.  Another bunch of bad guys threaten a remote mining community until Range Rider and Dick Jones drive them off. And finally there is an escaped convict searching for a supposed treasure in hidden gold. 3/6/16

The Maze Runner (2014)

The film version of the first volume in a YA SF series by James Dashner. The teenage hero has lost his memory somehow and finds himself in an elaborate series of mazes along with twenty or so other boys. The maze is only open briefly and only a few can run fast enough to survive and get back before the entrance closes. A night spent in the maze is invariably fatal.  Our hero and two others get trapped inside the maze one night and survive after escaping a kind of giant spider. Then a girl arrives and it is obvious that everything is changing. There are some peripheral problems. The small area under cultivation could not possibly sustain the population. And if the maze changes every night, how can they have mapped it? Not great, but it held my interest until the end, when the rationale for what has been happening is revealed, and it’s complete nonsense. 3/5/16

The Abominable Bride (2016) 

The latest installment in the British series about Sherlock Holmes, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. This one opens with a quick summary of the previous three series, then a clever scene in which Mrs. Hudson complains about how she is portrayed in Watson’s stories. Lestrade shows up with a tale about a new bride who went on a shooting spree, then killed herself. A short time later a woman who appears to be the dead bride fatally shoots her husband. Although this starts well, it soon falls apart as dream and reality intermix. I hate dream sequences, particularly chained dream sequences. There is some clever camera and set work in this one but the story line falls apart. And the references to hard drives and virus undermine any remaining verisimilitude. If they’re going to be like this in the future, they can drop the series right now. 3/4/16

Mexico Barbaro (2015) 

This is an anthology film with short pieces by various Mexican film makers. Many of them are based on actual legends, and they are set in a variety of times and places. A few are genuinely scary, others are less interesting. All of them have subtitles. There are ghosts and monsters and curses and evil men. The special effects are generally minimal. The acting seems to be above average, although given the subtitles it is sometimes difficult to judge. Your mileage may vary on this one because some of the stories struck me as dull while others were much more lively. 3/3/16

Mr. & Mrs. North Volume II (1953)

Four episodes starting with one in which the Norths find themselves on a plane with a bomb. A kidnap victim appeals to them for help in the next when they are stranded by a problem with their car. A woman unwisely tries to blackmail a wanted killer and he takes the predictable path to protect his secret. The Norths are interviewing a prisoner when a riot takes place and they are taken hostage. These tended to be less interesting than the average episode. 3/2/16

Puppet Master: The Legacy (2003)

The series descends to new depths of incompetence this time with some of t he worst acting I’ve ever seen in the frame story. Given the awful plot and ridiculous dialogue, even good actors couldn’t have helped. They also reuse footage from the previous movies to pad it out. A woman tries to steal the secret of the puppets and instead hears a series of anecdotes about the activities of the puppets in the past. Horribly bad. A cynical attempt to swindle viewers into spending money to watch the same footage. 3/1/16

Range Rider Vol II (1952) 

Four more episodes of the Range Rider, starring Jock Mahoney. He’s framed for a murder in the first, uncovers a nefarious criminal mastermind in the second – one of his best adventures, and rescues a kidnapped girl in the third. Kidnappings by secret villains were very common on this show. The fourth episode is another of their best. Dick impersonates a gunfighter in order to infiltrate a gang of outlaws led by a woman, which was quite unusual in television westerns of this era. Much better than the episodes on Volume I. 2/29/16

In the Year 2889 (1967)

Revenge of the Venus Flytrap (1970) 

The first of these two bad movies is set shortly after a nuclear war that destroys all of the world except for a small neighborhood with a few people who have suffered no effects at all! But they are surrounded by radioactive fog. There are even birds and sunny skies. One of the seven has been badly exposed to radiation, but somehow the others are all clean. The contaminated one begins to have a craving for raw meat. There is supposedly an evolutionary urge to create armored humans with horrible features that the war has brought to the surface. This is all nonsense. The obsession on marriage is really bizarre in this one. Given how melodramatic the plot is, the movie is surprisingly dull. 

The second film was made from an old script written by Ed Wood. A scientist has a mental breakdown and begins experimenting with mutated plants. The actors manage to act as badly as the material they are using and this is as bad as the worst of recent direct to video disasters. This might have been fun – at least slightly – if things had started happening early on, but instead we have an interminal series of encounters before the protagonist even reaches the place where he pursues his experiments. The interactions among the characters seem almost random. There is also an active volcano in the area, an Igor style assistant, a female assistant, and an unlikely greenhouse in the middle of nowhere. Interesting theory – if all life comes from the ocean, then animals are descended from plants. I’m not sure where the writer came up with that gem. And the botanist character has never heard of a Venus Flytrap!  “This plant can think and reason, so why can’t it be human?” There are some really silly looking pieces of lab equipment that make arcs and draw on lightning, and it is obvious before long that it’s a spoof of Frankenstein, but not a very good one. Eventually the creature – humanoid and very rubbery – comes to life and begins walking around, killing everyone in sight. Words are inadequate to explain how silly it looks. Very very very bad. 2/28/16

Killjoy Goes to Hell (2012)  

The evil clown demon is back. Early on, two police officers want to interrogate an obviously deranged woman, with neither her lawyer nor her doctor present. He explains that her brain scans show that she is constantly laughing, even when asleep, which is really high on the stupid explanation scale. We are also told that she waived her right to medical confidentiality, but if she’s mentally incompetent, she wouldn’t be able to make that decision legally. (The laughing gets really irritating really fast). Killjoy is being tried in Hell for not being evil enough since one of his victims escaped in the last movie, so he has to enlist her help to clear his name. Absolutely worthless. 2/27/16

Mr. & Mrs. North Volume I (1953)

This early detective show cast Richard Denning and Barbara Britton as a husband and wife amateur detective team – he was actually a publisher.  This includes a typical selection. In the first, the Norths visit the racetrack and someone dumps the body of a jockey in the trunk of their car. The second episode is an old dark house story with lots of creepiness and odd events, one of my favorites from this show. Then someone makes two attempts to murder Jerry North, and he has no idea who it is or why he is being targeted.  Finally, they are present at a fashion show when one of the models is murdered. A bit tame and low budget by contemporary standards, but these episodes hold up quite well. 2/26/16

Retro Puppet Master  (1999)  

This is a retrospective origin story that actually contradicts what we’ve seen in earlier movies in the series. Toulon steals the secret of animation from Egyptian sorcerers and an evil entity raises mummies and others in an attempt to track him down. He is later described as being 3000 years old, which is completely uncanonical. Within ten minutes it was clearly going to be unintentionally funny rather than frightening or even suspenseful. It’s also very cheaply made with some stock footage from Egypt sprinkled through it. Some of the dialogue is delivered in a monotone – apparently the actors didn’t even want to make an effort. The German accents are almost parodies. This is embarrassing bad on every level. I believe Full Moon lost its partnership with Paramount around this time, so presumably they were hurting for money. This series never set the bar very high, but as it went on, it fell repeatedly far short. 2/25/16

Anger of the Dead (2015)  

Another zombie film, with a somewhat rocky start in that a city is largely laid waste even before people are generally aware of it. The time sequence doesn’t make much sense. The usual survival story is alternated with a rather senseless and totally uninteresting secondary story about a military unit where they are experimenting on a single female subject, for no apparent reason. The acting is okay, the visuals a little better than average, but much of the action takes place off screen. I was never really interested in any of the characters and my attention faltered several times – I barely made it to the end. 2/24/16

The Piper (2015)

This is a Korean film, a retelling of the story of the Pied Piper. The Piper and his son find a village that is plagued by rats and he negotiates with the village elders to rid them of the rats by means of his magic flute. But they renege on the agreement, kill his son, and assault him, embittering him to the point where he decides on revenge. Reasonably good dubbing and the story takes the time to make us care about what happens to the characters, good and bad.  Horror fans may find it slow moving because it is more of a parable than a horror tale despite the packaging. 2/16/16

Range Rider Vol 1 (1952) 

This was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid. Jock Mahoney is the title character, who wandered the old west with his sidekick, played by Dick Jones. The stories were always very straightforward and there are four of them here. In the first, a crooked businessman tries to pressure a rival to go out of business. In the second, our heroes are hired to stop a gang of outlaws from preventing people from voting. We could use someone to do that today. Another unscrupulous businessman kidnaps a rival in the third and someone is sabotaging a telegraph company in the last. Rather tame by contemporary standards but still fun. 2/15/16

Half Human (2014)

A couple of disreputable Australian men pick up some loose women and drive out into the outback, which happens to be the hunting ground of a legendary humanoid monster.  I confess that I found the scenery more interesting than the story for the first half, and some of the characters talked so fast that I had trouble understanding their accents. And this is found footage, so it has all the drawbacks – and there are legion – of that form. The story takes so long to get going – and is so inconsequential when it finally does – that it will probably lose most of its viewers long before the monster makes an appearance. For masochists only. 2/14/16

Killjoy 3 (2010)   

Killjoy is back, sort of. He can’t leave his own dimension but he has been activated to kill one particular person – except for some reason he isn’t told who it is. So he transports a group of teenagers into his realm and torments them all until he finds out which one it is. Somewhat better technically – picture and sound – but no better in terms of acting, script, special effects, or even basic logic. Oh, and Killjoy has some friends this time, which means even sillier clown costumes. Appallingly bad. 2/13/16

The Veil (2016)

What might have been a pretty good movie struggles against constantly underlit scenes and color leached out of the picture so that it looks like a grainy VHS tape that has been played too many times. A nutty religious cult commits mass suicide and only one person survives. Years later she has grown up but has never escaped what happened there. She agrees to accompany a documentary crew to the site. They find a building that the authorities missed and there’s a dead body inside, but one of their party – and their van – disappear the first night. And naturally they are out of range of cell phone coverage. They find films – and there’s a major continuity problem because the films include angles which would be impossible for the camera – that begin to explain what happened. This one hovers around the idea of actually being good, but it never quite makes the transition. Oh, and why would disembodied spirits be wearing clothing? 2/12/16

Hellions (2015)

A teenaged girl discovers that she is pregnant on Halloween. But it’s going to be a Halloween to remember for more reasons than that alone. Three demons show up disguised as children in costumes. They apparently want the unborn baby. Dream sequences and hallucinations mix with genuine supernatural events, but it’s all kind of random. The star looks far too old for the character she’s playing, which doesn’t help, and while some of the camera work is impressive, a lot of it consists of odd shots and jumps that don’t contribute to the story. It also violates one of my rules of horror films in that we are never told what the limits of the demons’ power might be, although clearly they can kill people because they do. And why this particular baby? The technical aspects are quite good but the story just doesn’t hold the viewer’s interest.  From about halfway through, I was just impatient for it to be over. 2/11/16

Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)  

A scientist decides to duplicate the magical power that enabled Andre Toulon to animate his puppets by somehow injecting the essence of a human being into one of them. The picture quality on this dvd is really bad, grainy and with the proportion of height to width skewed so that everything looks squashed. The acting has dropped from mediocre  and bad to uniformly bad. The scripts have never been good in this series, but until this one they were at least reasonable. This was is just annoying from start to finish. “Brains are the most overrated organ in the human body.” Just about what I’d expect from whoever wrote this script. 2/10/16

Downton Abbey Season 6 (2016) 

Spoiler alert. The cast assembles here for its final season, with the future of their lush estate in doubt because of financial restrictions. The murder charge hanging over the servant hall is finally banished, although the tear jerking there continues on other themes.  I’ve never much liked Mary and she isn’t particularly redeemed by the end. Edith is much improved. Daisy proves to be quite irritating. Maggie Smith is still my favorite. I was annoyed by the penultimate episode because I thought it was disgraceful that Mary’s parents did not make a strong statement when she apparently undercut her sister’s marriage. I had expected Barrow’s suicide attempt so it didn’t come as much of a surprise. All the loose ends are tied up, by implication if not by actual deed. 2/9/16

All Hallows Eve 2 (2015)  

The first All Hallows movie consisted of three shorter pieces wrapped in a frame story about a babysitter who finds a videotape with the respective stories recorded on it. This follows the same general format. The first was marred by really bad acting and the stories were only mildly interesting. Rather than upgrade to a dvd, this time it’s another VHS tape. The rationale is that “Blu-Ray makes everything look fake.” There are eight very short films this time. The first segment has some creepy imagery but the story makes no sense. A babysitter and a child erupt with vines, apparently because they ate pumpkin seeds. The second is about trick or treaters out after an apocalypse of some sort. They turn out to be real monsters in a very bad segment. The next has a nice set up – a ritual sacrifice in a forest – but there’s no punchline. Next is a woman trapped in a house with a murderer. She survives but runs into the killer again weeks later and gets trapped in an elevator with him. Or does she? This one was actually pretty good. The next, about a boy avenging his father’s abuse, is awful. Next is a rather dull monster in the closet variation. Next is a killer who makes a Hallowen display with real dead bodies. This one also has no point. Then there’s one in Spanish with no translation that was just annoying. Minor but with occasional interesting bits. 2/8/16

Zombie Fight Club (2014)

This appears to be a Taiwanese zombie movie in which two criminal groups are battling during the zombie apocalypse. The outbreak seems to have something to do with a dark cloud that appears over the city but it’s never really explained, nor do we find out why some people are infected while others are not. The gore effects are pretty gross, but the color is bleached out of the picture so much that it looks cheaper than it is. The dubbing is not awful but is occasionally awkward. There’s also a swat team that apparently was about to raid the cartel just as the outbreak started  - except that they appear to have planned to steal the money rather than arrest anyone. The chief protagonist is a messenger girl who gets caught in the middle of it all. Some of the zombies undergo strange physical transformations, some of which are startling.  After a routine escape the zombies story, we jump a year forward to when gladiatorial bouts are fought with the zombies. The story is so fragmented that it never has a focus. 2/7/16

Ramar of the Jungle Vol X (1953)

The last collection of four episodes from the television series opens with a tribe threatening local missionaries for no apparent reason. Missionaries are again in danger, this time from villainous prospectors in the next. An escaped killer tries to hunt down Ramar’s partner in the third, and kidnappers hide in the jungle with their very rich captive in the last. I confess I’d grown a bit tired of the formula by the time I reached this one. 2/6/16

Blade Trinity (2004) u200 

Third movie in the trilogy. The vampire nation has decided to awaken the ultimate vampire, Dracula, in order to pursue their goal of conquering the world. Despite a bigger budget and more special effects, the story this time isn’t all that great and some of the acting – Dracula and the psychologist in particular – is really bad, not to mention that the dialogue is often silly. The vampire nation this time appears to be run by a bunch of brain addled incompetents. The villain isn’t particularly scary, the story doesn’t always make sense, and there are a lot of continuity problems besides. Jessica Biel puts in a good performance in a doomed effort as Whistler's daugher. Sad way to end a good series. There’s even a vampire Pomeranian. 2/5/16

Killjoy 2 (2002)

In the tradition of the first film in the series, this one eschews talent in acting, writing, directing, or photography in favor of some nonsensical encounters with an evil clown from another dimension. They could also have used a sound technician, because there are echoes, static, variations in sound level, etc. A bunch of juvenile delinquents are taken on a field trip into the woods where they encounter a voodoo mistress who summons Killjoy, who does his silly thing for the second half of the movie. 2/4/16

Puppet Master 5 (1994)

This installment continues directly from events in the previous movie, with the police skeptical about the explanations of how all those people died. The opening scenes are so ignorant of legal and police procedures that one wonders if a six year old wrote the script. And the police are so dumb they cannot tell the difference between a robot and a doll, and they arrest someone with literally no evidence that they were responsible for the crimes. Occasional lapses are forgivable. Wholesale nonsense just betrays a contempt for the viewer. Acting also reaches a new low for the series, and the plot is so silly it defies description. Evil government agents are after the puppets this time. They fail. The demon is also back. He doesn’t do any better. This was ultimately just boring. 2/3/16

Blade II (2002) 

Blade the vampire killer is up against something worse this time, a blood drinker that hunts vampires for its food. He has a new assistant, who we never really like, and it’s no surprise when he switches sides. There’s also a contradiction. His old ally, Whistler, killed himself with Blade’s gun when he was mortally wounded, but now he has turned vampire. Except that the silver bullets would have killed him whether he was human or not. There’s some really bad CGI early on. The monster effects, however, are much better and the uber vamps are pretty scary.  Some good villains and a couple of nice plot twists. I actually liked this one better than the first. 2/2/16

Puppet Master 4 (1993)

The fourth in the series reinvents itself slightly again, this time presenting us with Egyptian demons who resent the fact that Toulon has stolen the secret of creating artificial life. One of the protagonists is designing small toy robots as part of his effort to create artificial intelligence!!!! The new cast is pretty much just going through the motions and the special effects, particularly early on, are even less impressive than in the original trilogy. The supposition that the puppets are the answer to artificial intelligence is spectacularly silly, and the Egyptian demon is about as menacing as Bambi. The puppets are the good guys in this one, protecting a group of young people from the minions of the demon. There’s an awful lot of standing around while the demon creatures wave their arms when the characters ought to be looking for a weapon, or running away. This one introduced another new puppet, Decapitron. Best line: “You must transcend linearity.” 2/1/16

Ramar of the Jungle Vol IX (1953)

Nearing the end of my retrospective look at Ramar’s jungle adventures. These four include a mysterious voice that lures native women to their death, a dangerous jealousy that arises when Ramar cures a man that the local yogi was unable to help, an apparent kidnapping turns out to be something else entirely, and the water from a supposedly haunted well has a strange effect on those who drink from it. 1/31/16

Killjoy (2000)

An unusually bad cast of actors play stereotyped teenaged roles, badly, in the first of a series of movies about an evil clown. Killjoy is evoked in a magical ceremony by one of them who is bullied, but we never learn how he figured out how to do this. But since the plot doesn’t make sense anyway, this doesn’t really matter. Minimal special effects and dialogue so bad it is actually offensive to listen to. There’s not even a glimmer of satisfaction when the clown kills the bad guys. This one isn't even bad enought to be funny.1/30/16

Farewell My Lovely (1975) 

This was one of two Philip Marlowe movies that starred Robert Mitchum, both of which are well worth your time. This is the slightly better of the two. Marlowe is hired by an ex-convict to find out what happened to his girlfriend, Velma, who has disappeared.  But someone is gunning for his new client – Moose Malloy – and someone definitely does not want Marlowe to find Velma. I know this story backward and forward – I’ve seen both movie versions at least twice and read the book twice as well. Marlowe gets clobbered – doesn’t he always? – and framed for murder, then slugged again and drugged. One of my favorite movies. Sylvester Stallone has a small part in this one. Mitchum provides just the right amount of cynicism and weariness. 1/29/16

Howl (2015)  

Although I really don’t care for werewolf movies – or stories for that matter – there has been a miniflood of them lately. This is the best of three that I watched. A late night train comes to an abrupt halt in rural England and the driver disappears. Because of a storm, no help can arrive for several hours. The passengers decide to walk to the next station, overruling the guard on duty who wants them to stay with the train. That’s a mistake. The acting is above average and there is actually a good deal of effective tension for a change. They find a mutilated body, which sends them back to the train in short order. And the werewolf isn’t CGI. The end needed some work. The last male sacrifices himself to save the last female, but if they hadn’t argued so long, they could probably both have escaped. 1/28/16

Ramar of the Jungle Vol VIII (1953)  

My quest for nostalgia continues with four more episodes of this children’s adventure series. A mysterious tribe attacks Ramar’s jungle outpost in the first. Another tribe worships a breed of monkeys who are rumored to be immortal. A third tribe kidnaps a white girl in the third, and a quest for a rumored trove of uranium becomes very dangerous in the fourth. These were drawn from the less interesting episodes and are somewhat repetitive. 1/27/16

Puppet Master 3 (1991)  

The third installment in the series is somewhat revisionist. In the first we are told that Toulon, who created the animated puppets, killed himself to avoid capture by the Nazis. This one takes place in 1941, with Toulon and the puppets avoiding Nazis following the death of Toulon’s wife. It also introduces a new puppet – Six Shooter – who doesn’t appear in the earlier movies, set later historically. The usual cheesy acting, corny dialogue and special effects continue unabated. Richard Lynch chews up most of the scenery. The budget was obviously low – at one point the Nazis launch a major search of a 25 block area – with two men.  The puppets are soon engaged on a campaign of revenge and murder against the Nazis responsible.  There are a few good scenes scattered through a lot of incompetence. In some cases, the victims are surprisingly cooperative about being attacked by puppets. The fake German accents are worth a few chuckles as well. In this one we are told that each puppet has the soul of someone killed by the Nazis. This was also the third actor to play Toulon. 1/26/16

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

I was a fan of this show many years ago, so I was curious about the movie even though it received only mediocre reviews. The opening sequence, in which Solo and Kuryakin are opponents, is pretty good, but it slows down a bit after that. They are assigned to work together to track down a megalomaniac who wants to build nuclear weapons – the story is set during the 1960s. The dialogue is snappy and pretty good throughout and there are only a few moments where I thought the story wandered or was unclear. Unfortunately, despite the trappings, this isn’t an iteration of the television program but just a generic thriller. I enjoyed it and may watch it again, but not soon. 1/25/16

Blade (1998)  

Wesley Snipes is half human, half vampire in this martial arts oriented film. Snipes hunts down bad vampires – which is most of them – aided by a human ally but hindered by the necessity of having regular injections to keep himself from craving blood. The action is often comic book unrealistic, but then again, this was based on a comic book. The governing board of vampires – who choose to keep a low profile – are overthrown by a newbie who wants to control the world by invoking a vampire god. Nice action sequences and the acting is quite good. 1/24/16

Ramar of the Jungle Vol VII (1953)

This selection includes the very first episode in which the newly arrived Ramar discovers a native village ruled by the ageless White Goddess, who would reappear in other episodes. Ramar has to deal with ivory poachers next, followed by a rescue mission to save the survivors of an airplane crash from a tribe of cannibals. A pair of escaped tigers are menacing nearby villagers in the fourth and last.  1/23/16

Heavy Metal Apocalypse (2015)

This New Zealand horror comedy was originally called Deathgasm. Two nerds who are tired of being bullied and who are both into heavy metal music inadvertently summon a demon.  This is one of those stories where the demon is actually helping the good guys – the rock band members – against the bad guys, the bullies. Some of it is pretty gross – lots of spewing blood – as people begin to succumb to demonic possession. Eventually the good rockers reverse the spell, despite a coven which wants the demon to take over. Not for every taste, but competently done and occasionally quite funny. 1/22/16

Indigenous (2014)

This is a mix of conventional and found footage about a group of tourists who unwisely decide to visit a Central American jungle with a bad reputation. It falls into the “not awful” category in that there are only a few times when it’s actually bad, and even fewer where it’s actually good. Although this is basically the idiot plot – they split up, they ignore warnings, they don’t take alarm when they hear odd voices, and they don’t go for help when one of them is attacked- it is genuinely suspenseful a good deal of the time, the photography is generally well done, and the acting is at least convincing. Cell phone service is available when it is dramatically useful and not when it is dramatically useful, which irritated me slightly. It tries hard, maybe too hard, but with only moderate success. 1/21/16

Ramar of the Jungle Vol VI (1953)  

Jon Hall stars as Ramar in four more episodes. There’s an evil witch doctor in episode one, who frames another member of the tribe until Ramar reveals the truth. He thwarts a pair of drug dealers in the second and some escaped convicts in the third, while also dealing with a forbidden village ruled by the White Goddess. The final installment involves the search for a lost diamond mine by a couple of unscrupulous villains. These were all actually rather weak episodes. 1/20/16

Puppet Master 2 (1990)

The living puppets return, this time intent upon exhuming their creator and restoring him to life, sort of. The very first shot is a bad sign – the gate of a “cemetary” (sic). A bumper crop of bad acting follows – the puppets are more convincing than the humans. A group of people gather at the hotel where the puppets are hatching their plot, and they’re not the most likeable group of people in the world themselves. Bad continuity problem: we see the puppet master revived in a graveyard, but later we are told that the grave was dug behind the hotel. And one of the characters refers to it as a house even though the rooms all have numbers on their doors. Anyway, the puppets want to extract brain material from the guests to restore their master, Toulon. Although the plot is very similar to the first, this one is creepier. The discussion about who owns the hotel is complete nonsense.  The prolonged flashback should have been left out as it contributes nothing at all to the story. And it is never explained how the puppets open doors where the knobs are out of their reach. Toulon’s dialogue toward the end becomes positively painful to listen to. 1/19/16

Castle Season 3 (2011) 

There is not a whole lot of difference between seasons 2 and 3, which is a good thing because season 2 was very good. The flirtation between the two main characters moves along without getting very far, and the supporting cast has the opportunity to develop their characters. There is some genuine humor mixed with the police procedural mystery format, and while they frequently take shortcuts to keep the plot moving, most of these aren’t outrageously unlikely. I particularly enjoyed the episode where it appeared that the victim had been abducted by aliens, and the one where an actress shadows Beckett is funny, although the mystery is inferior. There’s a good two parter about a nuclear weapon somewhere in Manhattan.  The cliffhanger ending involves the murder of Beckett’s mother, a recurring plotline that I would have preferred they had left out of the series. Montgomery’s death was well done. Not significantly better or worse than the previous two seasons. 1/18/16

Ramar of the Jungle Vol V (1953)

A lot of the episodes of this kids’ television show hinted at the supernatural, but it was almost always explained away. The first of the four episodes in this selection has one of the two heroes turned into a zombie – the traditional kind – and ordered to kill Ramar. The second is one of my favorite episodes – a crazed ventriloquist wanders into a native village and the inhabitants become convinced that the dummy is a god. There’s an obsessed treasure hunter in the third and in the fourth, a rare direct sequel, natives track down the man who stole their treasure and blame Ramar as a confederate. 1/17/16

Puppet Master (1989)

Charles Band and Full Moon turned out lots of pretty bad horror and SF films, but the Puppet Master series was their biggest success and the only one that actually has its good moments. It also has a nifty theme song. The puppet master – who kills himself early in the first movie to avoid being arrested by the Nazis – has given life to his puppets – actually marionettes.  Years later, the puppets prove to be still alive when a number of people are gathered for the funeral of a suicide. The plot is a bit confused in the opening film, and it’s not entirely clear why the puppets are killing most of those attending. The puppets are doing evil initially but eventually switch sides and help defeat a villain who has conquered death. In this one, they kill a bunch of psychics.Not great, but better than almost anything else this studio produced. 1/16/16

High School Exorcism (2014)

This is a made for television movie that was originally entitled High School Possession. It's also a cheat because despite the build up, it really isn't supernatural at all. A girl with emotional problems begins to act strangely and it is assumed that she is possessed. One of her friends finds a religious fanatic and asks her help in an exorcism, but the would be exorcist is actually a homicidal maniac who resents the troubled girl for having fooled around with her boyfriend. Poor acting and a poor script can't make this turkey fly, and some of the scenes are so awkwardly artificial that I could almost see the camera crew. 1/15/16

Ramar of the Jungle Vol IV (1953)

Four more episodes. A man appears to have been killed by a tiger, but Ramar suspects that it was really a man who was responsible. Another man pretends to have risen from the dead and terrorizes his village. An archaeologist takes a mysterious artifact from a dig site and begins to fall ill, and the local people announce that it is cursed and that he is doomed. A photographer sneaks into a forbidden village in the jungle and the villagers blame him for a subsequent outbreak of a mysterious disease. No surprises and painfully obvious plots, but they have a simple kind of charm. 1/14/16

Little Red Rotting Hood (2015)  

A mix of competent and indifferent actors makes this an uneven film. The high school kids all look at least ten years too old, but that’s normal in direct to video horror – theatrical horror too in most cases. The premise is that a woman with magical powers and an affinity for wolves kills her granddaughter, buries her, then commits suicide. The granddaughter crawls out of her grave, now sporting fangs.  Wolves promptly start attacking and killing people. They also seem capable of teleporting into locked houses, but that might just have been bad film making. The story line gets muddled more than once and it’s not clear exactly what is motivating who and for what purpose except that the dead girl seems to be trying to protect humans from the wolves, when she’s not trying to protect the wolves from the humans. And then we find out the wolves are actually werewolves, except when they change, their clothing changes along with them. The wolves are sometimes immune to bullets, and sometimes not. The top dog, pun intended, is rather mediocre CGI, and he’s two legged even though all the rest are four legged. This one never rises above its inherent limitations and sometimes drops below them, and I don’t much like werewolf movies anyway. Did I mention there’s a magic sword? 1/13/16

Crying Wolf (2015)  

This is a horror comedy about werewolves, with not much actual horror and only intermittent bits of comedy. One big complaint is the soundtrack, which varied so much in volume that I was constantly adjusting it. That said, there were also large chunks when it felt dubbed and the sound didn’t seem to exactly correspond with the picture, so maybe it was. The opening credits are reminiscent of a James Bond movie but there’s not much action either. The plot wasn’t particularly important, but there are many places where character actions are unexplained or nonsensical, there are jumps in logic, and there are several places where I couldn’t figure out what was supposed to be going on. Caroline Munro has as cameo. 1/12/16

Ramar of the Jungle Vol III (1953)  

Ramar is in a different sort of jungle for four more television adventures. Ramar visits India in the opening episode, where his companion is attacked by a member of a mysterious cult and marked for death. A secret ritual also results in the death of an innocent man in the second. A woman is kidnapped and marked for sacrifice to a pagan god in the third. Finally Ramar battles a cult of men who worship crocodiles and who have superhuman strength. 1/11/16

Kill Game (2015) 

This is a familiar story line, in fact it’s a cliché. Privileged group of popular kids play pranks on the geeks and others. One prank gets out of hand and a boy dies, although it is covered up as an accident. Years later, someone starts killing the pranksters while wearing a silly mask. This could have been a competent if hackneyed film. The cast, with a couple of exceptions, are reasonably good actors. One of them has been a recurring character on Modern Family. But there are a couple of places where the story seems to jump, ignoring a logical bridge from one scene to the next, and the dialogue though generally just dull is occasionally dumb. There are other minor problems – an inarticulate geek would never have been chosen as class valedictorian – and in order for the killer to succeed he had to have precognition, plus unlimited resources of time and money. One character’s death makes no sense at all. He makes a threatening move with a machete in front of armed police even though he’s innocent. The opening scenes are very chaotic and include dream sequences, making it very hard to pick up the story. Watchable, and I didn’t guess the killer, but only because it was impossible to do so. 1/10/16

Ramar of the Jungle Vol II (1953)

Four more episodes of this black and white television show.  The first episode has the natives on the warpath after someone steals some of their sacred idols. The second is a murder mystery. Everyone except one woman is killed on a safari, including the bearers, and a witch doctor decides that she killed them magically. A man is mysteriously ill in the third, after he calls down the wrath of a voodoo curse. Another witch doctor engineers a takeover of his tribe when the chief falls ill and Ramar tries to cure him. 1/9/16

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015) 

Most of the watchable zombie movies in recent years have been humorous ones. In this one a careless janitor unleashes a zombie apocalypse at a lab. Jump forward to a scout troop – 3 guys and they are ostentatiously NOT Boy Scouts of America – and their enthusiastic leader. There’s little effort to be realistic – a car smashes into a full grown stag and doesn’t have a scratch on the car. Eventually the three scouts team up with a cocktail waitress to save their town from the zombie attack – led by a zombie white tailed deer.  There is one fairly long sequence that is neither funny, nor horror, and it doesn’t make much sense either. It includes a zombie stripper. The zombies on the trampoline sequence is much better, and the zombie cats were cute. Some of the special effects are quite good, some are so bad they're funny. Watchable, but intermittently silly. 1/8/16

Ramar of the Jungle Volume 1 (1953)

I used to watch this low budget kids' show when I was eight or nine. Ramar is a doctor who appears to be on a permanent assignment in the African jungle, where he has a series of adventures, mostly low key, while helping the good natives and thwarting the bad ones. Each episode was a mix of studio scenes and stock wildlife footage. This disc consists of four randomly chosen episodes. In one an evil scientist experiments with atomic gas on the natives. In the second, the death of a white woman leads to the appearance of ghosts and other strange phenomena. In the third, he helps a woman track down her missing husband, and in the last he uncovers the truth about a woman who is rumored to be able to change into a leopard. Not really classic television, but typical of a particular type of show. I have more of these so a mini-marathon is underway. 1/7/16

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