Last Update 3/31/18

 

Cast a Deadly Spell (1991) 

This really neat nourish horror/fantasy was an HBO original. Fred Ward is Howard Lovecraft, not the writer but a tough detective in an alternate 1940s where magic is commonplace. There are lots of cute bits – actual gremlins in an auto engine, for example, or a nightclub called The Dunwich Room. Lovecraft is hired to retrieve a stolen copy of the Necronomicon, unaware that his employer is planning to sacrifice his own daughter in order to summon Cthulhu. Cast includes Clancy Brown, Julianne Moore, and David Warner. There was a sequel, Witch Hunt, in which Dennis Hopper took over the role, but he wasn’t as good as Ward, and the script was mediocre. This one, however, is great fun. 3/31/18

Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018) 

Okay, I found this very disappointing. It was clearly aimed at kids – almost all of the warriors fighting the kaiju are teenagers. The plot makes no sense at all. If the kaiju menace from another dimension is believed to be permanently ended, why build a whole new technology and associated giant robots to fight them. Why would a company have invested in building the new defense system when it seemed likely their deployment would never be authorized? How could a kid build her own giant robot out of spare parts? Why would they expel a cadet from exploring a ruined robot that was not guarded and which they had not been told was off limits? There were so many plot problems I gave up trying to remember them all. And the kaiju – giant monsters – don’t even appear until late in the movie. This felt more like the Transformers than Pacific Rim. A couple of the kids were surprisingly good and the rest of the cast wasn’t bad, but the screenplay had more holes than a sponge. I can tolerate a few glitches in what was never meant to be a serious film, but this was beyond the pale. 3/30/18

Zorro Rides Again (1937) 

The grandson of the original Zorro has to take up the mask and cape when a criminal organization plots to seize control of a new railroad being constructed in Mexico. Predictable adventures follow, with Zorro escaping numerous traps and picking off the thugs slowly but surely. Although the pacing is frenetic, the story is not particularly engaging or plausible. Cliff hangers rarely were, since they had to be written to a rather precise formula. I collect them, in part because there are not a lot of them.  Zorro would receive much better treatment in another serial two years after this one. 3/29/18

Nick Carter Master Detective  (1939) 

Phantom Raiders (1940)

The Sky Murder (1940) 

Walter Pidgeon stars as Nick Carter in these three. In the first, Carter is hired to find out who is stealing secrets and causing sabotage at an aircraft company. The second is slightly better. Someone is sinking cargo ships for the insurance money, so Carter is hired to find his way through a complicated series of rival gangs and other distractions to bring the culprits to justice.  Although low budget, these are quite nicely done with a good cast, a fair puzzle, and nice editing. The climax is a battle between an airplane and a cargo ship, but in the second the comic relief begins to get somewhat intrusive. In the third, the enemy is a gang of communist agents trying to foment unrest. This time they tried too hard to be funny and just ended up being silly. 3/28/18

Blue Monkey (1988)

Steve Railsback stars in this horror thriller. A man has an encounter with a new plant found on a remote island, falls ill, and gives birth to a wormlike creature in the hospital. The “science” is pretty bogus. An infection cannot cause an elevation of a person’s calcium levels in a matter of minutes. Nor can an eight inch long creature generate itself during that same period. Nor would a physician attempt to dissect an unknown life form on a gurney. In any case, other people in the hospital begin to display similar symptoms. The creature gets much bigger, the hospital is put under quarantine, and panic ensues. A not awful movie with some good performances, but the picture quality of the dvd is dreadful. Lots of clichés, and we never really see the creature clearly. 3/27/18

Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)  

This is something of a minor classic even though it was made for television. A young girl is found badly injured and a bunch of good old boys assume a mentally challenged man is responsible. They find him hiding in a scarecrow and kill him, only to discover that he was innocent and actually protected the girl from an attack by wild dogs. Then a scarecrow figure begins to exact revenge. The courtroom scene is pretty bad. It is clear that the four men committed murder, but the judge refuses to try the case supposedly because there is no evidence against them. The explanation is supernatural and something of a surprise, abd the buildup is great, and they managed it without gore or other tricks of cinematic horror. Charles Durning is excellent as the chief villain. 3/26/18

Rendel: Dark Vengeance (2017) v1045 

This is a superhero movie from Finland and it has subtitles. VALA is a vast criminal organization and Rendel is the superhero who wants to take them down. There are a few humorous scenes that actually work, but most of the action is less than interesting and I had trouble following the story at times. Other than having a peculiar suit and being a martial arts expert, Rendel appears to have no real superpowers and is essentially just a very competent vigilante. I had trouble following this at times and really was not impressed at all. Underlit scenes, murky motivations, confusing action sequences, and no really sympathetic characters. 3/25/18

The Night of Medusa  (2016)  

Slave Girls on the Moon (2014) 

More spoof/pastiches. The first is mangled by really bad writing early on. Even worse it’s boring and takes forever for the story to actually start, which is about Medusa possessing a college student. The second title makes no sense. Apparently a woman from our time travels into the future and finds herself in a prison on the moon. Rampant silliness, bad production values, and no actual parody or other interesting content.3/24/18

The Keep (1983) 

The dvd of the film version of the F. Paul Wilson novel is horribly fuzzy and looks as though it was copied from a VHS tape. The premise is that the Germans during World War II take over a Romanian keep that is home to an evil being. One of the soldiers removes a ward that keeps the evil imprisoned in the walls. Scott Glenn is its antithesis, alerted by its escape and drawn to confront it. Jurgen Prochnow is the German commander who is deeply troubled that his men are dying mysteriously. Then the SS arrives. Ian McKellen is the Jewish scholar pressed into service. Tangerine Dream did the soundtrack. The special effects are rather primitive, but the story is tense and well designed. 3/23/18

Death Comes to Pemberley (2013) 

The final novel by P.D. James was a sequel to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, set several years later and involving a murder. The screen version is reasonably loyal and has some great scenery and sets, but the story is too slow to develop and it is occasionally difficult to tell the different characters apart. The two lead roles are handled well and there are some good things sprinkled through the movie, but it never really demanded my attention until almost the end. 3/22/18

ustice League (2018 

The only DC superhero I actually followed was Batman, and I stopped watching those when Christian Bale took the role. The bad film making even with the Marvel Universe as a benchmark is astonishing. Although Wonder Woman works pretty well, Batman and Aquaman are absolutely awful. There is no tension, no humor, and no excitement. This is possibly the worst example of wasted potential and sheer incompetent film making that I have ever seen. Everyone involved should pursue a future career serving hamburgers at McDonalds. I cannot remember ever being so insulted. Manyof the direct to video movies I have seen recently are as good or better. 3/21/18

The Sandman (2018)

A young girl can somehow involuntarily summon a demon called the Sandman, who kills her father. Now living with her aunt, she is the subject of interest of a federal investigator, but the danger posed by the Sandman is much more immediate. Other than the rampant ignorance about child custody and the authority of a hospital, this was very promising. Solid acting, nice camera work, good pacing. The sandman’s victims all have rational explanations for their deaths – although a doctor is impaled and never mentioned again. There are a couple of scenes that don’t ring true, usually involving the boyfriend. Then the pattern changes – a victim disintegrates – and it feels as though the story line is veering out of control. If you establish a rule, you need to be very careful before breaking it. And toward the end, the whole nature of the story alters for no good reason. And how does the psychiatrist know that the sandman is a demon and not just a function of the child’s mind?3/20/18

Attack of the Octopus People  (2011) 

Frankenstein vs Hitler (2011) 

Two more spoofs. Neither of these are particularly interesting. The first is about a food processing plant that is the front for octopus people, who menace various characters, none of whom can really act. The jokes aren't very funny and the acting is pretty awful even for a spoof.The second is slightly more interesting only in that it is a silent film. A scientist brings Hitler back to life – the time frame for this is nonsensical – and pits him against Frankenstein’s monster. Visually uninteresting and not much more than a much too prolonged joke. 3/19/18

Saltwater Atomic Shark (2016) 

This is pretty much what you’d expect from the title, but it’s an odd mixture of good and bad acting, good and bad writing, good photography but uneven sound quality. Only the special effects are consistent – consistently awful. It does make an effort to develop the characters and the tension, and although there are several attractive young women in the cast, there’s not any real emphasis on T&A. There are scattered attempt at humor but most of them fail. It gets much worse as it goes along. First time I’ve seen David Faustino since Married with Children. 3/18/18

Trail of the Screaming Forehead (2007)  

A decidedly weird spoof in which alien foreheads invade the Earth. The forehead, you see, is the real source of human intelligence, not the brain. An innkeeper and his wife are the first to be taken over, while a pair of scientists attempt to prove their theories about an enzyme called foreheadazine. Slowly the town is taken over while a librarian and two visiting sailors try to save the day. A scientist injected with foreheadazine is able to pass for an alien, but he thinks they are just other scientists. Kevin McCarthy has a cameo. Silly, but a lot of fun. 3/16/18

The Voyage to the Planet of Teenage Cave Women (2012)  

Bikini Planet (2002)

Another pair of deliberately amateurish films reminiscent of bad SF movies from the 1950s. The first even has its opening credits in Italian. Two rogue planets so close that they touch are hurtling toward Earth. A routine report informs the commander of the space command that the Earth will be destroyed in less than two days.  The rogue planets are inhabited, so they decide to evacuate the rogue worlds and then destroy them. In less than two days! With one spaceship! And lots of stock footage. The interior walls of the spaceship are covered with loose tinfoil and decorated with CDs. To reinforce the cheapo Italian references, the film is dubbed, and badly, and out of sync.  The aliens are all, of course, young women in bikinis, ruled by a queen. They speak English. The creatures from the other planet are treacherous males in sunglasses. There are a couple of scenes so silly that you can tell the cast is trying not to crack up. The giant lobster creature has tape around its claws! The second film is a bit more professional – not all that difficult. Flash Rogers and his crew visit a newly discovered planet with lots of silicon, which makes the female inhabitants formidable. But their silicon is running low and they plan to steal the Earth’s supply. It gets progressively sleazier and I barely made it to the end. 3/16/18

The Menace with Five Arms (2013)  v1053

Curse of the Insect Woman (2011) 

I am very fond of spoofs of 1950s SF and monster movies, and these are the first two in a new batch I just found. The first must have had a budget of about ten dollars. The signs on the doors in the “hospital” and other locations are taped up sheets of paper. Acting, sound quality, and camera work are very primitive. The plot does fit the profile though. A water tank is destroyed mysteriously and an unconscious young woman is found lying nearby, very dehydrated. The dialogue is only funny at rare intervals and it seems more like a pastiche than a spoof most of the time. The monster is a giant, land going starfish!  The second and shorter film is much more amateurish. A cult invokes a power that allows a woman to turn into a murderous insect. Really bad lighting at times. The car crash is a model car rolling across a blanket. You have to be in the right mood to “appreciate” these two. 3/15/18

Dark and Stormy Night (2008) 

This is a spoof of old dark house movies, from the creator of Lost Skeleton of Kedavra. A group of bizarre characters gather at a remote estate for the reading of a will. They are welcomed by the “clutching hands of hospitality.”  The lawyer is killed during a black out just as he is about to reveal the contents of an amendment to the will. More murders follow, a costumed figure haunts the corridors, and secret panels riddle the building. Did I mention there was a gorilla? Not as funny as the other movies from this source, but amusing and sometimes clever send up of the genre. 3/14/18

Darkman III  (1996)

Third and final movie in the series, with a new villain to face off – pun intended – with Darkman. There are some silly goofs. Why use a manhole to get into the subway on a public street rather than just enter normally?  The faces supposedly only last 99 minutes, but somehow he can wear them in sequence and the new ones haven’t deteriorated during the interim. The fright mask makeup is not consistent from scene to scene. Jeff Fahey devours the scenery. And if Darkman has no sense of touch, how does he manipulate objects? The mobsters have got to be the worst shots in history, even worse than Star Wars stormtroopers. There is one good scene when Darkman impersonates the head crook and enters his home, only to find a surprise birthday party waiting for him. 3/13/18

Danny Johnson Saves the World (2015) 

This is a spoof of 1950s SF movies so it’s in black and white. A bunch of kids are playing in the woods when they encounter aliens – hand puppets – assisted by a robot – silly looking but full sized. Later there’s a stop action dinosaur but it’s a joke set within the frame of the older Danny Johnson telling the story to his grand children. Intentionally corny dialogue and cheap effects.  It’s very silly and goes on for too long, but it does have its charming moments. The story deliberately contradicts itself and contains multiple intentional goofs. 3/12/18

Darkman II  (1995)

Arnold Vosloo became Darkman for two sequels. They were both direct to video and obviously inferior. The chief henchman, killed in the first movie, is miraculously recovered in the second. The story is, alas, a bit too comic book for me. There’s a new weapon with enormous destructive power, but they’re actually completely impractical for the use to which they are supposed to be put. They are slow to charge, inaccurate, and cause widespread collateral damage. Vosloo is okay but undistinguished as Darkman. The villain’s plot makes absolutely no sense.  Very inferior to the first. 3/11/18

Macabre (1957) 

This movie is based on an Anthony Boucher mystery novel, published as by Theo Durrant, that I did not even know existed. I saw the previews for his when it first came out but never saw the movie until today, although I remembered the preview. Jim Backus is the sheriff investigating the theft of a child’s coffin. A local millionaire is bereaved by the death of his young daughter, the second of his children to die. The local doctor’s toddler daughter is kidnapped and buried alive and he has only a few hours to find her. The “surprise” ending is rather telegraphed by the bereaved father’s casual attitude. Not awful though. 3/10/18

Weresquito Nazi Hunter (2016)

Another spoof, which should be obvious from the title. An American soldier is captured during World War II and becomes an experiment in a Nazi lab. After the war, he discovers that the sight of blood turns him into a giant insect, so he sets out to track down the people responsible for his condition. The costume is deliberately bad, but despite some opportunities to be genuinely funny, the story tries to play it too straight, and the actors aren’t talented enough to carry it. This one suffers from a lack of consistency. It is neither particularly funny nor particularly serious and it is not clear where it would find an audience. 3/9/18

Darkman (1990)

For some reason I never watched any of the three Darkman movies, so I decided to remedy the situation. Liam Neeson is a skin regeneration researcher who is horribly deformed when attacked by a gang of mobsters. The treatment to save him gives him super strength – that seems to desert him almost immediately - and his discoveries make it possible to create masks of other people’s faces, though they can only last for a limited length of time – 99 minutes. He sets out to get revenge on the people who destroyed his lab by impersonating them and pitting them against one another. Low budget but pretty well done, reminiscent of 1950s horror movies. 3/8/18

The Lost Skeleton Returns Again (2009) 

The deliberately artificial dialogue in this spoof is hard to describe, but it is very funny. A sentient skull sends a television repairman to the Amazon seeking to find a way to restore its body. The US government has also sent an agent to secure certain “rocks” which we are vital to national security for some reason. The story is so absurd that it’s actually rather clever. The expedition is accompanied by a couple who are actually aliens, sort of. When someone notes that they have hardly touched their food, they make a point of very deliberately “touching” their food. It is perhaps a bit too long but the satire is great. 3/7/18

Ender’s Game (2013) 

I never understood the popularity of the novel this is based on, and that was before the author revealed his homophobia. I put off buying the movie until I could get it remaindered. The premise is that teenagers are the only ones with the reflexes to defeat the aliens, who were driven off once from Earth but are expected to return. Ender Wiggin is a young, bookish type who may be Earth’s best hope, but only if he develops leadership abilities. Frankly, the movie is suffused by a crass, depressing concept of human nature that makes all of the characters less than likeable. And what’s the point of hand to hand combat training when that is never going to happen? There are other aspects of the training process that similarly fail to make sense. There are some very emotional scenes, some contrived, some genuine. And why would the information that the queen of the aliens controlled the others be concealed from humans? The ultimate battle depends on Ender’s ability with a system he has never even seen before. Not an awful movie, just inspired by an awful person, and with multiple logical flaws. 3/6/18

Hellraiser Judgment (2016) 

The last installment in this series was so absolutely awful that I hesitated before watching this new one. The new Pinhead is still unimpressive. The original concept is almost gone – they don’t use the puzzle box any more, they can enter our world to seize souls without being summoned, and they spend too much time talking, diminishing their mysterious qualities. The first few minutes were, alas, bad even by the standards of the previous movie, pointless gore and ichor and funny costumes. There’s a serial killer who mutilates his victims. Three detectives are sent to investigate – without being told of each other’s involvement – and the crime scene has no uniformed cops, in fact, nobody at all at the scene. The scene is supposed to be suspenseful but is actually almost humorous. There are actually a couple of good ideas buried in the ocean of bad writing, dull acting, mediocre camera work, bad sound, and confused concepts. For most of the movie, the plot is incoherent. 3/5/18

Annihilation (2018) 

As soon as I got home from seeing this, I looked at the reviews on IMDB and, just as I expected, there were several from people who clearly did not understand what was going on, mostly because of an inadequate understanding of science. One does have to pay attention, however, because not everything is spelled out in big letters. Five scientists explore Area X, a region where the laws of biology are very different (not one where the laws of nature have changed as is claimed in a few places). Not all the questions are answered fully. We don’t know if the alien life has a purpose or is just random. The ending is deliberately ambiguous. Nice special effects and some entertaining action scenes, but this really isn’t about the action. The ending does not correspond to the end of the novel, which was the first in a trilogy. 3/4/18

Demon with the Atomic Brain (2017) 

A group of people travel through a series of alternate realities when a machine designed to provide access to those worlds threatens to engulf the universe. The budget was clearly trivial. The general’s office looks like the paneled corner of a garage. The soldiers don’t have uniforms – and haven’t even shaved recently in one case – and their name tags are paper.  One of the alternate worlds is just a dark room. There are lots of monsters, including a land jellyfish, a giant Venus Flytrap, and insects that look like flying saucers. The insects have visible strings and the people inside the jellyfish costumes are partially visible.  3/3/18

Colonel March Vol II (1956) 

Four more episodes of this detective show starring Boris Karloff. The theft of a prehistoric skull suggests to March that a bigger crime is being planned. March is present when a man dies of poisoned wine in a restaurant. There is a very unusual bank robbery and the wrong man is suspected by everyone except March. A man dies of an apparent heart attack, but March suspects that something more sinister is involved. A bit dated but not fatally so. 3/2/18

Colonel March Vol I (1956)

Four episodes starring Boris Karloff as the head of John Dickson Carr's Department of Queer Complaints, which specializes in peculiar crimes. The first involves a substituted monkey in an experiment and a murder designed to look like suicide. The second is about some love letters which are apparently being held for ransom. The vital clue is a gesture during a traditional dance.   The third is a nice impossible crime mystery involving mirrors, an invisible murderer, and a missing body. The fourth involves a tourist framed for murder in France. The victim is a man with ESP who uses his talent to defraud gambling houses of their money.  Despite its age and low budget this holds up quite well and is very watchable. Too bad so few episodes are available. One small goof. A man enters a house that has been empty for a full day and there is a roaring fire in the fireplace. 3/1/18

Black Panther (2018)

Okay, I won't include any spoilers here. The basic plot is that the new ruler of Wakanda - a highly advanced African nation hidden from the rest of the world - is being challenged by a cousin he did not know existed who wants to use the technology to dominate the world. There has been a lot of silly uproar because the cast is mostly Black (I imagine some people are complaining because there are also a number of strong female characters). The special effects are okay, but there is more emphasis on story than technology this time and effects are not as important to the movie. Viewers should sit through the credits because there are two Easter eggs. I had a couple of minor problems with the plot - a few things happen in less than a day that would actually require weeks if not months, for example. On the whole, however, I was quite engrossed and a longish movie went by very quickly. 2/22/18

Logan (2017)

Although I am a Marvel comics fan, I never liked the Xmen. They were too diffuse, too chaotic, and other than Magneto they never had a good antagonist. An older Wolverine and an elderly and senile Professor Xavier are hiding out near the Mexican border. The X-Men have disbanded but a new mutant shows up who changes the rules - a child created by another evil US corporation. It's set in a very depressing near future and in fact the mood is so dark throughout that it's difficult to exactly enjoy it. If you can overcome the downers, it's actually very well done and the kid playing the mutant girl is surprisingly good. There are plenty of action sequences, although they are not really what the story is about. We never really find out what happened to the other X-Men, and it's not really a superhero movie either. 2/17/18

Twice Upon a Time (2017)

The Doctor Who Christmas special gets off to a rocky start. Peter Capaldi's final appearance as the Doctor confronts a modern actor playing William Hartnell's version, who claims to be the original Doctor. But the Doctor had been around for more than a thousand years and Hartnell was not his first body. The two of them meet in Antarctica, both resisting regeneration, and discover that something is wrong with time. They and a World War I soldier are then kidnapped by transparent humanoid aliens. After that, it picks up and had several good moments as it went along. There is a rather grandiose characterization of the Doctor - he is the balance between good and evil for the entire universe. And one has to accept that a person is just the sum, of his or her memories. The tear jerker ending goes on endlessly and loses all its impact. 2/16/18

Dark Matter Season 2 (2016)

The first season of this low budget SF show was excellent, but season 2 starts off even better. This is going to sound excessive, but shows like this and Expanse are so much better than any of the iterations of Star Trek that I am appalled it only lasted three seasons. Unfortunately, one of the problems is that it assumes that personalities can be radically different based on memories, which I don’t believe. That said, I am appalled that this show didn’t attract more notice. It’s well acted, has an interesting premise, decent special effects, and more than adequate writing. There is some confusion, however, when they lose their memories, because they only lose some of them, conveniently. My biggest problem is that I refuse to accept that basic personalities are purely the results of memories, so the cast can become evil simply by restoring or deleting memories. A few episodes are problematic but for the most part it is engaging, suspenseful, and usually even makes sense. Several cast members are excellent, particularly Two, Five, the Android, Six, and Three. Season 3 is not yet available on dvd, and the show was canceled despite the cliffhanger ending. 2/13/18

Inoperable (2016) 

I actually met Danielle Harris briefly and she seemed like a nice person, but she has sure been in a lot of truly awful movies. This time she wakes up injured in a hospital just as a hurricane is about to hit. She recovers consciousness and finds herself pretty much alone in the sprawling facility. This mixes realistic scenes with obvious illusions and the result is a mishmash that never engages the viewer. It’s mostly just sloppy writing. Some of the scenes are so amateurish that they are literally embarrassing. This is from the school of film making that apparently believes that a coherent plot is unnecessary so long as there is lots of gore and running around and screaming. Another in a long stream of forgettable movies from an actress who probably deserved better. 2/10/18

Day of the Dead: Bloodline  (2018)

Another attempt to capitalize on George Romero's reimagination of zombie movies. There is a fundamental misunderstanding here of what makes scary movies scary. The opening sequence is so full of over the top gore and pointless violence that I almost turned it off five minutes in. The early scares are so obvious and amateurish that they verge on being funny. Although superficially a remake it's not. In fact, it's an unrelated and incredibly amateurish zombie film that has no good points at all. Bad acting, bad script, bad special effects. In fact, amateur is almost a compliment for this ridiculous piece of trash. I was actually surprised at how actively awful this piece of crap is. It is the most relentlessly boring and awful movie I have tried to watch in year. I didn't manage half an hour before it was so awful that I couldn't justify spending more of my life trying to watch it. A test pattern would have been more entertaining. 2/9/19

Casting the Runes (1979) 

This is a spectacularly awful adaptation of the classic M.R. James story about a rune that curses the person in possession of it. It is so badly done that it almost feels like a spoof, but instead it is just an insulting lack of interest and professionalism. The plot is almost impossible to follow and the resemblance to the short story is hard to perceive. Incoherent, badly filmed, poorly acted, and so bad it is almost an insult to anyone who bothers to watch it. The classic story deserves a better treatment than this, and could have been done well even with a minimal budget. 1/29/18

Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017)

I was not a big fan of the first two moves in this series because the monster was so powerful that there was never any doubt that our heroes would die. After a long gap, the third is out, and it's not only disappointing, it's insulting. The plot, if you can figure out what it is, makes no sense at all and the terrible acting doesn't help. People are stunned BEFORE they see the things that might have stunned them. Much of the time we don't even know what's going on. The writer and director apparently didn't think we needed to know. A couple of times I replayed scenes to try to figure out what was going on. Didn't help. Watching the first 2 won't help because they have little to do with the new one, and there's no way to figure out what's going on. The police are almost comically inept. Fifteen minutes into the movie we still don't know who the protagonist is. The monster has been reduced to a man in a mask, and not a very good mask. In some of the scenes it's funny rather than scary. This was more like a fan film than a sequel. A complete waste of time. 1/2818

The Strain Season 4 (2017)

The final season opens with the vampires largely in control of the world, thanks to a missile exchange that brought on a nuclear winter.  Our heroes are scattered about as well, some trying to find a nuclear weapon, one in a breeding prison, one teamed up with resistance fighters, another involved in black market sales and theft. Other than the darkness and cold, there is nothing to show that there was actually a nuclear exchange, which bothered me a bit. The efforts to make things look particularly bleak before the happy, sort of, ending are somewhat forced. Although there is a great deal of action - and a number of regulars and recurring characters are killed - the final season feels slow paced. A stolen atomic bomb is smuggled into Manhattan, but it is not clear if it would kill the Master and destroy the vampire plague, or just kill a lot of innocent people and not help in the long run. The mood is more dystopian than horrific. 1/24/18

Arrival (2016) 

Based on a story by Ted Chiang. Twelve alien spaceships land on Earth with no warning, not attacking but not communicating either. The chief protagonist is a linguist who gets caught up in the rush to communicate while the various countries of the world flounder about, threatening to attack aliens or each other.  Some of the dialogue grated a bit. No matter how dedicated a scientist may be, he would also be aware that without language, there would be no science. Nor do I believe the US would leave the situation exclusively in the hands of the military without a high ranking civilian on site. I can see why a lot of viewers were unhappy or confused because this is an intellectual rather than physical adventure. If you don’t pay close attention, you’re likely to miss part of the explanation. Excellent movie, but I suspect it will fall into neglect because of its lofty ambitions. 1/21/18

Spider-Man Homecoming (2017)

I'm not sure why the previous Spider-Man movies left me feeling mildly disappointed but that wasn't the case this time. Mentored after a fashion by Iron Man, Peter Parker is balancing his studies with his desire to be a superhero, and his taste of the grander scale from the last Captain America movie makes neighborhood crimefighting seem dull. Then a frustrated contractor, Michael Keaton, steals some alien technology and begins fashioning new weapons which he can sell on the black market. He also builds his own flying apparatus and comic fans will recognize the Vulture, although I don't think that name is ever used in the movie. There is a nice balance of humor and seriousness. I missed this in theaters but will probably watch the next one when and if it ever appears. 1/20/18

Beyond Skyline (2017)

I was curious about this supposed sequel to Skyline, because that movie ended with humanity essentially extinct. It turns out that this is a parallel story with a different end which ignores a lot of what happened in the first, which was visually impressive but didn't make much sense. The first half follow the same premise - humans harvested into the sky by giant spaceships to have their brains removed. But the second half falls to pieces. Too many coincidences, bum science, a baby that grows double its size in hours, without taking in any nourishment - and the clothing grows along with it! In the second half, the writers seem to have forgotten that their are multiple ships, the aliens are not the same ones as in the first movie and their tactics are different. There are some martial arts scenes that serve no purpose and don't even mesh with the plot, perhaps to create a more diverse audience. Acting is not terrible, but there's not much of it. The solution is pulled out of a hat and makes no sense. Watchable but irritating. 1/19/18

Fear Island (2009)

This is a ho-hum serial killer mystery movie. A group of fairly obnoxious young adults go to a private island to party, but someone is soon picking them off, one by one, and not in particularly interesting ways. There's a frame story that tells who survives, which pretty much wipes out any real suspense, but the mystery was so boring to start with that it really didn't matter. The detective actor eats much of the scenery and there are occasional lapses of logic in the plot. The cast includes several seasoned actors but they can't insert any life of mystery into such inferior material. 1/6/18

Kill Another Day (2017)

Yet another bad zombie movie. The gimmick this time is that we see things through the eyes of one of the survivors of the initial outbreak. This sort of thing has been done before and never worked so I can’t imagine why a group of amateur film makers would try to do it again. The zombies are dull, the special effects are dull, the story is dull, the direction and camera work are uninspired, and the acting is slightly above abysmal.  1/4/18

The Legacy (1978)

I recently read the novelization of this and realized that I had never seen the movie. John Coyne added a great deal of detail, particularly before the two designers arrive in England in response to a mysterious job offer. Their attempts to figure out why they were hired is also in the book, but not the film. The other guests all begin to die horribly and it is obvious, eventually to the characters as well, that the protagonist is actually responsible, although she is not aware of her supernatural power. The book is better. Not great but watchable. 1/3/18

Sssssss (1973) 

This is almost so bad that it’s funny, but ultimately it’s just bad. A crazed herpetologist has for some reason decided to create a serum that can turn an adult man into a king cobra. He uses it on an unsuspecting assistant, but the experiment gets out of control and people end up dying. I read a book while this was playing because it only needed and deserved a fraction of my attention. 1/2/18

Bordello of Blood (1996)

Dennis Miller is a private detective investigating a bordello disguised as a funeral home which is actually the lair of a bunch of vampires. This was the second Tales from the Crypt movie, and it has lots of gore and nudity, along with some over the top humor that gets a little bit wearing after a while. Miller is pretty unsavory himself but he persists and discovers that the victims are being buried with legitimate corpses and that the vampires are connected to a local evangelist, Chris Sarandon. Pretty much everyone dies, but we’re not invested in any of them because of the dark humor. 1/1/18

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