Last Update 3/29/19

 

Truth or Dare (2017)

A group of generally obnoxious college students are in Mexico on spring break when they are lured into playing Truth or Dare in an abandoned building. Unfortunately, there is a supernatural force that kills any of them who lie or refuse the dare. Some survive and some die, but there is less tension than I would have expected, even though the cast is reasonably good. There is also some inconsistency or at least uncertainty about the rules. How is it that people unconnected to the game, including a dead body, get to participate and how is it that others are manipulated into situations that impinge on the plot? And how did the get a prisoner, held at gunpoint, across the Mexican border? Routine deaths, no really interesting touches or new ideas. Terrible ending. 3/29/19

30 Miles from Nowhere (2019)

I looked at the IMDB reviews for this one. Half a dozen really obvious fakes undoubtedly from people associated with the film. Who do they think they’re fooling? Following the death of a college friend, a half dozen people reunite at a remote summer home, where something is very wrong. There was a germ of a tolerable movie here -the actors are competent and there are some variations. The ending, however, is total nonsense. The police arrest one of the guests despite the testimony of all the other witnesses, plus photographic records of what really happened? Really? Someone actually thought this was believable? 3/23/19

Megalodon (2018) 

This is an obvious ripoff of The Meg, made for the Syfy channel with bad CGI, bad acting, and a bad script. The opening sequence where the Russian captain assumes that a marine biologist is needed to operate an undersea drill is stupid on multiple levels. Even the subtitles have misspelled words. The military commander of a navy ship addresses the troop – in an incomplete uniform. Michael Madsen is the visiting admiral and he doesn’t even try hard. Why would an American warship plan to attack a supposed Russian submarine in international waters that did nothing hostile? The writers obviously did not serve in the military and do not understand how chain of command works. There is clear proof that the ship wasn’t even at sea but was in port throughout the shooting – you can see shore buildings in the reflections. One of the characters is identified as a “commander,” but her insignia is that of a lieutenant. The admiral is wearing Coast Guard rather than Navy insignia. The captain refers to his crew as “soldiers” rather than sailors. The guy playing the Russian captain deserves a special award for bad acting. I gave up when the admiral tries to relieve the captain and we are exposed to a torrent of inanity. One of the worst, and most boring, movies I’ve ever seen – or at least seen most of. 3/22/19

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968)

Based on the classic Carson McCullers novel, with Alan Arkin starring as the deaf mute and Sondra Locke debuting as the troubled teenager. There are some variations from the novel, but mostly of no consequence. The de-emphasis on the bartender was a bit disappointing - he's one of the more interesting characters in the novel - but that's really my only criticism. I can't imagine a remake doing this any better, and I'm glad no one has so far tried to do so. Superb performances all the way through and one of the most touching and saddening conclusions of all time. 3/21/19

Captain Marvel (2019)

No spoilers review. I was entertained but not blown away by the latest Marvel movie. I never actually liked the character/s it is based on, and the movie has the same problems in that she is just too powerful and her powers too undefined to allow for any doubt of the outcome, or comprehension of what is even happening at times. There are several minor plot problems sprinkled through - some shortcuts that help the story move but detract from its plausibility - others nagging things that raise questions that are never answered. The special effects aren't really special. The grafting of younger faces on Clark Gregg and Samuel L. Jackson was better than I expected. The plot was just okay. Worth seeing, but not in the top tier of superhero movies. 3/14/19/

Dead Ant (2017) 

An over the hill rock band – Tom Arnold, Sean Astin, etc – are trying to revive their career, which involves a road trip and an encounter with a Native American medicine man. A woman has recently hallucinated after taking peyote, but it appears that her hallucinations have become real, and that includes a giant ant. It’s a horror comedy, although the humor generally misfires even though the cast is good. More silly than funny but I didn’t want to throw something at the television, which has not always been the case recently. 3/11/19

Suspiria (1977) 

Having watched the horrid remake, I decided to rewatch the original. When this first came out, it was shockingly different, although not nearly as effective now that we are jaded by violence and gore. But the acting was superb – I always liked Jessica Harper – and the special effects relied more on suggestion than overt appearance, and in many ways that was much more effective. Not that it’s a perfect movie, but some of the scenes remain unsettling even now that I know what’s coming. The heavy breathing in the common sleeping room, the shots of the gargoyles in the town square,  and a few other bits are superb. There was no reason to remake this. It is fine the way it is. 3/10/19

Suspiria  (2018) 

What a horrible remake this is! Pretentious, incoherent, boring, sometimes inaudible. It lacks the shocking scenes that made the original so outstanding. It is internally inconsistent and sometimes actively stupid. It includes long scenes that contribute nothing to the story. It never even attempts to do any characterization. I paused it half way through and it took three days to get back to it. Terrible soundtrack. Terrible editing. Poor sound quality. Mediocre camera work. No suspense at all and not even much plot. I kept running into sequences and wondering why they were included. There is no suspense because the "secret" is revealed almost immediately. Some of the acting is bizarre. The DVD is also crap. If you pause it, you have to sit through the previews, etc, and find your place to resume. This was the most unpleasant and badly designed dvd I have watched to date. Even the choreography was awful.  Probably the most disappointing movie I have ever seen. I am so glad that I did not see this in a theater. 3/9/19

Rampant (2018)

A Korean horror film about a plague of zombies in ancient times. A smuggler selling arms to rebels inadvertently carries the zombie plague aboard his ship. A rather hedonistic prince is forced into rallying the populace to help stamp out the growing army of zombies before they overrun the entire country. He arrives initially to find a deserted, heavily damaged city and the remains of many burned corpses. The subtitles are done reasonably well, although the comic relief sidekick's lines are really bad, probably in the original as well. There is also an evil minister who wants to use the current disorder to usurp the throne. The zombies are fast ones, not shamblers, with adequate but not noteworthy makeup. The acting appears to be quite good. It's hard to tell with subtitles. The zombies are not the central focus, which is a pleasant change. The minister unwisely thinks he can control the outbreak. Worth watching. 3/1/19

Ex Machina (2014) 

The protagonist wins a computer competition and finds himself part of an experiment involving an artificial intelligence. He has to interact with an AI manifested in the robotic body of a beautiful woman. Some interesting speculation here, but the movie itself is frequently slow paced and boring. There are a lot of good touches in this, and the reasoning behind it is intelligent, but the pacing is not always optimal. I found this to be a very interesting SF film, although not always the most engaging, and I certainly have nothing bad to say about the cast.  2/25/19

The Horde (2016)

I can’t remember who recommended this piece of crap to me so I can’t tell them off. The awful sound track – everything seems to be talking into a tunnel – would have been enough to put me off, but the bad acting, bad special effects, bad dialogue, and general badness are so painful that I actually felt sorry for some of the supposed actors.  This is the kind of direct to video garbage that gives the whole concept a bad name. The plot? College students on a field trip run into a tribe of mutants, as conceived by people who didn’t know what mutants were and couldn’t write worth a damn. Absolute garbage.  2/24/19

The Dawnseeker (2019) 

The scientific illiteracy in this is really astonishing. Earth’s sun stops providing enough heat to support life, but no one on Earth has visible breath when they are outdoors. The only hope is for astronauts to visit another planet that possesses star dust, a substance that can bring the sun back to life. No, I’m not making this up. The characters are fond of standing in menacing postures and not saying anything, which I suppose at least spares us more awful dialogue. The credits are probably the best part of the entire movie and I’m not being sarcastic. The computer graphics are particularly amateurish. At one point, a character advances on armed men holding a shield that covers her face and shoulders, so of  course they fire into the shield instead of at her unprotected body. The story contains flashbacks and such to confuse things even further and ineptly disguise the fact that the plot makes no sense. The planet, of course, has a hostile alien, which is almost amusingly badly done. 1/23/19

Doctor Who Eleventh Series (2018) 

Although I liked Jodie Whitaker, the first two episodes were not promising. The second, in fact, was almost unwatchable. Next up was “Rosa,” about Rosa Parks, and I had heard good things about it. The fourth episode, giant spiders, reverts to bad writing.  And there has been nothing really to establish that Whitaker is the Doctor.  Episode 5 talks itself to death, and I barely made it to the end. Episode 6 is barely okay. Sorry about this, but although I think Whitaker does a decent job, this is absolutely the worst season ever of Doctor Who. They have turned the sonic screwdriver into a magic wand, i.e. deus ex machina. The satire on Amazon in episode 7 was an improvement but the story still suffers from the format of cramming what should be a much longer story into a shorter, more frenetic period of time. There are also too many companions, each of whom has to have significant screen time. Episode 8 mixes spectacularly bad acting with a stupid story line. I have binge watched every season until now, but I had to force myself to watch this final season. It’s almost as though they were trying to make the first season with a female Doctor unwatchable. Two okay and eight awful episodes is not a good sign of things to come. 2/22/19

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Although not quite as coherent as its predecessor, this is great fun. The college student who found herself reliving the day she was murdered over and over again is trapped in another time loop and has to solve another mystery in order to survive. Jessica Rothe is brilliant and has the best slow burn I have ever seen in this innovative and constantly entertaining sequel. Highly recommended although you really should watch the original and slightly superior film first. One of the more pleasant surprises I've had in recent years. 2/21/19

You Might Be the Killer (2018)

First of all, this dvd forces you to sit through numerous previews of dull movies before you can watch the movie. You cannot use skip, fast forward, title menu, or dvd menu to bypass this feature. This is infuriating. That said, Alyson Hannigan (Willow from Buffy) is given top billing in this horror movie spoof,but she really isn't the star. Most of the movie consists of flashbacks that represent what the real star is telling her about. He's a camp counselor who has blackouts, after each of which he finds a dead body. He worries that he is the killer, so he consults with his friend who happens to be a horror movie enthusiast. All the other counselors have to surrender their cellphones when they arrive to pepare for the season - a recent horror cliché. He sees as man with a mask, but it might be an hallucination. The story jumps around in time a lot and repeats some of its jokes too many times, but it's not awful. I won't reveal the solution, but it really isn't all that intriguing. It goes on a bit too long. Made for television 2/20/19

The Mermaid: Lake of the Dead (2018) 

This is a dubbed Russian horror film about a young woman who was buried near and now haunts a lake, luring young men to their death. If they reject her, she takes the thing, or person, they love the most. Despite the title, she is not a mermaid, just a ghost. There are consistency problems. Supposedly she can affect people who swim in the lake and, presumably, those they love, but sometimes she menaces other people with no apparent causal link. There are some nice touches in this one, though it’s mostly jump scares. The cast scenes to be quite good, although it’s hard to tell because of the dubbing. Some of the logic gaps might also result from dubbing lapses. And how can a discorporate ghost that goes through walls be confined by nailing her up in a cellar?  2/18/18

Haunted Hospital (2018)

A bunch of not very bright young people decide to illegally visit a closed up hospital the Nazis used in order to make a film for Youtube. In addition to being found footage - which puts me off almost every time - this is subtitled and so jerkily edited that it was annoying before it fairly started. Naturally they are not alone. Silly and overly familiar plot. The acting is probably okay but the dialogue, at least as reflected in the subtitles, is very bad. I frequently had trouble telling exactly what was going on and the characters were interchangeable. It's not even true to its own premise because some scenes could not possibly have been filmed by one of the group. The dubbing is awful as well. In a scene where several people are looking around with flashlights, the dialogue asks why no one thought to bring a flashlight. There are a few effective scenes, but not enough to make it worth sitting through all the rest of them. 2/17/19

X-Men Apocalypse (16)

Final installment in the second trilogy. Set in the 1980s, a super mutant from ancient Egypt revives and decides to rule the world. The story, I thought, was rather confused and contradicts in minor ways other movies in the series. It also felt very little like an X-Men movie. The villain's powers are too great and his defeat is rather contrived. They also tried to cram too many mutants into the mix, which just added to the confusion.. 1/25/19

The Killing House (2018) 

Unwatchably dull horror film about three people who find themselves trapped in a mansion. An unseen entity forces them to kill one another over and over again as part of some obscure game. This seems to have been inspired by the Jigsaw movies but not in a good way, if there is a good way. It’s often impossible to see things clearly, the dubbing is awful, the soundtrack distracting, and the story does not make much sense. Never heard of any the cast and none of them made me want to see any of them again.  1/23/19

Headhunter: The Assessment Weekend (2010)

A bunch of corporate recruits are sent to a survival camp – where have I heard that one before?  Naturally they have all been told to leave their cell phones at home. Not even the tour guide in case of emergencies? The characters, as usual, aren’t very likeable but the acting is at least competent. They have to walk to their camp and when they arrive, they find it in ruins. Not surprisingly, it is all rigged by their potential employer as a test, with fatal consequences for those who fail. Marginally held my interest but I’d never watch it again. 1/22/19

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) 

This was a mixed bag in more ways than one. In the future, Magneto and Xavier are united in an attempt to send Wolveine’s consciousness back through time to his younger body in order to prevent events that led to the creation of the Sentinels, who are tearing the world apart.  So we get the usual cast plus their younger versions from the previous movie all mixed together. Parts of the story are well done, others not so much. The opening sequence seems cribbed directly from the Terminator movies. The political maneuvering is not particularly convincing. Certainly watchable but I had a nagging feeling of discontent throughout. 1/21/19

The Haunted/The Haunted 2 (2015) 

These two related horror films from Japan appear to also be known as Tag-Along 1&2.  They are dubbed rather than subtitled. It’s very difficult to tell exactly what the stories are about but apparently they involve evil mountain spirits that plague people in the cities, sometimes possessing them and preying particularly on the young and elderly. It’s a shame these weren’t adapted more skillfully because most of the acting seems competent, the dialogue is not actively awful, and some of the visual effects are quite striking. The little girl creature is particularly gruesome and creepy. Unfortunately it is so hard to follow the details of the plots that it is difficult to get immersed in the story. 1/20/19

Hell Fest (2018) 

A group of young adults attend a horror themed carnival, unaware that one of the costumed players is actually killing people. It’s a pretty familiar formula, but at least the acting was competent and for a change the characters were not a bunch of repulsive punks. Not bad, but I had considerable difficulty understanding how the carnival could literally have scores of people in the exhibits. They would have had to charge enormous entrance fees. And when there were literally dozens of able bodied men facing one killer armed with only a knife, why didn’t they just take him down? And why do the two women run and hide in an isolated closet rather than with the very large crowd? It ends up being more monotonous than scary. 1/18/19

The Witch Files (2018) 

This one is a mildly humorous story about a bunch of high school girls – played by actors too old for the parts – who discover that they can invoke the powers of an ancient coven of witches who were persecuted in the area. This is a sort of found footage movie, which I detest, but this one wasn’t awful. They develop their powers a little too fast and easily for my taste, and it is obvious that there is going to be a split among them that will eventually lead to a major confrontation. More fantasy than horror, and I would really have liked it better if it had been conventionally filmed rather than quasi-found footage, which I generally despise. 1/18/19

X-Men First Class (2011) 

First in the second trilogy, with a new cast and a different origin story.  Things begin to deteriorate quickly as the writers display complete ignorance of how military planning and foreign policy are accomplished. Magneto is on the trail of the Nazi who killed his mother – the Nazi is the chief villain – but the bad guy has several mutants working for him. It’s not entirely awful and has some good moments, and the tie-in to the Cuban missile crisis was interesting, but there are other moments that just aren’t convincing even within the context of the story. It does set up the characters in their more familiar roles, but the events off the shore of Cuba are not compatible with our timeline so this is clearly an alternate universe. 1/17/19

Sheborg (2016) 

Massively awful acting although the movie was never meant to be taken seriously. Nonsensical plot with two female anarchists having to save the world when an alien cyborg arrives on Earth and starts turning everyone into flesh eaters. Particularly puppy flesh. It was mildly funny for a while but became increasingly silly and some scenes were so underlit they were unwatchable. The fight scene choreography was notably bad. Okay soundtrack, but played much too loudly.  1/18/19

The Car: Road to Revenge (2019) 

This claims to be a sequel to the better than you might think 1977 television movie, The Car, but it really isn’t. It just shares a theme- the demonic automobile. For one thing, it is set in the future, a dystopian one in which criminals are instantly killed in the courtroom. It often looks more like Road Warrior than a horror film. A pretty villainous prosecutor is killed and his souped up car drives around killing the people responsible. Little goofs throughout. There are no witnesses to the first death, but the police have a description of the car. More fist and gun fights than anything else. Not quite crap, but not a whole lot better – and the female villain is extraordinarily awful. Eventually it gets really silly with cars crashing for no obvious reason just to provide some explosions and the phantom car becoming airborne, again for no good reason.  1/15/19

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) 

There’s a cure for mutation, or so it seems. Jean Grey returns from the dead as the Phoenix and allies herself with Magneto. Cyclops dies. Most of the mutants lose their powers, although there is a hint that this is temporary or illusional. Lots of action sequences without much story linking them together. A few good scenes mixed in with a lot of bad ones. This felt more like Transformers than Marvel. It was originally supposed to be the final X-Men movie, but of course that never happens and it looks like a third reboot is in the offing now. 1/14/19

I Think We’re Alone Now (2018)  

This is a quiet and quite odd end of the world movie. Peter Dinklage is a kind of OCD librarian who was the only survivor in a small town when virtually everyone in the world suddenly died of unknown causes. He buries the bodies and keeps the town clean and orderly and actually enjoys his solitude. Then Elle Fanning shows up and he has to make accommodations to no longer being alone.  But things are not what they appear to be. Although I wasn’t entirely happy with the twist ending, this was surprisingly good and mostly because of the two stars. 1/13/19

Assignment Terror (1970) 

An Italian SF disaster starring Michael Rennie, who had obviously fallen on hard times. Aliens decide to invade Earth by impersonating humans and reviving dead people to exploit human superstitions. Their primary target for some reason is a fairground. It turns out that they are not superstitions. Vampires and such are real. This doesn’t make any sense even within the convoluted logic of the plot. And some of the acting is so inappropriate to the situation they are in that it is worse than just bad dubbing. It’s a shame that talented actors were reduced to performing in things like this late in their careers. 1/12/19

Sharknado 6: It’s About Time (2018) 

Having watched the first five – don’t ask me why – I had to finish the series. It’s deliberately awful, but it ties up the series. Our hero must make visits to four past epics to stop sharknados from forming in order to prevent them from ever existing. Don’t try to figure out the logic of this. In the process, he also runs into artificial humans who have a sinister plan of their own. Corny dialogue, over acting, bad special effects, and a complete lack of logic are all essential ingredients to this series, and they’re all here in full flower. 1/11/19

X-Men United (2003) 

A far inferior sequel, full of clichés and the usual Hollywood ignorance of how the real world works. The army CANNOT be used in domestic criminal cases. A colonel would not be placed in charge of a major project affecting the future of the country. Nor would a colonel be able to overrule requests from the Senate. Nor can the government raid and arrest a facility without warrants, probable cause, etc. Fifteen minutes into this one, I had lost all sense of reality about its world. The human villain, the colonel, is such a caricature that he is not even menacing. And why do the assault troops rappel down from helicopters when there is a perfectly safe landing field right there? And how did Mystique return from the dead? And if Stryker already knew about Xavier’s school, why did he have to question Magneto to find out about it? Eventually they have to team up with Magneto to win. And Xavier’s powers are exaggerated beyond belief. Blah. 1/10/19

Wildling (2018) 

I figured out what was going on way too soon, but otherwise this is not a bad movie. A teenage girl has been raised in seclusion by an odd man who warns her against the wildling, an animal like creature. The girl has an unusual personality and has very advanced senses and the man who held her was repressing her maturation process. Spoiler alert. She’s going to turn into a werewolf when she reaches sexual maturity. Good acting, a bit too low key at times, and the story doesn’t move very fast. Watchable but probably not a second time. I don’t generally like werewolf stories so this may impress you more than it did me. 1/9/19

X-Men (2000)  

I was not a fan of this comic title and the only reason I really enjoy this movie is because of Ian McKellen as Magneto and Ian Stewart as Xavier. Magneto plans to use his powers and a machine to transform a large group of world leaders into mutants although the process is unstable and will eventually kill them. Wolverine is reluctant to work with Xavier but is loyal to Rogue, who has been kidnapped by Magneto. Nice special effects and great acting from an unusually strong cast. Unfortunately the sequels did not maintain the high standards set here despite the continued presence of most of the major actors. 1/8/19

Passengers (2016) 

A starship whose crew and passengers are in suspended animation runs into trouble colliding with a large rock in space. The odds against this are, of course, astronomical. Two colonists are revived prematurely, more than a century early. But the program thinks they are near their destination. Chris Pratt is alone at first, but eventually he revives Jennifer Lawrence. Various systems begin to break down but over a long period of time, perhaps a bit too long cinematically because I started to lose interest after a while.  It picks up for the end which is fairly predictable but not without entertainment value.  1/7/19

Mission Stardust (1967) 

The infamously bad movie based on the German Perry Rhodan SF series, an Italian film. The books now run into the thousands of sequels, literally. The movie, fortunately, had none at all. An expedition to the moon encounters two perfectly human aliens, one of whom is very ill, the other very snobbish. Rhodan is the human captain who spars with the snobby woman. Not much actually happens in the story. Badly dubbed and the color is mostly faded. This was a novelty even when it was released and today it’s just an oddity. 1/6/19

The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939) 

I read the novel this is based on last night so the plot is fresh in my memory. Murder at a soccer match, which included in the cast several well known soccer players of that time. One of the players is poisoned and collapses on field, which causes Inspector Slade to investigate both the recent death and an older, presumed suicide. Oddly the male characters have the same names as in the book but the women are all changed. There are also differences in detail, although not major ones.  The addition of a rather unfunny series of jokes adds nothing and is often silly. And then they change the ending dramatically, killing off a character who did not die in the novel. A minor film from a minor book. 1/5/19

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

The sequel to the classic Phil Dick story is long and, alas, boring. The characters are so dull that I had no interest in them or the story. The premise is that a new replicant hunter discovers hints of a secret threatening society which forces him to track down a long missing predecessor (Harrison Ford). The replicants apparently can have babies. We never find out how this is achieved. The story progresses through a series of muted, dull, and sometimes incomprehensible conversations. Some of the visual effects are very impressive, but the soundtrack consists of random noises rather than music. There are numerous scenes that add nothing to the story. I only made it to the end because I was too lazy to get up and put in something else. It was as though they were trying to do a television show rather than a movie.1/4/19

The Spiral Staircase (1946)

Based on Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White. Someone is killing women with disabilities and our protagonist is mute – although apparently not permanently. She works as a servant in a mansion, but she fears that the killer is on her trail. There are lots of visual and audible clues indicating that she is right, somewhat old fashioned but still quite suspenseful. Elsa Lanchester, Dorothy McGuire, George Brent, Ethel Barrymore, and other familiar names from the past. One of the classic suspense films from this era. I remembered it even after a gap of at least fifty years and therefore knew who the killer was, but it was still great entertainment.  1/3/19

The Unnamable (1988) 

This is supposedly based on the Lovecraft story. It's an old school horror movie about an abandoned house which is home to a distorted female mutant who kills anyone who ventures inside. Randolph Carter and other college students decide to investigate and find more than they expected. The dialogue is rather corny, possibly deliberately so, and the acting is subpar, probably not deliberately. The monster is off stage until late in the movie, which is just as well because this was a very low budget project. The college students generally look too old for their parts. A lot of time is spent walking around with nothing happening. There is also one of the most embarrassing awkward nude scenes ever filmed. Surprisingly there was a sequel but not so surprisingly, it was even less memorable. 1/2/19

The Orville Season 1 (2018) 

Although this is a pretty blatant Star Trek ripoff, and the pilot episode is a bit silly, the series grew on me, although at times the plots contained rather naïve elements. The episode about gender assignment is excellent. Although the show sometimes misfires, it is surprisingly pleasant and occasionally thought provoking.  Everyone in the galaxy speaks the same language, of course. And sometimes the stories are so naïve that they are embarrassing.  A couple are actively stupid – episode five is awful. The episode that examines the value of opinion vs knowledge is also interesting. It also poses, though doesn’t really deal with, the shortcomings of democracy. The show is very uneven with some horrible stories and some excellent ones. The cast is quite good, however. 1/1/19

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