Last Update 6/30/14

 

Insidious 2 (2013) 

The previous movie in this sequence was pretty much a remake of Poltergeist. This one is somewhat more original. A young boy has the ability to visit the world of the dead during his dreams so his mother has a medium hypnotize him to forget his powers after one of the undead becomes aware of him. Years later, following events in the first movie, a man is accused of having murdered the medium that helped him recover his own son from the spirit realm. Silly goof here as the investigator says the dead woman took a picture on her camera seconds before she died. There is no way that he could have known that.  The movie makes a tactical error, starting everything too soon for us to develop any empathy with the characters. Then they throw in the kitchen sink – a séance, teeth falling out, a kidnapped baby, a dead man stalking a hospital corridors, possession, a ghost that can knock people out with a punch, etc. The overkill wipes out the occasional nice touch. The result is a series of supernatural events with insufficient interrelation to make the story genuinely suspenseful. 6/30/14

The Yellow Rolls Royce (1964)

I took a date to see this in high school and had completely forgotten it until recently. This is actually an anthology film consisting of three separate stories, the common factor being the yellow automobile of the title, which changes owners for each installment. Rex Harrison, Omar Sharif, Shirley MacLaine, and George C. Scott are just a few of the big names who appeared. In the first, a doting if rather dim husband buys the car for his wife’s anniversary present, unaware that she is having an affair with one of his subordinates. Some years later it turns up in Italy where it is purchased by a gangster, whose girlfriend promptly has an affair of her own. Finally, it shows up in Yugoslavia during the opening days of World War II. It’s not all that great a script, but the performances are outstanding. 6/29/14

G Men Never Forget (1948) 

Clayton Moore, later the Lone Ranger, is a federal agent who teams up with a female detective to combat a crime spree. The head of the crime ring is an escaped convict who had plastic surgery to make it possible for him to impersonate and replace the police commissioner. This is one of the better Republic serials, although like most of them it cannibalizes footage from other movies and serials and I had a sense of déjà vu more than once. The stunts and fight scenes are pretty good and the plot, while simpleminded and not tremendously believable, never slows down. Lightweight but entertaining. 6/28/14

The Colony (2013)   

Climate change has somehow brought about a new Ice Age and survivors live in underground warrens called colonies – even though they technically aren’t. The reversal of global warming is vaguely attributed to weather modifying machines that weren’t completely understood, but it’s not a very satisfactory explanation. They receive a distress call from another colony, followed by silence, so they send a party to investigate. There is no possible way that people could be living on the surface either, not even as scattered bands, some of them cannibals. And if it has been snowing literally for years without a break, then why do the colonies have uncovered facilities on the surface. Clearing a small area by use of the weather machines, even if that was possible, would not allow agriculture to revive. At another point, our heroes are followed by their footprints in the snow, even though twelve hours have passed and it has been snowing heavily all that time. The number of cannibals varies from scene to scene so that there are always plenty to kill, and several of the firearms have inexhaustible supplies of ammunition, so I guess that’s balance. And when they’re out on the surface, why isn’t their breath visible? Not awful, but not very good, and idiot science. 6/27/14

The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box (2013)  

An ambitious if not entirely successful steampunk movie. Various parties search for a map that gives the location of a box that contains the secret of transmuting objects into gold.  The protagonists are two teenaged brothers who are on the run when their parents are kidnapped by the villain and his henchmen. Despite good production values and a few clever touches, the story loses steam – pun intended – early on and never really gets its momentum back. This was undoubtedly aimed primarily at children and I suspect it missed its target because of the poor pacing and occasional choppiness. 6/26/14

Fighting Devil Dogs (1938)   

A pair of Marines match wits with The Lightning, a masked villain who has a new weapon based on electricity. The villain has a giant wing shaped aircraft; the good guys have God on their side. Silly story with a couple of major goofs – you can’t fly a seaplane from California to Hawaii quite that quickly – but reasonably good cliffhangers and the usual variety of fistfights, gunfights, chases, captures and escapes, and heroic deeds. Average or possibly a little better of its type, but you have to put your brain on low to believe some of the story line. 6/25/14

Ghost of Goodnight Lane (2014)  

An angry ghost begins killing off cast and crew at a film studio, using familiar but reasonably well done devices – objects that move by themselves, reflections in mirrors, doors that close themselves, dimming light, shadows not quite seen, accidents that defy probability, etc. There’s a fairly good cast with Billy Zane and Lacey Chabert as the names. The initial death, unfortunately, reveals the lazy writing. The victim is impaled on a coat rack but no one finds it odd that the rack changed shape. There’s a mysterious old lady – whose scenes are more often funny than suspenseful – who tells them bits and pieces about the haunting. There’s a little too much of the characters ignoring things that are clearly not normal. The flashbacks to the ghost’s life are particularly badly done. It gets increasingly amateurish as the story proceeds and is nearly unwatchable by the end. 6/24/14

The Galloping Ghost (1931) 

An early, badly done, and boring cliffhanger serial that involves stars Red Grange, a popular football star of that era. It involves a criminal organization that is gambling on college sports. It’s a mess of blackmail and bribery with Grange having to clear his name after he is implicated in fixing a game – he’s innocent – and he spends most of the rest of the story trying to clear his name and surviving a variety of dangerous situations. There are also some terribly racist depictions of Blacks and a villain who looks so much the part that it’s farcical. Not a shining example of its type, but Mascot serials were generally inferior. 6/23/14

Cowboys vs Zombies (2014)  

The title pretty well would seem to sum up the plot, but this is set in the future, not the past.  I think it’s set after a nuclear war, but the plot is so disorganized that it’s hard to tell. The protagonist is severely wounded in a fight and sells his soul in order to save his life. There are some pointless extreme close-ups that just look silly, a bunch of the walking dead who just look sillier, and so much confusion that I gave up after 45 minutes, completely unable to understand what was going on. A strong contender for worst movie of the year. 6/22/14

Scream Park (2012) 

The first few minutes of this horror film set in an amusement park is okay because there’s no dialogue and no acting. Then things start downhill with bad lines poorly delivered. The soundtrack is occasionally marginally audible but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad one. Later it gets quite loud, then echoes a lot, then goes back to normal. The park is in financial trouble so the owner hires two men to break in and kill all of his staff, hoping that the publicity will provide a lift. Routine carnage ensues. Some of the acting is palatable later on but the dialogue doesn’t improve. Full of clichés and events that don’t make sense. 6/21/14

The Royal Mounted Rides Again (1945) 

This cliffhanger serial blends mystery and western elements. There’s a rivalry between two miners and when one of them is found murdered, the other is the obvious suspect. The latter’s son, a mountie, decides to prove his father innocent by tracking down the real culprit. The story that follows is rather more involved than usual and even has a couple of surprising twists. For the most part, it conforms to the usual formula – chases, fights, miraculous escapes, and so forth, although it does have a couple of unusual characters as well. If the other aspects had been up to the writing, this would have been one of the better serials. 6/20/14

Mischief Night (2014)  

I was skeptical of this one after two minutes when the killer dons robe, mask, and flourishes his knife on a residential street in the middle of the day. It’s the day before Halloween and Kaylie is babysitting. Unfortunately, Kaylie is not a nice person, which eliminates any sympathy we might have for her. And the masked idiot has targeted her. The dumb babysitter not only opens the door when he rings the bell but walks outside when he stands and watches her without speaking. That turns out to be a false alarm, but when she sees another figure at the window with a knife, she doesn’t call the police. The killer gets into the house, attacks the babysitter, and she knocks him unconscious. But still doesn’t call the police. He recovers and attacks her again, gets knocked out again, and then unmasks. Then they get to be friends, sort of, and at times the dialogue was so bad I thought they were going for comedy. Whatever they were trying to do, they failed. 6/19/14

Federal Agents vs the Underworld (1949) 

Despite the mundane title, this is science fiction. The bad guys are after a mind control device and the good guys have to stop them. One interesting innovation is that the head of the gang is a woman – I don’t recall that happening in any other cliffhanger serial. There are some really bad plot elements. A giant statue inside a well excavated ruin which a scientist stumbles upon by accident? If the scientists don’t know the significance of the golden hand they find, then how does the gang know?  The thrills and chills are the usual, the acting is minimally competent, the plot is full of holes, and it quickly becomes repetitious. Somewhat below average of its type. 6/18/14

I, Frankenstein (2014) t108 

Despite the title, Frankenstein dies three minutes into the movie. The monster, who looks perfectly normal, finds himself caught in a battle between gargoyles – nominally the good guys – and demons – clearly the bad guys. Outside of knowing martial arts, the monster is just another guy and the gargoyles turn into ordinary humans as well except when they’re fighting. They all speak in painfully artificial prose. It starts badly and doesn’t get any better. The actors should be commended for saying so many stupid things with a straight face. It’s also pretty heretical since it contends that “God is no longer the sole creator of man.”  He hides out until the present day, then emerges from the wilderness with a nice neat haircut, clean clothes, and a purpose – he wants to hunt demons and naturally he finds them easily enough, After only fourteen minutes, there have been three major battles. There’s also a beautiful young female scientist who is experimenting with reanimation of the dead. Then there’s a big, poorly rendered, CGI battle that isn’t even interesting to watch. And for some reason, even though it’s fought in the middle of a major city, no humans notice. It’s more of a badly done cartoon that a badly done movie. 6/17/14

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

Joss Whedon’s first take at Buffy was butchered in production and despite a fairly good cast, it was turned into an unfunny comedy about vampires. Every once in a while there’s a good line hinting at what might have been but for the most part it is completely forgettable nonsense that looks like it was filmed by several far from sober people over the course of a weekend. There’s no comparison to the television show despite some plot similarities, and the vampire effects aren’t as good as some Halloween costumes. I would never have guessed what was coming if I’d seen this before the show. 6/16/14

Nightmare Weekend (1986) 

This was bad even for Troma studios. The assistant to a brilliant professor uses his new computer invention to experiment on three young women. There’s a dumb puppet character, some of the hokiest computer graphics you’ve ever seen, a cast of mostly amateurs who never appeared in anything again, and plot jumps that would have been even more jarring if the story had made any sense in the first place. Unwatchable. I managed about half before giving up. 6/13/14

Son of the Guardsman (1946)   

This is a somewhat atypical cliffhanger serial in that it has a medieval setting, or what the writers thought was a medieval setting. A good nobleman enlists the aid of the outlaws of Sherwood Forest in order to oppose his evil uncle who mistreats and overtaxes his peasants to pursue his quarrel with a rival. The acting isn’t great but the other production values are above average. This was an obvious Robin Hood takeoff and has a good sized cast for a serial. Jock Mahoney, who would later be Tarzan and Yancey Derringer, has a small part. There’s a bit more actual plot than usual but the stilted dialogue gets irksome before long. It’s the kind of movie you watch while you’re doing something else. 6/12/14

From a Whisper to a Scream (1987) 

Also known as The Offspring. This is a collection of short horror films with an impressive cast including Vincent Price and Rosalind Cash. Price is the uncle of an executed murderess who relates four stories to a nosy reporter. In the first, a repressed man commits two murders and is tormented by a zombie infant. Clu Gulager does a good job but the story makes no sense. A small time crook tries to steal the secret of immortality and suffers decades of torment in the second. A carnival glass eater discovers the price he has to pay for his talent in the third and a town full of children capture some Civil War soldiers in the final. None of the stories are particularly good, but none of them are particularly bad either. 6/11/14

Da Vinci's Demons Season 2 soundtrack composed by Bear McCreary, Sparks and Shadows, 2014

Something Wicked soundtrack composed by Kyle Newmaster, Lakeshore, 2014

It's been a while since I listened to a soundtrack, but Bear McCreary's name also gets my attention. The first title is a television series that is a kind of secret history of Leonardo Da Vinci, not technically SF but apparently flirting with it. I haven't watched the show. The music then tends to be orchestral, largely somber, although not in a bad way. There is considerable variation from one piece to the next, but a kind of overall unity that makes them feel more like parts of a single work. I particularly liked "Transfusion," "Machu Picchu," "The Undiscovered Land," and "Bold and Fearless."  The music stands by itself separate from the television show. Something Wicked is a recently released horror/suspense film starring the late Brittany Murphy. It has an okay theme, mildly generic. The individual cuts are more designed to match what was happening on the screen so while they vary quite a bit, several of them don't work as separate pieces of music, although they do create moods effectively  - mostly suspense or creepiness. Although they probably achieve what they were intended to do, the only ones I actually liked as music were "Incriminating Evidence" and "Unlocking the Truth." 6/10/14

Mr. Jones (2013) 

Another found footage movie, which means the filmmakers couldn’t be bothered with close continuity or smooth editing. A young couple move to a remote house and begin to experience weirdness, none of which is really explained except that somehow there’s an interface between the real world and one of dreams and things seep across. It’s frequently unclear what’s going on, the dialogue is sometimes inane and frequently inaudible, and not much happens for too long before things start to pick up. The found footage business isn’t even consistent, which just makes it even more obtrusive. And as is the case with too many horror movies, the characters are not particularly likeable so our interest in them is minimal. Then there are the blackout scenes in which we can’t see what is happening – saves on special effects costs. Be careful to avoid this one. 6/9/14

Independence Daysaster (2013)   

Really horrible title. I have a soft spot for spoof movies, and that’s what I thought this was although it’s actually just a ripoff of invasion stories with a minimal budget. The story, such as it is, involves invasions from both outer space and under the Earth’s surface, and the obvious sources are Independence Day, The War of the Worlds, and Battleship. It actually runs for thirteen minutes before the first actively stupid lines of dialogue. The ones underground drill to the surface in giant machines that are actually reasonably good CGI. They are accompanied by airborne devices which are pretty bad CGI.  Simulating earthquake conditions by shaking the camera and telling the actors to fall down doesn’t work when the trees and bushes nearby are absolutely still. The scientist character announces that she knows what’s going on, and when asked to explain, says that she has no idea what’s going on. The stranded President finds a hacker who has lots of equipment but even though the communications grid has been “wiped out”, he can still blog. The scientist has a hand held weapon that destroys the alien machines, but she’s out in the sticks with one of our heroes. Bad acting and bad dialogue go without saying. There are also a couple of coincidences that defy belief. And the key point is that the salvagers carry downed machines back to the mother ship. But the hero who figures out how to destroy them NEVER knew that this is where they go, and in fact didn’t even know that the mother ship existed. And then we find out that the aliens could wipe out the human race without even bothering to attack, so why waste the time and material? Not worth your time. 6/8/14

Elysium (2013) 

Boy is this ever a stupid movie. The premise is that the rich live in an orbiting habitat while the poor are repressed and dying of pollution on Earth. One man by chance gets the computer code that will reboot the whole system and make everyone a full citizen and after various battles he manages to do that, while dying in the attempt. Almost everything about this is badly done. The orbiting habitat is physically impossible given that it has helicopters, an atmosphere even though it is open to space, and allows spacecraft to land directly in its inhabited areas. The business about the computer code is just as stupid. Not even a computer genius can glance at some blinking lines of binary for two seconds and then explain that it’s a reboot code for the entire system, controlling a robot army and the space habitat. Supposedly the code is treated so that if it is transferred out of a brain, the sender dies rather than the recipient, which makes no sense at all. When the reboot is done, everyone is a citizen and the elite have no means of reversing things, which is extraordinarily dumb and improbable. When it happens, the habitat immediately sends scores of hospital ships to Earth. If that was so easy to do, why wouldn’t they have done it already to keep the populace quiet. And for that matter, why would they have the ships in the first place if they weren’t going to use them. Add in medical machines that can completely cure leukemia in three seconds, reconstruct a crushed head in ten seconds, and several villains who were clearly cut out of cardboard. Even Jodie Foster chews the scenery, and the chief thug has such a garbled enunciation and accent that I missed about half of his dialogue. I’ve seen much better direct to video movies. 6/7/14

Incident at Victoria Falls (1992)   

Christopher Lee is Sherlock Holmes and Patrick MacNee is Watson in this quite long mystery adventure set late in his career. He is talked into secretly acting as courier for a fabulous gem on its journey from Africa to England, to avoid not only conventional thieves but a local tribe who claim the gem as their own. The ruse never has a chance because the gem is stolen before Holmes ever sees it. It’s not bad but they stretched the story out into a mini-series by adding subplots that don’t really contribute to the story. There’s some light humor but it’s not particularly funny. Not the worst Holmes adaptation I've ever seen - Matt Frewer probably holds that dubious distinction - but not very good. 6/6/14

Poseidon Rex (2013)   

Another badly rendered CGI monster graces this Sci-Fi Channel production. Off the coast of Belize, an undersea demolition inadvertently frees an amphibious dinosaur that proceeds to do pretty much what you’d expect it to do. Some of the acting is adequate; some of the dialogue isn’t inane. There are more clichés than you can shake a stick at, including the engine that won’t start, the crime lord with a grudge, the colorful local character. The CGI has the creature standing on its back legs from time to time, even though it’s supposed to be very deep water. At one point our heroes get out of their car and proceed on foot even though pursued by the creature. The last twenty minutes or so are particularly stupid. 6/5/14

R.I.P.D. (2013)  

The title stands for Rest In Peace Department, a group of dead but still animate police officers who deal with unusual cases. This stars Kevin Bacon, Jeff Bridges, and Mary-Louise Parker, so it’s not a low budget effort.  The protagonist is killed by his own partner, who has been involved in criminal activity of his own. Although the basic ideas for this is okay, and the cast is excellent, the silliness overwhelms the plot, which involves a plan to use an ancient artifact and reverse the flow of souls to Heaven, inundating the Earth with dead people. Decent special effects prevent it from becoming  a total loss but even the seasoned actors involved barely make this palatable. 6/4/14

Gangbusters (1942)   

One of the silliest of the cliffhanger serials, badly acted, confusing, and generally awful. It purports to be an account of the “unending war” between law enforcement and organize crime. Professor Mortis is the head of a new gang whose depredations seem almost random. At one point, the police triangulate a signal by putting police cars on swivels around the city, then turning them to find out from what direction the League of Murdered Men are broadcasting. Mortis announces that until all members of the city government and the entire police force are discharged, he will continue his reign of terror. The hero, Kent Taylor, doesn’t want it revealed that his brother was working undercover, but then he provides a police escort to bring him to headquarters, which sort of defeats the purpose of keeping it secret. The usual clichés abound. There’s a secret hideout – under the subway – and our hero has to escape plane and auto crashes, gunfights, and other mayhem.  6/3/14

Deadshadows (2012) 

First a caveat – films that are not in English but have subtitles should be labeled as such. This one is in French. The opening sequences are promising. The young protagonist lost his parents when they became homicidally insane during the near passage of a comet. Now an adult, he is facing another sighting of that same object.  Unfortunately, the writers don’t know what a comet is. After 16  minutes, I knew it was going to be crappy. The comet is apparently influencing people to act weirdly, but the individual events are uninteresting, awkward, or oddly truncated. A woman suddenly makes a physical pass at our hero in a store, and a second later she is gone and he is shopping as though nothing had happened. Some of the dialogue is inane, although part of that may be the translation. Some of the transformations are visually interesting, but the plot never makes any sense. It’s sort of a zombie movie. 6/2/14

Ghost in the Machine (1993) 

I saw this when it first came out and vaguely recall enjoying it. Karen Allen stars as a single mom put in jeopardy when a serial killer targets her, then has a freak accident. While undergoing a brain scan, an electric storm strikes the building and his spirit is somehow transferred into the electrical grid. Despite the technological twist, this is horror, not SF, and the packaging is a bit misleading. It’s not as good as I remembered. The understanding of how computer networks operate leaves a good deal to be desired. The writer didn’t know the difference between email and chatrooms either. And no matter how much software the bad guy infiltrated, he couldn’t affect the physical limitations of the instruments connected to the network, to say nothing of physical objects with no electronic components. Nice special effects though. Watchable, but the implausible bits really spoiled it for me. 6/1/14

King of the Carnival (1955) 

Another fairly routine cliffhanger serial with the usual cast of characters and the usual cast of actors – although Stuart Whitman was a surprise. I believe that this was the last serial produced by Republic Studios, which made a lot of them. This one involves a counterfeit ring that is operating behind the façade of a traveling carnival, although treasury agents suspect them almost from the opening scene. They couldn’t have had much of a budget. Some of the underwater scenes are obviously not underwater – they just have an overlay of bubbles. There are lots of not very convincing fist fights as well. The hero is an acrobat, so as you might expect a lot of the drama involves trapeze accidents. There are a few good scenes but this is mostly lifeless. 5/31/14

Godzilla (2014) 

I had no real expectations for this since I’d seen mildly positive and mildly negative reviews. The story is the traditional one. Two monsters menace a major city or three, but Godzilla shows up as the balancing force of nature to destroy them when all the weapons of humankind fail. The special effects are better and the story more cohesive than the previous attempt at a US version. It was entertaining enough to keep me interested to the end although none of the actors really had much of a chance to demonstrate any talent. I thought the two new monsters were rather silly looking, but that’s also traditional. There were a couple of minor holes in the plot but nothing of any consequence. An enjoyable summer movie but I won’t be in a hurry to watch it again on dvd and I actually thought Pacific Rim did it better. 5/30/14

The Killer Eye (1999)   

A remarkably silly movie about a scientist who is experimenting with perception into the “eighth dimension. A creature from that reality crosses over and occupies the eye of his latest subject. It then disengages from the body and floats around on its own, growing to the size of a beachball. This is actually meant to be funny but it doesn’t really succeed as horror or comedy. The eye wanders around for a while observing people but somehow doesn’t get spotted. There’s a good deal of rather boring softcore pornography. Crummy special effects, gratuitous nudity, bad acting, and a ridiculous storyline. 5/29/14

The Enemy of the World (1967) 

Patrick Troughton plays a double role as Doctor Who arrives in a future where he is an exact double for an ambitious and ruthless man determined to rule the world. There are assassinations, political maneuvers, a secret underground civilization, and a few other twists, but this one goes on for far too long and Troughton chews the scenery a bit more than usual. No interesting visuals, a convoluted story line, and occasional silliness mar the story even further.  This particular serial was lost for many years and it’s interesting to see it at last, but it was not one of the Doctor’s better outings. And I never cared for Jamie as a companion, although Victoria was all right. 5/28/14

Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. (1941) 

Dick Tracy (Ralph Byrd) battles another villainous organization in this cliffhanger serial. The arch villain is The Ghost, who can become invisible thanks to a mysterious device.  The Ghost commits a series of murders before Dick Tracy arrives. Oddly enough, the Ghost’s gun is visible when he’s firing it but not otherwise. There’s a plot to destroy New York City with an induced tidal wave – brief but surprisingly good effects –and other nefarious plots. Aerial combat, gunfights, car chases, miraculous escapes, and the usual elements of Republic serials, of which this is one of the better examples. The plot is almost secondary; it’s really just a series of loosely linked episodes with lots of action and a hint of mystery.  5/27/14

Full Eclipse (1993)   

An unusual horror movie, taken from a script by Richard Christian Matheson & Michael Reaves. Mario Van Peebles is a police detective whose partner makes a miraculous recovery from near mortal wounds, performs with unusual strength when he returns to duty, but then inexplicably commits suicide. Our hero is subsequently recruited into a group of vigilante cops who use a special drug to turn themselves into what are essentially werewolves. Several elements of the story are implausible – the depredations of the killer squad would have attracted attention, and a relatively minor detective cannot decide unilaterally to prohibit an autopsy, not to mention he shoots an unarmed prisoner in a holding cell and there’s not even an inquiry. The chief bad guy is named Garou – get it – and our hero is named Dire – get that one too? Not too bad, although the guy playing Garou chews scenery along with his victims and Dire’s attitude takes some unexplained, extreme turns. And the revelation that Garou has created special units in other cities in the past, then killed all of his people, could not have been suppressed for so long. Given the authors, I’m surprised at how bad the script is in places. 5/26/14

Dark Shadows (2012)  

I have never seen an actual episode of the television that inspired this, so I can’t make any comparison. Young Barnabas Collins spurns a witch and gets cursed with vampirism. He is driven out of town and, two centuries later, escapes his grave and returns to find his relatives have deteriorated into a sorry lot. He hopes to restore the family’s honor, but the witch is also still around and she carries a grudge for a long time. Barnabas’ unfamiliarity with the modern world leads to a few mildly comic scenes, including one where he opens what he thinks to be a secret room, only to find it filled with macramé. Despite good performances by nearly everyone in the cast, the story just has no life – no pun intended.  The few good scenes are scattered and watered down by the long transitions. Interesting, but not one of Tim Burton’s better films. 5/22/14

City of the Walking Dead (1980)    

A Spanish/Italian zombie movie in which the zombies are able to use guns, drive vehicles, and make plans. It starts when a military plane makes an emergency landing at a major European airport, and the people aboard emerge as homicidal killers with deformed places – apparently after being exposed to radiation. They’re immune to bullets – except in the head of course – and some of them aren’t deformed at all. They drink blood. They overcome a large military force that surrounded the plane – not sure why this would have happened – and run amok in the city. Their victims don’t rise from the dead, initially, although we are told later that they will. Dumb dialogue or dubbing or both. The military clamps down on our newscaster hero and his station so he quits. There’s some gratuitous and rather dull nudity that adds nothing to the story. Neither do the prolonged dance sequences, which seem particularly out of place. “His molecular structure clearly established him as a member of the human race.” Huh?  There’s no logical progression, some scenes seem to have nothing to do with the movie, and the attacks quickly become monotonous. And how do dozens of monstrous looking people move through a city without anyone noticing until they attack? At the end the hero wakes up; it had all been a dream. But it was a prescience one. Another waste of time. 5/21/14

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 (1997) 

Okay, this is my all time favorite television program and this is my fourth time through the series. It’s just as fresh as the first time and even the first episode has so many great lines that I am in awe.  Buffy Summers moves to Sunnydale with her mother to start high school over again after burning down the gym at her old school – to kill a den of vampires. She soon meets Xander, the inept, Willow, the brilliant nerd, Cordelia, the snobbish fashion girl, and Giles, the librarian who is also assigned by the Watchers Council to train her.  Nemesis this season is the Master, a powerful vampire who is confined by a magical forcefield which he plans to shatter during the Harvest, during which he will drink the blood of multiple villains. She also meets the enigmatic Angel, the vampire with a soul who has stopped drinking human blood, and Darla, minion of the Master, who is irredeemably evil. A vampire victim shows up in a locker on Buffy’s first day at her new school and the game is afoot shortly thereafter. By the end of the second episode, the Scooby gang – Xander, Willow, and Giles – have settled into their roles. Their battle with the witch is an excellent episode; the praying mantis lady not so much. The animated puppet is one of the high points of the first season, but the demon  from the book is somewhat uneven. The episode in which the comatose boy makes everyone’s nightmares come true is also quite good. Buffy makes a good vampire. The invisible girl and, of course, the finale in which Buffy briefly dies are also very good. I could watch it again tomorrow. 5/20/14

Who’s Guilty? (1945)

This cliffhanger serial opens in an eerie old house where a rich man is threatened by his brother, who wants part of the family fortune. The first man is murdered a short while later and the serial is essentially a murder mystery inflated with a couple of mostly irrelevant subplots. There are a number of suspects, mostly relatives, and a pair of investigators who try to solve the crime. I was a bit suspicious from the outset since we don’t see the murder committed and the body is burned in a fire. There’s even a creepy butler. The supposed dead man liquidated his assets two days before the accident. There are lots of fistfights and murder attempts with poison gas and other implements. Each episode opens with a summary of the suspicious actions of the various characters. This could have been condensed into a reasonably good mystery movie but the padding is unusually obtrusive. 5/19/14

Junior G Men (1940)  

The Dead End Kids cooperate with the government in this cliffhanger serial in tracking down a gang of terrorists who have kidnapped a scientist. We’re supposed to sympathize with the kids – actually young men – who cause an accident, assault a street vendor, and steal pastries. This kind of mixed message wasn’t uncommon with the Dead End Kids. There are some attempts at humor that mostly fail. The story is rather slow moving, the cliffhangers are less than scintillating, and  the kids are so obnoxious that it’s hard to take their side against the Flaming Torches, which is what the terrorists call themselves. Well below average. 5/18/14

Beneath (2013)   

Six friends decide to go on a camping trip at remote Black Lake, where they discover more than they counted on. They row out to the middle of the lake to go swimming. Three are in the water when something large and only vaguely seen rocks the boat and then attacks the swimmers. They lose their oars so cannot row back to shore. Stephen King fans will recognize that this is a ripoff of “The Raft” although it’s a giant rubber fish – at least no CGI -  instead of a blob. The acting is competent and for a change the characters are not actively obnoxious. It turns out that one of them knew about the danger and didn’t think they would be at risk, which is a serious plot flaw. The story runs downhill from there. One of them is fatally wounded and dies and they decide to throw her body in as bait so they can get to shore – which is actually so close that the period during which they were rowing should easily have gotten them to safety. When they’re paddling by hand,  they don’t paddle for the near shore but the far one. Starts off fair, gets bad quickly, is even worse by the end. By then I was rooting for the monster. 5/17/14

The Depraved (2011) 

I’ve seen so many awful horror movies recently that it wouldn’t take much to pleasantly surprise me. Four young adults hire a guide to take them through the maze of tunnels beneath Berlin, but something goes wrong. They run into two men who object to their presence but they are allowed to proceed. Then their guide has an accident. Another mystery man turns up and offers to help, but it's obvious that he is insane. All of this is done with reasonable competence but despite the sometimes creepy environment, it’s pretty dull for a long time. The outcome is never really in doubt and there's nothing new to see.. This one just takes too long to get going. 5/16/14

Monster in the Closet (1998)   

This was one of Troma’s better efforts at horror comedy, although it apparently was less successful than The Toxic Avenger and others. There’s a monster living in a series of closets and it gobbles up residents whenever they’re alone. There’s actually a decent cast – John Carradine, Henry Gibson, Claude Akins, Stella Stevens, Howard Duff though mostly in cameos – and a few genuinely funny lines. A reporter investigates when the bodies – each with two puncture wounds – start turning up.  The monster is surprisingly well done, although a bit silly looking. Like many a movie monster, it’s impervious to bullets. It disappears after a confrontation with police and scientist Henry Gibson and others decide to track it down and communicate with it. Since the creature restores its vitality by entering closets, everyone in California destroys their closets. 5/15/14

Red Barry (1938)  

Buster Crabbe stars in this cliffhanger serial, pitting a tough detective against a variety of villains, both ordinary criminals and enemy agents. The story opens with a delegate from beleaguered China returning to the US secretly carrying a fortune in bonds with which to buy arms for use against the invading Japanese. Red Barry is investigating the murder of several Chinese men in the US, and the envoy fears his inquiries will expose their illegal purchase of advanced weapons. You could watch the first couple and last couple episodes and you’d pretty much know the whole story. A couple of the cliffhangers are at least reasonably original, but they cheat from time to time in showing how they weren’t fatal after all. About average of its type. 5/14/14

Octaman (1971)

This is a really cheesy monster movie that is bad enough to be funny. The dvd is so bad that the sound is seriously out of sync. We see a woman talking but we hear the dialogue spoken by a male actor a few seconds earlier. It was Pier Angeli’s last movie; she died an apparent suicide that same year. Someone must have shown her the movie. The plot is about a hybrid human/octopus, caused by radiation of course, who starts killing people.  The print is so bad that it’s hard to watch, but then again, there’s not much to see in the underlit sets anyway except a rather silly rubber suit. 5/13/14

Sparks (2013) 

This appears to be based on a comic but it’s a ripoff of the Wild Cards series and Smallville. A radioactive meteor lands near Rochester and a number of people acquire superpowers as a consequence. As another consequence, weather patterns are altered within a ten mile radius, which is patently absurd. As soon as the actors start speaking, it’s obvious that this was amateur night, and the CGI is among the worst I’ve ever seen. Sparks is a superhero whom has been identified as a supervillain as the movie opens. The rest of the movie is mostly his retrospective story. It doesn’t appear that he actually has any superpowers, actually. He teams up with a superheroine and it looks like they were going for some humor here, but if so, it doesn’t work. There’s an evil villain and the battle between them causes Sparks to be branded a serial killer. My interest flagged just before midway and steadily declined thereafter. 5/12/14

Man Bait (1953)  

An unscrupulous woman working in a rare book shop catches a customer trying to steal a valuable book.  Her married boss makes an impulsive pass at her and she and the would be thief decide to blackmail him. He rebuffs the first two attempts and threatens to report her to the police. They write a letter to the wife, who dies of a stroke, and the shocked husband – not very plausibly – then agrees to pay the blackmail money.  But the male crook kills the girl instead. The femme fatale in this case is Diana Dors, who was cast mostly in similar roles early in her career but proved later to actual have talent.  So low key that it’s actually rather dull. 5/10/14

The House Where Evil Dwells (1982) 

Two westerners move to a house in Japan where a husband killed his wife, her lover, and himself, and all three spirits are lingering. Interesting sidelight: the young girl who played the daughter of Edward Albert and Susan George is now married to writer Jonathan Lethem. I liked both Albert and George, which is why I tracked down this movie, but it’s far from the best work of either of them. I had only seen this on television before so I was surprised by how much nudity there is. We see too much of the ghosts, which dissipates a lot of the suspense. The ghosts eventually influence the living to repeat the same relationship as in the past, with similar results. Okay, but not memorable. 5/10/14

Dick Tracy’s G Men (1939)  1546 

A condemned criminal fakes his death with a drug so that he can be rescued by his cohorts and launch efforts to steal super scientific devices linked to aircraft and radio. He is also a saboteur connected to the mysterious “Three Powers”, presumably foreign. Given that this was produced in 1939, we can figure it out easily enough. Each installment has Tracy in trouble and apparently about to die, and the beginning of each subsequent episode shows that it really wasn’t that bad after all. Nevertheless, he’s almost supernaturally lucky and often doesn’t even get his clothing wrinkled. The villain’s identity is obvious from the outset, which is comparatively rare in serials, but the story itself is very conventional with no original twists or particularly brilliant cliff hangers.

Let Me In (2011)  

A vampire trapped in the body of a 12 year old girl has to survive when her human mentor is killed while trying to acquire her next meal. At the same time she has developed an odd relationship to the unhappy, bullied 12 year old boy living in the adjacent apartment. This is a very odd movie – gore mixed with childhood romance. Most of the adult characters are little more than stage props. The confusion of good and evil is not usually handled this well. It also explains what happens when a vampire enters a home without invitation. I also continue to be impressed with the performance of Chloe Grace Moretz, and the male lead did quite well also. This makes two pretty good vampire movies in one week. I can’t remember the last time that happened. 5/8/14

Catching Fire (2013)   

Second in the Hunger Games series. The evil dictator announces a new round of duels to the death, rigged once again to kill off our two protagonists. But this time officials within his own power structure are working against him, helping to set up a revolution. Good special effects and good acting, but just as in the books I was never able to believe in the dystopian society which is the backdrop, so too do I find it implausible in the movies. We never really see more than a glimpse of any general societal unrest, we see nothing at all of everyday life in the repressive capital, and the repressive measures are either overkill – literally or are carried out with such over the top evilness that there’s no verisimilitude. The movie is okay, but I doubt that I would ever watch it a second time. 5/7/14

George’s Best Stuff (1997)   

A selection of the most famous routines by George Carlin. It opens with the seven words you cannot say on television, or most other places. Next is “Stuff,” my absolute favorite of his work. “Baseball and football” is also excellent. “Dogs and Cats” is pretty good, as is “Losing Things.” The individual episodes are drawn from several different periods in Carlin’s career, so his appearance varies considerably from one to the next. There are also some variations of the same routine. One of my favorite routines is missing though – the softening of worlds like toilet paper to toilet tissue, etc. More than just funny. 5/6/14

Hospital (2013)  

An incredibly bad horror movie about a group of young people who are investigating rumors of the paranormal at an abandoned hospital. Little do they know that one of their group is actually a sadistic serial rapist and killer who plans to take advantage of the situation, but little does he know that there are real angry spirits who don’t like him much either. Every single element of film making is atrociously bad. The color occasionally turns funny for a while, the sound come sand goes, the acting is bad even for bad horror movies, the special effects are primitive, and the characters are all jerks, inasmuch as they have personalities at all. Relentlessly awful. 5/5/14

Dick Tracy Returns (1938) 

Ralph Byrd has another outing as Dick Tracy in this cliffhanger. Byrd, who died of a heart attack at only 52, was actually quite good. In this one, he battles another criminal empire, while thwarting some foreign agents in the process. The cliffhangers are the usual ones – plane crashes, automobiles accidents, a fight on top of a moving train, etc. A good deal of the early chapters involve efforts by the crimelord to remove witnesses against his son, who has been arrested for killing a federal agent. The villains sometimes concoct elaborate deathtraps rather than just shooting Tracy, but that’s part of the fun. Tracy has a cute little armored car at one point. This is one of the best of the serials in terms of production quality, and it also survives in very good condition.  5/4/14

Bad Blonde (1952)   

This is a sort of noir crime film in which a young boxer is seduced by a woman and agrees to murder her husband so that she can collect his insurance. Her husband is so annoying I almost sympathized. This is a cheaply made exploitation film with overwrought dialogue and indifferent acting. He commits the murder but one of the staff members suspects the truth, although the police are satisfied. When he declares his intention of confessing, she considers her options, but before she can do anything, he is dead. He killed himself but his friends frame her for the crime. A minor movie whose female star self destructed in spectacular fashion – drugs, prostitution, sex scandals, and an early death. 5/3/14

The Ganzfeld Haunting (2014)   

Another worthless and unwatchable piece of nonsense about a small group of people who spend a day in an abandoned house as part of a sleep deprivation that is supposed to have something to do with telepathy. They never really explain that. Because they haven’t slept, they begin to have hallucinations even before the numerous, repetitive scenes in which they take cocaine. So when something ghostly happens, they don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. There is a very bad attempt at erotica hampered by the inability of any of the cast to act their way out of a paper bag, and once again, since all of the characters are miserable people, there’s no reason why the viewer should care what happens to them. Cheap and dumb. 5/2/14

Trader Tom of the China Seas (1954)  

This cliffhanger serial has a predominantly nautical setting, as you might guess from the title. Tom Rogers agrees to help a clandestine espionage operation in a mythical Pacific island nation when his friend is murdered while trying to unmask arms smugglers stirring up a revolution. The fake ocean sets are reasonably well done and I’ve always liked Harry Lauter, who plays the hero. There’s a girl to be rescued, a villain with lots of henchmen, derring do, miraculous escapes from unlikely situations, chases on land and sea, traps, captures, and fights with fists and guns. One of the better Republic serials although it shares the repetitiveness inherent in the form. 5/1/14

Camp Dread (2014)   

I can remember when Danielle Harris was the young kid in slasher movies. Now she’s playing the sheriff. I must be getting old. An over the hill screenwriter and director plans to reboot his career by updating his classic slasher series with a reality based version and a mostly new cast.  Harris has little more than a cameo, as does the actress who played the killer in Sleepaway Camp, another slasher film. The movie is being shot at an abandoned camp and the cast consists of the usual array of social misfits, jerks, and bad actors. The entire premise is nonsense; all of the contestants are seriously disturbed, some of them criminals, and the set up nudges them toward killing each other. At one point the staff even admits that their arrangements are probably illegal. Some of the crimes that the contestants committed aren’t even crimes so they couldn’t have been coerced to come to stay out of jail or therapy.One of them actually committed murder.  Some of the deaths require that the killer be psychic – anticipates what the victim was going to do even when it was completely random – so the plot falls apart within the first thirty minutes.  It gets steadily worse with literally impossible accusations and events. The acting is marginally competent but there is no creativity anywhere. It’s dull, derivative, and dreary. The only good line is “hot people are never the killers.” It’s supposed to be a contest, but there aren’t any rules, so there’s no competition. Inane nonsense. 4/30/14

Serial (1980) 

One of my favorite comedies, with Martin Mull, Tuesday Weld, Christopher Lee, Sally Kellerman, William Macy, Tommy Smothers, and others. It’s a spoof the laid back, introspective, supposed California lifestyle with hippie weddings, support groups, communes, trendy environmentalism, and so on. Mull and Weld temporarily split but reunite after their daughter joins a cult. Christopher Lee is a businessman who leads a gay motorcycle gang on weekends. Peter Bonerz is a psychiatrist who dispenses drugs to his patients like candy. There are lots of very funny lines and situations and there is even some serious stuff beneath the hilarity. You owe it to yourself to watch this at least once. 4/29/14

Return to Class of Nuke ‘Em High (2013) 

Sequel to the sometimes funny but not very often Troma film. Some of the students at Tromaville High are mutated and form a group called the Cretins. Five minutes into the movie there’s been enough over the top, silly grossness to give you a good idea of what to expect from the rest of it. There’s lots of gratuitous nudity and sex and lots more messy, silly special effects. There is no attempt to be realistic, consistent, or logical, there’s no hidden meaning, and the humor is funny for about ten seconds. The plot, what there is of one, is irrelevant. 4/28/13

Blood & Donuts (1995)  

Most vampire movies that I’ve seen have either been silly comedies or graphic horror. This one is different and better than most. A vampire who is ashamed of his nature recovers from a 25 year hibernation, falls in love with a waitress from a donut shop, befriends a cabbie who has trouble with some thugs, survives by eating rats and pigeons, and laments the loss of his old friends – one of whom is his one time lover still around and searching for her lost youth. Eventually he has to deal with the thugs and faces the consequences of his own immortality. The humor is light, there’s not much gore or action, and everything is understated. I’m not sure you can really use jumper cables as defibrillators, but it works in the movie.  Not a loss classic by any means, but better than most of the horror films I've seen lately. 4/27/13

Twisted Tales (2013)   

A collection of nine short horror films, presented by Tom Holland. In the first, a man kills his wife and then has an unusual conversation with his GPS. The second is a clever deal with the devil story. Third is a rather transparent reverse revenge story with an unexpected second twist. Next is a really bad one about a magic mirror. A drug is supposed to provide visions of the future in the fifth, and the vision is of a werewolf apocalypse. Five people fight over a shelter when the world is about to end in the sixth. A dead man ends up in his tablet with his killers in the next. The longest involves a summoning of the devil, who shows up as a pizza delivery man. Cute idea, badly done and way too long. Some of the episodes are okay but some are really badly done, and the special effects are dreadful throughout. The final one is an absolutely dreadful vampire story. 4/26/14

Web of Fear (1968)   

This is one of the “lost” adventures of Doctor Who. All but one segment have been recovered here, and the missing one is filled in with the soundtrack plus stills. It was also the first appearance of UNIT. The yeti robot, supposedly harmless, is restored to activity and kills its keeper. The Doctor and friends find themselves in the London subways sometime in the near future where a military unit is trying to destroy the tunnels to destroy the robots, who are presumably being directed by the Great Intelligence, a villain encountered during their first appearance. The yeti costumes are actually reasonably convincing, unusual for the early years of this show.  The Doctor is missing for a good deal of this one and Jamie and Victoria were among my least favorite companions. On the other hand, I always liked Lethbridge-Stewart.  4/25/14

Dr Jekyll’s Dungeon of Death (1979) 

With a title like that, how could I resist? This claims to be based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story, but trust me, you won’t recognize a word of it. The grandson of Jekyll kidnaps people, gives them drugs, and then watches them indulge in endless unconvincing cage fights, while trying to seduce a woman he meets as well as his own sister. He does all this while chewing the scenery mercilessly while standing in a spotlight since everything is pitch black everywhere else. The story makes no sense, the dialogue is inane, and there is literally nothing good to say from beginning to end. I understand the dvd is 42 minutes shorter than the full version. I can’t imagine watching the full thing without slashing my wrists. 4/24/14

Kick Ass 2 (2013)   

Kick Ass and Hit Girl return to face the son of their old nemesis, the drug dealer, formerly Red Mist. There’s some clever dialogue in patches but the first half of the movie is actually rather slow, although once again Chloe Grace Moretz steals the show. Hit Girl is reluctantly retired but Kick Ass has found a group of would be superheroes and resumes his career. The bad kid is recruiting a corps of super villains. As with the first movie, the ethical situation is rather murky – murderous vigilantes are hardly role models – but oddly it fits within the context of the story. There’s violence, gore, and less than admirable people, but it’s still fun. Not as good as the first but that's a high bar to reach. 4/23/14

Kick Ass (2010)  

This is a surprisingly smart, teenage superhero comedy with a good cast and some clever writing, and despite the costumes, no one has superpowers. A somewhat nerdish teen decides he wants to be superhero but runs into stark reality when he is knifed, then hit by a car in his very first outing. His surgery gives him reinforced bones and a very limited ability to feel pain, which helps when he intervenes in a gang related attack and becomes an internet sensation. Chloe Grace Moretz plays a thirteen year old martial arts assassin – and her costumed debut is pretty graphic. She steals the show along with her father, Nicolas Cage. There’s also another entrepreneur wearing a costume who is stealing from a drug lord and the big boss thinks Kick Ass is the crook. Despite the young cast, this is not a kids’ movie. Moretz apparently did most of her own stunts after training with Jackie Chan. I haven’t had this much fun in a movie in a very long time, but I can understand why Hit Girl's character was so controversial. 4/21/14.

The Velvet Vampire (1971) 

Erotic vampire movies were very popular during the 1970s, but most of them came from Europe. This low budget film is set in the American southwest and features a female vampire who chooses her sex, and victims, from both sexes. Her latest prospective meals aren’t reconciled to becoming victims and eventually she’s foiled. The actors lack talent in most cases, the script is slow moving and awkward, but there are hints of actual atmosphere that elevate it above the usual crap, though not very far. The dvd is grainy and washed out, which doesn’t help any. 4/21/14

Force 10 from Navarone (1978) 

Harrison Ford and Robert Shaw star in this inferior but still entertaining sequel to The Guns of Navarone. A team of allied soldiers must make a daring raid to thwart Nazi ambitions in western Europe.  Two British officers are assigned to the American unit, led by Ford who doesn’t know why they’ve been included. It’s mostly about spies and counterspies and less about the physical action in the first movie. After various battles with partisans and Germans, they set out to blow up a strategic bridge. The female lead is Barbara Bach, former James Bond girl and for the last thirty years wife of Ringo Starr. The climax is pretty good and there are a couple of mild surprises along the way. 4/20/14

Graveyard Shift (1990)   

A minor Stephen King story inspired this minor horror movie about a mill in a small town that is plagued by rats, including something big enough to kill people. A drifter recently employed gets caught up in the tension surrounding the mill manager during a proposed cleanup of the basement to meet OSHA requirements. The basement, obviously, is the hunting ground of the creature – a giant bat mixed with rat. A little slow moving and the breakdown of the manager isn’t convincingly done. Minor though it may be, it’s still better than most of the direct to video horror I’ve seen.  4/19/14

The Fighting Marines (1936) 

Despite the title, this cliffhanger serial is not a war movie. It’s a mix of science fiction and a crime adventure in which a gang of crooks seeks to steal a revolutionary new invention and a group of marines battle them to foil their plans. The dialogue is bad even for a serial and the story is not that great either. There’s a secret underground base, lots of miniature bits of superscience, and some not very funny comedy relief. There’s very little mystery but lots of fistfights, gunfights, and chases, which is standard for serials. The heroes are less handsome than usual and the acting is slightly below average. One of the lesser known examples of its type, and for good reason. 4/18/14

Robo Croc (2013)

There’s a certain category of SyFy movie that simply makes no effort to be even comic book level plausible. This one is about a satellite full of nanomachines that lands in a zoo and turns a crocodile into a programmed killing machine. Except why would they be sending the  nanobots into space and why would they have this effect anyway? The CGI croc is so badly animated that he looks like he should be hunting Daffy Duck rather than live actors. And once again, the military does NOT have jurisdiction in a civilian setting. I stopped trying to make any sense of it at this point because obviously the writers weren’t making any effort to do so. The soldiers, for example, are looking for the capsule of nanobots with their guns in ready position. What were they planning to shoot? Some of the scenes don’t follow logically from one to the next and some of the comments made are inappropriate and/or completely absurd. This is what happens when you give a reasonable budget to a group of untalented amateurs. And on top of all that, it’s basically just boring. The predictable events occur in the predictable order. Most of the attacks take place off scream. The security gates close trapping scores of people inside, except that a minute later there are only half a dozen. And the gates are flimsier than the ones that the crocodile already smashed, so there was no point to closing them anyway. And you can’t transmute organic material into metal. Some of the survivors who know the croc is close sit out by the pool instead of sheltering in a building. Right after saying that she can’t tell them anything, the government bighead tells them – everything. Wretchedly bad. 4/17/14

In the Flesh  (2011)   

This is a three hour mini-series from British television about the Rising, the emergence of zombies, but it’s not a zombie apocalypse movie. The walking dead have regained their original personalities, with some problems, and are being integrated back into society. The protagonist is a young man who is “partially deceased” and who is sent back to his home town and his family. There’s some really dark humor in this one – including the support groups for the recovered zombies – but it’s handled completely seriously. Naturally a lot of people don’t want them back in their communities, particularly since they revert if not constantly medicated. Although portrayed as extremists, their position seems to me quite valid. The underlying premise of the series is seriously flawed in this respect. The writer is trying to say something about the need for tolerance, a valid goal, but the structure here doesn’t really work. A lot of it is understated, which is a good thing, and the production values are all very high, other than a few details that I didn't find convincing. 4/16/14

Disaster Movie (2008) 

A silly spoof of disaster movies and a few others as well, fun mostly for picking out the references given how bad the script is. It nearly lost me five minutes in with the Amy Winehouse clone burping scene. The obvious references are Indiana Jones, the Hulk, Ironman, Michael Jackson, Dr. Phil, Kung Fu Panda, and various rap stars. The fact that Kim Kardashian and Carmen Electra are among the cast should lower your expectation as it certainly did mine. The preponderance of sexual and misogynistic jokes doesn’t help. The plot is irrelevant, and largely incoherent. Not even remotely funny. 4/15/14

The Corpse Grinders (1971)   

This is pretty much an amateur film that achieved cult status because of its absurdity. A pet food company decides to cut expenses by harvesting raw material from a local cemetery. Unfortunately, this gives cat who eat it a taste for human flesh and they start attacking living people. As you’d expect, there is bad sound, bad dialogue, bad acting, and bad special effects from beginning to end. Some of the characters, however, are so twisted and exaggerated that they become interesting despite the inept acting. The plot is clearly absurd but this is a spoof so they can get away with it. Unfortunately, what makes the movie interesting is mostly what they’ve done wrong rather than what they’ve done right, and while that is passingly amusing, it has no lasting power. 4/14/14

Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1987)   

Supposedly this is based on the classic short story, “The Most Dangerous Game,” set in space.  It’s mostly just an excuse for girls in bikinis to run around in the woods. Two escaped slave girls take refuge on a remote planet where a menacing looking type has a locked trophy room and a number of curvaceous guests who keep disappearing mysteriously. “If we can just reverse the polarity on these cuffs, the only thing between us and freedom is stealing a starship.” Yes, they really say that. There are no good parts in the movie, not even any okay parts. The acting is universally awful, the dialogue ridiculous, the special effects primitive, the plot unimaginative, and production values in general are worse than you can probably imagine. “Give these magic fingers another second and I’ll have this puppy programmed.” Yes, they say that as well. Jesse Helms called this movie “indecent” on the floor of the Senate. There are cheesy robots and cheesy looking alien creatures inhabiting the cheesy looking sets. The writers also don’t know what a mutant is. Ridiculous. 4/13/14

Knight of the Dead (2013) 

A band of knights are trying to avoid the Black Plague and run into zombies instead. That’s pretty much all the plot summary you need. The unusual setting held out some early promise but the low production standards torpedoed it very quickly. The washed out color was probably intentional, to emphasize how terrible conditions were, but the clunky sound, clunkier script, and clunkiest acting wereall fatal falws. Sometimes it was hard to distinguish good guys from (living) bad guys and while some of the fight sequences were competent, others looked really fake. Nor was it clear at times just why the fights were taking place. No one gets established as the main protagonist and the characters aren’t deeply enough drawn for us to identify with any of them. Too many of the characters are clean shaven, given what is supposed to be going on. It wasn’t so much bad as it was just uninteresting. 4/12/14

Condemned to Live (1935)   

A poverty row horror film that I’d never heard of before spotting this dvd.  A woman is bitten by a vampire bat while she is pregnant. Years later, the baby is an adult who is troubled by a series of horrible murders. Each victim is drained of blood and naturally the man in question fears that his mother’s experience has turned him into a vampire, if somewhat belatedly. The acting in this, particularly the female lead, is so bad it feels like a direct to video release. Flat delivery, stupid dialogue, nonsensical plot elements. The soundtrack is the same one used on numerous Republic cliffhanger serials and the vampire doesn’t even have fangs. For no discernible reason, the villagers claim it is a monster bat, even though they’ve never seen one. 4/11/14

The Walking Dead Season 2 (2011) 

The opening episode of this zombie apocalypse series repeats some of the frequent flaws in the previous season. The zombies are both slow and awkward or can run, depending upon what the story requires at that moment, and they sometimes exhibit intelligence. In this case, while stopped on a major highway in broad daylight with a spotter on the roof of an RV, no one notices more than a hundred zombies ambling down the highway until it’s almost too late. They don’t shoot because the noise would attract zombies, but they feel free to yell and use vehicles to push other vehicles off the highway, which makes even more noise. Episode 2 opens with a totally unnecessary flashback to before the zombies appeared, which provides no information we didn’t already know. Episode 2, in which the young boy is shot by a hunter, is just boring and maudlin. I know this show is popular but I’m not sure I understand why since it is often very badly written and the second season gets off to such a bad start. The supposedly mindless zombies always seem to have all but one of the exits covered whenever there is an encounter, and they have an unexplained talent for sneaking up on people undetected. Their behavior varies to suit the necessities of the plot. I also wonder how so many places have electrical power given that civilization has collapsed. Episode 3 opens with one of the cast shaving with an electric clipper. The child in jeopardy arc didn’t thrill me either. The contrived plot twist to make one of the protagonists look hopelessly guilty wasn’t so hot either. 

As the season progressed, I realized how little I cared for any of the characters. The plot contrivances get less plausible as the season goes on. Their temporary host has a barn full of captive zombies. The hero’s wife is pregnant but won’t tell him. A little girl from their party is missing for a chunk of the season. The survivalist type has contradictory feelings about his missing brother. The mother’s objection to having her son learn to use a weapon is irrational given that there are zombies wandering around. The time frame seems screwed up as well. The boy recovers completely from a near fatal gunshot wound in what appears to be less than a week. A lot of the time the enemies are the living rather than the walking dead, and a lot of it seemed to drag by. I also realized that I really don’t like any of the characters, not one of them after this season when Dale dies, so I don’t care if they survive. When Rick’s wife starts praising Shane in the next to the last episode, I lost all respect for the writers. And all of the characters spend so much time dithering! I have season 3 but I’m in no hurry to watch it. 4/10/14

The Adventures of Sir Galahad (1949)  

George Reeves, better known as Superman, is Sir Galahad in this very odd cliffhanger serial, one of the few set in the historical past. For some reason, Merlin is the villain and Morgan Le Fay is on Sir Galahad’s side. The price of his admission to the round table is to recover the lost sword Excalibur, but his quest is complicated by a hostile enemy invasion, duplicity, and the occasional thug. This was one of the last serials and it’s long – 15 installments – and very repetitious. The sets are minimal and the actors aren’t trying that hard. Its chief novelty is the setting. Merlin uses genuine magic, although it’s usually pretty silly. The cliffhanger is extinct now, at least in its original form, probably in large part because so much of it was the same thing over and over again. This one at least has some novel situations. 4/9/14

Double Exposure (1944)   

This minor but entertaining film mixes romantic comedy with murder mystery. Chester Morris is the editor of a news magazine whose boss is a physical fitness nut. Nancy Kelly is a newly hired photographer to whom Morris attracted, despite the presence of her fiancé, whom she has introduced as her brother. When a rich man’s wife tries to kill herself, Kelly gets an inside track on the story. The confusion of identities is the high point of the movie. Through another misunderstanding, the suicidal wife decides that Kelly is after her husband and then she turns up dead in the same pose that Kelly used for another purpose. The police are convinced that she is the killer. The mystery element only arises in the final fifteen minutes. The plot is nonsense; they would never proceed to a trial when the prime witness is temporarily unavailable. The ending is rather perfunctory. 4/8/14

Midnight Phantom (1935)  

Very dull movie. The new police chief is cracking down on corruption until he gets murdered, after which everyone suspects everyone else. The story takes far too long to get going, is very disorganized, and the performances are generally below average. The murder takes place in the final fifteen minutes. There are even a couple of flubbed lines that were left in. It also dates from the time when it was believed that criminal tendencies could be detected by examining the shape of people’s heads!  The murder is killed by a rare poison found only in South America and known only to a handful of people! The detective dismisses all the women because women kill too “crudely” to have committed this crime. This one is really stupid. And where does the title come from? There’s nothing resembling a phantom and the whole thing takes place during the daylight. 4/7/14

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) 

Captain America is disturbed by Shield’s latest project, which is to orbit three gigantic gun platforms which will enable them to dominate the world. He eventually learns that Hydra has infiltrated Shield and that it’s their clever plot, so he teams up with the Black Widow and the Falcon to thwart the bad guys while Nick Fury is largely sidelined after being shot by the mysterious Winter Soldier. I won’t mention the latter’s true identity but it is obvious early on, and the secret head of Hydra is obvious the first time he appears on the screen. No surprises anywhere and the plot has some minor holes here and there. I always never accepted that Nick Fury would not have realized how badly conceived the orbital program was even if Hydra hadn’t been involved. Lots of fun to watch, but not as good as the first. 4/6/14

Captain Video and His Video Rangers (1949)  

I think I saw a couple of episodes of this when I was a kid – it was on from 1949 to 1955 – but I don’t remember a thing about it. There are four episodes here, with two different actors in the title role. I believe that it was usually filmed live, so flubs, stutters, and forgotten lines are all in evidence. The budget was about fifty cents. Captain Video was a private city who used technology to fight various villains in a distant future, assisted by his teenaged video rangers. The actors talk directly to the audience at times, pushing Captain Video id rings and Power House candy bars. Bits and pieces of movies are shown as supposed reports from elsewhere although usually they were from westerns! Disjointed, awkwardly done, but with some lingering charm. 4/5/14

The Ghost and the Guest (1943)   

Comic Morey Amsterdam wrote the screenplay for this mystery film in which two newlyweds travel to a country house for their honeymoon, only to have a coffin and a dead body delivered to the premises, a body which promptly disappears because it’s actually a convict escaping from prison. Not much happens for most of the movie, which is mostly humorous banter among the various characters including a bunch of the convict’s friends pretending to be mourners. There are secret passages to facilitate the sometimes inane antics. Very minor. 4/4/14

Sound of Horror (1964) 

Bad dubbing and a silly plot foredoom this one. Scientists open a Greek cave and find a petrified egg, but don’t notice a second one which hatches. Later they find a mummified body which they claim as a Neanderthal. The creature is invisible but even though it has no food source in the cave, it grows big enough to attack and kill a man without hours. The first body is mutilated but the scientist suggests he might have had a heart attack! How much of this is bad dubbing and how much is bad to start with is hard to say. The cast spends most of its time trapped in the house and since the creature is invisible, there are not much of any special effects. Very silly. 4/3/14

The Master Key (1945) 

Milburn Stone, who later became Doc on Gunsmoke, stars as a government agent in this SF oriented cliffhanger serial. A band of Nazis led by the Master Key are trying to gain control of a device that extracts gold from sea water. Unfortunately the only man who knows how to make it work is suffering from amnesia, but nevertheless there are multiple attempts to kidnap him, and then to rescue him. The identity of the Master Key is the only real mystery in this, and it actually fooled me. The cliffhangers however are actually quite dull and the story is much more static than most others of its type. Marginally watchable but probably with only one eye and ear. 4/2/14

Sherlock Season 3 (2014)  

There’s a good deal more humor in season 3 and considerably less detecting. The first episode is largely about Sherlock’s return to the dead and the impact that has on his friends. Watson’s exasperation is the high point. We also get a glimpse of his new arch enemy. The second is mostly about Watson’s marriage and again it has some very funny moments – Holmes is the best man – and only a thread of mystery.  The third episode is the weakest. Sherlock gets shot, nearly dies, and then commits murder when no other alternative suggests itself. This is all forgiven when Moriarty returns. The entire season lacks focus and goes out of its way to give us flashy non-linear plots to disguise the fact that there really isn’t much of a story. 4/1/14

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