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Last Update 6/29/19

 

Stan Helsing (2008) 

I have a fondness for even really stupid parodies of horror movies, and this is a really stupid parody of horror movies with Michael Myers, Freddy, Chucky, Pinhead, Jason, and Leatherface. The truly stupid protagonist discovers that he is descended from Dracula’s nemesis and he and some friends find themselves battling various forces of evil. Most of the jokes are really, really bad. The costumes are so awful that it is hard to realize whom they are trying to represent. This was too stupid even for me and I don’t think I even cracked a smile let alone laughed. 6/29/19

The Naked Gun 33 1/3 (1994)

The third and last Naked Gun movie has Drebbin coming out of retirement against the wishes of his new wife to battle a terrorist, Fred Ward, who plans to set off a bomb at the Academy Awards presentations, Several cameos, some of them quite amusing. More of the usual sight gags and puns, still surprisingly fresh although by now it was getting obvious that the shtick had been pushed to its limit. The baby carriage scene at the beginning is hilarious. 6/26/19

The Blackheath Poisonings (1992) 

The Masterpiece Theater rendering of Julian Symons’ excellent Victorian murder mystery makes some rather odd changes. For one thing, the obnoxious young man just out of school has become a much older though still obnoxious man. The secret love nest, revealed half way through the book, is shown in the opening scene, so there is no mystery at all about the adultery. The ambiguous virtue of the woman charged with the murders is preserved, but the suitor for the old maid sister is portrayed as a complete gold digger, although his personality is more complex than that in the book. The two households have been merged into one, which was certainly more convenient for filming. Young Paul wants to be a poet rather than a journalist. The incompetent brother is played as too smart and confrontational and both marriages are openly failures, which is not true in the book. They do manage to keep the flavor and essential details of the book until the end, which is also excellent, except for the trial, which is very different and the conclusion, which is terrible. The killer never confesses in the novel, which makes the end a surprise. In the adaptation, there is a violent confrontation, full confession, and a ridiculous climax. 6/23/19

The Naked Gun 2 ½ (1991) 

More nonsense, this time with Frank Drebin investigating corruption in the energy industry and an impersonator designed to change US energy policy illegally. Robert Goulet plays the chief villain. The same formula from the first is repeated – sight gags, bad puns, literal interpretation of idiomatic expressions, and a plot that makes no sense, and deliberately so. I liked this better than the first even though it used the same devices. The nuclear bomb is disabled by pulling the plug out of the wall. Leslie Nielsen was marvelous in this role. 6/21/19

The Naked Gun (1988)

The first movie derived from the short lived television show, Police Squad. Leslie Nielsen is superb in this symphony of nonsense about a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth that is foiled by Frank Drebin of Police Squad.  Sight jokes, bad puns, lots of nonsense, and a plot that really makes no sense. The sequels are okay but this brand of nonsense ran its course rather quickly and has no real equivalent in modern films. Dated fun, but still fun. 6/20/19

Police Squad (1982)

This television series only lasted for six episodes, but it led to the trilogy of Naked Gun movies. Leslie Nielsen switched from serious roles to humor and it was a great decision. He had a marvelous straight face. The series is a spoof of police shows but it relies on silly visual jokes, puns, and generally silliness, but it actually worked quite well. There was a celebrity guest each episode – Robert Goulet, William Shatner, etc. – but they always died during the opening credits and were never seen again. 6/10/19

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) 

The latest giant monster movie has some good things going for it. The special effects are quite good, the acting is quite good, and the story line is acceptable given that it’s a giant monster movie. But the little things are annoying because the writing is consistently and irritatingly bad. Some of the dialogue made me cringe, particularly the female villain-but-later-heroine when she attempts to explain why she is going to kill most of the human population of Earth for our own good. Her husband also tends to eat the scenery at times. There are lots of clichés and I really got tired of Ghidorah just about to kill someone when Godzilla shows up in the nick of time. 6/9/19

The Head Hunter (2018) 

This is a fairly decent low budget fantasy/horror film about a Viking warrior who is hunting for the monster that killed his daughter. He collects the heads of the creatures he kills and uses some kind of regenerative formula to heal his own wounds, no matter how grievous. Essentially no dialogue and most of the time the sets are quite dark. Despite those difficulties the movie is quite engaging. Nice sets and photography. It is sometimes difficult to tell what is actually happening. The sum of the potion falls on a severed head and the duel is on. Not great and a bit slow at first but worth watching. 6/8/19

Deathday (2017)

The two Happy Death Day movies are among the best things I've seen in years. I knew this ripoff would be crap., but I thought, hey, the idea is so entertaining that even a crappy ripoff might be fun. The gimmick is that the protagonist keeps dying and waking up the same morning and has to solve her own murder to prevent it. The problem is that this is not a professional film. It's an amateur one, with amateur - and very bad writing, amateur - and very bad lighting and camera work, and amateur and very bad everything else - particularly the acting, if that's what they call reading lines in front of cameras. They must have seen the original movie. How could they have been this clueless? I only managed twenty minutes. People who produce crap like this have no shame. 6/7/19

Better Off Zed (2018)

A married couple are walled off in their fortified house after a zombie apocalypse breaks out. She wants to be rescued, but he enjoys not having to go to work or deal with traffic. Mildly funny, low budget, but better than a lot of other movies I've seen recently. The sound could have used some work. Some of the conversation is almost inaudible, even with the sound turned all the way up. It has some good moments and the premise is amusing, but the story goes on for too long and starts to repeat itself. Not really a horror movie despite the zombies. Pretty good cast as well. 5/15/19

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

This is one of those movies that gets so obsessed with special effects that it forgets about story values, character develop, and pacing. I've always liked Mila Kunis, who lied about her age to get into That 70s Show, but she is completely wasted in this. At times incomprehensible, almost always so frenetic that it's hard to get involved with the characters, and frequently irritating for its opaqueness.  A good deal of it is badly underlit. Considering that it is supposedly set in the distant future it looks a great deal like the present. This gets really bad really fast. The people involved did not understand science fiction, science, story telling, or much of anything else. Even the supposedly spectacular battle scenes are boring and unconvincing.  The longer I watched, the more I was shaking my head with disgust. How did this get produced?  5/13/19

Shortwave (2017)

An odd movie. Very slow to develop. A couple who lost their first child become involved in research involving short wave transmission. The plot is incoherent. They are trying to contact aliens? Or are they? The female proragonist is having odd experiences because of shortwave emissions, or is she? Painfully awkward and amateurish and I don't think the writers/director had any clear idea what they were trying to accomplish. Whatever it was, they failed dismally. Is it that difficult to make a simple, entertaining movie?

Avengers Endgame (2019)

No spoilers. The end of the current cycle of Marvel movies was in large part what I expected, though it had a few surprises. I was pleasantly surprised at how much story it had as opposed to fight scenes. The special effect are excellent and the plot was reasonably complex. Just about every significant character from the earlier movies was present, but there are so many that in most cases it was basically a series of cameos. I certainly got my money' worth and I'm curious about what direction future movies will take. At least three characters are effectively gone, but I won't tell you who. 5/2/19

Tomorrowland (2015)

Pretty much a kids' movie. I had heard good things about it but despite excellent special effects, I was only moderately pleased. A very young inventor is transported to an alternate world that looks like our future, or at least a possible one. The kids are a little too cute. The pace is too hectic and it's too hard to follow early on. You can stop reading a book and think about what has happened, but pausing a movie doesn't work the same way. There are some nice bits but it was overall too incoherent for me to enjoy it. 4/27/19

Pet Sematary (2019) 

The remake of the Stephen King novel is a mixed bag. The core story is genuinely creepy, the cast does a good job, and there are a few changes that don't really affect the story much, but provide new wrinkles. That said, there are also some problems. How can people who have NOT meddled with the haunted ground be affected by ghostly appearances, strange sounds, etc. How does a random accident victim get to try to warn the protagonist? Why did the hero drug his neighbor? The reviews have been quite negative, not entirely fairly in my opinion. It is worth watching and one can do so without cringing, but not without raising an eyebrow from time to time. 4/11/19

Tonight She Comes (2017) 

I saw some relatively good reviews of this. Can’t imagine why. The sound is so bad that it sounds unreal right from the outset. The first few minutes are not entirely intelligible, and the bad acting didn’t help much. Nor do I believe that the post office requires new hires to use their private vehicles to deliver until they have proved themselves reliable. Nor do I see the appeal in having intense camera views of innocuous objects just to make it seem like they might be significant. Nor does a mail carrier have to determine if anyone is home in order to deliver a simple letter if the address is correct. And heavy breathing behind the camera? Really?  Nor wood a letter carrier enter a house in order to see if anyone was home. There were times when I thought the writers might have something interesting to say, but they never delivered. 4/7/19

Tooth Fairy (2019)

I was tempted to demand my money back on this stupid movie. I knew it was awful sixty seconds after it started, but on top of that, even with the sound all the way up, I could barely hear some of the dialogue and could not always tell what they were saying. The creature, show during that first sixty seconds, is so silly looking that I was aghast. Even given the dismal quality of most direct to video horror, this stands out as a complete ripoff. I could have done better with my cellphone and people I met casually on the street. This is a positive insult. 4/6/19

After Darkness (2018)

This is a low key, scientifically illiterate story about the end of the world. The sun is going dark - over the course of a few days. We see this from the point of view of a rich family living in their mansion waiting to be evacuated to an underground bunker, but of course their rescuers never show up. The story is mostly about the nearly psychotic father and clearly OCD mother, and the tensions among them. It's not quite as dull as it probably sounds, but it is hardly riveting and the mental health issues complicate things, sometimes opaquely. The acting is quite good across the board, but there is a limit to what can be done with limited material. The growing sense of futility will not make for a cheerful experience, however. 4/1/19

 

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