Last Update 6/30/20

 

Monty Pythonís Flying Circus Episodes 10-12  (1970)  

This was one of the low periods in the series. The hard of hearing police is reasonably funny but quite short. The contest among the twits is funny at times but not consistently. The vegetarian restaurant starts well but then wanders away. A few entries are too long, others miss their mark at least for American ears. I was never fond of the Gumbys, who make several appearances during this period. 6/30/20

The Bone Snatcher (2002)  

I should say right off that the sound on this one sucks. I had to turn it up to the maximum and still struggled to hear some of the dialogue. Prospectors in the African desert uncover something that leaves their devoured carcasses behind. Several people in a truck decide to follow the trail from the area and find out what was responsible.  Predictably, the truck breaks down. The creature is actually a kind of organic nanobot that rearticulates skeletons in order to walk around. The creature is low budget but not badly done. The macho character is rather overdone. 6/27/20

Monty Pythonís Flying Circus Episodes 7-9 (1969) 

The dead parrot skit and the lumberjack song are the high points of this period, and of the series as a whole. Most of the rest of the sketches are of limited interest, and some of it is probably funnier if youíre British. I confess that I was never a big fan of the animation sequences and there are a lot of them here. No one can be funny all the time, I suppose, although Cleese achieved it for a good run later with Fawlty Towers. The gang of little old ladies is mildly funny. Rather hit and miss. 6/26/20

The Grudge: The Untold Chapter (2020) 

This is more of a reboot than a remake or sequel. It uses the same general idea Ė the vengeful ghost Ė but otherwise itís a new story. The first half hour is frustrating because it feels like short scenes were dropped that explained those that were retained. Cause and effect seem disconnected. I have no idea why the couple expecting a baby are being haunted. They donít live in the haunted house. I donít know why the police officer is scared by the case. We are not told what happened with the previous or current investigations. Why is the real estate agent bothered by the house now when he wasnít bothered on previous visits?  Why is the police officer attacked in her bathroom? Why does she not react to it? No matter how competent the acting, it wonít work if we donít understand the plot. Jumping back and forth in time doesnít help. 6/22/20

Monty Pythonís Flying Circus Episodes 4-6 (1969) 

More inspired madness, although this was a relatively uninspired period. There is a long skit about a man trying to find a place to change into a bathing suit at the beach, but it is rarely funny. It does include the cat confusing skit, which should have been better than it actually was. The smuggling skit is funny. The candy company sketch Ė crunchy frog treats Ė is one of their high points.  6/20/20

Breakheart Pass (1975)

Charles Bronson starts in this adaptation of the Alistair MacLean novel. I was never a Bronson fan but he does a good job in this faithful adaptation. A train carrying reinforcements to a frontier fort is plagued by murders and sabotage and several of those aboard are not what they seem to be. Good action sequences, a more than adequate cast, excellent camera work and scenery, and one of MacLeanís better stories. Charles Bronson has one of his best roles. I'm not entirely convinced of the plausibility of the plot, but by the time the seams begin to show, the movie is almost over. 6/19/20

Monty Pythonís Flying Circus Season 1 Episodes 1-3 (1969) 

Highlights of the first three episodes include a spoof of a BBC interview program, the famous killer joke skit, the man with three buttocks, the musical mice that squeal when they are hit by hammers, the marriage counselor who ends up with the wife, the dirty fork in the restaurant, The newsreader oblivious to the fact that he has been kidnapped, the nudge nudge wink wink sketch, and one in which childrenís stories have sexual content. Episode 3 is the weakest, overdoing the same jokes. The skit in which everyone superman, but one of them has a secret identity as Bicycle Repairman, has a good premise but I think they failed to carry it off.  6/18/20

Escape Room (2019) 

If the people responsible for this movie had half a brain, it might have worked. A group of people are recruited into a series of puzzles which, if not solved correctly, could have fatal consequences. But even though they go from summer in a city to winter in the wilderness in  a matter of seconds, they fail to realize that something supernatural and deadly is going on This undercut the sense of reality so severely that I had no interest in the puzzles, some of which are cheats anyway, and most of the cast failed to interest me even remotely so I didnít care what happened to them. Really lazy writing. 6/7/20

Bloodshot (2020)

I'm not a big Vin Diesel fan, although I've liked a couple of his movies. The premise of this one is that a dead soldier can be brought back to life, with superpowers of course, and programmed so that he thinks he is going after the man who killed his wife, in order to facilitate an assassination. Then his memory is wiped so that he can be used for similar missions. The man behind the project is eliminating anyone who might be able to replicate his discovery so that he can sell it exclusively. He gets clued in to the truth and has to take down the people who were using him. There are enough plot holes to make Swiss cheese for the entire country, but the action scenes are entertaining. Not awful is the best I expect most of the time. 5/22/20

Fantasy Island (2020)

This is a vaguely horror version of the television show. Five people are brought to an island and told they can bring one fantasy to life. It's pretty clearly magic - people brought back from the dead, or forward through time, etc. And it's obvious early on that something nasty is involved, that each of the fantasies will ultimately go wrong. But there is another sinister secret wrapped up inside the surface story. There are gaping holes in logic, and a few things that no longer make sense when the truth is finally revealed. The last few minutes are rather awful. Adequate cast but nothing special. 5/15/20

Insecticidal (2005)

This is one of those really bad horror movies that tries, without much success, to be humorous. Bad acting, some of which may be intentional, is the order of the day. A stupid plot and deliberately bad acting can only go so far before they just become garbage.  This one went way too far. I gave up after 30 minutes. In order for a horror spoof to be funny, it has to actually, you know, be funny. Radical concept apparently. I have a low bar for this type of movie, but not this low a bar. 5/7/20

 Underwater (2020)

An undersea drilling station is badly damaged by an apparent seaquake. Some of the crew is able to evacuate but others are trapped. A half dozen attempt to reach a remote vehicle to escape before the reactor explodes. There is also a hint that maybe it wasn't a seaquake after all. They're down to five pretty quickly, but then there are trips down to the sea floor and along a tunnel, during which they are followed by something as yet unseen that knocks ont the roof and walls. The plot is pretty straightforward and obvious. There's a silly but mercifully short speech about things humans were not meant to know or do. It's not always clear exactly what is happening, but the creature - when we get a reasonable look - is original and creepy looking. Characterization is a bit shallow since the movie opens with the disaster and never gives them a chance to interact neutrally. Not a great movie, but enjoyable enough. 5/5/20

NOS4A2 Season 1 (2019) 

Based on the Joe Hill novel, but with lots of new material added, this is essentially the duel between a young girl who can summon a bridge that takes her to whatever she is looking for vs a man in a supernatural Rolls Royce who kidnaps children and transforms them into monsters. The girl was 13 of so in the book but 18 in the tv series, probably in part to get around child labor laws. The cast is all very good and the story is generally compelling, although the need to space it out for at least two seasons means there is limited progress from one episode to the next.  Thereís a nice injoke. The evil man goes to a bar frequented by evil people, and there is a clown with a red balloon inside. We also see inside Christmasland, the evil man's "inscape", which does not happen in the book and which I thought was a mistake. 5/4/20

Sea Fever (2019)

I like ocean based SF movies, even the mediocre ones. This one is mostly set aboard an Irish trawler which follows a shoal of fish into prohibited waters and gets caught by tentacles from below that carry a strange disease. A graduate student is aboard conducting scientific observations, although the crew is wary of her because red hair is supposed to mean bad luck. Despite the melodramatic plot, this is more atmospheric than actively horrifying. No jump scares, very little blood and gore, no rampaging monster, competent acting, good pacing. Several of the characters are rather flat but not fatally so. There's some messaging going on but not obtrusively. Not a classic but a very watchable film. 4/29/20

Camp Cold Brook (2018)

I was expecting a cheaply made, badly written horror movie and I got just what I expected. A reality tv show crew who do hauntings visit a camp where dozens of kids and counsellors turned on one another or drowned themselves. Somehow this incident is almost unknown and there was no official investigation, though the local people blame witchcraft. The camp has supposedly been abandoned or almost thirty years, but the flag is still flying and is not in tatters, the grass is cut, the buildings are sound and secure, and it is never really explained how they got permission to film on private property. Nor are we told how they manage to generate enough power for multiple computers, a sophisticated security system, all of their cameras and recorders, and radios. There is, of course, no cell service in such a remote part of what claims tio be Oklahoma. The plot is so overly familiar that I constantly felt as though I had seen the movie before. The acting is competent, and for a pleasant change, none of the characters are assholes. Terrible ending. 4/28/20

Miracles for Sale (1939)  

Theoretically this is based on Clayton Rawsonís excellent novel, Death from a Top Hat, although it changes the great Merlini to a bland character named Morgan. On the other hand, it was directed by Tod Browning, so itís definitely worth watching. The plot is unrecognizable as being from the novel until well into the movie. That said, Robert Young does an excellent job. The impersonations aren't entirely convincing because you can clearly see that two of the characters are the same actor. Fun but I'd like to see a modern, loyal adaptation of the novel.  4/27/20

Dr Sleep (2019)

Based on Stephen King's sequel to The Shining, although the final scenes are entirely different. Danny Torrance is an adult fighting alcoholism and hiding his psi abilities. Elsewhere, a band of transformed humans abduct, kill, and eat the lifeforce of children who possess those abilities. A young girl, their latest target, has unprecedented strength and she mentally and physically connects with Torrance, who helps her in a battle against a caravan full of supernatural predators. I thought Rebecca Ferguson did an exceptional job as the chief villain and the rest of the cast were more than adequate. Some scenes worked better than others. I'm not sure I completely understood the film version of the ending. 4/15/20

Game of Thrones Season 8 (2019)

SPOILERS. The 6 episode final season ties up most of the loose ends, but most fans were disappointed with much of it. Cersei dies off stage. Daenerys goes insane. Jon Snow is exiled to live with the Wildlings. The Iron Throne is destroyed. The North secedes from the seven kingdoms. Aria wanders off into an uncertain future. Bran is the high king. Only the Hound's final accounting with his brother was really satisfying although I enjoyed having Aria kill the Night King . I had the feeling that the writers could not figure out how to resolve the conflict for the throne so they decided to just pick something out of the air. Still one of my two all time favorite television series, but if we ever have Martin's concluding novel in the series, I'll bet the ending will be far superior. 4/13/20

Knives Out (2019)

Mystery movies used to be common but they have become comparative rarities in recent years. This is a nice, old fashioned murder mystery in which the very rich head of the family appears to have committed suicide to cover up the fact that his nurse - to whom he has left everything - accidentally gave him an overdose. She leaves clues behind and somewhat ineptly attempts to cover them up.But things are not at all what they seem to be. Who is blackmailing her? Why did the senile mother call her by the wrong name? The cast includes Jamie Lee Curtis and Chris Evans, with Daniel Craig as the ponderous but effective private detective. I guessed several things wrong. Great double surprise climax. This is one I will watch again. 4/7/20

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