Last Update 9/25/16

 

Godzilla 1984 (1984)

When I saw this at a theater it was called Godzilla 1985, and it is also known as The Return of Godzilla. It was the first in the second cycle of Japanese films. A volcanic eruption disturbs Godzilla's sleep, but the authorities want it kept quiet unless there is an imminent threat to the mainland. Some of the acting is transparently bad even dubbed. The dialogue is really awful. It contradicts itself, sometimes it doesn't make sense, and sometimes it is just silly. The dubbing is awful even mechanically. Some people speak without moving their lips. Others move their lips without speaking. There's actually not a whole lot of the monster in this until the second half. The usual end with the monster going back to sleep after destroying Tokyo. Okay, but not one of the better episodes. 9/25/16.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

I put off watching this because I had heard bad things about it despite some excellent reviews, and I didn't like Cloverfield much either. This one, fortunately, is not found footage. A young woman is in an automobile accident. She wakes up in a bunker with a survivalist, John Goodman, who is initially very uncommunicative. Then he tells her that the world outside has been devastated and is uninhabitable, presumably a reference to Cloverfield. There's a young man who believes the story but the woman suspects that it is all an elaborate lie. Goodman is a bit over the top, but I think by design. After a bit, we and the woman discover that something did in fact happen, which changes everyone's attitude. The sequence in which their air purifier has to be restarted made me blink, though. Why would it be inaccessible to the occupants? I thought it was okay, but also that it dragged from time to time despite all the reviews saying it was absolutely riveting. There are some good twists along the way. At one point it goes from daylight to darkness in less than a minute. 9/23/16

Killjoys Season 1 (2015)

The first season of a television show about interstellar bounty hunters. I read some good reviews but the opening episode was pretty boring. Very confusing, poorly lit and filmed, with rather dull dialogue. Boring sets and repetitive special effects. Exceptionally bad sets. Confusing and badly constructed. Episode 2 has the three stars still working out their personal problems, but the bad lighting, murky sets, and low production values continue. The similarity to Firefly is more pronounced, but this was only a very slight improvement.  The plots don’t vary a great deal either. Shaky camera work and lots of gimmicks to cover the low budget. Episode 4 was particularly disappointing. A group of untrained young women defeat a larger band of armed mercenaries in open field combat? People stop shooting to allow their opponents to converse? In episode five, the female lead walks into an obvious trap. The later stories are marginally better but the awful camera work, odd color filters, and boring sets just put me off too much. And even after a full season, I had no real idea about how the society worked. The resentment against the team member who is remotely controlled by the villains fails to ring true. The device that Dutch uses to trail her former mentor feels more like magic than technology. 9/21/16

Dogman (2012)  

Although this is cheaply made and just slightly above amateur level, it was oddly entertaining. A good natured if not very bright backwoods type crosses paths with a monster in the woods. A slightly overweight, balding hero is a nice change and the actor was quite good as well. There’s one scene where they are clearly traveling the wrong way to get to where they want to go but otherwise the story holds together okay. The cast is incredibly small. Only one police officer, no nurses at the hospital, etc. And the police woman fails to call in when she has the chance.  Not much of an ending though. A sequel is due out this year. 9/20/16

Pelt (2010)   

Once again film makers doom their already challenged movie by making all of the characters awful people. A bunch of young adults go backpacking and run into a stalker who kills them one by one. Since I didn’t care about any of them, their fate was not a source of tension, and the plot is obviously so overly familiar that they probably could have done it extemporaneously and without a script. The deaths aren’t particularly new or interesting, although they are certainly explicit enough. The acting varies from barely competent to amateurish. I watched most of this out of the corner of my eye because there was really nothing to see. 9/19/16

Monsters in the Woods (2011)

A cheap film maker with a bunch of horrible actors is trying to film a horror movie when he discovers that he has fallen into a real one. The color in this one comes and goes, fades and brightens, apparently at random. Most of this is found footage, which puts me off almost automatically. The constant realistic camera problems are just annoying. Using mostly incompetent actors to play incompetent actors makes sense, I guess. The director dies in an accident but they decide to finish the movie before reporting this to the police. This, and a bunch of weird character traits, suggest this was a spoof but if so, it fails miserably. The monsters have rubber masks, we never really see them, and by the time they finally showed, I didn't care anyway because I couldn't figure out what was going on half of the time. 9/18/16

American Conjuring (2016) 

This one went bad very quickly. Before the opening credits we have the monster in the basement, the girl that doesn’t fit in, and some poltergeist phenonema, all mixed with bad acting, washed out color, and an inane story line. Things don’t improve after that. Supposedly one of four girls at an orphanage kills the other three, then later commits suicide, convinced that she is being haunted by the original owner of the orphanage building. Family tensions erupt afterwards and things are supposed to get suspenseful, but most of it is either boring or dumb. Not worth your time. 9/11/16

The Dead Room (2015)  

A team of scientists and a psychic travel to a remote farmhouse which is supposedly the focus of occult phenomena. This starts way to slowly despite competent acting. There are some minor things – a door opens by itself and the psychic senses a presence – but almost a third of the way in there has been nothing noteworthy. It picks up a little but never really engaged me and at the end there were too many unanswered questions. Nice to see something from New Zealand, but it is completely unmemorable. 9/10/16

Perversions of Science (1997)  

This was a short lived HBO anthology show based on the Weird Science comic book that I sort of enjoyed although several episodes were hokey. I have a habit of killing shows by liking them. It was aimed at a somewhat more mature market than most SF shows. “Dream of Doom” is a very nicely conceived story about lucid dreaming. The protagonist cannot wake up into actual reality. Nice concept, but they do nothing with it. “Anatomy Lesson” is about a serial killer and a boy obsessed with dissection. This one is very confusing, with a robot showing up at the climax. This was probably the worst episode of the series. “Boxed In” is about an unfortunate encounter with a sexbot. William Shatner has a cameo; he also directed. “The Exile” has a screenplay by David Schow.  It has some very funny moments, but ends up being mostly dumb.  “Given the Heir” is about a woman who travels back through time to meet the man she has loved without ever meeting him. Bad episode though it has a nice surprise at the end 

“Planely Possible” is about a grieving widower who consents to experiments to send him into an alternate reality where she didn’t die. He gets to see unpleasant variations of himself, among other things. Parts of this make no sense at all. "Panic" has a great cast including Harvey Korman, Laraine Newman, and Chris Sarandon. It's set during the Orson Wells Martian invasion scare. Two Martian spies think it's the real thing and reveal themselves. This was the best episode of the show. Will Wheaton is in the cast of the unconvincing "Snap Ending" in which a spaceship finds itself threatened by an alien virus. "Ultimate Weapon" involves shapechanging aliens, but it's just dumb. "The People's Choice" involves robots used for domestic purposes. The show might have been better if they had taken their material more seriously.  9/9/16

Victor Frankenstein (2015)

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potte) and James McAvoy star in this version of Shelley's novel, as Igor and Frankenstein respectively. Hunchbacked Igor works in a circus until he is drawn into Frankenstein's orbit. He's not a mindless lump, though. He studies medicine in his spare time. Except Igor is not really a hunchback and Frankenstein corrects the problem. The first monster is actually mostly chimpanzee and it escapes almost immediately upon being brought to life. I have problems with the basically anti-knowledge portion of this story, which I am happy to say is at least touched upon here. Fast moving plot, but there's not a lot of monster in it and that makes it a very different story. The human monster isn't all that monstrous. Interesting but not memorable. I hated the ending. 9/8/16

The Strain Season 1 (2014) 

The first episode in this series had a creepy beginning spoiled a big by the inane response of the airport officials. The chief protagonist is a CDC official whose marriage is breaking up – though I felt less sympathy when we found out he was cheating on his wife. The arrest of the pawnbroker doesn’t make sense either. Other than shouting, he committed no crime. The story is about a creature that arrives in the US from Germany, a vampire variation, and there is a secret organization waiting to help. A plane load of dead passengers develops new organs and get up to attack the living. The second episode lost me again with some nonsense about ending the quarantine as unnecessary – ignoring the dead body in the hangar and dead medical examiner, among other things. And why has no one taking official notice that the medical examiner is dead and a bunch of dead bodies are either missing or walking around in plain sight? The survivors begin to change into vampires while those that died originally seem to be more like zombies. There is a parasitic worm that alters the brain and creates a frog like tongue in those infected. The fourth episode has a very implausible bit about crashing the internet. The female lead is thoroughly irritating and she’s written to be stupid. By episode 5, there are enough public incidents that it is no longer plausible that there has not been a public outcry. By mid season, I no longer was taking the story seriously. The evil FBI officials are so overdone a cliché that they’re charred 

By midseason, we have a better understanding of the vampires, actually strigoi. Some of the traditions are true – allergy to silver, super strength, fondness for coffins – but there are differences, the projecting tongue, the parasitic worm, and they do cast reflections. They are also vulnerable to ultraviolet light. We are also introduced to a group of renegade strigoi who seem to be in complete control of their faculties and who hunt the violent ones. The exterminator had become my favorite character by now. The female doctor continues to be irritating, illogical, and unrealistic. I found the Master's makeup was disappointing. Exciting finale, but the heroes are awfully good shots. Entertaining as long s you don't think too long about it. 9/7/16

Clown (2016) 

A doting father puts on a clown suit for his son’s birthday party, but it’s not a suit, as he discovers when he realizes he cannot take it off. It turns out it is the skin of a demon and it is slowly transforming him into a creature that eats children. His wife is skeptical at first but eventually realizes that something unearthly is going on. This was surprisingly good, although I didn’t think the costuming was very good and there are some slight plot holes strewn about. Lightweight but not awful. 9/5/16

Ash vs the Evil Dead Season 1 (2015) 

I liked the Evil Dead movies, the first two of which I just watched again, so this started with an advantage. It’s a horror comedy starring Bruce Campbell. The opening episode has some creepy bits, but it goes too fast to let us become involved with what’s going on. It’s also a bit too heavy on the humor and not so great in the horror.  The sister of the woman who died at the cabin in the movie – played by Lucy Lawless – is after revenge, but she also wants the book. There’s a Michigan state policewoman who has been suspended following a bizarre incident in which her partner was killed. There are sidekicks who sometimes get possessed. There is lots of gore. It’s often fun but it doesn’t always make sense. 9/4/16

Evil Dead 2 (1987)  

This was a sort of remake rather than a sequel. It starts with Ash and his girlfriend coming to the same remote cabin, but they are alone and apparently the events in the first movie never took place. The first part of the movie is a kind of condensed version of the first film, plotwise, and it ends with the girlfriend dead and Ash dealing with his own possessed hand. The duel with the hand is the best part of the movie. Better special effects and camera work are obvious early on, although the dancing corpse is laughably bad.  The daughter of the man who found the cursed book shows up with some friends just in time to become victims. 9/3/16

Evil Dead (1981)

The first time I saw this it absolutely creeped me out. I watched it again a few years later, and it absolutely creeped me out. This is my third time through, and it absolutely creeps me out. Although it often has the feel of an amateur film, it tapped into a vein of terror and uneasiness that is missing from most horror movies. The sequence where the forest comes alive is terrifying and many of the subsequent scenes have nearly the same impact. One of the real classics of horror fiction. 9/2/16

Black Sails Season 1(2014) 

Pirates in Nassau in 1715 are searching for a missing journal page that provides the sailing schedule for a treasure galleon, which obviously they want to waylay. But there are factions among the pirates as well, and the British authorities aren’t too happy with the piracy, even if it is not directed toward their ships.  There is more political maneuvering and sexual politics then actual piracy and in fact almost none of the first season actually takes place at sea. A problem with this series is that I did not care for any of the characters as people, though some are interesting as characters. Captain Flint, in particular, is contemptible and probably psychotic. So it didn’t matter to me if the pirates succeeded or failed.  The boarding sequence in episode five is impressive. I did wonder how a cargo of slaves from Africa would also speak colloquial English. Nice soundtrack by Bear McCreary. The chief writer, Doris Egan, wrote some enjoyable books from DAW. 9/1/16

Izombie Season 1 (2015)

A doctor gets infected with a zombie infection – though she still functions normally – and she gives up her job to work in a morgue – so that she can secretly eat brains. And in her spare time she helps solve crimes because she gets visions from the brain she eats that sometimes provide crucial clues. Ten minutes into the pilot I knew I was going to like this series. It’s smart, fast moving, well acted, well scripted, and I liked the supporting characters. She picks up an arch nemesis, another smart zombie, in the second. The story develops in the next few and the episodes start to lose their stand alone quality. The second half of the season accelerates. The protagonist’s name – Liv Moore – is an amusing pun that I didn’t notice until episode three.  I ordered the second season before I had finished watching the first episode. Great stuff. 8/25/16

Flash Gordon Season 1 (2007) 

Flash Gordon reimagined as a contemporary story. Ming the Merciless is from an alternate dimension and he has designs on Earth. It has probably the worst theme song and opening credits I have ever experienced. Abysmal special effects. The story has him fulfilling his father’s dream to oppose an extra-dimensional invasion. This was so bad that I gave up after four episodes. I cannot honestly think of one good thing to say about this. There was no season 2 and one magazine picked episode 3 as the worst episode of any television show ever.  8/21/16

Drifter (2008)  

Four characters find themselves waking up in a variety of odd situations, all by themselves, sometimes with scars, sometimes not. There are some flashbacks that eventually reveal connections among them, and various smaller mysteries pop up along the way. The acting is competent but not great and some of the scenery is nice. There are also errors. They are traveling “west” across the desert, but the sun is always very distinctly to their right, so they are actually traveling north. This might have been an okay movie but nothing is ever explained. I mean nothing, nada, zip. There is no payoff for the long buildup. 8/20/16

Amsterdamned (1983)

I saw this dubbed many years ago and loved it, but have been unable to acquire a copy so I finally picked up one in Dutch. Armed with a detailed plot summary – which I mostly didn’t need – I watched it and loved it again. Beautiful photography, suspenseful story, some stunningly shocking scenes, and a great speedboat chase. Oh, the plot. It’s about a serial killer in Amsterdam who uses scuba gear to move through the canals, thus avoiding detection. A police detective eventually tracks him down. Really good stuff. 8/19/16

Most Likely to Die (2016)

Although this doesn’t have a very new idea – a group of people get together for a private reunion and someone starts killing them off, each in a manner related to their yearbook slogan. The acting is better than usual, the technical aspects are good, and for a change most of the characters are reasonably likeable despite some flaws. Unfortunately, lots of dumb plot elements. They split up even after finding the first body. The killer walks around in a graduation gown and no one spots him even in broad daylight. When we find out who the killer is, the actor is not tall enough to have been the killer.  Not awful, but not memorable either. 8/18/16

Sleepy Hollow Season 2 (2014) 

The season 2 opener is very confusing because the first part of it turns out to be an illusion that doesn’t address the double cliffhanger that ended the first season. Things get back to normal after that with Ichabod and Abby fighting to prevent Moloch and his evil followers from entering the human world. Some of the episodes suffer from the little black bag effect, i.e., the heroes need something and find a reference to an artifact or individual who fills the bill. Ben Franklin repeating Frankenstein’s experiment is a good example. They also lost me when the new police chief tells a prisoner that she will personally ensure that he gets electroshock therapy when he is committed to an asylum. The season began to look like magical artifact of the week for a while. I think it was also a strategic error to make the Horseman appear with his head on a regular basis so that he could engage in dialogue.  And too often the solution to the problem is invented on the spot. The confusion of the wendigo and the werewolf was one of the low points of the season. An ongoing problem is how badly prepared the protagonists are on numerous occasions. I also don’t buy that you can be tricked into selling your soul to the devil simply by signing a contract that you don’t understand. That’s not a flaw limited to this show. In at least one second the time goes from mid-day to complete darkness in the time it takes to run one block. The lamia episode is outright embarrassing.  Two of the regular characters die along with the big bad at the end of the season (although it looks like season 3 just replaces him with another of the same variety). The first season showed some promise, but the second season was very disappointing. Formulaic and repetitious plots, bad writing, lapses in continuity, and other problems overwhelmed anything worthwhile. 8/17/16

Shock-O-Rama (2006)

This rather gory and often silly movie actually weaves some separate films together into a loose whole. A recently fired scream queen  decides to spend some time in a cabin while a zombie stalks her. Aliens rearrange junkyard parts into a giant warrior. A disembodied brain has designs on nubile young women. This wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. The acting is pathetic, the dialogue puerile, the special effects laughable.  It has a few good moments, but they are widely scattered and probably not worth waiting for, although the sequence with the aliens in the junkyard isn't bad. 8/16/16

Return of the Man from Uncle (1983)

The return of Uncle fifteen years later, without Mr. Weatherby. Solo and Kuryakin have both retired, but they have to reactivate themselves when Thrush steals a nuclear weapon and demands that Solo personally deliver the ransom money. The over the top dialogue and acting were a bit much, even for the original show. It was nice to see Patrick McNee again, but this reeks of low budget and hasty production. The plot is full of holes and Robert Vaughn looks positively decrepit at times. The car chase would have been more convincing if the cars involved were traveling faster than the surrounding traffic, which they are not. This was embarrassing and immensely disappointing. 8/15/16

Summer Camp 2014

The premise of this lackluster horror film is a disease which temporarily turns people into rampaging killers – but they recover very quickly. Unfortunately they can suffer more than one attack. The potentially interesting device is that anyone can become a killer without warning and anyone can be killed, but they can also recover. A good chunk of the “dialogue” in this one consists of grunts and groans. The cast is competent but uninteresting, the story actually isn’t very suspenseful, and the camera work is frequently subpar. There are a couple of effective scenes, and one of the female characters is so selfish and airheaded that I had no sympathy for her. The scene were one character gets a drill through the foot is rather stupid. He makes no effort to simply move his foot away. The shaky camera in some of the scenes is actively annoying.  It does, however, have a clever ending. 8/14/16

Real Murders (2015) 

The second Aurora Teagarden murder mystery involves the murder of one member of her true crime club, by a method similar to that in the next book to be discussed. The writing isn’t nearly as good this time. Aurora sometimes asks herself questions that we know she previously knew the answer to, but apparently the writer forgot. She makes obvious observations and people comment about how brilliant she is. Nor is a material witness who reports finding a body brought to the police station in handcuffs. That’s a shame because the set up is actually very promising. Someone sends Aurora a box of poisoned chocolates, so she has good reason to become involved this time. The story becomes really unbelievable when the chief demands that Aurora and another suspect be ejected from the police station even though they are actively providing evidence at the time. Some of the acting seemed forced this time as well, as though the actors were conscious of what they were doing rather than trying to act natural. And when Aurora accurately predicts a murder attempt, she wastes time driving to the scene herself rather than notifying the police. Pretty bad despite the good source material. 8/13/16

Clash of the Dead (2015) 

This zombie movie gets off to a bad start. A documentary crew is working on a piece about the Battle of the Somme, but there are multiple personality conflicts before they even arrive on sight. This often has the feel of a found footage movie, although technically it is not although it incorporates some into the story and eventually predominates. Most of the characters are more or less obnoxious. I expected this to get a little better when the zombie soldiers showed up, but it actually got worse, harder to watch, with the usual random camera work and lack of focus. 8/12/16

Triclops (2014)

Bad acting, dialogue, photography, and sound quality all abound in this story of four people who land inside an isolated wilderness area where alien lifeforms have taken over, all of this somehow concealed from the outside world by the government. The characters are all criminals or cowards or in some way flawed except possibly the lone female character, whose personality is never revealed. The one redeeming quality if that the film uses lots of stop action special effects, not as well done as Willis O’Brien or Ray Harryhausen, but still a nice change from CGI. This is the kind of movie you make fun of as you watch it. 8/11/16

Panzer (2013)

I didn’t download the app so that I could interact with this movie’s online features, but supposedly it doesn’t matter. A group of grad students are pursuing an inquiry into art stolen by the Nazis even though there have been some pretty clear indications that someone wants them to stop. There investigation leads them to a hidden bunker in a remote, woody area. They find a zombie soldier and an insane professor waiting for them. There are occasional moments of clumsiness but nothing really fatal. The pacing is uneven though, and the concluding half hour is rather silly as well. 8/10/16

Thirst (2016) 

I had early good feelings about this one. The opening sequence in which a hostile alien lands on Earth and kills a witness was reasonably well done, the camera work was nice and the settings very nice, and I even liked the soundtrack. When some actual acting started, it wasn’t bad either. The focus is a remote camp where problem teens are given a drastic rehabilitation. It’s not entirely plausible and a lot of the introduction is stereotyped. There’s some flaws in the logic – you don’t go to jail as the result of a civil suit, and the decision to push on after they find a body does not make internal sense. The story becomes fairly routine after that, and the monster is done all right but is not particularly new or interesting. It’s method of locomotion is bizarre and not credible either. The acting and the plot both deteriorate toward the end, which is a shame because it was otherwise not awful. 8/9/16

Mimic Sentinel (2003)  

The final in a series of three movie about mutant cockroaches. A decent cast, but the script is not very good, the special effects are inferior, and there is only intermittently a feeling of suspense. It repeats the child in jeopardy motif of the first two, but with even less effect. The protagonist is an overly protected, mentally ill young man who spends his life photographing things out his window. But then he starts photographing things linked to a series of attacks and his sister gets involved with a drug dealer. His life is about to change dramatically. The setup is okay but nothing really effective gets done with it and the first half drags interminably. Nobody believes the protagonist when he reports that someone has attacked, which doesn’t make sense in the context of the first two movies. Not worth the effort to watch this one. 8/8/16

Mimic 2 (2001)

Inferior but not awful sequel about mutant cockroaches that are large enough to mimic human beings, upon whom they prey. The special effects are more frequent but not as well done, and the cast tries hard but is not comparable to that of the first. The protagonist is an entomologist who comes under suspicion when a man she hates and the landlord she dislikes both die, their faces torn off. The child in jeopardy shtick in the first worked, but just barely. It’s not as effective this time. Idiocy alert. The military does not have domestic jurisdiction to conduct criminal or other investigations except on military bases. There’s a problem with the continuity. If it’s known that the mutants exist, why don’t the mutilations immediately cause a public inquiry rather than just a clandestine military operation?  Okay, but only if you have nothing better to do.

Mimic (1997)

The first and by far the best of a trilogy of movies very loosely based on a short story by Donald Wollheim. A new disease threatens to kill or cripple every child in the Northeast. Scientists develop a modified gene in cockroaches that wipes out the disease characters, but it creates something else, a mutation that creates human sized creatures which can - from a distance in the dark - look like a human being. A young boy develops the ability to communicate with the creatures, after a fashion, and two scientists descend into their lair in an attempt to discover their hidden nest. This is a much better film than you might think. The acting is excellent and sometimes idiosyncratic, the creatures are well done, and the suspense is very intense. Much of it is filmed in an underground series of unused tunnels, which makes for some great sets. Holds up quite well. 8/3/16

Star Trek Beyond (2016) 

Although I really like the cast – and this movie in particular was visibly impressive – there were enough plot holes for an entire prairie dog city. If you can travel from one star to the next in a matter of hours, for example, why have a three year mission of exploration? The story this time has Kirk and crew lured into a trap by an alien race that has the ultimate weapon – although it didn’t look very ultimate to me and it was neutralized fairly easily. Their ship is destroyed and most of the crew is captured, but they find a crashed derelict ship (what a coincidence) that is functional and fueled (what a coincidence). The villainous Krall and his horde have thousands of ships that fly in intricately complicated patterns – which can be disrupted and cause the ships to explode if they are exposed to loud music. Seems like they might have allowed for interference given that they had been studying humans for years before launching the operation. Kirk and company survive despite the planet being almost entirely rock covered – eating and drinking apparently have gone out of style. And what did the alien race live on all this time? And admittedly the planet was once the home of a higher civilization, but how did Krall find the first part of the doomsday weapon? SPOILERS FROM HERE ON. And if he could fly easily to the human base, why didn’t he do so rather than remain on the planet and allow his crew to die? And with a hole in the shield big enough to fly large starships through it, why didn’t all the atmosphere on the starbase rush into space? 7/27/16

Partners in Crime (1982) 

This is a compendium of the Tommy and Tuppence adaptations from the Agatha Christie stories. First chronologically but last filmed was The Secret Adversary, in which the two unemployed friends declare themselves detectives and get hired by the British government to track down a missing treaty that could head off a revolution. Not particularly plausible, and I didn’t particularly care for the two main characters, but not a bad story.  The story should have been exciting and engaging but instead it is plodding, unfocused, and the supposedly witty banter is mostly banal. And they succeed as much by luck as by intelligence. The final scene is completely implausible, and despite some misdirection the villain’s true identity was obvious early on. The show had several episodes in which they’re married and running a detective agency. They feel more like a series of stage plays than a tv show.  This kind of story was not Christie’s strong point and the translation to the screen is not an improvement. 7/26/16

Innsmouth (2015)

This is a short film adaptation of "Shadow Over Innsmouth" by H.P. Lovecraft. Although it is quite amateurish - undistinguished acting, poor sound quality, mediocre camera work, it does have some shocking imagery - way over the top for HPL, as well as some mild nudity. The story involves a detective investigating a strange murder, but she is kidnapped before she even begins and dead a short time after that, so what story there is has been truncated and left basically indecipherable. 7/25/16

Slasher Season 1 (2015) 

As you might expect, this opens with a double murder with a big knife. Not a very plausible one, I might add. The female victim is pregnant and the killer is holding the baby when he is arrested. Years later, the baby is an adult – our chief protagonist – and she has returned to the town where it happened. The town is apparently well seasoned with crazy people – three of them in the first episode, and a fourth who is shaky. The female lead seems to have one emotional note regardless of whether she is happy, unhappy, or frightened. No one else in the cast stands out either and the guy playing the jailed psychopath is beyond awful. Episode one mostly introduces them.  The nonsense comes in rapid succession. A psychotic killer would not be in the state penitentiary and it is unlikely that a random victim would be allowed to have a private interview with him, let alone several. There is also some very bad sex footage. And does no one in this town have cellphones?  Maybe since the dialogue is so bad, no one wanted to hear any more of it.  And what prison allows inmates to have shoulder length hair? And a high school kid disappears one night and there is no search for him or even mention of it? And would a woman who had just been chased by a costumed thug respond to a scream from a neighbor’s house by going inside the house, alone, without calling the police? More stupidity in a single episode than in most full length direct to video horror films. All pretense to reality vanishes early in episode two when a teenager who has been unconscious and buried in leaves for several days, finally awakens to jump surprise a pair of lovers. Latitude and longitude cannot allow a person, and with no equipment, to pinpoint an exact tiny location – in this case a cave. This is followed by grandma pretending, not very well, that she can act. At the end of episode two I read the summary of the remaining six episodes on the internet and decided I’d rather watch a test pattern. 7/23/16

South Park Season 18 (2015) 

Another series of send ups, starting with a spoof of kickstarter and startup companies that actually don’t do anything. The gluten and transgender episodes were okay but rather sometimes seemed forced or obvious. The handicar episode was dull. The drone episode is much better and so is the one about pay as you go computer games. Nice poke at alcohol companies as well. Really enjoyed the virtual reality skit, including the end where the cartoon characters all get replaced by actual kids. The roosters playing Magic the Gathering episode was kind of blah.  The female pop star/video game mania episode is better. "It's not about the music...it never was." The final episode, about trending, was just okay. A below average season. 7/19/16

Cabin Fever (2016) 

Don’t buy this dvd, regardless of the movie. It forces you to sit through multiple previews. You can’t skip, fast forward, or bring up the menu. Don’t reward boorishness. And wow is this a bad movie anyway, so you're not going to miss anything. A group of young people travel to a remote region where they stop at a gas station. The sequence in which a young kid bites one of them is so incredibly stupidly written that I thought it must be a parody. Alas, it isn’t. This remake apparently uses the original script, so I have absolutely no plan to ever watch the original. This is awful in so many different ways that I would be wasting your time listing them all. You should go into your local video store and put “do not buy” stickers on every copy you see. It would be a public service. 7/18/16

Kong Island (1968)  

This is an Italian movie that really has nothing to do with King Kong. It’s not even set on an island. A woman raised in the wild is captured by someone who wants to experiment on apes. The dubbing is inferior to that afford Japanese movies, so you can imagine how bad it is. The gorillas look so much like gorilla suits that it must have been intentional. The acting is dreadful, the dialogue is painful, and even its campy aspects are really below par. This is one of those movies that deserves to disappear. This has also appeared as King of Kong Island.  7/17/16

Monsterland (2016)

This is an anthology of short SF and horror films. The first is about a group of skinny dippers attacked by something in the water. Except that we never see it, never get any explanation, and none of them try to get out of the water even once it is clear that they are in danger. Second is about a brain parasite that is just too confusing to be interesting. Third is a mildly humorous bit about a boy’s science experiment gone wrong. The next, about a witch, is not bad but not gripping. The ending doesn’t make much sense. A pretty bad animated bit follows, also played for laughs. The dentist and the vampire is watchable but lacks a point. Another bad animated piece follows. Then another one about a man who takes an experimental drug so that he can nurse his daughter. Very stupid ending on this one. Radioactive jellyfish come ashore on a beach in the next, but this one is also a spoof. It does have the best effects though. Disappointing for the most part. 7/16/16

The Legend of Spider Forest (1971)

Also known as Venom. This is a badly dubbed, badly photographed, badly acted, bad story. For entirely too long, it isn't even evident that there is a a story line. A photographer runs into various odd people in a small German town, but there is never any actual reason why they should object to his presence, despite claims to the contrary. The young femme fatale is much too old for the part and not remotely sexy. The seduction scene is actively funny. Some scenes seem to be missing, although this might be caused by the awful translation. It all turns out to be a plot by a Nazi and a crazy woman to develop a new kind of nerve gas derived from spider venom and it takes far too long to get there. 7/15/16

The Day the World Ended (2001)

Made for television movie about a killer alien who is just misunderstood. A psychologist hired by the school district visits a small town where people behave very oddly. One of the local children has psi powers. The school nurse is a horrible person. The principal has major sexual hangups. The really amateurish acting and bad dialogue doom this within the first few minutes. Continuity and set dressing stand out for their awfulness. A boy punched repeatedly in the face has no bruises or cuts or swelling. The small town nurse's office is larger than most CEO suites. The kid playing the alien offspring overacts badly. Randy Quaid is flat and dull as the town doctor and adoptive father of the alien kid. The sequence with the psychological "test" was so silly I almost stopped right there. School psychologists do not engage in psychotherapy of a child after being told point black not to do so by the parent. The only nice touch is that at one point the kid watches the old movie with the same title. The alien is corny, the death scenes repetitive and unrealistic, and there is virtually no suspense at all. Another waste of an hour. And why is the school psychologist investigating a murder scene? And why would she suddenly know that the boy might know something about the murder? Oh, and the title is completely unrelated to the movie.7/13/16

Adventures of Kit Carson Vol XI (1951)

The last in this series of samplers has no surprises. Carson is envoy for the local governor offering a pardon to a gang of rustlers if they agree to mend their ways. Then there is another kidnapping – the sixth episode to use this device, mixing it with the contested gold mine, which features in three earlier episodes. Carson is framed again in the third episode, which is the third time that has happened, and finally El Toro pretends to be a prospector in order to trap a gang of killers who prey on people who are off on their own. Westerns were once extremely popular, much like police procedurals today, but they rarely ventured away from a few basic tried and true plots. 7/8/16                                                                                                                  

Anaconda (1997)

It was time for a giant snake movie so I picked the one about which I had the fondest memories, with a fairly good cast and above average special effects. A documentary film crew is accompanying a scientific expedition to find a legendary lost tribe in a remote part of the Amazon. They pick up Jon Voight – I could have told you this was a mistake - who appears to be stranded. In fact, he’s obsessed with capturing a giant anaconda and doesn’t care who gets sacrificed along the way. Voight is the only real flaw in this one – he hams it up so much that he becomes a comic book character. 7/7/16

She Creature (2001)

A husband and wife team with a very fake carnival show have a strange customer who seems disappointed that their mermaid is not real. They discover that he has a real one in a tank and decide that this will make their fortune on their upcoming tour in America. The customer dies and they steal the mermaid and her tank. Most of the story takes place aboard a ship sailing the Atlantic. The mermaid is murderous and determined to escape. She also appears to have a kind of hypnotic and/or telepathic power, although it doesn't work very well. The mermaid effects are pretty well done, but the story moves much too slowly. The protagonists are also far too stupid. The mermaid escapes repeatedly and they know that it literally eats people, but they don't take any further precautions. The wife has some redeeming qualities but the rest of the cast are hopeless. Nice photography at times. Apparently this was originally planned to be a trilogy, but it did not do well enough to encourage the production of sequels.  7/6/16

Vinyan (2008)

This was billed as horror but it's not. The protagonists are a couple whose child was lost during the 2004 tsunami in Asia. Now they are searching Thailand and Burma to see if they can find their son alive after seeing what they think is him in a documentary. This one is very slow to develop - the husband is unconvinced and they have to deal with criminals to smuggle them into Burmese controlled waters since the borders are closed. The photography is unexceptional and occasionally irritatingly underlit. There is a great deal of local color, but without commentary so it is often opaque, as in fact is true of a lot of the incidents that occur along the way. The story is more about the woman's descent into insanity once the grief becomes unmanageable and while some of the incidents along the way are dramatic, I had lost interest long before I reached them. 7/4/16

Adventures of Kit Carson Vol X (1951)

I confess that I have watched just about enough of this show to satisfy my urge for nostalgia, but there are only a few to go so I soldier on. This set opens with yet another kidnapping, a senator this time. And someone is hijacking shipments of silver bullion in the next, which is also a retread plot. El Toro becomes the chief suspect in another murder mystery, which is only a slight variation on an earlier episode. And finally Carson looks into a series of bank robberies that turn out to have been masterminded by the bank’s own president. 7/2/16

Castle Season 5 (2013) 

This season wisely disposes of the ongoing story arc about Beckett’s enemy – who is running informally for the Vice-Presidency – quite early and gets back to doing self contained mysteries. There is an ongoing subplot about Beckett and Castle trying to conceal their relationship, and on at least one occasion her captain knows about it in one episode, but doesn’t in the next one. There are some highs and lows but most episodes are fairly uniform. The Trekkie take off was pretty good. The occasional lapses from realism were less so, and the episode in which the old serial killer returns and frames Castle for murder was pretty awful. The efforts to maintain some tension between Castle and Beckett aren’t always well thought out and occasionally are actively irritating. Castle’s belief in the supernatural in one of the episodes is totally out of character and the story itself never explains how the killer could know so much about her victims. Terrible episode. The two part story about the kidnapping of his daughter is good, but the one in which Ryan goes undercover is nonsense. He’s a police officer. If he steals something from the bad guy’s safe, it is inadmissible as evidence, yet the FBI raises no objection to the plan. A very mixed season. 7/1/16

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