Last Update 12/31/20

 

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) 

Although this is just another Ring variant and starts off slowly, itís not bad at all and the special effects are excellent. A group of teens take a book from an abandoned house and it starts auto-writing stories about them, each of which ends with one of them having a horrible death. Ultimately the last two, who find romance along the way, figure out how to end the cycle before they are killed. I recognized no one from the cast, but they all did a good job with one exception and she was a minor character. Nothing new but basic competence is so rare that this felt better than it probably should have. The special effects are above average.12/31/20

The Old Dark House (1932)

One of the interesting bits about this adaptation of the J.B. Priestley novel is that the female lead would most recently appear as the elderly woman in the frame story for Titanic. Five travelers are stranded at a bizarre house by a very destructive storm. Melvyn Douglas, Boris Karloff, Raymond Massey, Charles Laughton, and Gloria Stuart. Although much of the first half of the movie is set around a dinner table, it is not the least bit boring. There's a madman in the house - technically two of them - and they are all in terrible danger. Holds up quite well. The filmmakers chickened out though. One of the heroes dies in the novel but pulls though on the screen. 11/28/20

They Reach (2020)

Kids battle a demon. This is an odd combination of potentially interesting ideas with unfortunately amateurish production values. The actors arenít exactly incompetent but itís hard to tell with so many confusing transitions, missing plot elements, and inept scenes. The plot involves a demon released from a tape recorder, but itís hard to figure out what is going on at times, particularly since the director and writer had no idea about proper police procedures. The acting and the plot get progressively more amateurish, with gaps of logic and improbable situations. The three kids are better actors than the adults, but not by a lot. 11/27/20

Peninsula (2020)

The sequel to Train to Busan is not as good as the first, but it's still one of the few zombie movies I've actually enjoyed. Four years after South Korea has been cut off from the outside world because of the zombie virus, four refugees are recruited to return and seize a load of cash. But the zombies aren't the only enemies they will face. A small group of survivors have evolved into a barbaric society reminiscent of The Road Warrior. The climax includes a very effective car chase through the ruined city. Good cast, well captioned - although some of the dialogue is in English. 11/26/20

The New Mutants (2020)

I was frankly appalled at how bad this new Marvel superhero movie was. I am pretty tolerant but this was just egregiously awful, not helped by the fact that the soundtrack was so muddled that I couldn't actually hear a lot of the dialogue. That was probably a good thing. This felt like a direct to video amateur movie. The five are being held in a facility supposedly for their own good. Really? Is this the best they could come up with? And they don't even do this rudimentary plot very well. The supposedly well intentioned clinic is transparently evil. Sometimes it is completely opaque what is supposed to be happening. I can't think of a single good thing to say about this. 11/24/20

Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones (1967)

This is one of the partially lost serials featuring Patrick Troughton. Aliens have invaded Earth disguised as a travel agency. The Doctor and his companions stumble into the plot and eventually foil it. Some episodes are live, some are animated. The original soundtrack appears to have survived. Not perfect but the best we can hope for under the circumstances.11/19/20

Tremors: Shrieker Island (2009)

Other than Star Wars this is my favorite movie franchise. Yes, I know that the sequels were cheaply made without Kevin Bacon or Fred Ward. I don't care. Michael Gross is great as usual. That said, despite a reasonably good cast, this one is more interested in the side story than in the monsters, which are the whole point. Bert Gummer comes to an island where an unscrupulous entrepreneur has bred super gradoids to attract wealthy hunters, but fails to anticipate the consequences. There was no budget for special effects, apparently, and this was very disappointing. 10/29/20

Yes, God, Yes (2019) 

A short but interesting movie about a young Catholic high school student trying to reconcile what she is told by adults with what she feels as an adolescent. The protagonist is a sympathetic character, but a lot of those around her are less than admirable people. There us a strong anticlerical theme as well, though it is not anti-Christian. The star is Natalia Dyer, best known as Nancy Wheeler in Stranger Things.  10/9/20

Modern Family Season 11 (2019)  

Iíve been a loyal fan of this show, but the first two episodes of the final season struck me as distinctly off. The characters felt wrong and the story lines were not funny. The bad jokes seem frequently cruel. I was also disappointed that they never explored the character of Lily more because I thought she was potentially very interesting indeed, a young woman raised by two gay fathers. The Halloween episode is the first that is actually good. The thing is with series like this, the characters get to seem like friends, so even when the story isnít all that funny, itís still nice to see them again. I still think they made a mistake keeping Lily in the background so much, and in the final season they actually made her rather mean spirited. The finale was okay but nothing special. 10/8/20

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