Last Update 6/30/23

 

Tales from the Crypt Season 4 (1992) 

Another mixed season. The rock and roll star who murders his partner’s wife is rather repulsive. The man who comes back from the dead at a séance to kill his killers is pretty flat. A man who kills his wealthy wives gets his just desserts – Treat Williams, Henry Gibson, and Tom Hanks in this episode. There’s a fairly clever story about a man who thinks he is dying. Timothy Dalton is a rather dull werewolf. A youth serum leads to multiple murders. There's a bad episode about a deformed child. a good one with Brad Pitt as a homicidal drag racer, an interesting ghost story in the Old Wesr, a pretty good one about a librarian afraid of a serial killer, murderous twins, and a puppeteer who wants revenge on an unfaithful wife. Good season overall. 6/20/23

Tales from the Crypt Season III (1991) 

The third season dropped from 18 to 14 episodes. The episode with the policeman and the escaped convict struggling in the desert is excellent. Other episodes involve a love serum that is a bit too strong – one of the weakest episodes, a clever but poorly written twist story in which a man tries to fake his death for the insurance and ends up convicted of murdering himself, and a clever but implausible story about a practical joke designed to convince a man he is dead but still self aware. An actor finds himself in an insane cast – literally, and a thief runs into voodoo. An artist paints corpses and a vampire works in a blood bank. Four young boys foil a murderous undertaker and a reporter discovers the local cemetery is run by ghouls. A jealous husband leads to murder at a lumbercamp and a desperate reporter commits a murder in order to get a story. The episode about the affair with a cable installer is absolutely terrible, but the final episode has Kirk Douglas as a World War I general having to deal with his cowardly son and its superb.  6/11/23

Tales from the Crypt Season II (1990) 

The second season went from 6 to 18 episodes. Demi Moore has her fortune told, but it doesn’t work out the way she expected. Arnold Schwarzennegger directs the story of a man who gives up his wealth for a younger body, and loses the girl he loves in the process. Two gamblers engage in a grisly duel. A cavalier man pisses off a voodoo queen. There’s an awful episode about an insanely jealous husband, and then a much better one about a man who returns from the grave to protect the woman he loves. A music promoter has to deal with a voice inside his head. The episode about the ventriloquist with an attached brother is pretty good but the one about a body stealing witch is awful. A greedy mortician receives justice from the recently dead. A comic book artist discovers that his creations are coming to life.   This was a pretty good season. There were four episodes I didn’t like but the rest ranged from entertaining to excellent. The witness to a murder loses the ability to speak. A tour of a haunted house goes seriously awry. One half of a pair of Siamese twins commits a murder. An orphan menaced by vampires discovers that he is a werewolf and likes to eat vampires. This was a pretty good season overall. 6/2/23

Shazam (2023)

I found this almost totally unwatchable. It couldn't decide whether it was serious or a comedy. The actors were either playing shallow characters or did not seem inclined to put much effort into the potentially interesting ones. There were too many characters who did not get introduced enough for us to care about them. The special effects were mediocre, as was the soundtrack. The dialogue was trite when it wasn't mind numbingly stupid. The special effects were so-so. The plot was hard to follow at times and horribly predictable at others. Three sisters - two evil and one conflicted - steal a scepter that can take super powers away from our heroes. Lucy Liu looked uncomfortable as a villain. I barely made it to the final scenes. 6/1/23

Quantumania (2023)

As an avid fan of the Marvel movie franchise, I would like to say that this abomination is an unadulterated piece of crap from beginning to end, It's a series of CGI landscapes with a pretense of a story. Modok is reduced to being a cartoon comedy aside. Kang is unimpressive. Paul Rudd is completely wasted. I was appalled from beginning to end. It's trite, silly, stupid, and boring in alternating patches. If this had been my first Marvel movie, it would also have been my last. What were they thinking? 5/18/2e

Tales from the Crypt Season 1 (1989) 

I decided to revisit this old series and was pleased to discover that it was actually even better than I remembered, for the most part. The production values are quite high. William Sadler is a laid off public executioner who decides to continue his work unofficially, until he gets caught. A woman murders her husband just as a homicidal maniac arrives to lay siege to her home. A man who literally has nine lives miscounts and comes to a bad end. A grouchy retiree stuffs his wife’s pet animals, and she add him to the collection. A fortune hunter discovers that his new bride intends to kill him – this was a rather boring episode. A beautiful but corrupt woman pawns her beauty. A fortune hunter meets his end when his new wife turns out to be a homicidal maniac. 5/11/23

Lady on a Train (1945) 

Screenplay based on a story by Leslie Charteris, creator of the Saint. A woman sees a murder committed while looking out of the window of a train. She enlists the reluctant assistance of a mystery novelist in investigating the crime, which involves a convoluted and rather nonsensical plot about two nephews who had been disinherited by the dead man. His body is found elsewhere, supposedly having died by accident, but since he was killed with a crowbar, I don’t think this story would have help up long. The killer’s motivations are unclear – he murders at least one person whom he should have kept alive. Deanna Durbin was the star and she gets to sing two sulky songs and a Christmas carol. The plot is full of holes, and the constant slapstick interferes with what might have been an entertaining mystery. It was still fun in a way, but not a classic. 5/9/23

Army of the Dead (2021) 

This is a zombie movie, the first I’ve seen in a while.  Last Vegas has been quarantined and a subspecies of intelligent zombie has evolved, led by an individual who escaped from army custody – we never know his origin. A team is hired to sneak in and retrieve a large amount of cash from one of the casinos, but one member of the team has a very different agenda. There are lots of exploding heads in this one – and the special effects are pretty good. On the other hand, none of these people seem to miss headshots very often and some of the escapes strain credulity. There is only one survivor, the obvious one, and the film ends with the government nuking the city to presumably wipe out the plague. No surprises, a few loose ends and false starts, but entertaining. Liked the zombie tiger. 5/8/23

A Blade in the Dark (1983) 

A cheapo Italian slasher film. The inane and often nonsensical dialogue might be from the dubbing, but there is ample evidence that the original was full of major flaws. Why would a woman burglarize a house while carrying a heavy diary, which she leaves behind? Why would someone find blood and knife damage all over his house and not call the police, even though he knows two of his neighbors have mysteriously disappeared, one moments after visiting him? How did the protagonist get blood on the knee of his pants when the body had been dragged across the ground and he never even stooped down in the area? This was a very bad ripoff of Psycho with no surprises and virtually no suspense. 4/23/23

Robert  (2015)

This killer doll movie has had at least three sequels. I bought a three pack and the first was so awful that I didn’t even bother with the others, which are probably even worse. Very predictable events illustrated by humdrum acting and low quality special effects. This was a Chucky ripoff and apparently the people involved had no idea why the Chucky films were so popular. No characterization of the doll at all. Not remotely scary. Why do so many horror films simply copy other horror films? 4/22/23

Limitless (2011)

The premise of this film is a drug that can increase one's intelligence - and possibly other abilities less specifically mentioned - for a limited time. A failed writer stumbles upon some - the origin and associated matters are never addressed - and dodges a variety of dangers as he tries to come to terms with his new, possibly transitory abilities. He is also suspected of murder - this subplot is never really resolved - and he is followed by two different ruthless thugs, one determined to kill him, the other wanting the drug for his own use. These subplots are also a bit muddled and never really resolved satisfactorily. I disliked the protagonist from the outset - self absorbed, greedy, inconsiderate, vacillating, etc. - so I had some difficulty trying to be on his side. 4/13/23

The Expendables (2010)

I had not seen any in this series, which I was only interested in because I like Jason Statham. It is pretty much what I expected - comic book violence completely unbelievable. Five men kill 200 soldiers plus assorted villains in close combat without any serious injuries on their side. There is a young woman to be rescued. The plot involves a mythical island taken over by a rogue CIA agent and an ambitious general. There is no context. What country are they part of? If independent, how did they accumulate so much power given a population of only a few thousand? At one point the leader of the mercenaries hired to take out the leadership states that the US cannot act directly because of the CIA guy, but that makes no sense at all. I liked Statham. I detested Dolph Lundgren, whose character is inexplicably revived from the dead and forgiven for his past sins at the end.. 4/6/23

Dredd (2012)

Although this was reasonably exciting to watch, it is one of the most unpleasant films I have ever seen, set in the very unpleasant future world of the Judge Dredd comic books. Dredd is a kind of police officer/judge/executioner who has the power of life and death over suspects and summarily executes them when warranted. It is warranted scores of times in this movie. He and a rookie are on assignment to a gigantic building that is in lockdown and which is the headquarters of a gang of drug pushers and general thugs. Mayhem ensues. The rookie is described as a psychic but she is actually a telepath. Dredd wears a mask throughout the entire movie. The attractive female rookie never puts one on. There is no attempt to develop the characters or explain Dredd's invariable deadpan delivery. There are slow motion exploding heads every once in a while.  Not something I'll watch again. 4/4/23

Raffles (1939)

David Niven becomes the gentleman burglar in this remake of the Ronald Colman film. The plot is very similar although many of the details are changed. Olivia DeHaviland plays his girlfriend this time. Both role changes are beneficial and the plot makes considerably more sense. They also seem more cognizant of the moral ambiguities involved. I was expecting to see more technical expertise but apparently nothing much had changed during the previous decade, although the actors were less inclined to chew on the scenery. 4/1/23

Raffles (1930)

Ronald Colman stars as the lovable jewel thief in this fairly good film that could have used a better script. The supposedly clever Raffles makes numerous silly mistakes as he tries to take advantage of a house party to steal a valuable necklace and place the blame on some professional thieves. The Scotland Yard inspector is well ahead of him and he only escapes being arrested by chance. There are also some ethical problems as he is stealing from his friends, admittedly to provide money for another friend. And his fiancé learns the truth and decides to help him thwart the police. There are so many flaws in his plan that it is hard to believe he supposedly brought off several other clever burglaries without a hitch. 3/31/23

Adventures of Kitty O’Day (1945) 

O’Day’s new boss gets himself murdered, just like the first one, so she and her idiot boyfriend decide to investigate. Jean Parker has the title role, but I doubt it did much to further her career. Everyone else is a nonentity. Their old nemesis, a parody of a police detective, is involved as well and more bodies turn up with some regularity. The jokes are only mildly funny and there are far too many of them. There was never a third movie in the series, and I’m not at all surprised. 3/30/23

Detective Kitty O’Day (1944) 

First of two detective stories involving the title character, who is a secretary in the first. Her boss gets murdered and she is a prime suspect, along with her boyfriend. The possibly interesting mystery is completely swamped by constant buffoonery and the story is impossible to take seriously. There are no plot holes – there are plot chasms. The police officers make Inspector Clousseau look like a model of dignity and decorum. This is a comedy with a murder in it rather than a mystery with humorous elements. 3/29/23

Fast and Furious (1939)

The third and final film in the series about Joel Lang, rare bookseller/detective, replaces the entire cast yet again. Franchot Tone is less than satisfactory is the weakest story in the series as well, with none of the witty dialogue of the first two. And nothing about the rare book business. He is drafted into being a judge at a beauty pageant, the producer of which is planning to run off with the money without paying the expenses, and taking with him one of the contestants rather than his long time lover. Naturally he is murdered. There is a gangster to whom he owes money and other enemies as well. I was fooled by the identity of the killer, but the plot is so loosely constructed that it was impossible to figure it out in advance. 3/28/23

Fast and Loose (1939)

Sequel to Fast Company, but with new stars. Robert Montgomery is not as good as Melvyn Douglas. The script is lively and witty, but there are some noticeable plot holes. The plot involves efforts to steal and original ms from a collector. Is his son responsible? His librarian? His assistant? His daughter? His ailing wife? A gangster and his moll who are unusually interested? The answer is none of the above. Some scenes add confusion to the story, but there is no reason why the people involved should have acted that way. Rosalind Russell put in the best performance. 3/26/23

Fast Company (1938)

Melvyn Douglas, whom I have always enjoyed, stars in this witty, fast moving murder mystery involving the rare book trade. Douglas is a dealer but also a part time detective specializing in cases related to books. When a shady bookseller is murdered, suspicion falls on a young man who was falsely imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. There are four villains in the plot, and none of them likes any of the others, so it's not surprising that they start trying to kill each other off. This was great fun and there were two sequels, alas, with different stars. 3/24/23

Dick Barton at Bay (1950)

The third in this early trilogy from Hammer studios. A scientist has developed a kind of ray that could make the British Isles completely impregnable to attack. Alas, the bad guys know about it, and since the government has not seen fit to provide any protection, they kidnap the scientist, his daughter, and the prototype. Special agent Dick Barton is assigned to rescue them, which he does of course, but he doesn't use his brains at all. He just happens to recognize the hand of a man in a restaurant as being similarly to one in a description of the kidnappers. He finds the leader of the gang but does nothing to detain or follow him. Probably the worst of the series. 3/23/23

Dick Barton Strikes Back (1949)

Au unidentified foreign power has developed a high frequency weapon that can literally wipe out an entire city in minutes. Their agents are in England, disguised as part of a traveling carnival, and experimentally kill everyone in two villages. Dick Barton is sent to discover the truth - a rather simpleminded plot in which no major effort seems to be contemplated even when the government knows roughly who is responsible. He has various adventures, survives through luck rather than skill in most cases, and eventually uncovers the traitorous mastermind and destroys the device. Sebastian Cabot is good as the villain but the other cast members are less than stellar. 3/22/23

Dick Barton Special Agent (1948)

First in a series of rather amateurish detective/adventure stories about a British agent who invariably saves the day despite having companions straight out of slapstick comedy. Fortunately for him, the villains aren't very competent either. In his debut, he prevents a group of villains from poisoning the water supply of London. Corny, improbable, uneven in tone, and with a silly plot, this feels like something from a kids' television series rather than a movie for adults. The print I watched has not aged well either. 3/21/23

The October Man (1947)

The protagonist unfairly blames himself for the death of a child and has a mental breakdown. While recovering, he takes up new lodgings, only to have one of his neighbors strangled. He is immediately suspected and since he has experienced blackouts, he cannot even be sure that he is not guilty. Naturally the viewer knows that this is not the case. This was an original screenplay by Eric Ambler, who wrote some of the best espionage novels of all time. This story, however, is squarely in the mystery tradition and is quite well done, although the copy I watched has deteriorated quite a bit. 3/19/23

Venetian Bird (1952)

Aka The Assassin, from the Victor Canning novel. A private investigator travels to Venice to look for a man who disappeared during the war. Everyone he meets tries to convince him that the man is dead, but he is skeptical and finally figures out that the man is a professional assassin using an alternate identity. That is concealed from the viewer until the final scenes. Uncharacteristically, the assassin succeeds in killing his target, but plans to frame the protagonist for the crime fall apart. Some of the clever nuances of the novel are missing but it's still an engaging movie. 3/16/23

They Met in the Dark (1943) 

James Mason stars in this very entertaining thriller based on a story by Anthony Gilbert. Framed for misconduct, Mason is released from the wartime navy and decides to find out who was responsible. This leads to the murder of a young woman and the uncovering of a large espionage operation that includes a magician, a theatrical agent, and musicians. Codes messages are embedded in the music played on a harmonica. The plot has lots of small twists although it does leave a couple of minor questions unanswered. Ian Fleming is in the cast but I didn’t spot him and the IMDB says his part is minor and not identified.  3/15/23

The Golden Salamander (1950) 

An archaeologist has been hired to catalog a collection of artifacts, but he finds himself faced with a dangerous decision. He has stumbled upon the operation of a gang of gun smugglers. He is initially determined to ignore the situation, but when a young man is killed, he decides that it is his duty to expose them. The movie is rather murky. Even though I had read the Victor Canning novel upon which it is based, I had trouble following the plot for the first half and I never did have much sympathy for the protagonist. Quite dated. The picture and sound quality were both pretty bad on the copy I watched. 3/14/23

Stargirl Season 1 (2019)

I hadn't realized that this was a kids' show until I started watching it. The premise is that all of the superheroes of the Justice Society of America have been killed by supervillains led by Icicle. Years later, a teenage girl bonds with the cosmic staff used by Starman - she is his daughter - and begins recruiting teenagers to replace the JSA. Her companion - Luke Wilson - was Starman's sidekick and has a power suit which is erroneously called a robot multiple times. The acting isn't bad but I thought the villains were second rate and could not possibly have defeated the good guys. The plot occasionally makes no sense. Why does Icicle kill an ally's son, which drives the father into a rage and forces Icicle to kill him as well? Why does the sidekick show Stargirl the hidden headquarters of the JSA if he did not want her to go there? The one nice touch is that all three of the major villains had genuine family feelings. Not good enough for me to look for the other two seasons. 3/11/23

Agent Carter Season 2 (2021) 

This was quite good and I’m sorry the show got canceled. Peggy Carter is matched against two evil forces. The Council contains the secret masters of the world and they are controlling the head of the intelligence agency for which she works. Zero matter is a possibly self aware energy form which has developed a parasitic relationship with an actress who is actually a scientific genius, and very ambitious. The Council is disappointing – they are mostly incompetent wimps and I had trouble believing that they could wield so much power. The actress, however, is plausible and even a little bit scary.  With the exception of a weirdly out of place dream sequence in episode nine, this was quite well done and I would have watched more had the show continued. 3/9/23

Morbius (2022)

I find it hard to believe that the people involved in producing this obscenity were not aware of how egregiously bad it is.  The plot makes little sense, the special effects are dull, and the acting only occasionally rises to the level of barely competent. Morbius develops a serum from vampire bats that will cure his congenital disabilities, but it turns him into a superpowered vampire, and it only lasts for a few hours unless he drinks more blood. Another man acquires the serum - we aren't trold how - and he becomes a supervillain vampire. I probably would have walked out halfway through if I'd seen this in a theater. There is no longer any debate about the worst Marvel comic inspired movie. 3/7/23

R.I.P.D. (2013) 

This is a perfect example of a tolerable but unexceptional movie that you will probably never want to watch again. Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Bacon battle one another after Bacon kills fellow cop Reynolds. Reynolds is recruited into an organization that tracks down dead people who refuse to move on to the afterlife, and who for some reason become cartoonish monsters when they drop their guard. Predictable, with moderately interesting CGI, and well acted but uninspired characters. 3/6/23

Stranger Things Season 4 (2022) 

I was quite disappointed with this installment of one of my all time favorite television shows. The writing is frankly just bad. Police do not interview minors in assault cases without a parent or lawyer present. The US military cannot legally get involved in domestic criminal cases, and if they were going to do so clandestinely, they would not wear uniforms while violently assaulting a house in the middle of a densely populated area. The sequences involving Hopper’s imprisonment in Russia and Eleven’s retraining at the secret facility seem to drag on endlessly and are, frankly, rather sadistic. The humorous interludes are often inappropriate and tone deaf. With one exception, everyone in the cast does the usual excellent job and that is the reason why I watched it to the end. Even the Big Bad, a sorcerer named Vecna, is disappointingly low key. And a series of weird murders of children in a small town would have brought massive outside interest rather than conspicuous indifference. The rules about travel to the Upside Down are inconsistent – sometimes you are there physically, sometimes astrally projected. No one seems to have thought things through. 3/5/23

Bullet Train (2022)

A Japanese bullet train is the gathering place for a group of professional assassins and others including an avenging father, a murderous daughter, a drug addicted son, and a poisonous snake. Brad Pitt is a relatively innocuous thief who gets caught in the middle of a battle over a briefcase stuffed with money. Not played entirely seriously, although it is extremely violent. The plot does not bear close examination - where was the train crew throughout the various fights, murders, threats, etc? But if you can ignore the illogic and just immerse yourself in the rather complex story, it's a decent piece of entertainment. 3/1/23

Troll (2022)

This is a pretty good Norwegian made "godzilla" movie in which a tunnel construction project disturbs a 150 foot tall troll, which sets off for Oslo. The government tries to stop the creature but modern weapons seem to have no effect. A paleontologist is convinced that the solution lies in the details of the legends. Special effects and acting are reasonably good. The plot is very predictable. There is one scene in which one of the heroes gives a long speech to his troops that is corny as hell, at least in translation, and completely counterproductive given that time is short to complete their assignment. Entertaining. 2/27/23

Jack and Jill (2021)

Another horrible excuse for a movie. A brother and sister were abandoned as children and told to stay on one particular hill. Now they kill and eat anyone who wanders into their territory. No police investigation of multiple disappearances, their clothing grew bigger as they did, and they have haircuts and are clean shaven. A party of young adults decides to disregard all the warnings and go there anyway, with predictable results. Amateurish, illogical, badly acted, implausible, and worst of all, boring. 2/26/23

South Park Season 24 (2021) 

This truncated season consisted of only two episodes, although they are both much longer than usual. They are also both primarily concerned with Covid, vaccinations, masking, skepticism, etc. The jokes and twists are almost all predictable and already feel dated. There is an undertone of meanness that swamps the satirical elements. I’ve been less interested in this show for the past few years, in part because they’ve run out of new ideas, in part because the amused and biting satire has given away to sarcasm and over simplification. I may skip the next season altogether. 2/22/23

Dalgliesh (2021) 

This was the first season which remakes – unnecessarily – three early P.D. James novels which originally starred Roy Marsden. Bertie Carvel does an adequate job but is, I think, a bit too intense, and the writers have attempted to graft on some action sequences and a subplot about a prejudiced member of the police team. The books covered are Shroud for a Nightingale – murder in a training school for nurses, The Black Tower – murder in a small nursing facility run by a religious nut, and A Taste for Death – murder of two men inside a church. They are more than competently done but feel mildly formulaic. 2/20/23

Fantomas vs Scotland Yard (1967)

Despite the title, the third and final Fantomas movie does not involve Scotland Yard, although it does take place in Scotland. Fantomas is attempting to extort all of rich people in the world, who happen to have gathered in Scotland, so Inspector Juve and the other recurring good guys decide to trap him there. This was sillier than the first two, which is quite a feat in itself, but it does contain a very nice chase sequence, on horseback. Fantomas not only escapes, as usual, but actually gets away with the loot. 2/19/23

Fantomas Unleashed (1965)

The second Fantomas movie is fun but not as good as the first. The master criminal is kidnapping scientists in order to build a weapon that will allow him to control the minds of his enemies. The weapon is eventually used against him although naturally he escapes. As before, there is a lot of farcical humor but the chase scenes are less interesting and Fantomas himself is less efficient. I suspect that this had a bigger budget than the first, but it was largely squandered. French, with subtitles. 2/18/23

Jurassic World Dominion (2022)

Ostensibly the final movie of the franchise, although never say never. Yet another evil businessman is the problem. His genetically altered locusts have gotten out of control and threaten a world wide famine. His dinosaur refuge is just a cover story. The three stars from the original film are back, but except for Laura Dern, they seem to be embarrassed to be there. The science is worse than ever. Somehow a woman managed to clone herself through her baby, and then cured every cell of a genetic disease. The cure is contagious, so releasing one cured locust cures them all. The bad guy's sterilization chamber isn't fireproof, so when he tries to incinerate the evidence, it sets the whole complex on fire. There are cute dinosaurs and smart dinosaurs and fierce dinosaurs, but they are pretty much incidental to the story. And why didn't they tell the girl why she shouldn't go into town?  If I wanted to kill off the franchise, this is the kind of movie I would make. 2/15/23

Nope (2022)

I was vastly disappointed in this film. Part of this was because half the dialogue was mumbled and inaudible. It also took a very long time to take off and the payoff was not worth the wait. There were character elements that were never explained. The plot  - which involves some kind of creature that lurks in clouds and kills people for food, after first shutting down all electrical activity in the area – has plot holes and is never explained. The special effects were not noteworthy. At times it felt pretentious and deliberately obscure. And how could dozens of people disappear from an amusement park without having investigators all over the place? Not recommended. 2/13/23

Glass Onion (2022)

The second Knives Out movie has a very different tone and while it was enjoyable, the first is far superior. Various characters are invited to a private island following the murder of one of the group of old "friends", who were involved in a vaguely described series of business endeavors. When one of them is poisoned, the story accelerates pretty quickly. Daniel Craig is okay as the detective, but often feels like a different person than his original character. The other performances are fine but the script is not nearly as clever, and I knew who the killer was almost immediately. 2/9/23

MORE REVIEWS