Last Update 3/24/23


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