Last Update 6/30/17


Ten Little Indians (1974)

Great cast in this remake of And Then There Were None, based on the Agatha Christie novel. Oliver Reed, Elke Sommer, Gert Froebe, and Richard Attenborough are among the ten guests invited to an otherwise empty hotel in the middle of a desert. Other than the location - originally an island - the set up for this is reasonably loyal to the book. The sets are excellent and the acting, obviously, is well above average. They are all accused of various crimes and condemned to death by their mysterious, absent host, and then they start dying one by one. Is there someone hidden in the building or is it one of the guests who is leading a double life? Reed plays the hero as considerably less dapper than in the original movie. The crimes are rather more horrid as well. Despite all of the reasons why this should have been a much better film, it actually does not measure up well to the black and white version. Among other things, the pacing seems off. 6/30/17

South Park Season 20 (2016) 

Mr. Garrison runs for President. An unlikely character becomes an internet troll. Grief counseling when one of the kids quits Twitter. The boys and girls have an all out war including exposing themselves to one another. I actually liked the reboot, supposedly by J.J. Abrams, in which one is supposed to stand, sit, or kneel for the national anthem. It's also pretty clear that the writers despised Trump even more than Clinton, but didn't like either of them. I think this season suffered a bit from having a single thread rather than individual stories. Some of the satire seemed repetitive after a while. 6/24/17

The Mummy (2017)

SPOILER ALERT. I am not a fan of Tom Cruise but I liked the Brendan Fraser movies so decided to give it a look. It borrows from them at times, and from An American Werewolf in London as well. Cruise is a soldier who inadvertently causes the opening of a hidden tomb in the opening sequence - which has a handful of plot holes. An archaeologist shows up who insists that the Army move it to England, for reasons never explained and in violation of international law, which is never addressed. Cruise is sent with it - another unexplained anomaly. The mummy causes a flock of birds to crash the aircraft, but Cruise is brought back from the dead - somehow - because the mummy has chosen him to be her mate. He is given a good deal of bad advice by the ghost of the friend he was forced to kill. He is also held by a secret group led by Henry Jekyll who are devoted to combating supernatural evil. That means killing Cruise to prevent the curse he carries from being invoked. Cruise understandably objects. The mummy - and the actress playing the part does a good job of being menacing - destroys a big chunk of London while searching for a magical artifact, and one has to wonder how she was ever subdued in ancient Egypt given her immense powers. This is part of the projected Dark Universe series from Universal, designed to be a franchise like DC and Marvel. It's watchable, but only if you put your critical acumen on hold for the duration. 6/23/17

Husbands of River Song (2016)

This incoherent mess seems to me to be almost a deliberate insult directed to long time fans of the Doctor Who series. It is confusing and too rapidly paced and the attempts at humor and cleverness fell flat. I admit that I never particularly cared for the River Song character in the first place, but I tend to like Capaldi and was hoping for better from this one. Or it may just be that the writers have taken such liberties with the original program in recent years that I have reached my point of exhaustion. 6/22/17

Wonder Woman (2017)

This is the first DC universe movie I've liked since Danny DeVito was the Penguin. She is never referred to as "Wonder Woman" at any time -just Diana. After a fairly brief origin sequence, she sets out into the world to try to bring World War I to an end. There are some genuinely humorous moments, some riveting action sequences, and the story holds together well and is well paced. Gadot does an excellent job and the supporting cast is good. I won't spoil things with plot details. I had only two quibbles. First, when she leaves her island, why doesn't her mother tell her the truth? There is no discernible reason not to and by withholding it, Diana faces some unnecessary dangers. Second - and this may have been intentional because it's set during a war - all the scenes are grey and underlit. After a while I found it very distracting because my eyes were looking for some bright colors somewhere for contrast. I would go see a sequel, but I still have no intention of watching the character's debut in Batman vs Superman. 6/15/17

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1969) 

The stupid premises in this movie could have supported an entire studio for a few years. Humans and dinosaurs did not co-exist of course, but Raquel Welch looked good running from them so Hammer decided to use Victoria Vetri in the same fashion. The story claims to be set before Earth had a moon, which is also silly, and the rise of the sun would not generate windstorms. The tribe of humans sacrifices all women with blonde hair. If so, how are new ones born. And why are they allowed to reach maturity before being sacrificed?  The dialogue is all in caveman, so a lot of bad acting was probably masked. On the other hand, it's not always clear why someone is doing something. The stop motion dinosaurs aren't great.  6/12/17

Master of the Moor (1994)

Based on the Ruth Rendell novel.  The book opens with the discovery of a body by a man walking the moors. This adaptation introduces various characters in advance of that, including the man in question, his wife, and the pet shop owner with whom she will soon be having an affair. I only knew this because I had recently read the book. The film just shows us snatches of each of them with no explanation and very little dialogue. The first victim is changed from a tavern girl on a bicycle to an artist with a broken down car, which is a kind of blend of the first and second killings from the book. The protagonist is much more obviously mentally disturbed than in the novel and there is at least one overt attempt to make him look guilty to the viewer. The adaptation is far too slow. Almost nothing overt happens and those that do are understated, sometimes happen off stage, and there are too many extended shots of faces with no dialogue. Not a successful adaptation. 6/11/17

American Mummy (2017)

It's always best to have low expectations for direct to video horror movies. Particularly those trading on an upcoming blockbuster with a similar title. This one opens with an archaeologist and a couple of students locating a legendary mummified body in the American Southwest. One of the students is mysteriously killed with a spear moments after they arrive. Flash forward to a larger contingent, which for some inane reason consists primarily of students who are not studying archaeology. There is no explanation for this. Some low quality acting ensues in a very slow moving story line that is so tedious it was hard to stay interested enough to follow. The mummy - an Aztec - begins possessing the students and turns them against one another. There is no explanation how the student who was all by himself gets speared, but the movie is so bad that I didn't care. 6/9/17

Night Visions (2001)

This was a short lived anthology show similar to Twilight Zone. The opening episode has an interesting coincidence. It stars Aidan Quinn, who is Captain Gregson from Elementary and Paul Guilfoyle, who is Captain Brass on Bones. Alas, the episode in which an air crash investigator suspects that his daughter was aboard is horribly badly written. The second, about a voodoo priest returning from the dead, except not exactly is better, but not by a whole lot. Next is Lou Diamond Philips as a late night talk show host who attracts the attention of a killer. This wasn’t bad at all. After that is a minor haunted house story, badly acted. A farm appears inside a forcefield in the middle of a desert in an episode starring Bill Pullman. Terrible writing though it does have an excellent ending. Then Cary Elwes goes camping and runs into a very strange Brian Dennehy. Luke Perry is a psychic who can absorb the mania of his patients. Sherrilyn Fenn buys a haunted car. 

The episode about killers at a rest stop isn’t bad, but the end is awful. Randy Quaid returns from the dead in the next. Very stupid because they assume he was just in a coma but he would have been embalmed so the story makes no sense. Next is a pretentious and illogical ghost story. Bridget Fonda stars as a woman who thinks someone else is living in her house in a pretty good episode. Next, however, is an extraordinarily awful episode about a veteran of the first Iraqi war. The next, which draws upon the current mania about pedophiles, is not much better. The next, about a farmer who is the son of a witch, is just okay. There's a dull reverse ghost story – the ghost is alive and the protagonist is dead – followed by an even duller one about a woman who keeps a man prisoner as a pet. 

Thora Birch stars in on in which a lonely girl gets a frightening glimpse of the future. The next involves a small town that fears music. The build up is good but the end is disappointing. The monster preying on stowaways aboard ship is a little too predictable, and the one about a woman whose split personality takes over is dull. There's another about a deaf woman who can sometimes hear the thoughts of a killer. Best episode starred Malcolm McDowell as a man with OCD whose rituals are holding the universe together. 6/8/17

The Great Wall (2017)

Two European adventurers in ancient China discover that the Great Wall was built to keep out a horde of reptilian monsters. The creatures have been growing more intelligent as the years pass and now the army holding them back  may not be strong enough. Obviously our heroes help them to destroy the menace, though not until the army is routed and the capital city overrun. The creature effects are fairly good, the acting is fine, and there certainly is not a dull moment. There's a hint of romance, but it never quite strikes fire, and more than a hint of treachery. This was much better than I had expected, which is always a pleasant surprise. 6/7/17

Grimm Season 5 (2016)

I had lost interest a bit during season 4, but season 4 moves surprisingly well. The story arc this time involves a group of Wesen planning to take over the world and live openly among humans. Captain Renard appears to have joined them. Adalind is turning back into a hexenbeast, but she is still in love with Nick. The Black Claw rebels, however, have her daughter Diana from her assignation with Renard and are using the child against her, but the child is very powerful and has no discipline about using her abilities. Wu becomes a werewolf. Hank has a romantic interest, although it's pretty obvious from the outset that she is with Black Claw. Juliet is back from the dead, sort of. She now calls herself Eve and claims to have no emotions relating to her earlier existence, although there are hints that this is not true. There are still monster of the week episodes, but they are well balanced with the main story line. Looking forward to the sixth and final season. 6/3/17

Wrong Turn 5 (2012) 

Since this was the only one in this slasher series that I hadn't seen, I decided to complete my set, although my expectations were low. A family of cannibals decide to do their grocery shopping among the attendees at a Halloween festival. This was so bad I'm convinced it was meant to be a parody of the earlier movies, but it didn't even succeed at that. Glad I paid only a dollar for this, although I was still ripped off.  5/28/17

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017) 

This zombie film franchise presumably comes to a close with this one, but I wouldn't be too sure. Alice is headed for the final showdown inside the hive, where an antidote to the plague may exist. The story is so stupid that it feels like bullying to point out how bad it is. Why did they create the antidote, for example, when they wanted the plague to succeed? How come they can predict the extinction of the human race down to the second? Given that the plot, such as it is, never rises above the absurd, maybe it was visually impressive. Well, no. They used so much rapid cutting that the whole movie feels like a strobe light, and there were several places where it was impossible to tell what was happening. What's the point of a complex battle scene if you don't let the viewers see it? This one fails on almost every level. 5/26/17

The Return of Doctor Mysterio (2016)

The Doctor inadvertently creates a masked superhero in this Christmas special. A secretive entrepreneur with a stockroom full of disembodies brains is surprised to discover that they are multiplying when no one is looking. They are aliens who are planning to take over the bodies of all the world leaders in preparation for a full scale invasion. The secondary plot about the superhero, the Ghost, is actually more interesting than the main story line, and the writing for a change is clever and funny. This is one of the rare times when Capaldi has a script that suits his talents and that doesn't insult the viewer. A little frenetic at times, but this series has been ever since it was reincarnated. 5/25/17

Alien Covenant (2017)

Okay, let's see if I can do this without spoilers. This movie is far inferior to Prometheus, which I found disappointing. It's slow moving. The cast is too large and I never really differentiated more than two characters. There is a "surprise" ending that is so obvious that it would have been a better movie if they had left it out. There is a major revelation about the creation of the xenomorphs that appears to me to directly contradict what happened in the previous movie. There are plot holes big enough to drive a spaceship through. There are again more new questions than answers. The crew of the spaceship - our heroes - are relentlessly incompetent. They take completely unnecessary risks. They don't look where they are going. Save your money. 5/20/17

The Martian (2015)

So I finally got around to watching this. I'm not sure why it took so long. The protagonist is a member of the first expedition to Mars who is lost and presumed dead, left behind when the expedition returns to Earth. But he isn't dead after all. He has a shelter and quite a bit of equipment, but his food supply is limited and, initially, he has no way to communicate with Earth. So he sets out to grow more food and to find a way to communicate with Earth. This sounded like it would be boring but it is actually quite well paced, reasonably plausible, well acted, and surprisingly tense. One of the better and more intelligent SF films of recent years. 5/19/17

The Void (2016) 

This is a collection of eight short, unrelated films. The first one is almost incoherent, and more annoying than entertaining. Surrealism is fine, but the viewer needs to have at least a rough idea of what is going on. The second was just as bad, and I began to wonder if I should even bother to wade through this self indulgent BS. Third was slightly more comprehensible but still worthless.  The fourth was comprehensible but boring. At this point I decided my time was more valuable than this. The remaining four might be marvelous but I'm not going to find out. 5/18/17

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) 

Two bodies are found at the scene of a house fire. The man died of smoke inhalation, but could easily have left. The woman displays no obvious signs of cause of death. There are lots of internal injuries, but no external signs, and the inside of her skin has been marked with strange symbols. The two men performing the autopsy, father and son, try to leave but they are trapped in the building and the corpses are walking.  Genuinely scary at times. I wasn't entirely satisfied by the ending, which leaves too many unanswered questions. I wonder what it was like for the female lead to spend an entire film lying motionless in a morgue. 5/17/17

The Phantom of the Opera (1962) 

The Hammer Film version of the classic Gaston Leroux novel varies a bit from the source material, but captures the spirit of it. Everybody knows the plot so I'm not going to bother recapitulating it here. A competent though relatively undistinguished cast gives us the story of the deformed composer living beneath the Paris Opera House who becomes obsessed with a young, unknown singer. The film cuts the buildup far too short so there is little suspense, but the story is otherwise reasonably parallel to the novel. Michael Gough is great as the villainous quasi-composer. 5/16/17

Rings (2017)

This totally unnecessary sequel to the Ring trilogy continues the drift - or rather the rush - away from the original novels by Koji Suzuki. The deadly videotape is back, dooming everyone who watches it to die seven days later. This film contradicts the origin story from the original movies somewhat, but without adding anything really new. The plot is jumpy and occasionally threads begin but don't go anywhere. Maybe chunks were edited out? Why would someone who is worried that he might die at a precise moment get on an airplane so that he was airborne at the time? How do the people know they are doomed when the mysterious phone call simply says "seven days" and nothing else? Some of the photography is surprisingly awful. The acting is okay but not impressive. Ditto the dialogue, although sometimes it is not far removed from nonsense. Double ditto the special effects. The plot doesn't measure up to any of that. How is the curse able to affect someone who was not seen the videotape and does not even know about it? And why does the dumb protagonist watch the film AFTER she knows what it can do? Contemptible writing. Not remotely scary or suspenseful. 5/15/17

Flash Season 1 (2015) 

The opening episode of this series, based on the DC comic book, did not grab me quickly. I found it disjointed and superficial. The cast struck me as mostly lackluster and the plot too unfocused. The idea that a dangerous scientific experiment would be conducted in a major city was a step too far for me. The idea that a patient in a coma would be released to a dubious scientific establishment was even farther from reality. And the police could not put out an APB on a partial license plate. Really bad dialogue as well. Episode 2 is so cliché ridden that I had trouble watching to the end. His “mentor” is so obviously a villain that I wanted to retch, and the female assistant is a miserable, selfish jerk. His adopted father is an idiot. The criminal is so disorganized that I could defeat him, let alone the Flash. Episode 4 is okay, but episode 5 has the army taking over a criminal investigation, which is a violation of federal law and would never happen, particularly openly and with no opposition from the civil authorities.  

For the sake of my sanity, I started ignoring the contradictions from episode 6 onward unless they were reallyegregious. For a while it was the supervillain of the week, which I actually didn’t mind. I rarely enjoy long, all encompassing story arcs. I did boggle when the police allow them to take a supervillain into their lab without any due process in episode 11. And when a reporter makes fun of the Flash’s adopted sister, he is actually completely right. The friend who is secretly a villain is so obvious I doubt anyone was fooled. That episode also includes a really bogus press conference. I know this is just comic book fantasy, but really?  I think my biggest problem is that he is fast enough to avoid threats, except when the plot needs him to be too slow.  Not to mention the recurring theme that the police are inadequate to protect the city. 

Despite my intention to ignore the silly plot problems, but it's hard to do so when the US Army is conducting violent attacks inside an American city and no one objects. Despite some okay episodes, this just turns it back into trash.  I do applaud some efforts to make this actually something that you needed to think about to figure out what was going on, but ultimately sloppy writing spoiled the series for me.  5/13/17

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017)

This is one of those rare instances where the sequel in much better than the original, and the original was pretty good. Our dysfunctional extended family is off to new adventures as Quill discovers the truth about his own past. I'm not going to detail the plot here. The opening credit sequence alone was worth the cost of the ticket and the wild ride is funny and exciting and occasionally rather touching. Old friends reappear and old enemies as well, although the dynamics change considerably. Beautiful special effects, a great soundtrack - Electric Light Orchestra, Cat Stevens, Fleetwood Mac, etc. This might be the best movie I will see this year. 5/12/17

Wrong Turn 6 (2014)

Another horror franchise that should have ended a while ago. This one is about a family of cannibalistic hillbillies who eat anyone who wanders within reach. It opens with the usual - nude hikers becoming the first victims. Some nice scenery makes it slightly more palatable but the story is so basically nonsensical that it was hard to take much of it serious. Although this is chronologically the first in the series, that doesn't make much sense since they are using modern electronic devices, which contradicts the other movies in the series. Fans of gore will not be disappointed, but the nudity is so over the top that it becomes silly. The cast are not mostly not incompetent - except the sheriff, but they don't have much to work with. One of them inherits some property near the cannibals, and he goes there with his friends, whose names are soon on the menu. Surprisingly dull despite the blood and gore. 4/29/17

Rio Bravo (1959)

Having recently read the novelization, I decided to watch the movie. John Wayne is the sheriff, Dean Martin is the town drunk, and Claude Akins is the murderous punk who gets arrested and whose brother decides that they are above the law. Martin redeems himself. Ricky Nelson is a cowpoke who ends up involved despite his disinclination to do so. The inevitable shootout occurs after a number of plot twists. There are lots of details that are very different but the essential story remains. Above average western and a very unusual role for Martin. 4/25/17

31 (2015)

An over the top horror movie from Rob Zombie. Five strange and uninteresting carnival employees are abducted and subjected to a deadly competition. The apparent attempt to make the characters realistic just makes them dull and rather repulsive, as usual. The five prisoners have to survive five hours while being pursued by a band of killers. This one is just too bizarre and unrealistic to be interesting even for those of us with a relatively low standard for horror films. Pass and watch something else. 4/23/17

Hellraiser Revelations (2011)

The studio had to produce a quickie Hellraiser movie or lose their rights to the series, so this one was done in eleven days. It feels more like eleven hours. Doug Bradley refused to play Pinhead and I don’t blame him. The acting is not only atrocious but at times I suspect the cast could not remember their lines and improvised. Badly. Underlit, cheaply made, badly conceived, and an insult to both Barker’s original idea and anyone who bothered to watch this crap. 4/20/17

Mechanic: Resurrection (2016) 

I thought the first in this series was so morally compromised that I didn’t really like it, despite my fondness for Jason Statham. Statham is a professional assassin who has decided to retire from the profession. He’s in hiding, but a group of lethal people find him and the usual action sequence follows. But as much as I like his work, this is another disappointment. The woman he loves, Jessica Alba, has been taken prisoner, and he has to carry out three assassinations to get her back. Ultimately this one is just boring. 4/19/17

Don’t Kill It (2017)  

I had never watched a Dolph Lundgren movie before and I probably never will again. A demon possesses people and turns them into killers. The local sheriff is an incompetent idiot and the FBI agent sent to help him is just incompetent. Lundgren is an old demon hunter who knows what’s really going on and he teams up with the latter to track the demon down. Incredibly bad dialogue and acting, silly plot, laughable special effects, and an indistinct soundtrack. Don’t watch it. 4/15/17

The Ghost in the Shell (2017)

I was somewhat disappointed in this, which is essentially a remake of Robocop. Scarlet Johansson - who is usually quite good but comes across as very flat in this one - is a human brain in a robot body. She works for security for a corporation in a future Japan that looks a lot like Bladerunner. But the plot is so predictable that it has bends instead of twists. The corporation is evil. They've lied to her about how her body died. There are lots of unanswered questions - like how did the terrorist escape from the labs and how could they not have known about him after he did? The special effects are nothing special. There is no wit in the dialogue, no humor, no snappiness. It wasn't awful, but it was very very bland. 4/14/17

Tales of Poe (2014)

Three adaptations of Poe stories, including among their casts the sole survivors of Friday the 13th Part One and Part Two, for some reason. The first, sort of "The TellTale heart", in which an insane nurse becomes obsessed with her charge's eye, is so tedious that I had trouble watching to the end, even though it's short. Their version of "A Cask of Amontillado" is clumsy and much of the dialogue is forced. The final story is so surreal I couldn't follow it. Poe deserves better. 4/13/17

Hellraiser: Deader (2004) 

Despite a cameo by Pinhead, this really isn’t a Hellraiser movie, but it’s at least more interesting than most of the later sequels. Kari Wuhrer is a journalist trying to track down a cult in Romania – where everyone speaks perfect English by preference for some reason – and discovers more than she bargained for. There’s a very creepy sequence in a dead woman’s apartment early on but after that we get into multiple dream sequences and illusions and I lost interest after I lost track of the plot. 4/12/17

Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005) 

Unbelievably bad entry in the series. Hellraiser is now an internet game and five fans of the game come to what is essentially a Hellraiser themed rave at a creepy old house where Lance Henriksen kills them one by one. It contradicts the other movies in the series and the appearance of Pinhead and the puzzle box are more decorations than substance. The dialogue is occasionally unintelligible and frequently nonsensical, not following from what preceded it. Clive Barker would be turning in his grave if he wasn’t still alive. 4/11/17

Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002) 

Boy, is this awful! The opening half hour is incomprehensible but seems to have something to do with a man who married Kirsty from the first movie in the series, but killed her due to his really stupid driving habits. Except that he apparently was cheating on her and the police think he killed her. At least that’s what I think was going on. There are so many dream sequences and illusions that it’s hard to tell. The “surprise” revelation is dull. They should have given up on this series after number two. 4/10/17

Tamara (2005) 

This is another teenage revenge movie. Tamara is not a particularly outstanding student, but a prank results in her death and she wants revenge. A group of obviously way too old actors play high school students in this predictable but not awful horror movie. The premise is nonsense. A school paper would not have published charges of drug use. It would have been reported to the police or just suppressed. The basic idea isn’t bad, but the execution is terrible. There is virtually no suspense and there are no surprises. As I said, this is not awful, which is unusual in itself unfortunately. 4/9/17

The Brass Bottle (1963)

Tony Randall, Burl Ives, and Barbara Eden star in this film version of the F. Anstey novel. Randall is an architect who wants to marry Barbara Eden, so he buys an ancient Egyptian urn to impress her father. But the urn is more than it seems. It contains a genuine genie. Initially he thinks the genie is just a nut, but eventually thinks start going his way and he realizes there is magic at work. Tony Randall is, as always, superb. The people making bad direct to video movies currently really need to look at some of the classics like this to discover what they are doing wrong. 4/7/17

Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)

The fifth in the series isn't really in the series at all. It ignores everything established in the earlier movies and while there is a puzzle box and Pinhead does make an appearance, it is window dressing. The story is actually about the battle between a police detective and a criminal known as the Engineer, who is actually a demon and whose real identity is painfully obvious. The detective is such a miserable jackass that the Engineer is actually a nicer guy. There are lots of scenes where it is impossible to tell what is going on, and even though I cranked the sound way up, there were times when I couldn't understand the dialogue because they mumbled or whispered unintelligibly. This was simply a not very good movie about demons grafted into the series. 4/2/17