Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Bounty Law

Film: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Format: Blu-ray from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I learned when doing the 1001 Movies list that there was a real benefit to watching the longest films I could get my hands on first, at least psychologically. I’ve been sitting on a Blu-ray of Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood since the middle of March but really haven’t had the opportunity to watch it. I’ve also been dreading it slightly; I have a strange relationship with the films of Quentin Tarantino. I’ve said for a long time that I think he’d be a lot better if he stopped trying to be awesome and instead tried to be just good.

Not surprisingly, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a film that tries very hard to be awesome and ends up being merely self-indulgent. For starters, it runs 161 minutes long, and, judiciously, I think I could knock out half an hour of it without losing a great deal. And that’s going to be the theme here. I know that I’m in the minority when it comes to Tarantino; everyone seems to like his films more than I do, or to casually overlook his flaws in the interests of bread an circuses. In a lot of ways, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood feels like he wants to break away just a touch from that habit of showing off, but he can’t quite get there. There’s still a lot of excess here that seems to serve no other purpose than servicing Tarantino’s ego.

Monday, June 29, 2020

A Minor and Expected Change

It's not going to be a shock here, but I'm coming very close to completing the Oscar project. I've got only two dozen films I haven't watched in the seven categories. This includes the most recent Oscars.

I'm also very close on my own takes on all of these Oscar categories and races. I have about three and a half dozen of these left. Because of this, I'm going to run the Oscar Got It Wrong! posts on Friday only from this point forward.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

To End All Wars

Film: 1917
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

I grew up watching war movies. My opinion on them has changed a bit over the years. I’m far less interested in the movies that glorify war than I was when I was a kid. These days, I still like war movies depending on the way they depict the conflict. I was interested in seeing 1917 for this reason. There is also some truth to the notion that, in general, Americans don’t make great World War I movies (Kubrick’s Paths of Glory being a notable exception). It takes a people who lost more and were in it longer to really understand the despair of trench warfare.

The selling point of 1917 is not so much the story but the way in which it is filmed. There is a single moment of unconsciousness, but the film is otherwise presented as a single tracking shot, or two shots total—up to the point of unconsciousness and after that point. Movies have been done this way, of course—some like Russian Ark are truly a single shot. Plenty of others, Rope, Birdman are presented as if they happened in a single shot. It’s always impressive. With a film like this one, involving dogfights, a crashing airplane, massive fires, and hundreds of men going over the top from their trenches to attack the enemy.

Saturday, June 27, 2020


Film: Valiant is the Word for Carrie
Format: Internet video on laptop.

Adolysti has come through once again, and in a big way—another email reminded me of the Ok.ru site that has a number of streaming movies, including a bunch that I’m having trouble otherwise finding. What this means is that you’ll be seeing a chunk of Oscar pictures in the weeks ahead. For instance, Valiant is the Word for Carrie was one of the pre-1940 Best Actress movies I hadn’t seen before today.

The truth about Valiant is the Word for Carrie is that it plays with one of the classic tropes of movies. The “hooker with the heart of gold” trope clearly had to start somewhere, and while I don’t think this is specifically the first place where it shows up, it’s clearly one of the early versions of this when it comes to movies. Our gold-hearted hooker in this case will be our title character, Carrie Snyder (Gladys George), the woman of ill repute in the tiny little fictional town of (and yes, this is what they called it) Crebillon, Louisiana. She is barely tolerated, but when she is befriended by Paul Darnley (Jackie Moran as a child, John Howard as an adult), the 12-year-old son of a local businessman.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Acronyms are Fun

Film: C.H.U.D.
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

I remember when C.H.U.D. was released, but I had never seen it until today. Based on the reactions I remember from the time, I genuinely thought C.H.U.D. was a comedy, but it’s not. I think that probably comes from the fact that it’s kind of a dumb name for a movie. If you weren’t aware, the acronym stands for “cannibalistic humanoid underground dweller.” What that means for us is that we’re going to have a movie where the creatures are essentially mutated humans that live in the sewers of New York.

Here’s what I found really surprising about this movie: C.H.U.D. is, at its heart, an environmental film and very much an anti-authoritarian film. This is a film that, for a wonder, makes a legitimate social statement, and does so using Daniel Stern of all people as the mouthpiece. In truth, it’s not a great movie. I watched it because NetFlix, Amazon, Hulu, and the libraries in my state don’t have it. When you find a film like that, it’s best to watch it right away. I expected a dumb horror comedy and, while the movie definitely has issues and plot holes, I’m a lot happier with it than I expected to be.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Men are from Mars, Monsters are from Venus

Film: 20 Million Miles to Earth
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

I love creature features from the ‘50s. There’s something so ridiculous and wonderful about them. They so deadly serious and earnest no matter how stupid the premise may be. 20 Million Miles to Earth has the slight benefit of a less ridiculous premise, but the science here is truly terrible. People make scientific pronouncements and discoveries that are patently ridiculous, but it’s how the movie has to work.

We take as our premise that, unbeknownst to the entire world, the American space program—in the ‘50s—managed a manned space shot that flew to Venus and back. Problems on the return trip caused the rocket to crash into the ocean off the coast of Sicily. Two members of the crew are rescued from the wreck by local fishermen while Pepe (Bart Braverman), the son of one of the fishermen, finds a metal canister on the beach.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Look What the Cat Dragged In

Film: The Grudge (2002) (Ju-on)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

There is a stupid trend in American films where a successful foreign movie is created and then remade for an American audience. I understand remakes when there’s a time distance between them. There are plenty of remakes that are good, and some that are better than the original versions. But when the remake is just a couple of years after the original, frequently sanitized in some respect, and different mainly in that it’s in English rather than its original language, I wonder at the point. There are a few exceptions. The American remake of Ringu is almost as good as the original. The American remake of Ju-on is decent as well, but now having seen the original film from 2002, I have to admit that the remake really wasn’t necessary.

One of the more interesting aspects for me of Ju-on is that it represents a very serious shift in some respects in terms of the victims in horror movies. While I’m certain there are earlier examples of this, in Ju-on, the victims of the curse that the film explores are all entirely innocent. There is no one here who even remotely deserves what is going to happen to them, and there is no way to stop what is happening to them. That’s the point—sure there are innocent victims in previous films, but there was a way out for them. Or, they weren’t as innocent as we’d like—often simply privilege is enough to set someone up to be “worthy” of being attacked. Okay, sure there are some examples from the past--The Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave and the like, but our victims here are not merely minding their own business but are actively trying to assist the people who are cursed, and thus end up cursed themselves.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Another Step Closer

Film: East Lynne
Format: Internet video on the new internet machine.

1001 Movies bloggers are a particular breed. We stick together. When I received an email today from Adolysti that mentioned the bulk of East Lynne could be viewed on line, I knew what I was going to review today. There is a caveat with watching this version of East Lynne online: the last 12 minutes are missing. So here’s the deal—I’m going to spoil this movie. I’m going to do this for a couple of reasons. The first is that aside from the total completist, most people don’t have a reason to watch a movie missing the last 12 minutes. The other is that if you do watch it, you’re going to have to look up the ending anyway, and it wasn’t easy to find—Wikipedia doesn’t list it. I finally located what happens in the last 12 minutes on the TCM website.

As will surprise virtually no one, a movie made in 1931 based on a book from the middle of the 19th century proves to be wildly melodramatic. This is one of those films where the entire plot could be rectified by one clear conversation or one person being less of an idiot. I find movies like this very unsatisfying. It comes very close to moralizing, and I never like feeling like I’m being preached at.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Fish Heads, Fish Heads

Film: Dagon
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

For anyone who has read any H.P. Lovecraft, there’s an intense desire to see his work appear on the big screen. Part of this is because of Lovecraft’s weird descriptions of things never really fully describes things. He used words like “non-Euclidian” without really providing a solid idea of what that should mean to the reader. Lovecraft also loved indescribable horrors from beyond space and time. These days, it’s easy to take these stories at a kind of face value rather than attributing his rampant, severe racism to why there were indescribably horrific alien “things” in the world and instead deal with the critters and monsters and lost drowned gods he actually created. Lovecraft’s work should be easy and welcome fodder for horror filmmakers, and yet films like Dagon seem to come mainly from Stuart Gordon.

Dagon is clearly adapted from the canon of Lovecraft if you know even a little bit about the man’s oeuvre. Specifically, this is an adaptation of the stories “Dagon” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” with the biggest change being that it takes place on the coast of Spain rather than the east coast of the United States. It’s also potentially the wettest film I have ever seen, and that includes movies that take place underwater.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Remember Where You Parked!

Film: P2
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

Since finding Tubi as a service, I’ve been spending a lot of time on it. The service has a surprising number of movies that are difficult to find. If I’m honest, P2 isn’t one of those movies; it’s not really that difficult to locate. But, it’s also a movie that has a short shelf life on the service, so I figured I’d watch. Honestly, that’s where I’ve been spending a lot of my viewing time in the specific—watching films that are leaving Tubi in the next few weeks.

P2 (which had to be called Parking 2 in Spanish-speaking countries because “pe dos” translates as “flatulence.”) is a high-concept thriller. On Christmas Eve, a young woman named Angela (Rachel Nichols) is trying to get home from work. Instead, it turns out that the guy who works security in the parking garage (Wes Bentley) is a creepy stalker who is taking this opportunity to trap her and force himself on her.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Does Sean Bean survive?

Film: Black Death
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

One of the reasons I love the horror genre as much as I do is because, since it often tends to be a low-budget genre, you get to see a lot of people at early points in their careers. In the case of a film like Black Death, actors like Sean Bean and David Warner were certainly established by this point in their careers. This is much less the case with eventual Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, who looks like he’s about 12 in this.

As you probably can guess from the title of this movie, Black Death takes place during the plague in Medieval England. The plague has just reached a monastery where young novice Osmund (Redmayne) lives. Osmund, for all of his dedication to his god, has an illicit relationship with Averill (Kimberley Nixon), who has taken refuge in the monastery. Realizing that the plague has come to them at last, Osmund sends Averill away. She tells him that she will wait for him in the nearby forest for a week.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

I Melt with You

Film: Waxwork
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

Based on the name alone, you know that Waxwork is going to take place at least in part in a wax museum. What that almost certainly means is that people are going to show up as a part of the exhibit—that they will be doused in wax or transformed into sculptures, or something. That is the trope. The good news here is that Waxwork really goes out of its way to do something more than just that. It really wants to do more than simply retread movies like House of wax.

It also has a very fun and entertaining B-movie cast. Zach Galligan, David Warner, Patrick Macnee, John Rhys-Davies, and even Ator himself, Miles O’Keeffe are here. There’s also an old-school melee at the end of the film that is as ridiculous as you think it’s going to be. It’s stupid, but it’s also stupid in the best of ways.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Cuts Like a Knife

Film: Repo!: The Genetic Opera
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

I genuinely hate Repo!: The Genetic Opera. “Hate” is not a word that I toss around lightly on this website, but it fits for this film. I’m prepared to take whatever flak is going to come my way for taking this stance.

This was actually the third time I’d watched Repo!. Back in my podcasting days, my partner Nick Jobe picked this movie for a particular episode. I honestly don’t remember the theme of that episode, but I remember that this was Nick’s choice. And, Nick told me, I should watch it twice, because it’s better on the rewatch. I’m not going to say that Nick lied; I am going to say that he and I have a different opinion of this being better on the rewatch.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

They're Back!

Film: Poltergeist II: The Other Side
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

Talk to most any horror nerd and you’ll get a great deal of love for Poltergeist, one of the best arguments that making a good, scary PG movie is entirely possible. You won’t get a great deal of love for the sequels, making the Poltergeist trilogy the Matrix trilogy of the ‘80s—great first movie, and then straight down hill. But Poltergeist II: The Other Side was available to me, and I’d seen the pictures of the skeleton-faced dude enough times to think I knew what I was in for. And, boy, was I wrong.

Poltergeist II: The Other Side picks up about a year after the end of the first film despite the fact that a good four years have passed in reality and the kids are noticeably three or four years older than they were in the first film. Four of the five Freelings—father Steven (Craig T. Nelson), mother Diane (JoBeth Williams), middle child Robbie (Oliver Robins), and youngest child Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) have moved to Phoenix and are living with Diane’s mother, Jess (Geraldine Fitzgerald). The oldest child Dana (Dominique Dunne) was likely to have been written out of this film anyway, but could not be included since the actress was murdered by her boyfriend shortly after the release of the original film.

Sunday, June 7, 2020


Film: Ticks
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on various players.

When I tell you that I watched a horror movie from 1993 called Ticks, you almost certainly have a number of initial thoughts and expectations. I’m here to tell you that many of those are exactly right while others are much more in the “pleasant surprise” category. It would not be at all a stretch to suggest that Ticks is clearly a spin on the much more successful Arachnophobia from several years earlier. In fact, in a lot of ways this wants to be a more urban, street-smart version with a different arachnid.

What Ticks has going for it is a very entertaining cast that includes Peter Scolari, Clint Howard, Ami Dolenz, Alfonso Ribeiro, and Seth Green. Interestingly, it also features Virginya Keehne, who has exactly three films listed on her Letterboxd page. Why is this interesting? Because one of them is The Dentist, which I watched yesterday, making this weekend a sort of unofficial mini Virginya Keehne filmfest. (Additionally, I do wonder if, in the post-coital milky afterglow, her partner once leaned in closely and whispered “Virgin-Nah!” in her ear.)

Saturday, June 6, 2020


Film: The Dentist
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on basement television.

One of the problems of a giant list of movies is that it’s not always easy to find all of them. Imagine my delight to discover the streaming service Tubi, which has a ton of free movies streaming if you’re willing to put up with a few ads. Since it has a lot of otherwise difficult-to-find films, I’ve found that I don’t really mind the ads at all. Such a film is The Dentist, which remained as one of the more elusive films on my original horror movie lists. Well, here it was, ready to be watched and for me to come up with as many tooth-related puns as I could think of.

I’ll be blunt, though; The Dentist is not worth my punning effort. The film makers didn’t put that much effort into writing this movie or making it interesting. Why should I bother putting that much effort into coming up with clever puns to use to enhance the review? In fact, the only thing I was really entertained by here is the fact that, of all people, Mark Ruffalo shows up in this looking about 18.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking

Film: The Beast with Five Fingers
Format: Streaming video from Hulu on basement television.

There’s something I love about early horror movies. They’re earnest in a way that a lot of modern horror isn’t. A lot of this seems to be because they had to work a lot harder to do what they wanted. They couldn’t show a great deal of gore, they couldn’t include language, and so they had to go for atmosphere and suggestion. I don’t want to discount modern horror, because there’s some great horror movies out there that have learned a lot of lessons from these earlier horror films as well as the modern ones. A film like The Beast with Five Finger might not work today because of how it works, but it’s a perfect testament to the way horror had to be done 70-80 years ago.

There’s a great deal of films like The Hands of Orlac in The Beast with Five Fingers, because the beast isn’t a man, but a disembodied hand. We’re going to start with a sort of conman named Bruce Conrad (Robert Alda), who is scamming tourists in Italy. It turns out that Bruce is actually a formerly respected composer whose last work was creating new pieces for Francis Ingram (Victor Francen), a respected pianist who suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right side. Also living with Ingram are his nurse Julie Holden (Andrea King) and a musicologist/astrologer Hillary Cummins (Peter Lorre). Ingram, under the auspices of his attorney Duprex (David Hoffman), has everyone declare him sane, mainly so that when he dies, his new will won’t be contested.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

One Imagines the Horse Was Pale

Film: The Devil Rides Out
Format: Internet video on the new internet machine.

I have a particular fondness for the Hammer horror films of the 1950s and 1960s. I love that they brought back the idea of Gothic old-school horror. The Dracula and Mummy films are great fun. But I also like it when they go off script with a film like The Devil Rides Out, which is not based on a classic monster mythology, but is based on a Dennis Wheatley novel and adapted by Richard Matheson. We’re not going to get vampires or walking dead bodies here, but, as the title suggests, we are going to get demonic possession and rituals. We’re also going to get Christopher Lee playing a good guy, and that’s always a load of fun.

We are introduce to Nicholas, Duc de Richleau (Lee) and his friend Rex Van Ryn (Leon Greene), who are going to visit their friend Simon Aron (Patrick Mower). What they discover is that Simon has moved away from their company because he has fallen in with a satanic coven and is preparing to be rebaptized into the cult, damning his soul for all eternity. To save him, de Richleau and Rex will have to move quickly, because the ritual will occur in a day or two on one of the high unholy days of the church. Also tossed into the mix is Tanith (Nike Arrighi), also set to be inducted into the cult, and with whom Rex has an immediate connection.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actor 2015

The Contenders:

Eddie Redmayne: The Danish Girl
Matt Damon: The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio: The Revenant (winner)
Michael Fassbender: Steve Jobs
Bryan Cranston: Trumbo

If Only They Had a Budget...

Film: The Quatermass Xperiment
Format: DVD from St. Charles Public Library through OCLC WorldCat on The New Portable.

Science fiction from the 1950s tended to deal with some very specific topics in a number of different ways. One of those major topics was space travel. Generally speaking, there were two basic space travel plots. The first, and by far much larger group of films dealt with space travel as a robust phenomenon. People in these films are flying between planets and solar systems, exploring the universe in a pre-Star Trek fashion. The other set of films was set more in the era’s present, with the first steps of space exploration happening. For this basic plot, the big part of the story tended to be a capsule (manned or unmanned) coming back with something that attached itself from outer space. Of these, The Quatermass Xperiment (sometimes called The Creeping Unknown) is one of the granddaddies.

The thin outline referenced above will form the guts of our story. The British Rocket Group launches a capsule under the tutelage of American professor Bernard Quatermass (Brian Donlevey). It goes up with three men and comes back with just one. Victor Caroon (Richard Wordsworth) seems to still be around, but his companions Reichenheim and Green are nowhere to be found. Caroon’s wife Judith (Margia Dean) complicates matters slightly, although her concern for her husband is certainly understandable.