Sunday, December 10, 2017

Review - The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I figured this would be more or less the same experience as the first one, but I actually didn’t like this round quite as much. The familiar characters and elements are here. But they’ve played up some of the goofier stuff, turning more than one scene into an expensive music video for cheap tunes from the 1970s. And oh so many in jokes, sub-references and other fodder for fanboys. Mildly amusing

Friday, December 8, 2017

Review - 1922

This Netflix Original most likely wasn’t ever headed for greatness, but whatever chance it might have had is thoroughly ruined by Thomas Jane. Normally I’m a big fan, but here he plays the lead like an awful blend of Billy Bob Thornton and Jim Varney. His performance significantly detracts from what would otherwise have been a mediocre story about a farmer who murders his wife and suffers the supernatural consequences. See if desperate

Review - Temple

A threadbare plot struggles to connect a parade of scares mostly borrowed from other movies. American tourists run afoul of Japanese forest demons. This plays like a low-budget indie reheat of The Forest, which of course was no great shakes either. See if desperate

Review - Iron Jawed Angels

The campaign to secure the right to vote for women in the United States gets an uneven telling from HBO. The parts that actually focus on the issues and history are fairly good. But along with it we get a big dose of soap. It really cheapens the storytelling – almost negating the picture’s better purposes. In particular, it would be easier to buy Hillary Swank as a feminist leader if we didn’t have to watch her go all goony-eyed over a man. Mildly amusing

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Review - Cherry Pop

This amateur production plays like a video adaptation of the final project from someone’s undergrad playwriting class. Performers at a drag show cope with their personal dramas. There’s a funny moment here and there, and fans of Ru Paul’s Drag Race will find some familiar faces. Otherwise there isn’t much to it. Mildly amusing

Friday, November 24, 2017

Review - Dracula (1974)

Jack Palance place the titular count in this faithful-yet-mediocre adaptation. This obviously isn’t a western, and Palance seems out of place amid the British cast and Victorian settings. The movie also suffers from woes typical of low budget productions from the UK in the mid 70s. Mildly amusing

Review - Arrival

Imagine Close Encounters of the Third Kind (with just a pinch of Contact) if you sucked all the mystery and wonder out of it and replaced it with linguistics. And then made scrambled eggs out of the flow of time. The studio spent a lot of money on this, but the only solid plus it got in return was some cool-looking aliens. See if desperate

Monday, October 9, 2017

Review - Remember the Titans

 10/9 - I suppose if one undertakes to watch a movie about high school football and race relations, one has no right to complain cliche-ridden, heavy-handed storytelling. The actors – several of whom would later go on to bigger and better things – do their best with the script. The result is an acceptable example of the genre. Mildly amusing

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Review - Cult of Chucky

After the previous entry in the series returned to the scariness of the original, I had high hopes for this round. I guess they decided scary wasn’t working out after all, because they went straight back to stupid. See if desperate

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Review - It (2017)

I’m fond of the Stephen King novel upon which this movie is based, so I was a little nervous going in. The 1990 miniseries had some serious pluses (Tim Curry) and minuses (pretty much everything else). This time around they managed to avoid screwing it up too badly. The script was a little hit-and-miss, but the production quality was equal to the task of keeping the scares from turning cheesy. The actors did a good job with their roles, which can be a real risk when working with kids. Now we’re left waiting for part two, which for some reason the studio opted to not go ahead and make. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review - Beauty and the Beast (2017)

It’s huge. It’s expensive. And it doesn’t amount to much more than a fancy, live action version of the original Disney animation. The remaking process fails to cleanse the story of its creepy kidnapping power relationship problems. No surprise there. Some of the actors playing the animated characters are entertaining in a stunt casting way. Mildly amusing

Friday, September 22, 2017

Review - The Black Room

If Tinder and 4chan had a baby, it would be this movie. A couple moves into a house only to find that the basement contains a gate to a vile parade of demonic rape. Wish I’d skipped it

Friday, September 15, 2017

Review - The Eichmann Show

Here’s a new angle on the trial of Adolph Eichmann: the difficulties broadcasters had televising the event. In the age of instant webcasts of everything in the world, the moral and logistical quandaries of 1961 seem downright quaint. Nonetheless, the challenges of accurately portraying something as rotten as Eichmann are all too relevant today. The inclusion of actual trial footage adds an extra sense of authenticity. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Review - Be Afraid

If random combinations of shocks “lovingly borrowed” from other movies scare you, then follow the title’s advice. Otherwise follow mine and find something else to watch. See if desperate

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Review - Ben-Hur (2016)

If you made a highlight reel out of the Charlton Heston version and then turned it into a script, this is likely what you’d end up with. It’s much shorter than its predecessor, which is an advantage because it cuts out some of the duller moments and gets more directly to the point. On the other hand, due to creative decisions and/or budget constraints, it lacks the epic spectacle that made the first one entertaining. If all you want is the basics of Lew Wallace’s novel, they’re mostly here. It just isn’t much fun to watch. Mildly amusing

Friday, September 1, 2017

Review - A Distant Thunder

Sakes. How can the end of the world be so boring? This sequel to A Thief in the Night features all the charm of the original plus additional Antichrist antics. On the other hand, it also includes long, boring lectures about scripture that are at best strained and at worst completely nonsensical. See if desperate

Review - A Thief in the Night

This viewing was prompted by an article by a woman who grew up in an evangelical Christian household in Iran back in the 70s and 80s. She recounted the terror inspired by this movie about the fabled End Times and the fates that would befall the faithful who didn’t manage to get raptured before the shit started going down. At a similar point in my life I wanted to see this because it looked scary, but it was showing in churches rather than theaters and I didn’t want to sit through the additional stuff that would no doubt have entailed. I can’t say how my tween self would have reacted to this, but my adult self found it silly and dull in approximately equal measure. See if desperate

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review - 13 Hours

The snafus surrounding attempts to protect the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, become a mid-budget action thriller. At least Hillary Clinton’s goddamn emails don’t play a role. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review - Crimson Peak

Guillermo del Toro turns a mediocre ghost story into a visually impressive horror movie. The plot is some mish-mash about an heiress who marries a con artist and moves into his haunted mansion. Though not as innovative as some of the director’s other work, it’s still interesting to look at. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I actually find it a little disorienting to watch a movie that’s sort of part of the whole Star Wars thing but also sort of not. The music is a good case in point: it sounds like John Williams, but it stubbornly refuses to break into any of the familiar melodies. I thought the story was muddled and uninteresting, but then I didn’t really watch this for the story. The effects were as impressive as expected, other than the creepy visuals that made current actors look like dead stars from the 1977 original. Mildly amusing

Thursday, July 20, 2017

George Romero: In Memoriam

As everyone is likely already aware, George Romero passed away recently.

The director was best known for the zombie series spawned by Night of the Living Dead. If nothing else, it's nice to have a series in which every movie is directed by the same guy. However, it's also nice to have a reminder that Romero did several movies that don't have any zombies in them (or at least fewer than the Dead set). Some remain great (Creepshow), while others are dated (Season of the Witch) or just plain bad (Bruiser). Overall, however, the man had an impressive career.

As of this writing, the conversion of the Movies section of 8sails is still a work in progress. The old site featured a filmography of 8sails reviews of all the movies Romero directed, which I'm blogging here (in the order in which the movies were released).

Night of the Living Dead – Here’s the film that started it all, the great-granddaddy of the flesh-eating zombie genre. Production values are pretty much nonexistent; the whole thing is drastically over-exposed and must have been done exclusively using sound-on-film (aside from occasional soundtrack music). Despite all that, it’s still a must-see for fans of horror movies in general and zombie flicks in specific. Truth be told, Dawn of the Dead is probably a better film, but that does nothing to diminish the importance of its predecessor in the Dead series. Even those who don’t care for horror might still find this interesting as an example of the ability of then-independent director George Romero to create a film with almost no budget and still have it go on to become a cult classic. Buy it (especially because it isn't copyrighted, which means you can get a copy dirt cheap)

Season of the Witch – Like Martin, another mid-70s offering from George Romero, this one’s better in theory than it is in practice. The plot is ever so much a creature of its time, sort of a half-baked combination of free love and Faust. A bored housewife dabbles in the occult, with initially good but ultimately disastrous consequences. I’m willing to sit through a certain amount of the experimental “artiness” typical of the period. But some of the pacing and a lot of the writing are downright bad, regardless of when the picture was made. Further, Anchor Bay gets the show off on the wrong foot by starting the DVD with an apology for the terrible quality of the print (though for what it’s worth, it was pretty terrible). Incidentally, I’m listing this under its video release title rather than the original theatrical release title – Hungry Wives – in part because I saw this on video rather than at the theater and also because Hungry Wives is a far dorkier thing to call a movie. However, in many ways the original title was more apt. Mildly amusing

The Crazies – Though in retrospect this comes across as sort of a dry run for Dawn of the Dead, it’s got a lot more going for it than just that. The basic premise – townspeople driven mad by biological weapon accidentally unleashed by Army that then descends on the town in an attempt to contain the problem – isn’t entirely dissimilar to Romero’s zombie pictures. But the really intriguing part of this movie is the struggle of the protagonists not only to escape the doomed town but also to determine who among their number has come down with the insanity plague (as opposed to merely behaving abnormally due to the abnormal situation they all find themselves in). George Romero isn’t exactly the master of subtlety, and to be sure most of the entertainment value to be found here relies on gore or other cheap thrills. But here and there this outing’s got a little more going for it. Mildly amusing

Martin – I’ve seen this movie three or four times now, and the thing that keeps bringing me back is that I want to like it more than I do. This is a post-Night and pre-Dawn offering from George Romero, but here we’ve got a vampire rather than zombies. Or do we? Martin (John Amplas) has an obsessive thing for blood, but otherwise he’s more of a garden variety psychopath than a supernatural creature of evil. Indeed, Romero deliberately flaunts vampire conventions throughout the story. This bloodsucker doesn’t even suck blood. Lacking the hypnotic charm of a Dracula, he can only get victims by injecting them with sedatives and then bleeding them with a razor blade. The production has a working-class Pittsburgh look and feel, further departing from the European flavor of the traditional, goth vampire. I dearly love the concept. I’m just left somewhat flat by the execution. Mildly amusing

Dawn of the Dead – One of my all-time favorites, the sort of film where I can do the dialogue while I’m watching, and the best of Romero’s Dead movies (with all due respect, naturally, to the immortal classic Night of the Living Dead). I honestly believe that if American society ever really did collapse (with or without the assistance of flesh-eating zombies) that the result would closely parallel the action in this movie. I could say a lot more about Dawn, but that would sort of defeat the purpose of doing a capsule review. Side note: the first version I bought of this was a two-tape set. My current copy is a three-disc set that includes the theatrical release, the re-cut for video release, and the European version. The boxed set is a must-have for serious fans of the movie, but even more casual horror fans may wish to add a single version to their collections. Buy it

Knightriders – This looks like it was more fun to make than it is to watch. Ed Harris heads up a cast of George Romero regulars playing a troop of Renfest-motocross-combo performers who seriously live the whole Camelot thing. Eventually the group breaks up, with some sticking to the old, non-commercial ways while the de-hippified folks pursue bigger deals elsewhere. If the movie had left off there, it might have been emotionally satisfying in an end-of-the-70s way. But then the band gets back together for a half-hour-long tournament, ending the picture on a taking-it-too-seriously note. Still, if you like watching people ride motorcycles and hit each other with sticks, then this is certainly the picture for you. Mildly amusing

Creepshow – I think true appreciation of this horror anthology flick depends on one’s status as a fan of EC comics, director George Romero, and/or screenwriter Stephen King. Those who don’t meet the qualification are likely to find this too comic-book-esque and nowhere near violent or suspenseful enough to work as a horror movie. However, if you do fit the bill, you should get a real kick out of it. King fans should particularly enjoy the “Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” vignette, since the author himself plays the title role. All the stories are packed with EC-style thrills and a few familiar faces in each cast; even Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen, both of whom are better known for their comedy roles, do a good job as a woman’s adulterous lover and her very angry husband. My personal favorite, college professor that I am, is “The Crate” with its academic setting and semi-Lovecraftian sub-references. Though again I stress that it’s probably not for everyone, those who will enjoy it will probably want a copy. Buy it

Day of the Dead – This odd little apocalypse concludes George Romero’s original Dead trilogy and is the last must-see entry in the series. Though not quite as good as Dawn of the Dead, this episode stands up well on its own. With society now completely destroyed by the zombie plague, a few survivors try to hang on in an abandoned missile silo and storage caves. The small group is divided into factions, with scientists trying to unlock the mystery of the plague as they struggle for cooperation from an increasingly hostile military support staff. The result is one of those films that can be watched as light-hearted social allegory or just a plain, old fashioned blood bath horror movie. Worth seeing

Monkey Shines – Though it came out years before the fake ad on Saturday Night Live, this still comes across as “Monkey Hate Clean: The Motion Picture.” After an accident leaves him quadriplegic, our hero gets a capuchin monkey to help with his daily upkeep. Unfortunately his helper primate has been “customized” by a friend who happens to be a mad scientist. As a result, man and simian form a psychic bond allowing the cute, furry critter to harm anyone his human master gets mad at. Overall this is a perfect example of why I’m usually comfortable with adult humans who brutalize one another but would prefer that they left animals out of it. The monkey violence is too pervasive for this to have much of a chance with me. I can eke out one star just for writer/director George Romero’s sake, but this is far from his best work. See if desperate

The Dark Half – This is a finest hour for neither Stephen King nor George Romero. King’s source story puts a novel spin or two on the old evil twin thing, but in exchange we have to sit through a lot of annoying parallels to the whole Richard Bachman thing. Timothy Hutton does a solid job as the good family man novelist, but he falls flatter than flat as the guy’s sinister alter-ego. And sparrows should probably be added to the list of horror movie elements that are too cute to inspire a lot of fear. Overall this isn’t a terrible movie, but it doesn’t belong on anyone’s trophy shelf either. Mildly amusing

Bruiser – What happened to George Romero? At one point he was at the cutting edge of the horror movie business. Now he seems content to work only occasionally, and if this outing is any indication of what we can expect from him in the future then he might want to consider staying retired on a more permanent basis (sorry George, but Dawn of the Dead was apparently far behind you). This is the ham-handed allegorical tale of a white, middle-class guy who wakes up one morning to find that his face is gone. Thus liberated from his identity, he goes on a killing spree that plays like an arty version of Falling Down. Despite a nod or two to Poe in the end (and a cameo by the Misfits), this outing’s a pale shadow of Romero’s former brilliance. See if desperate

Land of the Dead – In an interview a couple of decades ago, George Romero said that zombies were the working class of the monster world. Now at long last he makes a movie that exploits class struggle as a plot point. This episode in Romero’s Dead series picks up somewhere around where the last one left off. The last remnants of non-zombie humanity are walled up in cities ruled by the wealthy. While the upper crust continues life as pre-catastrophe usual in their luxury high-rise, the dwindling middle class ekes out a living on the streets. And outside the barricades the walking dead are getting smarter, not to mention hungrier. Though the characters don’t amount to all that much, the premise, the story and the effects are enough to carry the production. This episode isn’t as ground-breaking as the first or as good as the second, but it’s still a suitable addition to the saga. Worth seeing

Diary of the Dead – What a dreadful disappointment. The first two entries in George Romero’s Dead series are genre classics, and the last two – though not quite as good – are at least entertaining. This one, however, is almost nothing but Cloverfield except with zombies. Romero is a more talented director than the boneheads that made Cloverfield, but that just makes his mindless preaching about media addiction all the more annoying. See if desperate

Survival of the Dead – At least it wasn't as disappointingly dreadful as the previous entry in Romero's dead set. That's thanks in no small part to the decision to abandon the pseudo-documentary format and return to a straight narrative format. Sadly, what I suspected at the end of Day of the Dead continues to prove true: Romero already took the zombie thing as far as he was going to, and subsequent productions -- however entertaining -- simply don't add much to the saga. This time around Army freebooters link up with one of two feuding factions trying to eke out a post-zombie-apocalypse living on an isolated island. Mildly amusing

A note or two on some missing stuff. As of this writing, There's Always Vanilla isn't available on DVD or to stream. If I get the chance someday I'll watch it and add a review. Romero only directed half of Two Evil Eyes. His half is a mediocre rework of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," and the other half, based on "The Black Cat," features two banes of my existence: animal torture and Harvey Keitel. So I'm unlikely to sit through it again anytime soon

He also directed some shorts and some TV shows, including 1974's "OJ Simpson: The Juice Is on the Loose!" I couldn't bring myself to watch that even if it was available to stream, which it doesn't appear to be.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review - Frankenstein’s Army

Russian soldiers on the Eastern Front uncover a factory full of atrocities created by a Nazi mad scientist. On a good day the concept might have had potential, but this was not a good day. Things predictably descend into jump scares and cheap gore. The found footage format should have been the first clue that this wouldn’t amount to much. See if desperate

Review - The Void

This wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be, but it was better than I thought it would be. As a fairly random group of characters is besieged by creepy, cloak-wearing killers, the closed environment makes for some fun, claustrophobic horror. On the other hand, it gets a little old after awhile. Mildly amusing

Review - Death Race 2050

They must have rushed this into production immediately after the 2016 election, because the evil dictator villain (Malcolm McDowell) has a distinctly Trumpian flavor. As a follow-up to Death Race 2000, this is a far more faithful adaptation than the high-budget video games created by Paul W.S. Anderson. Like the original, this features more than its share of goofy gags and heavy-handed moralizing. But that’s all part of its charm. Mildly amusing

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Review - Creed

I honestly don’t watch enough boxing movies to be able to say if this is a good example of the sub-genre. My guess is that fans of the original Rocky will like what they’re doing with the character (and a supporting character’s kid). But I had trouble telling if the heavy reliance on simple-minded cliches was part of its charm or merely bad writing. Mildly amusing

Friday, July 7, 2017

Review - The Cardboard Bernini

This movie documents the process as cardboard sculptor James Grashow spends four years creating a copy of a famous Bernini only to install it outside an art museum and let the elements destroy it. Despite being a little on the dull side, this picture raises some interesting questions about the essence and permanence of art. Mildly amusing

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review - Orion: The Man Who Would Be King

After the death of Elvis Presley, some folks concocted a scheme to convince the more gullible members of his fan base that The King faked his death. So they talked a guy named Jimmy Ellis – just a poor schmo who neither looked nor sounded much like Presley – to don a mask and spangly jump suits and hit the stage. The result is a shameful tale of conned fans and ruined lives. Mildly amusing

Review - Roadtrip for Ralphie

Normally I’d prefer to see this sort of two-people-with-a-camcorder thing confined to short bursts on YouTube. But this one actually managed to rise above the cut. This pair of  videographers are obsessed with A Christmas Story, so they travel throughout the Midwest and Canada looking for filming locations and artifacts. Along the way they find the original Red Ryder BB gun, the nearly-demolished school where some of the movie was shot, and the ever-elusive location of the Chinese restaurant from the end. Familiar subjects and the creators’ enthusiasm make this charming rather than amateurish. Mildly amusing

Review - I Am Big Bird

Child molestation allegations against Kevin Clash pretty much ruined Being Elmo for me, but fortunately no such awful side-light wrecks the tale of Caroll Spinney. He’s the puppeteer behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, two childhood favorites. This documentary is worth it for the bird costume explanation alone, so the history of the man and his characters is icing on the cake. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Review - Hollywood Heaven

This is a purely awful “documentary” about dead celebrities, a cheap bit of fluff that found its way onto whatever streaming service I was watching at the time. It’s composed of old photos, stock footage and short clips from movies and trailers. And ultimately it sheds no new light on the lives or deaths of any of its subjects. See if desperate

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review - Hot Fuzz

This is another movie that comes up so often in Sporcle quizzes that I felt like I ought to check it out. Clearly this is an attempt to do the same thing with buddy cop pictures that Shaun of the Dead did with zombie movies. Though the humor level and much of the cast are the same, this one falls well short of its predecessor. See if desperate

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review - The Axe Murders of Villisca

Ghost-busting video bloggers spend the night in a murder house with thoroughly predictable results. And no, the cheap twists stirred in here and there don’t add flavor to the usual burgoo. See if desperate

Review - XX

This four-part horror anthology (with Svankmajer-esque animated bracket) is interesting if for no other reason than all the shorts were directed by women. None of them are groundbreaking stuff, but at least they’re the beginnings of a departure from slashers and other misogynist tripe. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review - Neverlake

Lake ghosts don’t need to be dull as dirt, but this movie is no exception to the rule that they apparently are. The production values here are good, but if a little less cash spent on the effects would have freed up some funds to buy a less convoluted script, it might have been money well spent. Mildly amusing

Monday, June 26, 2017

Review - The Big Short

One of the big problems with white collar vermin is that they can do an incredible amount of damage and yet remain completely boring. Our entire economy can teeter on the brink, but their misdeeds are still far less movie-worthy than serial killers and bank robbers. The filmmakers in this production about the housing bubble burst of 2005 realize the problem and counter it in part by having stunt-casted celebrities such as Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez do wall-breaking monologues about futures and selling short. Unfortunately that does little to counter the fundamental problem: this is the Wall Street equivalent of a movie where every character is a vampire and they do nothing but try to bite each other. Mildly amusing

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Review - Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press

The heart of this story is the libel suit filed against Gawker by racist celebrifuck Terry Bollea, better known to the world as Hulk Hogan. Though the defendants didn’t walk into this mess with clean hands, the life-wrecking, disturbingly high verdict obtained by the plaintiff (with the backing of notorious free speech opponents from the far right) should give us all pause. This documentary is a good explanation of the issues and values at stake. Mildly amusing

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Review - Oklahoma City

PBS’s American Experience series serves up this documentary about the bombing in the eponymous location. Of particular interest is the path taken by mass-murdering shithead Timothy McVeigh. The footage of him selling fascist garbage off the hood of his car outside the Waco compound is particularly chilling. Worth seeing

Friday, June 23, 2017

Review - American Violence

It’s American. It’s violent. No point in complaining to the FTC about false advertising here. Once again we’re called upon to buy Denise Richards as a PhD., this time a psychologist interviewing a death row inmate. See if desperate

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review - Moana

I cringe a little every time I start watching a Disney production about a non-Euro-American subject. But here the reaction was largely unnecessary. The story is engaging, the characters charming and the production values equal to the standards we’ve come to expect from the studio. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review - Star Trek Beyond

Better than the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek but not as good as the second. After the umpty-thousandth destruction of the Enterprise, the usual suspects find themselves marooned on a planet with an alien who really really doesn’t like the Federation. Once again effects and stunt work take center stage, which as ever is a disappointment for a franchise that was born without alternative as a character- and script-driven effort. Mildly amusing

Review - After Porn Ends

Though I don’t have tons of experience watching movies about the porn industry, most of what I’ve seen is either porn itself or evangelical screed about the evils of pornography. Fortunately this takes a more traditional documentary approach. The filmmakers interview several veteran actors, presenting a range of reactions from “it was a good paycheck” to “it ruined my life.” Mildly amusing

Review - Man Vs.

This is one of the few times I’ve ever taken on the watching of a found footage movie and not instantly regretted it. The premise – survival reality show guy runs up against a monster in the woods – at least provides a reasonable explanation for the format. It also gives the story a nice Predator flavor right up until the twist ending. This is still a low-budget, rough-around-the-edges indie, but at least it’s reasonably clever and packs a few scares more fundamental than simple booga-booga shots. Mildly amusing

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Review - Trolls

I had to watch this picture in small bits lest I die of a treacle overdose. Even for a kids’ movie, this is twee beyond description. And why troll dolls, of all the ugly-ass things to make an “endearing” movie about? The voice cast features plenty of familiar names, and the soundtrack sports an almost relentless parade of familiar tunes and pop-heavy originals. But wow was this ever hard to watch. See if desperate

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Review - The Mummy (2017)

I wanted desperately to love this movie. With the grand success of cinematic universes, I would have been a big fan of a new one evolving from the classic Universal horror properties. But this picture is hampered in no small part by its ham-handed effort to start just such a franchise. Of course it doesn’t help to have a trite, muddled script and big-name stars phoning in their performances (Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe, I’m looking at you). I didn’t hate it as much as the rest of the world seems to have, but it wasn’t good enough to accomplish its purpose. Mildly amusing

Review - It Comes at Night

In the immortal words of Bart Simpson, “You know what would have been scarier than nothing? Anything!”  Seriously, this should have been called “It Never Shows Up.” Two families struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where the evil afoot in the land is a virus and possibly something more sinister that’s hinted at but never identified. The result is a textbook example of how not to make a horror movie: a go-nowhere plot, dislikable characters with poor motivations (even for an extreme survival situation), plenty of bickering, and no less than six uses of the waking-up-from-a-nightmare cliché. Add protracted pet death, and this picture avoids the lowest possible rating by the narrowest of margins. Wish I’d skipped it

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Review - Attack of the Morningside Monster

Yet another set of indie filmmakers deludes themselves into believing that cheap, gory murder is enough to sustain an entire movie. See if desperate

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Review - Kubo and the Two Strings

The animation here is much more interesting than the story. It isn’t that the story is bad. To be sure, it’s a little muddled for younger audience members. But it’s vastly outmatched by the stop motion work required to bring it to the screen. Sequences took months to film. The skeleton demon is the largest piece ever used in a stop motion movie. And so on. The craft shows in the visually beautiful result. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Review - War Machine

War is hell. War is dumb. War is dumb hell. Netflix serves up a based-on-true story about the problems with US attempts to pacify Afghanistan. This might have been interesting, maybe even clever, considering some of the more absurd elements of the tale were the historically accurate ones. Unfortunately the picture was ruined by the decisions to play it as a sitcom and to cast Brad Pitt in the lead. This guy’s idea of how to play a four-star general amounts to little more than personality tics and a big mess of ridiculous facial contortions. See if desperate

Review - The Girl in the Photographs

I had a great time on a vacation in the Black Hills several years ago, and for some lapse-in-judgment reason I let that lure me into watching this solely because it’s set in Spearfish, South Dakota. The movie takes no advantage of the setting, instead serving up misogynist violence that could just as easily have been set at any random point on the map. Wish I’d skipped it

Review - Stitches

I have to kinda respect an evil clown movie that doesn’t even try to not be a piece of shit. And wow does this one ever not try. Kids at a birthday celebration accidentally kill the party clown, so it comes back a decade later to take revenge on its now-teenaged killers. See if desperate

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Review - The Girl With All the Gifts

Apparently not the gift for avoiding appearing in a terrible movie. This time around the survivors of the zombie apocalypse are trying to teach semi-zombified children to not be zombies. One student proves particularly promising. But long before the picture drags to its witless conclusion, it takes far too many implausible or unpleasant turns to hope to sustain an interesting story. Also particularly cruel dog death. Wish I’d skipped it

Review - USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage

If you’ve seen Jaws then you know the story already. So here it is stretched out to a couple of hours. The shark attacks are hard to watch, as they should be. On the other hand, the plot drags on for a considerable amount of time after the survivors get rescued. Though the storytelling is a bit off, the story is nonetheless compelling. Mildly amusing

Review - Doctor Strange

When I was a comic-reading kid I wanted to like Dr. Strange better than I did. Even with talented artists such as Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby on the job, they somehow couldn’t really bring an infinite universe of alternate dimensions to the page. The broader realm of CGI comes a bit closer, and that really helps make the characters and story work. Benedict Cumberbatch does a solid job in the lead, hitting Strange’s mix of earnestness and sarcasm right on the nose. Even if you don’t care for the whole superhero thing, this is still an interesting movie to look at. Mildly amusing

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Review - Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

Normally I’d type something here about how if you’ve been watching Paranormal Activity movies this long that you’re likely to keep on watching them. But I honestly think at this point the stories have strayed enough from the original that they’ve abandoned the creepy mystery and not really replaced it with anything else. See if desperate

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review - Clown

Eager to impress his kid, a guy puts on a clown costume he finds in a hidden closet in an empty house. But then he can’t take it off. And worse, it’s turning him into an evil clown demon. This might not have been a bad be-careful-what-you-wish-for picture, but I just can’t seem to get past the inherent stupidity of the whole evil clown thing. See if desperate

Review - Alien: Covenant

Ridley Scott apparently wants to know if viewers will forgive him for Prometheus if he tries to mulligan it into an actual Alien movie. Not this viewer. Though this does have some fun monster stuff here and there, it’s still way too full of weird backstory and poetry-reciting robots. And though I know movies need a little leeway in this department, I was put off by how heavily the plot depends on characters who make monumentally stupid decisions. Come for the flashy effects, but don’t feel like you have to stay for the story. Mildly amusing

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Nope. Chase them back under their rocks, please. The Turtles began life as a gritty, violent manga parody, and then they broadened their appeal by becoming a goofy cartoon for kids. This production features none of the cleverness and non-creepiness needed to get it to succeed either with adults or kids. The nicest thing I can say about it is that by the end I could kinda tell the four protagonists apart. See if desperate

Friday, May 26, 2017

Review - The Human Centipede

Technically this first movie in the series is called “The Human Centipede: First Sequence.” But as I have absolutely no intention of seeing the other two, it isn’t necessary to make a distinction here. If you’ve seen one movie about an insane surgeon who sews people together mouth to butthole, you’ve seen them all. Wish I’d skipped it

Friday, May 12, 2017

Review - Spotlight

As a rule I’m skeptical about Best Picture Oscar winners, especially after Crash. But this one actually deserves the award. It brings public attention to the issue of sexual abuse of children. It shows how good investigative journalism works. And it does it with at least a measure of subtlety. Given the subject matter, this isn’t exactly an easy watch. But if you do decide to take it on, watch how the production quality changes as the story progresses. Worth seeing

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review - The Gathering Storm

Winston Churchill is the role Albert Finney was born to play. Here we find the toxic gasbag struggling to find his place in the pre-war government and in his strained marriage. Churchill fans might like this better than I did. See if desperate

Friday, April 21, 2017

Review - Tropic Thunder

Details about this picture seem to crop up with unusual frequency in Sporcle movie quizzes. So I thought I should probably break down and watch it. I should have resigned myself to missing a few questions here and there. I expected this to be stupid and offensive, but not quite on this level. Wish I’d skipped it

Friday, April 7, 2017

Review - Hitler: A Career

After the results of the 2016 general election sank in, I developed a strong curiosity about how societies make the transition from democracy to dictatorship. Though the Roman Empire probably has more to teach us about our current circumstances, the subject of this long documentary is also worth a look. This version of the story is thorough but doesn’t uncover much that isn’t already common knowledge even to casual students of the era. Mildly amusing

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review - The Jungle Book

At some point Disney’s efforts to re-market their old animations by re-making them as semi-live-action pictures may become too cynical to be endured. This may actually be that point. Big-name celebs voice the CGI animal stars of this version of the classic story, but otherwise this doesn’t do much that the original didn’t. Mildly amusing

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review - The Charnel House

Real estate developers convert an old slaughterhouse into pricey lofts. If only the previous occupants had stuck to livestock and left human victims out of it, the place might have been less haunted. See if desperate

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Review- It Follows

Here’s a semi-intriguing concept: what if you were being pursued by a slow but relentless evil? You can easily outrun it. But it will never stop pursuing you. During the dull moments in this movie (of which it has no shortage), I found myself pondering long-term strategies. If you could take a flight to Australia and stay there long enough, the thing would have to wander around the bottom of the Pacific Ocean in pursuit. If it wasn’t crushed or eaten along the way, it might eventually catch up to you. But then you could fly back to the US, making it do the whole mess over again. Or maybe it could find a boat. Pretty sure it couldn’t just wander onto a plane. As horror concepts go, this isn’t bad. Fewer teenagers and better production values might have helped. Mildly amusing

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Review - There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane

 2/26 - Specifically, she had some kind of mental breakdown and drives a minivan full of kids the wrong way down a highway until the inevitable fatal crash ensues. So here we have a feature-length bicker fest about whether she was drunk or high or crazy or some combination of all the above. Final resolution does not result. Mildly amusing

Friday, February 17, 2017

Review - Forgotten Tales

We should be so lucky. Amateur-hour horror anthology. At least these folks seem like they’ve ever seen a horror movie, even if they aren’t especially good at making them. Wish I’d skipped it

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Review - Minions

As the name implies, this one’s all about the hench-things from Despicable Me. In this prequel, their previous boss assigns them to steal the British Crown Jewels. High jinks ensue. Mildly amusing

Review - Satanic

Four twentysomethings. On their way to Coachella. Stopping by notorious murder sites along the way. Honestly, if I haven’t already talked you out of watching this, there isn’t much else I can say. Wish I’d skipped it

Monday, February 6, 2017

Review - Finding Dory

Dory the forgetful fish gets her own movie, joined by her friends from the first one as she searches for her long-lost parents. If you liked the original – and a lot of folks did – then odds are you’ll like this one too. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Review - Resident Evil: Extinction

They don’t number these things, so I don’t know what verse we’re on at this point. But whatever verse, it’s the same as the first. See if desperate

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Review - Alice Through the Looking Glass

This is less an adaptation of Carroll’s book of the same name and more a pure sequel to Tim Burton’s Alice movie. The cast, themes and production values are mostly the same. Mildly amusing

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Review - House of Manson

Eventually every human being on the face of the earth will have been involved in the creation of at least one docudrama version of the life of Charles Manson. This production brings us one step closer to the goal. See if desperate

Review - Hostage to the Devil

Many years ago I read Malachi Martin’s book of the same name, in which he tells the tales of several exorcisms. While the book suggested that the author’s elevator didn’t go all the way to the top, the guy’s personal life was even more bizarre. Crusader against Satan? Con artist? Lunatic? The jury may just have to stay out on this one. Mildly amusing

Friday, January 20, 2017

Review - Under the Shadow

Blending supernatural horror with real-life atrocity is risky business, but writer/director Babak Anvari makes it work. Life is definitely not good for an Iranian mother and her daughter. As if Iraqi attacks and life in an oppressive police state weren’t bad enough, they must also contend with an evil spirit brought into their apartment building by an unexploded missile. Mildly amusing

Review - Tales of Halloween

As one might expect from ten short subjects woven into an anthology movie, some parts are better than others. While I wouldn’t classify this as a good movie overall, it does reflect an awareness of good horror movies. So at least it’s more than a pack-of-assholes-with-camcorders production. Mildly amusing