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Thriller: The Grim Reaper (1961)
The best Thriller episode ever.
Eerie story about an eccentric mystery writer (Natalie Schafer) who purchases a painting the Grim Reaper. It has a curse too--everyone who owns it has died a violent death. Her cousin (William Shatner) visits her and pleads her to get rid of it...but she refuses. Then death and murders start happening.
Downright frightening episode. The painting itself is horrific and the story moves at a quick pace. The acting especially y Schafer and Elizabeth Allen is great and there's a neat twist at the end. Well-directed too. The only debit--Shatner is TERRIBLE in his role. Still it's well worth seeing.
Thriller: Pigeons from Hell (1961)
Great atmosphere but that's it.
Episode from the TV horror show "Thriller". Two brothers are driving through a swamp. Their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. They find an old abandoned plantation and decide to spend the night. One of them is brutally killed and the local sheriff thinks the other brother is responsible. They go to the plantation to investigate and strange things begin to happen.
I heard this was the best episode from "Thriller". It's not. It has tons of atmosphere and the opening section works...but then it falls apart. It gets boring and the ultimate resolution was more laughable than scary. The acting is OK. It's too bad. With a tighter script and a better ending this could have worked.
Tab Hunter Confidential (2015)
Documentary about Tab Hunter narrated by him. It shows how he became a star and highlights various movies and TV shows he did. Also during the feature they cut to other actors who relate what they think of Hunter. It also deals with his being secretly gay. Hunter is quite honest about everything and laid-back with some very funny moments. It also gets into his ex boyfriends--particularly Anthony Perkins. A thoroughly fascinating documentary. There's also a book with the same title which goes a little more in depth.
Pretty good pre-Code Bette
Bette Davis plays Helen Bauer, a woman who does not want to get married and be tied down to one man. However she does have a lover named Don Peterson(Gene Raymond). He persuades her to marry him. They do and things rapidly fall apart.
Once considered pretty shocking this is tame by todays standards. The discussions about love and sex are actually quite funny in this day and age. But the movie moves quickly (it's only a little over an hour) and Davis and Raymond play off each other very well. Davis in later years bad-mouthed this film but it's actually pretty good. Worth catching.
Boys Beware (1961)
Sick and disturbing
An anti-gay short. It makes it clear that gay men are mentally ill and prey on young guys. It "dramatizes" two stories. It's all narrated by some guy. Full of homophobia and misinformation. If it weren't so sick it could be funny. I realize back in 1961 that homosexuality was still considered a mental illness but that doesn't excuse this. Supposedly this is still being shown in certain countries in the deep south and that's just sad. I find it hard to believe that in this day and age people would actually take this seriously. I really feel bad for closeted kids who see this and believe it as being the truth.
Not great but pleasant
Struggling musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) has been trying for 10 years to be successful with no luck. Only his manager (Lily James) believes in him. Then there's a worldwide blackout for 12 seconds. During it Jack is in a car accident. He survives but it seems nobody in this reality ever heard of the Beatles, Also none of their songs exist either. So Jack starts to put out their songs as his originals and becomes famous...but he feels guilty.
Strange movie. It does manage to be both funny and dramatic. I was honestly never bored. Also Patel can sing and pulls off covers of the many Beatle songs pretty well. However this movie has issues too. Patel has a tendency to overact and James is downright atrocious. The supporting characters though are fun. Also the direction is all over the place throwing things at you out of left field. Still, I'm a Beatles fan so I'm cutting this some slack. I give it a so-so recommendation.
Musical that chronicles the life and times of Elton John (Taron Egerton). It also gets into his relationships with his best friend (Jamie Bell) and manager (Richard Madden). It's sort of an average biographical film but then people start singing and dancing out of nowhere. It's strange at first but I got into it completely. It's never boring and all the singing and dancing is great. Naturally they do only Elton John songs. Also they don't ignore the fact that John is gay. "Bohemian Rhapsody" barely deals with Freddie Mercury being gay but this one (thankfully) shoves it in your face. There's a fairly explicit gay sex scene which is a first for a major Hollywood film.
The acting is great. Egerton is just great and his singing sounds just like John. Bell is equally good as his best friend. Madden looks terrible and is just OK as his manager. All in all it's a strange film and not for everybody--two people walked out when I saw it--but I loved it and was fascinated. A 10 all the way.
Foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is given super powers by an ancient wizard. When he says :"Shazam" he transforms from a 15 year old kid to a 30 something muscular super hero (Zachary Levi). However he's still a kid emotionally. Then he has to battle the evil Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong)...but he's still a kid inside.
I wanted to like this movie more than I did. It has great special effects, the acting is good (even though Levi overacts more than once) and the story is OK. However it moves VERY slowly (Shazam doesn't even show up until almost an hour in), its morals are questionable (we're supposed to find it cute that Shazam is drinking beer and stealing from an ATM machine) and the final battle goes on forever with too many superheroes and villains. Also the bullying some kids go through in this is way too brutal. One crippled kid is knocked to the ground and kicked around! So I honestly did not like it too much. It's just too long.
The Godfather (1972)
Epic film about a Mafia family called the Corleones. It takes place from the 1940s to 1950s. The family is overseen by Don Corleone (Marlon Brando). His sons help their father...except for his youngest Michael (Al Pacino). He wants no part of the family business...but he might have no choice.
A fantastic film. It runs three hours but you're never bored. It's wonderfully directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It also is one of those rare films with a perfect cast--no one is bad! It's also fun to see Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton so young and full of life. Many of the lines ("I'll make him an offer he can't refuse") have become legendary. Also there is some violence which was considered extreme in 1972 but is pretty tame today. Only a character getting shoot at a toll booth is pretty over the top. My favorite scene has to be at the end when Keaton realizes what she's married into. The look on her face is perfect.
This was a HUGE hit at the box office. It was loved by critics and the public alike. It was (rightfully) called the Gone With the Wind of the 1970s. A masterpiece and well worth seeing.
Pet Sematary (2019)
Better than the original
A likable family which has a father (Jason Clarke), a mother (Amy Seimetz) a 9 year old girl (Jete Laurence) and a young boy move from Boston to Maine. They have a beautiful house...and a pet cemetary in the back. Farther beyond that is another land that brings dead animals back to life...but in a bad mood.
This is based on a Stephen King novel. It was filmed in 1989 but that version was sick and ugly. This is a lot better. It has a good cast, moves quickly and holds off on blood and gore till the end. Also it's faithful to the novel but, halfway through, goes off into a totally different direction. It all leads up to a chilling conclusion. The acting is good everybody--especially Seimetz and Laurence. Recommended.
Night Warning (1981)
Obscure but not bad
A kid (Jimmy McNicol) is bought up by his possessive aunt (Susan Tyrrell). She wants him to stay with her forever...and will kill if anyone tries to stop her.
An effective little horror film. It manages to work homophobia and incest into its plot and has a few nicely bloody murders. Tyrrell is excellent as the aunt and Bo Svenson matches her as a detective on the case. Unfortunately McNichol is not that good. He's handsome and in good shape but a total blank. He flashes some nudity too in a shower scene. Not some unsung classic but a good strong horror film not deserving its obscurity.
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Great but a little too long
Movie about Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) lead singer of Queen. It follows him from 1970 to 1985 and how he became part of Queen till his tragic death in 1991 of AIDS.
In some ways this is a great movie. It's well-directed by Bryan Singer and has almost all of the bands best songs. Also Malek is good as Mercury. He sounds, looks and acts like him. Also it doesn't ignore the fact that Mercury was gay. However it's just too damn long. It runs 135 minutes and could have easily run at 120 minutes. Sequences go on far too long and it gets dull. Still it IS worth seeing.
Malek also won numerous awards (including the Academy Award) for his performance. As I said he's great but I don't think he's that great.
Plymouth Adventure (1952)
Great special effects and beautiful color...but that's it
A HUGE MGM blockbuster about the Pilgrims voyage from Europe to America. Along the way they have to deal with illness, infidelity, scarce food and water and each other. It's all overseen by Spencer Tracy as a tough old sea captain.
MGM spared no expense with this one. The film is shot in breath-taking color with great costumes and an exact replica of the Mayflower. Also there's an exciting sequence where they battle through a fierce storm at sea (this film win a well-deserved Oscar for Special Effects). But, aside from that, nothing much happens. There's a love triangle story that was so obvious it was annoying. Also we have some great actors here giving there worst performances. Tracy looks depressed and old; Gene Tierney looks great but the poor woman has nothing to work with; Van Johnson just walks through his role.
This was understandably a public and critical failure and lost over a million dollars. A real snoozer.
Redo of Dario Argento's masterpiece. Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) goes from the US to Germany to attend a dance academy. She soon finds out it's run by witches and they want her to join them. The original was only 98 minutes long, done in super bright color, moved like lightning and had a terrifying score. This one goes OVER 150 minutes, looks drab and dreary, has terrible acting, ugly gore, gratuitous female nudity and ends up not making a lot of sense. There are pointless sequences involving politics and dull dance lessons. Also way too many dance sequences which are just laughably bad. My audience sat through it all quietly until the ending. At that point it got so stupid and OTT people started laughing! Dull, pointless and insulting. Skip it.
The Night Strangler (1973)
Follow-up to the 1972 TV movie "The Night Stalker". Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) is now in Seattle. It seems women are being killed and drained of their blood. It also seems this happens every 21 years. Kolchak investigates helped by a wacky woman (Jo Ann Pflug).
This is nowhere near as good as "The Night Stalker" despite having most of the same crew involved. The story is kind of vague and the comedy and scares don't really work. Still it looks fantastic, has great atmosphere and good acting. McGavin and Simon Oakland reprise their roles and are great. Pflug is too but her character is annoying. This lead to a TV show called "Kolchak the Night Stalker" which was not a hit but has a cult following now. So this is an OK movie elevated by good acting and atmosphere.
The Night Stalker (1972)
Funny and scary vampire thriller
Abrasive reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) comes to realize that a vampire is roaming the streets of Las Vegas killing women. He tries to report it but everyone thinks he's crazy. He's on his own.
Dynamite script by Richard Matheson smoothly blending laughs with scares. The acting is great by McGavin and Simon Oakland as his boss. They're backed by a large cast of older Hollywood actors who are great. Only Carol Lynley disappoints but she has nothing to work with. It moves briskly and has plenty of action. It's a TV movie so there's a noticeable lack of blood and gore but Barry Atwater is chilling as the vampire. A HUGE hit in its day. Highly recommended.
A direct sequel from "Halloween" (1978). This takes place 40 years later. We find out the police did capture Michael Myers and he has spent the last 40 years in an institution. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is still dealing with the trauma of finding the bodies of her three dead friends. She also has a daughter and a granddaughter. Then Michael escapes and Laurie realizes it's her job to finally kill him.
OK sequel. It ignores all the other sequels but there are some clever visuals that reference them. The killings are brutal and bloody but there are also some well-timed laughs. Also I was in slasher film heaven when Curtis went up against Michael. Still I'm not quite sold on it. The murders were way too unpleasant and Michael becomes just a killing machine. I've seen this all before. This is basically another Halloween sequel I'll never see again. Still it's worth a look for fans.
Get Out (2017)
I liked it but didn't love it.
A black man named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) has a white girlfriend (Allison Williams). One weekend they go to visit her family for the first time. Her parents live in a huge mansion in the middle of nowhere. Her family welcomes him warmly but then he starts noticing strange things happening and realizes he may be in danger.
It's a good thriller. The acting is good, the twist unexpected and there's some STRONG bloody violence at the end. However it moves slowly and there were a few plot loopholes that I could not ignore. So it's good but has been wildly overpraised. Recommended but don't watch it expecting a masterpiece.
The Notebook (2004)
Heart-breaking but great
The movie begins in 1940 where young and poor Noah (Ryan Gosling) falls in love with rich Allie (Rachel McAdams). Naturally she hates him at first but soon falls in love with him too. However her parents are horrified and keep them apart. Seven years later they meet and she's already set to marry someone else (James Marsters). Can she forget Noah? Also the story has a wrap around featuring an elderly couple (James Garner and Gena Rowlands).
At first I hated this film. I disliked the characters and was insulted by the non-stop clichés popping up. But, eventually it won me over. The acting was great, the cinematography stunning and the story moved briskly. By the end I was crying my eyes out nonstop. This is a very romantic but heart-breaking movie to watch. Recommended but plenty of tissues handy.
Dear Dead Delilah (1972)
Pretty good horror film
Story of a heavily dysfunctional Southern family. They've all gathered at the mansion of the head of the family Delilah (Agnes Moorehead). She's dying and has hidden a large amount of money somewhere on the estate but won't say where. Someone starts killing off family members with an axe. Who's doing it and where is the money?
Pretty good movie. It's very low budget and was only previously available in edited prints in lousy shape. It's just been remastered and looks great. The script is interesting and the acting is very good--especially by Moorehead in her last theatrical film. As for blood and gore--there's not much but what is there is pretty strong. So--a good drive-in movie from the 1970s. It's great to see it uncut and remastered.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Lacking in laughs or depth
An Asian-American guy (Henry Golding) brings his Asian-American girlfriend (Constance Wu) to Singapore for a friends wedding. He plans to propose to her but his mother is urging him to dump her and stay in Singapore. She also keeps telling the poor girl that she will never be good enough for her son.
I was told this was a rom-com. There is some romance but I didn't find it particularly funny. There were a few mild laughs but that was it. Also a LOT of characters are introduced to us all at once with little introduction. I'm still confused at who some of these people were. ALSO they throw us into Asian customs and traditions that are downright bewildering if you're not Asian. Still I was never bored, the cast was certainly attractive, the film was colorful, the mood was light (sometimes too light) and it had a big old happy ending. Also this is a BIG hit at the box office. I'm really torn about this one. I can honestly only give it a 6.
What's Up, Doc? (1972)
Hilarious screwball comedy
Great movie. A mixup of identical plaid overnight bags leads to hysterical interludes at a hotel. This stars Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal and (in her movie debut ) Madeline Kahn. It's full of slapstick humor and great one liners. The plot makes little sense but it's just an excuse for the jokes to fly.
I'm surprised this got made. Screwball comedies just weren't being made in the 1970s. However this was a HUGE hit and jumpstarted the careers of all three stars. I was laughing virtually nonstop throughout the entire film. Well worth seeing.
Harriet Craig (1950)
Pretty good Crawford movie
Joan Crawford plays Harriet Craig--a domineering woman who cares more for her house and possessions. She lies to her husband (Wendell Corey), treats her cousin like a maid and treats her servants like slaves. It all eventually catches up to her and, in a great finale, it explodes in her face.
Crawford is excellent in the title role. She reins in her tendency to overact and gives a great performance. The rest of the cast is pretty good too but it's Crawford's movie all the way. Worth seeing but "Queen Bee" was better.
Somewhat entertaining but mostly dull
True story of Scotty Bowers. He was a young. handsome guy who (in the 1950s and 60s) provided men and women to closeted actors an actresses. Most of the movie consists of Bowers (still alive and in his 90s) talking to the camera and recounting his life. It also has him visiting people he worked with who back up his story 100%. There's also talk about who was gay back then. Naturally all the stars they talk about are conveniently dead. There's also some hardcore gay sex footage. (It's not rated but would easily get an NC-17 if it were).
This isn't a bad movie but I was bored silly. I actually dozed off a few times! The film says the same things multiple times over and none of the revelations of who was gay are shocking. It just shows us again and again that Bowers is a compulsive hoarder--the state of his houses is downright disgusting. So it was somewhat interesting but I was bored.
Secret of the Blue Room (1933)
Engaging little whodunit
Movie takes place in a large dark eerie castle where a man (Lionel Atwill) lives with his daughter (Gloria Stuart). She's being wooed by three young men who want to marry her but she can't decide which one she wants. Twenty years before three unsolved murders happened in one room of the castle (the blue room). Since then the room has been blocked off. The three guys decide to prove their bravery--they'll each spend a night in the room. Naturally things go wrong.
Often thought of as a horror film but it really isn't. It's whodunit with horrific touches. The castle is dark and spooky and the movie begins on a dark and rainy night. Also it's lots of fun. It moves quickly (it's only 66 minutes), has a good cast and an interesting mystery. Worth checking out.