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A Different Direction, 3 August 2015

A large Halloween mask-making company has plans to kill millions of American children with something sinister hidden in Halloween masks.

As I understand it, this film took a beating at the time because it dared to take the "Halloween" franchise in a different direction. Looking back now (2015), it seems to be remembered more favorably because the detour is not a shock to today's viewers (even if it confuses them that one out of ten movies has nothing to do with Michael Myers). Personally, I wish it had continued down this path... a new story every two years? Could have been big and a great gateway for Carpenter's friends.

Tom Atkins is a joy to watch (and a pleasant man in real life). Having him be a part of the Carpenter extended family is great, and even though civilians may recall him best for "Lethal Weapon", he will always be a horror treasure.

Rocky II (1979)
Highly Entertaining, 31 July 2015

Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) struggles in family life after his bout with Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), while the embarrassed champ insistently goads him to accept a challenge for a rematch.

I do not remember Rocky being so dumb in the first film. It is really played up here, and gives the sequel sort of a cheese factor. He misunderstands things, speaks funny, and gets involved in some weird incidents (such as the cologne commercial).

But this is probably more entertaining than the original. As good of a film? No. As iconic? No. But fun, and a good excuse to bring Carl Weathers back... that guy is amazing and deserved a bigger career.

Decent, 31 July 2015

Using the words and ideas of great filmmakers, from archival interviews with Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Bresson to new interviews with Mike Leigh, David Lynch, and Jonas Mekas, Oscar-winning filmmaker Chuck Workman shows what these filmmakers and others do that can't be expressed in words - but only in cinema.

Thank you for talking with David Lynch, who says "it can be like a dream" when watching cinema. In a way, this is sort of the point. It is trying to bring us in, get an emotional response, tell a story... make the false true and the fake real. If you can make fantasy a reality, you have succeeded.

There seems to be a growing number of "documentaries" that just show film clips and talk over them. Most are garbage. This one is okay. Not great, but okay. There are enough moments of directors talking about the films that influenced them to really be helpful, and enough footage from lesser-known films to really spark someone to add to their watch-list.

A Video Nasty, 31 July 2015

A ski-masked maniac kills apartment complex tenants with the contents of a toolbox.

Blue Underground does a great job of bringing forgotten movies to the mainstream, and making them look good in the process. You might think a "video nasty" from the 1970s would not fare well today, but they make it work with a great audio commentary and interview. We get an inside look at a slasher that really predated the slasher movement.

One can see why it got the title of "video nasty". There is a sexuality to it that is not necessarily appropriate, and then the idea of killing people with power tools? This similar idea was explored more humorously with "Slumber Party Massacre", but there is little humor here.

A Must-See Half Hour, 31 July 2015

The history of Nazi Germany's death camps of the Final Solution and the hellish world of dehumanization and death contained inside.

This is an early Holocaust documentary, possibly the first really successful one. At only a half hour, it is short but really gets to the point. We see the ovens, we see all we need to if we are to understand how awful everything was.

The director has said this was intended as an allegory to France in Algeria. That is fascinating. Not only is it "Look at how bad the Nazis were" (which is universally agreed upon), but it is also "Let us not be like them in our own military adventures".

As a bonus, Chris Marker ("La Jetee") worked on this one.

Just a Bunch of Jumps, 31 July 2015

A 17-year-old is on house arrest for the summer while his mother is away on business. A horrifying incident occurs leaving an ominous presence in the house.

This movie has one big failing: it relies heavily on jump scares without ever creating an atmosphere. We are also lead by a character who is hard to support. A stalker. And yeah, he seems to have good intentions, but how can we support him, especially as he continues to go against the punishments enforced on him? Interestingly, the film has a reference to "Disturbia", which was an obvious ripoff (or homage) to "Rear Window". Referencing the one (but not the other) gives us an idea of the target audience: 20-somethings who have no concept of film history. At least we get Peter Stormare.

Frogs (1972)
Cheesy Fun, 31 July 2015

A group of hapless victims celebrate a birthday on an island estate crawling with evil frogs.

By no means should this be considered a good film, but it has a certain charm that is hard to replicate. American International made some gems, and this is one of them. Later it was picked up by MGM. And, I believe, a Blu-ray was released by Scream Factory. Though you can never have enough special features.

Ray Milland is a joy to watch, whether in his best work ("Lost Weekend") or some of his worst. Indeed, towards the end of his career, he seemed to appear in just about anything. We also get Sam Elliott, though he is almost unrecognizable without his trademark mustache.

THX 1138 (1971)
Lucas Strong Right out of the Gate, 30 July 2015

Set in the 25th century, the story centers around a man and a woman who rebel against their rigidly controlled society.

George Lucas is, of course, best known for "Star Wars", and some also know him as the man behind "American Graffiti". They may not know this film. Of course, it is no secret that he puts references to "THX 1138" in other works, but how many people have actually seen this film?

It is interesting to see that, right out of the gate, he had some great names working with him. Donald Pleasance and Robert Duvall as actors. Francis Ford Coppola as his executive producer. Sid Haig, Lalo Schlafin. This is all-star from beginning to end, and it is a shame that so few people really seem to know about it.

A Rat With Hair On It, 30 July 2015

A man from a family of rich snobs becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family.

Frank Capra has a certain sensibility that people associate with him. And that sensibility you expect will certainly be evident here. This is like a cross between his "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Arsenic and Old Lace". The eccentric scenes are great, with dancing and music for no real reason. There is a discussion of income taxes and what good they serve. (Keep in mind income tax started around 1913, so people of the time knew an era without it.) And best of all, we have a rat. A rat with hair on it. That cracked me up pretty hard.

Solaris (1972)
The Russian Sci Fi Masterpiece?, 30 July 2015

A psychologist is sent to a station orbiting a distant planet in order to discover what has caused the crew to go insane.

Unfortunately, many know "Solaris" from the remake. And the remake just does not add up. One individual I know watched it over and over and tried to convince himself it was good. He never succeeded, and now he is no longer with us.

Maybe we don't think of Russia when we think of "sci fi", which is strange. Keep in mind through the 1950s and 60s, it was Russia that as actively opposing America in the space race. Surely they had stories to tell about what might be up there, beyond the edge of the atmosphere. And, indeed, with this film alongside "Stalker", it is evident that Russian science fiction is strong.

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