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The Missing Lady (1946)
What did they do to The Shadow?
The Shadow as presented in the pulps was a hard nosed, tough, superheroic vigilante - fighting crime with .45 automatics in each hand.
This turns him into an incompetent dandy, essentially a copy of Dick Powell as the Thin Man, minus the charm, lovely wife, and alcohol.
The other characters also bear little resemblance to their names. Moe Shrevitz is no longer a street smart cabbie, but a bumbling wimpy sidekick.
The worst part is you don't see The Shadow, really. He is in his Lamont Cranston role for the whole movie. Again, it's like they copied the formula used in other detective comedy movies - The Falcon, the Lone Wolf, etc, instead of The Shadow. And it's a shame, The Shadow was The Batman of his day, he deserved better.
Badly focused, but still somehow very entertaining
Much like Dan Akroyd's career, this TV show is all over the place. And yet it remained an enjoyable TV show mostly to the efforts of the core actors.
It purports to tell the case files of the OSIR, a paranormal investigation group, In reality, even lower budget than Ghost Hunters (before they got a show). In the show, a modern, high budget world class organization with top class personnel and gadgets.
In Season 1, it was played fairly straight, with the OSIR team investigating two paranormal cases or events per show. It was perhaps a bit dry, but each case was interesting in its own right.
In Season 2, apparently to boost ratings, they brought in Matt Frewer (of Max Headroom fame) to replace Paul Miller. They also changed it to one investigation per hour. And the tone shifted from overall paranormal, to more something like the X-files - conspiracies and such (more corporate than government). In came Michael Moriarity, playing a conspiracy expert.
Season 3 scaled back the conspiracy stuff somewhat(and Moriarty's character) but still kept the same sort of focus in terms of what was being investigated. But the focus was also a lot on characterization. But in the season finale, they wrapped up the conspiracy stuff and brought back Michael Moriarty briefly.
In the last season, Season 4, Matt Frewer left the show after a few episodes and the focus changed back to more investigating stuff, not conspiracies. They also brought in a new investigator, a woman that is mostly forgettable. Dan Akroyd also pretty much stopped introducing each episode, instead using a generic one for every one.
So in a way, the show was sort of a trainwreck. Yet at the same time, it was worth watching thanks to the efforts of the core group of actors - Barclay Hope, Nancy Anne Sakovich, Colin Fox, plus the very lovely Soo Garay as a medical examiner and Peter Blais as a cryptozoologist in recurring roles.
One of the better Lovecraft adaptions
Despite the name of the movie, this is actually an adaption of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth". I guess technically it's okay, since those things in that story worship Cthulhu, but still a bit misleading. I had heard bad things about it, mostly Tori Spelling being in it, but after actually giving it a chance and watching it, I was pleasantly surprised (except by Tori Spelling). And enthralled.
It's very slow paced, subtle sort of movie. Very picturesque, relying on a creepy atmosphere more than actual horror. This is actually quite true to the story, which relies on that air of mystery and weirdness until the ending. That is where this movie veers off a lot. It's got a much more apocalyptic ending, something more out of a Stephen King novel or maybe John Carpenter movie than you really found in Lovecraft.
I guess there are two controversial features to it. Firstly, the gay angle. I didn't even remember that until I saw the previews on the DVD. The actual movie itself isn't especially graphic in the regard, just really two scenes. Frankly, as a straight man, I found the scene of a half naked Tori Spelling more unpleasant.
And speaking of that, the second controversy is Tori Spelling. While I think actually she makes a perfect visual representation of a Lovecraftian horror, at the same time, she's one of those people that you instantly and only think of as being that person, not the character they are playing (like say, Mr. T or David Hasselhoff). So when she's on screen, it really hurts the suspension of disbelief that is necessary for a horror movie. At least a serious horror movie, maybe she'd fit into one of those campy Stuart Gordon movies.
But beyond that, I think it's just a very good movie. Some parts are just creepy as hell, which is I think what makes a horror movie successful.
Enjoyable if somewhat predictable B-movie horror...
This is pretty much a B-horror movie, but a good effort, I thought, comparable to a good solid outing from Hammer in their heyday. You won't be scared, but you'll be entertained. Somewhat unbelievable plot (in this case, revolving around Druids), very attractive though untalented actresses (who in this case, sadly don't show anything), even more untalented actors.
It's somewhat unusually structured. It starts off revolving around a bartender studying to be an archaeologist. Coyote Ugly meets Indiana Jones, I thought at first, but it quickly drops that angle to focus on the plot, how people on campus are mysteriously being killed or disappearing. The mystery of what is going on is revealed about halfway into the movie, then the later half revolves with the protagonists (now expanding to two, or three) dealing with the culprits behind the mystery.
I was impressed by that aspect of the plot, there are a fair amount of fight scenes, not the helpless trying to get away sort you see from heroines in horror movies, but direct confrontation.
I wouldn't say the acting is good, and it's hard to judge the dialog from the subtitles, but it's not horrible, either.
The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971)
Genuinely creepy and atmospheric, but execution could have been better...
It's hard to make a really great horror movie. It's even harder to do it on a low budget, as this obviously was. This comes really close to it, but suffers from some problems. Mostly the pacing - sometimes it's too slow, other times it's jerky, like some scenes were cut out. The ending could have been somewhat better executed as well.
A farmer finds some weird skeletal remains in his field. He is alarmed and alerts his local judge, who I couldn't help but think looked like Dick Van Patten (especially in the movie Spaceballs, where he also wore a Judge's wig). The judge scoffs at the farmer's superstitious nature, but at the behest of his lady friend, goes and takes a look. When they return, the remains are gone. The judge is not amused or impressed, while the farmer is scared. Nearby is a creepy looking preacher, playing with a snake.
And so the stage is set. An outbreak of satanism begins, first with one of the judge's maids. At first it seems like hysteria, but it turns out to be more than that. Much more.
There are several disturbing scenes. Not gory, but just disturbing. Both in what the satanists do to their victims, but also what the townsfolk and the judge do to suspected witches once they realize something evil is afoot. Not so much what they do, but the callousness of it, which seems to mirror that of the satanists. Only the poor farmer and the squire seem to be really genuinely good (and likable) people.
What hurts is how the story is told. It uses a somewhat different way of telling the story, going from character to character rather than just having a main character or two, I guess it's really telling the story of what happens to the village. Which would be fine except some of it drags on too much, going into too much detail, when it should have been skipped. And conversely, it will change the character focus quickly, without much in the way of transition you so it takes some time to figure out what is going on.
The ending also didn't reach its potential. Some of the blame has to be on the special effects, which look almost comical, but it's too languid in pace, and a bit distracted, with the director apparently not decided if he wants to show the inner conflict of the farmer or a dancing naked chick.
Nice cinematography, good music. The acting is generally good, although I found the villainess's eyebrows a bit distracting. Good job of finding very very creepy children.
Mou han fou wut (2002)
Funny if a bit slow at first...ultimately unpredictable...
This is a strange mix of genres that you do sometimes see a lot of in Hong Kong films. It's partly a romantic comedy (which Netflix billed it as), but also more serious than that as well. Ekin Cheng thinks he's a hot shot gambler who just needs a chance (that is, money) to win big in Vegas. He gets that chance by stealing some money along with a friend. But things go horribly wrong and his friend ends up dead. But then he ends up going back in time rather mysteriously and has a chance to change things.
The end and beginning are fairly serious, the middle is extremely funny in spots, almost slapstick.
The English captioning is terrible at times, which is odd, because part of the movie is in English (it's set in Las Vegas), and they can't even get the subtitles for the English parts right.
Dnevnoy dozor (2006)
Great production values, horrible direction
The movie starts off with something of a bang, a very impressive recreation of a medieval battle complete with slo-mo effects.
I hope you remembered the first movie well. Because if you don't, you won't have any idea what's going on. Even if you did see the first movie, things will be very confusing, because the plot is all over the place. If the movie weren't 2 1/2 hours long, I would think a lot would have been cut out, explaining all the running around, but it's just poor direction. Or maybe just a poor script. Was all the body changing really necessary? Another big problem is the characters. In order to make the villain of the movie seem to super-brilliant, all the other characters in the movie are incredibly dumb. Dumb as in you'll be yelling at the screen for them not to be doing things.
That said, it's got some nice scenes. Mostly the beginning and this woman driving an RX-8.
Not enough action, hard to follow plot...
I wasn't expecting much out of the film, but they do tout lots of impressive live action air scenes, which sounded appealing to me. And in truth, there are some. But most are simply stuff you'd find in an air show, I was expecting more in the way of dogfights. There is a dogfight eventually, but it consists of 2 CGI F-15s shooting 3 CGI missiles at the plane, and the plane "dodging" them.
Basically, the highlight is a live action air scenes is maneuver called a "Cobra", where the plane sort of rears back on its tail in a controlled manner. Which is neat, but not the sort of thing that wows people who don't understand what the maneuver is (though I guess is probably very popular in Russia, since I believe they invented it). The most impressive action scene is not in the air, but a battle on an air base, between Russian special forces (I think) and terrorists.
Anyway, the plot of this is a little hard to follow. There's a super secret new Russian plane (actually just a SU-30, a nice enough plane, but nothing special). And terrorists are trying to do something to the pilots. Then we find out that it's Malcom McDowell who is the terrorist, and ex-CIA agent, with Armad Assante being a current CIA agent trying to stop him (or something). Rutger Hauer is technically in this, but he's in two scenes. And just what he is, I wasn't sure.
The trouble is, it's long. A lot of the story focuses on the "good" pilot, who isn't a jerk like the others. We see him fall in love with an American animal rights person (?) who looks 100% Russian (pretty, but doesn't even remotely look American), then he has some angst with his father (who is the designer of the plane, I think), and the antics of the other pilots. That stuff should have been trimmed out. And much of the spy stuff is boring. You have Malcom McDowell vs Armand Assante's team of CIA (I think) along with a Russian duo (who are likable, but not overly competent). They play a cat and mouse game, but it's hard to know what exactly is going on.
It does suffer from a bad English dubbing, but there are worse. Much much worse. It's passable. The real problem is all the dull scenes. Cut it out and it would have been a good movie. As is, it's worth a watch, but not great.
Maybe if you can figure it out, you'll enjoy it...but probably not even then.
This sounded like a really interesting movie from the blurb. Nazis, occult , government conspiracies. I was expecting a low budget Nazi version of the DaVinci code or the Boys from Brazil or even Shockwaves. Instead you get something quite different, more psychological, more something like from David Lynch. That was actually a plus. But the way the story is told is just awful.
Part of the trouble is the casting. Andrienne Barbeau's character starts off the moving being somewhat timid and afraid. She just doesn't do that well, even at her age, though she certainly tried. The actor cast as the son apparently thought this was a comedy. Most of the other actors also seemed to have thought this was a campy movie, or at least acted like it, rather than simply being quirky. The only one that I thought did really well was the daughter, Siri Baruc.
Another big part is the pacing. It starts off very slowly. So slowly you might be tempted to turn it off. But then it gets compelling for a while when you get to the daughter's suicide and the aftermath. But shortly afterward, it all becomes a jumbled mess. Some of this was on purpose, but much of it was just needlessly confusing, monotonous, and poorly focused.
The real problem, is it's simply not a pleasant movie to watch. It's slow, dull, none of the characters are likable. Overuse of imagery and sets. Some movies you see characters get tortured. In this, it's the viewer that does. It does have a few creepy moments, most notably the creepy Nazi paintings and the credits, but the rest of the movie is mostly just tiresome.
Bad Army of Darkness rip-off...
Army of Darkness can be considered a cult classic, so I guess it's surprising we haven't seen more ripoffs of it. However, I can't imagine we'd ever see one like this.
To those that haven't seen Army of Darkness, a regular wisecracking Joe with a shotgun is accidentally teleported into medieval/dark ages times and must save the inhabitants there with a combination of future know how, leadership abilities and fighting ability from a supernatural evil.
It was a silly movie, but worked because Bruce Campbell has charm and wit, and the script was genuinely funny.
Replace Bruce Campbell with Stephen Baldwin and replace the Evil Dead with Harpies. Replace the claymation low budget special effects with blue screen special effects straight from a shopping mall vendor or amusement park. And take out the witty banter and one liners and replace them with dialogue that makes the worst dubbed Italian film seem like Shakespeare. Watch at your own peril. About the only redeeming feature is the female lead, who isn't much of an actor, but is attractive, in a mid 30s sort of way.