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Scarecrow-88

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Tales from the Darkside: Basher Malone, 20 December 2015
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The pits. Just awful wrestling spoof has this Chuck Norris lookalike named Basher Malone (Steve Strong), with an old mama (Marie Denn) dressed as if she were readymade for preparing Thanksgiving dinner (at ringside she has brownies, lemonade, chocolate chip cookies, and milk!), putting his career on the line against a heel in a Luchador mask from Hell (I promise, that is the plot!), managed by dastardly Tippy Ryan (the one and only Vic Tayback). Tippy has been quite successful in producing loathsome villains for the kids to emulate and look up to. Then comes Basher who offers the kids wholesome values to get behind, fighting his opponents (Tippy hands a pair of brass knuckles to an opponent to use against Basher, and he also orchestrates any rotten act possible to get his wrestler a victory) cleanly and with valor. Hence, introduced is the wrestler from the great down under (literally a portal located in a Pepsi vending machine located in Tippy's gym!) being called up to take Basher out. A great deal of the episode is set in the ring, so if you don't like pro wrestling, this episode will probably have your attention bolting for the exit. I like pro wrestling, but I think it has no reason to be anywhere near Tales from the Darkside. The nonsense with the valet of Tippy's Hellspawn getting wet and turning into mush, the gun with a laser that cools off Tippy's Trog since he isn't use to the climate of cool Earth considering his home is in the Devil's domain, and the increasing power that benefits Trog when fueled by the sin of others or when personally riled up (by the laser gun, a kiss from the valet, or Basher's own bouts with pride), a little device on his belt indicating when he's "powered up or powered down", just emphasizes the stupidity of the screenplay. What a disappointing end to a series that suffered plenty of lows in its four seasons of high and lows.

Tales from the Darkside: Barter, 20 December 2015
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

All the way to the end, the show could get on such a role with a good string of episodes only to fall prey to a stinker, halting the momentum of the season. Woof, "Barter" is quite a dog. Its intentions are to spoof of a classic show featuring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz (with Jill Jaress and Michael Santiago portraying them in broad strokes) adding a sci-fi twist to shake things up, but the execution of the whole episode aims for laughs through the approach of satirizing a sitcom from twenty years when the episode was made. Problem is that all the performances go way overboard (for instance, Santiago mimics Arnaz by trying to use "thin" instead of thing and the Hispanic accent is excremental, while Jaress does the "wahhhh" bit when her son's fate is "mishandled") while the sci-fi premise (alien salesman with an attraction to ammonia (!!!) offers to barter with family after a device of his is misused to "freeze" the son while in the middle of a raucous drum session in the living room) is so silly (not clever) the whole ordeal is taxing to endure. The language of Jack Carter plays with the English language but does so in the most oogly-boogly, wretched way possible. The steam that comes from his ears (and the train steam noise made during it) after a nice dose of ammonia just exemplifies the method of goofy comedy this episode considers funny. The ending, where the parents must give up their child or else he remains frozen, is one of those pulled-out-of-the-ass developments I just found rather odd…it seems those involved in this farce felt the need to include a punishment for the family (punishment enough for us having to sit through this).

Tales from the Darkside: Hush, 20 December 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I think "Hush" is proof that you can take a simple premise (let's face it, this is your basic survival plot with the monster being a machine) and, in execution, leave a definite impression. Nile Lanning, delectable in her short dress, with nice legs, is a good lead as the babysitter having to use her brains to outsmart a runaway machine, seemingly built from a vacuum cleaner, with a heart attached to "give it life" (its beating I found rather unsettling; I actually thought it favored an aardvark). Operated by a remote control device, the "noise eater" is accidentally turned on, and soon the machine is sucking the life out of any device or object (or dog, bird, or mother), making a noise or sound. Again, the way the direction makes the machine such a scary menace, "Hush" is far more suspenseful that perhaps it has any right being. The "mouth" at the end of the tube and how the tube emerges like this hungry tentacle looking to suck whatever is available add to the machine's creep factor. With Nile (who reminded me of Amanda Peet) having to rely on her wits in a game of cat and mouse (the machine is attracted to sound but doesn't have "eyes"), using noise to gain the upper hand, the machine has a worthy opponent. The little boy inventor (Eric Jason), with a nagging cough that can get worse when excited (or frightened), increases the tension as his unintentional (and unwanted) noise is a magnet to the machine. A key scene of horror: Jason's mother returns from a night out and is a victim of the machine! Her body dead near the front door, not allowing Nile to escape, is a harrowing moment. Good late episode at the end of the series run. Jason's little monster robot creations are quite nifty.

Tales from the Darkside: Going Native, 20 December 2015
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This episode, about an alien in the form of Kim Greist (interestingly, I saw similarities to the Scarlet Johansson vehicle, Under the Skin) who has been sent to Earth to photograph and analyze the human race—allowing herself to be influenced by her subjects in ways that ruin the mission through their "polluting" her by embracing (reluctantly) emotion and feeling—seems more fitting for The Hunger or The Hitchhiker, but in Tales from the Darkside, "Going Native" kind of feels like a square peg in a round hole. Previously, "Mary, Mary" was sort of similar in its off-guard approach in storytelling, kind of jarring when you watch an episode like "Family Reunion", "Halloween Candy" or "Monsters in My Room" in comparison. I noticed "avant-garde" used as a description, and I guess that is just as apt as any because the approach of director Andrew Wiener (whose lone credit this episode was in that chair) and writer Ted Gershuny (director of Silent Night, Bloody Night & Sugar Cookies, both starring Mary Woronov) is to use voice-over and this monotone voice that comments on "observing the natives" while combating the urge to "join in with them". This "life therapy" group that allows people to deal with emotional hang-ups (John Aprea, who has been a fixture in soaps for ages, not to mention, television) is attended by Greist (Brazil; C.H.U.D.; Manhunter) to evaluate humans intimately. In allowing herself to get *too close*, she is seduced (so to speak) into "contact" (not just physical/sexual, but emotional). She's spoiled and I guess the ending indicates her alien will not be allowed to leave. I really liked the soft photographic look of the episode (it is quite captivating), and the use of everyday life in image (as photographed by Greist's character in observation) is effective. It is just an odd fit for the Darkside show. A great deal of narration and the plot is more melodrama with a sci-fi twist than anything remotely creepy or eerie. Nothing haunting about the conclusion, either. I can see why this is considered a potential cult episode from the series, but it just doesn't knock my particular socks off. Greist, however, is enigmatic and compelling.

Tales from the Darkside: Don't Open the Box, 20 December 2015
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

William LeMassena is a "junk mechanic" who desperately wants to invent something from used parts that could be useful. His grating, nagging wife, played by Eileen Heckart, who never has a good word or comment to say about him, feels her life hitched to him has been unsubstantial and worthless. I can only imagine he has had to endure this gradual decades-long emasculation. Well, perhaps a wrongful delivery—this box that actually reads "Don't Open the Box"—could actually lead to a positive outcome for Will. Richard B Hull, a recognized character actor with that face you just know you have seen before, is the postman who needs the box returned to him. Well, Heckart sees this as a chance to feed a void of avarice never satisfied in her marriage to Will, so she exploits her possession of the box through, "well, it is missing but we'll find it soon". In this lie (Heckart hides the box and Will reluctantly goes along), Heckart negotiates valuables in exchange for the eventual find of the box, while Mr. Postman is patiently waiting for what belongs to him. Heckart has jewelry, her living room replenished, and fancy duds (well, they're lime…but to her they are fancy) while Mr. Postman expects what is his to be returned. Well, a contract will be introduced and the box is to be given back…but what if the box's instructions weren't kept? An eager Heckart, when the box first arrived (believing something valuable might be in it), had opened in, not finding anything much to her disgust…oh, but she let something free that must be repaid.

The episode could be viewed as a showcase for Heckart as the most unlikable, annoying, obnoxious, contemptible drag…she does what she is supposed to do. We aren't supposed to like her so that the twist involved would be fulfilling and gratifying. Years of verbal abuse towards a man that just wanted to be in the basement and work on spare parts, hoping to invent something that might matter…Heckart gets under the skin, and so when that invention comes it is to her detriment, the victim usurps the abuser. Hull couldn't look less sinister yet he is presented as someone that will get what belongs to him. I think the twist, in its conception (the box is opened by someone that wouldn't listen to reason and is certain to suffer for it), is predictable, but the actual way it does play out was rather clever. It does let Will get rid of a source of misery and continue doing what pleasing him. Mr. Postman, going the route of that possible Devil persona, refusing to allow another soul to *get away* announces who he really is, but I figure viewers who watched this show religiously or regularly could figure out he wasn't just a mailman working for UPS.

Tales from the Darkside: Cutty Black Sow, 20 December 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I think Cutty Black Sow, even if this episode comes at the tail end of the Darkside's run, is another "return to form" episode that overlays what you are watching with a sense of impending doom. There's an important warning that needs to be heeded exactly or else an ancient creature of Scottish folklore will return to take a victim from a family unprepared. Another rather sinister aspect is the potential harm of a child and how this child must follow the "request" specifically of his "great-gran" in order to keep him and his family safe from the title monster. All Hallows Even being spoken of from the dying lips of the great-grandmother, tying in Halloween to the episode (the episode splits between the eve of Halloween and Halloween Day), further emphasizes the attachment to horror, almost completely eliminating the comedy and humor that often did hold the show from its potential. I think if you looked at my ratings for a majority of the episodes, the rating would be like 6.5. When it is good, though, I think the show could put out some solid work.

Huckleberry Fox (quite a name, right?) is the kid who is there with great-gran (Paula Trueman; her voice had this haunting quality to it and the "final dying words", with this aching of death quality that truly unsettled me, truly sets up the conclusion) as she is about to pass. She spins quite a forewarning that Fox does follow, but unfortunately a simple mistake (made by his rather nagging but cutie-pie sis, played by Mary Griffin) could be exactly what the cutty black sow will take advantage of.

I think everything from the dark, fireside lighting that seems to achieve a pervasive sense of "something's around, in the dark" eeriness, and the use of a Scottish mythos that emerges as not just a story both enhance "Cutty Black Sow". The direction and storytelling is actually, to me anyway, is rather refreshing. I found myself often rather disenchanted and disheartened with the show, and occasionally surprised. This episode made my Top 10 favorites from the four seasons. Ending is appropriately grim, as the great-gran laid out what needed to be done, and unfortunately an error meant the monster could be unleashed.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
I'll Be Seeing You, 18 December 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Low-key, very simple Christmas time (although the film doesn't emphasize the season so dutifully as other films set in the holiday often do) developing romantic melodrama. Ginger Rogers (her career on fire at this time) is serving time for an accidental murder (manslaughter as a struggle caused the victim to go out a 14-story window!) and given a furlough (leave for an 8-day vacation with her relatives (Spring Byington, Tom Tully, and Shirley Temple)) for the holidays. She meets Joseph Cotten, a well-decorated soldier who is currently on leave due to psychological issues stemming from WWII (early precursor to PTSD). Their problems are kept secret from each other, but the truth is bound to eventually surface.

Although O. Selznick has his name all over it, I didn't necessarily think this little film was full of bombast, pomp or circumstance. Both Rogers and Cotten deliver very subdued performances, and I think the film is all the better for it. There's no shouting matches or clinched teeth, just adults learning to grapple with the difficulties of life while falling in love with each other. I realize this might seem like a plot full of soap opera sap, but I think the characters are developed in a way that isn't too tiresome. In the vein of 40s melodramas, you could do a lot worse than this.

While Cotten is quietly dealing with demons that torment him--but doing so by not embellishing his emotional troubles as if boxing them away to deal with on his own--Rogers endures the knowledge that she is on a short trip, her sentence not yet over, and the holidays provides just a momentary release.

The film is, by and large, a romance. Shirley Temple is a teenager crazy about soldier boys, and her innocence and naïveté is rather amusing. Her mother, Byington (I know her from Werewolf of London (1935)) stays real busy around the house cooking and cleaning, as well as, managing her household. She admits in one scene that she married "down", recognizing her lot in life (kind of sad, but we see that her joy with her husband seems quite legit), to Rogers when the two talk about the past, present, and future. Rogers is the kind of actress that can make dialogue about "wanting a normal life, a family and future" when contemplating her current situation authentically without falling prey to the overwrought or turning on the waterworks too much. Cotten, even when attacked by a dog during a rather startling scene, always maintains his resolve, walking away when he gets unsettled or bothered. One key scene has him in sweats and clinched fists in room he stays temporarily. Another has the one and only Chill Wills describing a war experience and taking it to the enemy (but surrendered to a diner waiter due to a twitch) as Cotten must walk out because he can't take it anymore. Even the ending, after learning the truth from gabby Shirley and distancing himself from her due to surprise, Cotten doesn't go overboard…he's silent and introspective. And when the two lovebirds finally embrace, it is nicely played in a rather modest, not overly dramatic way. Probably not the ideal "Christmas movie", but a possible treat for those who love these kinds of 40s melodrama. Good cast helps a great deal.

Krampus (2015/I)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Krampus, 18 December 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I think Krampus, for me, is one of the great surprises of the year just in terms of its intensity and how it truly turns the Anti-Santa premise loose on us. You will never see the Gingerbread Man quite the same again. The Jack in the Box, Porcelain Dolly, and Teddy Bear have never quite been so monstrous, ghoulish, and wicked! Seeing Jack gobble up a kid (well we see wiggling shoes as Jack takes a gulp!), the Gingerbread Man giggling as it plunges toward a kid (wrapping him in chain as he's pulled up a chimney!), multiple Gingerbread men shooting nails from a nailgun with glee (!!!) at one of the film's heroes, the Dolly trying to strangle a victim with Christmas Lights, the Teddy Bear with a mouth full of sharp teeth ready to bit tries to gnaw a victim's arm off during an assault, and a robot toy decides to go on a tactical strike with a knife blade mechanism that stabs repeatedly! Oh, the Jack in the Box has a worm like body and decides to flee through the ventilation ducts of the house! If that wasn't enough, Krampus is Santa if he had hooves, was shaped like a large snail, a tongue that slithers out of this face somewhat similar to St Nick, and stomps around quaking everywhere he lands. Oh, and the elves…well if elves were the size of hefty 8 year old boys and wore masks similar to the creepy intruders from The Strangers (2008), then obviously they belong to Krampus.

The snowglobe "limbo" twist at the end just left me rather smirking even if it is so eyerollingly silly…although, the film isn't the least bit realistic once Max (Emjay Anthony) rips apart a letter to Santa and tosses it out the window into the wind. What lies within that momentary lapse of control and through the action of the letter's "dismissal" summons a different kind of visiting "holiday spirit".

Max loses his cool when the dysfunctional relatives arrive. Max's mom, Sarah (Toni Collette) has a sister, Linda (Allison Tolman), married to a sports-obsessed gun devotee asshole (David Koechner) who raises even his girls as tomboys, speaks without thinking, and has contempt for Sarah's husband, Tom (Adam Scott, quite good in a rare dramatic part). Linda brings a son along who rarely speaks but has quite an appetite and an aunt (played by scene-stealing Conchata Ferrell of Two and a Half Men fame) who loves the eggnog as long as it has a little added liquor for extra effect. Max has a sister, Beth (Stefanie LaVie Owen), a bit too clever and hip for the family her parents find so taxing and obnoxious. When Koechner's girls (dressed in logger shirts, wearing ball caps; all they need are some tobacco so they spit in a can when needed) read aloud Max's Santa letter, this sets off the chain of events that lead to the accidental calling of Krampus. The film even includes an animated sequence where Max's German grandma (Krista Stadler) tells of her youth and calling of Krampus, which is quite a thing of beauty.

The neighborhood gone white with a blizzard, houses gutted by Krampus' *visits*, a snow plow left stranded in the middle of the road, and Beth (who went to see her boyfriend, with parents' regrettable permission) trying to hide underneath a delivery van (with a driver frozen in the front seat after being scared to death) with a musical box opening and unveiling one of Krampus' "helpers", the film really startled me with its creature feature sensibilities. Don't bring the kids to this one, though. I learned the hard way. Krampus and his gang scared the hell out of them. I delighted in the very parts that scared them, though, I must admit. The movie does its job. This family are visited upon by a horror that isn't yuletide.

"The Tick" (2001)
The Tick - Pilot, 16 December 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Gravity is a harsh mistress"

Short-lived comic book satire series maybe was ten years too early. I particularly liked the Tick's moving antennae. Patrick Warburton is perfectly cast as dark-voiced, dim-witted, strong-chinned, muscled superhero (with quite the profile) of the show's title. Seemingly superhero 24-7, Warburton's Tick stays dutifully "in character", always in a rather flatteringly Gold's Gym physique blue costume. He is manipulated by a bus stop employee (annoyed at the Tick's constant presence) to leave his post for the nearest city, befriending a recently unemployed accountant named Arthur (David Burke). Arthur wanted to work at his office (ran by a gruff and forcefully uptight Christopher Lloyd!) in his costume which is some sort of moth/bunny hybrid. Lloyd's boss would have none of that. Anyway, the two eventually meet while encountering a group of Commie terrorists (who are so dangerous they'd have a hard time harming a fly) Tick dubs "the Red Scare". Also introduced are two crime-fighters, The Bat-Manuel (Nestor Carbonell) and Captain Liberty (Liz Vassey) who have had a fling, at odds intellectually and philosophically but sexually drawn to each other just the same. Bat-Manuel is known for his womanizing exploits, often receiving calls while in the middle of superhero activity. Liberty is gung-ho and a speed-talker, emerging as if she had one too many lattes.

The show is quite fast-paced, edited so rapid-fire that it barely takes a breath. The show is concerned primarily with poking fun at superhero comics, characters, and plots. The show is so quick-draw in how the four deliver their lines and the way the plot moves along so locomotive I imagine multiple viewings would probably be expected just to see what you might have missed. I think this was the kind of comedy that hits and misses but when it does hit, the show can be quite funny. The cast, especially a game Warburton (so dead pan and using a serious toned voice, but adding a winking "I'm in on the fun" nod from the actor a lot of the time), are a lot of fun. Surprisingly, this show didn't make it past 9 episodes!

The inclusion of Jimmy Carter as the former President to be abducted and harmed by The Red Scare is so randomly odd, it works! The Tick and Arthur team could have been the Scully and Mulder of comic book comedies had Fox given a chance.

Wanted: Dead or Alive - Epitaph, 16 December 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Bounty hunter, Josh Randall (Steve McQueen), is summoned to Border City's Sheriff Office, having no idea that the wanted criminal he is asked to pursue is the sheriff of the town! Television veteran Richard Anderson (of westerns among many other genre shows) guest stars as the sheriff-turned-bank-robber who has fled town with loot stolen due to a woman who came off the stage bewitching him (Enid Jaynes). Jaynes' Martha Boyd not only packs a mean rifle but will shoot anyone right in the back in order to keep her loot! James Drake has a very minor part as another patsy of Martha's, Larry Simon.

Josh and former sheriff, Kramer (Anderson), are good friends, so this is a personal mission not at all about the bounty…Josh wants to make sure Kramer is brought back to Border City in one piece, but with Martha targeting him in order to make sure the money stays in her possession no one is safe! I think "Epitaph" will not be remembered as much for its simplistic plot as it will be for the startling conclusion which ends violently. Because Martha Boyd is so devious, greedy, and ruthless, this kind of female character isn't the norm in this era of western. And when she draws on Josh, and he must retaliate in self defense, the dénouement had to have stunned audiences watching on their television sets. Kramer's fate, in particular, rather shocked me in that he never really stands a chance. When Kramer and Josh decide to go after the money so they can return it to the bank and town, with Martha waiting on top of a boulder from a distance ready to shoot them in the back (this not long after getting rid of Larry, who was excess baggage to her despite using him to rob the loot away from Kramer), the angle of the camera shot truly intimates how vulnerable men in the Old West could be, susceptible to a bullet in the back at any turn.

Best scene for me was a well lit nighttime fireside discussion between a disappointed Josh and a defeated Kramer, both down in the dumps over this whole situation. The point of how love can cause a man to commit questionable deeds is what is driven home in this episode. A sullen McQueen makes sense considering what his character must endure, watching his friend broken and ultimately executed. Jaynes isn't really in the episode long, but she does make her presence felt. What a devious, deadly villainess.

Other scenes include Kramer encountering a scorned bounty hunter who surprised the fugitive sheriff when his back was turned, Josh visiting a saloon to take a few shots of whiskey before his unfortunate trip as the bartender (a cigar clinched tight in teeth on one side of his mouth) laments the loss of a fine sheriff that lost his way, and the current Border City Sheriff, Walt (Bart Burns) conversing with Josh over what happened to Kramer, trying to come to terms with the inexplicable act committed.


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