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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.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Silly but stylish
Rich executive Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen) pulls off what he thinks is the perfect robbery. However insurance investigator Vicki Anderson (Faye Dunaway) knows he did it and wants to outwit him.
Silly and light but fun. Full of beautiful settings, clothes and flashy cars. Beautifully directed by Norman Jewison who uses multiple screens effectively throughout the movie. Also it was shot on location in Boston which has never looked better on the screen. The story is too silly for words and loses steam towards the end but I still enjoyed it.
Dunaway and McQueen are great and play off each other beautifully. Paul Burke is also good as a police officer assigned to the case. Light and fun. Recommended. There's an OK 1999 remake.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
Lousy sequel to the wonderful 2008 movie. It has Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) renovating and reopening the inn her mom Donna ran. Then it flashes back to Donna as a young girl (Lily James) meeting the three men who become Sophie's father. As with the first there's plenty of great ABBA songs on the soundtrack.
This movie has a lot going for it. Great songs, big beautiful production numbers, a good cast...but it doesn't work. The death of a main character (Donna) hangs over the movie. It's dark and downright depressing. Slow-moving too and the script is full of plot holes and inconsistencies. . The wonderful singing and dancing helps to a point. Also Cher's much publicized role is little more than an extended cameo. Also Andy Garcia is on hand looking terrible. The new young cast is certainly attractive but given no time to develop their characters. Dreary, dark and depressing. Skip it.
Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
Sweet and great documentary
Documentary about TV kid show host Fred Rogers and his classic TV show "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood". It explains why and how he started it and why it's an important show. They show clips from the show where he speaks to kids about various subjects like bullying, assassinations, war, anger and frustration. He speaks in a gentle friendly and (most importantly) speaks TO the kids. He never speaks down to them. They also interview people who worked on the show and also his widow and two sons. An absolutely fascinating and fun documentary. I grew up watching his show in the 1970s and this bought back a lot of good memories. Well worth seeing. However bring plenty of kleenex with you--you're going to need it!
Love, Simon (2018)
Bad gay coming of age movie. Simon (Nick Robinson) is 17 and secretly gay. He wants to come out but is afraid. Then someone finds out and threatens to out him. What to do?
Bad movie. The script is stupid, the characters annoying and it's incredibly condescending (hard to believe a gay man did this). The characters don't talk anything like any teenagers I've heard and they're all obviously older than 17. Also we have a saintly mother and father who accept their gay son right away. In fact it's made clear at the beginning that they would accept him no matter what. So where the conflict and why is he so afraid of coming out to them? There are a few good moments but 90% of this film is boring, unbelievable and incredibly badly acted. Robinson is terrible in the lead role. I applaud that we're getting gay coming of age movies but do they all have to be this bad?
Thriller: Trio for Terror (1961)
OK trio of horror stories
Three short horror stories hosted by Boris Karloff sitting in a London pub. For some reason they all take place in 1905. The first has a man who murders his uncle for his money. Too late he finds out his uncle was a warlock. The second has a man who wins BIG at a casino...but may not live to use his money. The third has a murderer hiding out at a wax museum...but are the figures really wax? Well-acted and well-directed by Ida Lupino. An OK episode of the "Thriler" TV series.
Dr. Frank Cordell (Robert Vaughn) is experimenting with some unknown gas. By mistake he gets a whiff of it. He passes out but wakes up fine. Unfortunately the gas (some how) has a side effect--it makes him go into a murderous rage whenever he hears bells!
Middling episode of the "Thriller" TV series/ The plot is ridiculous and plods along slowly. Also Vaughn gives a rare bad performance. The only bright spots are a good performance by Kathleen Crowley and a small bit by then unknown Marlo Thomas. Also there's a hilarious ending that's supposed to be horrific. This can be skipped.
Not THAT bad but not good either
Mega bomb that chronicles the life of Broadway legend Gertrude Lawrence from the 1930s to the 1940s. Julie Andrews plays the title role. This cost a lot of money to make but it bombed badly. It's easy to see why. Andrews plays Lawrence as a shrill obnoxious woman very full of herself. While that may be factually correct it's not someone you want to spend three hours with. Also the movie is frankly dull. When there's no musical number on the movie comes to a screeching halt and dull dramatic scenes come on. Also this rambles on for three hours!
On the plus side Daniel Massey throws in an Oscar-nominated performance as Noel Coward. He's great! Also all the songs are good and there are eye-popping production numbers. And Andrews wears some beautiful costumes all through the movie. Every scene she has on a different glamorous outfit! Still it doesn't work due to Andrews. She plays her character as such an obnoxious witch that you don't care. Worth seeing for Massey and the musical numbers only.
Thriller: Well of Doom (1961)
Gothic atmospheric Thriller episode
Robert Penrose (Ronald Howard) and friend Jeremy Teal (Torin Thatcher) are being driven through a misty moors to Robert's bachelor party. They're kidnapped by evil Squire Moloch (Henry Daniell) and his helper--the giant muscular Master Styx (Richard Kiel). Moloch and Styx proceed to torture the two men for their own reason.
It's dripping with atmosphere and a strong sense of dread. The acting is good especially by Daniell who chews the scenery. However it's slow in spots and the ending I thought was a huge let down (and highly unlikely). Still 2/3rds of it was great but that ending really hurts. Because of that I can only give it a 6.
Rome Adventure (1962)
For romantics only
Suzanne Pleshette plays librarian Prudence Bell who abandons stuffy New England and moves to Rome. There almost immediately she finds a job and a boyfriend--handsome Tom Porter (Troy Donahue). They date and the picture turns into a travelogue of Rome where they visit all the famous sites. Then they go to the Italian Alps and visit MORE beautiful sites. Then they return to Rome and sadly the last 30 minutes bog down to cornball dramatics with an ex of Dons (Angie Dickinson) showing up. It all ends happily of course.
This film is strictly for romantics. The scenery of Rome is breath-taking and Pleshette and Donahue make a very likable couple. In fact they were briefly married a few years after making this. The movie looks great and has a very lush romantic feel to it. I'm a BIG romantic and I'm not ashamed to admit that I got a little misty-eyed a few times :) There's also good acting by Dickinson and especially Pleshette. Rossano Brazzi also pops up in a small role. Donahue is terrible but looks great. Wonderful romantic film.
Convoluted and boring soap opera
Troy Donahue (in his first starring role) plays Parrish McLean. The plot is VERY confused with too many subplots to get into but here's the main one--Ellen Parrish's widowed mother (Claudette Colbert in her final big screen appearance) marries nasty tobacco famer Judd Raike (Karl Malden) who wants to run all the other tobacco farms out of business. Parrish fights back.
It's too long at 138 minutes and way too plot heavy. A lot of subplots are bought up and dropped completely. The acting is mostly terrible--Donahue is wooden and Malden screams his whole role. Colbert (who came out of retirement for this) tries but the poor woman has nothing to work with. Connie Stevens, Diane McBain and Sharon Hugueny are good in supporting roles but not enough to save the movie. Dull and forgettable. Beware commercial TV prints which cut the movie by about 40 minutes to fit into a two hour time slot.