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Funny Girl (2018)
5/10
Not-So-Funny Girl
11 September 2019
I'll be upfront right off the bat - I've never cared for Funny Girl, so if you're a super fan of the show, you can probably throw my opinion away immediately. I saw this to see if the show would be better with the new rewrite and if Sheridan Smith (an actress I like and respect) could bring something new to the material to shake off the ghost of Barbra Streisand.

Unfortunately, it seems like neither the rewrite not Smith can do much to lift this show up. That beautiful score is still intact and just as tuneful and catchy as ever and I can't find a single flaw in that, but this production feels a little cheap, sluggish, and light on laughs.

The first act is better than the second with a mostly engaging backstage/star is born story involving vaudeville legend Fanny Brice who is a self-professed "bagel on a plate of onion rolls." She makes her way from small theaters to the Ziegfeld Follies by her sheer talent and will of steel. Soon, she's a star and attracts the attention of handsome Nicky Arnstein who sweeps her off her feet and leads her down a dark road of heartbreak and hardship.

Though still a bit sluggish, the first act at least entertains, but the 2nd act is a complete slog with the main conflict being Nicky's gambling issues which doesn't make for very compelling theatre. Sheridan Smith tries her best, but while a capable singer, she tends to speak a lot of her notes before ending every song with a socko final note as if someone once told her to always end with a bang and they'd forgive you for slacking elsewhere. Some of her comedy lands, but she seems to be under the impression that making wacky faces is all you need to land a punchline and it hurts her more than it helps her. It might not even be her fault. This show was written and tailored to Streisand's unique talents and, without her, the show suffers.
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The Fog (1980)
7/10
One of Carpenter's Moodiest Works
17 August 2019
It's surprising that John Carpenter followed up Halloween with such a different tale of terror, but he did just that with 1980's The Fog. It's a urban legend-simple ghost story about a small coastal town celebrating its anniversary, forgetting that they only claimed the town because they murdered a shipful of lepers. The lepers are back and they want revenge.

The Fog has an excellent ensemble cast which is one of its strong suits and also, perhaps, one of its downfalls. There's really no major main character (even Adrienne Barbeau's Stevie Wayne - a radio DJ - disappears for large chunks of the film and never interacts with most of the other characters in the film). It's almost like if Robert Altman decided to make an ensemble horror film. Even more surprising is that Jamie Lee Curtis, Carpenter's star of Halloween, is in only about 15 to 20 minutes of the film and has no real character to speak of.

Dean Cundey's cinematography stuns and Carpenter's eerie synth score spooks, but one can't help feel that something is missing. It does lack that visceral thrill that made Halloween so special. The Fog seems content to just creep its audience out and not truly scare them. It's hard to complain, though, since The Fog does creepy better than just about any other film I can think of. It won't make you come back home and turn all the lights on before bed, but it still stays with you.
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Someone's Watching Me! (1978 TV Movie)
8/10
Hutton's High Rise Stalker
1 August 2019
It's probably no surprise that John Carpenter was able to elevate the TV movie with Someone's Watching Me. It's a devilishly Hitchcockian yarn and Carpenter works in a few nail biting sequences and even some genuine jolts along the way.

Lauren Hutton makes for a great, likable protagonist as a TV director who moves into a new high rise apartment and attracts a stalker across the way who begins sending her gifts and creepy phone calls. She involves her new friend (Adrienne Barbeau) and a potential boyfriend (David Birney) who may or may not end up becoming fodder for the stalker.

Someone's Watching Me is a fairly typical and obvious story that's been told in several different variations over the years, but Carpenter shows that he's a director of incredible skill. Hutton is quite amusing as the lead who has long spells where she adorably talks to and jokes with herself. Barbeau is also excellent as her friend, Sophie - an out and proud lesbian (and on 70's primetime TV no less!)
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Belle de Jour (1967)
8/10
A Stunning Performance by Deneuve
18 July 2019
The beautiful Catherine Deneuve plays a bored housewife in a bland marriage to the almost equally beautiful Jean Sorel. She has multiple sexual fantasies and, after speaking to a friend one day about a contemporary who's taken up prostitution, she decides to have her go at it. Things get complicated when one of her tricks wants more from her than she can offer him.

Belle De Jour is frequently funny, amusing, moving, and sexy with Deneuve in just about every shot. She's able to make a seamless transition from dull housewife to confident, sexually empowered woman right before our very eyes. It's a subtle, but genius performance and worth seeing the film for.
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5/10
Not Too Great
24 June 2019
I'll never understand why so many horror fans seem to love this sequel. For years, I kept hearing "oh, it's not great, because the MPAA cut out all the gore. You need to see it with all the extra gore." Now that I've seen that version, I can safely say that my feelings are the same. There are some nice effects here, but it's never very engaging, creepy, atmospheric, scary, or suspenseful.

As a fan of director Jeff Burr, I'm surprised. His Stepfather II is equally as good as the original and From A Whisper To A Scream is one of the finest horror anthologies I've seen. I'm not sure if studio interference was heavier this time around or what, but this film feels passionless and watered down.

Leatherface is a disappointing sequel to a horror classic. At least, the previous entry tried to do something new, but this feels like something we've seen a trillion times over. It's skippable.
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The Omen (2006)
6/10
Useless, But Inoffensive Remake
21 June 2019
The Omen wasn't exactly crying out for a remake. It was done well the first time, but Fox just couldn't pass up the gimmick of having a film coming out on 6/6/06 and decided to greenlight this remake. It sticks pretty close to the original script (clearly, they knew they couldn't do much better than that) and they've cobbled together a wonderful group of actors who take the film quite seriously. Liev Schrieber is excellent in the lead role with Mia Farrow deliciously playing the wicked nanny Mrs. Blaylock.

Visually, the film is a bit more stylized than Richard Donner's version, but it helps it stand out a bit. Someone clearly has a love affair with the color red since it's everywhere in this movie.

This retelling of The Omen doesn't need to exist, but at least it's well done and not an embarrassment.
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Kolobos (1999)
8/10
Candy Colored Nightmare Fuel
21 June 2019
Kolobos might not be a title you hear thrown out in horror circles very often, because it was dumped into video stores without a theatrical release and given lousy artwork that had nothing to do with the film. This is definitely a small, low budget affair, but there's a lot of thought put into it and it looks absolutely beautiful.

The entire film is bathed in lighting that would make Argento and Bava proud and the death sequences are fairly imaginative and well done, especially for a low budget film like this. The final twist isn't handled very well and it comes across as a bad afterthought, but everything else is so captivating that I can't even fault it for that.
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6/10
Not As Good As Unhappy Campers
6 April 2019
There's something a bit sleepy about Sleepaway Camp III. All the elements are in place, but everyone involved seems so tired and just ready to go home. Perhaps this is because Sleepaway Camp II and III were shot back to back with only a few days in between them. This isn't to say that Sleepaway Camp III is a bad film - far from it. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but it has its charms.

Angela is back and Pamela Springsteen returns with admirable gusto, delivering punchlines as she kills morally bankrupt teens as a weekend getaway to promote sharing and healing and all kinds of touchy feely junk. The camp is run by a hilariously daffy husband and wife (he's sleeping around with the nubile teen campers and she seems a few fries short of a Happy Meal). Meanwhile, Angela has killed a teen on her way to the camp (it's never explained how she knew she was headed to the camp or why she chose her) and she's headed up there in disguise (complete with a ridiculous wig). Pretty soon, she's slicing, dicing, and shooting all the campers who manage to fall short of her fairly high standards.

Sleepaway Camp III is blessedly short and to the point without a lot of extra fat to get in the way. Still, it's pretty much more of the same where Unhappy Campers came from, which makes it feel a bit "been there, done that." The MPAA cuts to the violence and gore don't help much either. By the end, you've had a good time, but you do feel like it wouldn't have hurt to leave the party an hour and half before you did. You don't completely regret staying, but you could have also gone home and used the extra 90 minutes of sleep.
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Buried Alive (1990 TV Movie)
9/10
Exciting, Well Acted TV Movie
31 March 2019
For a TV movie, Buried Alive might as well be a masterpiece. I'm not saying TV movies, in general, are bad, but there's usually a fairly workman-like approach to them that can be a bit uninspired. Not here.

Tim Matheson only wants the best for his wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh, but she only wants what's best for herself which includes an affair with sleazy doctor William Atherton and getting her husband out of the picture for good. Everything goes according to plan until they both start to realize that, perhaps, ol' hubby might not be so dead after all.

Now, there are some logic leaps here and there, especially in the final act, but the acting is so great that they can sell just about anything the script throws at them.

Blessed with a tight script, solid direction, and a fantastic cast, Buried Alive stands out from most TV movies and is well worth your time.
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Stepfather II (1989)
9/10
Unnecessary, but Enjoyable Sequel
31 March 2019
I'm pretty sure no one was dying for a sequel to 1987's The Stepfather. It ended pretty definitively with Terry O'Quinn's bad guy stabbed to death by his resourceful stepdaughter, but the film made a little money, so a sequel seemed inevitable.

Stepfather II brings back the phenomenal Terry O'Quinn as the titular character and his death has been explained away by the opening scene. Turns out, he's a mental hospital after the events of the first film, but as happens in these films, he escapes. He's soon made a new identity for himself as a counselor in a small town where women are ripe for the picking.

He settles on single mom realtor Meg Foster whose best friend, Caroline Williams, immediately thinks is a bad idea. Needless to say, the stepfather starts offing anyone who gets in the way of his marital bliss.

Stepfather II doesn't need to exist at all, but it's really not bad at all. It's director with some flair by Jeff Burr and there's a decent amount of suspense. The cast is great with O'Quinn still giving it his all.

It might not have much new or interesting to say, but Stepfather II is still a pretty good time.
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9/10
Near Perfect Late 80's Slasher
30 March 2019
Slaughter High embodies everything one would want in a late 80's slasher film. The deaths are inventive and over the top, the killer is creepy, the location is drenched with atmosphere, the high schoolers look like they haven't set foot inside a school for about 2 decades, the fashions and hair are ridiculous, and there's a thick layer of cheese sprinkled on top.

The plot might not be anything to write home about, but Slaughter High makes up for it with sheer bravado, a sense of fun, and some shockingly mean spirited death scenes.

Caroline Munro will probably be the only familiar face in this for most people and she handles her flimsy role nicely and makes for a great Final Girl in the film's occasionally tense finale.

If there's anything Slaughter High misses the mark on, it's the silly ending, but after doing so much right, it's hard to complain too much,
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