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5/10
Not too bad
2 June 2019
Fun movie to watch with friends who enjoy such things over pizza on a Saturday night (especially if you can catch it on a show like "Svengoolie", including behind-the-scenes background, spoofs, and jokes). Interesting take on the Dracula story. No worse than an episode of the '50s "Lone Ranger: TV series, plus you get DRACULA -- played by the great John Carradine twenty-odd years after he did so in the original "House of Frankenstein" and "House of Dracula". He's obviously in it for the paycheck, but rises to the occasion and gives it the old college try. The rest of the cast do, too, with campy sincerity.

Loved the paper mache "bats", not to mention the "historical accuracy" of a "reformed Billy th Kid" living happily ever after, after driving a stake through Drac's heart. Good clean fun. :)
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Annihilation (2018)
5/10
Really kind of a mess
20 March 2018
And definitely a disappointment, as others have pointed out. It basically made nothing out of nothing. Very incoherent. Put "Altered States", "Alien", and "Ten Little Indians" into a blender and this is what might come out. I felt better about it the day after -- some interesting ideas (the book is supposed top be better) and halfway decent production values. But all in all a two-star (out of four) movie. I liked Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Natalie Portman was OK, but overall the whole thing was pretty week. Scarlett Johanson's "Under the Skin" from 2013 was certainly bizarre and didn't give much in the way of explanation,, but by comparison was an excellent movie IMO.
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Mother! (2017)
8/10
Difficult to rate or review
13 October 2017
I've seen a LOT of movies, but this one is possibly the most bizarre MAJOR motion picture I've ever seen. I'm somewhat surprised that the lead actors were able to perform their parts. Like I say, it's a hard one to rate or review, but I would give it an 8 based on the intensity of the experience. Perhaps the best description I could give would be to say it's as if someone put "Black Swan", "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf", "Fun and Games","Antichrist", "Straw Dogs", and "The Amityville Horror" into a blender . . . and hit HIGH.
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6/10
Serviceable thriller
20 January 2017
Not bad, but as often seems to be the case with this kind of film, the payoff is somewhat less than the set-up (or should we say, the destination is less interesting than the trip). An interesting exercise, with some twists and turns and good visuals and New York locations. Roy Scheider gives a VERY appealing performance, and a young Meryl Streep is quite lovely and affecting (if a little affected) as the Mystery Woman. Other performers are also good: Josef Sommer very much so as the Patient, Veteran actress Jessica Tandy interesting and effective as Scheider's mom, and Canadian actress Sara Botsford is very striking as the Surprise in Waiting. The cop (Joe Grifasi) was somewhat perfunctory, as arguably was the movie as a whole. Still, with everything going on in it, an enjoyable and not unmeaningful film.
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The Norseman (1978)
6/10
Vikings vs. Indians in pre-Columbian North America
5 December 2016
There's certainly no shortage of COWBOYS vs. Indians movies, but this is the only VIKINGS vs. Indians one that I know of. Interesting idea (and not without historical basis), and actually interesting story IMO, albeit admittedly weak on the execution. Lee Majors is a stolid (and arguably wooden) Viking prince ("Lord Thorwald") with a Texas accent ("Us Norse men . . . ) who leads an expedition of frat-boy Vikings in a search for an earlier expedition that went missing. (It turns out that they were blinded and enslaved by the locals when they started to get too close to the latter's women!) Veteran actors Cornel Wilde and Mel Ferrer are on hand, as Lord Thorwald's loyal second and enslaved king/father, respectively. And even young Eric the Red is along for the ride. (In actual history, Eric the Red WAS the son of Thorwald, but neither ever made it to the North American mainland; it was ERIC's son Leif who eventually did so.) And speaking of cowboys, veteran WESTERN actor Jack Elam plays the ship's resident mystic magician, who even has a pet hawk whose claws prove capable of doing some blinding when let loose. Meanwhile, post-Cher Sonny Bono squeeze Susie Coelho is no strain on the eyeballs as a rather fetching young Indian maid who is sympathetic to the Vikings. All in all a not unenjoyable film and one I'm rather fond of. Definitely one that would not make someone feel unfortunate if they encountered it on late-night TV.
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Robot Monster (1953)
10/10
I LOVE this movie!
15 February 2016
I LOVE this movie. I own the DVD and never tire of watching it. Also, I love the opportunity to show it to friends. When I first saw it on TV when I was young, I DIDN'T like it, largely due to the fact that things don't go too well for the earth side (the first time I had ever seen that happen). But when I saw it again in my 20's, I was struck by the fear of dehumanization in a technological age (a clear motif besides and beyond the usual cold war/nuclear war paranoia). Also, as I've continued to watch it, I've noticed that the actors and acting are actually quite decent and sincere. (The adults, in fact, have pretty good resumes -- and I'm a fan of George Nader from "Man and the Challenge".) I found the story to be an involving one, with it's share of surprises. And one cannot fail to be affected by the indomitable determination of the survivors to persevere in the face of overwhelming odds (before the precipitous turn where everything goes down the toilet for BOTH sides). And last but not least, there's Ro-Man going through an identity crisis worthy of Hamlet! ("I must! But I cannot!! How do you calculate that!") Plus the exquisitely desolate set and the hokey props and special effects. 10/10. BEYOND criticism.
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Laverne & Shirley: Here Today, Hair Tomorrow (1983)
Season 8, Episode 22
9/10
An unusual episode
26 February 2015
The last episode of the series and an obvious attempt at a spin-off. Carmine goes to New York to try out for the cast of the famous rock musical "Hair", and moves in with a bunch of other aspiring actors in the process. I thought they did a great job on the production numbers from the play. I had never been a big fan/follower of the series or of Carmine, but this episode had such a "magical" quality and energy to it, that it made me wish I could have seen the spin off. Definitely one to catch if you ever have the chance. BTW, it's interesting to note that "One Day at a Time" did something comparable with the character of Schneider in its last episode a year later (sending him to Florida to take over the care of his niece and nephew after his brother died, after the departure of Ann and the girls to England).
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The Streets of San Francisco: Breakup (1977)
Season 5, Episode 21
8/10
Excellent, tense, involving episode
12 July 2014
Some really good actors guesting in this episode: Pernell Roberts, George Murdock, Sharon Acker, and Lawrence Pressman. Pernell Roberts does a particularly impressive, convincing, and affecting job as a beleaguered businessman whose world seems to be falling apart on all fronts. George Murdock is AMAZING as an ex-con with a grudge that won't quit against a lawyer who's part of Roberts' problems. Well-plotted and paced, engrossing story that makes you care about the characters. I was surprised how good it was for an episode of "Streets". Interesting footnote: Four years later, Murdock was a guest actor on an episode of Roberts' "Trapper John, M.D.", which coincidentally was ALSO set in San Francisco.
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The Signal (2014)
6/10
An impressive film school exercise but not quite a movie
16 June 2014
"Visually arresting, methodically paced, and almost perfectly executed" says another review here. I agree and would add well-acted, produced, and directed. But it still doesn't quite make it as a movie, something with a real story that is effectively delivered and is more than the sum of its strung-together parts. Each scene is fine, but they just seem like a string of episodes rather than a coherent story. One has trouble getting the point and is left somewhat confused and unsatisfied, with the final twist more baffling than impactive. I would say that the words "inchoate" and even "incoherent" can't help but come to mind regarding the film.

Before you write me off as someone who only likes nice linear films where EVERYTHING is made perfectly clear and who can't handle anything unusual, abstract, metaphoric, or different in any way, compare "Signal" to "Dark City", the recent "Under the Skin", and even "THX 1138" (which BTW arguably has a lot of similarities to this one).

Meanwhile, for examples of films that have similar problems as "Signal", see "Citadel" (2012), "Critical Nexus" (2013), and even "Shuttle" (2008) or "Blair Witch Project". I would argue, tho', that most of these, whatever their flaws, are probably more effective at delivering a real story than "Signal". MEANWHILE, to see what a low-budget independent sci-fi movie CAN be, see "Moon" (2009).

Finally, I was just reading a review of "Signal" in which the reviewer mentions another director who started out with a middling low-budget sci-fi film and has gone on to bigger and better accomplishments; he sees similar potential in the director of "Signal". I fully agree. Again, I think "Signal" was impressive and well worth seeing, but doesn't quite make it to the level of a real and effective movie.
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Rawhide (1959–1965)
8/10
"Move 'em out!"
16 July 2008
Currently on METOO's new schedule at 4 pm on weekdays, right after "Maverick" and right before "Wild, Wild West" (followed by "Star Trek").

Don't know if I ever actually saw an episode of it when it was originally on, but I'm really captivated by it. Offbeat, unusual, surreal stories set in a mythical West. Kind of the "Naked City" of Westerns.

And the guest stars are there: Dan Duryea, Lyle Bettger, Brian Donlevy, MacDonald Carey, Rick Jason (as a treacherous Mexican), a young Dick Van Patten, Jack Lord, Noah Berry, Jr. (as a colorful Mexican), Martha Hyer, Marguerite Chapman, even Ann Robinson ("War of the Worlds"), Gloria Talbott ("I Married a Monster from Outer Space")

It ran for EIGHT SEASONS, over 200 episodes, from January, 1959, to December, 1965.

Eric Fleming is quite remarkable as trail boss Gil Favor, the most stolid man that's ever lived, with the code of honor of a Samurai, and just the right balance between toughness and open-handedness. I would vote for him for President any day. (P.S. He had a very interesting biography: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0281661/ )

And a young Clint Eastwood is quite striking as his impulsive right hand, "Rowdy" Yates. Also, veteran Western actor and country music figure (the immortal "One-eyed, One-horned, Flying Purple People Eater") Sheb Wooley is there as seasoned scout Pete Nolan. And Paul Brinegar makes the most cantankerous character of a cook you could ask for as "Wishbone".

And then there's that great theme song, performed by the immortal Frankie Laine. (Between that and the "Maverick" theme, I've got Western theme songs running through my head all day.)

I look forward to every episode; I'm collecting the whole set. A good time (not to mention a moo-ving experience) is always guaranteed, as one waits to see if the boys will get their difficulties straightened out before the commercial.

"Rollin', rollin', rollin' . . . "
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Mr. Brooks (2007)
8/10
Makes serial killing (and killers) almost nice
24 June 2007
GREAT movie. I had thought it looked interesting, but was genuinely surprised at how good it was. Thoroughly enjoyable, great twists, worth a year's worth of SVUs. Very well done, great cast -- Kevin Costner, William Hurt, Demi Moore, Marg Helgenberger, Lindsay Crouse, and even REIKO AYLESWORTH.

Kevin Costner was excellent, succeeding in making a serial killer totally sympathetic (and making you root for him). William Hurt was brilliant, and great chemistry between him and Costner. Demi Moore gave a feisty, captivating, and very effective performance. Everyone else was very good, too.

A must-see. The best twisted tale since Hitchcock's "Psycho". Totally a pleasure. I'm plotting my next crime as we speak.

"I just wanted you to know."
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Someone Like Me (1994– )
9/10
One of the BEST shows ever made
10 January 2007
Contrary to one of the other comments (which, actually, I'm happy to see, seems to have been in the minority). Interesting, different, off-beat, down-to-earth, refreshing, real. Interesting characters, well-portrayed, trying to make it real and make it work in a non-usual family situation. Patricia Heaton was very good and very attractive. You could see the potential, and I was glad to see her eventually make it big. Nikki Cox was interesting and a lot "realer" than in her later teen sexpot role in that "Married With Children" ripoff. Unusual, off-beat plots and execution made it really something special in my opinion, way beyond your average family-based sitcom (and without taking the more low-brow approach of MWC and its clones -- not that I have anything against MWC, but I think that THIS show accomplished something more significant). I would have liked to see it go farther. It certainly deserved more of a shot, as did Gaby Hofmann, as the central character.
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Silent Hill (2006)
8/10
Enjoyably wacky
11 May 2006
Well, I went to see it, and it was pretty wacky. In fact, it was TOTALLY wacked-out, but quite enjoyable. Kind of a cross between "Dark City", "The Ring", "Constantine", and "End of Days" . . . on ACID.

Half the time it was hard to tell WHAT the f was going on, and yet, somehow, it all made sense, in a wacked-out sort of way, kind of like a dream. Good thing I had read that IMDb synopsis.

Actually, it was kind of nice to watch somebody ELSE'S nightmare -- I never have them myself.

Radha Mitchell thinks she's Naomi Watts . . . and she may be right. In any event, she wasn't unpleasant to look at. The lady motorcycle cop wasn't bad, too, in a butch sort of way.

And Alice Krige, who once played the BORG QUEEN, was there . . . playing the Borg Queen, sort of.

Now all I want to know is: What the parents-of-the-year who brought their little daughter with them to the theater at which I saw it were thinking. No big deal, I guess; they probably took her to "Basic Instinct 2", "The Devil's Rejects", "Hostel" and "Slither", too.

RB's recommendation: Definitely go see it, on acid, and, of course, take the kids.
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Bones (2005–2017)
Dull and disappointing
14 September 2005
Dull and disappointing. Tries really hard to be new and hip, but nothing new here. A cross between "Numb3rs" and "Relic Hunter", among other things (an "attempt" at the dynamic between Scully and Mulder?).

The characters (like the plot and the action) are artificial and impossible to care about, in spite of artificial and seemingly self-conscious and heavy-handed attempts to inject human interest. David Boreanaz seems like he doesn't know what he's doing there.

One finds oneself watching them DOING the show, rather than watching the SHOW and losing oneself in it.

It may get better after the pilot, but I won't be there to see. Life is too short. This is what they replaced "The Inside" with?
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8/10
Take the kids!
31 July 2005
Good, clean, wholesome family entertainment (if your family includes Charles Manson). Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Definitely take the kids.

The victims were very sympathetic. And the cast included greats like Geoffrey Lewis, Priscilla Barnes, P.J. Soles, Deborah van Valkenburgh, and Ginger Lynn Allen. Also, Sheri Moon Zombie is a very lovely girl.

Nothing can top this film. It makes anything you've ever seen (including "Cinderella" and "The Little Mermaid") look like a Disney movie. 8/10. Also, GREAT soundtrack and visuals.

I took my 8-year-old niece and nephew. (I told their parents we were going to "Herbie"). The kids LOVED it and said that, when they grow up, they want to be "just like the people in the movie". Now they're pestering their parents for the DVD of "House of 1000 Corpses". (And I'm not returning their calls).
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4/10
Surprisingly interesting and well-done, considering.
25 July 2004
Saw this one (again) on (Chicago's own) "Svengoolie" this weekend, and was amazed how interesting and well-done it was, considering the preposterously bizarre and grotesque underlying story. Also, how they make sympathetic, and almost get you to root for, the main character -- a guy who makes Dr. Mengele look like Hippocrates.

Meanwhile, it's striking how appealing Hazel Court is. Definitely a woman with a quality, she's developed nicely since "Devil Girl from Mars" (1953).

So, if you're up for a movie about a warped physician performing hellish experiments on (unwilling) human subjects, this is definitely the one to see. Mellow and affectionate.
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