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The Widow (2019– )
Unwelcome investigation
27 March 2019
Three years after her husband disappeared due to a plane crash in Congo, his 'widow' discovers faint traces that he may still be alive. She flies down to Africa and starts an investigation that may be clumsy (she does not even speak French), but her stubbornness takes her through in one piece somehow. What she finds is however not what she expected, and to unknown enemies, her investigation about the plane crash is not welcome...

Well entertaining TV series, at 8 episodes neither too short to develop a certain complexity and interesting characters, nor too long to maintain suspense. I watched it in only three days because I was eager to find out how it continues, a very good sign. Familiar faces among the actors include Charles Dance ('Game of Thrones'), Alex Kingston ('Doctor Who') and of course Kate Beckinsale ('Underworld').
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Worthy conclusion of the series
9 March 2019
'Valley of Death' is the final movie of the immensely successful German western series of the 1960s based on Karl May's novels (albeit very loosely). It did not repeat the mistakes from Brauner's earlier production 'Old Shatterhand': the story is action-packed and to the point, Pierre Brice can shine (for example in Winnetou's knife duel against the enemy chief), composer Martin Böttcher wrote a great soundtrack, and experienced director Harald Reinl had the right feeling for the series. For the locations, they returned to places familiar for example from 'Winnetou I'. Even if the story seems like nothing new (bandits hunting for gold), 'Valley of Death' became a very entertaining movie that shouldn't disappoint the fans of the series.
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Lifeless despite the good cast
7 March 2019
Before a peace contract with the natives will be signed, Captain Bradley and a bunch of outlaws try and sabotage it by faking Indian attacks on settlers. Old Shatterhand and Winnetou start searching for the members of this conspiracy.

It is a little bit strange that the movie doesn't really click, because it has all the ingredients of a typical Karl May western of that period, plus a perfect cast with Lex Barker, Pierre Brice, Daliah Lavi and Ralf Wolter as the good guys, facing excellent villains (Guy Madison, Rik Battaglia). It is somewhat too long with two hours for a rather straight story, and with its occasional brutality (even murder of a child) and carelessness for detail never develops the sense of magic that was typical for the best contributions to the series. Ultimately a disappointment.
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Lost in the machine
20 February 2019
Katee Sackhoff is sitting 90 minutes in front of a green screen, talking to a machine, while a lot of colourful computer graphics are swirling all around her. This movie is supposedly about a conflict between humanity and artificial intelligence. The irony is that its makers do not manage to show any human aspects in it. Devoid of human interactions that might show the value of emotions and creativity as opposed to a machine's logic, the movie misses its aim and pushes the audience into a kaleidoscope of effects which are utterly sterile and meaningless. I give three of ten points, due to a certain weirdness that kept me watching till the end. At least it is not a typical low budget sci-fi flick.
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Within the Rock (1996 TV Movie)
It's collision time again
9 February 2019
A rather large moon is on course for a collision with Earth. Dr Shaw (Caroline Barclay) is sent with a team of space miners to drill tunnels into that moon, preparing its destruction with explosives. However, they discover an ancient hostile life-form 'within the rock', and then they are killed one by one. Their survival is not made easier by Ryan (Xander Berkeley), the captain of the spacecraft who wants to use the opportunity and run with a fortune of platinum they discovered, too.

To many viewers, "Within the Rock" (1996) looks like a rip-off to "Armageddon" (1998) but looking at the dates, it can't be. Instead it is borrowing a lot from the usual monster movie sources "Alien" (1979) and "Predator" (1987) as well as earlier collision stories, a classic sci-fi theme going way back for example to "When Worlds Collide" (1951). The spaceship, where they still use floppy disks in the control room, looks early 80s rather than mid 90s; even for a TV production the effects are quite embarassing. So are the characters, because they leave tons of powerful explosives in the crates while trying to hit the monster with a pickaxe. The predictable story may be OK to watch once, but you won't remember it next week.
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Black Jack (1968)
The last laugh
3 February 2019
Django (aka "Black Jack" Murphy in the original dubbing) plans a bank robbery which is brilliantly executed, but when it comes to sharing the loot, his partners rape and kill his sister, almost kill Django and run with the money. You guess it: only "almost" killing him was a bad mistake. The injured Django - with a walking stick! - goes after them for revenge, killing them one by one in interesting ways and enjoying it more than he should.

For many years, I only knew a censored version with a different ending, and believed this was just another violent western. Now I had the opportunity to watch the uncut original version, and this has a lot more quality and impact to offer. Only a few westerns of that period went as far as 'Black Jack' in showing how revenge destroys a man. Jack/Django only lives for revenge like one of The Walking Dead, and from the sympathetic character at the beginning turns into a sadistic monster, laughing when his enemies die. And with the different ending (no spoilers here, of course) the uncut version makes a lot more sense than the old edit. Recommended (except for the squeamish).
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Dying to watch it - literally
25 December 2018
Kirby (Norman Reedus, meanwhile famous for 'The Walking Dead') urgently needs money because his movie theatre is deeply in debts. Just then, the rich collector Bellinger (Udo Kier, whose connection to the horror genre goes all the way back to 'Mark of the Devil' in 1970) offers him 200,000 dollars if he finds the only copy of the infamous movie 'The Absolute End of the World' by director Backovic for him. The first showing at a festival caused riots and deaths since it was so disturbing. Kirby starts his investigation and finds that most people associated with the movie or Backovic are either dead or insane...

Now this is a story guaranteed to attract the horror movie fans, because who didn't discuss the question 'what is the most extreme movie you've ever seen' with fellow fans? In the skilled hands of John Carpenter, this subject becomes easily one of the best contributions of 'Masters of Horror', season one.
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Dar vs. Ninja Turtle
13 December 2018
Old Lord Agon (David Warner) desires an object of power, the Eye of Braxus, which would provide him with new energy. Dar (Marc Singer) owns one half of the amulet, young king Tal (Casper Van Dien, with a ridiculous wig) the other half. Tal is caught by Lord Agon. Dar starts a rescue mission across the jungle and meets Shada (Sandra Hess, "Mortal Kombat 2"). He makes the mistake to trust her, but then she tries to steal the amulet. And on who's side is the witch Morgana (Lesley-Anne Down)?

It looks like a cheap TV production, not a movie, because it is a cheap TV production. The demon Braxus could be one of the Ninja Turtles on a Monday morning. Gabrielle Beaumont, an experienced TV director ("Dynasty", "Star Trek: Next Generation") does a good job within the budget limitation. The story is solid, the characters have a certain charm, thus 'Beastmaster 3' is neither a contribution as important to the genre as the first installment, nor trash as bizarre as the second part, but simply average entertainment to pass the time.
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Dar goes to LA
11 December 2018
Dar (Marc Singer) fights against the villain Arklon (Wings Hauser) who can shoot laser beams and uses his devilish laugh frequently to prove how evil he really is. A witch (Sarah Douglas) offers him access to a strange world, the so-called LA, where Arklon can obtain a weapon of ultimate power, the neutron bomb. Quicker than you can say 'transdimensional gate', Arklon, Dar and the witch jump through the gate and confuse people in Los Angeles by their outlandish garb. Dar meets a senator's rich daughter (young Kari Wuhrer) who introduces him to cars and other miracles of this world.

The sequel is nowhere near the qualities of the first movie, and it suffers from some scenes where the contrast between barbarians and modern age is just not as funny as the makers expected it to be. Still an entertaining little trash flick with a couple of good moments - I don't think I have seen another movie where policemen are trying to catch a guy with a pet tiger.
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Raw Edge (1956)
The pack is lurking everywhere
2 December 2018
Kirby (Rory Calhoun) comes to town and finds that his brother was hanged for a crime he didn't commit. There is a lot of tension between the men everywhere because too many of them are after two beautiful women, Mrs Montgomery (Yvonne De Carlo) and Paca (Mara Corday). Everyone who dies will mean less competition in the chase for them...

'Raw Edge' was shown in my country under a title that means 'The Pack Is Lurking Everywhere', and indeed it feels as if men behave like a pack of hounds here, no character is entirely sympathetic. The makers did not bother much about historical accuracy, because several pieces of clothing and weaponry look way too modern for Oregon in 1842. But surely the aim of the movie was to tell a story about the dark side of human nature, and it fully succeeded at that. A sinister and unusual western ahead of its time.
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Masters of Horror: Jenifer (2005)
Season 1, Episode 4
It's a pet, not your lunch
29 October 2018
A detective shoots a man who is drunk, mad and armed, and trying to kill a blond woman. Jenifer has a hideously deformed face, but a stunning body, and although she is unable to speak, the detective will find out more from her about the man he killed than he wanted to know...

I remember reading somewhere in the press during the 1980s that Argento was attacked by serious movie critics for being misogynistic, for the way that women were victimized in his movies. They should have waited for this one! Jenifer is reduced to an animal with desires to have intercourse and eat lots of raw meat. Please don't eat the cat, dear - it's a pet, not your lunch.

'Jenifer' sticks to my memory as a rather gory contribution to season 1 of 'Masters of Horror', but not one of the best entries. John Landis' 'Deer Woman' for example was clearly more original on a similar story line of 'don't trust strange women'.
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Adrenochrome (2017)
Easy Rider, 50 years on
5 October 2018
'Guy on a motorbike comes to town. Nobody likes him, especially not the police. He takes various drugs to have a more interesting time, but instead, this leads to violence and killing.' You could summarize 'Easy Rider' with these words, but 'Adrenochrome' just as well, 50 years later. This low budget movie took a lot of effort with the visual effects. Computer painting in comic book style and such kind of graphic tools are omnipresent. But apart from the occasionally impressive exercise in style, it has little actual content to offer. I was hoping to dream in the following night about the skull face girl at least, but it didn't happen, so the makers didn't impress my subconscious as much as they wanted to. And they tried hard. You can give this a shot if you like weird movies - did I mention the surfer cannibals? - or just run out of drugs but want to feel like you didn't. I voted an undecided 5 of 10.
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Heartbreaker
22 September 2018
Doctor Carli (George Hilton) is a heart surgeon at a clinic owned by his wife Elena (Luciana Paluzzi). Now imagine: if she should die an untimely death, her husband would inherit the clinic and become very rich. Inspector Nardi (Fernando Rey), while initially investigating a different case, realizes that Mrs Carli may be in great danger and starts to watch over her.

The movie boasts with footage from an actual heart surgery (not that I ever wanted to see that so closely), but doesn't manage to provide as many surprising twists and turns as other classic giallo movies. Thus it becomes only an average contribution to the genre, although with a great cast also including Eduardo Fajardo and Anita Strindberg.
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They call him Sacramento
16 September 2018
Jack Thompson aka Sacramento (Ty Hardin) could live happily on his farm with his son (Christian Hay) and daughter (Jenny Atkins - in real life Hardin's 5th wife) if it wasn't for his enemy Murdock (Giacomo Rossi Stuart). Murdock tries to kill Sacramento several times, each time he fails, and thus somehow the running time passes. I wouldn't really call this a 'story', it's too fragmentary.

One idea of the script is remarkable, though: Sacramento usually beats up his enemies in the same saloon. The saloon owner afterwards has a serious argument with him about the damage - and he can't pay her. I have watched so many westerns where tables and mirrors are broken in a saloon brawl, but how often they discussed the invoice afterwards? And even if the hero is asked to pay for the damage, he usually drops a banknote casually and leaves, but I've never seen him stand there and say: oops, sorry... There are a few funny moments along the way, but all in all it is a poor flick shot towards the end of the Italian western wave. Ty Hardin, who shot 4 of these Italian westerns in a row 1971/72, was only 42 when he made this movie, the grey hair is a bit misleading.
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Dudu V: Unceremoniously replaced by a robot
21 August 2018
The last of five movies director Rudolf Zehetgruber made about a yellow Volkswagen beetle with many gadgets. However, the famous Dudu is trashed after only a few minutes at the beginning of this movie. It's a shame! A kind of spider robot with an annoying beepy voice becomes the new companion of El Guancho (played by Zehetgruber himself), obviously in the wake of the 'Star Wars' mania of the late seventies. Guancho and his robot are fighting various gangsters including Hidalgo (Brad Harris) and Alfonso (veteran western actor Fernando Sancho).

Even if the last sequel is a total disappointment, they managed again to find great locations: shot on the Canary Islands (mostly Lanzarote, partly Gran Canaria, I would guess from my own visits there). Anyhow, it would have been nice to get an actual story beyond a couple of standard chases around a (yawn) gold treasure. In opposite to the previous movies, they didn't even manage to install interesting female characters. I voted 4-7-6-5-3 for the five movies.
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Dudu IV: The Swiss adventure
21 August 2018
The fourth of five movies director Rudolf Zehetgruber made about a yellow Volkswagen beetle with many gadgets. He played the driver Jimmy Bondi himself under the stage name Robert Mark. Aldo Regozzani returns from the previous episode as a race driver. Walter Giller is back as well, but in a totally different part (last time a gangster, this time a hotel employee). Part 4 is a race movie again like the first movie, but instead of Africa set in Switzerland against a beautiful scenery of snowy mountains and castles. The screenplay writing, in opposite to the photography, leaves a lot to be desired. It is the usual race routine with accidents, tricks and rivalries. The only new ability of Dudu is that he can talk now, but that leads only to a few cheap jokes. Again he can fly, which helps to win the race, but also means he can quickly leave his driver behind if he's angry with him... Mildly entertaining, but the series gets tired at this point. I voted 4-7-6-5-3 for the five movies.
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Dudu III: Running faster
21 August 2018
The third of five movies director Rudolf Zehetgruber made about a yellow Volkswagen beetle with many gadgets. He played the driver Jimmy Bondi himself under the stage name Robert Mark. It is a common misunderstanding that the series is a kind of promotional tool of the Volkswagen company, but in an interview on the DVD of this movie, Zehetgruber confirms that they had no support at all from the car producers in Wolfsburg to make these movies.

Dudu's powers have grown again since the second movie. He can now fly, crawl up between two walls and Bondi has a more sophisticated remote control. Bondi's new partner in this movie is Aldo Regozzani as a stunt driver. The story revolves around a chase for the gangster Leskovich, featuring two ladies in danger and several bad men who volunteer to get kicked by Dudu several times. "Dudu will make it" is repeatedly uttered by Bondi as a running joke. And he does! I voted 4-7-6-5-3 for the five movies.
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Dudu II: Growing special powers
21 August 2018
The second of five movies director Rudolf Zehetgruber made about a yellow Volkswagen beetle with many gadgets. He played the driver Jimmy Bondi himself under the stage name Robert Mark, but the real star of this movie is Joachim Fuchsberger. Fuchsberger plays Plato, a police agent who is investigating in disguise against gangsters, while Jimmy Bondi just happens to be around and decides to support a bit with Dudu's special powers - which have grown enormously since the first movie. Dudu can now kick enemies unconscious with his movable front lights, for example, or let intruders rotate in his seat. Everything is done in a comedy vein with a memorable running joke: one of the gangsters saying "You think I'm stupid, but I'm not!" while regularly falling into the trap, nevertheless. To me it's the funniest of the 5 movies. I voted 4-7-6-5-3 for the series.
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Dudu I: Across Africa
21 August 2018
The first of five movies director Rudolf Zehetgruber made about a yellow Volkswagen beetle with many gadgets. He played the driver himself, called Ben in this movie, but Jimmy Bondi in the sequels. Another difference is that there are considerably less gadgets in this first movie yet. This is a rather simple story about a race in Africa, entirely shot on location in Tanzania, where film-making was an adventure in itself almost 50 years ago. A hovercraft shall race against several racing cars, although it is obviously slower, but it is allowed to short cut the racing track across water to even the chances. Dudu, the yellow VW beetle, is only permitted as a support car, not as a full participant in the race, but the little car bravely faces the challenges of the African wilderness. This is a nice little race movie with some comedy elements, clumsily narrated and except for the Tanzanian locations, offering little to remember. Most of the sequels improved the concept a lot, I voted 4-7-6-5-3 for the five movies.
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Aftershock (2012)
Tongue in cheek horror experience
16 June 2018
A bunch of tourists are in Chile to party, but when an earthquake hits the city, they need to fight for survival, not only against the natural disaster, but also against criminals who seized the opportunity to escape from prison.

I would have rated 'Aftershock' higher than 6 of 10 if it wasn't for the boring first 30 minutes. We get introduced to characters who are so dumb that we really wouldn't care if they all get buried by the earthquake. This lengthy introduction turns out to be a waste of time, anyway, because some of them are killed off early, while other characters who are more important for the movie get 3 seconds of back story ('Trust me, I'm a firefighter').

However, after the quake it gets thrilling, violent, suspenseful with a lot of action, which made the movie worth watching after all. I was not surprised to learn in the making of (watched on DVD) that several of the makers of 'Aftershock' have previous experience in comedy rather than horror, it's the timing of some scenes that tells it. For example the lady who shows the tunnel and then makes the mistake to stick her head first - that's the 'oops' timing of a comedy, not a horror movie. But it works and makes the movie more original. Also the background with a catastrophe that destroys the usual human behaviour so quickly is believable. Not too bad after all, but I recommend to press fast forward at the beginning.
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Welcome to the Future
9 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
'What Happened To Monday' is a remarkable movie. I would almost love it, if it wasn't for a couple of stupid things that damaged it for me. Sorry I can't explain that without SPOILERS.

First, the unnecessary finger cut-off scene. Why unnecessary? Because they are living in a future where medical science has progressed so that for example Tuesday's missing eye can be replaced. But they can't repair a finger with a small artificial limb and prefer to cut off 6 more fingers instead? Second, the logistics behind the freezing operation. We are told siblings all over the world are frozen, so hundred of thousands of them must be stored somewhere. This requires huge facilities with thousands of staff members, doesn't anyone notice they don't exist anywhere? Third, the company in charge wants to pretend everything they do is legal and perfectly okay. And then they shoot passers-by who happen to stand in the way when they are chasing Wednesday? Warfare on their own citizens, does it go unnoticed or what?

Regrettably this movie is far from perfect with quite a lot of holes in it, but still it is very interesting and worth watching for the amazing performance of Noomi Rapace who talks to herself in various roles, from the shy computer nerd to the lazy party girl or the sporty chick. She even has a death scene with herself, how unique is this? I can hardly imagine the workload when you are constantly on the set in one of your 7 roles, shooting and reshooting the same scene from a different perspective. Give it a try - one more reason to watch is that the subject of overpopulation is so serious that you can't think enough about it.
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Black Water (2018)
Shoot to thrill
3 June 2018
'Black Water' really surprised me. It's easily one of the best entries in the filmography of its two stars in this decade. Comparisons to the old days are quite useless, because I wouldn' expect someone who is almost 60 to put his foot in other people's faces a lot - apparently some fans do, and that's the bunch with the low ratings. The movie does not feature any kicks, look elsewhere for that. Instead, 'Black Water' is an intense thriller with psychological tension (okay, and a lot of ammo used as well). Agents from different sides are locked in a submarine with their enemies, some may be double agents, most of them don't tell the truth, so the captain and many others have a hard time guessing who is on who's side - and then, in the extremely narrow space, chases and deadly shoot-outs take place.

Jean-Claude Van Damme as Wheeler is the hero here, while Dolph Lundgren as Marco is a prisoner whom Wheeler releases although he doesn't know anything about him, believing "my enemies' enemy is my friend - probably" which is a good example of how the movie never lets his characters walk on safe ground. Small grudges like the embarassing love scene aside, a good movie that did not need a big budget due to its confined location (almost completely taking place inside the submarine) and a clever script.
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The quest of the very slow rescue team
2 June 2018
Queen Canary (Virginia Bryant) is captured by Kadar (Richard Lynch), who wears black so everybody can see he's the vilain. Two little boys from her people become slaves and later grow to become very strong men. Kutchek (Peter Paul) and Gore (David Paul) decide they'll rescue the queen better late than never, so about 20 years after her capture, the rescue team is on the way! Canary instructs the twins to get a certain magic stone first, and the quest for the ruby involves the usual challenges, from a tavern brawl to fighting a dragon in the swamp. Fortunately, they also meet a girl who does the brain work for them (Eve LaRue)...

I watched most Italian barbarian movies of the 1980s, from "Ator" to "Conquest", but this one I missed somehow which is a shame because with a bigger budget than those, it looks fairly good, and since it fortunately doesn't take itself seriously, it is an entertaining entry in the genre. Realising the limited acting skills of the muscular twins in the lead roles, director Deodato changed the direction of the movie from violent action flick to comedy which was a wise move. Except for a few small gory bits (e.g. cutting off a finger to get a ring), you wouldn't think this is from the same director who shot 'Cannibal Holocaust'.
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Black like a 'giallo'
16 February 2018
17 years ago, a little girl was murdered. The killer was never found. But now he returns, kills again, leaves the girl's doll or flowers with a card saying "black for the memory" to mark his next victims, and he even decapitates the stone angel on the girl's tombstone. The girl's mother, played by Jane Birkin, is understandably terrified. But what is the murderer trying to tell her?

Interesting, suspenseful thriller much in the vein of Italian giallo with its subject of a serial killer with bizarre and macabre habits, sneaking around in the dark. Much in line with that genre is the musical leitmotif, too: a girl innocently singing "la, la, la, la..." which brings back memories of the unsolved first murder case. The comparatively small production is enhanced by the strong performance of Jane Birkin ("Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye", "Evil Under the Sun").
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No mud, no fun
4 February 2018
Illegal drilling releases a prehistoric shark into a lake. Three girls make it to an island in that lake, realising they can't get back into the water and they're stuck on that island. A couple of criminals led by an evil lady in black are also on that island, facing the same problem. While the people on the island are fighting each other rather than working together against the common threat, the shark gets hungry...

The story isn't all bad, and some camera work with the underwater shots, or hovering just above the water surface, shows some basic skills. The four main problems of this amateur movie are: 1) sound. Repetitive dramatic music tries to hide that many noises of the action and the surrounding nature are simply missing. 2) acting. The guys and girls are sympathetic, but inexperienced. 3) location. This "island" is obviously the coast of a rather small lake, it destroys the credibility of the story. 4) sloppy continuity. People fall into the water, swim to the island and arrive with clean, dry clothes. I mean, it is pointless to accuse a low budget production of cheap effects, because they can't afford the million dollar computer tricks and that's life. But if you don't bother to pour some water and mud over the actors to make it look more real, which doesn't cost you a penny, then you just don't care about the movie you are making, and this is annoying.
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