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5/10
auto drive
22 September 2019
In an apocalyptic near future, the economy has collapsed. A rust town has been walled off. Death Race has been resurrected to rule the imprisoned population. Weyland has lost control to a new Frankenstein. After a failed attack, they send in a group of new prisoners. This franchise is really into recycling. It knows what it is. It does what it does. It's not trying to be more than an action B-movie. Things are blowing up. There is plenty of leather and trash. It does need more car crashes. It needs to be a constant demolition derby. There is a section in the middle with too little vehicle action and the final Death Race section is mostly out in the open. They need more buildings to drive thru. The franchise is basically in auto drive.
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Dynasties (2018– )
8/10
beautiful pictures and compelling stories
22 September 2019
It's a BBC production with all the expected great visuals of their nature documentaries. It follows the struggles of animal families. Each episode follows one species; Chimpanzee, Emperor Penguin, Lion, Painted Wolf, and Tiger. I really like the last three episodes. It's got the beautiful pictures and some compelling stories. David continues his family's traditions.
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Killjoys (2015–2019)
6/10
cool start
22 September 2019
In the Quad planetary system in the J Star Cluster, Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen) and John Jaqobis (Aaron Ashmore) have been inseparable bounty hunters, or Killjoys, working for the RAC (Reclamation Apprehension Coalition). RAC is beyond any government or corporate allegiance where "The Warrant is all". John secretly takes on a kill warrant above his grade for D'avin Jaqobis (Luke Macfarlane), his brother. Dutch helps John to get the warrant canceled as the trio goes off on their wild adventures.

The premise is fine and it's set for an interesting sci-fi cop procedural. Hannah may be the coolest chick on TV. Aaron is the funny one. The trio is fun. Somewhere along the line, the show decides to go crazy with the story and it becomes a mess. It's a confusing mess at times. It's disengaging at other times. It is still fun for what it is. Sometimes, it finds its footing and the show keeps going. I prefer the procedural to some big mystery box especially when the box is a box inside a box inside another box and so on and so on.
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Toy Story 4 (2019)
8/10
emotional
22 September 2019
Woody sneaks into Bonnie's backpack to watch out for her on her first day of kindergarten. He helps her create Forky out of the trash. The family goes on a road trip. Forky escapes and Woody goes in pursuit. Along the way, they are reunited with Bo Peep and her sheep while facing off against Gabby Gabby.

This is surprisingly emotional. There are surprising turns at the end. I'm uncertain about the future prospects of the franchise but I'm also a little excited about a reunion. It would be fine if this is the end but that would be a shame. This is a great franchise. If there is one that deserves to continue, there is non better than this. As for Forky, I expected a wilder voice. His introduction is amazing. There are a few terrific journeys along the way.
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The Last Bridesmaid (2019 TV Movie)
6/10
cute Hallmark
21 September 2019
Jewelry designer Becca Foster (Rachel Boston) is the last of the unmarried bridesmaid at her cousin Lucie's wedding. She meets the videographer Kyle Taylor (Paul Campbell) working the preparations to the wedding. He doesn't believe in love. She is taking over her family business which would make her too busy for a personal life. The bride-groom couple sets her up with best man Aidan. The meet cute could be a little better. They do make for a cute couple. Boston cannot stop smiling and Campbell is equally pretty. His jealousy is also pretty cute. It's a cute Hallmark. The cute couple deserves a pass.
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Old Smokey (1938)
6/10
The Captain and the Kids
21 September 2019
The Captain gleefully retires the horse Old Smokey and the horse-drawn fire engine with the arrival of a shiny new fire engine vehicle. On his first call, the Captain gets into all kinds of trouble. Old Smokey is at the entrance of the horse retirement home when he smells the smoke. He rushes to the fire and rescues everyone. This is an early MGM animated series called The Captain and the Kids. There is plenty of talent behind the work. It shows. It's a well made screwball animated comedy. The Captain doesn't have the right charisma and he never caught on. That probably spelled doom for the series.
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Swing High (1932)
6/10
nominated short
21 September 2019
It's an MGM short of The Flying Codonas, a trapeze family act. They're in their practice tent going through some of their moves. The cinematography is mostly stationary. There is slow motion with various angles from the ground to top down. Some of it isn't quite as sharp especially the slow motion. It was nominated for an Oscar. The narration has a bit of broad sarcastic humor. This is like an industrial short for the circus.
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Gold Raiders (1951)
6/10
Shemp Stooges
21 September 2019
George O'Brien is a former Marshall turned insurance agent. He is ambushed by three bandits and rescued by the Three Stooges. Moe, Larry, and Shemp are three traveling hucksters. They arrive in town to find an ineffective sheriff and an ongoing war against the bandits. O'Brien signs up a mine owner to protect his gold shipment.

Shemp returns to Three Stooges after Curly's terminal illness. It's not necessarily top level Stooges. Curly remains the best third of all times in the trio. This is still some fun physical humor. They're mostly the comedic relieve in a B-level western. They have a lot of scenes by themselves and take up about half the movie. Quite frankly, I rather just have the Stooges.
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Tall Girl (2019)
4/10
wanted to like it
21 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Jodi Kreyman (Ava Michelle) is a high school teen in New Orleans. She's 16 and six feet one and a half. She is constantly being mocked with "How's the weather up there?". She is defended by her friends Fareeda and Jack Dunkleman who has an unrequited crush on his much taller friend. Then comes Swedish exchange student Stig Mohlin who checks all the boxes. He's cute and he's taller than her. Only he doesn't even notice her. At home, she is loved by her pageant older sister Liz and her parents (Angela Kinsey, Steve Zahn) although dad is over-protective in a bad way.

This is a sincere, inspirational, feel-good, Netflix teen drama. Sadly, the writing has a lot of flaws and the younger cast are mostly over their heads. On the plus side, I would keep the whole Kreyman family if I was to recast the movie. Zahn and Kinsey are great actors. At over six feet, I can safely say that Ava Michelle is one of the better tall teen actresses around. It's a rather limited pool. She's able to express most of the emotions and she has some charisma. She's a functional lead. The rest of the cast needs an upgrade.

As for the writing, the flaws start right at the beginning with the title and does not stop until the credits roll. First, the title is horribly on the nose. It is unimaginative. Same goes for the constant insults about the weather. The insult is bad, unimaginative, and old. It may be the writer's intention to make the mean kids unimaginative but it would be so much better to have creative insults. I would call her Jack and change Jack's name to something else. Everybody should call her Jack to annoy her. Later, it's revealed that Kimmy is the one who came up with it after they read Jack and the Beanstalk as little kids. That's not to say that the overall structure is flawed. This is a standard teen movie and that works to a good extent. The problem of the flawed writing does not stop and it eventually infects the final ending. I can appreciate ending with Jack and his crate. That could all be very cute but it comes after the jealous Jack does some awful things himself. I don't mind her ending up with Duckie but he cannot be the reason for her distress. Stig has to be the one who instigates his own inner conflict, not Jack. Love means letting go. Sacrifice is the hottest romantic move and Jack has one good move in a whole movie of bad moves. Stig has one bad move in a whole movie of good moves. It's bad romance. Also, Jack can't creep out in her room touching her hair while she's asleep. He's not a vampire. It's all bad writing.
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Death Race: Inferno (2013 Video)
4/10
nothing matters
21 September 2019
R.H. Weyland is forced to sell Death Race to Niles York (Dougray Scott) who wants to franchise races across the globe with multiple Frankensteins. He sets up a desert race in Africa. Carl Lucas (Luke Goss) is Frankenstein.

It's the third in the series. Who are these characters? It doesn't matter. This has no meaning other than portraying the black locals as savages and have a nihilistic popcorn movie. If it could generate a compelling central character, it could be a Mad Max level film. Non of these characters matter and we are only left with a lot of car action, nothing more.
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Child's Play (2019)
7/10
so wrong and so right
20 September 2019
Buddi is a doll produced by the Kaslan Corporation. It's a high-tech companion that can connect to the myriad of Kaslan products. A disgruntled employee turns off all the safeguards in one of the dolls. Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza) is a struggling single mom to hearing impaired Andy. She is desperate to get a Buddi and the store cashier takes a damaged returned doll from her workplace. The doll insists on being called Chucky. Detective Mike Norris (Brian Tyree Henry) is the son of the Barclays' neighbor. Chucky, with the bad programming, starts killing and Detective Mike investigates.

This is NOT Chucky. This is not the franchise. This is all wrong. The doll is ugly AF. Chucky is a beautiful horror icon. If one overlooks those stuff, this is actually a well-made horror movie. It seems to dabble in some camp but mostly, it's a sincere horror. Before watching it, I had full expectation of an ugly mess. The first visual is the ugly mug of the doll and it seems to be well on its way. Somehow, the camp slowly faded and it gets replaced by a competent effort in all areas. The kids are great rooting interest. Aubrey Plaza is a fine mom with an edge. I am struck by the sense that the movie is in good hands. I have never seen anything from this director but maybe I will keep an eye out for him in the future.
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All Summer Long (2019 TV Movie)
4/10
no heat
20 September 2019
Tia (Autumn Reeser) is a lawyer working for her dad. She gets a call from her uncle who is turning his yacht into a restaurant in San Francisco. When the captain suddenly quits, she is excited to take a break to be the replacement captain for the summer. She is shocked to find that his uncle had hire her ex Jake (Brennan Elliott) as the chef.

This Hallmark romance generates no heat. The leads have little chemistry. The meet cute is nothing which leads to the combative back and forth having no foundation. Reeser is a good Hallmark actress. Elliott seems to be a veteran workman actor but he needs to be hunkier or more charismatic. The whole movie is flat.
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True Story (I) (2015)
5/10
no tension
20 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
New York Times reporter Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) gets the front page but his story turns out to be a false amalgamation of different people. He gets fired in disgrace. Nobody is willing to hire him. Then he gets a call from a local Oregon reporter Pat Frato (Ethan Suplee). Christian Longo (James Franco) has been arrested for the murder of his wife and three children. Unbeknownst to him, Christian has been using his identity. Christian grants him exclusive access.

At no time did I think that Christian is innocent. At best, the circumstance of the murders could be interesting but Franco plays him guilty from the very beginning. With no mystery, the question becomes where the tension of the movie would come from. The theme of truth is useful with Finkel's constant modification of his relationship with the concept. Even there, losing the book deal is not enough to inject the necessary tension. Although the movie floats the idea, Christian is never threatened with release. There is simply no danger of anything. At best, it's a character study but Finkel needs to have a darker treatment. This is an intriguing story that comes to not much.
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Matchless (1967)
5/10
spaghetti espionage spoof
20 September 2019
New York Tribune reporter Perry 'Matchless' Liston (Patrick O'Neal) is being tortured by Chinese communists for being a spy. He is given an ancient ring by a fellow prisoner. It's a ring that turns the wearer temporarily invisible but one must not wear it again until ten hours have pass. He manages to escape execution with the ring. He manages to reach New York with O-Lan to find the Americans doing the same things. They recruit him into the spy service to go against the evil Gregori Andreanu. He finds fellow prisoner Norris after him for the ring in cooperation with their former captors.

This is an Italian made movie for the English market. It's in the lesser known spaghetti espionage spoof genre. Sometimes it makes a sharp point about the world or the genre. Sometimes it's almost funny. Patrick O'Neal is not particularly funny. It takes all the premise of a 007 spoof and non of it achieves an actual laugh. Roger Moore would be funnier. O'Neal is essentially playing it straight and that could work. In the end, I don't think the humor translates except for physical comedy. The movie starts well enough but it grinds down by the non-laughs.
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8/10
"Oh, that's the next Belushi"
20 September 2019
It's an A&E bio doc of the great late SNL alum as told by his friends, colleagues, and his three brothers. Of course, it's loving portrait but it never demures from his lifelong alcoholism and gluttony. On the other hand, it doesn't really dwell on his drug use but it does acknowledge it. That's fair since his friends and family probably only saw the periphery of that world. Mostly, this is the story of a sweet guy that everybody loved who is lost to the world too soon.
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6/10
a bit too much story
19 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
American gunman Martin Brady (Robert Mitchum) is helping to run guns for the Castro brothers in Mexico. He breaks his leg in Texas and gets treated by Dr Stovall. U.S. Army Major Colton tries to recruit Brady to convince the Castros to join his fight against the Apaches in Mexico. Captain Rucker wants to recruit him for the Texas Rangers. The guns go missing and Brady is held responsible by the Castros. He falls for Colton's wife Ellen.

The story is a little too sprawling. From Mexico to America and from the Castros to the Buffalo soldiers, the story is doing a lot and has a lot to do. This could be a simpler story. It could be the fight between the Castro brothers. It could be the Buffalo soldiers who don't take over until the midway point. It could be the love triangle with Ellen. It shouldn't be everything and everywhere while being a simple western. My biggest difficulty with the story is his return to the Castros without the guns. I would think that he would search far and wide for the guns, and not return to the Castros without them. I am surprised that he wasn't tortured but the fight between the brothers is a good surprise. Overall, the story meanders a little too much but compelling enough. The look of it is terrific. The cinematography is to be congratulated. On top of everything, Brady should be dead or dying at the end of the movie. It's the type of movie which requires a dark finish.
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Magical Land of Oz (2019– )
8/10
the third one
19 September 2019
This is a nature show about Australia. The three episodes are Ocean, Land, and Human Shift. The first two are standard nature shows. It's beautifully filmed and narrated by an older white guy with gravitas. The third one is the most interesting for me. It shows how nature evolves in different ways in the cities and the man-made world is forcing nature to adapt. The trick of the third episode seems to be that it starts as cute happy fish out of water stories and turns into something with a more serious environment bent. It tries to stay with happier side by finishing with a success. It's not just beautiful but also an episode to make one think. That's the mark of a good nature show.
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The Girl Most Likely to... (1973 TV Movie)
6/10
dark comedy for TV
18 September 2019
College student Miriam Knight (Stockard Channing) is an ugly duckling. She's desperate for a man but nobody likes her. She is bitter and lonely from the endless slights. After a car accident, she gets plastic surgery and becomes a beauty. Instead of going on with her improved life, she decides to take revenge against those who have wronged her. As she murders, police detective Ralph Varone (Edward Asner) investigates.

This is a TV movie on ABC. It's a dark, dark comedy considering that it's network TV. I don't know much about movies of the week back then. This seems a little dark for the medium. Normally, the ugly duckling has an inner beauty. She does not have that. She's bitter. She's needy. It's not that funny. It's hard to laugh at her and there's nothing to laugh with her. She could have kept playing in the pool hall and become one of the guys at least. Let's just say that there is more than one reason nobody is sitting next to her. She's a lot and most of it is unappealing. All of this is perfectly fine and I'm glad that it devolves into murder but it doesn't make it funny. Quite frankly, the plastic surgery is unnecessary. A murderous ugly duckling would have been also interesting.
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7/10
fine military thriller
18 September 2019
Two men are delivered to the American destroyer USS Bedford in the North Atlantic by helicopter. Civilian photojournalist Ben Munceford (Sidney Poitier) is doing a story and is slack with regulations. Dr. Potter (Martin Balsam) starts a new tour on active duty after 20 years in the reserves. The medical staff is excited by the garbage being found. They suspect a recent Russian sub. Hard-nosed Captain Eric Finlander (Richard Widmark) is hunting for his Russian sub and has no use for either of the newcomers. Commodore Wolfgang Schrepke is a former Nazi submarine captain who is now a NATO adviser. Captain Finlander pushes the pursuit until a mistaken command leads to dire consequences.

This is fine military drama. Sidney Poitier is pushing the clueless civilian character a little too far. It's not that funny and a bit annoying. Otherwise, the actors are top notch. The story is pretty simple. The miniature action is minimalist. They do use some realistic sets and real ship action to intensify the reality of the story. This is solid.
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7/10
lots of war action
18 September 2019
The US military produced a war documentary of the advance towards Tokyo. It's only a few months after the official surrender on USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. It's got plenty of war action from the military and some captured footage from the Japanese. They are unbelievable and some familiar explosive action to any who has seen a lot of WWII docs. There are some compelling war footage of the fighting in Manila. Quite frankly, I thought the bloody asian man crawling on the ground towards the camera is something from Vietnam. The narration has the tone of heroic patriotic determination. In today's 24 hour news cycle, this is a relic of a bygone era. I don't know how people saw it back in the day but I'm sure this is some of the freshest footage in middle America theaters.
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Angel Face (1953)
7/10
Otto noir
17 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Ambulance driver Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum) arrives after Mrs. Tremayne is poisoned. He meets her hysterical step-daughter Diane (Jean Simmons). They go out to dinner and she schemes to get rid of his girlfriend. She maneuvers him to be her family's chauffeur. She has murderous intent against her stepmother. When her parents die in the malfunctioning car, she becomes the sole heir and the main suspect along with Frank.

Some of this is badly written. I don't see Mary having lunch with Diane who is a complete stranger. That scene should be the same conversation with Diane surprising Mary at her door. The writing is rather pulpy. I don't think the marriage idea works. Spousal privilege usually only starts on the wedding day. Quite frankly, I doubt that they wouldn't be convicted anyways. The movie is concentrating on the angel faced Jean Simmons set against the juxtaposition of her villainous actions. Robert Mitchum is sitting on the fence with her. He suspects her but still goes along. This may work more as a mystery if her villainy is not so in your face. As director Otto Preminger had set it up, she's like a sledgehammer pounding on the audience. It's an effective hammering without being melodramatic. I like it more than Laura.
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6/10
date rape Rashomon
17 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Gianni is a hound dog. Tina is out walking her dog. He follows her in his car. She agrees to go on a date. They go to a dance club. She goes back to his apartment complex. She returns home with a torn dress. Her mother is distressed about the dress until she tells her about a harrowing escape from the lecherous Gianni. Next we see the story as Gianni recounts the night to his buddies. The third is the peeping Tom doorman who recounts a wild night of debauchery. Finally, the truth is revealed.

This is essentially a Rashomon tale of a date rape allegation. It has some great possibility of drama. The first two is a story of he said, she said. That's fine. The third one goes off the deep end. I kept thinking how the creep would know what's being said inside the room. The answer is he wouldn't. It's all lies from a crazed pervert. It's supposed to be funny but humor is hard to translate especially here. I really don't see the humor although the situation is a rather modern one.
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Anna (II) (2019)
6/10
Nikita again
17 September 2019
In 1985 Moscow, CIA agent Lenny Miller (Cillian Murphy) loses nine operatives to KGB chief Vassiliev. Years later, Anna (Sasha Luss) is struggling in life and signs up for the Russian Navy. KGB agent Alex Tchenkov (Luke Evans) recruits her to be an assassin under the supervision of Olga (Helen Mirren).

It's another hot assassin movie from Luc Besson. La femme Nikita is almost 30 years ago. He's like an old painter who keeps returning to the same style over and over again. He's trying something a little grittier and a little more real. It's not his lane. His lane is hot girl doing wild actions with simplistic story. He tries to add layers to the story. At last, he's no Graham Greene which brings to mind the acting skills of model-turned-actor Sasha Luss. She tries and the character is essentially her without the killings. She's surprisingly functional but she's no Meryl Streep. Finally, I would try to clean up the constant time-jumps in the plot. They are supposed to be shocking reveals but they mostly confuse and are unnecessary. If he does a straight forward timeline, the movie may actually gain some tension of wondering if anybody can be trusted. He's probably not capable of doing the truly gritty espionage movie. Somebody should do a film retrospective of his hot female assassin movies.
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Somebody Help Me (2007 Video)
4/10
fine copying until it devolves
17 September 2019
A young black man borrows his uncle's cabin near Lake Arrowhead for a birthday gathering. The group of young people party but soon they are disappearing one by one. The captured ones are being tortured by a mad man who is cutting up his victims. The sheriff is unwilling to talk about an incident from three years earlier.

This is a horror in the vein of Turistas which was released a year earlier. It's interesting to see black cinema trying to copy a horror genre. In this case, the white folks are the first to die and that's a fun little twist on the convention. The torture is gross. It is what it is. It's torture porn. The acting is not that great but it's fine. The girls scream. I am surprised that the sheriff isn't a racist redneck. I'm glad that this movie is willing to play against some conventions but it can't escape other conventions. Then there is little white girl. It would be fine if some kind of ground work is laid down for that turn. The movie doesn't do that and it suffers.
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5/10
don't see the chemistry
16 September 2019
Ginny Marshland (Lana Turner) testifies in front of Judge Cass Timberlane (Spencer Tracy). Despite a twenty years difference and a cat allergy, they fall in love and the rich conservative judge marries the tomboy working class girl. They drift apart and she finds herself connecting more with his friend Bradd Criley.

The basic problem is that I don't buy their chemistry. The twenty years difference is a problem although it's less so back in the day. Mostly, I don't buy Lana Turner. She's young and playing baseball by the rail tracks. She doesn't look like it. Her hair is always curled up and done. She doesn't fit her character. I don't buy their courtship. This feels like a realistic take on a romance novel. I just don't see the chemistry despite the top notch actors. Without chemistry, it's a slow grind.
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