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Disquieting psychological thriller
This very well-made, very well-acted little thriller is reminiscent of Brian De Palma at his prime, except it's less flashy and more psychologically sound. Olivier Masset Depasse successfully maintains the ambiguity around Alice (is she losing her grip on reality, or is she sensing the truth?), and the ending is unexpectedly bleak and disturbing. This movie sends you out a little shaken. *** out of 4.

Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie: Pension Vanilos
Episode 8, Season 2

Darker and more engaging than usual; Elodie Frenck is a revelation
Without a doubt one of the best films in the series. It is darker and more engaging fare than usual; the mystery (based on Agatha Christie's underrated "Hickory Dickory Dock") keeps you guessing, and the film plays almost like a giallo at times. Labarthe gives one of his most rounded - comedic AND dramatic - performances in the role of Laurence, but it's Elodie Frenck who really proves her acting credentials here, with her absolutely amazing transformation in her second role, that of Marlene's sister; she is SO unrecognizable that you can't believe it's the same actress, even upon close inspection, and even though you know she is! Bravo, Elodie. *** out of 4.

Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie: Meurtre à la Kermesse
Episode 5, Season 2

OK version of "Halloween Party"
Pedestrian re-telling of a good Agatha Christie Poirot tale ("Halloween Party", also adapted for the David Suchet series in 2010). The gimmick here is Laurence's temporary psychosomatic blindness, which makes for some funny moments in the first half. Alice is also cute in a sequence impersonating a late-1950s "bad girl". **1/2 out of 4.


Minimalism and masochism
"Wanda" is an interesting exercise in cinematic minimalism, a telling portrayal of alienation and loneliness....and what seems to be a deliberate attack (by a woman, no less!) on the emerging feminism of the 1970s. The heroine's passivity, relatable at first, becomes off-putting; much like Claude Chabrol in the previous year's "Le Boucher", Barbara Loden fails to make her attraction to the ugly, violent and insulting to her man she meets believable. She wrote and directed herself in a peculiarly masochistic role. **1/2 out of 4.

Out of Control

🎵 I wanna be....anything you want me to be....just let me be....outta control 🎵
Fairly entertaining low-budget teen action pic, set on a deserted (almost....) island. Rather amateurishly made, but it has some surprisingly tender moments. The characters are stereotypical, but also believable. Best thing about it: the catchy title theme that is SO wonderfully mid-1980s. ** out of 4.

Gli assassini sono nostri ospiti

Another instance of the title being better than the movie
Middling heist movie - cum - home invasion thriller, with the expected amounts of sleaze (and a not-unwelcome make-out sequence between the beautiful Margaret Lee and the rather unique-looking Livia Cerini). Hurt by too-often too-arty direction, but almost worth sticking with for double-twist ending. ** out of 4.

If You Don't Stop It... You'll Go Blind!!!

Amusing if uneven collection of dirty jokes
This movie couldn't get made, or at least released in theaters, today: it has plenty of nudity (including an incredible older woman who must have had the best body in the film!) and a refreshingly politically-incorrect sense of humor (it's not above gay, rape, and bestiality jokes). Some of the skits score and made me laugh; others are duds and left me in a state of baffled silence. On balance, it's an amusing way to pass 80 minutes - but only for adults who are not easily offended. ** out of 4.


Likable but shapeless horror spoof
"Wacko" was clearly made by people with affection for the horror genre, and yet it is so intent on including as many references to other movies (and shows) as possible that it never develops enough momentum on its own; it's basically just a collage of unrelated jokes, some of which are repeated multiple times throughout the film. The funniest performer is George Kennedy, in the only envelope-pushing role: a pseudo-surgeon who likes to peep on his own teenage daughters! ** out of 4.

Gorilas a todo ritmo

Seriously unfunny jungle romp
Victoria Vera is cute and sexy, and the same can be said I suppose, from the ladies' perspective, for the Tarzan-parody figure (who appears for the first time after a whole hour!). Other than that, this is an almost total dud; even the climactic slapstick sequence, where the Amazons get into the action, does not live up to expectations. This movie is strictly for those who find stuttering people (and farting gorillas) the height of hilarity. *1/2 out of 4.

Take Down

Exclusively for high school wrestling fans; cliched and predictable
Predictable high school wrestling picture only comes alive on the wrestling mat (TOO alive, perhaps; those constant cheers are deafening). The story is cliched, and the leading actor registers zero star quality. This is the kind of movie where you just know it will end with a freeze-frame of the coach being thrown in the air by his team in celebration....and it does! ** out of 4 - but if you don't even care about high school wrestling, remove two stars from that rating.

Fear Factor: Sister Act
Episode 11, Season 1

Best-looking cast so far
You pick 10 random so-called "supermodels", I can almost guarantee Newsha is more naturally beautiful than any of them. You don't have to take my word for it; look for yourselves (she's the one on the left on the IMDb picture for this episode). Besides the looks of the all-female cast (Jordan is damn hot as well), this episode is notable for the nerve-wracking final stunt, which combines the fear of heights with the fear of cars coming at you full speed! *** out of 4.

Mike's Murder

The beautiful and underrated Debra Winger in a film beneath her talents
First of all, the setup of "Mike's Murder" is not believable: a woman like Debra would hardly throw her life away falling head over heels for a drug-dealing tennis instructor, whom she sees about three times in a span of two years. The ludicrously spoilery title gives away what happens after 44 minutes in the movie, but writer-director Bridges never gets much of a narrative flow going even after that; Winger's transfixing beauty is about all this dreary, overlong crime "thriller" has going for it (apart from a couple of good supporting performances). ** out of 4.


Generally dull variation on "And Then There Were None"
If "Curtains" had been less preoccupied in the first half with fake scares and more with developing its characters, it might have been more involving; only Lynne Griffin, as a nerdy stand-up comic, manages to inject some real personality into her role. Some of the killings are just plain ridiculous; the dancing girl, for example - there is no way the killer coud have sneaked up on her like that in the corner of a room. The whole film was obviously written by someone with a low opinion on women's morals AND brains. ** out of 4.


Beautifully shot thriller
"Windows" was directed by noted cinematographer (and frequent Woody Allen collaborator) Gordon Willis, and as one would expect, he has a great eye for artful compositions, creative use of light / shadow, and New York. The film is (nearly) always visually interesting, which helps sustain it through a rather thin story. Elizabeth Ashley is both touching and unsettling, but Talia Shire seemed to have already been typecast into the mousy, "Rocky's wife" type of roles. Trivia: apparently in 1979 you could rent an apartment in Brooklyn Heights for $300 a month!! **1/2 out of 4.

My Therapist

Mediocre soft porn
Marilyn Chambers is buff, shapely and apppealing as a well-meaning "sex therapist", but the unimaginative sex scenes, monotonous story, and poor production values ensure that this is a mediocre example of its genre. The acting and dialogue are acceptable, but the film never reaches any erotic (or any other kind) heights. *1/2 out of 4.

Home Movies

Eccentric comedy may be worth a look for Brian De Palma completists, but is mostly a misfire
This little-known De Palma comedy (made right between some of his biggest hits like "Carrie" and "Blow Out") is notable as one of the earliest films to anticipate the "reality show" phenomenon, but otherwise it's mostly just a curio for his followers. His direction has less flair than usual (there IS one great shot from inside a popcorn bucket!), and the script, apparently written by seven (!) people, is all over the map. But the biggest problem is that it's not very funny. Saved, somewhat, by the sweet chemistry between Nancy Allen (at her prettiest) and Keith Gordon; De Palma obviously sensed that he struck gold there, and paired them again in the next year's "Dressed To Kill". I don't know, maybe see "Home Movies" as an appetizer for that one. ** out of 4.

Queen Kong

Funny feminist spoof of "King Kong"
This feminist spoof of "King Kong" (with jabs thrown at "The Exorcist", "Jaws" and "Airport" along the way) reverses the gender of the main characters, re-locates the second half of the action to London, and has a happy ending, but otherwise follows the story of the original quite closely! The optical effects & miniatures are actually better than they need to be for this kind of film, and Rula Lenska gives a very good deadpan performance. The film is bizarre, goofy, and kinda cute. **1/2 out of 4.

Eva, la Venere selvaggia

Sleep-inducing "adventure"
Incredibly boring jungle film at least comes up with a good excuse for having its drooling gorillas played by men in suits (despite the English title, these beasts are of the normal-sized variety), but when the gorillas are off the screen, which is like 90% of the time, all that's left is padding with endless walking scenes and stock footage of wild animals. Amusingly, the traditional female shower scene is replaced here by musclebound Brad Harris taking a shirtless river bath! 0.5 out of 4 stars.

The Son of Kong

Lopsided sequel to "King Kong"
"King Kong" is an iconic horror film; this sequel is largely unknown. The first two-thirds are mostly filler, and the Robert Armstrong - Helen Mack romance is not convincing (too large of an age gap). The final third, however, is worth the wait: there are nifty giant animal fight scenes, a majestic earthquake sequence, and the title figure is cute, expressive, and heroic (he even breaks the fourth wall at one point!). With the erotic subtext of the original removed, "Son Of Kong" will probably be a lot of fun for kids - except they may be upset by the film's sad ending. **1/2 out of 4.

The Invader

About as bad as you've heard
Very poor effort from Buster Keaton, who looks like he'd rather be anywhere else. The premise does offer some comic possibilities (Buster used as a patsy by a pair of lovers in a plan to get rid of the woman's husband), but there is more music than comedy (barely any comedy, really), and the production values / sound / image are atrocious. The only redeeming element is that Lupita Tovar (who lived to be 106!) is pretty hot, especially in some shots with wet hair and her bare back exposed. *1/2 out of 4.


Terrible, absolutely terrible
Even by the very low standards of these superpowered musclemen live action cartoons, this one is terrible. No redeeming values (the "trial by fire" is the one interesting concept, but like everything else badly executed), but the two flirting...., er, excuse me, I meant fighting scenes between the uber-muscular Brad Harris and Alan Steel are amusing for their (barely hidden) subtext. 0.5 out of 4 stars.

Sansone contro il corsaro nero

Hercules (or Samson....) the time traveler
Fairly original hybrid of the muscleman and pirate genres, although not as much fun as that sounds. Alan Steel does have an impressive physique (he looks like a cross between Patrick Swayze and Popeye), but the action scenes, when they finally do come, are absolutely nothing to write home about. ** out of 4.

Big Little Lies: I Want to Know
Episode 7, Season 2

Anticlimactic ending to the disappointing 2nd season
The entire 2nd season of "Big Little Lies" was exceptionally well-made (and acted), but a disappointment compared to the first. The mystery elements were totally MIA and their absence was felt; the season lacked drive. This final episode is basically all about an intense courtroom sequence about a custody battle; to say that the final scenes are anticlimactic would be an understatement, but then again, the previous six episodes hadn't built to anything more spectacular, either. If they ever do a third season, the cast is there, the location is there, the talented directors are there - they would just need a story to tell. *** out of 4.

5 bambole per la luna d'agosto

Nothing is as it seems
Moderately successful take on Agatha Christie's classic "And Then There Were None". Mario Bava fails to create much tension, mainly because the characters seems so blasè about the fact that they're getting picked off one by one, but he does shoot some standout corpse-discovery sequences, and the script hides several effective twists and red herrings. Very soft on the exploitation elements (gore and nudity). **1/2 out of 4.

Survivor: Two Peas in a Pod
Episode 10, Season 4

"I've changed my mind about Zoe. Zoe is a b...."
Strong, athletic, tribal challenge asset Tammy was already my favorite player of this season before this episode; after this episode, we can add passion and determination to her repertoire. There are two qualities that I'm looking for above any others, I think, in a Survivor player: a) to genuinely CARE about staying in the game as long as possible, b) to play for themselves and not for anybody else. Tammy fits both of those criteria. Her immunity win when she was the next person on the chopping block, following her private practice on the stilts and followed by a scream of relief, is such an awesome moment. And ironically, the episode ends with Zoe's boot - Zoe, who was so confident that turning on Tammy would buy her many more days on the island. That little smile by Tammy at the very end tells the whole story. Even if she goes home next episode (which she probably will), she fought lke hell every step of the way. *** out of 4.

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