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The Conjuring 2

"I like to hear them scream."
Having seen this film out of sequence with the 2013 original and this year's "The Devil Made Me Do It", I can assure viewers that you don't need to see them in order because the individual stories don't impact each other. The only connecting thread is the presence of paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren, who in real life, studied and reported on their experiences with all of the families introduced in this series of pictures. The story here involves a demonic possession that occurred in Enfield, England, and what makes it unusual (at least to my mind), is when it's revealed that the apparition of the deceased Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian) is in turn possessed by an evil entity that takes the form of a demonic nun. And if that sounds a bit familiar, it's because 2018's "The Nun" brought the Warrens back together yet again to investigate an unholy secret at The Vatican. As far as scares go, this one is on a par with the other two 'Conjuring' films with it's levitations and invisible thrashing about of human victims, and depending on your own sensibilities, an attempt at an Elvis impersonation by Patrick Wilson, which to my ear didn't sound too bad. And as in all the prior films, a final scene in which Ed Warren secures a memento of their experience in England, the Warren Museum provides a hint of additional cases by offering a glimpse of Annabelle.


"When your life is defined by a single action, you change the concept of time."
This was an unexpectedly good movie, as it's share of prison life cliches is balanced by a well developed back study of the principals, with the main character sentenced to a three year prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter. Wade Porter's (Stephen Dorff) life behind bars becomes increasingly complicated as he becomes embroiled in the internecine warfare among inmate cliques, and opts to walk a fine line as an independent, while a corrupt guard system capitalizes on putting down insurrections with a fatal brutality. Befriended by a surprisingly good Val Kilmer as convict John Smith (couldn't they have been more original?), Wade begins to learn the ins and outs of survival in jail, while the domestic home life he left behind continues to deteriorate by his absence. Just as Wade's outlook is bleakest, Smith offers up an ingenious plan that carries the hope of a reduced sentence, while allowing himself the desperate choice to join his murdered wife and daughter as his final reward. I would question whether prison rules would allow an inmate like Smith to wear his glasses while incarcerated, or why metal detectors never signaled the miniature shiv in hidden in them, but those are minor nitpicks in a story that leads to Porter's eventual release to start life anew. With it's underlying idea of 'family is everything', this is a film that comes well recommended along with a similarly themed picture, 2017's oddly titled "Shot Caller".


"You let it thaw..., and now..., it's alive!"
Cool sounding title, groan inducing movie. Well, it all depends. This is one of those 'so bad it's good' flicks that will have you rolling on the floor with it's goofy dialog and cardboard special effects. I got the biggest kick out of the monster's projectile green bolts of slime vomit, but you never do get to see it's effects on wherever it lands. It must have been too horrible to contemplate. But even that was outdone by the couple of times Reptilicus grabbed a mouthful of humans; one of the cheesiest special effects you're likely to ever see. In fact, calling it a special effect is a great exaggeration. But the best was when General Mark Grayson (Carl Ottosen) explained his strategy to defeat the creature to the men under his command - 'clobber him with our heavy stuff!'. Nothing I like better than precise military language. You have to give the Danes credit for this one and only monster movie ever to make it out of Denmark, because this truly stands apart in the annals of science fiction. It was probably inadvertent but ultimately a very cool thing to do, when the film makers had the hokey looking janitor Petersen (Dirch Passer) gag over a pastry he was eating when he looked at a microscope slide of what was in it. Very clever of them to have a Danish guy eating a Danish!

The Coldest Game

"There is no plan B. We need you to be a patriot."
The whole time I'm watching this I'm thinking to myself - what did I miss during the Cuban Missile Crisis? Apparently nothing, because this is a fictional story that offers some intrigue with an international chess match as a backdrop. I didn't think it very credible, but someone else's judgment might be different. That whole business about a hypnotist engaged by the Russians to distract Josh Mansky (Bill Pullman) during the second match against Alexander Gavrylov (Evgeniy Sidikhin) sounded rather bizarre to me, but it was an accusation leveled in 1978 for real that couldn't be substantiated. The mingling of fact and fiction in the movie leads to a rather muddled story with escape hatches and bottles of booze stashed away in bathroom stalls. You almost need a second viewing of the film to get a better grasp of the players and the double crosses involved, something I'm not committed to since I got the main gist of it and that's good enough for me. As good an actor as Bill Pullman is, I was a little put off by his performance here, rather brooding in his delivery, much like his work in "The Sinner". But he does play a a high performing alcoholic with some aplomb. As a spy thriller, this has it's moments, but they're rare and far between.

Dirty Harry

"I get every dirty job that comes along."
The very first review I read here on IMDb for "Dirty Harry" mentions how the Netflix streaming version is particularly dark and muddy. I'll attest to that having seen it just the other day, and it brings down one's appreciation for the film somewhat. This is the flick that took Clint Eastwood from being a spaghetti Western vigilante into a modern day, big city vigilante, if that's how one's political sensibilities wants to characterize it. I could care less whether Harry Callahan (Eastwood) quizzed criminals on whether he fired five shots or six, the fact that he got the bad guy is all that matters to me. It seems we've been battling about the rights of criminals over victims for a long time now, so it's not surprising that guys like Harry Callahan and Paul Kersey find an audience that lets folks cheer for the good guys. After a half century gone by now since the movie's release, it's reputation might be just a tad better than the original product by now, but it's still sweet to hear Harry ask some punk - "Are you feeling lucky?"

Murder Among the Mormons

"When did you first begin to think about killing people?"
This is a fascinating three episode series detailing an incredible crime perpetrated by a man named Mark Hofmann, who admits that all throughout his life, he found it personally fulfilling to fool and cheat people. The focus of this documentary is a set of forged documents made by Hofmann that challenged the historical founding of the Mormom Church, and were so credible that it led to many practicing members to renounce their faith. So believable were Hofmann's forgeries of 'The Oath of a Free Man' and a so called 'Salamander Letter', that they were inspected and verified by the FBI and declared to be genuine! Through a host of first person interviews and a forensic examination of how the forgeries were made to look authentic, Mark Hofmann is revealed to be a man without shame or principle, convicted of killing two people who in his twisted mind, felt would insure his credibility by casting doubt on the leadership of the Mormon Church. An added bonus for this viewer was the inclusion among the interviewees the Salt Lake City Homicide Prosecutor by the name of Gerry D'Elia. He's seen extensively speaking about the case in the second episode, and very much resembling his younger self when he was a high school classmate of mine in the late Sixties.

In Old Oklahoma

"I'm tryin' to catch a ride on the cowboy's wagon, and here he comes!"
I saw this under the title "War of the Wildcats", a reference to the 'wildcatting' oil barons of early Americana who cast their fate to drilling for the precious commodity in hopes of striking it rich. There are a couple of scenes in which we see a geyser of oil shooting up from a newly tapped well, and it always makes me wonder how they capped those things to get them under control. This was a typical film for John Wayne during his days with Republic Studios following the 'overnight' success brought about by his appearance in 1939's "Stagecoach". You could count on Wayne's rugged good looks to win out over any rival when it came to a being part of a romantic triangle, and so it is here as he eventually charms school teacher turned novelist Catherine Allen (Martha Scott) in a personal feud with oil baron James Gardner (Albert Dekker).

There was one scene in the picture where I had to do a double and triple take. Could that possibly have been Dale Evans leading a saloon number with a host of can-can dancers? Sure enough, it's Evans as the sexy Cuddles Walker with Roy Rogers nowhere in sight! I might not have recognized her but for the fact I just saw her in a similar scene in the Roy Rogers flick "Don't Fence Me In". If you can believe it, she's even sexier in that picture! Another Rogers mainstay on board here is Gabby Hayes, not so much a sidekick to Wayne's character, Dan Somers, but enough of a pal to be on his side every time the situation calls for it.

The finale to the picture is as much exciting as it is unbelievable if you stop and think about it. In a four month race against time, Somers must get ten thousand barrels of oil to market as his opponent Gardner pulls out all the stops to prevent it. When Gardner buys the pipeline that Dan would have used to transport his oil, his solution is to fill a bunch of wooden barrels and enclosed wagons with the stuff in order to beat the deadline. The high speed chase over rough terrain destroys a number of wagons, while Gardner's goons manage to sabotage some additional. Somers made it, but it sure didn't look to me like ten thousand gallons of oil could have possibly been stored in those rickety wagons, even if none of them got hijacked!

The New Mutants

"She's in our heads now. She'll kill us all!"
This appears to be a super-hero movie for teenagers, much like the Netflix series "Stranger Things". I don't have a problem with that, but the story presented isn't all that novel or compelling. Some other reviewers on this board question the horror component as being non-existent. The whole time I was watching I didn't even consider this to be in the horror genre, even with the creepy and mystical things going on like the demon bear. The super powers exhibited by the five teens in the story didn't offer anything out of the ordinary that hasn't been seen before, and I was sort of looking for a mention or appearance by Professor Xavier at some point to link it more strongly to the X-Men franchise, although there were more than one mention of that relationship. Not having read any of the New Mutant books, I don't know what function the Essex Corporation serves in the X-Men universe but it's not intriguing enough for me to find out. Despite my tepid review, I didn't hate it; it was a decent time filler but would have served me better if I was back in my teen years.


"Yet in the darkness, there will be light." - Alfred Pennyworth - Episode #5.12
This is an exceptionally well done series spanning five seasons and a hundred episodes, and I wasn't bored watching a single one. It delves into the teenage life of Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and traces how the future Batman came to develop his thinking about crime and dealing with the criminals who made Gotham their base of operations. Most every character from the comic books is represented in the series, including all the major villains I can recall from my youth, along with a few I can't, like Magpie. Casting for the series was for the most part exceptional, you couldn't have asked for a better Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin than Robin Lord Taylor, or a more evilly inspired madman than Cameron Monaghan as the Valeska Brothers, each a different version of The Joker. Interestingly, The Joker was never mentioned by name in the story line, you would have to identify him on your own as a Batman fan. The only villain I thought was misrepresented was Bane, who I've always felt would have been perfect for a guy like pro wrestler Van Vader, or the hulking bruiser who went after Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) in the fifth season. He wasn't nearly as deadly here as the character from the comics who broke Batman's back to put him out of commission for a while. As for the principal characters, Ben McKenzie was effective as Jim Gordon, though I expected a grittier portrayal, and David Mazouz did a fine job as Bruce Wayne. I question whether the young Bruce Wayne should have accepted blame for so many of the bad things that happened to other characters and the city of Gotham itself because so many were out of his control, so that was a minor nitpick for this viewer. The final season did get to be a little more cartoonish than all that went before, but the series still wound up in fine fashion with a final glimpse of the new avenger of Gotham, returning to his city after an exile of ten years. I usually don't have the patience to pursue such a long running series, but in this case I'm glad I stuck with it. "Gotham" comes pretty close to giving the Dark Knight trilogy a run for it's money.

The Last Gunslinger

"The wages of sin pay very well."
This film is just as bad as "Wyatt Earp Shoots First" which I saw a few weeks ago, so much so that I had to go back and check if it was made by some of the same folks. Sure enough, Christopher Forbes directed both pictures which goes a long way in explaining things, and two of the principal actors appeared in both. Much of the same criticism applies to both pictures as well. The dialog is stilted and virtually all of it is delivered matter of factly, even in what would be considered a highly emotional situation. As for creativity, there are two federal agents in this story named Billy and Willy, how much thought do you think went into that decision? In the scene where Charles Holley (William Adams) gets the drop on Animus Smite (Jerry Chesser) and forces him into the river, it's mentioned by several characters that the river is full of snakes, so you would think a snake might figure in what happens there, but all you get is a look at a single snake slithering around as if to make it official. Folks, this is so head shakingly bad I can't understand why it was even made, let alone why it appears on Xumo Westerns. I've now been forced into the dubious position of watching back to back Westerns which I've had to rate no higher than a '1'. Be forewarned.

Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster

"I'm absolutely confident that nothing can go wrong."
The only connection this flick might have with the Frankenstein movie universe is the presence of the word 'Frankenstein' in the title. I'm surprised the film makers actually got away with it, as the titled creature is merely an android astronaut with half his face disfigured following a face-off (pun intended) with a bunch of alien counterparts. And to at least lend a little support to the title of the picture, the Martians on board their ship travel through space with their own monster in a jail cell. Folks, this is pure schlock, but I wouldn't be surprised if Martian Dr. Nadir (Lou Cutell) provided the inspiration for the Mike Myers' character Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers franchise. With a liberal use of military stock footage, and jaunty music more appropriate for a beach movie, it's not unexpected that out of a couple dozen Frankenstein movies I'v seen, this one rates dead last by IMDb viewers. Still, it's not the worst one I've seen, as that distinction goes to "Frankenstein '80", allowing me to score this poor excuse for a movie twice as high.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

"All right. Show me what you got."
In terms of scares, this one is a bit more restrained than 2013's "The Conjuring". I haven't seen the second one in the series yet so can't comment there. Once again, paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) get involved with a case of demonic possession, this time following an evil presence from a young boy into an adult male who 'invited' the malignant entity into his body to save the suffering of his fiancee's brother. Though based on a true story, you can probably bet that some of the movie is fictionalized in the interest of making it more cinematically worthy. Lorraine Warren becomes a principal character here by virtue of her reliving the murder of a teenage girl by a close friend who harbored the same demon years earlier. The case was one of the more noteworthy ones of the Warren's distinguished career, and led to the first criminal court proceeding in which demonic possession was called upon by defense counsel. It might have been interesting if the movie dealt with some of the actual court proceeding to understand how opposing lawyers approached the case, knowing that an innocent verdict for Arne Johnson (Ruairi O'Connor) was pretty much out of the question.

Pather Panchali

"Whatever God ordains is for the best."
I sought out this movie after it received the requisite number of votes to be included in IMDb's Top 250 list, but unlike "Raatchasan", which was a compelling crime story and police procedural, I found this film to be somewhat underwhelming. It's not that I didn't feel bad for the impoverished family's circumstances at the center of the story, but it's resolution at the finale leaves no sense of reconciliation or hope for the viewer. It's as if the picture seeks to confirm a statement by one of Sarbojaya Ray's (Karune Bannerjee) neighbors near the finale when she states that life in their dirt poor village was like 'rotting away in one place year after year'. I felt the movie was more about daughter Durga (Uma Das Gupta) than about her younger brother Apu (Subir Banerjee), as described in the IMDb 'Storyline' description on this movie's title page, though the emphasis does shift when she is unfortunately taken ill and perishes. I found it inspiring the way Apu decided to insure Durga's reputation and legacy by throwing away the stolen necklace that was a focal event early in the picture. Knowing now that this film was the first in a trilogy by director Satyajit Ray, the emphasis on Apu does make more sense. However the sight of the poor family leaving their village for a new start in another area left this viewer wondering if in fact they would ever be better off.


"Completely a psycho!"
This is a movie you'll have to stick with beyond the first twenty minutes or so because the opening seems very disjointed. The principal character, Arun Kumar (Vishnu Vishal), is trying to negotiate a film deal as an assistant director, and suddenly has to do an about face and accept a position as a sub-inspector with the local police. He gets in trouble with his brother-in-law for forging his niece Ammu's (Abhirami) report card, and in an effort to save face with Annu's teacher (Amala Paul), pays for the objects her mute daughter shoplifted at a neighborhood store. It all seems rather confusing until the story line settles into an investigation of serial murders targeting teenage school girls. That's when Arun rises to the occasion and uses his extensive background of studying vicious crimes to solve a mystery that's continually thwarted by an overbearing police captain (Suzane George) who almost never sees things his way.

The clever screenwriting reaches a level of complexity when it reveals a circumstance behind the third missing murder victim named Meera. By chance, Meera had a recording device in her hearing aid to help her with her speech, and it provides a clue to the type of music associated with the serial killer. But even that clue leads to an unusual twist that you might see coming, later confirmed when it's revealed that the suspected murderer had a son with an aging disease that left him disfigured and the brunt of cruel derision during his youth.

The relentless pace in the latter part of the movie is supported by a tension filled musical score that keeps one's nerves on edge, and even if you've seen dozens of crime movies that hinge on a suspenseful climax, this film will set those apart with a stylistic portrayal of the serial killer as a skilled magician using his talent to confound Arun in his attempt to save a potential fifth victim. The action becomes so dizzying that you won't be able to figure out how the sub-inspector dealt a final blow to the killer with an iron rod. You can replay it any number of times you want and it will still leave you baffled, though one's sense of relief that the serial killer has been stopped will overcome any momentary confusion. I saw this film under the title "Raatchasan", with it's English sub-title 'Demon', and after witnessing the brutal manner in which the young victims were killed, you'll find that translation entirely fitting.

Annabelle: Creation

"We shouldn't be in here."
I watched this movie out of order, having seen "Annabelle Comes Home" before catching this prequel origin story of Annabelle. As far as the genre goes, 2014's "Annabelle" was not a genre defining movie, in fact it seemed rather clichéd for the most part, though it had some scary moments that make you jump. With "Annabelle Comes Home" you had a number of creepy build-ups that didn't really amount to all that much, and waiting for a jump scare turned out to be a meaningless exercise. So it turns out that for this viewer, "Annabelle: Creation" comes off as the best of the bunch, but again, much of it has been done before and it doesn't have the suspense you might expect in a horror film. The biggest shock actually had nothing to do with the horror elements of the picture, but that opening scene when the little girl Bee (Samara Lee), wanting to retrieve a minor object her father dropped, got hit by a passing motorist and met her death. That was so terrifying because it was so possible to occur for real to the horror of a young child's parents. I couldn't quite follow the idea of Bee's spirit moving into the Annabelle doll followed in turn by a demonic presence entering the young crippled girl Janice (Talitha Eliana Bateman), but it's not important enough for me to go back to try and figure it out. Just know that with the 'Annabelle' films tying into the 'Conjuring' universe, this franchise has the potential to go on for a long time.

Point Break

"If you want the ultimate, you gotta be willing to pay the ultimate price."
Surfing fans and adrenaline junkies will get a huge charge out of this film, with Patrick Swayze's character challenging his band of 'Ex-Presidents' and FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) into performing more and more dangerous stunts, for that rush one gets by living in the moment. Highlights of the picture include the memorable foot chase by Johnny attempting to run down Bodhi (Swayze) in the Reagan mask, and that pair of insane free fall jumps, one of them sans parachute by the intrepid agent Utah. Outside of a James Bond film, you probably won't find anything quite that crazy. Gary Busey had the distinct pleasure of appearing not only in this surfer flick, but 1978's "Big Wednesday" as well, though he limits his venture in this one to strictly land based activities. My ears perked up when I heard Johnny mention his surveillance of Bodhi by stating that he saw him go into Patrick's Roadhouse, a neat reference to Swayze's 1978 picture of the same name. I thought it noble for Johnny to let Bodhi go out on his own terms at the finale during the much anticipated 'fifty year storm', an ending that would appeal to the most hard core action fans, even if you had to picture it in your own imagination.

American Outlaws

"How about the uh..., James-Younger Gang?"
If you're not too concerned about historical accuracy, this is an adequate time filler, but so much of it is made up that if you know something about the James-Younger Gang, you'll wind up shaking your head. Irishman Colin Farrell as the infamous Western outlaw would be your first head scratcher, with poetic license galore on display throughout the picture. For example, Ma James (Kathy Bates) wasn't killed in the explosion initiated by Pinkerton agents at the family homestead in Missouri, though a younger half brother of Jesse's was. Nor was cousin Jim Younger killed in a posse chase following the robbery of the Hyperion Bank; all three of the Youngers were involved with Frank and Jesse in the disastrous Great Northfield Minnesota Bank Robbery of 1876, in which all the Youngers were wounded and later captured trying to escape.

What this story does get right is the rivalry between Cole Younger (Scott Caan) and Jesse for leadership of their gang, with Jesse attaining that status by virtue of his flamboyant manner and daring exploits. Their image as bandits gained something of a Robin Hood like status when their targets included corrupt bankers, businessmen and politicians. It wasn't until after the Pinkerton bombing that public opinion began to turn against the gang. The idea that Jesse and Allan Pinkerton (Timothy Dalton) came to some sort of agreement to overlook Jesse's crimes if he moved to Tennessee is another one of the big fictions the movie has to offer.

There are better movie treatments of Jesse James and the James-Younger Gang for Western movie fans, and one of the best is 2007's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford". It's a stunningly visual film, with cinematography that will take your breath away, focusing more on Jesse and his relationship with the man who eventually came to murder him. For action fans, you'd be hard pressed to find a better stunt scene than the one filmed in "The Long Riders", with it's choreographed slow motion horse jump through the windows of a shop during the escape from the Northfield Minnesota Raid. Both are well recommended for their story lines and reliance on historical facts.

Down the Wyoming Trail

"We had enough law breakin' around here!"
I can just about guarantee this film has something you've never seen before, and will most likely never see again. At the beginning of the picture, there's an elk stampede! AN ELK STAMPEDE! When did you ever see more than one elk in one place at the same time? I don't know how the film makers did it, as CGI wasn't available in 1939, and those elk sure looked real enough.

Well, enough of that. But there is another oddity in the story. Our hero, Tex Ritter, is hired by a ranch owner to dress up as Santa Claus for their annual Christmas party. While performing for the guests, a man who's just been shot stumbles into the room and claims that Tex was the one who shot him by virtue of the Santa suit and fake beard! The old codger must have subsequently died because Tex is arrested for murder, even though we never get to see the corpse. It's all pretty awkward as no one believes Tex is innocent except maybe his pal the sheriff (Horace Murphy), who uncomfortably bends to the will of the crowd. In addition to the 'murder', the Parker Ranch payroll is stolen, and the thief, believe it or not, is the father of Candy (Mary Brodel) and Jerry Parker (Bobby Larson), though the siblings are not aware of this little secret. How this is possible in a far flung prairie location is anybody's guess, but this plot device seems to have been somewhat of a staple in these old B Westerns of the Thirties and Forties.

At least Tex gets to sing a handful of tunes, one while under arrest, which always amazes me when I see a good guy cowboy strum his guitar and sing away while in the calaboose. Roy Rogers and Gene Autry did so as well, so I guess it was a way of keeping spirits up. Eventually escaping jail, Tex manages to outrun a bad guy posse but in the process, falls off his horse and tumbles down a snow covered hillside. No one said being a cowboy hero was easy!

All's well that ends well though for Tex, who cleans up with the bad guys who had to see it coming when one of them killed a spider - that was bad luck during the Wyoming Trail days! Try to maintain a straight face while watching this film because it does get a little surreal, especially that one scene where 'Red' Becker (Charles King) falls victim to an avalanche. You would think the guy would have moved out of the way!


"Death has some side effects."
This wasn't too bad considering the theme has been done countless times before with films like "Total Recall", "Freejack" and "Face/Off"; that last one even contributing the idea of two non-related words to assume some semblance of meaning for a movie title. Still, there were some problems with the execution that the film makers decided to gloss over relative to the plot. I didn't think Ben Kingsley conveyed the idea that Damian Hale had only six months to live since he looked pretty healthy to me aside from those coughing spasms of his. And why 'Mark' became a transfer body was never made clear. His background in the military was alluded to, and he was obviously selected by Jensen/Albright (Matthew Goode) as a subject devoid of serious imperfections. There was also the scene where Damian's friend Martin (Victor Garber) expressed his doubt about Damian occupying a new identity until it was verified by describing their first business deal together. But Martin already knew such a procedure was possible because he had a replacement son via the same 'shedding' method. He could have been playing dumb but it didn't come across that way. What was gratifying was Damian's decision to cease taking the red pill in order for Mark to resume life with his reunited family. That selfless (ahh, there it is!) act reminded me of yet another story harking all the way back to my childhood days watching Rod Serling's 'Twilight Zone'. In 'The Trade-Ins' an elderly gentleman gave up his chance for a younger body when his finances didn't allow the same procedure for his wife, thereby accepting the inevitability of death at some point in the future. When faced with a tough choice, it's commendable to see a noble decision being made.

War of the Colossal Beast

"How do you reason with a sixty foot giant?"
Following his near demise in "The Amazing Colossal Man", Colonel Glen Manning (Duncan 'Dean' Parkin) is back to wreak havoc once again, having survived a couple bazooka blasts and near fatal fall off the Hoover Dam in the earlier picture. No explanation given, you just have to take it on faith. For whatever reason, actor Glenn Langan did not reprise his role as the giant for the sequel, he might have seen it as a losing proposition. The film is padded out with extensive flashback scenes from the earlier picture, so with that in mind, an extra heavy dose of makeup was used on this Colossal Man to help obscure the difference in look between the two actors. Not to mention the gruesome disfigurement to half of his face that features a partially exposed skull. I got a kick out of the way responsibility for confining the beast was passed along from the Department of Medical Research to the Department of Health and Welfare, then to Congress and eventually the Pentagon. And you thought this only happened in more modern times, right?

At least the special effects merit some credit here, although it hardly seemed possible that those loaves of bread could have been laced with enough knockout drug to render the beast immobile. They looked big at the bakeshop, but were next to invisible when the Colossal Man got hold of them. Growling and grunting his way through the story, Duncan Parkin didn't really have to do much here except look big and dangerous, and make his escape a couple of times to the consternation of his worried sister (Sally Fraser) and a handful of military and medical officials trying to get him under control. I'm sure Danny Thomas thought it pretty cool that he got a plug with his name emblazoned across the marquee of the Sands Hotel.

The final scene of the movie is staged at Los Angeles's Griffith Observatory, where one has to question the Colossal Man's stated height of sixty feet tall, mentioned a number of times throughout the story. He towered over the main dome of the observatory, but with the height of that building reaching up to seventy seven feet, someone didn't do their homework to make things a little more realistic. Or maybe they just didn't care. What would you expect from a film titled "War of the Colossal Beast"?

Fun with Dick and Jane

"Some people have that robbing thing and some people don't!"
I didn't find the 1977 version of "Fun With Dick and Jane" all that memorable, and this remake is about on a par with the original. Those who go for Jim Carrey's brand of humor will probably like it, and in a few instances I have to admit, his antics did make me chuckle. Most notable was that scene where he was dressed all in black with a mask and going bonkers on Jack McCallister (Alec Baldwin). His gyrations were just so goofy you had to laugh. Pairing him up with Téa Leoni wasn't a bad idea as their chemistry for this kind of picture worked. That makeup job when her face got distorted was kind of hideous though, I'm surprised she agreed to the mutilation. The story seems to be a back handed homage of sorts to all the corporate executives who mined their companies for all they were worth before the final nail was drilled into their coffins. Take note of the screen crawl just before the credits roll and you'll see what I mean.

When I first watched and reviewed the earlier picture with George Segal and Jane Fonda in the lead roles, I made mention of the fact that the movie's captioning X'ed out the name 'Dick' whenever it was uttered on screen, obviously to draw attention away from it's inelegant description of a part of the male anatomy. Since anything goes today in movies and TV, no such censorship took place with this film, but that effort in the first place only drew more awareness to it in my estimation. And once again, I couldn't help thinking of a married couple that are friends of mine with the names Dick and Jane, who I kept envisioning through all the nonsense and shenanigans that Carrey and Leoni went through to get their revenge on the head of Globodyne. Fortunately, they never robbed so much as a gas station.

Drishyam 2

"No one is going to find it. Trust me."
To fully appreciate "Drishyam 2", one should obviously view the original film from 2013 to understand the full impact of Georgekutty's (Mohanlal) successful attempt to shield his family from a homicide investigation. But if you haven't, there are multiple references in this picture to help you understand what occurred in "Drishyam" to set the stage for the reopening of the case. There's a major Whoa! Moment in the story when it's revealed that the dysfunctional couple living next to Georgekutty's family is actually a pair of police detectives attempting to uncover unknown details from the event that occurred six years earlier. The manner in which Saritha (Anjali Nair) gains the confidence of Rani George (Meena) is deceptively simple and outrageous at the same time. For the George's it would appear a betrayal.

I had some trouble accepting the way in which the cover up of the boy's death in "Drishyam" began to unravel. It felt like the testimony of Jose (Ajith Koothattukulam) was fabricated in order to cash in on the case's notoriety, and I felt he was making up the story of seeing Georgekutty arriving home on the fateful night he buried the boy. When he came up with the location of the burial spot underneath the police station, the question still remained, how did he know that's where Georgekutty came from. Then, the scenario presented by script writer Vinayachandran (Saikumar), coming as it did almost out of left field to provide a defense for Georgekutty, felt awkward in it's intent to provide reasonable doubt.

Once Georgekutty confessed to killing the boy (even though it was his daughter who accidentally did it), the case, if it happened in the real world, would probably have come to an end. The manipulation of the script offered Georgekutty a way out, but the circumstances necessary for that to occur seemed virtually impossible, which even clever writing had a difficult time convincing. Still, if taken at face value, the inability of the police to confirm a guilty verdict in court left Georgekutty a free man.

The thing is, with "Drishyam", as the viewer you were rooting for Georgekutty to find a way to outsmart the police because the death of the boy was not intentional, and you wanted to see his family remain safe. With "Drishyam 2", you almost get the sense that Georgekutty was guilty in some way of outsmarting the legal system because his confession should have held some validity, unless the entire truth of of the boy's death was brought to light, which by this time would be impossible.

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

"How does one forget a death?"
I sit in awe as I read some of the insightful reviews offered for the picture in the viewer section here on IMDb. I wonder to myself why I'm not so gifted that I can't see or understand what the true believers insist the story has to offer. I'm intrigued by the idea that as a viewer, one has to fill in the blanks offered by the director in order to make sense of anything that goes on in the story, and the closest I came was that Polly was 'The Lady in the Walls' from the Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss) novel that Lily (Ruth Wilson) was too afraid to read beyond the first page. Maybe I need to watch this again with a clearer head. Nah, I don't think so.

Cop Out

"I'm ready. Let's go be great."
Seems like I'm on a buddy cop roll since I've recently watched the "Beverly Hills Cop" films and the first in the "Rush Hour" series. This one doesn't quite measure up to Eddie Murphy's best work as a detective, with the chemistry between Bruce Willis's character and Tracy Morgan's somewhat forced, just as it was with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. But I did like Jim Monroe (Willis) hanging tough for his partner Paul Hodges (Morgan) when faced with the possibility that he was dirty. As annoying as petty criminal David (Seann William Scott) was, he did manage to provoke some laughs while taunting Paul, and you just had to know he wasn't leaving the story in a body bag, though you had to stick around for the credits to see how that came about. The Andy Pafko baseball card disaster was hard to take for baseball memorabilia fans, but if Jim put a little more thought into it, he could have raided Poh Boy's (Guillermo Díaz) collection to make up the difference after the wild melee; who would have stopped him? With all the cool movie references cited between the partner cops, probably the best line was when Jim said he never saw "Die Hard". Go figure.

Diamond Trail

"Well you can pass for a cowhand any time!"
This was my first look at Rex Bell and my first impression was that he isn't very charismatic as a Western cowboy hero. That could partly be attributed to the opening of this story in which he's introduced as a newspaper reporter for the New York Dispatch. His character is Speed Morgan, but in order to ingratiate himself into a criminal gang, he helps Flash Barrett (Lloyd Whitlock) escape from a police chase, and introduces himself as outlaw Frisco Eddie, with newspaper clippings to boot! The story moves West from New York when Barrett decides to make a call on a cowboy who's holding out on him regarding some diamonds.

Taking 'Frisco Eddie' along as a bodyguard, Flash and three other members of his gang locate Lois Miller (Frances Rich), and eventually her brother Bill, who's been keeping a stash of diamonds for himself. Bill Miller is portrayed by character actor Bud Osborne, who if you check his stats here on IMDb, you'll find he's got six hundred thirty two screen credits over a span of fifty years! He's been in countless B Westerns and other programmers like this one, but this is the closest I've ever seen him in a role where he's a principal character.

Once Rex Bell exchanges his business suit for a set of cowboy duds, he gets into the act by shooting the wheel of the outlaws' getaway car, and something I don't think I've seen before, he lassoes a driver right out from behind the steering wheel during a posse chase! It doesn't come across as very credible, but in the early days of talkie movies, I guess they would try anything. With awkward dialog and clumsy looking fight scenes, this isn't what I'd call a must see Western, but if you'd like a first look at Rex Bell in action, this is a good place to start.

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