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The Tiger's Apprentice

lesser animation
It's 2009 Hong Kong. Mrs. Lee and her baby grandson Tom are being chased by yaoguai. They are saved by the 12 Chinese Zodiac. Tom is the chosen one. It's 15 years later in San Francisco. Tom is now a bullied high school kid. His grandmother had kept his powers a secret. They are attacked by the wicked magician Loo who is after his Phoenix stone. The 12 Zodiac gather to protect the boy.

The story is pretty simple as in good versus evil. There is a thing to get. There is the boy savior. The difference is mostly the Chinese culture. I would use more generalized English terms for some of these Chinese things. I would definitely give some of the Zodiac better powers. For example, the rooster crows in the sunrise. Why not have him throw off rays of sunlight? Instead, he's throwing feathers like darts. The pig rolls in mud. Why not give him earth power or throwing around mud? It seems random that the monkey can shrink things. The monkey should be super-smart. So on and so on. Finally, it's a French animation company and they are at least a generation behind. The surface work and the designs are all a little off. It's lesser animation.

Shadow Land

B-movie stalls out
Former President Robert Wainwright (Jon Voight) is haunted by nightmares of an intruder which he sees as premonition of an impending attack. His secret service protection (Philip Winchester) is concerned. His psychiatrist Elliott Davrow (Marton Csokas) believes it's dementia. Rachel Donnelly (Rhona Mitra) is ghost-writing his autobiography despite hating his politics.

The premise has potential, but this B-movie stalls out rather quickly after introducing all the main players. The audience is left waiting and waiting for something to happen. Mostly, the audience is waiting for the inevitable attack. There are no stakes if it's only dementia.

I Was an American Spy

based on a true story
It's 1941 Manila. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Claire (Ann Dvorak) is an American nightclub singer desperately following her soldier boyfriend Sgt. John Phillips. They get married on the run from the Japanese. After Corregidor falls, she joins up with a ragtag group of soldiers led by Cpl. John Boone. As secret agent High Pockets, she returns to her club life and befriends Japanese Col. Masamato.

This is based on a true story. Of course, there are some liberties taken and quite frankly, the true story is questionable in the first place. Ann Dvorak is too blonde. It is hard to believe that such a white lady could operate behind the lines. Her acting is also too melodramatic. It is rather an old style of acting. She is pretending to be Italian although it may be asking too much for her to speak Italian or even speak English with an Italian accent or a Spanish accent or a Philipino accent. On the other hand, it does feel more dangerous if she has no language skills. At the end of the day, this feels like halfway in terms of realism and story telling.

Bitter Creek

solid old western
Clay Tindall (Bill Elliott) is searching for his brother's killers. This Montana town has been controlled by ruthless rancher Quentin Allen (Carleton Young) and his cowboys. Gail Bonner (Beverly Garland) arrives to marry Quentin without knowing the situation.

This is a standard white hat battling black hats western. It doesn't have great style, but it is very solid. The story telling is fair although nothing surprising or special. The acting is generally pretty good. I am looking for some great stunt work, but it is not forthcoming. That is a bit disappointing. This is a solid old fashion western.

The Locket

flashback crime drama
John Willis (Gene Raymond) and Nancy (Laraine Day) are getting married. Psychiatrist Dr. Harry Blair (Brian Aherne) crashes their high class wedding reception to tell John about Nancy. He claims that she has a sordid past and was even married to him once. Norman Clyde (Robert Mitchum) had tried to warn him before his marriage to her.

This movie runs on a lot of flashbacks. It is flashback to another character telling the story which is another flashback. It is a layering of flashbacks. The idea of the unreliable narrator is very much at the top of my mind. Sometimes, I have issues with flashbacks. This one is fine or these ones are mostly fine. The best is the devastating childhood one. I would have liked a movie where little girl Nancy gets revenge on that whole family right away. I certainly expect that story to come back in the end. This is fine although I do sometimes lose track of the narrative as the movie jumps from one flashback to the next.

Halloween at Aunt Ethel's

lower grade comedy horror
It's 2018 Yost Town, Florida. Halloween is approaching. Everybody knows about old Aunt Ethel. She's the creepy old lady living in the neighborhood who is rumored to lure little children to their deaths on Halloween. Mandy convinces her best friend Melissa to stake her out with her boyfriend Mark.

This is a comedy horror indie. The horror isn't much. Mandy and Melissa act like they're in a porno except there is a limited nudity. That aspect has some comedic value, but it's not much. This is a lower grade indie. It is dumb, but it kinda knows it. At least, it's trying for something. It doesn't succeed.

Life After Fighting

lots of fighting
Alex Faulkner (Bren Foster) is a retired champion MMA fighter who teaches in his dojo. Samantha Hathaway (Cassie Howarth) brings in her son Terry. Terry and another girl go missing. Samantha uncovers a kidnapping and child trafficking ring led by her ex Victor Dimov (Luke Ford).

This starts off great with Bren Foster kicking and fighting. He's definitely skilled in that arena. His acting is nowhere near his fighting skills. To be fair, he is a fine actor for an MMA fighter. He has his limits. The other main actors are pretty good. The story is a little clunky and the filmmaking is a lot clunkier. Mostly, this movie is too long. It can't be over two hours. The long fights start losing their intensity after awhile.

Sleeping Dogs

middling crime drama
Former police detective Roy Freeman (Russell Crowe) suffers memory issues. Death row inmate Isaac Samuel is soon to be executed for the murder of Joseph Wieder. It's Roy and his ex-partner Jimmy Remis' old case from a decade ago. They got the confession, but Isaac now claims that he didn't do it. Roy is struggling to remember and decides to investigate again. Author Richard Finn suddenly turns up dead. Laura Baines (Karen Gillan) knew both Wieder and Finn.

There are interesting elements here and Russell Crowe is well suited to play this role. It's a middling crime drama that used to be shown in the theaters. His investigation is rather confused and unconvincing. At the end of the day, there is a reason for that. I am still not completely convinced. I don't get a particular person's motivations (spoiler). Whatever! I'm dropping it.

Organ Grinder's Swing

solid Popeye episode
Wimpy is an organ grinder with a monkey. He is performing outside an apartment building. Popeye and Olive Oyl are neighbors enjoying the music. They pay the money. In fact, Popeye pays with hamburgers. Mean-spirited neighbor Bluto starts attacking Wimpy and Popeye fights back. As Bluto gains the upper hand, the monkey finds the spinach.

This has most of the classic Popeye characters plus a monkey. It is always nice to add a monkey to the cartoon. I would like Olive to get more involved in the fight. It is interesting that the characters are neighbors. This is a solid episode if not necessarily one of the classics.


It's the gay pride parade in 1977 San Francisco. Gay rights is being fought in the streets as well in politics. The filmmakers do a lot of man-on-the-street interviews. They do go to NYC and switch between time periods. The flipping back and forth between the older demonstration and the '77 parade is quite powerful.

This is an important archive of this political movement. There are compelling personal testimony with the street interviews. The multitudes of opinions especially in the opening section reminds me so much of the present day arguments. Things may have changed, but many things are still the same.

Wild Eyed and Wicked

feels silly
Lily Pierce (Molly Kunz) is haunted her childhood memory of witnessing her mother's brutal suicide. She has a caring girlfriend despite her volatile episodes with her supernatural visions. She is called to visit her father who is living alone on the family farm.

This is a functional spooky horror for awhile. When she puts on the armor, I can't help but snicker at it. It feels silly. I'm willing to accept the premise, but something about it feels a little amateurish and LARP. Maybe she could buy the armor from an antique store and adapt it. Also, forget about the gun. The excuse is just an excuse and I don't buy it. The acting is fine. The budget restraints the story and the filmmaking. In the end, I can't shake the silly feeling.

I Saw the TV Glow

like the styles but needs more plot
Owen is a young black teen loner. He is befriended by older emo teen Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and bonded over the television show, The Pink Opaque. It's a strange supernatural young adult show. It's years after the show's cancelation and the two friends apart. Owen (Justice Smith) runs into Maddy. She tells him that the show is real and she's been a part of it.

Well, that took a turn. This movie got strange all of a sudden. I like it but I would like it to go somewhere more dramatic. I do like the stylistic flourishes. I get that there are hidden themes going on underneath. I'm not going to get too deep into the growing up and outsider themes. I like all that, but I would like a bigger plot. As it stands, this feels like a hour-long TV episode being expanded. It's kinda fitting.

Black Gold

progressive western
Davey Chung became an orphan after his father is murdered by white Americans. Charley Eagle (Anthony Quinn) is a native American cowboy who comes upon the boy. Charley adopts the boy and dreams of racing his horse Black Hope.

This is a western trying to be progressive. It is loosely based on a true story although I don't how loose. For this subject, accuracy is not that important. More important is giving Quinn the lead along with an unknown Chinese kid. That is very progressive for its time. Quinn may not be a full blooded Indian, but he probably had some in the mix. The only issue is that I wish he was written smarter. I'm not saying that he's dumb and I know the claim race has a real story behind it. Alright, he could just speak normally instead doing the fake Indian speak.


hokey but ultimately very sweet
12 year old Bea (Cailey Fleming) returns to her childhood home after many years away. Her father (John Krasinski) tries to be playful, but she's not in the mood. Her grandmother (Fiona Shaw) is taking care of her. She encounters Cal (Ryan Reynolds) who introduces her to a world of IF (Imaginary Friends). These IF have been left behind after their children forgot about them.

This is written and directed by John Krasinski. The story is rather hokey but ultimately very sweet. Cal becomes very obvious at the auditions. Those scenes is the confirmation of a long standing suspicion. The missing mom and father part is a bit more complicated. There is some logistic math being done. There are only a few possible solutions. In some ways, it would be more compelling to simply tell the family's story straight. As a matter of logic, this kid is off on her own a lot. There is being independent and then there is being abandoned. It felt weird that she's in the city by herself all the time. This is a movie with a sweet sincere idea, but a few more cycles through the rewrite machine would help.

Way Out West

undercurrent undercuts
Carnival barker Windy (William Haines) cheats a group of cowboys with a rigged roulette wheel. Instead of hanging him, the boys decide to force him to work off the stolen money. He falls for ranch owner Molly Rankin (Leila Hyams).

I really like him as a scheming con-man in a carnival side show. I wouldn't mind a whole movie with that. Once he gets on the ranch, I like him a lot less. In fact, I don't think I like him at all. His flirting with Molly comes off as lies and deceits. I don't really care about the romancing and the movie falls flat. There is an undercurrent of something more which only backs up why the romance doesn't work.

Henry Goes Arizona

love these characters
Henry Conroy (Frank Morgan) is a New York performer who is afraid of everything especially guns. He inherits an Arizona ranch from his half-brother. Molly Cullison (Virginia Weidler) is his newly discovered 'niece'. It turns out that the brother was murdered for the ranch. Innocent Danny Regan is on trial for the murder and he is supported by Judge Van Treece (Guy Kibbee).

Frank Morgan is great. Weidler is adorably spunky. She does become more the star of this movie. She has a great turn. I'm less convinced with his moves. I really wish that she comes to his rescue for the climatic peak. This is a fun comedic western.

Many Rivers to Cross

good old western rom-com as long as you're not an Indian
Bushrod Gentry (Robert Taylor) is a wandering backwoods trapper in 18th century Kentucky. He's fighting off a band of savage Indians when he is saved by woodswoman Mary Stuart Cherne (Eleanor Parker). Like so many others before her, she is immediately head over heels for him. Luke Radford (Alan Hale Jr.) is jealous.

This is an old fashion western rom-com. They are both wearing coon caps and fringed leather. Everyone is killing Indians. Eleanor Parker's performance reminds me of Maureen O'Hara right down to her red hair. It's the basic conflicting banter of a love hate relationship. This works.

I'm from the City

light entertainment
Pete Pepper (Joe Penner) is a timid weak-minded circus performer. He's scared of horses unless he's been hypnotized by his controlling manager Captain Ollie Finch (Richard Lane). The circus is coming to an end and he joins Hattie Martindale's ranch in the west. She has two granddaughters, Rosie and Marlene. Pete is to ride in the big cross country race.

Joe Penner is acting the fool. It is fine and a little bit funny. It is not a whole lot funny. It's silly. There are a couple of interesting stunts. Again, it's nothing big. This is the definition of light entertainment. It is extremely light.

Kill Craft

Member Michael Paré
Thomas Delon (Michael Paré) is a killer for hire. His latest assignment goes badly and he gets shot. His daughter Marina (Sanae Loutsis) doesn't know about his work. She gets into trouble at school following her delinquent friend Freya. They uncover Thomas' work. When he gets killed, Marina takes over the family business.

Member Michael Paré. He used to be a thing. He has continued to work and that's more than the vast majority of SAG members. He actually looks good. He's aging well. He was never a great actor, but he's good enough to lead any B-movie. This is definitely a B-movie. The blood and gore is second rate. The blood is too orange and watery. The gore looks very fake although this has lots of it. The girls are not the best, but let's not be too mean. The villains are much worst. They're trying to be wacky, but they come off as weak. They have no presence. This is low budget, low skilled, and low everything. At least, they're trying.

The Strangers: Chapter 1

who wants this
Somewhere in Oregon, Maya (Madelaine Petsch) and Ryan (Froy Gutierrez) are driving to Portland. The dating couple takes a detour and ends up in a remote village in the middle of the woods. Their car breaks down and they rent a cabin for the night.

This franchise is a series of middling horrors. The first one came out in 2008 and the second one a decade later. I like parts of these movies, but ultimately, I have not been a fan. The kill counts cannot be that high. The atmospheric isolation is always good, but that's not enough. I'm barely paying attention to this and then we get to the ending. This ending is not what I want. I don't want this.


I feared the twist
Dan Lawson (Samuel L. Jackson) is a world-weary Chicago police detective. There have been brutal murders and dismemberments by a serial killer. A woman is killed in Scotland in a similar fashion. Lawson travels to Edinburgh to assist in the investigation led by DCI Glen Boyd (Gianni Capaldi). He reconnects with former partner Walker Bravo (Vincent Cassel). Colin McGregor (John Hannah) is a prime suspect.

This starts as a fairly average serial killer thriller. It has Samuel L. And quite a few serious actors. What could possibly go wrong? I kept waiting for the twist. I kept waiting and waiting. Then I started fearing of one possible twist. I kept fearing and fearing. Finally, my fear came true and I can't agree to it. They did the thing and I hate it.

Jungle Fever

Spike tackles complicated issue
Flipper Purify (Wesley Snipes) is happily married with a daughter and is the only black architect in his firm. He requested an African-American assistant, but the bosses hire white temp Angie Tucci (Annabella Sciorra).

Spike Lee is tackling an interesting subject matter. It is interesting that he is using some sharp-horror strings during their courtship. It makes the situation automatically uncomfortable on top of both are cheating on other people. I had assumed that Spike would make the mixed race issue the only defining problem, but it is much more his cheating for me. He seems happy with his wife and they have an adorable daughter. I am not saying that it doesn't happen, but the movie isn't giving any foreshadowing for this. It does complicate the issue since he's no innocent. It does play into the narrative and that's interesting. For her, it is simply dating someone else. This is more complicated than I expected.

Sweet Adeline

don't like Sid
While the Spanish-American War rages, aspiring composer Sid Barnett (Donald Woods) is in love with beer garden singer Adeline Schmidt (Irene Dunne). Her father owns the place and prefers war hero Major Day for her. Adeline's sister Nellie runs away to New York City to be an actress with Adeline and Day in pursuit. Meanwhile, Sid's operetta is set to open on Broadway. Sid wants to replace lead singer Elysia with reluctant Adeline. Day is eager to pay for the move.

The music style is far from my taste, but that's not the movie's fault. The meandering story however is its fault. Most of all, I don't like Sid. He's not attentive to Adeline. She is besides herself looking for Nellie. His first instinct should be soothing her worries. Instead, his first instinct is to get her into his show. They often fight and the main reason is usually him not really listening. He just needs to listen to her. He's a child. The whole espionage thing is coming out of left field and I don't know. Quite frankly, I'm fine with Adeline going with Day until he makes that big turn. Of course, Sid is better by comparison, but that bar is very low.

Sweet Music

Rudy Vallee vehicle
"Skip" Houston (Rudy Vallee) and his Merry Mad Men have been performing at their State University. After graduation, they start playing professionally and gain some success. He likes performer Bonnie Haydon (Ann Dvorak) and tries to help her behind the scenes. At times, she mistakenly assumes that he is against her.

Once upon a time, Rudy Vallee was a superstar crooner who became a fine actor. Quite frankly, I'm not a fan of his style of music and his acting at this time is not that good. I don't like the comedic attempts. The evil producers are a little too silly. Vallee is too wooden and isn't able to sell the misunderstandings. Ann Dvorak does her best, but this story makes Bonnie look dumb. I actually like the premise.

Daughters Courageous

Nancy Masters has a happy life with her four grown daughters; Buff, Tinka, Linda, and Cora. She is to marry gentleman Sam Sloane in a few weeks. Suddenly, her wandering first husband Jim Masters (Claude Rains) returns after twenty years absence. Nobody is happy with the man who abandoned the family. Buff (Priscilla Lane) falls for Gabriel Lopez (John Garfield) who has a lot in common with Jim.

I don't know anything about the Four Daughters series of films. Apparently, this is unrelated to those. So I'm ok. I like this group although it's hard to differentiate all the sisters. Maybe they could drop one to make it easier on me. This movie starts like a light silly comedy and then Claude Rains adds a dark cloud to the story. This clashing of tones makes it hard to reconcile with this forced family reunion. There are relationships happening at cross-purposes. If these are real ships, they would be crossing paths and crashing into each other. In the end, the resolution left me empty.

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