HEFILM

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Reviews

Have Gun - Will Travel: Tiger
(1959)
Episode 11, Season 3

Rather lame
The story is a rip off of Cornel Woolrich's THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES which had been made into a film before this, officially.

If you don't know the story it may hold your interest but this is a pretty shoddy episode with only Richard Boone saving a few moments. One with him looking disgusted by his host/clients various outrageous ugly behavior, and a great one where he bursts into laughter when made to apologize to a tiger. Also Boone does well with some exposition and comes off rather Bond-like by suddenly revealing his knowledge of an Indian language.

Roddenberry's script and the performers also offer up leering a women, fortune cookie English in scenes that are painfully dated and sexist and racist today but would have seemed clunky and overdone at the time. It offers none of the Captain Kirkish moments Roddenberry he gave the series in other much better episodes. I guess the only progressive element would with it being against Colonialism, but there is no interesting dialogue or much to the script that isn't better done in the Woolrich original.

Don Taylor directs flatly and lamely, none of the limited action is staged worth a dam. All the guest stars are both over the top and not very good, though the script doesn't do them any favors either.

Don't get me wrong I like the series but this ain't one of the best. Coming later in the series perhaps it was just the show running out of gas in most departments.

The Twilight Zone: Passage on the Lady Anne
(1963)
Episode 17, Season 4

Nonsensical adaptation. Little happens and it takes a long time to not happen.
The story is basically one where nothing externally happens, that's really the point. The slow pace of the trip, the discovery of love, the loss of the old world. But this episode, while retaining large chunks of dialogue from the short story, has conflict and mystery forced upon it. but not enough to turn it into a thriller or into a supernatural tale either. It's also like these elements were put in to make it TWILIGHT ZONEY and to try to have little cliff hangers before commercial breaks. A bigger problem may be in having the lead couple be bitter bickering people we are then forced to spend time with and watch smoke and drink in classic 50's era fashion.

So I'm saying the short story works, the longer screenplay, for the most part, doesn't.

The results are these changes don't track into the story leading to an obscure mystery ending that also doesn't track back to the moments of TV drama injected into it.

For example one cliff hanger moment has a nice old lady saying. "It means we don't have to kill you." Come back from commercial and the lead couple doesn't even seem worried or curious about this comment. The comment doesn't really make sense by stories end either.

The ship interiors themselves are pretty impressive, no doubt sets from some shipboard film, maybe even the, at the time, recent Titanic film. The cabin the couple has is carefully overdecorated as a honeymoon suite might be. Also an asset is a long involved music score by Rene Garriguenc, a regular and under appreciated part of the series crew.

The other thing forced onto the screenplay is almost to, Serlingize it. Instead of the loving newly weds of the original story we here have Beaumont(if indeed he did the adaptation himself) turning them into a typical Serling 1950's victim of the corporate rat race bickering with his wife who then turns to drink. It's hard to relate to this bitter lead couple as they basically hate each other and everybody else. It's also Serling like in that people talk and talk and talk.

So their encounters with the ship and the nice old couples aboard is supposed to transform the couple, but how any of this does that is a mystery. There are moments where the couple seems to want to get along, the actors do what they can, but the story never shows them change, they just suddenly are in love again. So, of course, the old people around them almost gain your sympathy and interest--only for the odd threatening moments.

The wife vanishes in mid sentence at one point leading to the husband running around looking for her only to have her reappear without explanation. This then is supposed to make the husband now appreciate his wife, but really, having to look for her for five minutes overcomes all? The wife has no such moment at all. Initially she is the hopeful one, this hope then gets crushed but we see no recovery.

The end of the short story is clear, if budget busting, ship exploding and sinking, in the episode it rides off into mystery and is never seen again, though you can still, I guess it may well have sank rather than get scrapped.

Like many of the hour long episodes the story is padded but in this case the padding doesn't match the rest of the piece of furniture that could be lovely.

So yes, fans of the older cast can enjoy some nice monologues they are given, but it all doesn't add up.

Under the Wire
(2018)

Overlong, pokey and a bit shallow
The opening is terrific and sets up a stunning character of Marie Colvin who then is barely seen after that. This is odd, but probably the intention was to shoot her commentary later, but there would be no later for her. This is not a spoiler, btw, you know going in what will happen to her.

She's there of course and what little she did say or write while there is laboriously lingered over, really they are stretching what little they have and all it does, rather than make her more of the story, is to eat up time.

And well it all goes on too long and the pacing and visuals are too much the same to sustain interest. Some artsy shots lingering on grains of rice and insignificant items in various rooms slow the pace to a distracting crawl. Some of this stuff must have been shot later, all this is to try to make more out of not much really happening other than waiting.

It all feels a big self aggrandizing until the final 15 minutes or so. Had it been told in an hour, rather than reach for feature length it would have been better and worth it's weight as part of a larger picture of Syria, but that larger picture is never given, sad to say it seems to be made for others in the news media to experience, like preaching to the choir.

It feels like the real story isn't told, lost in the drama of the moment for the foreigners amid the most interesting and rarely gripped local doctor and a supporting local hero character--and it's not much more than a moment that our heroic team are actually in the town being heartlessly bombarded by the Syrian government. The stated purpose of the journalists there is not to be the story but to tell the story, and given the way things turned out, this movie is about exactly the opposite. Almost like a training film to show people who are about to be a war correspondent, and not very interesting if you aren't one already.

Now don't misunderstand, Syrian powers-that-be being allowed to get away with what they have been and will continue to do is crime. But I, and I'll assume, we knew that going into the film. A film with a good message and on the right side of an issue is only part of the battle of making a great film about the same things. And that's what I fault this film for.

So the set up and the pay off to the film work but the middle hour, eh. A weekly Frontline episode is more compelling and involving in the context of a larger picture that's missing here. Could make a great fiction feature where you could actually focus more on Marie Colvin during the central crisis.

A Good Man in Africa
(1994)

Carry On Arica- with less sex and less humor
Pretty much a disaster, the kind of film that knocked the director's status down a number of pegs. He has no feel and can't set the right tone for this comedy.

The way is was sold it was hard to even understand it was supposed to be a comedy, maybe they tried to sell it that way because it's not funny.

This really reminds me of that series of Carry On films from England--you can look those up to see what I'm talking about. And don't get me wrong I don't find most of those funny either, but they are funnier than this.

I was frankly shocked that this is really what much of this film's script is about. A bedroom comedy of manners farce is how it's played anyway complete with one really distasteful scene with an African woman running around bugging out her eyes like Mantan Moreland was her acting coach.

Friels and Lithgow are bad, Friels has no real comic timing and Lithgow with his fake accent and slightly over the top--but not enough to be funny-style ruin any chance of this low brow quasi sex comedy could have had. And does a guy running around "comically" thinking he's got VD and having to turn down hot women really belong in what could be a social commentary comedy in Africa anyway?

Connery and Rigg come off better than the rest of the cast, perhaps in part because they aren't around for much of it. Connery must have wanted to go play golf and be well paid to do so. He easily has some of the few, or only, good dialogue in the film. I watched it, in part, because I thought how bad could this possibly be? Well the answer is pretty damn bad. Gossett makes no impression and isn't convincing, Whaley Kilmer has little to do and does it blandly. Some attractive supporting female actors at least look attractive but exist for no other reason.

Awful attempts a slapstick humor pop up including an extended running around in a ridiculous Santa suit. The word desperate comes to mind.

Anything the book or script might have to say about Africa and political corruption are lost amid the failed comedy of saggy naked old lady and dead body in the street humor. Yup, that's what I said and I'm not making this up.

In the middle of a "comedic" golf playing montage a dreadful song with the lyrics "Good Man in Africa" plays. There is almost no end to the out of date not funny in the first place "gags" this movie will attempt and fail at. Almost a text book example of how not to do any or all of the above.

An actual comedian in the lead and an actual director who can do comedy would have helped, or maybe it all worked better as a book.

This is a Hollywood Turkey in Africa.

Alien Visitor
(1997)

Love story yes, environment no
The film is a mix of things that shouldn't work but many do. Despite it's unity of style--virtually every scene is shot exactly the same way, the two leads are so good and work so well together that the fact it's a talkfest kinda' doesn't matter, and the fact that it's best element is the relationships/love that develops between sexy alien and dorky earth man builds an emotional pull probably because it's all a film about the two of them. Each actor is well cast and couldn't be better, she seems convincingly superior and times, he seems doltish but later quite handsome and rather deep==these attributes being displayed at the perfect moments. We never learn the names of either character in the film--a device that works. The film is full of devices, some pretty distracting.

The film is very much like a stage play, even a planetarium show, only the multiple locations and constant time-lapsing make it purely a movie at the same time. The style is unique enough to work much of the time.

Being science fiction, it will naturally draw some smart ass retorts and deserves some of them, but the film is about differing world views, the details of those worlds may be wrong at times, but it's really just a framework, you can almost say it's about the differences between men and women and how they can work for and against each other.

What fails is the filmmakers "hug a tree/save the earth" message. For a film that becomes so much about two people's relationship to then try to jump the a broad view "issue" it's trying to sell fails. It has to. Stories are at their best when we relate specifically to individuals, not when they try to boil down individuals into groups and causes.

The framing device of the movie of the whole story being told round a campfire to two kids leads to a clunky final scene selling the tree hugger message. Now don't get me wrong I'm all for tree hugging but it's like having too much candy all at once. Even the right message and idea can be delivered in the wrong way.

Again though this is a big though minor problem compared to what the two actors do and the parts they play. The film credits them and the crew with coming up with additional script material--a rare credit to see from a writer director.

At times fascinating and moving at less times a bit the same and ham handed in it's message. Still worth a look and memorable. Good music score helps too.

Film has full frontal female nudity right at the start, rather than in a key love scene later, it feels like a commercial decision to do it this way.

Himmelskibet
(1918)

Heaven Ship is original and better title, memorable early science fiction film
Heaven Ship is a better title and more literal translation, given the content of the story--not that they find Heaven in a Bible sense but sorta', not to give it all away in any way. Not sure there is a science fiction film in same vein 'til maybe DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. So don't expect any monsters in this one, this film and story come from the truer sense of Science Fiction being about ideas, not fights and such. So shift your mental gears into a character and personality and society conscious story and movie.

It's an interesting movie, There is some parody intended in it as one character is Dr. Dubious and the main "hero" last name is Planetose. Our hero does strike some classis Big silent movie gestures but at other moments he's quite effective, enough so for the grand gestures to perhaps be overdone on purpose given the lessons the story teaches the earthmen.

It's one of the first, or the first, feature science fiction film, I guess based on a novel the film was from 1917-18 so early novel in the genre too. I watched a very good restored version--though it's hampered by a piano score that only rarely seems to pay much attention to what's actually going on, on screen. Though the last scenes work very well with the score.

This movie gets credit as first space opera--certainly has some Opera-ish settings, beautifully photographed too, much of it shot outdoors, with large scale Mars settings which also feature some large crowd scenes as well. There is real money spent here and craft, it even gets some basic ideas about how to travel to Mars right--the major miss being that they just seem to think there will be gravity on a space ship. You could just assume they solved that problem too, though the film is set, not in the future, but in what was the current day of the time 1917. This depicts the first successful space ship and trip to another world.

Drama or melodrama--you decide? About ideas or lacking action--you decide that too. It's not a non stop effects show but does attempt and pull off much of what it strive for--this can/should be said on all levels of the film.

The Lighthouse
(2019)

Actor's scene study but not a movie
If you've ever taken an acting class where the instructor gives the actors some thin idea and then two actors go on about 4 times longer than is interesting--well that's the flaw in this film.

The two actors are good, Pattinson better than I thought possible, maybe even great but how much drunker can you get? How much crazier can you get?

That's all a good part of this story is about. There isn't any development just another scene just like the one before, two guys in a barely illuminated room getting drunk and babbling, just like the previous scene that lasted 7 minutes and just ended was.

The film feels like it's 2 and a half hours long. This is a misfire from a promising director. People argued if his previous film, The Witch, was really a horror film people may argue if this is even a movie.

I saw it opening night. The audience was small, two women walked out about ten minutes from the end.

Neither actor really has a character to play just a type and in lessor acting hands it would have all been even worse. Around the edges of the, 2 guys in a room being drunk and crazy sequences, there is moody B and W, purposely narrow framed atmosphere, The music and sound design are well done.

There are few real supernatural visuals and of these I just say, more mermaid please.

I guess it's more like THE LOST WEEKEND on an island than an island based supernatural story, just don't expect much in the way of story and gobs of exposition and talk talk talk, a movie that doesn't show and just tells.

It has various gross out bits that the director avoided in his first film and also lacks an ending--instead opting for film schoolish ambiguity and feels much much longer than it is. Slow and steady becomes laborious and also frankly though its visual tricks are impressive at first they really don't develop much and the lack of color also weighs the film down, though really the script is what just isn't there.

It feels like it's written by the two brothers while on cocaine, lots of focus on details that don't add up, energetic over-concentration on small details and no perception of anything else. No building momentum exists to bring it all off as a story of as a feature film. A few bits of intentionally dark humor get lost in the general grime as do the few vivid Lovecraftian tentacles. Really a let down this film is.

Arena
(1953)

Not bad, well acted, but dull rodeo footage bogs it down
I'd long wanted to see this and see it in 3D as it occasionally will show up at a 3D fest and because the director made such great use of 3D years later in Amityville Horror 3D. I ended up seeing a good print but flat on TCM.

The trouble here is Fleischer was really good with action but the rodeo footage seems to have been shot from very far away, with a few OK close ups of actors shot against projected footage. It's hard to put an actor on a fake horse and have it look at all real and those shots work well enough, but we are so far from the action so much of the time that in 3D or flat it just ain't exciting.

The story all takes place on one long day at the rodeo that is a little usual and Gig Young does well on horse or not. Henry Morgan probably has the best role, in real life he was a devoted horseman. The color process gives the film a more natural color than it typical of the 1950's but yes, the best action scene is the opening car scene and one scene late in the show I can't mention as it'd be a spoiler.

It's a sort of downbeat rodeo film dealing with the broken lives and loves involved in what is shown to be a job with no reward. Director Fleischer was on his way up at the time so this is a let down as you need exciting and dangerous rodeo footage and for whatever reason you just don't get it here. I sort of suspect they had to shoot at a real rodeo event and the cameras had to be in the stands and then later they shot a few inserts of actors to match the documentary footage. If this was the way it was done it was probably due to budget restrictions--too bad, if Fleischer had been able to do the action scenes the way he was easily capable of the movie might have the kick it needs. He does have a chance to convince you the actors are interacting with the dangerous animals in the sort of pregame aspects of the riding, but then when the real action happens, again we are way far away in the stands.

Barbara Lawrence looks the part and acts well as the femme fatale, all the dramatic scenes work well but....

Still it's better than Junior Bonner, another later Rodeo film, it may well be that you have to be there to really get a rodeo.

The Politician
(2019)

Murphy's typically anti-everything version of ELECTION.
Why do we care to watch a cartoonish amoral super rich spoiled sort of self-loathing gay punk's attempt to become president eventually by screwing over all the other characters in his super rich high school and these people are all spoiled, gay, repressed gay, or should be gay, self indulgent...etc.,

It's sort of wealth porn in a way, the show is glossy and vivacious with color everywhere. It seems to love portraying this unrealistic almost Roman decadent world of modern America. It almost seems that the series itself was made for and perhaps by the same type of person. Oddly the series has a warning about if you're disturbed by psychological problems you shouldn't watch it. A warning that is probably a joke or perhaps the best joke in the show.

Now horrible characters can be compelling, though it's not an easy trick to pull off. Clockwork Orange perhaps being the best example. There you have a horrible person who's one relatable trait is a true love of life. You hate all he does but you sort of wish for his level of gratification at how it makes him extremely happy.

This show misses that by a mile. It's a collection of bits done better in creator Ryan Murphy's other wildly uneven shows and really the whole thing was done better in the great film Election.

Television is a monster for content, the more the better. Creator of Ryan Murphy who is never interested in Television as he can't stay interested long enough for Television's hunger for hours of product. This opinion bolstered by views I have heard from people who have worked on Murphy shows, so it's not just an arm chair quarterback's opinion. In the more limited series like this or American Horror Story you'd think perhaps they would hold together as a whole, but they usually don't. Murphy may well be burned out on TV and would be better off making features where his attention and talents could be focused in a short sprint to victory. But careers often get molded into a rut they cannot escape, those ruts, like Murphy's, can be very profitable ruts if all you crave is money.

Someone should or maybe already has written about his world view, which seems to be a sort of snarky bitter gay man's sending up of anything and everything related to straight white American dominated culture. The mother son/child relationships are all shown to be horrible deals with the devil.

So I guess it's a matter of if you can enjoy that or not notice a woman hating, sincerity-free view of the world portrayed in a sort of cartoonish way that either excuses that approach or makes it offensive.

This show just has nothing to say other than rich American political straight ambition is soulless evil, but in a funny way. I'm game for any idea if it works. It's just too thin and obvious this time around. We are stuck with having to follow a central character's quest that is shallow and self serving.

Once in awhile, some musical sequence or monologue shines but doesn't connect to the whole long enough for it to add up to anything other than hours to be filled up on your television.

Drain the Oceans: Hitler's Killer Warships
(2019)
Episode 12, Season 2

Too many ships too little time
Only the surface of any of these ships' stories is touched and the visuals you see of each ship are also very limited.

Now I admit I knew about most of these stories before watching it, so I expected more, still I think you'll feel like this is a highlight tour of a large topic that doesn't go into much,or maybe barely enough, for it to be very interesting.

It seems like kind of a cost-saving episode with lingering shots of waves crashing simply being reversed. All that said it's a pretty good overview of these stories if you know very little about them. The interviews with various experts are well done but I kind of felt a "where's the beef?" feeling by the end.

I Am Wrath
(2016)

I am bothered...a little....
Despite the title this movie is more of a buddy cop/spy movie. Travolta, with an hair piece that refuses to budge under any circumstance, seems to want to coast through any emotional scenes as quickly as possible. The movie is really about two former spys/or feds/or something of the sort, having an excuse to get back together and have a good ole' time shooting and chasing the bad guys. Some of their banter and relationship works but the danger or action never amounts to enough to create any real jeopardy especially when Travolta at best looks bothered by what he has to do.

It's competently directed, in a get-it-done-and-move-on, style and the plot has a few good twists but leads to an essentially ridiculous final confrontation. But really there is nothing at stake here other than the mechanics of the plot--Travolta and his character don't ever display any real wrath and the film never builds up any real outrage at the political intrigue stuff it is more about than revenge. Shot on Location in Columbus Ohio it has a few Buckeye jokes and Ohio deserves credit for letting a movie like this get made in real government locations--but it's kind of so what. The opening credits may be the most energetic part of the movie as they attempt to set up a State and City on the verge of anarchy--something that then drains away almost immediately.

Budget seems pretty limited, Travolta probably being paid half of what they had to spent, and again he doesn't seem committed to the material which doesn't offer much to commit to. It's not terrible but it should be better on almost every level.

Suspense: The Doors on the Thirteenth Floor
(1949)
Episode 12, Season 1

trapped in a house with a body and a killer
This is a well done alone and trapped story. There is relatively little dialogue and some good surprises/shocks. You really wouldn't know it was done live.

Only real problem is an abrupt ending, the story feels more like it stops than resolves, too bad as this really works up until then.

Suspense: Goodbye New York
(1949)
Episode 0, Season 1

fast paced authentic Woolrich feeling
Though done live and in studio this manages to have momentum and stay true to the feel and story by Cornel Woolrich. It's a story where people are trapped in a bad situation that their attempts to escape from just keeps making worse.

Intense performances and fast pace make it all work.

Suspense: F.O.B. Vienna
(1953)
Episode 27, Season 5

dated to the point of no consequence
At the time, the cold war, this would have some topicality going for it that it now has lost. Without this the situation is pretty dull, how exciting is it if a bunch of boxes end up in the wrong place?

Matthau is kind of fun whether playing drunk or indignant or covering nicely for a few slip ups, like losing his hat on a low hanging doorway or flubbing a line.

The story lacks much excitement, though it does have several completely different locations, which had to make shooting it live a challenge.

It's just all not very interesting.

Suspense: Dark Shadows
(1950)
Episode 4, Season 3

Twist on the "They won't believe me" premise with excellent lead performance
William Redfield makes this stand out, convincingly "on the edge" he seems convincingly on the border of paranoia which makes it understandable the FBI won't believe that he keeps "sensing" the presence of a notorious criminal. There are moral and religious elements that Redfield also puts across. Interesting twist on the basic premise from a story from soon to be director Robert Mulligan, his sole stand along writing credit--for story. There is also in the story and performance a real element of dread that builds through the episode.

Dated element is key role played by a non-Asian and not too convincingly but this is a minor complaint. Typical organ scored episode is sparse in a good way.

Typical of this series the shows moves rapidly but tells a pretty involved story and multiple locations. Robert Stevens, a director of many of these, does a nice split screen effect that then seamlessly moves into the next scene--a very tough trick to do live.

Another Son of Sam
(1977)

poorly made film with a few good ideas
Yes this is a regional movie filled with actors who either weren't actors or did small theatre work. Yes this seems like a movie made in the late 1960's not in 1977. And yes the title doesn't have anything to do with the movie which is more like Richard Speck than "Son of Sam." Finally it's an exploitation movie with almost no real exploitation, there is no nudity at all and the violence that occasionally happens is done so poorly it doesn't have much of any impact.

Having said all that the basic idea is solid and a bit unusual, the killer is trapped in the building early on with police sneaking in to try to find him. The killer is mostly only seen in bits and pieces--wearing kind of goofy brown loafer shoes. But the use of shadowy eye and eyebrows moving amid shadows while an electric tone/music drones on is rather novel and occasionally effective. Also the movie uses freeze frames to end scenes rather frequently rather than dissolving of cutting away. Also a few of the murder scenes come when you don't expect them. And the movie moves along pretty well, or well enough that you don't have to fast forward--if you don't just stop watching because of the cheapo production and acting.

These odd elements and the general crudity of the production gives it some grit. The budget is so low--they don't seem to be able to really purchase or rent even one really convincing police uniform, let alone the motely mismatched SWAT uniforms on display.

It also has and probably always had, sort of poor lab work with flat lighting and, now, faded and shifting colors, but this too now is seen as part of a Grindhouse Esthetic--in that way time has been kind to this movie.

It may be barely a movie but it tries, if doesn't succeed, at some style and has a few surprises, so can't say it's totally worthless, especially for those who will watch something that lacks the easy slickness of Hollywood films that can have no real ideas to offer.

The Beach Bum
(2019)

LIke a Cheech and Chong movie written by Jim Thompson.
Yes, I'm talking about BEACH BUM the second MM ocean side loser movie of the year, the first being Serenity.

This is a stoner comedy only it's not funny. Cheech and Chong knew how to do these and few others have ever figured it out, and nobody involved in this does, that 's for damn sure.

This movie is epically immoral, MM is, as is often the case, totally irritating and this movie is gonna' kill more people than any movie since NATURAL BORN KILLERS.

It's a total amoral celebration of being high your whole life killing people accidentally and getting away with it all. It's ineptly directed and virtually laughless featuring a supporting cast of known actors most of whom seem to be disguised so as to escape being recognized as being in this train wreck.

I have no idea what they were thinking though that I guess is part of its epically bad charm.

If you ever feel your wasting your life--this movie will prove you're not by comparison. How or why this got made is incredible enough, but at least it's not a super hero movie.

The scene with the severed foot was the only genuine laugh I got, adding to the "fun" is frequent out of shape women shaking their lumpy butts and boobs around in the background of many scenes. Is this the point? Like pretty much everything in this film it's a mystery as to what they were thinking why they were thinking it and why they are wasting your time showing it to you.

Snoop Dog and what's his name, his fans are called parrot heads, appear in many scenes, and there is a hilariously giant joint in many scenes.

It's gonzo gone to hell a celebration of being high and drunk and that being the reason to live.

Now this could be seen as one, of too many, movies showing tragically messed up "artists" who are great artists so we are to forgive the fact they are awful human beings. In this case MM's character is supposed to be a great poet, but the brief bits of poems we hear from him are awful. So again is this the point?

So what's not to like? Bad movie fans rejoice this is epically awful throw back to the wild uneven 70's films.

Omega Doom
(1996)

incredibly cheap talkfest struggles to reach 70 min
Now plenty of people attack movies for being cheap but let me tell you this is cheap. Also let me say Albert Pyun had, at times, some style and energy to his movies, but ultimately it was movies like this that kept him in the lower and lower depths of low budget science fiction action movies with no action and retread science fiction.

This is cheap even compared to similar films by say Cannon or Charles Band. It does feature a taking head, like Pyun's film Dollman, which is a better bigger film.

This entire film takes place in one European town square and a few dark interiors of stone or concrete lined basements. There is no action virtually every scene is two people talking. The cyborgs are all silly looking, actors pretending, badly, to be robots while loud mechanical noises sound with their every move. Make up and special effects--a few glowing lights and the talking head effect are all unconvincing when not distractingly bad.

Rutger Hauer is starting to show the ravages of his life-and career style and starting also to put on weight. He seems to take this seriously enough to escape much blame for how poor this film is.

Though made in 1996 it feels more like 1987, the few actual robot heads you see look like ok Halloween costume parts.

The movie moves as slowly as possible because it's not really feature length--though you'll struggle to put up with it until the end credits start--70 minutes into the movie.

The story is a low rent terminator thing and even features the early shot of a bunch of skeletons with a foot crushing a skull.

The talking head character gives the most fun performance, twitching around crazily when attached to a body, oh and the movie is in focus. Those are really it's only virtues.

Don't confuse this with Nemesis, or Trancers, or ever American Cyborg those are all bigger and better films than this. Really bottom of the barrel, like footage you'd cut out of an actual movie--and coming from Largo Entertainment you can see whatever they spent didn't go on screen.

Second Act
(2018)

2 plots that don't go together
This film is sold as one thing but tries to be two which about ruins both. The story the film was sold on is about women in a dead end job who is given a chance at a big league job by a faked resume. But it's also got a very melodramatic/ soap opera story about the woman and her long lost daughter.

The movie also is rather cheap and video-looking, neither Lopez or Remini look particularly good, though Lopez is still playing a character ten years younger than she is--which she pulls off, I only mention this as it has the feel of a 90's cable tv movie.

Interactions with Remini and Lopez are good, probably the best thing about the movie actually, then again the focus of the film shifts to the melodrama lost child thing, of which Remini is virtually abscent from.

The director was well cast to direct this kind of film but his earlier films are much better and have a sense of being a complete movie that this one lacks.

Supporting characters are most cartoons and, in the faked resume portion of the film are funny enough.

Of course Lopez is a big glamorous star, so for her to pull off this 'working class' act is not easy, but she manages to do it--it's mostly free of star moments--she doesn't sing, isn't shot to show off her famous bottom, she does have one dance scene with friends but it seems realistic enough.

Treat Williams does well in the roll of a basically unconvincing 'good guy' mega corporation owner.

The whole idea of cramming a old hat and unconvincing mother/lost daughter movie into this one is a bad one. This is a film sold as one thing because what they aren't selling doesn't work.

Sad to say it on many levels is a LIFETIME level movie.

Widows
(2018)

unconvincing, overlong, ineptly directed, pretenious
It's certainly fine for directors to get a chance to make different types of films but that doesn't mean they will be good at every genre, and McQueen proves that here.

Neither the drama, nor the heist are convincing, there is no sense of suspense to what feels like a very very long movie.

It paints a totally ugly picture of Chicago--that might even be considered a plus factor as at least that's part of what it intends to do.

There are so many elements to this, you'd need a master to possible pull it off, though you'd need a better script as well, what Don Siegel might have done with this. Some of the angles don't cut together very well and a key flashback is almost handled confusingly. There are some self consciously over long shots and moments, a very film school-like close up of a cigarette is practically a parody of a film student making a noir film.

The actors try hard but that's not enough to connect the dots of the plot, but the reasons these widows join up never makes total sense to start with so you never have much to build upon right from the start and the ending leaves a lot of loose ends.

Everyone is pretty nasty and nasty to each other, leaves no reason to root for anybody, though the film just seems to be going nowhere as slowly as possible.

One good plot twist has little or no impact and the various political points I guess the film would like to make take up enough time to leave out any time to develop the heist segment.

Very sparse sort of Morriconesque music score by Zimmer.

The whole thing is a let down.

The Old Man & the Gun
(2018)

episodic surface barely scratched
The director has mostly worked in short form and doesn't know how to handle a feature. The whole thing is an ambling affair avoiding violence of excitement in exchange for art house scenery and whisper level performances. Various time and date stamps just make us more aware of how long things are going on and how much we aren't showing between events.

Robert and Sissy make a good romantic couple and it could have been about a career criminal finding love but, we cut away to the quiet cop at home life and the totally undeveloped roles of Redford's gang of oldster criminal pals, or to yet another non-event robbery or non-event police chase.

In the 70's the anti establishment movement was so strong that anyone who opposed the system could be viewed and heroes no matter how anti social and immoral their behavior--a shading of that is at work here, or hopes to be playing off of Redford's image--which was never really a bad boy.

Redford has never played a bad guy the closest he will get is playing someone who is an enigma--maybe he's good maybe he's bad--we just don't really know. That's pretty much the case here, there is never a dark flicker to his crimes in this film.

I guess he's just a rogue who we love and since he does what he loves who are we to judge him?

Doesn't work for me, many scene look like those you'd cut out of a movie that's really about career criminals or about something where people speak in a full voice.

It's kind of charming in it's art house pacing or the small romantic moments between characters. Casey Affleck is ok but mostly slacks back into his just sitting around earlier performances.

Photography is pretty well done and has a bit of a 70's warm grain feel to it, the music I guess is telling us what we know that we're on a slow ride to not much of anywhere.

If the script and director had more point and purpose it could have amounted to more.

A Simple Favor
(2018)

Sold as a thriller, but doesn't really work regardless
Paul Feig's career has been on a steady decline since his first two films, but studio's don't seem to understand his films and perhaps misunderstand this one more than ever.

The trailers and promotions sell this as a sort of GONE GIRL thriller with incredible twists and drama--ok, none of that is true. Right from the retro title sequence with goofy French pop music you know this is, well, off beat I guess is the word.

So if you go into this knowing it ain't what it's sold as, and if you are a fan of Feig or of that much maligned genre of the Black Comedy you could have a chance at enjoying this.

Sadly for me, Kendrick is what I call aggressively perky, urged to be so by the director. I like her but here she is all twitchy shrugs and almost mugging--she's just trying to hard.

No scene ever develops with any serious intent for long enough to engage you or with any real cleverness. Offbeat music constantly reminds you this isn't to be taken seriously but can't give it the balance.

It'd like to be a lighter weight Hitchcock type comedy though it mixes in darker elements, though not successfully as Feig can do at his best.

Ultimately it doesn't make any sense and the ending is outright goofy. It reminds me more of a failed Joe Dante type film--again Dante hit some home runs and struck out just as often. I'm just trying to give you some frame to possibly enjoy this film more than I did.

Unlike Kendrick. Black Lively comes off well and in one part I won't spoil gets to do one of every actor's dream roles.

It's all not funny enough nor serious enough to work, so the studio choose to sell it as a dark thriller, which it ain't.

Supporting performers are all over the map in tone and quality of performance. It will be interesting to see how they sell the film for it's life outside of theatres, though they will probably just dump it. This may help fans of the director see it as unjustly ignored. I have to say it just doesn't work.

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich
(2018)

Retro goodish
Being sold as the goriest film ever, I have to say, no. It's a Puppet Master film if you've never seen any of those it's hard to say you MUST see this one as you probably don't have to. But if you have seen them you'll see this as one of the better ones, it drops the annoying Gremlins sounds that, for me, pretty much ruined the first film, and for the most part the rest were all down hill in budget and quality with part 3 being probably the best of them. Like Part 3 in a way this deals with the Nazi backstory of the Puppets and even this time deals with the Holocaust and Nazi agenda the puppets are carrying on. There is humor but it's played straight which helps, the main humor being from several super gorey show stopping moments--though most of the gore is pretty routine--within the context of gore done in say the 1980's way--practical effects as they call it now.

The downsides to this film is that is has virtually no visual style at all and is dingy looking, the actors all look old and haggard most of the time, and for some of the old actors in particular this does them no favors as it makes them look really old. The old horror name actors all do well, aside from looking kind of dreadful, but be warned UDO KIER has very little to do. Crampton is quite good.

They story does stop for awhile when the movie turns into a series of gore scenes, but the story is frankly pretty good.

The Puppets are seen rarely for much of the film, and often are used the way MUPPETS are--there is sadly no, from what I can tell, animated Puppets in the film---the brief stop-motion moments in the original films were all highlights and you'd hope a done real, not CGI, reboot would take the time to do some stop motion animation--but strangely they don't--which mostly keeps the puppets from doing much that is new, or even as good as, the best moments from the original series.

Music score, by another Horror name, is too sparse as the film feels very flat for much of the first 30 minutes.

But the film does build well and has a great post credit scene, so be sure to stay turned for that. It's a reboot in mostly a good way and certainly, though low budget in look, done better than original producer Charles Band is able to do these days.

So a decent start for what hopes to be a new series of films by a also rebooted brand name Fangoria. This film is also better than the previous attempts at film production done under the Fango banner in the early 1990s.

The Eyes of Annie Jones
(1964)

Annis shows star potential but too much talk
The scenes which should be good are, in terms of suspense or supernatural but they are few and far between and the rest has the always good Richard Conte showing off how badly miscast he is here as a "stud" who has gotten himself into trouble with too many women. Yes Conte is a bit too old for the part but he's miscast anyway--typical of an American name being crammed into a story they don't fit into in an UK production.

I didn't know who Francesca Annis was as I watched this film but soon she stood out at the best thing in the movie and, looking her up, I had indeed seen her in much film work and she's still working.

The best non supernatural scene is sort of a Lolita scene with Conte--if all the sexual tension scenes worked like this one this would be a better movie.

Buxton Orr contributes a good score, but they should have let him score the dialogue scenes. He's an unusual modern composer and his choices of instruments is effective.

The direction is flat much of the time, though the séance type sequences work well, helped by Annis and by the music.

The main fault must be the script way way too much talking and the talk is either romantic bickering or police procedural---both movie killer filler.

The structure is one of suspense not mystery but the story is all talk and not enough actual suspence scenes--there is really one longish set piece scene which is a highlight. There needed to be more such scenes.

This would be a good 30 minute episode for Twilight Zone or Hitchcock's show and feels like a padded version of a TV idea. In fact the story source Henry Sleasar who did write for Hitchcock's TV series.

Final "chase" sequence is flatly and cheaply done.

So when it's good it's good but you should probably fast forward through any 3 plus minute long dialogue scene which far out number the supernatural ones.

Hereditary
(2018)

FULCI LIVES
And if you don't know why I say that you need to see some films directed by Italian writer director Lucio Fulci. Not that you have to know that to enjoy=be scared by it.

Now you should be warned going in that crazy and illogical behavior and a sullen grieving family are hard to "warm" up to, but thanks to good performances, I and I think, you'll stay with it and much will be explained if you are patient enough to go along for the scary crazy ride that follows.

Yes maybe it goes on a little too long but it does build well and though at times it could go off the rails and become silly it stays just this side to remain horror.

An audience helps it, as I saw it with a pretty full house of people who were definitely into the movie reacting nervously and in dread in the right spots.

This doesn't transcend the genre, I would stop short of saying the film has much to say outside the usual, but unusually effective, supernatural playing field the film remains within.

There are however some mother, child, tensions that resonate--if also test reality. The son character in particular could get silly but works thanks to acting and atmosphere.

Certainly a significant horror film because it know how to play by the rules and make them work--lessons many pretender horror films fail to do.

Effective music and ironic use of a semi famous ballad for the end credits help a lot. Two lead females characters hold it all together along with the photography and direction. Does get gorey at times--nothing wrong with that CGI elements are well done when they need to be.

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