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Quatermass and the Pit

"we are the martians now"
Just as the US went nuts for B movies in the 50s, the UK developed the Quatermass franchise which was, concept wise, was a cut above the american product. This color film is an attempt to revive that franchise a decade later. They swapped out the lead actor and developed a premise remarkably close to the "Sitchin" theory of evolution which remains controversial even today. That said, rhe gravitas of Brian Donlevy (the original Quatermass) is sorely missed and the script has huge lulls that the colored images cannot compensate for. Lack of CGI makes the SFX awkward in places. The acting in the supporting roles is extraordinary. Recommendation? Find the originals, skip this one.


most unusual love story ever filmed. Ever. Ever.
... yet very few cineastes will have the stomach to watch it from beginning to end.

No, it is not torture porn. Nor is it shlock in the grand western tradition of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.

It is a distinctly Japanese attempt to explore the nature of the relationship between men and women.

This is made crystal clear by seemingly random cutaways to a "too cute to live" teenage couple who talk earnestly about male-female relationships, while the real exposition of the topic is left to the central characters. Who say almost nothing. But actually show us the dark side of the topic by their actions.

Yip Man ngoi zyun: Cheung Tin Chi

could have been OH SO MUCH BETTER...
.. especially given the raw talent both in front of, and behind, the camera. You know a film has got issues when the fighting choreography running behind the closing credits is better than any fight in the actual film. Mildly entertaining, only comes alive during the last 10 minutes. Strangest of all, Donnie Yen is listed as one of the producers?

Smallville: Crusade
Episode 1, Season 4

part of tv history
Only time will tell where Smallville ends up in TV history, but this episode deserves to be remembered on its own merit. The two exceptionally young producers who launched this show were never better at their craft -- this one has a "film noire" vibe to it, never a dull moment, never a bad performance. Durance makes the most of her character debut, Welling relishes playing his inner Kyptonian, the flight scene is better than most of the movies, and Kruek steals her scenes with an intensity new to her character as well. A standout.


In a stand-out series, Hasson stands out the most
Oddly addictive. Possibly the only writing you could name that manages to inject a SJW theme without losing the viewer in the process. The cast is much, much better than they need to be, but Hasson is stealing every scene not otherwise nailed down, and shows enormous promise.


rock solid thriller with a bonus
Rock solid political thriller with a bonus -- watch Carey Mulligan transition from eye candy in the Coen Bros classic to a copper you wouldn't want to mess with.


Dim Sum with not much filler
Representing 50% of the legendary team behind BANSHEE, one of the most amazing shows in TV history (check out my lists), I expected a lot. And the first episode seemed to deliver. But every subsequent episode has been a let-down. All the characters are over-written. The dialog is neither historical nor modern, but somewhere in-between. Koji is not a "hi TV-Q" actor, he seriously lacks empathy, and the scripts don't allow him to win all his fights either, which does not help.

Journal 64

impossibly great!
Makes the first 3 installments look like mere attempts which, with hindsight, they were. One of the best movies in years. Perfect script, acting, cinematography, direction. Emotional highs, perfect ending, and politically correct to boot.


Extraordinary, in a class of its own
Just finished ep 07, one of the most unforgettable stories I have ever encountered (and that is with over 1200 reviews here.) At first the dialog seems over-written but that is only if you compare it to something else. As an artistic work of its own, it is quite incredible and mesmerizing.

The Last Laugh

perhaps for an audience "of a certain age"
Some very strange but true FACTS for this review: 1. The science of Egyptology was born when Napoleon, in an attempt to conquer the world, discovered Egypt en route. His retinue of scientists were so transfixed they begged him for permission to stay behind, and he granted it. Which is why most of the books on Egyptology are translated from the French. 2. Early (French) Egyptologists based their science on something called the Kings List. In the second half of the list, the Kings had normal lifespans. That portion is still taught in university today. In the first half of the list, each King lived for 1000s of years. That is never mentioned. Never. Coincidentally, if the first part of the List were true, hypothetically, those would be last known people in history to cheat death. The rest of us ultimately get old and pay the tab. This film is about precisely that. 3. Chevy is older than Dreyfuss but looks younger. Chase was the lynchpin for SNL and essentially launched the show. But here, playing against type, he is straight man for Dreyfuss, one of the world's most under-appreciated actors, who plays a "natural" comic as if he were born for the part. 4. For older folks, simply watching these two in action is reward enough. For a younger crowd, however, as Don Rickles himself used to say, parts of this uneven film are as exciting as watching a fly crawl up a drape.

Byuti insaideu

every story is a love story
1. One the most powerful scenes in the history film is the blackout scene in HERE COMES MR. JORDAN. This extends that specific theme.

2. Every story is a love story but not every story is about selfless love.

3. Korea does a better job with romantic comedies than any other country.

4. Like the main character, the movie is easy to find fault with. But if you commit to it, it will provide an experience you will never forget.

Travelers: 001
Episode 12, Season 2

Who needs an AI when the writers play God?
All the new shows are now "goosing" their audience with clif-hangers. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it makes a mess. This is a mess.

The Archer

wobbly movie with wobbly reviews
1. They have been making these "exploitation" movies -- wrongly accused teen sent to detention camp by corrupt judge -- since the 1940s. Seriously. 2. The IMDB external reviews make this sound like a mix of Godfather and Star Wars. It is not. 3. Bailey Noble is the best thing in the movie. She seems like she actually cares about her character, a claim no other cast member can make. 4. The corrupt judge is played by a character actor who always plays corrupt judges. The evil warden is played by a Robert Redford lookalike, which is just creepy. The cast is always dressed in Tide-clean outfits which is the telltale of a B movie. Bottom Line -- if you are sent up the river by a corrupt judge, and this movie is played on movie night, it is bearable. Otherwise it is not

Anjelah Johnson: The Homecoming Show

still one of the best physical comics in the game
Comedy currently offers more quantity than quality. That is not necessarily a good thing. Professionals, as in talent agents for HBO, vette comics based on two primary factors, material and delivery. You can be strong in one and weak in the other. Strong in both and you go in the history books like a Carlin or Pryor. The material here is not on par with Johnson's "signature" pieces like the nail story. But nonetheless she remains one of the top physical (delivery) comics out there and for that reason alone this special is worth your time.

Dancing Co-Ed

Meet the Blonde Bonfire
Which is how the studio PR Dept described Lana in her next few movies, significantly just after the male moviegoing public digested this one. As a B-grade comedy, it is simply that. As a Turner vehicle on the upward arc of her career it is something else. You were almost a decade into the Hayes Code and if you were looking for something a little higher octane than the typical Hollywood assembly line product, this was your stop. Turner, born in 1921, was a legitimate teen herself -- this was decades before Hollywood started casting "older for younger" -- and in short skirts, short shorts, and closeups, she steals the film at a felony level.


Melissa George Fans Will be Disappointed
Astonishing how good the first 10 minutes is, and how horrible the rest of the writing is. Melissa George gives 110% as a some sort of private superspy who is "the best" at what she does. After being betrayed and almost killed, she decides to go back and find out who it was that betrayed her. Great setup. But after that great setup, we get a crazy and illogical arc which randomly involves an innocent child, a past lover, an ongoing mission, betrayal everwhere, roaming killers, spies spying on spies (just like in Mad magazine) and a household which is SUPPOSED TO BE HIGH SECURITY but seems to have more cladestine comings and goings than a college dorm in the 1960s. Gawd-awful. I lasted three episodes. You may last longer depending on your pain threshold. This series was not cancelled. It was euthanized.

The Healer

Arango threw a curve ball, and a lot of people missed the pitch
The first thing that everyone missed is that this is an "auteur" movie, that is, the writer and director are one and the same.

The significance of that is important.

Canada, since the launch of its film sector in in the 1980s via tax credits, has built a solid and reliable industry by being essentially the "Walmart" of the sector. Constantly undercutting Hollywood prices (because of the cheaper Loonie) has kept the cash flowing.

And the Canucks have also taken hostage obscure sectors of the business that no one else was paying attention to. For example, 90% of all the so-called "X-mas" films you have seen in the last 20 years were Canadian-made.

Finally, Canada is where most once-successful franchises go to die. When you see a horror franchise or action franchise on its very last legs -- think Freddy Kruger IX or something like that -- chances are it is Canadian made.

So, against this odd backdrop of entrepreneurial spirit, it is rare and refreshing to see an auteur express a vision that is not a knockoff of something else.

And that is the key. This film is an original, it is like nothing you have seen. It takes place in one of Canada's most picturesque (showcase) small towns but it is not a small town piece like Doc Martin or Gilmore Girls or even Corner Gas. It has elements of faith but it is not a "faith-based" movie. It has elements of a rom-com yet without the "rom."

Again, an original.

And it is technically perfect. The script is solid. The acting from the leads is excellent, especially the often-overlooked Jonathan Pryce. (Secondary characters are hit and miss, which unfortunately is the curse of Canadian film making.) The story holds the attention. The questions raised are interesting. In many ways the film revisits issues from the blockbuster hit Resurrection (1980) but in a much subtler way.

It is solid workmanlike entertainment and deserves a better rating than most members have given it.


Brawl in Cell Block 99

Who says there is no such thing as time travel....?
Because writer/director Zahler has taken his audience back to an era when films were simpler, direct, and,above all, unrelenting in their pursuit of a single theme or idea.

He has manufactured a true guilty pleasure -- a film about a man making bad choices that is driven by brilliant characterizations, raw Adrenalin, and a compelling narrative that makes you watch no matter how much you know you should look away.

In the grand tradition of Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood, Vaughn, an actor once relegated to romantic comedies, does "the" physical role of his career and it is a barn burner.

There is no pretense at class. This is 1960s grindhouse from start to finish and if you have any doubts just listen to the closing music at the 2:05 mark --- a brisk orchestral piece that sounds more fitting to a vaudeville act than a melodrama. Zahler ends the show by signalling that he was messing with your head, overloading your senses, all along -- and moreover he was doing it deliberately and knowingly.

Don Johnson, an actor who continues to win SEXIEST MAN ALIVE awards for merely showing up at the ceremony, wanted to try something different and succeeded - his cigar-smoking, sadistic warden is a masterpiece. Unforgettable.

A hard film to review, a difficult film to classify, and an impossible film to ignore. The closest analog in this era would be the highly stylized, and highly violent, films from South Korea that glorify the individual over the system.

Highly recommended.

Our Souls at Night

Barefoot in the Park (1967) a Half Century Later
Some have said that Napoleon would have been nothing without Waterloo. The subtext of this movie may well be that the Baby Boomers, once the top demographic on the planet, having failed to improve the political system or the economic system, or to manifest especially noteworthy parenting skills -- in fact, having failed to improve the planet in any detectable way -- may best be remembered for simply getting old.

If that theorem is to be proved anywhere, it would be in this wonderful movie.

This may be a shock to the younger IMDb members, but at one time Redford and Fonda were not merely the biggest stars in Hollywood but also the biggest sex symbols in the biz.

If in 1967 -- please put on your time travel, butterfly effect, hats here -- you had suggested to these two that a full half-century later they would star is a laid-back but irrefutably charming rom-com where, in the very first scene, Fonda shows up at Redford's door and politely asks if he would mind sleeping with her ... well, let's just say that a raised eyebrow would be least you could expect in return

The script is so subtle (a word I have astonishingly used only a very few times in some 1350+ reviews here) that the viewer does not know whether to laugh or cry. Even the way Redford's character chooses to initially respond to the invitation -- not by a 411.com search, but by looking up Fonda's phone number in a handwritten address book his late wife had left behind -- brings an unavoidable smile to those who grasp the passage of time.

The dialog is a joy. It has ebbs and flows, ups and downs, and most importantly never quite heads in the direction you expect it to.

In fact -- this for film historians only -- it may be a true breakthrough in concept. Remember that in the 1970s scriptwriters tried to "take the rom-com up a notch" by deliberately cutting out the "boy meets girl" portion of the traditional formula. Dozens of rom-coms since that era have started with the very first scene taking place "the morning after," leaving the audience to wonder how the original romance blossomed, before getting caught up in the subsequent events.

In that context, the premise here, if this film resonates with people in the months and years to come, could become a milestone in rom-coms. And deservedly so.

Recommended? Absolutely.

The Shadow Line: Episode #1.2
Episode 2, Season 1

Oh WoW (says the Top Reviewer)
Since the IMDb has been kind enough to call me a Top Reviewer (over 1350 reviews) I wanted to repay the favour with a detailed and eloquent review.

Oh wow.

That's my review.

This episode is the middle of a complicated story told via mini-series, but here is the rub: You don't need the other episodes. This instalment is so good you could watch it alone and simply be dazzled by the performances and the writing.

Rafe Spall in particular steals his scenes and makes even the Bond villains look friendly and amiable.

Oh wow.

Nim's Island

textbook example of raw star power overcoming all obstacles
And when I refer above to "all obstacles," I mean a script that comes across like one of the animals on the island (all of whom are simply adorable) bit a chunk out of it, no one noticed, and they filmed it anyway.

Butler, Foster, and Breslin between them generate enough electricity to power Manhattan or, in this case, at least a small island. They keep you glued to the screen in spite of the nonsense.

The story contains a brief scene where an overweight Australian boy, along with his parents, is briefly on the island. He not only sees Mim but tracks her down and makes a connection. Seconds later, he has to leave and disappears from the story.

The audience feels much the same way by the time the curtain closes. But it was a fun ride while it lasted.


never a watcher when you really need one
The movie drags viewers into a world when psychic abilities are common and each ability has a cute name.

The pity is that Hollywood itself totally lacks any of these abilities, most especially the "watchers." Otherwise someone would have noticed that the great ideas in the story were steam-rolled under a chewy and wandering script.

As I have said in some 1350+ reviews here, the key to a good movie is audience connection. It is that simple. In the opening of the Matrix for example we connect with Neo and he carries us through the film.

Here all the characters are in a "connection vacuum" save for Fanning who holds the attention by star power alone. It is ironic how the script makes such a fuss about her "being 13 years old" when typical of Hollywood she was at the time 15 "playing younger." Turns out the strange world presented in the movie is quite normal and boring compared to the inner workings of Tinseltown itself.

This film could have been something special. Instead it will go into the annals of film history as merely an oddity.

Prison Fighters: Five Rounds to Freedom

Like the inmates, a film not certain of what it wants to be ...
My list of reviews on the IMDb contains a significant number of documentaries and it has always been my view that a good documentary can be both entertaining and informative at the same time.

(See, for example, my review of The 24 Hour War (2016), the tale of an infamous feud between two car companies. The movie made you FEEL LIKE YOU WERE RIGHT THERE AT THE TRACK.)

Which is not the case here. Here, Director Micah Brown made the most serious mistake any film-maker can commit going into a project. He believed his own "spin." Brown went out of his way, bent over backwards, performed filmic contortions, all to "de-sensationalize" this tale.

Fully aware that the fighting aspects could overpower the core story, and believing that the moral, ethical and existential aspects of the piece were far too important to trivialize, Brown presents the viewer with a story that overall seems more like a Sunday morning sermon than a boxing film.

The "proof" of the core flaw here becomes obvious when the actual fight finally arrives, after every possible moral nuance of the story has, by that time, been dug up and analyzed under a microscope.

Suddenly, as the bell sounds for Round 1, the ever-patient viewer realizes that he has no concept of the fighting capabilities of either man; there has been no attempt to present that information in the exposition; there is no colour commentary; the rounds (the culmination of the movie) are edited like a highlight reel and do not flow; and (surprise!) one of the opponents has a major size advantage that no one told you about.

Here is a tip to aspiring documentary makers: surprises are great for birthdays and anniversaries; story-telling requires keeping the viewer fully informed as we move along, so there can be "connection" with what is happening on screen.

Better Call Saul: Chicanery
Episode 5, Season 3

copying genius ... is still genius
The template for this arc is Inherit The Wind, considered as one of the top 10 best courtroom dramas of all time.

But copying genius is still genius.

The Spencer Tracy movie dealt with issues of religion. This deals with issues of morality. Difference? Not much.

The audience, the characters, pretty much know what happened "factually." But the law is an odd animal. It is man's attempt to grasp at something greater than himself. Messing with evidence is wrong. But using the law to get back at your brother for a lifetime of perceived wrongs is no better.

Also the way the producers set up entire episodes with flashbacks that initially make no sense is becoming almost a trademark.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Appurushîdo XIII: The Cattle of Geryon
Episode 4, Season 1

Great writing
Stories about TRanshumanism do not always work as intended.This one does. In the original Frankenstein story, the interaction between the "monster" and an innocent child who stumbles on the creature has become iconic. And hard to beat. This episode recreates that scene with one difference -- the child is also artificial and the humans (two thugs) are the bad guys. It is clever and it works. Even better, it trumps itself. At the close the AI robot (the "monster") who saved the girl (also an AI) was so damaged defending the girl that he had to be rebooted. So when the girl comes to thank the bot for saving her life, he has no memory of it. She gives him a flower but, having no memory, he tosses it away. And the episode closes on that shot -- the flower lying on the ground. Is that the future of mankind?

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