Last Update 1/21/19

 

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) 

This was a mixed bag in more ways than one. In the future, Magneto and Xavier are united in an attempt to send Wolveine’s consciousness back through time to his younger body in order to prevent events that led to the creation of the Sentinels, who are tearing the world apart.  So we get the usual cast plus their younger versions from the previous movie all mixed together. Parts of the story are well done, others not so much. The opening sequence seems cribbed directly from the Terminator movies. The political maneuvering is not particularly convincing. Certainly watchable but I had a nagging feeling of discontent throughout. 1/21/19

The Haunted/The Haunted 2 (2015) 

These two related horror films from Japan appear to also be known as Tag-Along 1&2.  They are dubbed rather than subtitled. It’s very difficult to tell exactly what the stories are about but apparently they involve evil mountain spirits that plague people in the cities, sometimes possessing them and preying particularly on the young and elderly. It’s a shame these weren’t adapted more skillfully because most of the acting seems competent, the dialogue is not actively awful, and some of the visual effects are quite striking. The little girl creature is particularly gruesome and creepy. Unfortunately it is so hard to follow the details of the plots that it is difficult to get immersed in the story. 1/20/19

Hell Fest (2018) 

A group of young adults attend a horror themed carnival, unaware that one of the costumed players is actually killing people. It’s a pretty familiar formula, but at least the acting was competent and for a change the characters were not a bunch of repulsive punks. Not bad, but I had considerable difficulty understanding how the carnival could literally have scores of people in the exhibits. They would have had to charge enormous entrance fees. And when there were literally dozens of able bodied men facing one killer armed with only a knife, why didn’t they just take him down? And why do the two women run and hide in an isolated closet rather than with the very large crowd? It ends up being more monotonous than scary. 1/18/19

The Witch Files (2018) 

This one is a mildly humorous story about a bunch of high school girls – played by actors too old for the parts – who discover that they can invoke the powers of an ancient coven of witches who were persecuted in the area. This is a sort of found footage movie, which I detest, but this one wasn’t awful. They develop their powers a little too fast and easily for my taste, and it is obvious that there is going to be a split among them that will eventually lead to a major confrontation. More fantasy than horror, and I would really have liked it better if it had been conventionally filmed rather than quasi-found footage, which I generally despise. 1/18/19

X-Men First Class (2011) 

First in the second trilogy, with a new cast and a different origin story.  Things begin to deteriorate quickly as the writers display complete ignorance of how military planning and foreign policy are accomplished. Magneto is on the trail of the Nazi who killed his mother – the Nazi is the chief villain – but the bad guy has several mutants working for him. It’s not entirely awful and has some good moments, and the tie-in to the Cuban missile crisis was interesting, but there are other moments that just aren’t convincing even within the context of the story. It does set up the characters in their more familiar roles, but the events off the shore of Cuba are not compatible with our timeline so this is clearly an alternate universe. 1/17/19

Sheborg (2016) 

Massively awful acting although the movie was never meant to be taken seriously. Nonsensical plot with two female anarchists having to save the world when an alien cyborg arrives on Earth and starts turning everyone into flesh eaters. Particularly puppy flesh. It was mildly funny for a while but became increasingly silly and some scenes were so underlit they were unwatchable. The fight scene choreography was notably bad. Okay soundtrack, but played much too loudly.  1/18/19

The Car: Road to Revenge (2019) 

This claims to be a sequel to the better than you might think 1977 television movie, The Car, but it really isn’t. It just shares a theme- the demonic automobile. For one thing, it is set in the future, a dystopian one in which criminals are instantly killed in the courtroom. It often looks more like Road Warrior than a horror film. A pretty villainous prosecutor is killed and his souped up car drives around killing the people responsible. Little goofs throughout. There are no witnesses to the first death, but the police have a description of the car. More fist and gun fights than anything else. Not quite crap, but not a whole lot better – and the female villain is extraordinarily awful. Eventually it gets really silly with cars crashing for no obvious reason just to provide some explosions and the phantom car becoming airborne, again for no good reason.  1/15/19

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) 

There’s a cure for mutation, or so it seems. Jean Grey returns from the dead as the Phoenix and allies herself with Magneto. Cyclops dies. Most of the mutants lose their powers, although there is a hint that this is temporary or illusional. Lots of action sequences without much story linking them together. A few good scenes mixed in with a lot of bad ones. This felt more like Transformers than Marvel. It was originally supposed to be the final X-Men movie, but of course that never happens and it looks like a third reboot is in the offing now. 1/14/19

I Think We’re Alone Now (2018)  

This is a quiet and quite odd end of the world movie. Peter Dinklage is a kind of OCD librarian who was the only survivor in a small town when virtually everyone in the world suddenly died of unknown causes. He buries the bodies and keeps the town clean and orderly and actually enjoys his solitude. Then Elle Fanning shows up and he has to make accommodations to no longer being alone.  But things are not what they appear to be. Although I wasn’t entirely happy with the twist ending, this was surprisingly good and mostly because of the two stars. 1/13/19

Assignment Terror (1970) 

An Italian SF disaster starring Michael Rennie, who had obviously fallen on hard times. Aliens decide to invade Earth by impersonating humans and reviving dead people to exploit human superstitions. Their primary target for some reason is a fairground. It turns out that they are not superstitions. Vampires and such are real. This doesn’t make any sense even within the convoluted logic of the plot. And some of the acting is so inappropriate to the situation they are in that it is worse than just bad dubbing. It’s a shame that talented actors were reduced to performing in things like this late in their careers. 1/12/19

Sharknado 6: It’s About Time (2018) 

Having watched the first five – don’t ask me why – I had to finish the series. It’s deliberately awful, but it ties up the series. Our hero must make visits to four past epics to stop sharknados from forming in order to prevent them from ever existing. Don’t try to figure out the logic of this. In the process, he also runs into artificial humans who have a sinister plan of their own. Corny dialogue, over acting, bad special effects, and a complete lack of logic are all essential ingredients to this series, and they’re all here in full flower. 1/11/19

X-Men United (2003) 

A far inferior sequel, full of clichés and the usual Hollywood ignorance of how the real world works. The army CANNOT be used in domestic criminal cases. A colonel would not be placed in charge of a major project affecting the future of the country. Nor would a colonel be able to overrule requests from the Senate. Nor can the government raid and arrest a facility without warrants, probable cause, etc. Fifteen minutes into this one, I had lost all sense of reality about its world. The human villain, the colonel, is such a caricature that he is not even menacing. And why do the assault troops rappel down from helicopters when there is a perfectly safe landing field right there? And how did Mystique return from the dead? And if Stryker already knew about Xavier’s school, why did he have to question Magneto to find out about it? Eventually they have to team up with Magneto to win. And Xavier’s powers are exaggerated beyond belief. Blah. 1/10/19

Wildling (2018) 

I figured out what was going on way too soon, but otherwise this is not a bad movie. A teenage girl has been raised in seclusion by an odd man who warns her against the wildling, an animal like creature. The girl has an unusual personality and has very advanced senses and the man who held her was repressing her maturation process. Spoiler alert. She’s going to turn into a werewolf when she reaches sexual maturity. Good acting, a bit too low key at times, and the story doesn’t move very fast. Watchable but probably not a second time. I don’t generally like werewolf stories so this may impress you more than it did me. 1/9/19

X-Men (2000)  

I was not a fan of this comic title and the only reason I really enjoy this movie is because of Ian McKellen as Magneto and Ian Stewart as Xavier. Magneto plans to use his powers and a machine to transform a large group of world leaders into mutants although the process is unstable and will eventually kill them. Wolverine is reluctant to work with Xavier but is loyal to Rogue, who has been kidnapped by Magneto. Nice special effects and great acting from an unusually strong cast. Unfortunately the sequels did not maintain the high standards set here despite the continued presence of most of the major actors. 1/8/19

Passengers (2016) 

A starship whose crew and passengers are in suspended animation runs into trouble colliding with a large rock in space. The odds against this are, of course, astronomical. Two colonists are revived prematurely, more than a century early. But the program thinks they are near their destination. Chris Pratt is alone at first, but eventually he revives Jennifer Lawrence. Various systems begin to break down but over a long period of time, perhaps a bit too long cinematically because I started to lose interest after a while.  It picks up for the end which is fairly predictable but not without entertainment value.  1/7/19

Mission Stardust (1967) 

The infamously bad movie based on the German Perry Rhodan SF series, an Italian film. The books now run into the thousands of sequels, literally. The movie, fortunately, had none at all. An expedition to the moon encounters two perfectly human aliens, one of whom is very ill, the other very snobbish. Rhodan is the human captain who spars with the snobby woman. Not much actually happens in the story. Badly dubbed and the color is mostly faded. This was a novelty even when it was released and today it’s just an oddity. 1/6/19

The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939) 

I read the novel this is based on last night so the plot is fresh in my memory. Murder at a soccer match, which included in the cast several well known soccer players of that time. One of the players is poisoned and collapses on field, which causes Inspector Slade to investigate both the recent death and an older, presumed suicide. Oddly the male characters have the same names as in the book but the women are all changed. There are also differences in detail, although not major ones.  The addition of a rather unfunny series of jokes adds nothing and is often silly. And then they change the ending dramatically, killing off a character who did not die in the novel. A minor film from a minor book. 1/5/19

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

The sequel to the classic Phil Dick story is long and, alas, boring. The characters are so dull that I had no interest in them or the story. The premise is that a new replicant hunter discovers hints of a secret threatening society which forces him to track down a long missing predecessor (Harrison Ford). The replicants apparently can have babies. We never find out how this is achieved. The story progresses through a series of muted, dull, and sometimes incomprehensible conversations. Some of the visual effects are very impressive, but the soundtrack consists of random noises rather than music. There are numerous scenes that add nothing to the story. I only made it to the end because I was too lazy to get up and put in something else. It was as though they were trying to do a television show rather than a movie.1/4/19

The Spiral Staircase (1946)

Based on Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White. Someone is killing women with disabilities and our protagonist is mute – although apparently not permanently. She works as a servant in a mansion, but she fears that the killer is on her trail. There are lots of visual and audible clues indicating that she is right, somewhat old fashioned but still quite suspenseful. Elsa Lanchester, Dorothy McGuire, George Brent, Ethel Barrymore, and other familiar names from the past. One of the classic suspense films from this era. I remembered it even after a gap of at least fifty years and therefore knew who the killer was, but it was still great entertainment.  1/3/19

The Unnamable (1988) 

This is supposedly based on the Lovecraft story. It's an old school horror movie about an abandoned house which is home to a distorted female mutant who kills anyone who ventures inside. Randolph Carter and other college students decide to investigate and find more than they expected. The dialogue is rather corny, possibly deliberately so, and the acting is subpar, probably not deliberately. The monster is off stage until late in the movie, which is just as well because this was a very low budget project. The college students generally look too old for their parts. A lot of time is spent walking around with nothing happening. There is also one of the most embarrassing awkward nude scenes ever filmed. Surprisingly there was a sequel but not so surprisingly, it was even less memorable. 1/2/19

The Orville Season 1 (2018) 

Although this is a pretty blatant Star Trek ripoff, and the pilot episode is a bit silly, the series grew on me, although at times the plots contained rather naïve elements. The episode about gender assignment is excellent. Although the show sometimes misfires, it is surprisingly pleasant and occasionally thought provoking.  Everyone in the galaxy speaks the same language, of course. And sometimes the stories are so naïve that they are embarrassing.  A couple are actively stupid – episode five is awful. The episode that examines the value of opinion vs knowledge is also interesting. It also poses, though doesn’t really deal with, the shortcomings of democracy. The show is very uneven with some horrible stories and some excellent ones. The cast is quite good, however. 1/1/19

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