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The Devil Rides Out (1968)
Nicholas Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee) meets his friend Rex Van Ryn at an airfield. They set off to check on their friend Simon Aron who is living on an English country estate. They find him hosting a party for a group of strangers. It turns out to be a cult for the devil.
This has good atmosphere and Christopher Lee helps deliver an intensity to the material. On the other hand, the action needs to be better. The special effects are not up to the task. The spider is especially bad. The devil isn't much more than a guy in a goat mask or is that supposed to be a guy in a goat mask. All in all, this is probably the best Hammer film from the 60's that I've seen.
Kaijû sôshingeki (1968)
back to basics
Aka Destroy All Monsters. It's the end of the century. UNSC is launching daily missions to the moon base. All the monsters are safely contained on an island until an accident in containment allows them to escape across the globe. It is revealed that it's aliens again.
The franchise goes back to the basics. There is no more silly comedy. It's a sci-fi monster movie. The major drawback is that the monsters initially get scattered. It's not until much later when they are drawn into a giant battle royale. I like the earlier alien designs. This is nothing more than a dress. Overall, the story is a bit muddled with the monsters going back and forth with the rooting interest. It is nice to get the franchise back to its roots.
Walter is dead. Jesse is on the run after escaping from the Brotherhood. He steals Todd's El Camino. This is a direct sequel to the finish of the TV show with many flashbacks. Those flashbacks are more or less fan service to bring back familiar characters. The ending is not really in doubt. Getting there has a couple of fun Breaking Bad scenes. The fridge and the vacuum are classic Breaking Bad. The style and the filmmaking is a continuation of the TV show. The story however has limited tension. While each individual turn may be unpredictable, the direction and the final target is very much. This may not be a truly necessity of the franchise. It adds very little to the story. It's not expanding the universe. It's more tying up a few loose threads which aren't begging to be tied down.
Godzilla is a bear
Talking to a spirit, a dance marathon, and a yacht jacking. The story doesn't really make sense as it stumbles from one situation to the next. All it really wants is a yacht and the monster. It could have gotten there a lot more simpler but it wouldn't be a Godzilla movie if it was well written. Four men are shipwrecked on an island after their yacht is destroyed by the monster. The island is controlled by terrorist organization Red Bamboo with the natives as forced labor. The quartet is joined by native girl Daiyo. They find Godzilla sleeping in a cave.
The franchise is getting more and more campy. The whole first act is a convoluted journey. Infant island is not always the most exciting but at least, it has the Shobijin twins. Only in this one, the twins are different and I don't like it. I don't really like a sleepy Godzilla either. It would have been better to have Godzilla trapped rather than sleeping. I also don't like the terrorists. The franchise seems to be losing its way.
Kaijû daisensô (1965)
In the year 196X, astronauts Glenn Amer and Fuji are traveling to Planet X. They are met by an alien underground civilization. The aliens want to use Rodan and Godzilla against Monster Zero which is ravishing their surface world. It turns out to be another King Ghidorah. In exchange, they promise to give a wonder drug to cure all human diseases.
Aliens and monsters. It's such a campy concept that one cannot help but love it. I love the aliens. The story needs a lot more simplification. A simpler story would work easier. This has all the classic Japanese monster bits from the genre. All the monsters get to crush miniatures. The Japanese actors get to point and yell in shock. It has all that plus aliens.
I'll Have What Phil's Having (2015)
I probably can't have that
Philip Rosenthal is a neurotic Jew from Queens. He grew up without much of a taste pallet and is now an amateur foodie. His claim to fame is creating the popular and successful network TV show Everybody Loves Raymond which made him very, very rich. This is a food travel show. It has six episodes with each location from across the globe. The first is Tokyo which provides some exotic expensive fare. This is probably the most problematic of the show. I won't have what Phil's having since it probably will cost me an arm and a leg. The second is Italy which has his emotional reunion with his long lost friends and that's a great side dish. The third is Paris which has a romantic connection with his wife and that's why this episode needs his wife with him. The fourth is Phil's first time in Hong Kong. He learns Tai Chi and have many different Chinese foods. The fifth is Barcelona. Tapas. Tapas. Tapas. The sixth is Los Angeles where he finally gets to eat with some recognizable guests.
As far as I can tell, it'd be a real problem trying to have what Phil had in Japan and Barcelona. Japan is as expensive as hell and Barcelona is as exclusive as hell. I get Phil's idea but he's as rich as hell. Italy is probably the best episode because it has an emotional heart. Paris clarifies something about the show. He's alone and all talks about is food. It's fine but the show doesn't expand beyond that. Jerry Seinfeld is not simply talking about the car or the coffee. Phil needs a travel partner. I'd rather have The Trip than this. In Paris, he needs his wife. In the other episodes, he needs his parents. Instead of Skype, he should just pay for their tickets to join him. As for Los Angeles, he finally gets some partners but they don't really get too far off topic. Marty Short is one of the funniest people on the planet. Phil's talkative nature and his obsession with food takes over the conversation. Marty struggles to do much with the short segment. This is fine for what it is. It's a funny, food-obsessed, rich guy traveling the world eating the best stuff. There's nothing wrong with that.
Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)
trying to be funny
Julius Caesar (Claude Rains) arrives in Egypt and takes a young princess Cleopatra (Vivien Leigh) under his wing. Egypt is ruled jointly between Cleopatra and her younger brother Ptolemy under the sway of his advisor Pothinus. Caesar takes control of the capital city of Alexandria and puts Cleopatra on the throne. He allows Ptolemy and the rest of the Egyptian nobility to leave. In turn, they raise a revolt against the Romans. Caesar orders Cleopatra to stay in the palace but she manages to escape wrapped in a carpet.
Caesar is presented as lenient, relaxed, and assured. Cleopatra is a childish teenager. Neither seem quite right. One expects Caesar to smile less and Cleopatra to be less of a valley girl. It's a take. It wants to be a comedy. It's adapted from the George Bernard Shaw play. I don't think it works but it is intriguing.
campy monster mash
Princess Selina Salno facing assassination threat is on a plane to Japan. There is a meteor shower of UFOs. She is drawn to open the plane's door when a meteor destroys the plane. She miraculously reappears in Japan claiming to be from Venus and warning of the rise of King Ghidorah from space. She also predicts the reappearance of Rodan and Godzilla. The Shobijin twins call upon Mothra who is only in its larva stage to save the world. Mothra tries to recruit Rodan and Godzilla but they don't have any reason to save humanity.
There is a good bit of camp in this one and the movie knows it. First of all, the princess story is unnecessarily complicate. It would have been fine for her to simply be an alien from Venus warning about Ghidorah. The movie adds layers where layers are wasting time and space. I like the twins. There's no reason why I wouldn't like an alien in a ball gown. This movie has some fun with the fighting starting with Rodan and Godzilla playing tennis for awhile. That's the moment when it becomes obvious that the filmmaker is having a bit of fun. Instead of the hullabaloo with the princess, the movie could use the twins more and find xenophobic villains looking to kill an alien princess.
Queen of Outer Space (1958)
Three astronauts are flying a rocket to an orbiting space station with a passenger on board. A light beam zapping around the station gets deflected. The station gets blown up. The spaceship is hit by the beam. They crash onto Venus. Surprisingly, it has a liveable atmosphere and plants. They are taken prisoners by a civilization of beautiful women with no men led by the masked Queen Yllana who threatens to execute them. Talleah (Zsa Zsa Gabor) leads a revolt freeing the men.
A civilization of strong women is as old as the Amazons. This is definitely unintentional camp. Let's be clear. This is not a good movie. One could make fun of it Mystery Science Theater style or one could fast forward most of it. Even at 80 minutes, it is far too long. The 50's style is hilarious and kinda cool. Zsa Zsa is the cherry on top of this delicious camp sundae.
In a small Australian town, thousands of penguins would nest on Middle Island every year. Then foxes discover the island and the colony of penguins gets devastated. There are only 20 left. In order to maintain their sanctuary status, they need at least 10. Their savior comes in the form of eccentric chicken farmer Swampy Marsh (Shane Jacobson) and his dog Oddball. After all, penguins are just chickens in tuxedos.
I love the simple dog saves penguins idea. The rest of the family drama and whale watching drama feels manufactured. The movie is manufacturing a villain and it's not good at it. I can live with the family drama if it's done a bit better. I do like the late mother being the origins story. Much of the story feels like a weaker 80's movie. I'm not opposed to making up a fictional story for this feel-good situation. I am opposed to doing it badly.
Kiss at Pine Lake (2012)
Luke Garvey and Zoe McDowell have a summer camp fling. They kiss in the end and promise to stay in touch. They don't. Fifteen years later, Luke Garvey (Barry Watson) is a rich philanthropist. He buys the camp to run it as it was during his childhood. The camp is in desperate need of repairs but he is short of cash. Zoe McDowell (Mia Kirshner) is a high-powered lawyer and she is ordered to buy the camp from under the new owner to be torn down.
There is a movie called Indian Summer which has a very similar story. That one is much better but this one is fine. The villain is trying too hard. The pairing of Watson and Kirshner has a sincere romantic feel. They are good together and that keeps the movie going. The plot isn't that complex. It's a very simple romance feel-good Hallmark movie. I just don't like the villain constantly being villainous for every second on screen.
Into the Ashes (2019)
moody but needs more menace and pacing
Sloan (Frank Grillo) gets out of prison and reunites with his old crew. They intend on getting back the money stolen by their former comrade Nick Brenner (Luke Grimes). Nick has been living straight and married to Tara (Marguerite Moreau) who is the daughter of local sheriff Frank Parson (Robert Taylor).
It's a moody crime drama indie. It doesn't have enough action. It would have been nice to have an important murder done on screen. The movie is trying to have all the inbetween scenes. It leaves the movie with a moody feel. It would help to have more intensity to give it a more menacing feel. There is a big action sequence but it doesn't look great. This has all the parts but lacks the pace to drive it.
Love, Romance, & Chocolate (2019)
Chabert in Bruges
Emma Colvin (Lacey Chabert) breaks up with her boyfriend who is moving away for his job. She goes to Bruges by herself for a chocolatier vacation. She finds new inspiration and new love in Luc Simon (Will Kemp). Luc's chocolate shop is in financial trouble but he has great hopes for his chances at the Belgium's Royal Chocolatier. He reluctantly accepts help from the American who has different ideas about chocolate.
The meet-cute is paramount in a romance. This one has some good potential but one needs to know the language. That's where funny subtitles would be really effective. The location is basically stuck in a shop with no customers. As for the exterior shots, the Belgium locations should be better. The camera work doesn't do the place justice. It's not just about the locations. It needs an imaginative vision to bring out the exotic Europe. It does have a boat ride montage but that's really the pinnacle. It helps to be a nighttime ride. This Hallmark romance relies heavily on the bubbly Chabert and she is exactly that. I like the triangle although the opposition should be more villainous throughout the movie. This is a fine standard Hallmark romance.
Strange Cargo (1940)
Verne (Clark Gable) is a thief with three years left in his sentence at a jungle penal colony. He never stops trying to escape despite the dangers of the jungle. Showgirl Julie (Joan Crawford) arrives in the nearby town. Verne escapes again and flirts with Julie. She turns him in but gets fired anyways. M'sieu Pig (Peter Lorre) apprehends the fugitive. He escapes once more with six other convicts. Starved and tired, he finds food and shelter from Julie. She also needs to escape and joins him in his jungle trek.
I really don't care about the other fugitives. I couldn't wait for the movie to get back to the big stars whenever it concentrates on the preacher or the others. There is also a lack of intensity with the jungle. I expected more. Then there are the characters. They are very chaotic and irrational at times. It's hard to get my hands around these people. Some of them look too similar. The dialogue is rather melodramatic. The plot is definitely trying to do something intriguing but it's a strange blend. With the shark, it would have been more intense if the characters don't bring it up first. The Jesus theme is odd. These are great stars. Peter Lorre always delivers. Verne is frustrating. There is something here but it doesn't ever seem to get the intensity.
Love on the Sidelines (2016)
Football star Danny Holland (John Reardon) has a season ending injury. He fires his incompetent assistant and needs a new one. Cash-strapped fashion designer Laurel Welk (Emily Kinney) needs a job and knows nothing about football. At first, he rejects her declaring that he needs a guy to do the job. He reluctantly accepts her and she slowly wins him over.
It's got cutie patootie Emily Kinney. John Reardon has the looks although he doesn't look like a football player. That's all fine. They are both pretty. There are plenty of pretty people here. Danny has a good meet-hate and has a good progression. His one mistake is the classic romantic sudden jump kiss. It's a new era and he can't do that anymore. The character is a big name in that world and he can't go around kissing his employees without consent. It's a lawsuit waiting to happen. Quite frankly, he should Mike Pence the main reason why he can't have a female assistant. Consent can be sexy if it's done right. At the very least, these movies need to slo-mo that standard move so that they can nudge nudge wink wink the consent. Otherwise, this is a function Hallmark romance with a cute couple.
Pumpkin Pie Wars (2016)
good for Hallmark
Faye McArthy and Lydia Harper have a breakdown in their pumpkin pie partnership during their fair contest starting a war with each other's pie shops. It's ten years later and the war goes on. Casey McArthy (Julie Gonzalo) is trying to run her mother's shop while Faye is bitter at losing to Lydia for the last three years. Faye has an accident and Casey is forced to enter the bake-off despite her utter lack of skills. Sam Harper (Rico Aragon) wants to change the shop but his mother refuses. With news of Casey taking over, Lydia decides to extend the family feud to the next generation by letting Sam take over the competition.
This story has a bit of spice, pumpkin spice. That means it's unnecessary but not as bad as one expects. The couple actually has chemistry. The family conflict is cute. It's not terribly exciting but it works. It's more decorative than substantive. It is better than most Hallmark romance. That's something.
Arctic Tale (2007)
Queen Latifah narration
National Geographic does a documentary with a good dose of cutesy storytelling from the Queen Latifah narration. It starts with a momma polar bear and her two cubs emerging from their den for the first time. They have to navigate the new climate along side a baby walrus within its herd. It's nothing new to tell a nature story from a humanistic manner. Sometimes, it works well like the death of the cub. Other times, it's rather too cute. On that note, I don't like Queen Latifah's narration. It may be old fashion but nature documentaries always sounds better British. I also don't like the music which has singing in it. When it gets to a fart fest, the show takes a giant step down. I appreciate the attempt at something new but most of this is rubbing me the wrong way.
lesser espionage film
In Nazi-occupied Netherlands, Dutch intelligence Colonel Pieter Deventer (Clark Gable) makes contact with resistance leader "The Scarf" (Victor Mature). Pieter is forced to recruit Carla Van Oven (Lana Turner) on a mission despite her suspicious past and Nazi connections.
The filming style is rather old fashion at times. Other than being color, there is an older face to the production. The story moves rather slowly until it gets to the little moments of action. The characters seem to go back and forth across the channel without transitions. One would think smuggling would be more intense than that. They are also unnecessary moments of confusion of their locations. The espionage plot also gets unnecessarily confused. The switching between the protagonists also disrupts the flow. I can excuse a lot more if the filming is closer to the war years. One expects better work by then. Carla keeps the movie on its toes but even there, it deteriorates. She gets too melodramatic and again, it's an older way of cinema. There is plenty of old war machinery but the action is very limited. It is all about the mystery but it loses the tension well before the reveal.
Avalon Greene (Bella Thorne) and Halley Brandon (Zendaya) used to be BFFs. Now, they're frenemies. Same goes for their various fellow teens. Superficial Julianne (Stefanie Scott) uses science nerd Jake Logan (Nick Robinson) to partner up with for their science project. His dog Murray is too smart for her tricks. Skateboarding Savannah (Mary Mouser) seems to like both Jake and Murray. Then there is Savannah and her rich doppelganger Emma.
I don't like Jake's temporary turn against Murray. I don't like either Avalon or Halley. By the time we get to Savannah/Emma, I stopped caring. The cast is filled with interesting up and comers. It's fun to see the kid actors trying to do some acting. Splitting the movie up into three sections does not help with the flow. Overall, it's not good.
Lone Star (1952)
It's 1845. Texas' future is in the balance. Sam Houston recently published an opinion against annexation after earlier attempts. News reaches ex-President Andrew Jackson (Lionel Barrymore) who decides to send in cattle baron Devereaux Burke (Clark Gable) to talk to Houston and recruit for the cause. He is opposed by powerful state senator Thomas Craden. He battles injuins on the way to Austin where he meets Craden's girlfriend Martha Ronda (Ava Gardner) who runs a local newspaper. He is assumed to be anti-annexation and decides to play along while Craden supporters hunt for him.
Historical accuracy is not always important. In this case, I find the history rather interesting and I wouldn't mind having the real story. This is obviously not the real story. I don't know anything about the real story and this is not going to enlighten me that much either. Some of the background issues are presented. The cast is headed by the great looking Clark Gable. This is a fine film but I would probably be more interested in a deep dive into the history.
Over The Moon In Love (2019)
Brooklyn Moore (Jessica Lowndes) has always had the knack of making the perfect match. Devin Knight (Wes Brown) is her awkward school friend. It's twelves years later. She has a matchmaking business called "Over the Moon in Love" in San Francisco, but she has never made a match for herself. Devin re-enters her life after losing touch. Stephanie Carlton holds the potential for a big magazine cover but she wants to get set up by Brooklyn. She's taken with Devin and demands to be set up with him.
Oh hey! Jessica Lowndes actually wrote this herself. I won't be too mean. This is fine. Hallmark does not set a high bar. It doesn't inspire me to follow her writing career. She does need to learn to write a meet-cute for her rom-com leads. They could meet in high school with his dental headgear getting caught in her hair. He just needs to be a big nerd whom she never sees coming. Maybe he gets picked on and she comes to his rescue. I do like the Cyrano de Bergerac aspect but the final pairing is never in doubt. Non of this is in doubt. It's a very safe Hallmark flick.
Gojira no gyakushû (1955)
classic monster mash
A tuna spotter is forced to land on a remote island and witnesses a battle between Godzilla and an ankylosaurus called Anguirus. Soon, the battle arrives on the shore of Osaka.
This is the second Godzilla movie rushed into production after the great success of the original. It's got classic rubber suits and puppet heads. Quite frankly, I'm less impressed with the puppet heads. The rubber suit battle is fun. It's a lot of miniature work with the humans mostly standing in awe. The human story is the less compelling as always. I would cut out the escaped prisoners story. Nobody cares about those characters. The movie should find a fire source from somewhere else. The monster battle destroying a city should be a climax to end the movie but that would leave it with less than one hour. The rest is a bit anti-climatic after that. This is what it is. It's a classic Japanese monster movie.
Thriller Night (2011)
Shrek and the gang come out of the theater after watching The Music with Sound. He is furious that he wasted his time on Halloween night. Donkey brings on a sing-along of the Michael Jackson song Thriller. It's a Halloween short. The sad truth is that it's an easy spoof and quite frankly, less fun than the Jackson video. It doesn't even do it right. Shrek and Fiona should be on date night. She should be the one doing Michael. Nevertheless, it's fun to have the characters doing the dance and replacing the zombies in the video.
Shrek 4-D (2003)
fun Shrek short
AKA The Ghost of Lord Farquaad. Shrek gets lost on the way to the honeymoon. Fiona gets kidnapped. Shrek and Donkey follow in pursuit. They end up in a cemetery where they are confronted by the Ghost of Farquaad who has plans for Fiona. It's a fun 13 minutes. It was used in the amusement parks. That's what the 4-D refers to as it becomes a ride. It's great to have the original cast doing the voice work. It's just fun.
David and the giant egg
David Attenborough brings the world of natural Madagascar onto the screen. This is one of the biggest islands in the world with a natural world unlike anywhere else. It's millions of years since it was separated as Africa and India drifted apart. It's a four part series. The first three parts have the standard beautiful nature cinematography with the last ten minutes of each episode showing the struggles of the filmmakers. The beautiful pictures are unforgettable. The ten minutes are sometimes interesting but it could still be cut down a little bit. What I find most compelling is the knowledge that this is a disappearing world. Everybody knows about the lemurs but this is an island onto itself. It is possible that this world will go the way of the elephant bird.
The last episode tells the story of the extinct elephant bird. In 1961, David was given giant shell fragments from a village boy. When he pieced the 3D puzzle together, it formed a nearly whole giant egg. It is the egg of an extinct giant bird which Marco Polo mentioned. With stories of the bird carrying off elephants, the bird is given the name elephant bird. While this episode doesn't quite have the beautiful nature shots, it tells the compelling extinction story which nicely wraps up the sad scary truth. I know very little about the island and it's sad that so much of it may never be known.