April 2019

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Await Further Instructions [2018]


       
Rotten Tomatoes = 80 / 25
Personal = 2.4


A Christmas reunion for a seriously dysfunctional family is interrupted by having their home sealed in by an unknown entity and are given increasingly bizarre instructions on their TV set. That premise is very promising. However, not only did they fail to deliver but presented us with something that simply makes no sense. Most everyone acted completely irrationally making me wonder how they were able to survive in everyday life. The reveal seemed completely incongruous to what's been going on making me wonder what the point is. What a nonsensical mess.

The Final Wish [2018]


           
Rotten Tomatoes = 88 / 27
Personal = 7.0

Links Updated 5/27/19
A down-on-his-luck, unemployed lawyer is forced to return home when his father dies. While there, he discovers that the wishes he's made, nonchalantly over the past couple days, are coming true. I wasn't expecting much and boy, was I surprised! This film is not a thriller and I wouldn't consider it that scary, either. But it is an extremely subtle and darkly well-written psychological character study on the dangers of wishing. The characters were human and normal, albeit angry and bitter, and the story was a compelling slow burn with a logical climax. Bravo!

Memoirs of a Murderer [2017]

aka 22-nenme no kokuhaku: Watashi ga satsujinhan desu

       
Rotten Tomatoes = - / 100
Personal = 7.5


A serial killer, who killed 5 people in the 90's before the Statute of Limitations laws were changed and therefore can non longer be punished, publishes a book about the killings and becomes a media sensation. Is he the killer, a fraud, or is something else going on here? Extremely gripping film with not just one but 2 major twists ...one of them a complete game changer. The characterizations and story were strong and compelling, albeit a bit melodramatic, at times. Ignoring the fact that no one has aged a day in 22 years, this is an excellent film.

Black Sunday [1960]

aka The Mask of Satan / La maschera del demonio

         
       
Rotten Tomatoes = 85 / 77
Personal = 7.4


This Italian, Mario Bava, classic features a witch in the 17th century, fitted with the mask of Satan and sealed in a tomb inside a coffin with a window so she would have to stare at a cross for eternity. Well, 200 years, a broken window, a broken cross and a few drops of blood later, she's waking up ...and she's not happy. Exquisite B&W photography by Bava, exceptional sets, classic over dramatic and theatrical acting and dialogue and the incomparable Barbara Steele, this is a great example of Gothic horror for its time.

Us [2019]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 94 / 68
Personal = 7.9


Starts out as what appears to be a home invasion with the twist being the invaders are doppelgangers of them. What follows is chaos and a fight for survival that's tense, exciting, violent with just the right amount of humor to make it thoroughly entertaining. The ending took the story into a completely new direction and, imo, it was sort of strange and long winded with the ultimate twist not being that much of a surprise to me ...I sort of thought along those lines on a couple of occasions. But, that certainly doesn't take away from this being just a plain fun creepfest.

Suspiria [2018]


       
Rotten Tomatoes = 66 / 67
Personal = 6.4

Links Updated 6/6/19
An American girl gains entry into an extremely exclusive dance school in 1977. But perhaps its far more than a school and what is it hiding in its hidden corridors? You have to work pretty hard to figure this out. With a length of 2 1/2 hours, I was impressed that it kept me engaged enough to where it seemed much shorter and I did like the unique style and look of it. I felt the photography of the ritual was terrible, though; dark red, flashing with the cameras over-cranked ...I may have liked it if it wasn't so nauseating. More clarification would have been nice, as well.

The Terminator [1984]


               
Rotten Tomatoes = 100 / 89
Personal = 9.0

Links Updated 5/27/19
The future, being controlled by machines but losing to the human resistance, sends back a Terminator to kill the resistance leader's mother before she gives birth to him and the resistance sends back a soldier to save her. One of the classic thrillers of the 80's by newcomer James Cameron, is still just as exciting today as it was then. Arnold Schwarzenegger is his initial outing in the iconic, bad-ass role that he would never outdo. Great action, gunfight, car chases, twisted story line, all moving at a breakneck pace that will keep you glued to your seat.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day [1991]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 93 / 94
Personal = 9.5


A decade later, two cyborgs are sent back in time to find their target, John Connors - an old style terminator to protect and a liquid metal terminator to kill. After the huge success of the first film (see above), the sky was the limit on the budget for this one and it shows in some of the most chaos driven action on screen. Many consider this the best of the Terminator films. Some consider this one too Hollywood and prefer the hard edged, lower budget, organic quality of the original. Either way, they're both winners in my book. Watch the extended edition.

Brain Damage [1988]


               
Rotten Tomatoes = 69 / 63
Personal = 6.3


Form the creator of Basket Case comes this film about a parasitic, slug-like creature, with a jovial personality, that hooks slaves into providing it with brains in exchange for a "juice" that provides total euphoria. It's bizarre, twisted, gross, and delightfully wacky. Rick Hearst is perfect playing an obviously absurd role as the victim in a completely straight manner making it all the more amusing. There was a long time period in the middle that was dragged out pretty good - certainly enough time for a couple more gags - but good sick fun, nonetheless.

Velvet Buzzsaw [2019]


       
Rotten Tomatoes = 63 / 36
Personal = 8.5


A man's dying wish is that his artwork be destroyed but it's found by an asst to a major art dealer before that happens and it becomes a global sensation! Then people start dying. Exquisitely well-written and acted character study that goes far beyond what you'd expect. In fact, the film is not presented, nor does it feel like a horror story as it manipulates the viewer into being as absorbed into the characters as they are into themselves and the horror is almost a side note. But, despite it's dark, conceited humor, this is a brutal and unforgiving horror film.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines [2003]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 69 / 46
Personal = 7.6


Another decade goes by and the Terminator is sent back, once again, this time to protect John Connor and friend. The machines send back a more advanced terminator, with both liquid metal and a variety of attachments, in the form of one mean chick. Much more action oriented and less invested in emotions and story as the first two films, with an ending that's pretty bleak, but I've grown to like this film more every time I see it. The action is grossly over-the-top but exciting and well designed even if the overall construction is lacking in the personal touch. It's fun!

Terminator 4: Salvation [2009]


           
Rotten Tomatoes = 33 / 53
Personal = 8.0

Links Updated 5/27/19
A prisoner, to be executed, agrees to give his body to science. He wakes up in the middle of the war with the machines not knowing quite what was done to him. I really liked this film. It has its plot problems and the ending is kind of sappy but there's some good solid, realistic sci fi action, that's not nearly as over-the-top as the previous film (see above), and a good, albeit simple and familiar story. Great pacing, lots of crashes and explosions, a cameo by Arnie, and a logical sequel to the story. Great escapist entertainment.

Welcome to Mercy [2018]


       
Rotten Tomatoes = 67 / 40
Personal = 1.3

Links Updated 5/27/19
A woman and her daughter returns to her childhood home where she hasn't been since she was a child and strange things start happening. This film is just plain awful. Direct from the filmmakers of 'dragging things out', this ultra slow dirge provides us with no thrills, no scares, a story that's nonsense, no likable characters and we get to find out that most of it is a delusion! The sound track was completely incongruous to the events ...we've got a woman in the throws of demonic possession while we hear music fit for a funeral with crying mourners. Come on!

Terminator 5: Genisys [2015]


       
Rotten Tomatoes = 26 / 53
Personal = 8.4

Links Updated 6/1/19
When Kyle Reese is sent back to 1984 to save Sarah Connor, he finds that everything has changed, including timelines, and he's having memories of events he never lived. This film gets a lot of flak as being confusing. I don't care ...it's a time travel story. None of them make sense, if you think about it. This one has lots of incredible action, a complex story (that you can follow if you're paying attention) and a logical conclusion. Has a good deal of humor it it, as well ...especially the ongoing one upmanship contest between Kyle and the Terminator. Good fun!

Pet Sematary [2019]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 26 / 53
Personal = 8.5


The 2nd adaption of one of Stephen King's most horrific stories about a special graveyard where the dead come back ...sorta. If you've read the book or seen the 1989 version, you know the story and it's pretty faithfully done here with just a few variations. The pacing of a family excited about starting a new life and slowly discovering there are things worse than death was excellent and engaging. The final half hour is macabre, savage, unrelenting and disturbing with a final scene that's priceless and will send shivers up your spine. Good stuff!

Tourist Trap [1979]


                       
Rotten Tomatoes = - / 47
Personal = 6.0


5 young people stumble upon a small wax museum out in the middle of nowhere when they venture off the main highway ...a detour that becomes a fight for survival. Typical slasher film for the time period, with the usual campy cliches, bad acting and dialogue and terrible music, which was actually quite entertaining. It has a good twist that was a complete surprise, although, in retrospect, I should have seen it coming. Things slowed down after the reveal and the climax was rather ho hum but overall, above average for it's genre and quite fun.

The Awakening [2011]


           
Rotten Tomatoes = 62 / 51
Personal = 6.9


In 1921, a debunker of ghost phenomena, is asked to come to a boarding school to investigate a possible ghost sighting. Although listed as a horror / thriller film, it is neither, really, and the ghost story is more a vehicle to fully examine the story's characters; their lives, their fears, desires, emotions and, most extensively, their inner demons and how they can be far more dangerous to themselves and each other that ghosts may be. It's a very slow burn with few spooks and no action but if you like deep character studies, this film is quite engaging and superbly well made.

Red Rock West [1993]


           
Rotten Tomatoes = 95 / 74
Personal = 8.3


A drifter, looking for work, stumbles into Red Rock, Wyoming, and is mistaken for a hit man. Thus begins a series of events reminiscent of Blood Simple on drugs. There are so many twists and turns in this movie that one literally has no idea what's going to happen 2 minute from now. Sounds confusing but it's not. It's tightly written with everything making perfectly logical sense ...even if it doesn't appear that way, at first. Nick Cage and Dennis Hopper are genuinely compelling and the rest of the cast plays their parts to perfection. Very satisfying thriller.

Stray [2019]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 57 / 10
Personal = 5.9

Updated 6/10/19
Reminiscent of Scanners, this film features a young girl, with a ancient power, whose family is being killed by someone with similar powers. Following the trend, the supernatural elements of the film are, once again, the backdrop for a character study ...mostly about a police detective, who's just returned to the force after trauma, and the complicated relationship she has with her ex-husband / boss. It's slow but the characters are likable, personable and kept me interested. I felt too much time was spent on somewhat irrelevant stuff, but overall, I liked it.

We Are Still Here [2015]


               
Rotten Tomatoes = 95 / 48
Personal = 7.1


A middle aged couple, who's recently lost a son, moves into a haunted house with the titular spirits making their presence known is a big way. I nearly gave up about halfway through this as it was presenting itself as a totally cliche haunted house story with mild scares and few ghostly events. But then things took off and, holy cow! ...it was like blood-drenched roller coaster ride from hell!! Still not quite sure what to make of the ending but then ghosts don't really have to make sense, do they? I'll have to watch it again to figure it all out. Good gory fun, though!

Bohemian Rhapsody [2018]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 61 / 86
Personal = 6.4


Well made film chronicling the life of Queen's lead singer Freddy Mercury and I would recommend it to those who have an interest in who he was. Now... let's get critical. I was 14 when Queen hit the charts and followed Freddy's career right up to his death in '91. As such, two things bothered me about the film. At no time did Rami Malek make me feel like I was watching Freddy Mercury. The music was wildly out of chronological order; song depicted on their first tour ('71) wasn't made until '78. In the studio making a song in the '80's that was released in '77, etc.

The Lodgers [2017]


       
Rotten Tomatoes = 55 / 45
Personal = 3.3


Twins, living in a dark, dilapidated mansion, have to lock themselves in their bedrooms at night so that undead things can come up through the floor after midnight ...I guess. Extremely dark, both visually and psychologically, exceedingly dull and depressing, contains a whole story around one character which, in the end, means absolutely nothing. No likable characters and an ending that left me shaking my head. What a waste of time.

The Girl in the Spider's Web [2018]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 40 / 36
Personal = 8.6


Lisbeth gets hired to steal a computer program from the NSA setting off a series of events that involves the US, Sweden, the creator of the software, his son, a journalist, and the Spiders that are connected to Lisbeth's past. Having seen the first film and the Swedish, Tattoo, Fire and Hornet, this one had a lot to live up to and, by golly, they did it! Exceptionally well-crafted film and extremely smart with solid characters and realistic action. I'm amazed at how all 3 actresses have played Lisbeth so uniformly that I barely notice the difference. Awesome!

The Prophecy 3: The Ascent [2000]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 17 / 41
Personal = 5.4


The half-angel / half-human, product of a union in the second film, is compelled to confront a God of Genocide while being chased by the angel, Zophael. A bemused Gabriel (Chris Walken) looks on. This really isn't much more than a chase movie with a few good fights, crashes and moments in general. The difference in ability between veteran actors and newcomers is awfully stark. Kudos, once again, to Walken and to Steve Hytner, who has played the befuddled coroner through all 3 films and has many of the best moments. Not great but entertaining.

Triple Threat [2019]


       
Rotten Tomatoes = 67 / 34
Personal = 6.2

Links Updated 6/14/19
Taking place in SE Asia, it really doesn't matter what the plot is as it's just one action sequence after another involving guns, martial arts, threatening and a lot of machismo. The fights had fairly good choreography and were fun to watch. As far as the gun fights... massive amounts of firepower does make things exciting but it didn't appear that anyone could hit the side of a barn with a machine gun if they were standing right next to it. I didn't quite understand a person's motivation in some places but all in all, fun, exciting, fighting, shoot 'em up popcorn movie.

Wildling [2018]


               
Rotten Tomatoes = 68 / 42
Personal = 5.2


A girl, who's been locked in an attic from a baby to a mid-teen, has to adjust the new world. But, perhaps, she has a few tricks up her sleeve. Liv Tyler and Brad Dourif do an excellent job and everyone, in fact, is pretty darn genuine. However, I don't think they managed to elicit the amount of empathy that they were shooting for. As a result, the film is rather dull, lifeless and boring. Don't expect a lot of action, suspense or tension as there really isn't any ...just a story about a girl who's different and those that want to cause her harm. That's it.

Level 16 [2018]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 80 / 67
Personal = 6.9

Updated 6/13/19
A group of girls, who have never seen the outside world, have spent their entire lives in an underground school to be trained to be the perfect virtuous woman to be adopted into an elite family. Two of the girls discover there's something for more sinister going on. This was an exceptionally well presented film with great acting and a completely believable story, even with the unlikely premise. It's also exceptionally slow. Luckily, in this case, I didn't let the slow pace get the better of me as it had me pretty much hooked from the start. It's good ...just be patient.

The Corruptor [1999]


       
Rotten Tomatoes = 48 / 43
Personal = 7.4


In Chinatown, NYC, two gangs get into a war with each other. In the meantime, a Caucasian (Mark Wahlberg) is assigned to the Asian Gang Unit run by Chow Yun-Fat and things get complicated. This is an old favorite that I haven't seen for quite some time and was quite fun to revisit. Mark and Chow are excellent slowly developing as partners from contempt to respect. The story is complex and dances around like a hyperactive kid who can't sit still so you're constantly guessing what's next. The action is excellent including a brutal car chase. Great cop movie.

The Head Hunter [2018]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 100 / 54
Personal = 6.6

Updated 5/27/19
A medieval warrior, driven by vengeance for the death of his daughter, serves his kingdom by hunting demons, chopping off their heads and hanging them on his wall. The film is almost completely a study of the hunter, how he lives, how he prepares for his hunts, how he makes and uses potions to heal himself, etc., as well as his powerful emotional drive to succeed above all else. The demons are killed elsewhere and the heads brought home so we don't see the fights save the last one. Authentic, realistic and well worth a watch even without much action.

The Changeover [2017]


       
Rotten Tomatoes = 71 / 70
Personal = 6.1


A girl, who is psychic, senses her little brother is in danger. No one will heed her warnings until a toy collector stamps her brother's hand and begins to possess him. A rather slow but interesting story with not a whole lot going on. In fact, I can't really say why I liked it more than I would have thought. Story was light, characters were likable, if not really compelling and, although there were no surprises, it had a nice ending. Not great buy oddly OK.

The Fifth Commandment [2008]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = - / 25
Personal = 4.1

Updated 6/10/19
An assassin refuses to take a job as his brother is the bodyguard of the target. Then he tries to help protect them. Low-budget action movie that tried to make it look worth more than it is and failed miserably. Any 5th grader could have written this simple, contrived story with no surprises, the dialogue was laughable, void of any humor, the acting was lame, characters have no personality, one action scene after another with nothing special to offer and the fight scenes were generically choreographed. There's just simply nothing here get excited about. Nothing!

Sorcerer [1977]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 81 / 83
Personal = 9.0


4 men, with nothing to lose, agree to drive two trucks with 6 crates of nitroglycerin soaked TNT through 218 miles of jungle. Having nothing to do with sorcery, the title refers to the name of one of the trucks. An old favorite, I hadn't seen in some time, still grabs ones attention in the first 2 minutes and never lets go. Extremely tense throughout, the photography and practical effects are awesome ...including the 'trucks on the river bridge in a storm' sequence which is still one of the most nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat thrill rides you'll ever see on film. Super!

The Box [2009]


       
Rotten Tomatoes = 44 / 23
Personal = 5.5

Links Updated 5/27/19
I read the story, "Button, Button" by Richard Matheson, that this is based on, years ago, as well as saw the Twilight Zone episode. The first 30 minutes followed that story exactly so the rest of the film is basically an extension to the story ...but one that took off on a tangent and really never came back. Equal parts fascinating, mystifying and ridiculous, they introduced so many new elements without any proper context or explanation that it no longer had anything to do with 'the box' and what it did have to do with never become very clear or logical. Bizarre!

Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) [2018]


           
Rotten Tomatoes = 35 / 60
Personal = 6.6


William can't seem to successfully commit suicide no matter how many times he's tried. So, he hires an aging hit man on the edge of retirement. And he can't seem to kill William, either. What follows is a morbidly dark, farcical series of events with some incredibly colorful characters, superb dialogue featuring a good dose of dry British humor, and some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Tom Wilkinson, as the aging hit man, and Christopher Eccleston, as his boss, are exceptional ...as well as everyone else in the film. Quite amusing.

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