October 2017

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Trapped (aka 24 Hours) [2002]

IMDb = 6.2
Rotten Tomatoes = 18 / 48
Personal = 7.0


A wealthy couple's daughter is kidnapped in an elaborate plot that may not be as it seems. Joe (Kevin Bacon) terrorizing the mother (Charlize Theron) for most of the film makes your skin crawl and was becoming a bit too uncomfortable for a bit too long. But then things started to subtly change and twist leading to a climax that was absolute total chaos. Excellent performances by everyone, especially Charlize, Kevin and Courtney Love. Good stuff.


Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore [2010]

IMDb = 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes = - / 57
Personal = 6.5


H.G. Lewis began making nudie cutie movies in the late '50's and later went on to create the over-the-top gore sub-genre. This excellent and extensive documentary chronicles his rise to prominence as a man who makes terrible movies that became classics. As one person noted when asked whether Lewis' films were good or bad, they said, "There are good movies, there are bad movies, and there are Hershell Gordon Lewis movies". Be forewarned ...this doc (and trailer) are practically as gory as the films.


Marebito (aka The Stranger from Afar) [2004]

IMDb = 6.1
Rotten Tomatoes = 38 / 50
Personal = 5.6


A strange and surreal story of a videographer that discovers a world under this one. He brings home what appears to be a girl. Then his personal world and his sanity begin to slowly disintegrate. The relationship between him and the girl was interesting but the hand-held camera stuff was not good quality (strange for a videographer) which became irritating and ultimately, the movie ending left me sort of hmmmm.


The Bay [2012]

IMDb = 5.6
Rotten Tomatoes = 77 / 43
Personal = 8.2


A mockumentary centering around the July 4th celebration in Claridge, Maryland where, before the end of the day, most everyone would die from a parasitic creature growing in Chesapeake Bay. Barry Levinson's (Homicide: Life on the Street) direction was so well done, this could pass for any news documentary. That, and the knowledge that this could really happen, makes it all the more frightening. I had nightmares after watching this film ...I don't recall the last time that happened.


Blade II [2002]

IMDb = 6.7
Rotten Tomatoes = 57 / 68
Personal = 6.3


Blade teams up with an elite group of vampires to hunt down a new strain of vampiric monster. The story was fine and the action was fun to watch but everything felt so refined and scripted and, often times, contrived. The acting of Leonor Varela as the lead female was just terrible and I wouldn't hand out any acting awards for anyone else either. For an elite team, they weren't very convincing and practically everyone of them died doing something stupid. It's fun but take it with tongue wedged firmly in cheek.


Kwaidan (aka Ghost Stories) [1964]

IMDb = 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes = 85 / 90
Personal = 7.5


Four ghost stories based on Japanese folk tales. This incredibly long-winded film is over 3 hours so I would suggest watching a story or two at a time rather than try to watch it in one sitting. The stories are simple and personal. Despite the slow pace, the film had stunning photography and strange discordant music that made it both beautiful and haunting. These aren't really scary ghost stories but rather we have a film that is more artful and elegant than many of today's films. Quite fascinating.


Wind River [2017]

IMDb = 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes = 87 / 92
Personal = 7.6


A professional tracker and an FBI agent (who is sorely out of her depth) investigate the rape and murder of a girl in winter on an Indian reservation in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming. More a character study than a crime drama, the story is a deeply personal and emotional look at the people, the culture, and one's own personal demons. Personally, I would have liked a bit more emphasis on the hunt and there was an awesome shootout but that's just me. Overall, extremely well made film.


Blade III: Trinity [2004]

IMDb = 5.9
Rotten Tomatoes = 25 / 59
Personal = 6.9


The vampires awaken the original Dracula in the hopes of re-establishing a pure race. The resistance is developing a plague that will only affect vampires. Beyond that, this is pretty much one fight scene after another. Quite good, though ...the fights are well choreographed, filmed and edited so you're not left wondering what you're looking at and they felt more raw and natural than they did in Blade II. I've found that ever since Deadpool, though, I've really come to dislike Ryan Reynolds. That notwithstanding, lots of fun.


One Missed Call 2 (aka Chakushin ari 2) [2005]

IMDb = 5.4
Rotten Tomatoes = - / 49
Personal = 4.7


More people getting phone calls from their own phone in the future depicting their death and their puny efforts to stop it. The first half moved along at a steady, creepy pace setting up what promised to be an explosive second half. Unfortunately, they failed on their promise as the story got more confusing by the minute, the pacing become frustratingly bad and, in the end, I was totally perplexed and disappointed. Perhaps another viewing would minimize my confusion but it's not worth seeing again.


It [2017]

IMDb = 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes = 85 / 86
Personal = 8.7


The town of Derry is experiencing a rash of missing kids. When one group of kids finds out why, they realize they're the only ones that can stop it. Brilliantly constructed, the kids having to deal with bullies, dysfunctional parents, and, of course, It, was very real and very human ...it never felt scripted, cliched, or contrived. The movie itself was thrilling, terrifying and relentless; nary a dull moment. Buckle up for the Pennywise ride!


The Last Man on Earth (aka The Damned Walk at Midnight, The Naked Terror) [1964]

IMDb = 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes = 71 / 69
Personal = 6.0


An immune survivor of a deadly virus may be the last man on earth. After seeing The Omega Man and I Am Legend, this first film adaption of the story 'I Am Legend' is nostalgic but rather lame and poorly made. What was interesting about it, though, was the creatures that walked the night were called vampires but, by modern day terms, they were clearly zombies, in a broad sense ...a monster that didn't become mainstream until Night of the Living Dead 4 years later.


The Graves [2009]

IMDb = 3.7
Rotten Tomatoes = - / 12
Personal = 5.0


In Unity, tourists are directed to a ghost town called Skull City Mine ...which will be the last stop on their trip. The first half of the film was goofy, messy, and morbidly delightful with Bill Moseley portraying an excellent psycho. It felt much like a Hills Have Eyes clone. The second half, however, was quite a let down. Tony Todd's performance was as excellent as ever but the film lost it's charm and the injured girl going from being ok to barely being able to stand up from one scene to the next was really trying my patience.


Dark Skies [2013]

IMDb = 6.3
Rotten Tomatoes = 40 / 49
Personal = 6.1


A married couple and their two boys are inexplicably being haunted by unknown entities. A rather well made film that uses the story to drive the events rather than just throwing random scares at you. The characters are normal, intelligent and real. The levels of denial are different for each and when they break is well paced and logical. No real violence to speak of but a well above average spook fest that manages to entertain just fine without being gratuitous.


Mother! (aka Day 6) [2017]

IMDb = 7.1
Rotten Tomatoes = 69 / 49
Personal = 4.5


A writer and his wife (who's renovating their home after a fire) keeps having unexpected, and destructive visitors parading through their house. This film was unsettling and uncomfortable from the word go. I had some idea of what was happening in the opening scene but I rejected that notion as it seemed to obvious. In the end, I was right ...making the whole thing futile and pointless. Plus, there's elements in the film that seem to serve no purpose. A very well made film that I'm sure others will praise but I really disliked it.


Airplane! (aka Flying High!, Kentucky Fried Airplane) [1980]

IMDb = 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes = 97 / 89
Personal = 8.8


This parody of Airport launched a whole new sub-genre of comedy. Totally saturated with puns, innuendos, slapstick, irreverent and outrageous, in-you-face gags, it's quite likely if you don't see something humorous in every scene, you're probably not paying close enough attention. This total onslaught of silliness was cloned over and over again throughout the years but none have achieved the level of comic quality of this film. Classic!


Morgan [2016]

IMDb = 5.8
Rotten Tomatoes = 39 / 30
Personal = 7.4


A corporate risk management consultant is sent to evaluate a test tube being created with synthetic DNA who attacked one of it's doctors. This was an extremely well made film depicting our complete inability on how to deal with an extremely intelligent being who we desperately want to regard as human - and teach how to become human - at our own peril. I had some slight suspicions about the ending but they were so vague the surprise was far from spoiled. Remarkable performances by Anya Taylor-Joy and Kate Mara.


War for the Planet of the Apes (aka Planet of the Apes 3) [2017]

IMDb = 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes = 93 / 85
Personal = 6.0


Caesar's tribe is captured by a rogue Colonel for his own psychotic plans. Question #1 ...where's the war? There's battle scenes in the beginning and the end (which covers 80% of the trailer). In between we have too much moralizing, philosophizing, extended scenes of dialogue, and way too much heart-string pulling. Throwing in a blatantly obvious Moses analogy sent it completely into sappyville. It's not entirely a bad movie but it's probably the most non-action, action film of the year and it is most certainly NOT a war movie.


Vulgar [2000]

IMDb = 5.3
Rotten Tomatoes = 23 / 41
Personal = 4.2


Down on his financial luck, a party clown decides to expand his business to cover being a gag clown at bachelor's parties where things go very wrong. This is an ultra-low budget feature presumably made by a group of friends and whoever they could get ...and they did OK. There's plenty here to show their inexperience as filmmakers but, overall, the film is goofy, perverse, obnoxious, has some very difficult to watch scenes, and mildly entertaining with some occasional brilliant funny dialogue.


Edge of Tomorrow (aka Live Die Repeat, We Mortals Are, All You Need Is Kill) [2014]

IMDb = 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes = 90 / 90
Personal = 9.0


A military reporter who's been railroaded into being a combat soldier finds that he has the ability to reset time after the mutual deaths of himself and an alien on the battlefield. Probably one of the finest modern sci fi films made, it covers a dozen different sub-genres including, alien invasion, monsters, combat, time travel, cybernetics, etc. Everything from the story to the aliens to the weaponry to the portrayals is so well crafted, there's nothing left to do but strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.


Spider-Man: Homecoming [2017]

IMDb = 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes = 92 / 89
Personal = 7.5


Spider-Man has been relegated to protecting his own neighborhood as the Avengers don't believe he's ready to join them. As he tries to balance school life and being a hero, he discovers an underground arms manufacturer who developing monstrous and deadly weapons. Excellent characters and story, and, of course, state-of-the art spec fx and action. My only real gripe is some of the action is shot up-close with a shaky camera ...couldn't tell what was happening half the time.


Starve [2014]

IMDb = 4.8
Rotten Tomatoes = - / -
Personal = 5.3


A psycho and his Igor style helper hold several people prisoner in an old abandoned school and force them to kill each other with food as their reward. This is a pretty middle-of-the-road horror film with a modicum of violence. However, it's depiction of what people are willing to do when they're starving is probably pretty accurate and quite disturbing. Not a great film but it did keep me engaged and there certainly wasn't anything I really dislike about it.


Atomica (aka Deep Burial, Half Life) [2017]

IMDb = 4.1
Rotten Tomatoes = 22 / 28
Personal = 7.0


An engineering tech is sent to a nuclear waste refinery to fix the communications systems. She encounters a station in disrepair and a maintenance tech who either doesn't care or doesn't know how to maintain things. This sci fi movie is not complex or action oriented but simply a back drop for a character driven story (especially a super performance by Dominic Monaghan), with the principals having some serious ulterior motives. Most people won't like this film as they'll expect more thrills but I really liked it. Visually, very nice.


Happy Death Day (aka Half to Death, Again) [2017]

IMDb = 6.7
Rotten Tomatoes = 69 / 69
Personal = 7.3


A sorority sister must relive the day of her death over and over again until she can figure out who's killing her and stop it from happening. I don't believe that this film would have been very successful if it wasn't for the super performance of Jessica Rothe as the victim in this black comedic tragedy. They present her as someone you should hate but you can't because she's just so damn likable. No excessive scares, violence, or gore, this film was just plain fun from start to finish. Great entertainment!


Avatar (aka Project 880) [2009]

IMDb = 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes = 84 / 82
Personal = 9.6


The planet of Pandora is full of an extremely rare and valuable mineral. Are we willing to destroy the inhabitants of the planet to get it? What can be said about this movie that hasn't already been said. Earning over $2 billion dollars worldwide is testament to the fact that this film is one of the greatest cinematic achievements produced. If you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for? 4 sequels planned through 2025. That's exciting!!


Split [2016]

IMDb = 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes = 75 / 79
Personal = 5.6


A man with 23 personalities kidnaps 3 girls that he believes he must give to 'the beast'. Once again, M. Night Shyamalan, has underwhelmed me. I keep hoping for another piece of brilliance like The Sixth Sense but it has yet to happen. Although interesting as a character study and exceptional acting, it's ponderously slow and the events are forced upon you in order to make the story work ...I was constantly questioning what would logically happen and then realized it wouldn't fit the script. Ending was terrible.


Nightmare Castle (aka Amanti d'oltretomba, Lovers from Beyond the Tomb, Orgasmo, The Faceless Monster, The Night of the Doomed) [1965]

IMDb = 5.7
Rotten Tomatoes = - / 37
Personal = 4.7


A scientist tortures and kills his wife and her lover and uses her heart and blood to help prevent his real lover from growing old. When he finds that his wife's will left everything to her sister, he's forced to marry her and attempts to drive her insane. This Italian Gothic supernatural horror film is rather slow-paced without a whole lot happening. Barbara Steel does a good job as both the wife and sister and is always fun to watch. Despite it being filmed in B&W, the period costumes and palace settings provide some exquisite eye candy ...find a restored HD copy.


Jigsaw (aka Saw VIII: Legacy) [2017]

IMDb = 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes = 38 / 97
Personal = 8.1


Jigsaw is back! The Saw franchise is my favorite horror series so I was excitedly awaiting this latest episode in what I hope to be a revival of the series. My only concern was, "Don't screw it up". They didn't. The movie may not appeal as much to those who aren't Saw fans ...in fact, a few of the movies can be viewed as weak individually. But for us Saw fanatics, we rate each film by how well it fits into the grand design. This one fits very well with plenty of guessing before the usual surprise ending. Bravo!


Djinn [2013]

IMDb = 4.5
Rotten Tomatoes = - / 8
Personal = 3.7


A Middle Eastern couple move back to Dubai, their homeland, after the loss of their baby in New York. An overly simple story that is really nothing more than one spook scene after another (and not very scary ones, at that) with no apparent rhyme, reason, or logical progression until the final climax which was intended as a surprise but wasn't a very good one. Not one of Tobe Hopper's better efforts to be sure.


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