Monday, July 31, 2017

The Time Travelers (1964)

After spending some time in an Art House Cinema mood, I decided that it was time to venture into something mindless and fun. Having searched all of my streaming services, I decided on the 1964 sci-fi entry, The Time Travelers.

Plot/ In 1964, a group of scientists creates a portal that takes them to a barren, mutant inhabited, Earth in the year 2071.

After watching this low budget gem, I am glad that I stumbled upon it. Coming from the great low budget era, this one has many elements that make it an entertaining and fun watch. The scripting is amazing, with both imagination and intelligence to ask poignant questions (especially from that era). The performances are solid, the effects work (even if they feel somewhat dated today), and the storylines allow the movie to grow and stay relevant all these years later. Yes, there are some obvious budgetary constraints that are visible and you will have to suspend belief, but that is one of the things that make sci-fi flicks so fun. In the end, this is a film that any fan of classic sci-fi should see. Sure, it isn’t Oscar worthy, but for its budget, it is better than many other entries from that era.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Lulu (1978)

Last night as I was waiting on The Ringmaster’s Realm to receive its millionth page view, I stumbled on a movie that I had heard about for quite some time and the influence it had on both cinema and music. In fact, one band that I listen to, The Tiger Lillies, wrote an entire album based on the original stage production that predated this film. That movie is the 1978 entry, Lulu.

Plot/ This highly stylized melodrama of the rise of a femme fatale and her fate at the hands of Jack the Ripper.

While I had heard of this film (and stage production), I had never been lucky enough to see it. Last night I was finally able to watch this one, and I am more than happy that I did. Yes, this is definitely not my usual genre; I was blown away by the depths of the film and can see how it has influenced decades of writers and filmmakers. This highly stylized does a tremendous job blending different eras of film and stage, using a solid mixture of silent film cards, soundscapes, colorization, and even opera music to create an atmosphere that is dark, entertaining, and memorable. Plus, anything that had Jack the Ripper in it cannot be bad (right?). Sure, the movie is more art house cinema than mainstream and it does not fit into any specific genre, but that adds to the overall satisfaction found when watching it. In the end, this film is unquestionably worth watching if you are willing to step outside the box and embrace the experience. This one is definitely not for everyone, but it really hit home with me. I loved it.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Last night, I went for something serious, and although it was entertaining, I decided that I needed something different tonight as the typhoon comes down outside. After some debate, I decided on the 1986 musical comedy Little Shop of Horrors.

Plot/ A nerdy florist finds his chance for success and romance with the help of a giant man-eating plant who demands to be fed.

The world may be a much happier place if it were a musical. There I said it. While I understand the absurdity of that statement, I do also see the power of that platform. Yes, horror movies are hard to get right (although Cannibal the Musical was hilarious), but that genre also has a way (along with sci-fi) of being a solid platform for the comedic side of the genre. This entry, based on a classic Broadway musical, embraces that and creates a tremendously campy, comedy-horror combination that is both entertaining and memorable. This homage to the classic low budget schlockfests of the 50s and 60s features a great cast, perfect pacing, some awesome performances, decent effects, a hilarious storyline, and a musical score that is both catchy and darkly funny. Yes, it is schlock-filled, campy, and totally laughable and absurd, but that only adds to the comedic charm contained within the timeline. In the end, this is a movie that I feel has long been underappreciated and a movie that comedy, horror, and musical fans can enjoy. If you have not seen it, give it a shot. And who knows, maybe it will be a primer for the eclipse that sits upon our horizon in August.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mr. Holmes (2015)

After watching the Argento classic last night, I decided that I wanted to dive into some type of mystery for my viewing pleasure tonight. In the end, I settled on the 2015 mystery, Mr. Holmes.

Plot/ An aged, retired Sherlock Holmes deals with early dementia as he tries to remember both his final case and a mysterious woman whose memory haunts him. He also befriends a fan, the young son of his housekeeper, who wants him to work again.

When I first saw this one on the shelves of Family Video, I had no idea what to expect, so I continually passed it up. That was a huge mistake, as this movie took me back to my youth when I really enjoyed reading the different books and catching an occasional classic on Saturday afternoons. Ian McKellen is amazing in this role and truly brings the character to life. In fact, all of the performances were solid, something that matched the outstanding cinematography, the layered script and storyline, and the make-up and effects were tremendous. Honestly, other than some small pacing issues, there was nothing that brought this one down. In the end, this is an exceptional film and a movie that any true fan of Sherlock Holmes will enjoy. If you haven’t seen it, definitely find it and give it a shot.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Suspiria (1977)

Over the past few days, I have been working another 10-minute play potentially for an event later in the year in Pittsburgh. I have been so amazed by how my first play, Not Always What It Seems, continues to grow as the performance date approaches. Personally, I think I am hooked and love the process. Getting back to the blog before finishing my next play, I decided to venture into some darkness for some inspiration. My selection was the 1977 classic Suspiria.

Plot/ A newcomer to a fancy ballet academy gradually comes to realize that the school is a front for something far more sinister and supernatural amidst a series of grisly murders.

Staying inside the 1970s can be a fun time for any horror/sci-fi fan, as there are many classics that left an imprint on the genres to choose from. Suspiria is one of those films, and one of the movies that left a lasting imprint on me when I first started watching horror in my youth. In revisiting it this week, I found what I already thought; this Dario Argento masterpiece stands the test of time. Filled with a tremendous color pallet, a perfectly unsettling soundtrack from Goblin that blends into the atmosphere like a character, decent performances, and an incredibly dark and heavy atmosphere that that is woven into every second. Yes, the plot is thin with some giant holes in the storyline and the vibrant use of colors may turn some viewers off, but those are but minor flaws inside this mesmerizing journey into the depths of horror. In the end, this trip into darkness is one of the greatest Italian horror films ever made and a classic that every horror fan should watch. Find it and check it out.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Coma (1978)

After a night with the space family Robinson, I decided to venture back a few decades for my next selection. That movie was the 1978 sci-fi thriller Coma.

Plot/ When a young female doctor notices an unnatural amount of coma's occurring in her hospital she uncovers a horrible conspiracy.

This is one of those movies that stick with you long after you watch it. Filmed in the late 1970s, this one stands tall even after all of these years. The cinematography and direction are amazing creating a dark, heavy, and suspenseful atmosphere, the performances are solid, the scripting based on the source material works, and the storyline may be even more relevant today than it was in the decade that it was released in. Yes, there are some flaws that can be picked up under close inspection of the film and some of the early pacings seems a bit slow, but those are but minor flaws in this sci-fi classic. In the end, if you are in the mood for a solid sci-fi suspense thriller, give this one a shot. This is an outstanding selection for a rainy summers night. That is unless you are poised for a doctors visit in the near future.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Lost in Space (1998)

After a mixture of serial killers and creature features, I decided to venture into something with more of a sci-fi edge. After some thought, I decided on the 1998 reboot, Lost in Space.

Plot/ The Robinson family was going into space to fight for a chance for humanity. Now they are fighting to live long enough to find a way home.

I remember when this one came out and like many fans of the original series; I found it a bit disappointing. After re-watching this earlier in the week, I think my first impression was way off. While this is not a perfect film, it does have more positives than flaws and the storyline is closer in tone and depth to some of the initial episodes of the series than it is given credit for. The effects were solid, the cast was fun and their performances were decent, and the cinematography was spot on and created an entertaining feel. Unfortunately, the scripting felt forced and the dialog was choppy with too much focus put on trying to be clever and there were more than a few clich├ęd moments. In the end, this was an entertaining science fiction adventure suitable for the entire family, and a movie that is better than it has been given credit for. If you have a chance, give it a shot, you could do much worse.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Zodiac (2007)

As this week wore on, I decided to spend some time revisiting some movies that I have seen many times but failed to review. The first one on the list was the 2007 thriller Zodiac.

Plot/ In the late 1960s/early 1970s, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified individual who terrorizes Northern California with a killing spree.

This is a film that I thought I had already reviewed. However, I realized that although this is one of my favorite films on the Zodiac Killer, I had never actually written it up. With that being said, I just had to watch it again and do what should have been done some time ago. This is a tremendous film that actually takes a surprising approach to telling the true story of one of the most famous unsolved cases in history. The storyline is thought out and compelling, the cinematography and direction create a dark and heavy atmosphere, and the outstanding cast all do an outstanding job at embracing their characters and pulling through with solid performances. Yes, the movie may run a bit long, and most of the murders take place early on, but those are only small hiccups that don’t bring the movie down. In the end, if you are fascinated by the Zodiac Killer this is a must see. If you aren’t, you too should watch this one, it offers a detailed look at this mystery.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

After watching Awakening the Zodiac, it was time to change genres. Having felt such a connection to Caesar, I decided to grab another flick with some Simian heritage. That movie was the 2017 blockbuster Kong: Skull Island.  

Plot/ A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden.

I am sure that this is going to be a polarizing film split between the love or hate communities. Personally, I loved this one and think that this is one of the better blockbuster creature features to come out in some time. I will admit that there were a ton of plot holes and the characters were not only flat, but their decision making was unfathomable, but I was able to look past those elements. All of the creatures were amazing, with this representation of Kong being one of my favorites. The fight scenes were fierce and at times gory, and the performances were solid. Overall, this was exactly as advertised a blockbuster creature feature that brought one of the all-time greats back from the dead. In the end, the film will likely disappoint some hardcore Kong fans. Yes, it has some flaws, but if you are in the mood for a mindless creature feature with some tremendous fight scenes this one is for you.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Awakening the Zodiac (2017)

After spending last night reviewing the latest entry from the Planet of the Apes series, I decided to get back to something more realistic for my next review. That movie is the 2017 thriller Awakening the Zodiac.

Plot/ The story follows a down-on-their-luck couple that discovers a serial killer's film reels. They decide to take the law into their own hands, risking everything for the chance at a $100,000 reward. It isn't long until they find themselves in the killer's lethal cross-hairs.

I love movies about serial killers, especially ones with a historic and mysterious appeal. With that being said, Awakening The Zodiac was much better than I imagined when I saw the synopsis at Family Video. More of a thriller than a true horror movie, this one comes complete with some originality and a dark/heavy atmosphere that helps bring everything together. Overall, the storyline, the performances, the cinematography, and the scripting work extremely well together and create something better than one would expect. Yes, there are some head-scratching moments and there are a few moments where the editing feels like it removed a bit too much of a scene (probably due to budget or time issues), but those flaws are minor in the grand scheme. In the end, this is one of the better thrillers to come out in some time and one that has an authentic feel. Give it a shot; it is worth watching.

Monday, July 17, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

After taking a couple days to enjoy my trip to Columbus and the Softball World Series event, I decided to kick back tonight and review the movie I saw over the weekend. That one is the finale of the Planet of the Apes reboot, 2017s War for the Planet of the Apes.

Plot/ After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

I had heard a few different perspectives on this movie that covered the entire spectrum of film reviews. With that in mind, I figured that this would definitely be one of those love/hate entries that seem to be growing with every passing release. While that is fine (and somewhat expected), I am definitely at the point where seeing is believing. I absolutely loved this one and think that it is a film that does have some elements that have to sit inside your mind before the entire depth of the storyline and script hit home. The storyline is detailed with a few different subplots woven in, the performances are solid, scripting works, and the CGI is amazing. In fact, the imagery created in this one was top-notch throughout. Yes, it does have a slower pace and there are many silent moments used for effect, but those elements only add to the meaning of the film and work well for emphasis. In the end, I can see why this will be a polarizing film and a movie that will fall into the love/hate category. Sure, there could have been some more action and some of the storyline is a touch absurd, but that happens in many films. For me, this is a movie with a message and one that was a perfect capstone and one that left me wanting more. Check it out and make your own decision.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Discovery (2017)

As the first day of Worlds winds down, I figured it was time to finish writing up one of the last movies I watched before leaving Pennsylvania. That movie was the 2017 drama/mystery The Discovery.  

Plot/ Two years after the afterlife is scientifically proven, a man attempts to help a young woman break away from her dark past.

I watched this the other night with absolutely no idea of what to expect. Unfortunately, while the cast was awesome, the overall story felt played out and uninteresting. That isn’t saying that the premise wasn’t interesting, it just felt uninspired and seemed to waste the solid performances. A perfect set-up for a horror or psychological thriller, the love story aspects added in did nothing to make the film grow on you. The film did have some solid cinematography and a subject matter that mixed well with the performances, but even that could not save it and make it memorable. In the end, there wasn’t any major flaw that brought this one down, but the movie also didn’t have any one spot to make it memorable. If you have no other choice, give it a shot, just do not expect a masterpiece.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Kong Island (1968)

As I lay here relaxing after spending some time in the hot tub here in Columbus, I figured it was time to jump into the blog. My next selection for review is a movie that I believe no one else should ever suffer through, the 1968 creature feature Kong Island (AKA King of Kong Island).

Plot/ A group of mad scientists travel to Kong Island where they implant receptors into the brains of gorillas planning to create a gorilla war for world domination. Out to break a few heads is a descendant of King Kong.

I decided to go back to the no-budget creature feature collection I picked up, but I definitely picked the wrong movie. There is really nothing I can say about this film that could make me feel better about watching it. Yes, it is THAT bad. There is no coherent storyline, there is no Kong (or island), the effects are beyond bad, and the performances are not even uneven (terrible comes to mind). Yes, there are some good-looking women sprinkled throughout the film, but even that cannot do anything to stop the train wreck. While I understand that there were tremendous budget constraints, but even that cannot be used as an excuse for this miserable piece of cinema. In the end, if this wasn’t part of this set, I doubt I would have ever heard about it. Unfortunately, I sat through it, now I hope to stop you from suffering the same fate. Stay away!