mikeboas's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Fury of the Wolfman
½

After watching the pitiful Operation Terror, I was relieved to find Fury of the Wolfman more up to Naschy standards. My copy is a sludgy transfer, so I can't comment on the "look" of the film.

The plot is familiar, with Naschy as the sympathetic werewolf who can only be killed by the one he loves. The ending is atypical, however, and there's some unusual mad scientist elements.

Too bad the version I saw had so many obvious, jarring edits. I look forward to seeing a better DVD of this some day.

Maleficent
Maleficent(2014)

Worth seeing for Angelina Jolie's eyebrow acting.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

A sequel that dared to not just repeat the dream pattern of the first movie. Here Freddy doesn't haunt multiple kids' dreams. Instead, he just wants one -- but not to kill him. Instead, he wants out into the real world by possessing main character Jesse. The homosexual anxiety allegory is pretty hard to miss here. Should Jesse trust his girlfriend, or go the "gay way" by seeking out his gym teacher or his male friend? What's troubling is that giving in to Freddy's murderous urges could be viewed as synonymous with homosexual urges. Is this a morality tale or just a story of a mixed up teen... one who walks around with his shirt open an awful lot. Makes me wonder what kind of issues the director had. (Edited to add: It turns out it was the screenwriter's subtext, and everyone else went along with it.)

For My Father (Sof Shavua B'Tel Aviv)

Can you imagine an American studio making a romantic comedy about a sympathetic suicide bomber? It's a stretch, but this Israeli movie almost pulls it off. Sentimental, but likable characters.

Protektor
Protektor(2011)

It's World War II. The Nazis are evil. And this Jewish housewife is... bored because her husband won't let her go outside. Somehow I expected more.

Buck Privates
½

Learning to play craps, hitting on the lady soldiers, and dancing to the Andrews sisters. It's life in the Army!

Ride 'em Cowboy

Bucking bronco scene? Priceless. Any scenes with scary injuns? Not so much.

Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf

Kick butt mash up of comic book, Italian western, and samurai stylings. More blood per minute than any movie I can remember.

Shanks
Shanks(1974)

Marcel Marceau as a mute? No way! And here he is as a puppeteer who learns the secret of bringing the dead to "life" through electric marionation.

Corruption
Corruption(1968)

The most demented Peter Cushing ever.

Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder

Probably my favorite of the Futurama movies.

The Great Debaters

A movie with a message, but well delivered and worth paying attention to. Some great young actors.

Red Eye
Red Eye(2005)

Never trust anyone with eyes like Cillian Murphy's.

Twin Peaks - Fire Walk with Me
½

Uneven, but at times fascinating. The DVD has a rather unconventional featurette -- suitably Lynchian in its nonlinear approach.

Laser Mission

So bad it's good. Lots of big explosions, crazy chases, and fight scenes for such a low budget movie, but the plot, dialogue, and acting are ridiculous. Brandon Lee channels Bruce Campbell at his cheesiest as a mercenary trying to save German scientist Ernest Borgnine, who is kidnapped in Cuba by an evil Austrian and his Russian henchmen who then go to Namibia to mine for diamonds to use in a laser power source that will take over the world by starting WWIII.... you get the idea. Hysterical.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Wes Craven comes back, guns a blazing. He didn't direct, but acted as producer and co-writer. This story follows the logic of the first movie much more closely, but there's almost too much plot. The characters are thinly drawn, with one or two easy to remember characteristics. (This is actually more than some Friday the 13th characters get, so maybe it's not worth complaining about.) What makes the movie compelling is the special effects. Unlike the previous two entries, Dream Warriors really pulls out the stops. Showpieces include stop motion animation, a giant animatronic Freddy worm head, and a series of climactic mirror gags that totally stumped me. Those are some good optical effects.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Not my favorite Wes Craven film (that would be The Serpent and the Rainbow) but very good. I'm surprised by how little fat there is here -- they get right into the dangerous dream plot and keep the motor going. The kids are likable, although Heather Langenkamp's Nancy is a bit too earnest at times. Her drunk mother is drunk with a capital D, laughably so. Freddy never steps out of the shadows, and that works well here. Craven establishes rules and plays fair with them -- until he jerks us around with a good WTF ending.

The Road
The Road(2009)

A man tries to shield his son from a merciless world where suicide is a more appealing option than living. There is a moment in this almost unbearably depressing story when we find out how strong the boy really is... that's the reason to see The Road.

A Serious Man

Another case where a film's subtext colors every moment of the movie. Physics professor Larry Gopnik says "The Uncertainty Principle. It proves we can't ever really know... what's going on," and he's describing everything that happens in the movie. Everything. Brilliant. I want to see the movie again from the beginning, applying the duality of quantum physics to every scene.

Blue Velvet
Blue Velvet(1986)

The first time I saw this (over ten years ago) I thought it was weird for weird's sake. But if you set aside the plot and just go for the scary, creepy ride that Lynch creates, it's pretty effective. The subtext becomes text -- its commentary on small town 50s America fights the main story, becoming the more interesting aspect of the film.

Angels & Demons

Puzzle, someone dies. Puzzle, someone dies. Puzzle, twist, someone dies. Held my interest more than The Da Vinci Code. Had a few fun moments in the Vatican Library.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

I'm calling this sub-genre "small town goes up against monstrous threat." There are some fun movies that fall into this category: Critters, The Blob, Gremlins, Alien Vs. Predator 2. Killer Klowns succeeds with its outlandish villains. Funny, crazy, and sometimes downright creepy. Unfortunately, the only human worth watching is John Vernon, and he doesn't have enough scenes.

Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter

Kronos could have been a James Bond or Indiana Jones of the vampire killing variety, but he lacks a certain personality. Still, I would have liked to see Hammer Studios try again -- sequels could have improved on the character.

The Hurt Locker

Intense. Politics play no part. It's just three guys trying to get a job done -- dismantling bombs on a day by day basis -- and how it affects them.

Black Dynamite
½

If you see the trailer, you know what you're in for. A hysterical send-up/homage to action movies of the 70s. Now if only I had theme music that played whenever I walked into a room...

Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown
½

Not just a good documentary about HP Lovecraft, a good movie period. Excellent use of artwork, graphics, and sound. Plus some great interviews from authors and fans who know their stuff.

For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism
½

A good introduction to the history of film criticism. It tries for balance, but I found the film leaned towards the naive view that criticism is threatened by the populist new media -- film blogs and such. Certainly the print-related jobs of the old guard are threatened, but good writing will always have a place, whether on the internet or elsewhere.

Criticism does not exist on its own. It is a by-product of film, the beginning of a discussion. Without film critiques and reporting, it would be harder to track down important films, but that's a service film writing provides -- just as you can't have criticism without the primary source, there needs to be a response and continuation of the criticism by the masses. It can't exist in a vacuum.

Bronson
Bronson(2009)

An amazing character study. Wonderfully shot and told, with a bold performance by Tom Hardy. (Holy cow, I just found out he's the young Picard from Star Trek Nemesis! Whaaa?)

I feel like the movie needs third act... or maybe I just want to spend more time with Bronson in general.

Antichrist
Antichrist(2009)

Great, sympathetic performances. I like the ambiguity of evil: is it within a person, or is it brought upon by a bad place... But did there have to be so much genital destruction?

Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure

There is one reason to watch this film: The Taffy Pit sequence.

The Box
The Box(2009)

What is it about Richard Kelly? He takes multi-layered speculative fiction plots that would feel fine in paperback format, then forces them into films. In a culture where most movies follow a recognizable formula, I find myself scratching my head over The Box.

First, I'm surprised it got made. It doesn't have crowd pleasing pay-offs. I'm not saying that's bad, just that the left turns in the story would probably turn off those looking for traditional horror movie thrills. I went in expecting a scary movie. The Box has suspense, but it's more of a sci-fi fable.

As a work of art, it's definitely interesting. Not entirely likeable, but maybe that's the point. Maybe I'm not supposed to like every minute of the film, but instead react to its ideas.

House (Hausu)

A Japanese film even more psychedelic than Attack of the Mushroom People! Seriously mind-bending. Not just in its visuals, but in its off-balance use of sound and bizarre filmic techniques. Not sure exactly what happened at the end, but I'd be willing to watch it again to find out.

Matango:Attack of the Mushroom People
½

While the photography and effects in this horror story are wonderful, the story is a bit limp. The set-up is fine: after a yacht is shipwrecked, the passengers and crew fight amongst themselves when food becomes scarce. The story's main thrust is about class struggle magnified under such pressure, but I was more interested in the mushroom plot. Unfortunately, the mystery and sci-fi elements are never tackled head-on. We're left with vague assumptions about what's really going on with the Mushroom People.

Still, worth watching for some good performances and creepy scenes. And the Mushroom People, of course.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson continues to work with troublesome family dynamics and quirky characters, no matter that they're foxes, opossums, and badgers. Fantastic indeed.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

I've really disliked Mad Max 3 in the past. It's episodic (like a comic book, really) and seems to be lacking strong character moments. Last night, however, it really came together for me in the last few minutes. Maybe we're distanced from Max because it's a story being told by the girl narrator... Her hopeful tone and pocaclypsical turns of phrase won me over in the end.

Los Monstruos del Terror (Operation Terror)(Dracula Versus Frankenstein)(The Man Who Came from Ummo)

Gives new meaning to mediocre. Gets a tiny bit interesting when Naschy does the werewolf thing. Overall, nothing to recommend.

Not to be confused with Al Adamson's Dracula vs. Frankenstein starring Lon Chaney, Jr.

Inglourious Basterds

For a true blue Tarantino fan, Basterds doesn't disappoint. The amount of suspense wrung from dialogue scenes is tremendous. Like all of QT's work, it's a movie ABOUT other movies. Here's a case where he managed to work film history into the plot -- brilliant! There are moments of violence that are squirm inducing and some that are ludicrously funny. Christoph Waltz is mesmerizing as Colonel Landa. After his best actor win at Cannes, it will be interesting to see if he gets an Oscar nomination.

District 9
District 9(2009)

Daring technique, an engaging story, and political subtext in the guise of pop sci fi. Everything true science fiction should aspire to.

Mazes and Monsters

Not as anti-Dungeons & Dragons as I expected -- just exploitative. Some camp value, but not enough to recommend.

RiP: A Remix Manifesto

A rather one sided look at the copyright problem, but a good conversation starter. Bold sense of personality comes through the editing and narration. Download it at http://ripremix.com

The Doors
The Doors(1991)

Val Kilmer's signature role -- perfectly cast. I like the way The Doors songs are used as source music and soundtrack, sometimes in the same scene. Some of the concert montage sequences can stand alone as their own mini-movies. On the down side, some of the 90s filmmaking style seems a bit dated now, and I found myself distracted by the wigs and fake beards.

Welcome to Macintosh
½

Lots of talking heads sharing their love for Macintosh. The historical aspect was interesting, and there's one packrat whose collection is freaking scary. Could have used more points of view. Plus, they interviewed the editor of Pirates of Silicon Valley, but he hardly talked about it!

Repo! The Genetic Opera
½

Somehow, watching it at home wasn't as much fun as seeing it with a sold out crowd in Toronto. It was harder to overlook the awkward lyrics and delivery. Still gets points for design, camp, and audacity.

The Last Dragon

How come nobody ever told me how awesome this movie is? I came away from this kitchy mix-up of hip hop and martial arts humming the cheesy theme song. Villain Sho'Nuff is shockingly entertaining. And he's played by Julius Carry, Brisco County Jr's Lord Bowler!

Zathura
Zathura(2005)

Forget everything you know about Jumanji, this is the best dangerous board game movie ever. Smart, believable kid actors and a really cool robot put this movie over the top.

Dragonball Evolution

The planet Earth in the DBZ cartoon is not quite our world. There's crazy technology and magic, not to mention dinosaurs running around. I figured most of that would go out the window with a live action installment, but not so. Little by little, the movie introduces the world as a fantasy place. A world where you bury your grandfather without a funeral and bandits dig holes to catch passing travelers. When the heroes had to pass through the fields of lava, I had a new level of respect for the audacity of director James Wong. So if the movie builds an iconic world, where it fails is with the characters and the acting. I didn't dislike Justin Chatwin as Goku at first -- I liked his geeky nervousness around his classmates -- but later he is asked to deliver some preposterous lines. Thinking back to the TV show, Goku was always a little weird. Yes, he would say some stupid stuff, but you get away with more when you're a cartoon character with giant-sized hair. In the movie, Chatwin's hair goes from semi-believable to just plain dumb, much like the character. As a kids movie, it has heart and some pretty good action, but I probably wouldn't like it much without being familiar with the source material.

Crank 2: High Voltage
½

People who found Crank offensive should NOT watch Crank 2. It's 100 times as outrageous. I liked it well enough, but after a while I missed the grounded nature of the first film. Ha! Yes, the first Crank was grounded by comparison. A few times the story drifted away from Statham's Chev Chelios, and that's where it seemed to lose focus. Looking forward to Crank 3, though!

Night of the Seagulls (La Noche de las gaviotas)
½

Cool for atmosphere, so-so for plot & character. (That pretty much describes the whole Blind Dead series.) The "publicity stunt" plot device written to get all the characters out on the ocean made no sense. It was so lazy that I was convinced I missed something and hit rewind to make sure. The best scenes are the ones where the blind dead attack, but you don't care about any of the characters.

Crank
Crank(2006)

Loved it even more on second viewing. The movie is so exubarent in style and single-minded in premise. Chev Chelios is the perfect likable bastard.

Monsters vs. Aliens

Makes great use of 3D, especially since the characters are of vastly different scales. Nice homages to dozens of sci-fi classics. I heart Susan!

Lady Dragon 2 (Angel of Fury)

When I saw this come on after hours on Telemundo, I recorded it to watch later. My plan was to fast forward to the fight scenes, since I don't speak Spanish. It's a Cynthia Rothrock movie, so it's bound to have great action, right? Uh, no. She does a lot of kicking, but this was nowhere near as much fun as Jackie Chan's cheeziest efforts. It's hard to judge the plot, but I'm afraid it wouldn't make sense in English either. The one bright performance was the impossibly evil Billy Drago -- I wish I could have heard his snivelly voice and not the Spanish dubster.

Star Trek
Star Trek(2009)

Can't wait to see it a second time. I knew the series was in pretty good hands with J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, but part of me still worried that they'd ignore continuity altogether. The movie defines the over-used term "reboot." It manages to be a sequel, a prequel, and a new beginning for a series yet to come (looking forward to the already announced sequel). I'm still buzzing from the great action, humor, and characterizations to nitpick it at this point. I will say that Star Trek makes some bold choices here -- the universe is changed in a way that may or may not be resolved in a future installment. Also, the the acting was great all around. Each of the main characters played an integral part in the story, which didn't always happen in past movies.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Watching this only a couple days after revisiting the first Star Trek was interesting. Obviously, it's a better film, but I'd forgotten how drastically different the look is. Somehow, looking more like TV (cheaper) works better. The sets are tight, claustrophobic like a submarine, which helps in the final battle especially. The script is super-tight, with smart dialogue that works for the characters and the story equally. It manages to talk about big ideas while still being personal, something the first movie failed to do.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Watched this for the first time in a long time. Yup, still dull. Had to take a nap in the middle. It's like the filmmakers were trying to do 2001, not Star Trek. The characters' personalities only shine through a couple times -- I think Kirk smiles once. One positive note: the new effects in the Director's Edition didn't offend. Blended well with the late 70s aesthetic.

Reazione a catena (A Bay of Blood) (Twitch of the Death Nerve)
½

You can definitely see the influence this film had on the first two Friday the 13th films. The killers' motivations (involving inheritance and land deals) are fairly unbelievable and even unnecessary. Later, when the slasher genre "matured," such convoluted plots were usually streamlined for the sake of simplicity. Give the audience suspense & kills, not mysteries you'd need Cliff's Notes to keep track of.

Never Cry Werewolf

Essentially a remake of Fright Night with a female protagonist and werewolf neighbor. Kevin Sorbo plays the blowhard monster hunter who is unprepared for the real thing. Fun story, with better than average effects for a direct to video movie.

Dragons Forever (Fei lung mang jeung) (Cyclone Z)

The farcical comedy is pretty good here, but it's the final fight scene that makes it one of my favorite Chan movies.

Winners & Sinners 3: Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Stars (Xia ri fu xing)
½

Terrible, misogynistic comedy, but 3 amazing fight sequences.

Slumdog Millionaire
½

Loved the Slumdog, got bored with the Millionaire.

Valkyrie
Valkyrie(2008)

The more I think about it, the more I like it. Valkyrie is an old school Hitchcockian thriller, where life & death events hang on small things like making a phone call or getting a signature.

It's not a history lesson (the suspense and story come first), but it's not exploitative either.

The Lake House

Even though I'd heard great reviews, I was surprised how much I liked this. Emotional without being sentimental.

Knives of the Avenger

I love the novelty of watching swarthy Italians playing fair Nordic types. It actually plays as a pretty good western, right down to the showdown (with knives, not guns).

Bay of Blood
Bay of Blood(2000)

You can definitely see the influence this film had on the first two Friday the 13th films. The killers' motivations (involving inheritance and land deals) are fairly unbelievable and even unnecessary. Later, when the slasher genre "matured," such convoluted plots were usually streamlined for the sake of simplicity. Give the audience suspense & kills, not mysteries you'd need Cliff's Notes to keep track of.

The Awful Truth

Back in 1937, the taboo subject of divorce was enough of an idea to hang a movie on. Although the performances are charming and often funny, I found this too dated to like very much.

Red Shadow: Akakage

Another hip-hop mash-up of styles from the director of Samurai Fiction. Plenty of fun ninja traps and overwrought melodrama.

Azumi
Azumi(2003)

Ryuhei Kitamura likes to fling the camera through the air, zoom into characters' eyes, and swoop in upside-down arcs. It calls attention to itself, but that seems appropriate in this exaggerated comic book version of feudal Japan. The swordplay is tremendous, the teen actors likeable, and the ninja who looks like a monkey but whines like a dog was fun to watch. The stand out performance, though, was that of the fey nemesis: a serial killer in the guise of a samurai.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The aging in reverse gimmick might suit a short story idea more than an epic movie, but I found it compelling anyway. Benjamin doesn't have any super powers, he just has a condition that makes him unique compared to other people. Like Forrest Gump, things seem to happen around him, and we observe the world through his eyes. Only in his love life does he take control, and it's worth it.

Technically, it's amazing, and not just because Benjamin changes. Everyone's make-up is incredible, especially Cate Blanchett's.

Azumi 2: Death or Love
½

The camerawork is bit more restrained than in Kitamura's original, but pretty consistent in tone. I watched a French dub, which was less distracting than you'd think.

The Tales of Hoffmann
½

Didn't hit me like I'd hoped it would. I love the painterly look and melodramatic stories of The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus, but Hoffman didn't move me. I tried to be open-minded, but the singing was a real barrier I couldn't overcome. Still, some brilliant images peppered throughout, especially in the last segment.

Fah talai jone (Tears of the Black Tiger)

Gorgeous color, over the top action, and some beautiful music. The melodrama was fine, but the two main characters were a little too flat for me to really care about their star-crossed love.

Let the Right One In

Being a kid isn't all sunshine and roses. Here's a movie that shows the struggles with isolation and identity that all young people face. Aside from the story and acting (both excellent), Let the Right One In has some of the best filmmaking I've seen recently.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (The X Files 2)

Initially, I thought it was just as good as some of the somber episodes of the show. On a second viewing, it seemed somewhat lackluster. Kudos to Carter for wanting to do something unexpected, but by defying audience expectations you probably shot yourself in the foot for future installments.

Frankenstein's Bloody Terror
½

Naschy's first Daninsky film, Mark of the Wolf Man, was retitled for the American drive-in audience, so don't expect any Frankenstein in this one. It's actually much better than you'd expect, although the print used for the DVD is not the best.

The movie takes a while to get going, with a clunky love story and not enough Naschy. Eventually he's bitten by a resurrected werewolf ancestor and the fun begins. Naschy's frothing wolf man is terrific. There's some great use of color and atmospheric effects (if only the print were better!) that make up for the deficiencies in character and story.

I will say that the left-turn that the plot takes in the second half was not something I would have expected. Quite enjoyable.

El Retorno de Walpurgis (Curse of the Devil
½

I've read that the Waldemar Daninsky movies don't hold together, continuity-wise, but this one acts fairly well as a prequel to La Noche de Walpurgis/Werewolf Shadow. It offers an origin story for the Daninsky curse in that previous movie (although it doesn't jive with the later Night of the Werewolf). It begins with a Daninsky ancestor tracking down and killing a coven of Satan worshipers in the Dark Ages. Just before the last archetypal witch is burned alive, she promises that someday a descendant of Daninsky will kill one of her kind and then his line will be cursed thereafter. (A little convoluted... why not just curse Daninsky now?) So hundreds of years go by, and 19th century Paul Naschy (did I mention he played the Dark Ages Daninsky, too?) shoots a wolf which turns out to be a man. The local gypsies are outraged and send a pretty volunteer to sneak into the naive Daninsky's bedroom to mark him with the bite of a wolf's skull. The movie then gets dull for a while, unfortunately. An escaped ax-wielding maniac (!) is roaming the hills, and draws the local constabulary off the scent while Daninsky racks up his own body count. There is a huge amount of carnage in this movie, by the way. Werewolf Daninsky bites necks and chests, even crushes a man's head with a rock! There's some experimental editing and wild 70s camera work, but the wolf itself isn't scary. Naschy just isn't as frenzied and frothy as I've seen him before, plus the wolf attack scenes would have benefited from growling sounds and music stings. Too many fights involve a silent werewolf jumping at a victim, and Naschy's body language is rarely animal-like. Too bad, because I liked his intensity in other films.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

It's great fun to return to the Star Wars universe for smaller stories like this. Many may criticize The Clone Wars for having a less epic plot or for its TV budgeted animation. Personally, I've read enough "in-between" Star Wars novels and comics to be open to a movie like this. As for the animation, it was more impressive than I had expected.

As a follow-up to the two seasons of Genndy Tartakovsky's Clone Wars shorts for Cartoon Network, this movie is the opening story in a new CG series. The daring art deco 2D character designs are re-interpreted for 3D in a stunning way. From the footage I had seen in trailers, I was expecting matte textures, but on the big screen, every surface has the texture of paint strokes on clay. In a genre where most productions strive for true realism, this was a bold stylistic choice.

The new character of Ahsoka is an obvious avatar for young audience members, and though her dialogue is perhaps too naive, I didn't find it off-putting. Jabba's fey Cajun uncle was odd, but entertaining. Many of the action scenes (especially the one on the mountain's vertical cliff face) were gripping.

It was satisfying to see several carry-overs from other Star Wars stories, including the back story of the B'omarr Monks, Sith apprentice Ventress, and Christopher Lee reprising his role as Dooku.

The Tiger's Tail
½

John Boorman's latest thriller has yet to receive a general release in the States, perhaps because of its Irish setting and political subtext. At times suspenseful, the story also has elements of black comedy and drama. Fears of identity loss and one's own dark side dominate the first half, but are left behind when the movie's villain is made more sympathetic. Gleason is excellent in his two roles, and Kim Cattrall pulled off an Irish accent surprisingly well.

Friday the 13th Part 2

One of my favorites of the series, actually superior to the first Friday. The directing here is clever, with humorous match cuts and true suspense.

Caddyshack
Caddyshack(1980)
½

I used to be embarrassed that I had never seen Caddyshack. Now I wish I hadn't. Aside from the amusingly vague Chevy Chase and a few Rodney Dangerfield one-liners, I didn't find much to like. While watching, I craved the insanity of better films like Stripes, Fletch, Better Off Dead, and even One Crazy Summer.

Wendigo
Wendigo(2002)

More an indie drama than a horror movie.

If the filmmakers had wanted to make a gory monster movie, the story elements would have supported it.

But that's not the kind of movie they wanted to make. The problem is, that's the kind of movie a jaded audience might expect as the story unfolds. Their expectations get in the way of judging the movie for what it is.

Yes, the movie could benefit from more plot, more tension. I found myself urging the characters to move it along a few times.

I enjoyed the unusual camera and editing tricks, although they sometimes were used in strange places.

Ultimately, I liked it. Wendigo is about mood. Fantasy vs. reality. The struggle to be a "good" person in a changing world.

Hulk
Hulk(2003)

Saw it in the theater, then liked it enough to buy the DVD, although it's been sitting on my shelf for years unwatched. It took this summer's sequel/reboot to inspire me to revisit it.

For what could have been a big dumb smash-em-up movie, the story is unusually adult and internal. It's all about repressed emotions and memories. The two main characters, Bruce and Betty, each have issues with their fathers that must be worked out. Each father, in turn, has made mistakes, but you can see why they acted the way they did.

I loved Danny Elfman's music, which brought to mind Darkman and Spiderman while introducing new Arabian elements. And this is a movie that should have won an oscar for editing. I have never seen cinema cut like this. It uses spatial and visual linking in ways only done in comics until now. Watch for the "crossing the line" moments to see how breaking that rule can work on occasion.

Oh, and the Hulk can smash tanks real good.

The Thing
The Thing(1982)

Watching this with someone who had never seen it before, I discovered a few things I had forgotten. One, the plot is a little opaque if you're watching for the first time. You have to be patient while the story unfolds. The film is gory, even compared to today's R-rated horror. (I remember HATING the neutered version that used to play on WPIX all the time.) Finally, that ending can really leave you hanging if you're expecting something more. What's interesting is that the gaps in the mystery (who got infected and when?) plus the open ending force you to finish the story yourself. Either right away or late at night while trying to fall asleep...

Killing Zoe
Killing Zoe(1994)

I found a perverse pleasure in watching this as a free download from Hulu, sponsored by the Air Force of all things. Imagine a scene in a scuzzy underground Paris bar, where the nihilistic bank robber sociopath Eric has just snorted heroin with his friends and extolled the virtues of bombing local cafes, and then cutting to an advert featuring U.S. military drones that keep the free world safe from terrorists. When NBC & Fox (the owneers of Hulu.com) sold this ad time, did they tell the Air Force what a subversive piece of art cinema they'd be supporting?

Eric Stoltz plays the milquetoast safecracker who goes along with whatever ringleader Eric says and does. He's willing to forgive reckless behavior, copious drug-taking, sadism, and even murder, but he finally takes a stand to defend his new love Zoe.

Writer/director Avary's direction is terrific fun, as are the dialogue and acting. I hadn't seen this movie since college, and I remember now how my friends and I loved quoting some of the film's more outrageous lines.

One final comment about Hulu.com. I love the concept, but the technology isn't there yet. The frame rate is way too choppy, especially in scenes where the camera is moving.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
½

KOTCS doesn't look or behave like the 1980s Indy movies, but maybe it doesn't have to. Because this takes place twelve years after WWII, we're left wondering what Henry Jones, Jr. has been up to in the intervening years. (In fact, we're teased with a throwaway line about "Colonel" Jones' many missions while serving in the U.S. Army.) So it's only natural that a post-War adventure should take on a new look and feel. If it doesn't quite fit together with the original trilogy, it's because there's a gap, and it actually falls into place better when you balance it with the Young Indiana Jones Adventures. In those stories, Indy crossed paths with numerous historical figures and played a part in world events. Given that as a continuing theme, the circumstances of KOTSC aren't so unusual.

In terms of character, I liked how Indy has become more like his old man, with several moments that recalled Connery's character in Last Crusade. Could they be setting up more movies with Shia LeBouf as the hero? You better believe it.

As much fun as it is, there's plenty of eye-rolling corny stuff. I don't mind the stylized acting (remember, the template is the serialized action shorts of the 30s) but I could do without animated monkeys and prairie dogs. The climax was big and loud, but not emotionally satisfying.

Still, I'm thinking of going again before it leaves theaters.

Blade Runner
Blade Runner(1982)

I love Blade Runner on the big screen. I take something new away from it every time I see it. I've seen BR enough to notice the minor changes in this, the Final Cut, but they didn't distract. That can be a danger when tinkering with a classic, but Ridley Scott knew when to say when.

The Last Winter
½

An ecological horror movie. Will probably disappoint those looking for typical monsters, but worth a look for the open minded. Like Larry Fessenden's previous movie, Wendigo, this is a thoughtful art film in a horror package.

Mongol
Mongol(2008)
½

More of a story of love and faith than I expected, but it was surprisingly moving. I get the feeling there's more Genghis Kahn stories to be told -- could there be a sequel someday?

Lynch
Lynch(2007)

Yes, David Lynch is a weird guy. I'm used to that fact, but apparently it was news to some giggling people at the screening I attended. That distraction aside, I enjoyed seeing Lynch in his work environment, justifying his creative process without explaining his works' meaning. It's refreshing to see an established artist going into unexplored territory as he made Inland Empire by instinct and experimentation. It was also somewhat shocking to see him swear at his crew while shooting the avant garde epic.

Dead Bang
Dead Bang(1989)

Directed by Frankenheimer, with production design by Ken Adam? I had to watch when it came on cable recently. The plot is fairly straightforward, but Don Johnson's raw nerve detective with a pitiful love life made it fun to watch.

Sita Sings the Blues
½

I loved the mix of styles and the way bright, detailed imagery was coaxed out of a 2D computer program like Flash. Fantastic music. I'm looking forward to picking up the soundtrack CD someday.

Dune
Dune(1984)

I hoped seeing Dune on the big screen would improve my opinion of it. Like other Lynch films, it's visually dense and oppressive, but that doesn't make up for the story deficiencies. The most maddening thing for me is the voice overs -- so many of them are unnecessary and annoying. I had to go home and watch the last half hour of the Dune mini-series on DVD to wash the taste out of my mouth. That series, though with a totally different texture (more like theatre, really) made the world and people believable in a way the Lynch film failed to.

Hatchet
Hatchet(2006)

More comedy than horror, but the performances are funny and the splatter really flows in the second half. I'm looking forward to more Tony Todd if they do a sequel.

Helvetica
Helvetica(2007)
½

Stylish, with plenty of opinionated artists spouting about how they love or hate the world's most ubiquitous font. I just wish more time was given to the technical differences between Helvetica and other sans serif fonts. Maybe that's just the graphic artist in me wanting to be educated, though.

Pit and the Pendulum (The Pit and the Pendulum)

Morbid and overwrought, like the best Corman / Poe pictures. I did have trouble telling the three bland men apart, but Vincent Price is memorable enough alone to make up for them. "You buried your sister alive!" "I did... But she's dead now!" What a chilling conclusion -- I never knew how much Tim Burton literally lifted for Sleepy Hollow.

The Forbidden Kingdom

Something occurred to me while watching Jackie Chan and Jet Li fight. There's no way either cinematic kung fu master is going to win this fight! Sure enough, it's a tie, but totally enjoyable. It's a real joy to see the two share the screen (and they really get equal time, even down to their double billing in the opening credits). I liked seeing Jet Li play comedic, too, something he rarely does in western movies. The Chinese locations are amazing, and it was a great introduction to Chinese concepts and stories for western kids without being dumbed down.

Poltergeist
Poltergeist(1982)
½

Big and bombastic, but with all those little idiosyncratic Spielberg character touches. Watching as an adult, it's not really scary anymore, but that's okay. This time I took notice of all the scientific jargon and methods used, even though the ghost activity was more outrageous than anything ever recorded.

Lost Highway
Lost Highway(1997)

A beautiful, violent, scary, and erotic noir headtrip movie. The first time I knew I liked it, although I didn't understand it. Even better the second time and amazing on the big screen. That soundtrack deserves to be played loud!

The Count of Monte Cristo

A solid swordplay film, with great photography and a tried and true revenge plot. After the lengthy imprisonment section, the last half seems a bit rushed. From what I understand, the revenge section is condensed from what it was in the book, too.

Phoebe in Wonderland

Elle Fanning's performance as a troubled child is devastatingly real. Good performances all around make up for a couple plot missteps.

Iron Man
Iron Man(2008)

Whiz-bang! I grinned through this entire thing. I loved how much time was spent showing the invention process, the creation of an outlandish rocket suit was made believable and fun by showing Tony Stark's failures and incremental successes.

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
½

People say director Cassavetes wanted audiences to work, and I get that, but I find it off-putting to do ALL the work. Ben Gazarra is terrific as a club owner behind the eight-ball, but I would have appreciated him more if I wasn't trying to work out the plot all the time. Cassavetes works without establishing shots or master shots. Like being thrown into the deep end of a pool, we the audience are thrown into scenes without warning, and it's up to us to sink or swim. Who is this guy he's giving money to? What's he doing at this bar, looking pathetic? Did he get shot back there? If so, why isn't he limping? While my mind is grasping for character motivation and plot points, I'm missing the movie. I picked this movie to see of the George Eastman House's Cassavetes series because it sounded the most action driven, but it's still essentially a character piece. Sure, there's some gun play and a good chase scene, but they don't pay off in the traditional way. I was reminded of Scorcese's Mean Streets and Who's that Knockin, but those character pieces had more bravado and fun characters to grab onto.

Speed Racer
Speed Racer(2008)

I really wanted to love this movie, but it didn't really hit on all cylinders. The style is amazing -- the cartoon universe is bizarre and wonderful. (The one movie it reminds me of -- however obliquely -- is Danger Diabolik.) The filmmakers' attention to detail is amazing, especially in paying tribute to anime conventions in general and Speed Racer references in particular. The movie falls down in terms of plot and tone. I know the plot involves big business corruption, but it was hard for me to follow. I can only imagine what the intended audience (kids) must think. And the tone? Way too serious. What should have played like a Spy Kids installment was more straight-faced drama. Comedy relief monkey just didn't do enough to balance the seriousness.

The Night of the Werewolf

Night of the Werewolf was written and directed by Naschy himself in 1980, after gothic horror was out of style. This film is gorgeous, though. Much better looking than Hammer's last gothic movies in the 70's. Naschy plays a tormented werewolf under the power of the vampiric Elizabeth Bathory. Certain plot elements, especially the opening scene where a man is executed wearing a mask, seem to be cribbed from Black Sunday. One of my favorite unearthed treasures of the year, and I'm inspired to check out other Naschy films.

La noche de Walpurgis (The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman)

My second Naschy werewolf viewing, after the superior Night of the Werewolf. A very similar plot, actually: two beautiful young women go into the French mountains to research the local vampire legends. They run across Waldemar Daninsky, the tragic werewolf. One falls in love with him, while the other is bitten by a resurrected vampire. Thick with gothic atmosphere, although not as lush as Night of the Werewolf. If you can get past the bad dubbing, it's worth seeing.

Local Hero
Local Hero(1983)

I don't get the love for this movie. Everyone is quirky, but it seems pretty pointless. The main character is so drab. Things seem to happen around him -- he never makes any decisions that affect the plot, just wanders up and down the beach aimlessly.

Dazed and Confused
½

Great characters, great soundtrack. I would have liked there to be more story. It follows the same formula as American Graffiti, but that movie had more at stake in each of the various stories.

The Godfathers of Mondo

An informative look at the beginning of the Mondo craze. Apparently, the two men who started the trend weren't as interested in exploitation as those who followed.

Pathfinder
Pathfinder(2007)

Clancy Brown is a force of nature as the evil leader of the evil vikings. There's some inventive action and good phototgraphy here, but it got monotonous after a while. I can't quite figure out why I didn't like it more. Certainly the muddled Native American dreamquest aspect didn't help.

The Orphanage

Spooky, with enough subtext to warrant a second viewing. I liked the explanation of ghosts as wounds in time and the use of the phrase "believing is seeing." The addition of a Poltergeist-ish paranormal investigation team was different for this type of film, and made for some chilling scenes.

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

It's difficult to rate a movie that is obviously bad, but remains entertaining. So I'll rate my experience watching ITNOTK as a positive one. It's the Boll Factor (tm) that elevates the movie. I actually loved watching Matthew Lillard give one of his hammiest performances (and that's saying something). But his ridiculous character paled compared to Ray Liotta's evil magician. Every one of Liotta's line readings was unexpectedly hysterical. Most bad movies fail because they're dull and unoriginal. ITNOTK not only has some great martial arts (!) action, it includes the following strangeness:

1) A slapstick gag involving a worn-out bridge and a deep deep chasm.

2) A tribe of Amazonian tree dwellers who travel on magic vines (a la Tarzan) led by the lovely Uwe Boll veteran Kristanna Loken.

3) Ninjas! In Medieval Europe!

4) A new way of hurtling your friends across great distances.

5) A magician's duel involving multiple flying swords that was actually convincing.

6) An attacking magic tornado of books that was the opposite of convincing.

The Black Cat
½

It's not a good sign when it takes me four sittings to get through a movie. This suffers from the typical Fulci problem. Namely, that the story makes no sense. There's people being killed by an innocent-looking cat and cops investigating the "accidents," but no clues and no way for the audience to puzzle out the mystery. Stylish photography, but dull and not scary. It's a lot easier to make a dog threatening than a fluffy housecat.

No Country for Old Men

Smart, suspenseful, and artful. I love the Coens' crime movies, and I was with this one up until the last half hour. When it went from being plot-driven to being character-driven, I felt betrayed. I know what they were trying to do, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Maybe I'll get something more out of it on a second viewing.

The Mist
The Mist(2007)

A great adaptation. Everything I loved about the short novel is here. The documentary style camerawork adds a great believability and makes up for the occasional CG looking tentacle. Ms. Carmity's religious caterwauling is abrasive, but it's supposed to be. One of King's favorite stories is Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, and he comes back to the themes of mob mentality in several of his works. Carmity's call for blood sacrifice is one obvious (if accelerated) example. The ending is what it is, and at the very least gets you thinking.

1408
1408(2007)
½

About what I expected after seeing the trailer many months ago. I loved the short story when I first heard it read aloud in Blood & Cigarettes, and it actually frightened me. The movie is a fun trip into the weird as Cusack argues with himself, but not totally satisfying. The nightmares he experiences are somewhat "safe" compared to the unhinged insanity of the story.

Altered States
½

One of my favorite headtrip movies. I love the way everyone talks in intellectual psycho-babble, plus the ideas presented about inherited memory are pretty cool. The dialogue and music are laughably melodramatic at times, but that's forgivable. The ultimate message about love being the answer to Hurt's religious quest seems a bit pat, but I guess it works given the other melodramatic aspects.

Labyrinth
Labyrinth(1986)

Just saw this on the big screen after watching it on video a hundred times. Watching it as an adult, you see all the subtext about growing up and accepting responsibilities... But don't leave your childhood behind!

Michael Clayton

Another triumphant bit of storytelling from Section Eight. When Soderbergh and Clooney are on a project, you can trust it will be great.

The Darjeeling Limited

I wasn't sure I'd like this, given that Royal Tenenbaums was just too quirky for me, but Darjeeling is often laugh out loud funny. There's an act of heroism that changes the tone of the movie halfway through, and it works. Although the characters had been silly and narcissistic, they managed to earn my respect. It was somewhat disturbing to see Owen Wilson play a damaged character, given his recent personal problems.

The Premature Burial
½

Weird seeing a Poepicture without Vincent Price. Not bad, but not the best. I actually felt some "buried alive" tension when Ray Milland discovered a cat had been accidentally trapped in the walls of his house.

Battlestar Galactica: Razor

Pretty bleak, even compared to most BSG episodes. Good to see more Michelle Forbes and Katee Sackhoff again. The actor playing young Husker was good, considering he looked like both the elder and younger Adama characters. I hope they use him again in future flashbacks. I like the incorporation of the classic BSG Cylon robots and ships, too.

Futurama: Bender's Big Score

I get frustrated when people dismiss The Simpsons Movie as an extended episode. That said, this direct to video movie feels like an overlong TV episode. It's fun to see some throwbacks to jokes in past shows, but the Spam jokes aren't funny. The confusing nature of time travel plots has been satirized before in Futurama, but here it's just confusing.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

It's painful watch creative people suffer, even if they're unaware of their problems. Daniel Johnston is not just disturbed, he can be a danger to others, so it's easy to see why he had to be institutionalized a few times. One cool aspect of this film is the use of Johnston's old audio "letters", which serve as a window into his illness.

An Inconvenient Truth

Kudos for bringing this content to the masses. It doesn't break new cinematic ground, as it is mostly Gore's lecture, but worth seeing.

What Is It?
What Is It?(2005)
½

Not an easy movie to recommend, but I'm glad I saw it. An intersting experiment in taboo-breaking, but Crispin Glover's accompanying slideshow performance was definitely more enjoyable.

Across the Universe

Remarkable. My mouth hung open for most of the movie. Really inspired choreography that often seems accidental, not stagey. Fun to see the Beatles songs are put into a new context, and I ended up hearing the lyrics in a way I hadn't before.

Paprika
Paprika(2006)

Like a cross between David Lynch and Akira. The best anime release for adults since The Animatrix.

The Whole Nine Yards

Everybody's funny. Matthew Perry is playing the socially clumsy Chandler character again, but he's great at it. I love watching Amanda Peet's face light up when talking about contract killing. Willis is alternately sinister and charming, sometimes in the same sentence. Kevin Pollack makes the most of his few scenes as a weirdo mob boss who could snap at any moment. Natasha Henstridge plays the most beautiful moll I can remember. The movie's only flaw is that I feel they could have wrapped up the story quicker. After the shoot-out, the last 35 minutes drag a bit.

Topper
Topper(1937)

One of Cary Grant's first screwball roles, so I had to see it. Turns out he isn't in it as much as his flirtatious wife, played by Constance Bennett. Wow, she's terrific. I'll have to see some more of her films.

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (AVP 2)

It's funny that I just watched The Blob (88) yesterday, because this follows the same premise. Big bad alien monsters come from outer space and start messing with people in a small town. In slasher fashion, they get taken out in nasty ways, until they realize what's going on and fight for survival. I'm not saying that's a bad formula -- it worked well for The Blob, Slither, and Critters. Like Critters, we have the additional element of alien assassins, this time in the form of a Predator who is makes it his mission to stop the Alien infestation. I liked that the Predator was covering his tracks by dissolving any evidence of Alien existence. No sense upsetting human forensic teams... and mucking up the continuity of the Aliens franchise! The townie characters are a solid bunch of actors, if not well known. They're a little underwritten, but at least they're not badly written. What made the movie rock is the fantastic creatures, the many attacks and action scenes. We get to see the Predator home world (briefly) and it's good to hear music cues from Predator and Aliens again.

The Blob
The Blob(1988)

Keeps you on your toes by killing off seemingly important characters when you least expect it. Some of the Blob effects are terrific, especially when it strikes fast. The bodies it devours get mashed, folded, and dissolved with surprising speed.

I Am Legend
I Am Legend(2007)

I tried to appreciate the movie on its own, not in relation to the novel. That's difficult, as I just read it a few months ago. Anyway, most of the movie is Will Smith alone in an empty New York, and he anchors this movie. The film is great at putting us inside his head, so when things started going wrong, I felt for him. The unfortunate aspect of the film is the monsters, which have all the range of the creations from The Mummy Returns. Okay, now CG people can have sub-surface scattered skin, but that doesn't make them better than men in make-up. Anyway, the infected are just killing machines, which leaves out the interesting aspect of the book -- that hero Robert Neville may not be such a hero from a vampire's point of view.

Dragon Wars
Dragon Wars(2007)

Internet sensation Scott Foy was so enthusiastic about how bad this movie was, I just had to see it. He's right, it's bad. The effects are actually pretty good, which makes it all the more sad that the plot is so nonsensical. The filmmakers really wanted a cross between Godzilla and Lord of the Rings, but without strong characters, the result is just boring. A good comedy writer could have pushed the script a little and it would have been a wonderful genre parody. There's great fodder here for a fun MST3K style video night, so it's worth a rental.

Why We Fight
Why We Fight(2006)

There's a 5 minute section where the last 50 years of U.S. Middle East policy is summed up perfectly and succinctly. Worth watching just for that.

Land of the Dead

A fun zombie romp, but not as deep as you'd expect from a Romero film. Looking forward to Diary of the Dead, though.

Oldboy
Oldboy(2005)

Tragedy like they used to write in ancient Greece! Hard to watch, but totally worth it. I liked the recurring shots and phrases, and I look forward to noticing more subtleties the next time through.

Heist
Heist(2001)

Not as great as I'd hoped. Perhaps I've seen too many con-artist movies, but I predicted every twist in this one. What really stands out is Mamet's great dialogue. These guys talk their own language, and Mamet trusts the audience to keep up. Oh, and DeVito? Not menacing, unfortunately.

Monster House

For all those who don't like the dead-eye look of Poloar Express and Beowulf, this is a movie that proves motion capture can work well. Of course, for Monster House, the capture data was applied to exaggerated, cartoony characters, and maybe that's the secret. What really stands out from a filmmaking standpoint is the organic nature of the camera moves. You feel like there was a real person holding a real camera in this animated world! Funny, weird and beautifully done.

Charlie Wilson's War
½

The story spotlights a part of U.S. foreign policy I knew practically nothing about, and it made me feel queasy knowing that pouring funds into a Middle East conflict in the 1980s would still have consequences today. A well done film, but I could never really forget the star power of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Not that they're bad actors, just that they didn't exactly disappear into their roles. The style is fairly medium -- not flashy, except for the helicopter attack montages.

It's a Wonderful Life

I hadn't watched this start to finish in a while, but did this year in preparation for the George Bailey 5K. The story does take its time getting up to speed, but it's not as slow as I remember. Jimmy Stewart's acting and Capra's direction really do make the movie work. Of course, the last half hour contains some of the most heart-wrenching melodrama ever put to film. Terrific.

Edward Scissorhands

I marvel at the fact that a movie this weird even got made. It doesn't take place in the real world, and I love that. Instead, it's a fable -- something you see more often in print than in film.

The Grudge 2
The Grudge 2(2006)

Manages to offer new mysteries without taking away from the first film. Not as surprising, but a thousand times better than The Ring 2. Most of the scare effects work, although some of the digital work is distracting. My favorite creep moment has to be in the photographer's darkroom. Ultimately, anytime we see the Takako Fuji as the main ghost, she's terrific. The Caucasian ghosts? Not as effective.

The Great Yokai War
½

Typical of most Japanese fantasy, the viewer is thrown into a strange world and expected to catch up. There's a lot of time wasted before the plot really gets going, and yet there could have been more exposition to explain what the Yokai really are. Perhaps this isn't necessary for a Japanese audience, but the legendary spirits of Japan are not given much backstory. Still, I got a thrill from seeing the two or three I remembered from the pages of Usagi Yojimbo. Anyway, the plot concerns a young boy who must save the world from an unfortunately bland menace. Along the way he meets strange and beautiful Yokai and teams up to fight wicked machines. A great blend of make-ups, special effects, and computer graphics. Reminiscent of Labyrinth and The Never-ending Story.

The Dark
The Dark(2004)

A better than average "secret movie." It had a few jump scares, but was more about building dread in a Japanese style (although it takes place in Wales). I liked the use of religious ideas and symbols, plus anytime you have a character making an Orphic trip to the afterlife, that's worth watching.

Eros
Eros(2004)
½

Wong Kar-Wai's segment was suitably somber and opaque, right up there with his feature films. Soderbergh's piece is a laugh-fest between neurotic Robert Downey Jr. and distracted psychiatrist Alan Arkin. Antonioni's segment was disappointing, though. Not particularly deep, although the eye-candy was nice.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I just saw this edited for VH1, and it made me want to buy the DVD. Not only an entertaining story, but the structure and the editing are better than I remember. The character ticks are spot on, and I appreciated the relationship woes in a whole new way this time.

High Fidelity

I just saw this edited for VH1 (when was the last time you called someone an "airhole"?), and it made me want to buy the DVD. Not only an entertaining story, but the structure and the editing are better than I remember. The character ticks are spot on, and I appreciated the relationship woes in a whole new way this time.

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
½

This being the third or fourth time I've watched it, I really find it lags in the second half. Still a great movie, though. Not a laugh riot -- more of an ironic snicker riot.

30 Days of Night
½

A few cinematic things I liked:

1) The vampires were kept out of sight for the first half hour. You'd see their shapes, or hands, briefly. There's a couple shots where they start to come into frame and then we cut away.

2) I liked the photography, specifically the texture of characters' skin. Everyone looked good, but with believable splotchy or freckled skin. It's good make-up when no one looks like they're wearing make-up.

3) The behavior of the vampires, who were oblivious to the cold and splatters of blood. Just as the humans were struggling to stay warm, the vampires walked around in skimpy dresses or open shirts without flinching. Once they killed, they didn't bother to clean specks of blood from their faces. What's the point? They're not trying to pass for human.

Ed Wood
Ed Wood(1994)

The movie that made me want to make movies. Depp's enthusiasm is contagious, and it doesn't matter that his films are unappreciated. It's the crew's sense of family that counts.

Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns

My opinion of Italian gore films has not improved. I had a great time watching this in a theater full of rowdy fans, but the movie itself is dreck. There is no plot, no story, no character development. Just a series of events in which people are chased and zombified by drooling demons. There's not even any magical reason for the demon/zombie plague. I can forgive a loose approach to logic, but a total disregard for it is off-putting. The gore is well done, but as is the Italian style, it's wet and gushy. When the gory monsters attack, the camera lingers and nobody runs. They stand there transfixed as the audience is forced to take it all in. Ick.

Treasure of the Four Crowns

A shameless rip-off of Indiana Jones, with a bit of Mission Impossible thrown in. J.T. Striker (love that name) is a rebel treasure hunter, and no one tells him what to do! I've seen a lot of 3D movies, but this takes the prize for most things hurtled at the camera. Every time an arrow, gunshot, or exploding body part comes at the audience, the shot is repeated 3 times in slow motion just in case you missed it. The plot is nonsensical and full of accidental laughs. (For one thing, I only counted three crowns. That's one crown short, guys.) I really wish MST3K could have done this one, it's calling out for a sarcastic commentary track.

Big Trouble in Little China
½

The more I watch it, the more I love it. A great mash-up of screwball comedy, Chinese fantasy, and action genres that was before its time. I love that new characters are constantly introduced without warning, usually to deliver exposition with rapid-fire dialogue. Kurt Russell's Jack Burton can't do anything right, but doesn't seem to notice. James Hong is amazing in all incarnations of Lo Pan. Carpenter's music, as usual, is deceptively simple but drives the movie, particularly in how it ties together the opening scenes.

Tideland
Tideland(2006)

Terry Gilliam introduces the DVD with a Hitchcockian preface. This is a fantasy story about innocence. You may or may not like it, but as long as it makes you think, he's happy. That may sound defensive, but it also puts you in the proper mindset. There's a lot in this movie that can offend, but it doesn't have to be taken literally. 9-year-old Jodelle Ferland holds the film together. Her imagination runs wild and you believe she is truly playing, not acting. Her performance in last year's Silent Hill was grating, but here she's charming and sympathetic. Director Gilliam has fun capturing her fantasy world and tipping it into sunshine and darkness.

Belle de jour

They say it's a classic, and I can see how it would have been shocking in its day. Watching it in 2007, Deneuve's character is uneven and uninteresting.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

I love the anachronistic design of this movie. Victorian dress, gothic architecture, and 50s cars with reel to reel tape players and automatic door locks. Great performances from everyone, even the baby. Good morbid fun.

Transformers
Transformers(2007)

I knew this movie would be empty (as all the critics have said) but I was still underwhelmed. Fun stuff while Shia Lebouf was learning about the robots & hiding them from his family, but I got bored once the military plot took over. Also hard to tell which robot is which during the climactic battle -- too many close-ups and shaky camera moves. Now maybe if it was shot more like a Godzilla movie it would have worked for me... Oh, and having the original voice of Optimus Prime was a huge help. When Prime speaks, you believe whatever he says.

AVP - Alien Vs. Predator

I had to fight with people who didn't believe in this concept. The worlds of Predators and Aliens interlock pretty well -- much better than Freddy and Jason or Godzilla and King Kong. I had more than 10 years to get used to the idea, though, having read the comics. (Other unlikley pair-ups I've read in comics include Robocop vs. Terminator, Superman/Aliens, and Batman/Predator. AVP is starting to sound pretty good, isn't it?) Alien Vs. Predator is a fine adventure story. Not ground-breaking like Alien or Aliens, but it doesn't have to be. It takes some plot elements from the books and adds the Charles Bishop Weyland in Antarctica angle. I love Lance Henriksen, of course, so I just wish his character had made it to the end of the movie.

Live Free or Die Hard

Big dumb fun. I enjoyed this so much more than Transformers. Is it true to the Die Hard franchise? Maybe not, but by the time Bruce Willis was avoiding missile fire from a military jet, I didn't care. I just laughed and applauded the insanity.

Rescue Dawn
Rescue Dawn(2007)

A devastating character study. What does imprisonment with no hope of release do to a person? Werner Herzog brings a documentary sensibility to this based-on-true-events story. You feel you've crashed with the Christian Bale character and followed him into the jungle.

Alien Resurrection

A pretty good sci-fi set up that turns into the Poseidon Adventure halfway through. Not as bad as everyone says. Just not as good as it could have been. Sign me up for an Alien 5... I want to see Ripley 2.0 fight aliens on Earth!

L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo (The Bird With the Crystal Plumage)

After seeing Cat O Nine Tails, I wasn't expecting much from Bird. Not that Cat was bad, it just didn't thrill me like Argento's Deep Red or Suspiria. I was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining Bird was, though. It had plenty of laughs (intentional and unintentional) and some fun suspense sequences. The mystery aspect is secondary to the visuals, but that's to be expected in an Italian thriller. When the mystery is solved, it almost seems like an afterthought -- there weren't enough clues along the way to justify the ending, but that just adds to the fun.

Night Watch
Night Watch(2006)

I got very confused in the second half of this. And when I'm too confused, I get bored. I had heard mixed on this, but I at least expected it to make sense. The plot was surprisingly less-than-epic. There was this huge world set up, and then we just watch people fight over what side one boy will go to, dark or light. I found it hard to care, as I didn't see much difference in behavior between the good guys and bad guys. Maybe that was the point? Oh well, I'll probably see the sequel anyway.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

My second favorite of the series, after The Prisoner of Azkaban. It's good to see the kids actually taking action. Rather than waiting for bad things to happen, they prepare themselves for a coming war. According to some (like my sister) they shredded the book, but as a movie, it holds its own.

The Return
The Return(2006)

A slow burn ghost/mystery film in the tradition of Japanese horror. Not bad, but very illogical at times.

Blade II
Blade II(2002)

Even better than I'd remembered. Over the top violence and a great comic book treatment. Blade himself is practically a non-character, but you sort of fill in the blanks and enjoy the action just the same. Guillermo Del Toro's commentary made me appreciate art behind the movie even more.

Gojira VS Supesugojira (Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla)

Blechh. The only entertaining aspect of this psychic Godzilla crystal space monster kiddie flick was the pseudo science... When one of the characters presented a theory on the dubious black-hole-white-hole-DNA-melding origins of Space Godzilla, I had to back it up and laugh at it twice.

Sunshine
Sunshine(2007)
½

Fantastic looking and sounding. The science is believable, even if it reminds you of a few other cerebral sci-fi movies. I love some of the details: the design of the space suits, the airlocks, the gravity in the "bomb room." The story takes a weird left turn in the final act, but it doesn't stop being entertaining. Danny Boyle has said he wanted to make a movie about the idea of touching the sun, and in that regard, he succeeded.

The Simpsons Movie

Visually, a totally different experience than the TV show. The animation is more detailed, the camera moves around more, and there's more use of 3D. But is it funny? Heck yeah. The writers continue to poke fun at the medium and the audience. At first I was disappointed that there weren't more side character subplots, but focusing on the Simpsons themselves was probably the best way to go. The Simpsons themselves drive the story. It's not just dumb funny -- you believe in their emotions.

Hundra
Hundra(1983)

Hundra has great locations and production value (leftovers from the previous year's Conan the Barbarian), plus a score by Ennio Morricone. The story, the acting, and (most unfortunately) the action are less than stellar. It's essentially a women's lib Barbarian epic. Hundra is a woman without a people -- her Amazonian tribe gets wiped out in a scene swiped from Conan -- so she goes on a quest to find a man. That's right, she'll repopulate her people one female baby at a time. Along the way, she learns that most men are pigs, but occasionally they can be sensitive and good-hearted... how sweet. After picking up make-up tips from a slave/priestess, she returns the favor by passing on some fight moves. Really, though, Hundra's fight scenes lack punch. There's no technique to the brawling, and this lack of precision ultimately hurts the film. The new Subversive Cinema DVD has a documentary, "Hunting Hundra," a commentary, a new comic book (!), and a bonus soundtrack disc. The operatic music is Morricone's repurposing of works by Verde, and it suits the swordplay genre perfectly.

Hero
Hero(2004)

A somber movie. Beautiful photography, great action, but cold emotionally. I love how color is used to separate the different stories -- even though the flashbacks contradict one another, the colors help keep it coherent for the audience.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End
½

Sure, it's confusing, but I think I'd be able to figure it out if I took notes on who wants what and who double-crosses whom. These movies are all about character motivation, and the threads get most entwined in this chapter. The magic of the previous movies becomes less mysterious as Davy Jones and his locker come into direct sunlight. Still a visual thrill ride and ultimately satisfying. Favorite scene? The pirate council.

Mothra
Mothra(1961)

Corny, but fun. The plot depends on the Japanese government's inability to step in and stop the kidnapping of the Mothra twins. The satirical portrayal of America was surprising and hilarious. I didn't expect Mothra to attack "New Kirk City"!

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah - Giant Monsters All-Out Attack

A horror movie. Yes, there's humor, but the monsters are scary and their destruction believable. Godzilla has an "Evil Dead" look, and you shiver when he looks at you. Keeping the camera close to the ground helps sell the size and danger of giant monsters. My favorite G-flick.

Navajo Joe
Navajo Joe(1965)

Burt Reynolds is convincing as a deadly Indian with mysterious motivations. Sergio Corbucci's direction is more interesting than Sollima's, but not as iconic as Leone's. The plot is a standard revenge story with good production value. However, it didn't feel as personal as the other western I saw that night, The Big Gundown.

The Big Gundown (1966)

Took a while to get under my skin, but by the end I respected both the Lee Van Cleef character and the Mexican he was chasing, played by Tomas Millian. Sergio Sollima's direction isn't the most interesting visually, but he has some fun with the gunfights. The German duelist and his Fur Elise theme music were amusing.

Murder 101
Murder 101(1991)

This TV movie (?) was fun for two reasons: Pierce Brosnan's character and the self-referential tone. Brosnan plays a writer and college professor, expounding on the anatomy of a good murder story. He demands that his students create perfect murder scenarios, and then gets in trouble when the assignment backfires.

Turk 182!
Turk 182!(1985)

Film critic Jack Garner recently used this film to make a point. He said film titles made up of numbers are not memorable. While I think fans of 8 1/2 would disagree, I was intrigued enough by his description of Turk 182 to pick up a copy. To my surprise, it was directed by Bob Clark.

Not a great movie, although you do root for the characters. The vandalism vigilante plot doesn't have many surprises, although it's amusing to watch through post-9/11 eyes. The inspiring stunts in the movie would enrage the public today -- just look at the uproar over the Aqua Teen Hunger Force in Boston. Kim Catrall was gorgeous, and it was interesting hearing Robert Urich and Tim Hutton do New York accents.

Hostel Part II
½

Respectable that it didn't try to imitate the first movie beat for beat. This time, there is practically no suspense with the victims, but the "bad guy" storyline was fascinating. Richard Burgi and Roger Bart are great.

Strange Days
Strange Days(1995)

After watching Brainstorm, I felt inspired to watch this again. Strange Days could be a sequel -- practically the same technology in each. Lots to like here, but too long. After an hour and half, I'd pretty much solved the mystery, but there was still another hour left! The movie came out in 1995, but now the Rodney King symbolism just seems dated. Yes, cops beating up citizens is bad.

The Truth About Charlie

Great direction by Jonathan Demme. Surprising cuts, subjective points of view, fun cameos by French singers. A very French film. Too bad there's hardly any fun in it, especially considering the witty banter of the Cary Grant / Audrey Hepburn version.

The Ninth Gate

After I watched this the first time, it haunted me for days. What is the story about? Is the main character good or evil? I love that the viewer has to fill in the blanks, and the movie gets more thrilling the more I see it.

Strangers on a Train

I can't say this is one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, but I have nothing against it. Technically brilliant. I love the use of POV shots. Patricia Hitchcock is featured in probably the biggest role her father ever gave her.

Total Recall
Total Recall(1990)

A couple things struck me after seeing this again. (1) The future has a distinctly 1990s look. (2) Sharon Stone is REALLY good looking.

Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream

This documentary is a great ride, giving the viewer an in-depth slice of American film history. The producers managed to interview the directors of each of the six main films. Some of my favorite moments were when subjects like Waters and O'Brien talked about the other films, giving praise to their fellow directors like real fans would. I should also mention the terrific graphics, in which the 2D movie posters come to three-dimensional life -- very appealing. Midnight Movies was directed by Stuart Samuels, who has a long history of quality projects, my favorite being Visions of Light.

Dead Birds
Dead Birds(2004)

This feature should have received a theatrical release, but was instead shoved directly to DVD a couple years ago. At the H.P. Lovecraft Film Fest screening, director Alex Turner was on hand to "defend" the movie, only to discover that the audience loved it. It's a haunted house story set during the Civil War (what a concept!) and it goes the slow and steady route for awhile, building the dread as it goes. But when the scares kick in, it really goes for the jugular.

Dark Waters
Dark Waters(1994)

An atmospheric, sensual feature that takes place in an isolated convent with deep dark secrets. It doesn't always adhere to logic, but like some of Dario Argento's best work, it works on a nightmare level. At the H.P. Lovecraft Film Fest screening I attended, Director Mariano Baino was on hand to tell us how difficult it is to get a Russian crew to come back from four hour lunches.

Evil Aliens
Evil Aliens(2005)

This movie had a great reputation, but it turned out to be one long dirty joke with no redeeming value. It's been compared to Bad Taste and Evil Dead, but those movies had some style and wit. This was just gross for the sake of being gross. An unexpected cameo by Red Dwarf's Holly, however.

A Bittersweet Life (Dalkomhan insaeng)

I caught this at the Philadelphia Film Festival. I hadn't heard of this crime story, but I gave it a try based on the accolades that so many South Korean movies are getting lately. Bittersweet Life plays as part Wong Kar Wai unrequited love story, part ultraviolent gangster fantasy. The melodrama worked for me, but I heard some audience members snickering. (Asian melodrama must be an acquired taste. Two years ago, I thoroughly enjoyed Dragonhead, which also dipped into some unrealistic theatrics. People around me were laughing into their popcorn, but I was led along by the story and didn't find it funny at all.)

Dreamscape
Dreamscape(1984)
½

Not much to recommend here. Who was the target audience? Has elements in common with Brainstorm, Altered States, and Scanners, but this was so dumb that it seems like it would only appeal to the 12 and under crowd.

Jet Li's Fearless (Huo Yuan Jia) (Legend of a Fighter)

If we can believe Jet Li, this is his last wushu movie. A worthy one to go out on -- it encapsulates everything true martial arts stand for. Li gets to do more than look mean in this one -- he's alternately arrogant, humble, strong and broken. Ronny Yu earns my respect yet again as director.

Frantic
Frantic(1988)

After watching Ninth Gate for the nth time, I wondered what else Emmanuelle Seigner had been in. It turned out to be Polanski's Frantic, which has been sitting next to my TV for months. Yes, I've seen it before, but it had been more than 10 years. Anyway, better than I remembered. I found Harrison Ford more sympathetic this time around, and the espionage plot made me think of Hitchcock. A swapped suitcase drags an ordinary man into a totally different lifestyle of drugs, lowlifes, crime, and spies. Moody and sexy.

Locusts
Locusts(2005)

Why bother? Lucy Lawless. So bad it's good, with some lines you won't believe. When Lucy threatens to kill a chopper full of military, the general in charge calls her insane. To which Lucy replies, "I'm pregnant and I'm hormonal. You don't want to cross this mother!"

Brainstorm
Brainstorm(1983)
½

Better than I remembered. Seeing it on the big screen was great, given that the aspect ratio changes whenever characters experience the brain device. I'm sure the TV version I'd seen before was just your typical pan & scan.

Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers

Informative, shocking, and depressing. There's no doubt that privatization unchecked is abusive to taxpayers and soldiers alike. I would have liked to hear interviews from the other side of the issues raised -- even 60 minutes does that.

The Witch Who Came from the Sea
½

A strange movie. Because of the subject matter, I didn't know what to expect, but it was mesmerizing, almost hypnotic in the way it was told. Incidentally, this was the third movie I've seen in a week that features castration (after Holy Mountain and Hostel 2). Yeah... not something I'm proud of.

La Rebelión de las muertas (Vengeance of the Zombies)(Walk of the Dead)

Except for Naschy's dual roles, not much to recommend here. The obnoxious jazz it at odds with the action, and the slo-mo zombie attacks become laugable after a while. And how exactly does commanding a few zombies lead one to take over the world? Particularly disappointing after seeing Naschy's excellent Night of the Werewolf the week before.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

The Empire Strikes Back of the series, in more ways than one. What I love is the way writers Rossio and Elliot stay true to the characters, including numerous call-backs to lines and behavior from the previous film. The Wile E. Coyote action scenes are fun, especially the never-ending sword fight / water wheel sequence.

The Resurrected

The Resurrected begins with the taint of TV-movie, through its low budget set design, 90s costumes, and hoary voice-over. Chris Sarandon is terrific in his dual roles, though. Once the story goes underground to the evil Curwen's caves, the movie becomes one freak-out after another.

The Holy Mountain

When compared to El Topo, The Holy Mountain has just as many repulsive shots of violence, dead animals, and inappropriate nudity. Somehow, this one worked for me. The photography was beautiful, aided by a huge cast and considerably higher production values this time. The abstract plot, which takes several selfish archetypal characters on a quest of self-improvement, has social commentary that still resonates today.

Jennifer 8
Jennifer 8(1992)

Better than average thriller. Uma Thurman plays blind extremely well and Lance Henriksen is great in a supporting role.

Hungry Wives (Season of the Witch)(Jack's Wife)

Interesting to see Romero work outside his usual parameters, but very dated and sloooow. The influences (new wave films, the women's movement) are obvious and the results heavy-handed.

El Topo
El Topo(1970)

I try to tolerate weird, but this one didn't pay off. It was obviously designed to be repulsive, and I was repulsed. The last act was an interesting change of pace, and Jodorowsky's character became more sympathetic, but it didn't redeem the rest of the movie.

Ocean's Thirteen
½

Few critics give Soderbergh the respect he deserves for creating pure cinema. In his movies, the shots, the camera moves, and the editing all work to tell the story. Not to mention the music, which had me dancing in my seat.

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie

Fun to watch after so many years. I had forgotten Steve Buscemi and Julianne Moore were in this. Great KNB effects and stylish photography.

Knightriders
Knightriders(1981)
½

A King Arthur story about honor and loyalty, combined with a certain hippie style. A bit too naive for me, but admirable.

Dark City
Dark City(1998)
½

There are few films which take on the challenge of creating a self-contained universe like Dark City does. The rules must be established and adhered to -- I found this inspiring, as I'm currently writing a script with similar challenges.

Hearts in Atlantis

Watching this gave me a sense of deja vu, since I "read" the Stephen King book last year. Actually, I listened to the audiobook read by William Hurt. A truly strange book -- not quite a novel, more like a series of interconnected stories. Because of that, and the nostalgic tone, I was reminded of Ray Bradbury's writing. The Hearts movie is an adaptation of just one section of the book, titled "Low Men in Yellow Coats." Whether Bradbury is one of Stephen King's influences I'm not sure, but H.P. Lovecraft definitely is. Like Lovecraft, King ties many of his stories together, in this case to the Dark Tower mythos. In the book, the "low men" are agents from another dimension, but their story is left open-ended. You don't get all the answers from their actions in Hearts, so it would hardly make sense to transpose it literally into the movie. The screenplay leads the audience to believe that the low men are FBI, BUT it's left fuzzy enough so you can believe they are as they were in the book. In any case, the deja vu I was feeling was unique, I think because of the personal nature of hearing the book read out loud. William Hurt was so perfect as Brautigan that I couldn't get him out of my head while watching Anthony Hopkins play the same character. I'm having trouble being objective, but overall it's a good movie. The soft, glowing photography gave the impression of fond memories, and screenwriter William Goldman found a good way to tie up the story, since going by the book would have been impossible.

Il Fantasma dell'Opera (The Phantom of the Opera)

What a disappointing way to end my weekend of Argento. The low budget shows in this one. Bad lighting, bad wigs, bad costumes. The gore is out of place and repulsive. And is it too much to ask for a phantom to wear a mask? The DVD artwork confused me enough that I wasn't even sure Julian Sands was the phantom the first few times he appeared. And did he have some sort of hypnotic powers? Because Asia Argento's Christine flip-flopped between love and hate for the greasy rat-man so much, that's the only way it could be explained. It is rather amusing watching her lip-synch to the opera singing, though.

Stephen King's The Stand

Would you believe the Sci-Fi Channel's standards & practices are stricter than broadcast TV was 13 years ago? They've been showing the mini-series all day, and I've noticed "bitch" and "bastard" edited out several times.

Stephen King's Rose Red

Not scary. Most "horrifying" moments aren't even witnessed by anyone but the audience. Where's the point-of-view? Nonsensical and boring. Kingdom Hospital, though uneven, is much better.

Inferno
Inferno(1980)

I followed up Suspiria with its (sort of) sequel. Again, lush photography and intense music, although by Keith Emerson this time. The suspense scenes are well done and suitably gory. The lack of logic bugged me this time, though. Suspiria's plot is crystal clear compared to Inferno. In a few instances, a line or two of exposition would have worked wonders. Again, Argento wants to show giallo style killings by unknown assailants, but when the credits roll, we're left with a lot of questions about who the actual killers were. There's one death that was so out of left field, I laughed out loud! I suppose the scene in the park was to mirror the dog attack scene from Suspiria, but there's no other reason behind it. Recommended for its style, but not its story. Oh, and you're a cat-lover, you may want to hit the fast forward a couple times.

Suspiria
Suspiria(1977)

Second in my Argento weekend came Suspiria. I've seen it several times now, and it still makes no sense. I love it, though. After working in giallos for years, Argento continued to use the murder mystery set-up, but introduced the supernatural this time. The witchcraft element gave him an excuse to not explain everything, and the movie holds together with "nightmare" logic.

Phenomena (Creepers)

My weekend of Argento began with this one. Weird? It's downright loopy. It's got a murder mystery, a girl with a telepathic connection to bugs, a soft-spoken Donald Pleasance and his chimpanzee nurse. The story is moody, perhaps a bit slow, but the last 20 minutes go right off the deep end into insane scares and surreal action.

The Pervert's Guide to Cinema

Slavoj Zizek gives an excellent Freudian analysis of desire and fantasy in films. This three episode television series made for a tough stretch to watch in one sitting, though. Zizek is undoubtedly intelligent, but barely intelligible. His enthusiasm almost made up for his accent and slushy way of talking, but not quite. Recommended for students of film and/or philosophy, but get it with subtitles if possible!

Children of Men

Best movie of the year? It's this or The Prestige for me.

Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars

Ties up more threads from the series than I expected. Feels a little like a whole season on fast forward, but well done. I wonder-- was this released theatrically overseas? Several elements support this: the style of credits, the changes in make-ups, the exposition. Even Pilot's voice, now deeper in tone, helps a new audience to understand that he is male, not female. A few distracting things though: Chiana was a little "rounder," I couldn't get used to Sekozu's new look, and I think they were trying to hide the fact that a stand-in played Grandma for half her scenes.

Spider Baby
Spider Baby(1968)

Not your typical canniballistic inbred homicidal California gothic melodrama.

Night of the Living Dead

Saw this was on HD, so I had to stay up late. Patricia Tallman rocks -- what has she done since Babylon 5 folded? And don't get me started on Tony Todd.

28 Weeks Later...
½

A take no prisoners horror flick. Very British and bleak. Right from the opening action scene, I knew it wasn't going to pull any punches. It confidently follows Joe Bob Briggs' first rule of drive-in moviemaking: anyone can die at any moment.

Spider-Man 3
Spider-Man 3(2007)
½

Fun action scenes. Great sand effects. Cathartic Green Goblin storyline. I was disappointed by the other villain's underdone backstories, however. Too many storylines meant Sandman and Venom got the short shrift.

Grindhouse
Grindhouse(2007)

One of the best times at the movies I can remember. Tarantino's film has problems, but it's still worth seeing. I think if he had done a few more drafts, he would have worked out the kinks. Rodriguez' Planet Terror was fantastic, though. The Mrs. Dr. Block is this year's Barbara Crampton.

Wichita
Wichita(1955)

Jacques Tourneur's western, starring Joel McCrea, Vera Miles, Peter Graves, Jack Elam, Lloyd Bridges and others. Wyatt Earp doesn't want to be marshall, but doggone it, the town needs him. The cinemascope frame is often filled with dozens of background players. Good stuff.

Rolling Thunder

Much more somber and internal than I expected. William Devane is excellent. There's some unanswered questions about the villains, but the main characters are engaging. I loved the realistic lighting, too.

Le Notti del terrore (Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror) (The Zombie Dead)

Quite possibly the worst movie I have ever seen. I haven't hated a movie this much since seeing The Beyond. Why do I keep giving Italian zombie movies another shot? No sense of story, character, or suspense. Okay one suspenseful scene involving a bear trap, but the rest was barely cinema.

Zodiac
Zodiac(2007)

More Law and Order than Seven. It was interesting seeing Fincher take chances with structure, but it was not entirely compelling.

Crime Story (Zhong an zu) (New Police Story) (Police Dragon)

I'm open to the idea of a more serious Jackie Chan movie, but this one didn't ring true. Unlike Chan's Accidental Spy, the somber character beats here didn't work. The violence was stepped up, which made me cringe plenty, but the results where nowhere near as fun as the goofy fights in most Chan movies.

The Man Who Knew Too Much
½

This last time I watched it, I noticed the use of point-of-view shots throughout. Using this technique, Hitchcock puts the viewer into Stewart & Day's shoes, making them more sympathetic and ratcheting up the tension.

Frankenstein Created Woman

Not the best Hammer Frankenstein, but not the worst either. Peter Cushing is so good at acting superior. He's a genius, and he'll let you know it -- an evil opportunist, but somehow we still like him.

Eraserhead
Eraserhead(1977)

Weird for the sake of weird? Sure. But eerie, beautiful, unsettling, and genuinely SCARY in the last ten minutes.

BloodRayne
BloodRayne(2006)

Not as bad I expected. Felt more like a TV series than a movie. The level of gore is definitely out-of-sync with its style of storytelling.

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes

Beautiful and weird, but impenetrable. After dozing off a few times, I gave up trying to understand the plot of this dreamy movie. Lots of talking and allusions to sex, but not a lot of action.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

My second time around on this one -- I'd actually forgotten how great it was! The risks they took with Wallace's character were impressive, and bits of the animation were so perfect they brought tears to my eyes.

Dial M for Murder
½

Seeing this in 3D was fun, but didn't really make me like the movie any better. It's essentially a drawing room mystery. A puzzle-box that stops being interesting before it's over.

The Painted Veil
½

Beautiful, with great performances. Unfortunately, I found myself more interested in the cholera plot, but that took a back seat to the love story.

Godzilla vs. Megaguirus

Nowhere near the quality of my favorite Godzilla films.

Slither
Slither(2006)

Not as much comedy as I expected. Actually extremely creepy as well as fun. Part of what makes it great is the believablity of the small-town details. Great faces in all the small roles, too.

The Messengers

Traditional plot, but with several good freak-out sequences. The script shows influences from The Birds, The Shining, and Amityville Horror, but the Pang brothers brought a good Asian sensibility to it. I was also reminded of the Spanish Fantastic Factory movie Darkness, but this was much more coherent. I could do with a few less "jump" scares, as they feel like cheating after a while. (Bird flies at camera, insert scare chord here.) Overall, recommended.

300
300(2007)

A living comic book. Proves that new technology can bring a level of style to the screen that was previously impossible.

Angel Heart
Angel Heart(1987)

Can you believe I've gone my whole life without tracking this one down? Excellent on many levels, but I especially liked DeNiro's performance and the unusual editing. Long live film noir!

Last Train from Gun Hill
½

Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn give great performances in this melodrama.

Vampire Circus

I love Hammer, but this didn't hold my interest. I'm always reading that the studio's films declined in the 70s, and I usually argue that point. Not with Vampire Circus.

The Illusionist

Terrific cinematography really roots the film in its time period. The twisty story didn't impress me, but the performances made it worthwhile.

Snakes on a Plane

Loads of fun, although they could have gone even more satirical with it if they planned it earlier. It's up there with the Shatner Airport/Exorcist combo, The Horror at 37,000 Feet.

Saw III
Saw III(2006)

I walked away somewhat disappointed by this one. I liked the way it filled out the backstory on Shawnee Smith's character, but it ran out of steam too early for me. By the time they got to the big revealing montage, I already knew everything. I ended up thinking, is this supposed to be a surprise? I thought they already told us this information...

Apocalypto
Apocalypto(2006)
½

A surprisingly traditional exploitation movie plot wrapped up in a remarkable environment. I was really impressed with the variations in make-up and piercings that allowed me to tell the characters apart, which is important in a subtitled film in which names are not spoken often.

The Fountain
The Fountain(2006)
½

An art film, the type of which you don't see in feature length very often. I found it engrossing, but I'm used to checking my expectations at the door. The average filmgoer might not feel comfortable with experimental storytelling like this. It's not a movie about plot, but rather one about ideas.

The Pursuit of Happyness

My stomach churned constantly through this. Smith epitomizes desperation as he overcomes impossible (and sometimes unbelievable) adversity to keep his family together. Still enjoyable, and if you don't cry there's something wrong with you.

Pan's Labyrinth

No mistake, this is a violent film. Not exactly a scary movie, although it is beautiful, moody, and tense at times.