Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Civilian 2020 Wrap-Up and Year-End Stats!


ARE WE THERE YET??????

Well, hello again!

(dramatic pause)

What a year. Where to even begin to try and summarize the goings-on of the last 365 days? I’m fond of saying that every year is different in its own way, but this one seemed to go the extra mile to distinguish itself. Amidst all the turmoil and confusion and isolation, I leaned heavily on the moving pictures to provide some sense of normalcy, and even though this did not mark my highest annual tally, it was up there for sure.


However, the fright flicks just did not capture my imagination as they had in years past. Instead I found myself gravitating toward brainless action flicks and brainy documentaries. I know the sociology students out there will have a field day with this bit of intel, claiming that the real-life COVID horrors outside my door were just too much to enjoy the made-up scares. Sorry, kids, as much as I would love to serve as your case study, the fact of the matter is that my passions were simply being pulled in a different direction, fascinated instead by Bronson’s taciturn charms, the mushmouthed flying feet of JCVD, Sly’s breakneck career highs and lows, the pleasing and pummeling indulgences of QT, that intangible but unmistakable Coen quirk, and the negected genius of Karel Zeman.


It was clearly time to follow a different beat, and so I did, spending less time looking to the horizons ahead and digging instead in the bones of the past. I regret nothing, but I understand if the results might be less satisfying for those looking for the latest and greatest.

With that bit of preamble, and having already given the fright flicks their moment in the moonlight, it’s now time to give the Civilian flicks their moment in the sun. As always, all titles listed were encountered for the first time from January 1 to December 31, 2020 (i.e. no repeat viewings were eligible), with top picks denoted with an asterisk. (*) 

There is also the annual multitude of minutiae that I love to ponder, ranging from sequels to performers to directors to soundalike titles. Hopefully you’ll find something here to giggle over as well.


Let the madness begin!

Monday, January 11, 2021

Dr. AC's 2020 Horror Wrap-Up Extravaganza!


"We made it... oh for crying out loud, 2020, don't you ever stop?"

Greetings, my fellow fiends!

In any given year, it’s not unusual to be a little stunned that we’ve finally reached the end, but 2020 was a Year Like No Other, so it’s quite something to be reflecting back on such a memorable (for reasons both joyous and ill) 12 months. More than ever, each fright flick encountered was an escape from the terrors of the real world and I’ve never been more thankful to have a ready supply of distraction.


Due to the given circumstances, I can’t say I was pushing as hard to keep current with the masses; like many, I was just doing my best to get through each day with my sanity intact. Therefore I advise approaching the following list with a gentle manner and an open mind.


As in the past, the titles listed below were encountered by your humble scribe for the first time during the past year and, to acknowledge as many as possible, I've broken them down into various categories in alphabetical order, with my top picks denoted with an asterisk. (*)

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Fool's View (12/21 – 12/31) (Part 2 of 2)


"Yeah, baby, that's the finish line!! Punch it!!!"


And we’re back!

I devoted the final week of 2020 wrapping up the triple projects of Charles Bronson, Quentin Tarantino, and Joel and Ethan Coen, a decidedly eclectic bunch of titles within their own lane and as a whole.

I had only previously dabbled in Bronson’s work, having seen his ensemble efforts (Dirty Dozen, Magnificent Seven, Great Escape) and the occasional starring role, usually out of interest in the director (Hard Times, Once Upon a Time in the West) or pop culture significance (Death Wish). But a viewing of Mr. Majestyk earlier this year piqued my interest and I concluded that an actor who regularly cranked out a movie (and often two) every year, usually with his name above the title, probably deserved a little of my attention. Besides, I find myself fascinated these days by movie stars who had thriving careers despite critics endlessly declaring that they can’t act.

Having seen Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in January for awards season, it seemed like a fine time to revisit QT’s career in reverse order, since the femalien had not yet seen them all and I hadn’t seen them in a while. It’s been an interesting, rewarding, and occasionally confounding journey.

The Brothers C. Project was born of a comfort food triple-feature at the beginning of pandemic and just kept going. 18 flicks later, I’m happy to report that they haven’t lost their touch nor their way. While they share a predilection for homage with their younger cinematic comrade, it never feels quite as shamelessly derivative or “look at me” clever, which I appreciate.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Fool's View (12/21 – 12/31) (Part 1 of 2)



Howdy, folks!

Well, here we are, a week into the New Year and I’m still wrapping up the Old. I’d chalk it up to the holiday hustle bustle except that there was precious little of that. Instead, it was mostly camping out at home, eating snacks, and watching a truckload of flickers in service of wrapping up the year’s various odds and ends. While most of the titles listed below had some sort of connection to movies I’d watched earlier in the year, whether it be a director’s work (Hill, Tsukamoto, Hughes, Zeman, Zhao) or a star (Jean-Claude, Arnold), there were also the random recs (His House), screeners (Beasts Clawing at Straws), or Kryptic Army missions (Starfish) to be tended to. We didn’t get to them all, but we sure gave it the ol’ college try.

(The final tallies on 2020’s Bronson, Tarantino, and Coen Bros. Projects will appear in the second half of this write-up, so stay tuned!)

I hope this finds you and yours safe and healthy, and that your New Year is off to a fine start. While the evening news may seem dark much of the time, there is light if we choose to seek it. Glad you’re here with me, friends. Here’s to brighter days.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Fool's Views (12/1 – 12/20)



’Twas the Night Before Christmas
And all down the hall
Stacks of movies loomed
The Plan: To watch them all


Hey kids!

We’re still kicking, the clock is still ticking, and the flicks are still flicking. While the FYC screeners took some precedence, there were still plenty of side roads to be explored, and looking back over early December’s roster, it occurs to me that pretty much every title that crossed my eyes during this period came as a result of someone else’s direct recommendation. Am I becoming easily swayed in my latter years? More open to suggestion? Possibly. Then again, it also speaks to the respect of the individual making said recommendation – if they think it’s worth seeing, then it’s probably worth seeing. Curious to hear what you all think.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Fool's Views (11/16 – 11/30)


"Um, I'll have the fish..."

Aaaaaaannnnnnd he’s back!

The latter half of November was a rich mix of brows high and low, and everything in between. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Kitley's Krypt faithful were forced once again to take our semi-annual celebration of All Things Turkey virtual, but the tradition was maintained and a fantastic time was had by all.

Meanwhile, the awards season has begun in earnest, with screeners showering down from the heavens in increasing number. As such, there’s little time to dally, especially when I’m still knocking out Stallone flicks and having impromptu Jennifer Lopez double features in my non-existent spare time. So, let’s get to it!

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Fool's Views (11/1 – 11/15)


You WILL take your medicine, it's GOOD FOR YOU

Howdy, folks!

Okay, every year I tell myself, “Hey, AC! You finished the October Challenge, you’re all caught up to date, wouldn’t it be great if you just kept going and stayed consistent with the Views? Wouldn’t that be awesome? Wouldn’t that be… hey, hey, where you going?”

Yup. Here we are again.

The truth is that the Challenge lives up to its name every October, requiring more time and energy than I anticipate, whereby other projects get pushed onto the proverbial back burner. As soon as Nov 1 rolls around, all of those back burners get turned up real high and, before you know it, I’m running around like a short-order cook at lunchtime with half the kitchen staff out sick. (Hey, nice metaphor-building there.)

As such, we’re a month behind and the end-of-year awards season is already starting to kick into high gear, so I figured it’s time to shut up and put up. These may not be the prettiest Views in the world, but Views they is and here they comes.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

RELIC (2020) Blu-ray Review



Relic (2020) d. Natalie Erika James (Australia/USA) (89 min)

When Kay (Emily Mortimer) receives word that her aging mother Edna (Robyn Nevin) has not been seen for several days, she reluctantly extracts herself from her manic work-obsessed lifestyle and heads out to the countryside with recently dropped out of college daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) to investigate. Upon arrival, they find a few things amiss (Post-it notes adorning the walls, chairs facing windows, food bowls set out for pets long gone) and no sign of Edna… at first. Our missing matriarch magically reappears one morning, behaving as though nothing has happened and dismissing her absence (and slight bruising on her chest) as nothing of consequence. Despite their casual estrangement, both Kay and Sam recognize that something is different and, as the days pass, they are witness to numerous troubling episodes that beg the question: are these are simply classic symptoms of dementia or is there something more sinister and supernatural at work?


Friday, November 6, 2020

ELI ROTH'S HISTORY OF HORROR (2019) Blu-ray Review



Eli Roth’s History of Horror (2018) d. Kurt Sayenga (USA) (294 min)

“Award-winning horror film director, writer, producer, and actor Eli Roth brings together the masters of horror – the storytellers and stars who define the genre – to explore its biggest themes and reveal the inspirations and struggles behind its past and present. Each one-hour episode will take viewers on a chilling exploration of how horror has evolved through the years and examine the genre's impact on society as well as delving into how horror maintains its fan base and why audiences are addicted to fear. Interviewees include Stephen King, Quentin Tarantino, Linda Blair, and many others.”

That’s the marketing materials on the back of the Blu-ray packaging from AMC Studios. Sounds pretty good, right? In the spirit of how so many great horror movies begin, let’s take a look inside, shall we, and see what’s hiding in the basement, the attic, and under the bed.


Monday, November 2, 2020

2020 SCARE-A-THON FINAL RESULTS!!!



And that, friends and fiends, brings us to the end of yet another OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE CHALLENGE and Scare-A-Thon 2020!

As always, the Challenge itself is to watch (at least) one fright flick for each of those glorious 31 days that make up the month of October, 16 of which must be first time views. I am happy to report that we have accomplished that lofty goal and that along the way, thanks to the generous hearts and minds of fans like you, over $3,300 has been raised for BOXVILLE, with additional funds still coming in, making this the most successful Scare-A-Thon to date! (Yes, you can still drop a line at drach101@gmail.com if you wish to donate!)

My thanks to everyone who participated in some way, whether it be reading the reviews, making a contribution, watching alongside, or just stopping by to chat. It makes the long nights go by much easier knowing that one’s efforts are noticed and appreciated. Hope you found a few new suggestions for future movie nights along the way!

Below are the 31 “official” features viewed (with links to the full-length reviews), as well as 7 additional horror titles “just for fun” along with five additional civilian views just to break up the bloodletting. Beyond that, there are a bevy of additional OCD factoids you might get a kick out of… or you can just run for the exits like any sensible human being. The choice is yours.

Enjoy!

CHALLENGE STATS:
Total Movies Watched: 38
First Time Views: 16
Total Scare-A-Thon Donations: $3,329.71

Sunday, November 1, 2020

ZOMBIE FOR SALE (2019) Blu-ray Review



Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 31
Total First Time Views: 16
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $3,329.71

Zombie for Sale (2019) d. Min-jae Lee (South Korea) (112 min) (1st viewing)

The Park family, comprised of a father (Jong-ryol Choi), two brothers Joon-Gul (Jae-yeong Jeong) and Min-Gul (Nam-gil Kim), their sister Hae-gul (Soo-kyung Lee), and Joon-Gul’s pregnant bride Nam-Joo (Ji-won Uhm), eke out a living at their run-down gas/service station, bilking the occasional passerby with flat tire-inducing debris on the highway and a tow truck waiting in the wings. Their ramshackle lives change forever when Jjong-Bi (Ga-ram Jung), one of the brain-dead test subjects from Korea’s most prominent drug company, escapes from the lab and shambles into a literal collision course with the family. While Jjong-Bi looks and walks like a traditional Romero zombie, he prefers to munch on heads of cabbage rather than brains, and when he accidentally does bite the aging patriarch, his rejuvenated victim actually feels 20 years younger!


Saturday, October 31, 2020

YUMEJI (1991) Blu-ray Review



Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 30
Total First Time Views: 15
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $3,132,30

Yumeji (1991) d. Seijin Suzuki (Japan) (128 min) (1st viewing)

A most unusual ghost story, this final chapter in Suzuki’s Taisho Trilogy is at first glance a biopic about painter and poet Yumeji Takehisa (Kenji Sawada), yet ends up being far less concerned with realistic depictions of the artist’s life and more with exploring the elusive boundaries between man and woman, life and death, objectification and obsession. Takehisa’s relationships, specifically those with three women, highlight key elements of human nature, and Suzuki applies his painterly vision to nearly every frame, weaving a hypnotic spell that lingers in the heart even as the images ebb and flow through the mind.


Friday, October 30, 2020

SAW (2004) Movie Review



Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 29
Total First Time Views: 14
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $2,462.68

Saw (2004) d. James Wan (USA) (103 min) (4th viewing)

A pair of strangers, Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and photographer Adam (Leigh Whannell) wake up in a grimy underground bathroom, each chained by his ankle to a drainpipe. Also in said bathroom are a dead body and two rusty hacksaws, too dull to cut through their shackles, but sharp enough to cut through… other things. As the narrative proceeds down its flashback-riddled path, we learn that they are captives of the Jigsaw Killer, whose calling card entails intricate scenarios designed to force victims to kill themselves or one another. It is in these flashbacks that the film’s power lies, depicting hellish scenarios and apparatus from H. R. Giger’s worst nightmares.


Thursday, October 29, 2020

X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES (1963) Blu-ray Review



Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 28
Total First Time Views: 14
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $2,349.76

X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes (1963) d. Roger Corman (USA) (79 min) (5th viewing)

When the brilliant Dr. Xavier (Ray Milland) concocts a serum to improve human sight, he stumbles upon a formula for X-ray vision. Inspired by its awesome medical potential, but shunned by his short-sighted colleagues, the doctor tests the potion on himself, only to discover that a side effect of his enhanced vision is the insatiable desire to look further and deeper, perhaps more than any mortal can bear.


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

WARNING FROM SPACE (1956) Blu-ray Review



Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 27
Total First Time Views: 14
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $2,222.64

Warning from Space (1956) d. Koji Shima (Japan) (87 min) (2nd viewing)

As Japan is rocked by mysterious sightings of UFOs over Tokyo and large one-eyed aliens attempting contact, scientists collaborate to investigate the unexpected rise in extraterrestrial activity. Unbeknownst to them, one of the aliens has already assumed human form and is about to deliver a very important message that could be humanity’s last hope for survival.


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN'S PRISON (1982)



Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 26
Total First Time Views:14
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $2,140.32

Violence in a Women’s Prison (1982) d. Bruno Mattei (as Vincent Dawn) (Italy) (90 min) (1st viewing)

Convicted sex worker Laura Kendall (Laura Gemser) is sentenced to serve out her time at a remote penitentiary far from the prying eyes of good taste and housekeeping. Packed to the rafters with sadistic jackbooted watchdogs and overseen by the sneering warden (Lorraine De Selle) and her second-in-command Rescaut (Franca Stoppi), both depraved sexual deviants, Laura must create alliances with whomever she can if she is to survive her horrifying ordeal.


Monday, October 26, 2020

THE UNTOLD STORY (1993) Blu-ray Review



Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 25
Total First Time Views:13
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $1,958.00

The Untold Story (1993) d. Herman Yau (Hong Kong) (96 min) (2nd viewing)

In 1986, a bundle of severed hands and feet are discovered washed up on a Macao beach. At the same time, Wong Chi Hang (Anthony Wong, Hard Boiled), the head chef at The Eight Immortals Restaurant is striving to have his name transferred over as the new owner, seeing as how the previous proprietor has mysteriously gone missing, along with his family. Detective Lee (Danny Lee, The Killer) and his squad of goof-off cops suspect foul play and proceed to stake out the joint, waiting for the suspect to make a slip. Meanwhile, the shop’s famous hot pork buns seem to have incorporated an intriguing new ingredient...


Sunday, October 25, 2020

TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990) Blu-ray Review



SCARE-A-THON Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 24
Total First Time Views: 13
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $1,836.18

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990) d. John Harrison (USA) (93 min) (3rd viewing)

Betty (Blondie's Deborah Harry), an attractive, chipper, middle-aged suburbanite, is making preparations for a dinner party. On the menu: the paperboy Timmy (Matthew Lawrence), who is none too wild about being selected as the main dish. In an effort to keep his host distracted and stave off his time in the roaster pan, the lad reads selections from a collection of stories, entrancing her with tales of mummies and grad students and not-so-dead scrolls, crippled millionaires and hit men and vengeful felines, gargoyles and artists and promises made in the dark….


Saturday, October 24, 2020

A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971) Blu-ray Review



SCARE-A-THON Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 23
Total First Time Views: 13
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $1,755.36

A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971) d. Lucio Fulci (Italy/Spain) (104 min) (2nd viewing)

Carol Hammond (Florinda Bolkan), daughter of affluent London lawyer Edmond Brighton (Leo Genn), seeks out therapy to deal with both her insomnia and increasingly vivid, sexually tinged nightmares, the latter of which have begun to prominently feature her hedonistic next-door neighbor Julie Durer (Anita Strindberg). When Julie turns up demised in very much the manner that one of Carol’s dreams depicted, everyone – including Carol – is inclined to believe she is the guilty party. But when blackmail phone calls and stoned-out flower people start showing up on the fringes of Carol’s life, the local lawman assigned to the case, Inspector Corvin (Stanley Baker), begins to doubt that things are as simple as they seem.


Friday, October 23, 2020

THE SHADOW OF THE CAT (1961) Blu-ray Review



SCARE-A-THON Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 22
Total First Time Views: 13
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $1,657.04

The Shadow of the Cat (1961) d. John Gilling (UK) (79 min) (1st viewing)

Wealthy Ella Venable (Catherine Lacey) is brutally murdered by her manservant Andrew (Andrew Crawford) at the behest of her cold-blooded husband Walter (Andre Morell) and the two, along with long-suffering housekeeper Clara, conspire to bury the corpse in the forest; at the same time, they produce a brand-new will and testament that conveniently leaves Ella’s fortune to Walter. So far so good, as far as murders go. However, the one spanner in the works is that Ella’s beloved feline, Tabitha, has witnessed everything and is seemingly intent on driving the trio insane and/or into their own shallow graves. The battle lines are now drawn, with innocent (and disinherited) daughter Beth (Barbara Shelley) caught in the middle of a full-on war of wills where humans tumble down stairs, drown in quicksand, suffer heart attacks, or fall from parapets while cats purr with demonic delight.