Friday, September 30, 2016

Fool's Views (9/1 – 9/30)

Bam. Just in the nick of time! No time for chit-chat, as The October Challenge draws nigh.....

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



Blair Witch (2016) d. Wingard, Adam (USA) (1st viewing)

This sequel to the 1999 low-fi sensation is no spiritual brethren, but godamighty it sure is big and loud. Listen to Ian Simmons and I rap about it via his Kicking the Seat podcast, recorded immediately after a sneak preview screening at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre.

Medousa (1998) d. Lazopoulos, George (Greece) (1st viewing)

Kudos to Mondo Macabro for unearthing this intriguing little modern-day spin on the classic myth, with life-size concrete statues showing up around town while the subjects have apparently gone missing. Hmmmmm, could it be a real-life gorgon is moving among us? Decidedly slow-paced, but still manages to command viewer attention and curiosity. Thanks to new blood brother Tim Palace for putting this on the menu.

Microwave Massacre (1983) d. Berwick, Wayne (USA) (1st viewing)

Pretty lame horror/comedy, with Jackie Vernon (aka the voice of Frosty the Snowman!) starring as a henpecked husband turned cannibal murderer, rattling off unamusing one-liners while offscreen stage hands squirt blood bags. Not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but it was a long 76 minutes. Available now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.

Phantasm (1979) d. Coscarelli, Don (USA) (6th viewing)

Having grown up watching this slice of surreal insanity, I’ve always been a fan of the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) and his flying fleet of silver, spherical, skull-sucking sentinels. However, it’s easy to forget that to the uninitiated, with its wobbly line-readings and kitchen-sink-plus-what-else-you-got plotline, Coscarelli’s breakout film can come off a little, well, off. Such was the case the other night, where I kept glancing at the poor couple who had invited us over for “dinner and a movie” and seeing their foreheads wrinkle and their cinematic souls glaze over. Ah, well. Can’t win ’em all.

Raising Cain (1992) d. De Palma, Brian (USA) (2nd viewing)

Watched the much-touted “directors cut,” available on Shout! Factory’s recent Blu-ray release, which is really just a fan-edited version of the film (said fan being Peet Gelderblom) that purportedly follows De Palma’s original shooting script. However you slice it, it’s still just a so-so thriller and Lithgow’s performance(s) are not exactly wow-worthy.


Captain America: Civil War (2016) d. Russo, Anthony / Russo, Joe (USA) (1st viewing)

Some called it Avengers 2.5, and they’re not far off. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Listen to Ian and I ramble on about all things Marvel superhero. (Fair warning: he’s far more educated and invested in the MCU than I.)

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) d. Foley, James (USA) (4th viewing)

“Fuck you. That’s my name. You know why, mister? You drove a Hyundai to get here. I drove an eighty-thousand dollar BMW. THAT’S my name. And your name is you’re wanting. You can’t play in the man’s game, you can’t close them - go home and tell your wife your troubles. Because only one thing counts in this life: Get them to sign on the line which is dotted. A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing. Always Be Closing. ALWAYS BE CLOSING.”

The Godfather Part II (1974) d. Coppola, Francis Ford (USA) (4th viewing)

Yeah, I’m going to be the one who says it. In spite of all the texture, production value, excellent performances and Oscars, it’s nowhere near as effective a picture. It’s a little slow, DeNiro’s (Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor) and Pacino’s characters don’t really have much of an arc, and it just feels LONG in a way that its predecessor did not. I’m not saying it’s a bad movie. At all. But I might be saying that Chinatown is a better one.

Life Itself (2014) d. James, Steve (USA) (1st viewing)

Having just finished reading Roger Ebert’s memoirs by the same name, this was a perfect companion piece and it celebrates the man’s career and courage in a way that he could not himself. We also see the insecurities and hilariously uncomfortable outtakes that highlight his tempestuous relationship with Gene Siskel. They were indeed like brothers, in the best and worst ways. I never saw Ebert after his failed surgeries, and the face that he wore during his last years is shocking at first, then eternally fascinating.

Mission: Impossible (1996) d. De Palma, Brian (USA) (2nd viewing)

I’m planning to revisit the series in toto, but I remember not being too knocked out by this initial installment when I saw it two decades ago. However, it actually holds up pretty well once you get over the spin of this being a Tom Cruise vehicle as opposed to the ensemble piece that the original television series represented. Speaking of which, I’m even more impressed at Himself’s increased onscreen demonstrations of physical prowess as the franchise evolved. As evidenced by last year’s mind-blowing airplane stunt in M:I:Rogue Nation, the guy doesn’t make it easy on himself, years and mileage be damned.

The Sum of All Fears (2002) d. Robinson, Phil Alden (USA) (1st viewing)

Bought the “Jack Ryan Box Set” off Amazon, with all five films for $10, and figured we’d watch the two we hadn’t seen yet first, “The One with the new Captain Kirk” and this, “the one with Ben Affleck.” Contrivances abound, the plot is muddled, the tension flags, and Affleck lacks the gravity to anchor the silliness. The huge top-drawer cast members cash their respective checks doing their respective stock-in-trade shtick and Baltimore goes boom.


10 Seconds to Hell (1959) d. Aldrich, Robert (USA) (1st viewing)

Jack Palance stars as the head of a group of German detonation experts, assigned to defusing the multitude of unexploded American and English bombs lying in and around post-WWII Berlin. The group makes a cynical bet as to who will be the last to survive, throwing half their salaries into the kitty; as their numbers dwindle due to fatal explosions, several want to quit the assignment but don’t want to forfeit the pot. Solid, grim little war drama from none other than Hammer Studios, with several behind-the-scenes veterans on board (including editor James Needs, music supervisor James Hollingsworth, and producer Michael Carreras, all of whom would lend immeasurable support to the studio's upcoming horror offerings).

The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968) d. Aldrich, Robert (USA) (1st viewing)

Kim Novak stars as an aspiring actress who bears an uncanny resemblance to the titular starlet, who died under mysterious circumstances. Peter Finch plays Clare’s husband, a washed-up director who sees an opportunity to revive both his dead career and wife. Everything comes off a little trashy, both in spirit and execution, but Novak certainly gives it her all.

2016 Totals to date: 181 films, 133 1st time views, 81 horror, 22 cinema



  1. Man, you really have slowed down if I;m outpacing you. 181 films in nine months? I just reviewed my 240th (one of which, happily, was my first viewing of Phantasm).

    1. Buddy, you have no idea. And I'm not going to make up the ground this October like I usually do - I'll be lucky to get in the 31. But, on the other side of things, there are a lot of people getting leaner and stronger under my careful personal training guidance, so that's not a bad consolation prize.

    2. Oh, and congrats on your stupendous output this year! Always a pleasure to read your stuff.

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