Sunday, March 22, 2020

Fool's Views (2/1 – 2/14)

Better late than never, right?

Hello, hello.

Yes, it’s been a few weeks since I last reported in – anything new going on in the world?

I jest, of course. It’s an odd time we’re living in, with the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the globe and most of the U.S. on lockdown. My personal training career is at a bit of standstill, since our health club is currently closed, so I’m finally sitting down to catch up on the Views. I wasn’t really feeling motivated to do so over the past month, but thanks to a few inspiring emails from my Belgian blood brother Gert, I seem to have rallied for the time being.

This batch takes us to the halfway point of February, which I celebrated by watching a double-feature of Shout Factory’s extras-packed Blu-ray release of My Bloody Valentine and the surprisingly solid 3D remake from 2009. It also marked the spark for an unexpected deep dive into a certain action-star icon’s filmography which you’ll be reading about in FV reports to come. (You have Tim to thank/curse for this.) I also wrapped up the final lap (for now) of my animated features (itself inspired by legendary pun-meister Kevin Matthews’ Ani-May-Tion last year).

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



Long Distance (2005) d. Stern, Marcus (USA) (1st viewing)

Not-bad independent effort from director/soundtrack composer Stern concerning a young grad student (Monica Keena), reeling from a recent breakup, who accidentally dials a wrong number, inciting a series of *69-induced threatening phone calls. Seems our mysterious caller is a serial killer who gets off on having Ms. Keena listening in while he does in his victims… and with each call, he’s moving closer to where she lives. Ivan Martin plays the hunky police officer who answers her cry for help, and the two go through the predictable romantic maneuvers while the clock ticks down. My pal Tim was doing his February Kryptic Army assignment and this was his “L” pick for the month, since he has kind of a thing for Ms. Keena. (If you’ve seen the 2009 Night of the Demons remake, you’ll understand why.)


My Bloody Valentine (1981) d. Mihalka, George (Canada) (3rd viewing)

Seeing the director’s cut of this early ’80s Canadian slasher flick is akin to seeing a whole new film, one with markedly increased splatter stock. In addition to the infamous “shower head” sequence, the restored footage ups the gore quotient in nearly all the murder scenes, and lest we forget, this was the time when it was all about the kills. What was once a fairly tame, if atmospheric thriller about a small mining community menaced by a pickaxe-wielding, gas-mask-wearing maniac earns its rightful stripes as a highly entertaining subgenre mini-classic. Regrettably, the acting remains as clunky and the characters as tiresome, but battle-hardened gorehounds won’t find either too offensive, and the increased bloodletting makes it all slide down a lot easier. Available now from Shout! Factory!

My Bloody Valentine (2009) d. Lussier, Patrick (USA) (3rd viewing)

Director Lussier’s redux of 1981’s classic pickaxe-wielding boogeyman flick earns its red wings by providing a straight-faced, straight-up whodunit/body-count pic loaded with blood, guts and nudity. True, it does have the requisite TV heartthrob (Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles) in place, but the entire enterprise is handled with panache and skill, delivering more than enough jump scares and heavy gnore to satisfy anyone. While the 3D effects – so well executed in theaters, providing plenty of the usual “comin’ atcha!” gimmicks as well as giving the eerie mineshaft scenes a claustrophobic feel – lose some of their impact on the small screen, there’s still enough solid material to carry the day. Finally, big time kudos to clothes-shy starlet Betsy Rue for her brave and bare extended hotel room sequence (yielding both titillation and vulnerability – no mean feat) and genre vet Tom Atkins for their strong support.


Hamburger Hill (1987) d. Irvin, John (USA) (1st viewing)

I remembered always meaning to see this back in the VHS days, but never got around to it. Stumbled across it on the Chicago Public Library shelves and the time seemed right. It’s a solid Platoon-inspired tale of a bunch of young U.S. grunts getting their asses handed to them by the VC, based on a real-life battle, and featuring a number of stars-in-the-making, including Dylan McDermott, Don Cheadle, Courtney B. Vance, Michael Boatman, and Steven Weber. As I was watching, I also realized that the other Vietnam-era movie I never caught up with is The Hanoi Hilton, so I suppose I’ll have to finally track that one down as well.

Mr. Majestyk (1974) d. Fleischer, Richard (USA) (1st viewing)

Somehow I missed this one last year while I was knocking off the Fleischer flicks, but curiously enough, it seems to have sparked its own film festival in that I realized while watching that Charles Bronson was one of those actors that I’ve always been aware of but had seen precious little of his output firsthand outside of the biggies (Dirty Dozen, Magnificent Seven, Great Escape, Once Upon a Time in the West). This was the perfect one to kick it off because I had always assumed that it was another one of his man-against-the-system urban showdowns, but ah so not so.

Instead, Charlie plays Vince Majestyk, a melon farmer who just wants to get his crop in, but when a racist rival demands that Majestyk use white workers instead of his usual Mexican workforce, the resulting conflict sends Vince to the clink where he runs afoul of a temporarily incarcerated hit man (Al Lettieri) who vows to bump him off as soon as they both get out. Considering the screenplay is by Elmore Leonard, it should come as no surprise that things just get weirder from there. Released the same summer as Death Wish (only a couple weeks apart, according to IMDb), this was the one-two punch that (finally) made Bronson a huge star in his home country at the age of 53.


The Great Mouse Detective (1986) d. Clements, Ron / Musker, John / Mattison, Burney / Michener, David (USA) (1st viewing)

It’s basically Sherlock Holmes if he were a mouse, based on “Basil of Baker Street” by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone, and it’s perfectly acceptable kids fare, notable primarily for being one of Vincent Price’s last go-rounds (voicing the protagonist’s Moriarty-like rodent nemesis, Professor Rattigan) and being the directorial debut for Clements and Musker, who would help resurrect the studio’s status as the leader in animated entertainment with The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Moana, and….

The Princess and the Frog (2009) d. Clements, Ron / Musker, John (USA) (1st viewing)

...this one, which featured Disney’s first African-American lead character in the form of Tiana, a New Orleans waitress who dreams of opening her own restaurant. Spirited vocal characterizations by Anika Noni Rose, Keith David, Oprah Winfrey, John Goodman, Terrence Howard, and voice actor extraordinaire Jim Cummings (look him up) combine with stunning visuals to make for an excellent bowl of gumbo.


Little Women (2019) d. Gerwig, Greta (USA) (1st viewing)

I thought this was a lovely and smart adaptation of Lousia May Alcott’s book, but much like 2017’s Lady Bird, I was surprised by all the awards and accolades. Hollywood seems to like Gerwig a lot (which, hey, I do too, but more because she’s quirky and fun as an actress as opposed to an innate ability to unveil universal truths about the human condition). Great cast, great production design, and thoroughly enjoyable, but it wasn’t anything **special** for my money.

The Two Popes (2019) d. Meirelles, Fernando (UK) (1st viewing)

Another example of “the Netflix effect” where a film somehow got the attention of Academy members who said, “Oh, yeah, you know that Oscar nomination that we didn’t give Jonathan Pryce last year even though he did just as much work as Glenn Close in The Wife? Let’s remedy that, shall we? Oh, and Tony Hopkins is in it as well, so let’s get him on the ballot as well.” “Right, but we don’t want them competing against each other, do we?” “We’ll make Tony’s a supporting nomination.” “But it’s really a co-lead, isn’t it?” “Sure, but no one’s going to see it anyway.” “Good point.” I’m being glib, but at the same time, I’m really not, because neither of these fine, old, white actors needed the nod and a lot of opportunities to honor equally deserving performers of color were missed. The movie? It’s... fine. Watch it if you want, out of the same sense of completism that I felt.

2020 Totals to Date: 55 films, 41 first time views, 16 horror, 2 cinema


  1. If you're planning to dive deeper into Bronson's catalog then 10 to Midnight, and Deathwish 2 are must see tv!

  2. I have seen both of those, as it turns out!

  3. In looking back at his full filmography, and including all of his bit and supporting parts, I've seen 17 of his 95 movies prior to 2020. Still a long way to go!