Horror Bites - Never More

THE RAVEN (1935)

Béla Lugosi appears in a lot of horror films. Some evoke memories of classic chills, Gothic architecture and macabre dialogue. Others are simply B-movies that may have plenty of appeal but are certainly not genre benchmarks. In this case there's a line being ridden between the two as an Egard Allen Poe inspired tale of romance and madness begins to play out. But it's also a story that quickly and frequently veers off the rails straight into the realm of absurd death traps, crazy schemes and maniacal laughter. Audiences at the time might have been shocked by some the elements included here but today it's impossible to take it seriously.


HCF Review - Ash Vs Evil Dead

SEASON THREE (2018)

There we were… now here we are. After a few short years the entirety of Bruce and Sam’s return to the world of deadite decapitations and gushing blood geysers has come to an end once more. For a while it felt like everything was new again. Well as much as it can do for a show that went back to the past and dug up a few old favourites once last time. But ultimately after three fun seasons it’s somehow ended up the way things were in 1992… a post apocalypse finale that nobody wants to follow up on. Does the third chapter of this ridiculous saga (originally said to be five seasons) deliver enough to make it feel at least partially like a fitting send off?


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Scorecard

OCTOBER


FILM OF THE MONTH: Halloween ☆☆☆☆
The Old Dark House ☆☆☆☆
Apostle ☆☆☆☆
Son of Frankenstein ☆☆☆☆
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 ☆☆☆☆

Horror Bites - Listen Up Screwheads

ARMY OF DARKNESS (1993)

The third instalment in the Evil Dead series is a pretty dumb movie. Skeleton puppets without any articulation get smashed to broken crockery sound effects. Shop clerk Ash somehow teaches medieval peasants how to fight better than their castle knights. A car wrecked after falling through a portal in time is fitted with a working steam engine. With a propeller and a train whistle. Ted Raimi has multiple cameos, sometimes as different characters in the same scene. Perhaps that's why I can't stop watching it.

Horror Bites - Children of the Night

DRACULA'S DAUGHTER (1936)

So I guess it's a good time to look at a few more Universal monster movies, something that is no small feat considering all the various characters and spin-offs. But while the others seem to have a greater number of successors, it looks like Count Dracula kinda gets short changed on the sequel front. It took five years for them to get around a follow up with his Daughter, and even longer for Son of Dracula. Does these even work without Bela Lugosi? Well it's debatable. There's certainly some interesting stuff to look at although it's kind of a mixed bag. Let's peek into the tomb and see what's in store for us.


Horror Bites - Maniac Mansion

THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932)

Should horror films be fun? Looking at some of his movies James Whale seemed to think so. Like his more famous works The Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man, this is a stylish affair filled with oddball personalities and dramatic lighting. The wind howls and suspicious characters haunt the corridors of an ancient household. But by avoiding the topic of science fiction this is a far more intense story that ventures into true madness. As the title suggests this is a sinister tale. But it's also very funny in a twisted kind of way. Some of the best genre films are of course, and this is up there with the greats from this (or any) period. So pour yourself a glass of gin and help yourself to a potato as we venture inside the spooky residence of the family Femm.

Scorecard

SEPTEMBER



FILM OF THE MONTH: Sleuth ☆☆☆☆
Brides of Dracula ☆☆☆☆
The Face of Another ☆☆☆☆
Pin ☆☆☆☆
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ☆☆☆☆
Village of the Damned ☆☆☆☆
Without a Clue ☆☆☆☆
Zodiac ☆☆☆☆

Horror Bites - Baron Blood

BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960)

Hammer's Dracula series has a lot of films with increasingly outlandish names as they progress. Taste the Blood of Dracula and The Satanic Rites of Dracula spring to mind when considering the absurd monikers used during the life span of the series. However this entry remains their best effort, despite the non-appearance of Count Dracula himself. In an impressive turn of events he actually stays destroyed in this story, which is quite a feat considering his track record. But that means the titular women are not his brides at all. Perhaps something like Curse of ... or Disciples of ... would have been more appropriate. This odd title and the lack of Christopher Lee as the villain means this is often overlooked and people consider Dracula: Price of Darkness as the true follow up. But make no mistake, this is the superior sequel.

Horror Bites - Seeing Double

THE FACE OF ANOTHER (1966)

AKA A Stranger's Face. While there are a lot of articles about Japanese films from the sixties here they're generally full of colourful miniatures and monster mayhem. Calling this an actual horror film might be pushing things a little far, but then it's just the excuse I need to take a look at Hiroshi Teshigahara's existential drama. The premise is simple - a man disfigured in an accident is given a new face... and the freedom to do what he will with it. Will he misuse this gift or simply adjust and rejoin society? What other kinds of masks are the people he knows already wearing? Just like The Invisible Man things start to get out of hand when the bandages come off, which is a fitting comparison and a good place to begin a deeper analysis.


Horror Bites - Fear in the Night

THE NIGHT WALKER (1964)

William Castle is often remembered for directing spooky films like House on Haunted Hill, where appearances by stars such as Vincent Price were paired scary movie theatre gimmicks. Simply wearing 3-D glasses wasn't enough, he went further to get the audience excited. But less is said about this release which is an attempt at a more straightforward thriller, with a script by Psycho author Robert Bloch. It's a story full of atmosphere starring Barbara Stanwyck from Double Indemnity rather than a horror film regular. It's all still pretty hokey of course as a product of the time, but as a mystery tale there are some fairly striking moments that stand out even by today's standards. Let's take a closer look at this venture into fantastical dreams and waking nightmares.


Horror Bites - Communion

ALICE, SWEET ALICE (1976)

There are a lot of influential genre films from the 1970s, with releases like The Exorcist and Jaws spawning dozens of imitators. However it's more unusual to see a movie that seems to have taken a few notes from Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now. While this is not a direct copy, there are at least a few visual nods here and there amongst what is generally a murder mystery plot. The colour red is swapped for a lurid yellow, which I guess is pretty apt for a story that involves a lot more slasher scenes. But there's more going on here than just a series of shocking deaths, in a story that involves themes of guilt, youth, denial and the loss of innocence.

Horror Bites - Red and Black

THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES (1972)

Time for a whodunnit. In the realms of Giallo there are many elements that often make an appearance, and a lot of them are present and correct here. There are seedy affairs going on, there are potential doppelgängers running about, and there's a killer with black gloves using a lot of knives while a strangely pleasing and jazzy score plays over the violence. But there are a lot of other regular inclusions such as vague and erratic narratives, dream like sequences and sudden plot twists... which may or may not do the story any favours. Let's take a look at both the style and the substance of this particular murder mystery and see which side comes out on top.


Scorecard

AUGUST


FILM OF THE MONTH: Tenebrae ☆☆☆☆
Jaws ☆☆☆☆
Kelly's Heroes ☆☆☆☆
RoboCop ☆☆☆☆
The Lower Depths ☆☆☆☆
Alice, Sweet Alice ☆☆☆☆
Infernal Affairs II ☆☆☆☆

Monster Bites - Hard Eight

OROCHI, THE EIGHT HEADED DRAGON (1994)

Also known by the name Yamato Takeru - the central character, Prince Yamato. While there are plenty of giant hero versus kaiju sci-fi movies out there, a fantasy approach is used less often. This one didn't do so well at the box office at a time when Godzilla was enjoying his second wind, so perhaps that's the reason. That being said while this is full of nods to Japanese mythology and includes names like Amaterasu and Susano, it still ends with a huge monster fighting a huge robot. I suppose technically it's a giant holy warrior, but for all intents and purposes that's the kind of grand finale this offers. The blend of creature effects and sword and sorcery adventure should be a resounding success, but the reality is less effective.


Summer Sequel-a-Thon 2018

PART ONE: WHO'S LAUGHING NOW?

Following up a popular film for one reason or another is a process that can often have mixed results, as this little movie marathon inevitably proves. It's to be expected a lot of the time particularly with horror and schlock - another movie will often end up being a let down. That spike in quality on part two which leads to the third entry dropping the ball doesn't happen that often when things are not planned out properly. We touched on this in earlier b-movie excursions where is was clear that some kinds of stories just don't have the loose ends to ever receive a part two. Others are just too strange to need one... but that doesn't always stop sequels arriving. So let's get right into some of those cases in which they just couldn't leave things alone.


Summer B-Fest 2018

PART ONE: IT CAME... FROM OUTER SPACE

It's hot out there. The last few weeks of Summer seem to last forever and the skies overhead bring a another searing day without cloud coverage. There's no apparent sign of the big thunder storm I've been hearing out. So what is to be done, maybe some feel good adventure films and family rated stories about heroic action? Perhaps it's finally time to just go outside, or to hit the beach. The coastal waters are calling... Well I guess that could be a nice idea. But the only sane choice is to get through a series of films about monsters, aliens and serial killers.


Sunday Sequel-a-Thon: Nightstalker

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984-1994)

Like so many of its contemporaries, Wes Craven's original fantasy slasher film has way too many sequels, and quite a few were simply churned out without enough creativity or imagination behind them. Which is odd considering the premise. It's a series set in a world where anything you can dream up is possible! And yet they rehash ideas way too often, usually looking to capitalize on the popularity of certain elements without sticking to the established rules and lore. But let's go deeper and see what exactly the issues are and how all of this holds up as a franchise. A lot of fans cite the third and seventh instalments as where the peaks in quality lie, so it's time to see why the entries in between are remembered less fondly. The man of your dreams is waiting...


Horror Bites - Rigor Mortis

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)

"It worked in the movie!"

For whatever reason Dan O'Bannon's horror comedy Return of the Living Dead feels like something that gets overlooked these days in comparison to more stoic horror features. I guess that the whole idea about eating brains idea is pretty well known, but audiences tend to expect this to be deadly serious these days.  But as I've probably mentioned in past reviews this kind of thing with the corpses staggering about and chewing on people is always kind of silly as a whole. Sometimes a comedy works just better than a straight horror. I'm still a big fan of Romero's original flesh eater trilogy (with Dawn of the Dead taking top spot) but there are times when goofball nonsense is essential. This is one of them.

 
Fun for the whole family

Scorecard

JULY


FILM OF THE MONTH The Long Good Friday ☆☆☆☆
A Chinese Ghost Story ☆☆☆☆
Taxi Driver ☆☆☆☆
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three ☆☆☆☆
Destroy All Monsters ☆☆☆☆
Drunken Master ☆☆☆☆
Get Carter ☆☆☆☆
Ghidora the Three-Headed Monster ☆☆☆☆
The Young Master ☆☆☆☆
Toy Story ☆☆☆☆
Iron Monkey ☆☆☆☆
Mothra vs Godzilla ☆☆☆☆
Once Upon a Time in China ☆☆☆☆

Horror Bites - Weekend with Argento

THE ANIMAL TRILOGY (1970-1972)

Dario Argento's first three Giallo movies may lack the signature music from Goblin and Claudio Simonetti and they rarely include the crazy visual flourishes he would become known for with Deep Red and Suspiria. But they sit firmly within the world of murder mysteries as solid examples of the Italian crime genre. There are no ventures into the supernatural, and no examples of extra sensory perception. The eye popping colour schemes are missing too which is kind of a shame. However there are still glimpses of a style developing, and there are imaginative moments to be found sprinkled all over the place. Things never quite come into their own but it's still worth considering each on their own merits, so let's take a look.

Monster Bites - Triple Threat

GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964)

Ten years on from the original 1954 release of Gojira, there were a few obvious recurring elements in the series. The familiar monsters Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan were all back. So were actors like Kenji Sahara as yet another bad guy wearing sunglasses, and Hiroshi Koizumi, again playing a professor. Things were getting sillier and more outlandish as science fiction and crime movie tropes melded with the usual disaster themes. If there was going to be a breaking point it was probably going to be here. However at the rate these were being produced it would take at least another year for the cracks to show, since this is one of the best instalments.


Review Roundup - It Came From...

THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017)

As I probably talked about during my review of Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro is at his best when the Hollywood blockbuster action is dialled back and the weird and horrifying elements are given room to breathe. His finest Spanish language efforts are a mixture of the Gothic and the cruel, while maintaining a certain amount of fairytale fantasy. So where does this latest release fall in terms of cinema magic? It certainly won a few prestigious awards and it appears to have all the baroque visuals that mark the touch of a passionate artist in his element. But this is more than just a merman romance and there are a lot of intricately crafted pieces to explore in this story of monsters, misfits and Russian spies.


Monster Bites - Egg Sale

MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1964)

So at last we get to the good stuff, and after a few rough patches the series began to approach its 1960s zenith on the path to Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster and Destroy All Monsters. There are a few odd moments in between of course, and there would be plenty more to come... but overall these three represent the major peaks in quality during the original run that followed the 1954 movie. They're nothing like that first foray into the monstrous power of atomic fission, but that's okay. Toho was hitting its stride in other ways by delivering light entertainment instead of dark symbolism. But still this would mark the final appearance of Godzilla as a malevolent force until his rebirth in the 1980s.

Monster Bites - Henshin A-Go-Go Baby

THE SUPER INFRAMAN (1975)

Also known simply as Infra-Man. I suppose it was inevitable that I'd eventually cover something in the Kyodai Hero (giant hero) genre. While technically Godzilla vs Megalon sort of fits into under this banner, it's a densely packed branch of Japanese special effects cinema with a lot to cover. The likes of Ultra Q and other shows will have to be approached at a later date. Instead let's jump over to Hong Kong where the Shaw Brothers Studio were happy to shamelessly copy the whole thing. The original title is Chinese Superman and the poster even shows the giant 'S' logo from DC comics; you've got to love the nerve of these guys. Let's head over to Science Headquarters and see what's unfolding.


Horror Bites - Bump in the Night

THE CHANGELING (1980)

Time for something with a little more class that the usual stream of endless schlock covered here. Whether it's actually written better or is as well constructed just as a story may be debatable of course, but for the most part this is a stylish affair. It's also a movie where George C. Scott yells at a ghost; which you know I have time for. But for the most part this haunted house story is fairly restrained with an emphasis on sinister atmosphere and eerie corridors. So get ready for a lot of spooky noises in the dark and plenty of unexplained phenomenons - though it's a film from the beginning of the 1980s this is certainly more a product of the previous decade right down to the slow burn mystery and the bleak colour palette.


Monster Bites - He Slimed Me

THE H-MAN (1958)

Also know as Beauty and the Liquid People... this is yet another example of atomic fears being turned into entertainment as you might expect from the period. But it's also a crime thriller about cops trying to take down a drug smuggling syndicate. Like Dogora and Ghidora it blends science fiction elements with gangster storylines to create a kind of hybrid plot in which the mundane elements contrast with the ridiculous. But this isn't a giant creature feature, but of a more straightforward B-horror picture. How much these two sides of the film succeed is often debatable but it's certainly an interesting and sometimes rather eerie experience that is worth looking at as a change of pace from all the usual giant monster chaos.


Monster Bites - Bugging Out

MOTHRA (1961)

Time to go back to a mysterious time when monster cross overs were unheard of and Toho still had Godzilla on ice after that whole tuna fishery episode. It would be another year before they'd decide to bring him back to fight another island dwelling creature. In this period there was still plenty of output from Ishirō Honda ranging from science fiction to horror, but the kaiju features that would surface are some of the most enduring. While Godzilla in 1954 may have been partially inspired by a re-release of King Kong in Japan, it was the first appearance of Mothra that would take the most from the 1933 classic. In a lot of ways this is the archetypal creature feature that sticks to all the usual tropes, but it remains one of the best.


Scorecard

JUNE


FILM OF THE MONTH: Akira ☆☆☆☆
Mothra ☆☆☆☆
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm ☆☆☆☆
Withnail and I ☆☆☆☆
Yokai: 100 Monsters ☆☆☆☆
Predator ☆☆☆☆

Monster Bites - Explorers on the Moon

BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1959)

There are lot of fan favourites in the Toho back catalogue, but in some way this is one of their truly archetypal releases. Alien threats, rocket ships, people landing on extra-terrestrial landscapes; it's all exactly what you'd expect from a 1950s science fiction B-movie. It also has a lot of other elements to enjoy from the essential Akira Ikufube military music to all the miniature destruction - this time on a global scale. As an Earth versus the invaders effects feature I'd certainly recommend it over Ishirō Honda's better know but far shakier effort The Mysterians, made just two years before this. However as a film on its own terms it's not all totally classic genre material.


Monster Bites - Smog Hog

GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (1971)

Oh boy, where to begin. Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster as it's also know has quite a reputation. Hated by the studio and known by fans as a mix of ecological edutainment and trippy '70s musical scenes, this is a strange movie to say the least. But is it any worse than the two subsequent outings featuring things like World Children's Land and Seatopia? Is it more child friendly than the ones where Godzilla fought a giant lobster or did a victory dance on Planet X? Overall, probably not. Is it much better? I suppose it's debatable. However it has to be said that the bizarre score and the addition of animated scenes is a bit puzzling. Maybe unique is the kindest description I can give it. But that's not to say there isn't some entertainment value to be found.


Monster Bites - Spirits Within

YOKAI MONSTERS: 100 MONSTERS (1968)

There are quite a few popular films surrounding Japanese folk lore such as the ghosts and curses seen in Ju On and Ring. However here we'll take a look at something different, and the idea of a weirder kind of apparition. There's an entire range of supernatural creatures out there in this category, with examples to be found in films like Isao Takahata's classic animated film Pom Poko. You can spend days reading about this sort of thing. However our subject here is also a tale of greedy land owners who plan to smash up a village and throw people on the streets to build a profitable business. There's a lot of feudal drama mixed with a weird atmosphere as the spirits from traditional stories being told by candlelight start to appear in the real world.


Monster Bites - Atomic

GODZILLA (1984)

Also known as The Return of Godzilla to avoid confusing it with the 1954 original, the first reboot of the series ignores all those madcap adventures involving Rodan and Jet Jaguar opting instead to be a direct sequel. Which means they skip over the big guy becoming a protector of the planet Earth, and choose to revert him back into a purely malevolent force of nature. This parred back approach might not seem like the best idea after all those stories aimed at pleasing family audiences, however this is certainly the strongest entry in the series since the '60s. It's also nice that the original cut is available on home video so we can discuss the intended version and forever avoid any sign of Raymond Burr and the Pepsi logo.


Monster Bites - Mysterious Islands

DOUG MCCLURE'S LOST WORDS (1975-1979)

Time for a small series review albeit a rather loosely connected one, as these are linked by the star Doug McClure and the director Kevin Connor rather than any actual narrative threads. Yes that's right, you might remember him from such films as The Land that Time Forgot, At the Earth's Core, and Warlords of Atlantis. What titles, and what poster art! But do these films really hold up, and do the events on the posters even appear in the films? Luckily for us they're available together as a boxed set so we can easily find out. Let's dive right into a series of stories obsessed with lost civilisations, secret islands and muppets posing as dinosaurs.

Horror Bites - Thrill Me

NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986)

Nothing quite says the '80s like a mashup of weird ideas, horror, comedy and science fiction. The neon opening credits accompanied by a score from Barry De Vorzon certainly helps things along. Like Monster Squad this is another iteration of director Fred Dekker's idea to bring a whole bunch of influences into one film, in this case b-movie clichés. So this is zombie story that also includes a prologue involving both a space ship sequence and a serial killer, before it moves into college pranks and then the parasitic creatures right out of Shivers. Throw in a grizzled detective and a bunch of great practical effects and hey a good time starts to form. With so much going on not everything works, but as I'll discuss here it doesn't always matter.

Review Roundup - Cat Power

BLACK PANTHER (2018)

With the Marvel hero roster slowly building up to a bursting point it's always a little concerning when they reel things back in to tell yet another origin story. It feels like a sidewards step and raises questions when certain characters are absent later on. However the introduction of regal warrior T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) was certainly a highlight during the earlier Captain America adventure, and my similar concerns with Spider-Man: Homecoming proved to be unwarranted. Would my scepticism be warranted here or is this another hit? If anything this avoids being a mid-tier by the numbers spectacle like Ant-Man, but as a film it's aims are more complex and requires further examination.


Monster Bites - Growing on You

MATANGO (1963)

Like a lot of oldschool Toho movies there's something that gets lost when they're given another title. Names like Fungus of Terror and... Attack of the Mushroom People. Oh brother. In most cases of course these would probably be quite apt, but here it's not quite a good fit for the material at hand. Ishirō Honda had just finished Godzilla vs. King Kong marking the big fella's first foray into full colour. However this is a drastic change of pace in terms of the tone and the overall style. At its core this is still island mystery b-movie and a film about people eating mushrooms that have some very bad side effects. But it's certainly not another light hearted monster romp.


Monster Bites - Under the Sea

LATITUDE ZERO (1969)

Time for a change of pace as we move away from monsters and suitmation, and into absurd sci-fi and fantasy. Where else can you find Cesar Romero and Joseph Cotten in a battle to rule an undersea kingdom? That's not to say this is lacking creature effects of course, but this is more of an adventure film than the usual disaster spectacles from Toho. Although at the same time it does still include a lot of Ishirō Honda's favourite themes about scientific research gone amok. Even if they spell his name wrong in the English opening credits you can tell it's definitely one of his features with all the lurid colour schemes and the focus on gadgets and secret islands. Let's dive into this tale of submarines and hybrid monsters.


Review Roundup - No Pain no Gain

SUMMER SPECIAL

Yes that's right, sunny days are here again. Which of course means it's time for sitting in the dark with the curtains closed to sit through plenty of ultra absurd, ultra violent foreign movies. What else were you expecting? Many years ago my mind was twisted forever after an explosion of DVD releases from the likes of CineAsia and Tartan that included such exciting and deranged classics as Oldboy, Versus and Battle Royale. It was a brain twisting eye opener to say the least, and something that meant I'd forever have an interest in this sort of world cinema. Halcyon days or blood soaked nightmares? Perhaps both and more. Let's take a look at a few movies in this vein.


Short Film Safari - BARTKIRA

Monster Bites - Old Stony Face

DAIMAJIN (1966)

Daimajin also known as Majin, Monster of Terror, is a lesser know blend of samurai drama and giant living statue movie. Daiei Films, best know for their Gamera series produced this at a time when their own features (and those of rival studio Toho) where starting to get a lot sillier. But be prepared for a full on story of feudal warlords and forced labour camps - the stone idol only starts to come to life during the last ten minutes. Is it all worth the wait? Is all the plotting and all the debate about disrespecting the gods building to something great? The short answer is yes. This is actually one of the best in the daikaiju genre, worlds apart from its contemporaries in more ways than one.


Horror Bites - Guess Who's Back?

BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1971)

Part of the Great Cinematic Catharsis Hammer-Amicus Blogathon


There are certain Hammer horror films that I tend to forget about over time, and then every so often they come to mind and I think hey, I'll give that another go. With a title as evocative as this how could you not? Well unfortunately this is another case of the name being better than the movie, in the same way the names of their Dracula and Frankenstein sequels got more catchy as the films got worse. It shouldn't be the case since like their other Mummy features this isn't part of a continuing narrative at all. It's not borrowing from the Universal series either this time. But despite it featuring familiar faces such as Andrew Keir and having a plot taken from a Bram Stoker story, things never really work the way they should. Let's take a peek inside the burial chamber and see what sort of rot lies in wait...


Scorecard

MAY


FILM OF THE MONTH Godzilla 1984 ☆☆☆☆
A Better Tomorrow ☆☆☆☆
Some Like it Hot ☆☆☆☆
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad ☆☆☆☆
Avengers: Infinity War ☆☆☆☆
Captain America: The Winter Soldier ☆☆☆☆
Daimajin ☆☆☆☆
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol2 ☆☆☆☆
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol ☆☆☆☆
Mission: Impossible ☆☆☆☆
Iron Man ☆☆☆☆

Review Roundup - First Shot

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018)

Well, here we go again. With the mixed reaction to The Last Jedi still fresh in most people's minds it's time for the LFL machine to fire back up to deliver what should at least be a less challenging tale of spaceships and galactic outlaws. An origin story for Han Solo has never been something I'd be interested in, and the kind of fill in the blanks style storytelling required isn't an approach I consider creative or exciting. The controversy over the original directing team being fired (Lord and Miller from The Lego Movie) was well publicised, suggesting that even any risks were being squeezed out of the project to make sure it stayed on the level of committee approved fun and nothing more. So with all the reshoots done, how does everything stack up?


Review Roundup - Funny Bones

COCO (2017)

Right, time for a cartoon. It's no secret that I'm always pretty wary of new Pixar releases, after all their winning streak is not perfect. There's always a chance that their next project could be less Inside Out and more ... Brave. Of course there are blacker marks on their record that shall go unmentioned, but I always hope for the very best rather than the so-so. Mediocrity is somehow less interesting. Or perhaps it's just more aggravating when the true high notes are just within reach. The thing is this does just look like another bland coming of age story on the outside with music and spectacle and outcast characters finding themselves. There's even another dumb animal sidekick and a whole assortment of pastel shaded oddballs. But fortunately this is all done with such finesse that it's impossible not to get sucked in.


Review Roundup - Big is Back

SHIN GODZILLA (2016)

It's been a little while since we've taken a look at the whole Kaiju genre, so I suppose it was inevitable that I'd end up talking about the latest live action Godzilla movie from Toho sooner or later. It's also been a while since the last Hollywood iteration, but it's been even longer since the last official release when the third wave of films ended with the aptly named Godzilla: Final Wars. Did the Gareth Edwards film spur them on to make a come back? Who can be sure. Of course this is a series in which starting over is nothing new. The first reboot led to a second series of films in the '80s and '90s that brought back many familiar faces while making everything bigger and louder. But the Big G always managed to become a heroic figure in some way or another despite attempts to reference 1954's original atomic allegory and several stories that used the first film as a starting point while side stepping all that Monster Zero and Space Hunter Nebula stuff. Where exactly does the newest version stand?


Weekend Retrospective - Beware of ... Scorpio

A WEEKEND WITH CLINT

'Where have you been? Does Escobedo ring a bell? Miranda? I mean, you must have heard of the Fourth Amendment. What I'm saying is that man had rights.'

'Well, I'm all broken up over that man's rights!'

While this originally started out as a fresh look at the Dirty Harry series, along the way I was prompted to take a slight detour and a kind of post viewing epilogue, which I will get to shortly. I had seen all of these before but my memory was pretty fuzzy, so it was interesting to see how much of it (if any) had stood the test of time. As you can imagine certain elements don't quite hold up, while others are always a treat. So to get things started let's join the original loose cannon himself, Inspector Seventy-One Harry Callahan, as he reels off a few good lines and a hits a few duds in the course of the hunt for the Scorpio killer in the original Dirty Harry.


Weekend Retrospective - People that Time Forgot

ONE MILLION YEARS BC (1966)

Time for a change of pace as we look at a Hammer production that isn't a staple horror release, and a Ray Harryhausen effects movie that isn't really up there with the likes of Jason and Sinbad. A weird middle ground between the classics from either of these two big names, and a film better known these days for the title and the poster art. But there is still some charm and some entertainment value to it all, in a nonsensical tale of prehistoric humans living in the same period as dinosaurs. There's a kind of simplicity to the whole idea, like something dreamt up by a child playing with toys as cavemen are savaged by Pterodactyls and thrown into volcanic pits. It's probably remembered more for Raquel Welch in history's first bikini, but there are a of other amusing inclusions to discuss.


Review Roundup - Hand of Fate

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

So here we are. Another superhero team up, another giant purple faced CGI villain. The odds are against this one working out with too many characters, too much universe scale destruction, and a long awaited conclusion to that Avengers post-credits tease in 2012 that could never be satisfying. This isn't even a real finale but part one of two, how could it ever really feel well constructed? A dark dramatic climax to a series about eclectic character banter and weird space monsters shouldn't really work at all. But here we are again, back with two directors from a sitcom background who keep making all this stuff come together. A film where more is actually more for once.


Scorecard

APRIL


FILM OF THE MONTH The Big Blue ☆☆☆☆
Léon ☆☆☆☆
Pit and the Pendulum ☆☆☆☆
Fall of the Roman Empire ☆☆☆☆
From Russia With Love ☆☆☆☆
Goldeneye ☆☆☆☆
The Last Jedi ☆☆☆☆

Horror Bites - Chop Shop

SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN (1970)

What a title, what a cast. What a poster! An Amicus Production starring not only Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, but Vincent Price... what could possible go wrong? Well where to begin. With three stars and three storylines, it seems logical that this would be a solid anthology feature. Or at least a decent slice of fun horror nonsense in a film that features severed limbs, acid baths and espionage. In fact the whole thing feels more like a Cold War thriller in a lot of scenes, which could be a good blend. However it's all too good to be true, and instead what remains is mostly a slog that wastes all the potential it has until the good will it inspires has dissolved entirely.