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The Howling – This is director Joe Dante’s first (Piranha doesn’t count IMO) straight up horror film and he makes the most of it. He packs so much into the 90 minute runtime that you’ll probably need to view it several times just to catch all the references and inside jokes and cameos. It’s been years since I watched this and I remembered John Carradine being in it but completely forgot another of my favorite character actors, Slim Pickens, was as well. Not to mention Dick Miller and co-writer of the screenplay, John Sayles, in an uncredited bit as a morgue attendant. Forrest J. Ackerman and Roger Corman are also along for the ride in blink-and-you’ll-miss-them appearances. Television reporter Karen White (Dee Wallace) is foolishly sent out on a dangerous assignment to meet up with a serial killer. He’s been corresponding with her and when she shows up at an adult film store she is almost killed and is traumatized to the point of retrograde amnesia. A therapist (Patrick MacNee) recommends that she visit a remote mountain retreat in order to heal and to try and recall her experience in the bookstore. Once there she and her husband Bill (Christopher Stone) meet the oddball residents and things quickly go downhill from there. The makeup effects are topnotch for the era, having been started by Rick Baker before he left to work on An American Werewolf in London. This is a must see for horror aficionados and for fans of clever, irreverent, and self referential films. 80/100

WARNING: "" spoilers below
Oh and I especially like the ending with Dee Wallace turning into what can only be described as an adorable Pekingese. Also, this movie is responsible for one of my best movie going moments. I went to a midnight showing of sorts with a decent sized crowd in attendance and right at the beginning there's a scene where Dee Wallace is at a phone booth where she's supposed to get a call from psycho killer Eddie Quist instructing her where to meet him. She opens the door and there's a jump cut to a smiley face sticker. Right then some clever guy in the audience lets go with a loud scream and the whole theater cracks up.

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I want everyone to know that it's Whitner Nutting Bissell that's kicking in their door!



Saboteur -


This is an engaging and often comedic "innocent man on the run" thriller that Hitchcock did so well.* This time, it's a mechanic, Barry Kane (Robert Cummings), who treks from California to New York to nab the actual culprit of an attack on the aircraft factory where he works.* It has everything you know and love in movies like this one such as a reluctant blonde companion, Pat (Priscilla Lane), encounters with bystanders who you're not sure are friends or foes, set pieces you cannot believe take place in a studio, etc.* It's also quite funny and clever thanks to touches like road signs and book titles that telegraph the plot to a scene that references Bride of Frankenstein of all things.* Cummings is not Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant - then again, who is - and it's also no North by Northwest or The 39 Steps.* It still does what it does very well, and its final set piece, which like North by Northwest also features a famous American landmark, is as tense as Hitchcock gets.* Oh, and keep an eye out for Norman Lloyd - who as of 2020 is thankfully still with us - in his debut role.





Also known as Go With Me. I liked this one.
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There has been an awekening.... have you felt it?



Kiss Me Deadly - What can you say about a movie that not only influenced the French New Wave movement but plot devices from such diverse films as Repo Man and Raiders of the Lost Ark? That's a lot of territory to cover especially from such an unexpected source as this 1955 noir starring Ralph Meeker as Mickey Spillane's archetype tough guy PI Mike Hammer. From it's offbeat opening credits, to the first scene featuring a very young Cloris Leachman running barefoot down a road dressed in nothing but a trench coat, the movie grabs your attention. This is the second Robert Aldrich film I've watched in the last few days and it also stars a no nonsense male lead. Meeker turns in an indelible performance as Hammer who apparently conducts business in a bull-in-a-china-shop sort of way. Aldrich does a great job of capturing the night time streets of Los Angeles. Many other films have attempted to depict the city as a dangerously shady and amoral place but Aldrich and company altogether succeed. There are plenty of femme fatales whose sole purpose seems to be to throw themselves at Hammer. There's also a decent MacGuffin and hired goons and blackjacks to the head. A veritable wish list of noir mainstays. 90/100
Good review, and you're right about influencing Raiders of the Lost Arc. The "macguffin" turns out to be a radioactive device in a leather case that fried that doll Gaby Rodgers, who opened the box which contains it; and it even explodes buildings!..

Thanks to your review I went back and re-watched it after many years. It's even better than I remembered. I never felt that Ralph Meeker --who played Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer-- was more than a medium weight actor, but he was perfect here as the hard boiled but slightly sleazy shamus.

Spillane himself was a tough guy. An old friend of mine who is a novelist (Don "E.T." Lewis), following many years as an attorney, was invited to Spillane's place near Myrtle Beach, SC 15 years ago. Don was pretty tough himself, having been in special forces in Viet Nam. The two hit it off great, and Don got some good writing advice from Spillane.

But the recognizable character actors that were in the cast is fascinating! Cloris Leachman in her first movie role of course was mesmerizing as the woman running for her life, and is picked up by a passing Mike Hammer.

And how about Jack Elam, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Marian Carr, Strother Martin, Jack Lambert, and the gorgeous Maxine Cooper as the sultry Velda?? Most of these names are not recognizable, but at first glance are instantly familiar.

The picture is often characterized as one of the best "B" noirs, but I think it belongs up there with many of the "A's"! Very enjoyable!

~Doc



Don't say I didn't warn you. I'm halfway through that new Netflix epic, Hillbilly Elegy. It's based on JD Vance's book about his dysfunctional family from the hinterlands and don't let the "stars", Glenn Close and Amy Adams fool you. It wants to have moments of cultural insight now and again, wants to have emotional depth, but wow. I expected more from Ron Howard.

It reminds me of that recent exercise in scenery chewing by Nick Cage, Color Out of Space, like you're not sure you really want to finish it, but you also want to see if it gets any better, but you doubt that it will but you want to see where it ends up and you already have an hour of your life invested, but there's nothing else going on anywhere anyway and it's too late to start another movie.

You have an interview with a law firm tomorrow morning, but your mom just overdosed on heroin and you remember the time when you were a kid and she got arrested for abusing you and your gnarly grand-maw is yelling at everybody and you have a flashback of your dad being set on fire by your mom.

Don't say I didn't warn you. And they say that horror movies are bad. Get the heck out of this town.
Ha! Your review was a riot.. I had a feeling that "Elegy" would be a turkey, so I didn't even investigate it. Thanks for the warning...





Veronika Decides to Die, 2009

In the very beginning of this film Veronika (Sarah Michelle Gellar) decides that she's had enough--enough of chasing shallow rank at her job, enough of the emotionless people who surround her on the subway, and enough of therapy and anti-depressants that don't work. So Veronika decides to die. Only her attempt is not successful and she wakes up in a mental health care facility where she learns that her overdose did permanent damage to her heart. She's alive, but not for long.

This is a very engaging premise, and I appreciated that the film doesn't feel the need to go "big" with how Veronika deals with her limited time remaining. At first she is determined to go through with another suicide attempt, but with nothing left to lose she finally begins to take a strong perspective on her own life and successfully self-advocate. Along the way she forms a bond with a fellow inmate, Edward (Jonathan Tucker), who has been silent since suffering his own trauma.

This is a very subdued film. There's a subplot that feels like it could be taken to a sensational place (Veronika becomes newsworthy because of the way she blasted a certain company in her suicide letter), but the film mostly sweeps this aside in favor of focusing on Veronika's development as a person.

My enjoyment of this film was no doubt boosted by the cast. I really, really like Sarah Michelle Gellar. Ever since her days on Buffy the Vampire Slayer I've felt that she does a really great job of portraying someone experiencing deep unrest under a calm surface. I also really like Jonathan Tucker, who plays her love interest. David Thewlis (another favorite of mine) is there as well, playing Veronika's unconventional therapist. Throw in Melissa Leo and Erika Christensen as fellow patients, and this was a cast I was very predisposed to enjoy.

As with any film about unconventional psychiatric treatment, I felt that there were some serious ethical issues with several things that took place in the film. This specifically includes one thing (that I had actually guessed might happen) that I felt was VERY unethical. While it's all in service of an interesting character arc, it was still problematic.

Overall this is a very, for lack of a better word, mild film. I thought that it was very sweet and a great example of a film not needing a forceful lead to have impact. There is a certain degree to which the film is a bit simplistic in its approach to portraying depression and how it might be addressed. Still, I enjoyed it.




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Registered User
No Reason (2010)

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This is a German extreme film that's fairly well made for its type. It starts off interesting enough but then gets a little spiritual for my taste, even journeying into Hellraiser like territory. There's certainly plenty of sick things happening, and I liked the twisty way it wraps up.





Dogs Don't Wear Pants, 2019

An interesting theme has emerged in three of the last films I've watched (this one, Veronika Decides to Die, and The Earrings of Madame de . . . .): someone learning to feel deeply, no matter how much it hurts.

Years after his wife drowned (accidentally? on purpose?), heart surgeon Juha is living an outwardly fine but muted life, caring for a daughter on the edge of young adulthood. Intrigued by an intense, chance encounter with a dominatrix, Mona, Juha employs her to take him deeper into a coping mechanism--oxygen deprivation--that he's been unsuccessfully using to self-medicate.

The idea of BDSM as therapy is by no means a new idea. What I found most powerful about this portrayal of such a dynamic was (1) the clear presentation of how and why Juha benefits from his sessions with Mona and (2) the attention given to Mona's character and how her relationship with Juha impacts her.

This film is definitely not for the faint of heart. The main reason that I was able to watch it was because the sequences of more graphic gore were very easy to spot coming. I did fast forward one sequence because I knew I couldn't handle it. (For those wondering if they would want to also skip the sequences, there are two parts in the film that were a bit too much for me:
WARNING: spoilers below
in one sequence, the main character pulls out one of his nails. I held my hand up to block the top 90% of the screen so I could still read the subtitles. Later in the film, Mona uses pliers to remove one of Juha's teeth. This is the sequence that I skipped and it lasts for a looooooong time
).

But the film isn't just after shock value. It's clear that all of the people we see exploring this world of kink are getting something out of it. There is a clear sense of empathy underneath all of the action, which keeps it from just feeling like a freakshow where we gawp at all the kinksters. The pain inflicted on Juha becomes a bridge that allows him to get in touch with his pain, but at the same time the film doesn't lose sight of the cost to Mona (who works days as a physical therapist) of inflicting that pain.

My only real complaint with the film is that it doesn't take enough time to establish Mona's professional ethical obligations before moving into a space that is inappropriate. Asphyxiation is expert level kink play, but the film acts as if choking a person into unconsciousness is just a rote day-to-day event. Both Mona and Juha go to a dangerous place with their relationship, and I wish that the film had taken a bit more time to establish Mona's "normal".

A trope that the film admirably avoids is making Mona a kink version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Not only by acknowledging the complexities of her own emotions, but by making Juha the driver of his own journey. In pursuing his emotions, Juha endangers his job, his health, and his relationship with his daughter. This isn't just the case of a tight-laced businessman discovering that he needs to follow his dreams with the help of a free-spirited woman. Juha's liberation comes at a cost, and it's not the kind of journey that ends with everything tied up in a neat bow.

It wasn't an easy watch, but it's a deeply human film that makes room for the inner lives of all of its characters.




Near Dark - Kathryn Bigelow's ferocious updating of the vampire mythos was quite the ride when it was first released 33 years ago. And it still is. These weren't the courtly or ostentatious bloodsuckers film goers were used to seeing. These were vampires re-imagined as an outlaw gang. Low rent vampires. Bigelow uses three actors from James Cameron's Aliens cast with the late Bill Paxton stealing the show as Severin. The group's arrival at the redneck bar and what ensues is still one of the most effectively disturbing scenes I've ever watched. 85/100



Planes, Trains and Automobiles - 1987

Never actually sat down and watched this flick. I enjoy a bunch of Steve Martin films and Candy is entertaining enough. Figured I'd give it a go. It was decent enough. Story ends up having some heart to it. The biggest problem for me is the movie just feels dated in it's comedy and story. I could see this being really enjoyable when it first came out and 10 or 15 years after. Feels old now. It also drags for a lot of the movie to me and the story itself while it has heart isn't really that engaging to me. You can just feel the movie moving from bit to bit instead of being a flowing story. Candy's character's back story is a bit too vauge for me. Martin and Candy save it by being so entertaining.

It's a fun little Thanksgiving movie to throw in but has it's problems, at least to me.

I'd give it a


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I came here to do two things, drink some beer and kick some ass, looks like we are almost outta beer - Dazed and Confused

101 Favorite Movies (2019)



Sling Blade (1996)

First time viewing, incredible performances from all especially BBT and a very affecting story. Near perfect.



Can't even see where the knob is

How Green Was My Valley - ★★★★☆
- John Ford, 1941 -
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Still as stunningly beautiful and captivating as I remembered, although it could be argued that the crystal clear remastering of this release provides something of a disservice to the film's less sophisticated decors. Oh well. It's the kind of movie that makes you want to curl up on your couch in front of the television with a box of hankies next to you, while tearfully mouthing along with every line of dialogue as it is spoken. You'll feel like you're in a Cyndi Lauper music video.






The Endless - ★★★
- Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, 2017 -
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A canonical successor to Resolution. I like my horror Lovecraftian and otherwise cosmic, so I was very willing to give this a chance, especially after having enjoyed its predecessor. For the most part, it did not disappoint, although the lack of budget is extremely apparent, even by Benson & Moorhead standards. However, the film is carried reasonably well by its two leads and their purposefully derivative direction. It's as if David Lynch and Terence Malick had a baby that was adopted by Stuart Gordon and home-schooled by Vincenzo Natali. Interesting. My appreciation for this movie will likely increase over time.

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How am I supposed to find someone willing to go into that musty old claptrap?





The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957

This nearly three-hour long epic follows a group of WW2 prisoners of war who are forced to help construct a bridge while being held in a Japanese POW camp. For one of the officers in the camp (played by Alec Guiness), building the bridge becomes a point of pride and leads to a tragic clash with an Allied plan to destroy the bridge.

This film was great, really well acted, and the final 20 minutes made me incredibly anxious!

Guinness does a wonderful job portraying Colonel Nicholson, a man for whom military duty overlaps dangerously with personal ego. The film centers the humanity of the story through the use of several observer type characters: a doctor (James Donald) who cares for the sick and injured at the POW camp and an unnamed group of women who accompany the Allied soldiers on their mission. The heart of the film is a man named Shears, a pessimistic American soldier whose cynicism both helps and hinders him.

The film contains several breathtaking sequences, including a night-time parachute landing and a final sweeping shot that speaks volumes.

Yes!
Was this the first time you'd seen it?
And yeah, this is how I will always remember Alec Guinness despite many excellent performances (including The Ladykillers, Tunes Of Glory, and of course, Kind Hearts and Coronets), even though Obi-Wan will always be at the forefront in all our minds.