December 2022 Mini-Reviews –

Astonishingly, another year is over and a New Year begun!  So, we bid a (not so) fond farewell to 2022, and welcome in 2023 with the final set of reviews from the year recently passed, the late, unlamented 2022.

Happily there were a lot of good movies and series to finish out the year.  My wife and I even caught up with Doctor Who, a series we’ve loved for many years but which broke its contract (with me and others) by creating a totally unnecessary retcon, “born to greatness” BS origin story for our working-class hero.  (FU showrunner who thought that was a good idea!)  Finally, I got to where I could ignore that (and some accompanying shabby writing) and forge ahead, looking forward to the Doctor’s next incarnation.  (Here’s to you, Russel T. Davies and the returning <<spoiler redacted>> and crew!)  I also started watching Midsomer Murders, a mystery series with a run of 90-minute shows that seems to have gone on nearly as long as the Doctor him-/her-/xirself

I also enjoyed a number of other interesting series in December, some of which are old things that I just got around to, others of which are new, or new series of old favorites like His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass et al), which finished up at the end of the year, The Mysterious Benedict Society (2nd season), and Three Pines an excellent new mystery series whose 8 episodes flew by all too quickly.

Sadly I now realize that I did not finish my survey of Sword & Sorcery films.  I guess I’ll just have to wrap that up — and recap it — sometime in 2023.  (If I’m good, it’ll be early in the New Year, but… No promises.)  I suspect there may be some other fantasy-related posts coming to my site in 2023, too.  (Clever teaser.)  All that aside… Let’s dive in!

Ratings are out of five stars. Here’s what those stars mean to me…

* – This film is not good. Avoid it unless you tolerate dreck well.
** – A flawed film. You may enjoy it if you like this genre or the folks in it.
*** – A good solid film. If you like this genre, you’ll probably like this film.
**** – A superior film within its genre. Thoroughly enjoyable.
***** – An outstanding film on many levels. A great example of its genre.

Warrior Nun (S2) **** The warrior nuns are back to battle the “fallen angel” to the finish. Great fights & likeable cast make for a fun series. More, please!
Land of the Lost (2009) *** Will Ferrel, Danny McBride in spoof adaptation of classic kids TV series. Stupid fun with dinos. Minus 1 star if you liked the original.
Station Eleven (series) ***** Superb mini-series about what happens after killer pandemic. Follows interesting characters & conflicts for 20 years with nice twists.
Gold Rush, The (1925) ***** Chaplain’s Little Tramp goes to Alaska for gold & instead gets hostile weather, prospectors, a bear, & a girl. Classic silent comedy.
Raven, The (1935) ***** Lugosi’s brilliant surgeon with Poe fixation falls for Judge’s daughter & won’t take no for an answer. Enlists Karloff for mad schemes.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (S1) **** Original B&W season of the TV classic mixes scifi with serious cold war spy stuff. Later became kiddie fare, but very strong in S1.
Doctor Who (relaunch S12) ** Finally finished this season. (Did I review it previously as S11?) Holiday special doesn’t make up for terrible retcon in previous show.
Shanks *** Very strange “zombie” film where Marcel Duchamp plays a mute man who learns to reanimate the dead. Odd comedy ensues.
Hit Man (1972) *** Bernie Casey is grim & compelling & Pam Greer gorgeous as always in this story about “hit” man out to avenge family deaths.
Wednesday (S1 – 2022) ***** Addams Family’s goth girl goes to Hogwarts-like private school & gets wrapped up in murder & ancient prophecy. Fun black comedy.
Ghostwatch **** The BBC pulls a Welles-like Halloween prank in this “real” ghost hunting TV show that goes badly wrong. Nice twists & fake outs.
1899 (S1) ** Thought this show definitely works better dubbed (!) & it ends well, it takes too long to get there. Could have been movie-length.
Max Steiner: Maestro of Movie Music **** Biopic focusing on one of the greatest movie composers of all time. Steiner scored King Kong, Gone with the Wind, & Casablanca.
Stargirl (S3) *** Frienemies is a great concept for a series & ran well ’til near the end when manipulative deaths & comics cliches derailed it. Yes, there were some fun twists & reveals, but Stargirl often didn’t seem the focus. Finale wraps up well, but season still leaves a sour taste.
Midsomer Murders 1-1 The Killings at Badger’s Drift **** My first taste of this long-running mystery series is a good one, as Inspector Barnaby investigates the murder of an elderly woman that’s been made to seem an accident. Strong characters & acting make this a treat.
Doctor Who (relaunch S13) *** Flux was okay, though the previous season’s terrible backstory retcon hangs heavy over the last of Jodie Whittaker’s series. Despite that bit of awfulness & a lot of marginal writing, the Holiday ep with Daleks in the storage unit is great fun & a surprise regeneration at the end of the Yo-Ho-Ho Sea Devil’s pirate bonus episode. Hoping returning Russel T. Davies can right the retcon wrongs.
Midsomer Murders 1-2 Written in Blood **** Amusing mystery involving a local writers’ group, their infighting, & the murder of their host after a guest speaker’s visit.
Countess Dracula *** Ingrid Pitt is Bathory, the title character, who kills young women to retain her youth. Good, but loses the Hammer feeling somehow.
Mysterious Benedict Society, The (S2) **** Another highly amusing season of with our young heroes starting a scavenger hunt & ending up searching for their lost mentor who has been kidnapped by a cult devoted to… Happiness. Plenty of good acting & character stuff, along with action & fun.
Creature with the Atom Brain (Sven) *** Mad scientist reanimates corpses to commit crimes & mayhem. Richard Denning makes it better than you’d think.
Lost Continent, The *** Hammer does of Wheatley novel. Passengers with shady pasts stranded on a ship full of explosives in Sargasso Sea lost world.
Gun Crazy (1950) **** Classic noir of former army man enthralled with sexy trick shooter, but once they hook up, her ambition outstrips their morals. Great.
Midsomer Murders 1-3 Death of a Hollow Man **** When an actor is killed on stage in front of Inspector Barnaby’s wife, it it a terrible accident or murder? Strong family complications.
Titans (S1) **** Robin is totally badass. Raven is a teenager. Kory doesn’t know she’s starfire. Changeling is with Doom Patrol. A fun 1st season!
Midsomer Murders 1-4 Faithful Unto Death **** When a group of Midsomer residents are swindled in a fake investment scam, people start turning up dead. Complex mystery.
Bikini Jones & the Temple of Eros ** Female Indiana-Jones-type searches for the Temple of Eros, but mostly this is just softcore porn. Does have a dinosaur, though
All Babe Network ** Another Retromedia softcore porn venture. Cable TV station discovers its ratings rise the sexier its show hosts become. Silly.
Midsomer Murders 1-5 Death in Disguise **** Barnaby has a number of pretty nutty suspects to sort through to figure out whether a death at a New Age was murder & a 2nd death — this one definitely a murder — complicates things even further. Who is a scam artist & who a true believer?
Santa Claus (1959) ** Production values are pretty good in this strange Mexican flick as Santa Claus battles a Devil sent to stop Christmas Cheer.
Oracle, The (1985) ** Apartment dweller’s bad dreams become prophetic nightmares when she inherits strange Ouija board with a hand planchette that produces automatic writing. Low budget production has some good points, including funny decapitation, but mostly just cheap.
Murder My Sweet (1944) **** Dick Powell is Marlowe in this classic detective film with great cast & production based on Farewell, My Lovely. Early Film Noir.
Midsomer Murders 2-1 Death’s Shadow ***** The Barnabys plans to renew their wedding vows takes a grim turn when people associated with the church & community where they were planning the event (& their daughter’s drama coach) are rocked by a series of gruesome murders.
Farewell, My Lovely (1975) **** Robert Mitchum puts on Marlowe’s hat & dives into the same story as Powell. A good new take, maybe not quite as good as original.
Fallen Angels: Flypaper *** Christopher Lloyd is the Continental Op and Darren McGavin his boss in this good cable adaptation of Hammett’s classic character. Only a half hour or so long, it makes you wish they’d made more. But catch this episode in the Fallen Angels Showtime series.
Midsomer Murders 2-2 Strangler’s Wood **** An advertising model found strangled in the woods reopens the case of a serial killer from years before. Other murders follow. Good.
Die Hard (1988) ***** The classic action movie still holds up nearly 35 years later. Bruce Willis comes to the coast to visit his estranged wife (and children) and instead ends up trapped in Nakatomi Tower, a building full of terrorists with a mysterious agenda. Doesn’t get better than this.
Thin Man, The (1934) ***** Former detective Nick Charles marries socialite Nora & comes out of retirement to solve the case of a missing friend (the titular Thin Man), who is suspected of a series of murders in this genre classic. William Powell & Myrna Loy remain an all-time great duo.
Three Pines (Season 1) **** Inspector Gamache gets wrapped up in murders in the backwoods town of Three Pines, including the ongoing investigation of a First Nations girl gone missing. Moody, well directed, & brilliantly acted, this season contains 4 mysteries broken into 8 parts.
Glass Onion (2022) **** Colorful characters, a great cast, biting satire, some fun mystery & Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc make this a fun romp all around.
His Dark Materials ***** Final season in excellent adaptation of the Pullman books brings Lyra, Will, their friends & allies into a literal battle against heaven.
Midsomer Murders 3-4 Beyond the Grave **** Somehow my streams got tangled up & I watched this episode way out of order. A slashed painting in a mysterious old house leads to ghost sightings & murders which Barnaby & the police must solve before even more people get killed.
Curse of the Cat People *** Eerie story of a young girl haunted by the friendly ghost of her father’s dead wife (from Cat People). Dad should listen to the kid!
Crooks Anonymous *** In order to please his fiancee, a small-time crook joins an organization dedicated to breaking thieves of their ways. Comedy ensues.
Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man **** One of the better of the A&C monster films has Lou donning boxing gloves to prove an accused boxer isn’t guilty of murder. Bud being extra shady & Lou being more on the ball than others adds some spice to this, though the kicker at the end makes no sense.
Alice in Borderland (Season 1) *** Friends being chased take refuge in a bathroom & emerge to find a deserted Tokyo where they must play deadly games or get zapped by space lasers. Based on manga, this has a not-unexpected level of Japanese violence & character deaths. Interesting.
Gantz 0 *** After sacrificing his life, man finds himself reborn as part of a mysterious force who must fight demons or die again. This CGI anime movie billed as “zero” seems to cram a lot of info from the ongoing manga series into an ultra-violent film of under 2 hours.
Dragon Prince, The: Mystery of Aaravos (S4) *** Heroes from the last series are aged up & go through a new fantasy adventures. But separating them at the start keeps the new series from starting up quickly & we’re expected to feel for a former despicable villain, as a sympathetic villain goes even darker.
Tarzan Finds a Son (1939) *** Tarzan & Jane (Weismuller & O’Sullivan) rescue infant from crashed plane & claim him as a son. Relatives want Boy’s inheritance.
Tarzan’s Secret Treasure (1941) *** Boy’s grown into mischievous Johnny Sheffield who mistakenly clues visiting safari to local gold. Greed & conflict follow.
Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942) *** Stranded safari folk take Boy to New York when Tarzan & Jane seem dead. Naturally, T&J follow for wildman in the city hijinx.
Tarzan Triumphs (1943) *** Jane is off to help her sick mom (for re-casting), while Tarzan & Boy help the princess of a lost city taken over by Nazi. Fighting fun!
Witcher, The: Blood Origin (series) **** 1200 years before The Witcher, 7 diverse heroes band together to stop evil forces from forging an elven empire. This 4-episode series is handsomely produced & holds shadows of future Witcher storylines. Also, Michelle Yeoh, who makes everything better.
Tarzan’s Desert Mystery *** (As Jane fights the war in Europe…) Tarzan & Boy help pretty magician delivery secret message to save Arab nation from evil forces.
Nope (2022) **** Horse rancher & his sister seek to bolster their sagging forces by capturing images of UFO that is more sinister than it seems. Fun.
Thin Man, The (1934) ***** Yes, I already watched this film this month, but the Thin Man series is so good that it stands repeated viewings. Problem with that?
After the Thin Man (1936) ***** Nick & Nora are back to help accused friend whose philandering husband is murdered. Nicely twisty. Early Jimmy Stewart role.
Another Thin Man **** Sheldon Leonard is memorable as a “psychic” crook who threatens Nick & Nora’s family — including the detective’s new baby — in this fine outing of the detective-comedy series. Watch for Shemp Howard in the baby birthday party. Fun twists & mystery & solution.

That’s it for 2022!

And there it is, finishing up a very difficult year with the always rewarding Thin Man series.  Thanks TCM, Powell, and Loy!  Love you all!  The astonishing Total for December 2022 was 57 films/series/items.  How I managed that, I’m not entirely sure, though certainly viewing over the long holiday weekends helped.  That brings the staggering GRAND TOTAL FOR 2022 to 564!  Sure, that’s not a record (which is over 700, IIRC), but it’s still a hell of a lot of viewing.  If you wonder what I’m doing when I’m not writing books… Now you know, if you didn’t before.  (Of course, I also read books and comics and spend time with my family, among other things.  Even captive of the pandemic, I still have something resembling a life.  Ha ha.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed following along with me this year (and past years), and I hope you’ll follow along with me in 2023, too.  Thanks for all your support!

NEXT MONTH:  Storming into the New Year (2023) finishing up with the Thin Man and then boldly diving into the continuing Midsomer adventures and more.  I’m sure you’ll find some new things to view as well as old friends ahead.  Join me, why don’tcha?

The Pandemic is sadly still with us!  Let’s End It for Good!
Please…  #VaxUp! #BoostUp! #MaskUp!

Remember, you can support this and all my other writing work, including Frost Harrow, Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors, and more, by joining my Patreon for a buck or two a month, or by dropping me a tip on my Ko-Fi page.  Thanks!