February 2023 Mini-Reviews – Only Murder in the Building (S2) to Pufnstuf

February, of course, flew by.  It’s the shortest month of the year, so it always flies by.  But somehow it seemed to move even faster this year.  I still watched plenty of films, though, including some more Beatles deconstructions and plenty of Midsomer Murders.  Not only that, but I stared with an excellent second season and ended with a film of a childhood series that I didn’t even know existed until recently, never mind that it was actually good.

In another flashback to my childhood, I watched two different recent takes on Scooby-Doo and the gang, both of which focused, in very different ways, on the sexuality of Velma.  I liked one better than the other, though I didn’t hate either.  (Though the best re-take on Scooby in recent years remains Mystery, Inc.)

Plus, I discovered two very good recent superhero series, and checked out the second season of a D&D-inspired anime.  S0, what are you waiting for?  Dive right 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.

Only Murders in the Building (S2) ***** The true-murder podcasting trio is back & this time they’re accused of murder themselves. Plenty of twists & turns & great acting, again.
Twenty Plus Two (1961) *** David Janssen gets sucked into investigating murder & a missing heiress that connects to his past. Pretty by the book.
Midsomer Murders 4-6 Tainted Fruit *** Local sexpot pariah is murdered in her bikini by injected drugs stolen from a local vet & Barnaby must solve similar deaths that follow.
Dragon Age Absolution (S1) *** Based on a video game, this D&D-like story has a team of thieves trying to steal an artifact & dealing with betrayal & hidden pasts. Okay.
Deconstructing the Beatles: ’63 Yeah, Yeah, Yeah ***** Beatles expert, musicologist Scott Freiman returns with more Fab Four band facts as they wend their way to America & worldwide fame.
Georgie Girl *** Lynn Redgrave is a wallflower caught between her free spirit best friend’s love life & an older suitor (James Mason). Great title song.
Monster of Piedras Blancas **** Ocean-going carnivorous monster terrorizes town & pretty lighthouse keeper’s daughter in this notorious low-budget classic. Good.
Deconstructing the Beatles: A Hard Day’s Night ***** Scott Freiman is back with the Beatles’ first film, A Hard Day’s Night, & how it pushed them to even great heights of song-writing & fame.
Deconstructing the Beatles: HELP! ***** Scott Freiman returns with a look at the Beatles’ second film, HELP!, its astounding music, & the progress of the boys’ career.
Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome **** Boris Karloff is Gruesome, Ralph Byrd the definitive movie Tracy, as the two go head to head in a series of macabre robberies. Good fun.
Velma (S1) *** The series is funny at times, & points for pushing the boundaries & trying new things. Not sure t’s the right approach for the Scooby Gang. Often outrageous, but I didn’t hate it.
Trick or Treat, Scooby-Doo **** The media made a lot about Velma’s attraction to a woman in this holiday special (but they weren’t paying enough attention to Mystery Inc.; were they?). Here the flirtation fits in much more naturally with the Scooby tradition than in the VELMA series. Mystery satisfies, too.
Gamache: Still Life – A Three Pines Mystery **** Adaptation of the original Three Pines mystery has an excellent cast & production, but can be thin on details & connections. Still… Surprised they didn’t make more of these. Odd to se “Inspector Lynley” (Nathaniel Parker) as Gamache.
Killer Klowns from Space (Sven) **** The Chiodo Brothers pile on the special effects, gore, & dark humor on this horror-comedy that delivers just what its title says. Love it!
Dark Victory **** Bette Davis is a flighty heiress whose life takes on meaning when she becomes ill & then terminal. Bogart good/odd as “Irish” stable master.
Renovation Island (S2) ****The family battles through the pandemic slowdown & never seems to run out of ideas (or money) to improve their island resort. I watch this show for inspiration for MONSTER SHARK ON A NUDE BEACH. The location is great.
Last of Sheila, The **** A year after his wife, Sheila, is killed in a hit-and-run, James Coburn invites those who might have done it on a “mystery” cruise to play games of his own devising. But it soon becomes obvious that his games have a wicked purpose & some of his friends are making things dangerous. Solid & interesting mystery by Anthony Perkins & Stephen Sondheim (!), this is cited as a main inspiration for GLASS ONION. Great cast.
Fantastic Voyage ***** Blu-ray restoration makes this SciFi classic look better than ever. Crew is miniaturized with sub to perform an operation inside a defector.
Boys, The (S1) **** Dark humored & cynical superhero series in which the “heroes” work for a corporation & citizens get hurt, but The Boys are out for justice.
Invincible (S1) **** Colorful superhero animation about son of a “superman” character & his teen hero friends. A little predictable but with likable characters.
Legend of Vox Machina, The (S2) *** The rude talking Dungeons & Dragons-style adventurers return to battla a cabal of ultra-powerful dragons. Charming but predictable.
Solaris ***** Tarkovsky’s classic SciFi film about people aboard a space station circling a living planet who start to see “things.” Moody, thoughtful.
Condemned to Live *** Man’s mother is bitten by vampire bat when he’s in utero & later becomes a Jekyll-Hyde-type vampire killer, complicating his love life.
Duel **** Early Steven Spielberg film pits Dennis Weaver against a homicidal, rusty Big Rig & its mysterious driver. Good TV film released to the movies.
Midsomer Murders 5-1 Market for Murder ***** The local book club is really a secret ladies’ investment club & they’re making good money in the market until someone starts killing them.
Midsomer Murders 5-2 A Worm in the Bud **** When two children find a woman “sleeping” in the woods, nobody will believe them — until the woman turns up dead. Despite this, adults keep refusing to listen to what the children tell them, until Barnaby realizes that the tots may hold the key to solving the case.
Midsomer Murders 5-3 Ring Out Your Dead ***** A Midsomer group of church bell-ringers has a chance at winning a big competition, until one by one their members turn up dead.
Midsomer Murders 5-4 Murder on St. Malley’s Day **** The annual boys’ race at a private school turns tragic when the son of a prominent graduate dies before he can reach the finish. Barnaby & Troy must piece together clues from the past and present to solve the boy’s death & the murders that follow.
Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, The (restored – smile box) **** This George Pal family classic looks better than it ever has in the new restoration & can be seen in either widescreen or “smile box,” which approximates the feeling of the Cinerama widescreen process. The production is great, the fairy tales fun, though it drags a bit near end.
Rescuing a Fantasy Classic ***** Fascinating look at the digital restoration of THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM shows the magic of the process.
Return of the Living Dead 2 ** A zombie from the first film gets let loose to spread its kind in this “sequel” with plenty of makeup FX but none of the original’s charm.
Avenue 5 (S2) **** Satirical space opera returns with its wacky & self-involved characters plus a cannibal, a revolution, & more hi-jinks. Frequently hilarious.
Harley Quinn – A very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special **** Harley sets out to give Ivy the Best Valentine’s Day ever, whether she wants it or not. This leads to lots of violence & plenty of sexual jokes, humping, & general chaos, though I’m not sure whether the pixilation makes it funnier or just annoys me.
L’Avventura **** Michelangelo Antonioni’s nouveau-real suspense drama about woman who disappears leaving her friends to wonder what really happened.
Heavy Metal 2000 * Follow up to the bawdy, irreverent animation classic has some of the nudity but none of the charm. This whole story would have been one 20-minute segment in the original & would have been better off that way. CGI looks dated, animation sloppy. Music boring.
Poirot (S4) **** The 3 feature-length episodes of this season were fun, but I prefer the shorter eps, or at least a mix. Still, great portrayal & good mysteries.
King of the Zombies **** Billed 3rd (in larger type) Mantan Moreland is the real star of this SF/Horror flick of Nazi zombie plot. HIs manservant is comedy gold.
War of the Gargantuas (Sven) **** Two ape-like giants, one brown & good, one green man-eater, battle each other in Japan. Some great Kaiju battles & SPFX. Classic.
Midsomer Murders 6-1 A Talent for Life **** Septuagenarian “wild child” (Honor Blackman) & her lover turn up dead by a local fly-fishing stream after she’s suspected of fishing against the rules. Heirs circle her estate like gadflies & of course the murders don’t stop there. Another fine feature-length episode of Midsomer Murders.
Waxwork **** A mysterious magician comes to town, bringing an eerie wax museum that transports people into its scenarios to kill them. Clever.
Pufnstuf (1970) **** The wacky kids’ TV series becomes a self-contained movie musical with trippy characters & scenes & a good song by Mama Cass Elliot.

And with that surprise, we conclude the February edition of mini-reviews.  Plenty of fun stuff bolstered by my love of mysteries to keep my brain satisfied.  41 new entries for a Grand Total of… 90! Pretty good start to the year.

NEXT MONTH:  Yet more Midsomer Murder!  And more Beatles!  A new mystery series as fine as any I’ve ever seen, some Bob Hope classics, and a heaping helping of leprechauns!

Another friend got covid this month! Let’s End the Pandemic for Good!
Please…  #VaxUp! #BoostUp! #MaskUp!

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