Holy Jumping Grasshoppers! Where did April go?!
Here it is, the last day of the month, and I haven’t posted the MARCH reviews yet!
I can tell you exactly where April went: It went to me writing drafts of 18 new stories/episodes of ATOMIC TALES: STRANGE INVADERS — finishing up that storyline entirely. (Though at the rate of 1 a month, the episodes will still be coming out in early 2025.) Though doing that was completely insane (and stressful), it was also totally worth it, because it now allows me to focus on just writing (or rather finishing) just one thing at a time. At least for a while. 😉
Before that, though, in March, I watched a whole bunch of movies and series. I went through the entire Leprechaun series of films, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. I continued my dive through the 23 seasons and counting of Midsomer Murders — with more than 2/3rds of the series still to go. And one of the episodes had a resolution so brilliant it rivaled the great Christie novels. I also wrapped up one of the best new detective shows in ages. (You’ll have to read the reviews to find out what it is.) I also “hosted” the Gary Con Film Festival on Twitch (again), put together by my pal Derek M. Koch.
Plus, there’s a Kubrick film, a new treat from my buddy Joshua Kennedy, and much more. 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.
Colossus of New York *** Genius inventors’ brain is transplanted into a robot body, but cut off from humanity goes berserk. Interesting piano-only score.
Hackers (1995) *** Arrested as a kid, teen hacker gets pulled back into a world of cyber espionage to save his hacker friends. Standard but enjoyable.
Queen of Blood (1966) **** When an emmisary from another world crashes, the Earth sends a rescue ship. But the alien they rescue is a blood-drinking fiend. Fun.
Dark Shadows – Set 14 ***** The 1897 story swings into high gear with vampire Barnabas, Werewolf Quentin, evil Reverend Trask, and even a Phoenix. Prime DS!
Blob, The **** Classic teen monster movie with Steve McQueen & friends trying to save their town from the titular all consuming monster. Great stuff!
Curse of the Werewolf (Sven) *** Oliver Reed & werewolf are a lot of fun, but he shows up far too late amid ugly, misogynist backstory. Barely manages to save film.
Wanted: Jane Turner *** Gloria Stuart (Titanic) is intrepid postal detective pursuing all forms of mail fraud & catching criminals with her male partner. Interesting.
Midsomer Murders 6-2 Death & Dreams **** An elaborately rigged shotgun “suicide” sets off a series of baffling murders near a mental health hospital run by an old friend of Det. Tom Barnaby. Interesting episode, though the denoument/solution is a bit of a letdown.
In the Mood for Love ***** Wong Kar Wai’s excellent study of a man & woman brought together by loneliness & cheating spouses, who never quite connect.
History of the World Part I *** Mel Brooks’ parody trips through various historical eras. Some bits are brilliant & hilarious; others fall short. Inquisition not to be missed.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula **** Coppola’s lush, lavish adaptation goes all in on the Dan Curtis notion of Dracula’s lost love & pretty much pulls it off. Good score & SPFX.
Midsomer Murders 6-3 Painted in Blood **** Taking a painting class, Joyce Barnaby discovers the body of a fellow painter, which leads to an investigation into a criminal in hiding & a whole lot of missing money. Entertaining denoument wraps this one up nicely.
Ghost Breakers, The **** Bob Hope & Paulette Goddard are firing on all cylinders as the investigate a creepy old mansion she’s inherited. A well done film, but the cliche black servant character bugged me, despite having some agency. (He’s no Mantan Moreland.)
Cat & the Canary, The (1939) **** Hope & Goddard star in a very faithful horror-comedy adaptation of the original stage play about heirs in a spooky old house.
Waxwork 2: Lost in Time *** Points for carrying on directly from the ending of the first film, but sending people to various eras doesn’t have the charm of the original.
Poker Face (S1) ***** Natasha Lyonne as Charlie carries this episodic mystery show created by Ryan Johnson through a funny & brilliant first season. You may not love every episode, but there are still plenty of episodes to love here. Can’t wait for season 2.
Cat & the Canary, The (audio commentary) **** A well-researched audio like this one can add to your enjoyment of a good film like Cat & the Canary. Worth listening.
Midsomer Murders 6-4 A Tale of Two Hamlets **** The explosion of a well known movie/TV star kicks off the murder investigations around the man’s friends & family. Rivalries between two nearby towns complicate things, but when a 2nd family member is killed, it seems becomes someone has it out for them. But… Why?
Pitch Black **** This outer space SF/H film made Vin Diesel a star as Riddick, the criminal with eyes that let him see in the dark — which is good, because the planet the cast has crashed on has monsters that only come out at night & a long night is about to fall.
Island of Lost Souls (Sven) ***** Charles Laughton is the mad Dr. Moreau & Bud Westmore did a whole trime of creepy looking manimal makeups for this horror classic which includes Bela Lugosi as the leader of the beast-men, the Sayer of the Law.
Time Machine, The (1960) ***** George Pal’s classic SF film takes time traveller Rod Taylor from the turn of the 20th century to a future filled with menacing morlocks.
Gulliver’s Travels (1939) **** The Fleisher Brothers’ response to Disney’s Snow White is beautifully animated & almost as engaging. Needs a top-notch restoration.
Last of Us, The (S1) ***** After a fungus turns humans to monsters, a tough guy tries to take a teen girl across country to find a cure for humanity. Top notch.
Midsomer Murders 6-5 Birds of Prey **** Murders start with a man trying to get out of a questionable investment & somehow involve bird watchers & a man obsessed with collecting eggs. Barnaby works on the case while Troy hangs out with a pretty wildlife agent. A fun episode.
Midsomer Murders 7-1 The Green Man **** When Joyce is almost buried helping restore a canal tunnel, bodies are discovered from an ancient cave in, but one proves more modern & is somehow wrapped up with a “mad” hermit (David Bradley) & a gang of bullying teens, one of whom (Henry Cavil) also ends up dead. Last episode with Sgt. Troy.
Armageddon **** Bruce Willis leads a ragtag team of oil drillers into space to crack an asteroid set to destroy Earth. Silly, over-the-top fun. One of Bay’s best.
Midsomer Murders 7-2 Bad Tidings **** Sgt. Dan Scott joins the force as Baraby tackles the case of a murdered college secretary that may have something to do with a reunion of Cully’s old friends who haven’t seen each other in ten years. Nice to see more of Cully, even though her friends are jerks.
Leprechaun *** An evil leprechaun & his gold are dug up. Then the imp takes revenge on the fmaily coveting his treasure. Template for the film series.
Leprechaun 2 ** The evil leprechaun returns, this time in New York, & kills a bunch of people that I didn’t much like. A step down from the original.
Leprechaun 3 **** The Leprechaun brings his chaos & bloodshed to Las Vegas in the series most amusing entry to date. Plenty of silly satire plus usual gore.
Leprechaun 4: In Space *** Though the premise seems absurd, putting the Leprechaun into a SciFi environment proves one of the series’ most engaging outings.
Konga (Sven) *** Michael Gough chews scenery as a lusty mad scientist who turns a chimp into a giant ape to wreak revenge on his enemies. Dopey fun.
Fiddler on the Roof **** Topol is the father of 5 girls, a milkman trying to make his way in a Jewish community in pre-soviet Russia. Great music. Strong production.
Leprechaun in the Hood (5) ** Putting the evil leprechaun into a black neighborhood works better than you’d think but the characters didn’t grab me in this series entry.
Midsomer Murders 7-3 The Fisher King **** Excavation of an ancient barrow leads to the discovery of a spear that goes missing only to turn up decades later as a murder weapon.
Deconstructing the Beatles: Revolver ***** Professor Scott Freiman takes a fascinating look inside one of the Beatles’ key albums, Revolver. While his lecture doesn’t spend as much time on some of the songs as I would like, this series is still an amazing look inside the creative process of one of the greatest bands ever.
Leprechaun Back 2 tha Hood (6) *** Surprisingly, the evil leprechaun is back in the Hood & this film has a much more engaging cast & works much better. Amusing.
Mr. Nice Guy **** Despite a surprising amount of brutality in this Sammo Hung directed entry, there’s still plenty of Jackie Chan battles here. Jackie plays a chef who gets swept up in a gang war when he bumps into a beautiful reporter. The warehouse fight scene is a highlight not to be missed.
Theseus & the Minotaur (2017) **** Joshua Kennedy spins a lack of money into low-budget gold in this classical tale of a hero battling stop-motion monsters & an evil king.
Giants of Thessaly, The **** King Jason sets out to save Thessaly from a series of disasters & has a voyage reminiscent of the Odyssey, including battling a cyclops.
Manos: The Hands of Fate **** I love this crazy, low-budget, homemade horror film about a family on vacation running into a crazed cult & their Master. Not good, but fun.
Midsomer Murders 7-4 Sins of Commission ***** Expertly killed bodies start piling up at a village’s annual author festival, an event beset filled with petty rivalries & jealousies among authros, publishers, & editors. Not only is the publishing industry pretty spot on, this features a solution worthy of the best Agatha Christie.
Giant of Marathon **** Steve Reves is Philipides in a story based on the battle of Marathon (300 Spartans). Varies wildly from history & has lots of intrigue trying to keep the hero from battle, Including seduction by Charis, a woman happy to have his body if not love. Sea battle climaxes with woman tied to the front of a ship & underwater fighting. Direction by Tourneur & Bava help put this Sword & Sandal epic above the rest.
Colossus & the Headhunters ** Maciste & his people escape from their doomed island & join another tribe beset by a murderous tribe of “headhunters.” Standard stuff.
Blood Thirst *** A series of nightclub murders leads a detective to a strange bloodthirsty cult & lumpy monster. Slow but with beautiful photogrpahy.
Bloodsuckers ** Nearly incoherent film about a young man, dropping out, going to Greece & turning on to a cult that might or might not feature a vampire. The trippy scenes are clumsy & badly edited. In fact, nearly every scene in the film is a mess, the result (apparently) of running out of funds. Late 60s hippy & drug culture trappings can’t save it, nor the Wheatley-like “satanic” cult aspect, nor even Peter Cushing in a brief part.
Hercules Against the Moon Men *** Aliens come to Earth to drain the blood of beautiful woman & battle heroic strongman. Has a great Dungeons & Dragons-like sequence where our hero is beset by numerous traps and then underground monsters. Plus some very cool rock monsters & an extended sandstorm portrayed in MST3K as “Deep Hurting.”
Samson Against the Pirates ** Bare-chested man fights to free enslaved beautiful women from pirates in a film that would have felt more natural as a sword & sandal.
Blood of Dracula (Sven) *** Young woman is sent to girls’ school by newly married father & ends up under sway of evil shrink who turns her into a vampire-like killer.
Hercules vs. Moloch *** Hercules returns to Mycenae where local religion has been replaced with the sacrificial cult of Moloch. The usual strongman fun.
Daisy Jones & the Six (S1) **** The lives & loves of a fictional 70s rock band notable for strong performances, good new music, & excellent period music. A bit predictable.
Filmed in Supermarionation ***** Overview of the puppet TV shows of Gerry Anderson. Good inside look at the studios trials & tribulations. Lady Penelope & Parker narrate.
Gerry Anderson: A Life Uncharted **** Bittersweet documentary by Gerry’s last son of his father’s career with emphasis on his difficult family life as well as the TV shows.
Paths of Glory ***** Kirk Douglas stars in Kubrick’s anti-war study of a futile French attack in WWI & the terrible aftermath & trial that followed. Classic.
Innsmouth School for Girls **** Joshua Kennedy’s film has a touch of Dark Shadows along with its Lovecraft & some very moody photography & FX. End feels rushed.
Quo Vadis ***** Melodrama about a Roman soldier who falls in love with a Christian woman. Biblical epic fun with Ustinov a hoot as Rome-burning Nero.
Leprechaun: Origins ** Alleged reboot of the Leprechaun franchise somehow felt it necessary to make the Leprechaun a weird inhuman monster. Why bother? Irish(?) hicks conspire to trap vacationers in an old house so that they will be killed by the “leprechaun” beast. Proceeds as expected.
Leprechaun Returns *** Group of college students tries to turn an old house into an eco-showplace but instead disturbs evil Leprechaun. Like the original series.
Warlock **** Warlock is reborn in modern times, but so is his adversary. Both then create chaos & complicate woman’s life. Better than expected.
I have to say, that the Leprechaun films held some unexpected delights. The Kubrick film was amazing, and my wife and I can hardy wait for the next season of Poker Face! Plus, Midsomer Murders can continue forever, as far as I’m concerned. One of the great mystery series.
The total for the month is a towering 60, which brings the yearly total to 149 — not bad for the first quarter. With the insane amount of writing I did in April, we’ll soon see how that month stacks up.
NEXT MONTH: I finally get back to seriously looking for the greatest Sword & Sorcery films of all time — an epic (and frustrating) quest if ever there was one. Also, we continue our tour through the Beatles’ deconstruction, with my wife and I watching Magical Mystery Tour for the first time! That, plus the usual plethora of monsters and other stuff. See you then!
Five of my friends (among many others) got covid in March! This aint’ over yet!
Let’s End the Pandemic for Good!
Please… #VaxUp! #BoostUp! #MaskUp!
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