Well, holy heck… Where has May gone, and shouldn’t I have posted about my April films by now?
Answer 1, I’m not entirely sure; answer 2, yeah probably, but…
As noted in a previous post, I’ve been super busy putting some Big Projects to rest. MONSTER SHARK ON A NUDE BEACH is now complete and as of June will be releasing new chapters twice a week, every week, until the book/serial finishes up in July.
Plus, my wife and I just celebrated our 35th Wedding Anniversary with a short vacation trip, the first one we’ve been on since the pandemic started. (Not over yet, sadly, though nobody but us is wearing masks anymore.) And despite all that, I still got a lot of movies watched in May… But we’re not done with APRIL yet!
Got back to my SWORD & SORCERY movie project — trying to find the best made before 2000 — and did both the BEASTMASTER series and the mind-numbing ATOR series. How much will I like the Beastmasters? Is there anything worth watching in the Ators? I did the entire MUMMY series as well. Plus more Midsomer Muders (of course), more BEATLES (including MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR), a surprising Jonny Quest team-up, and plenty more. Fun starts below!
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.
Abbott & Costello Meet the Mummy (Sven) *** Probably the least of the Abbott & Costello monster movies still has plenty of entertaining sequences & pretty shoddy mummy costume(s).
Midsomer Murders 7-5 The Maid in Splendour **** The shotgun murder of a young man is somehow intertwined with the sale to a developer of a local pub. More murders ensue, naturally.
Core, The **** The spin of the Earth’s core has stopped spinning & hero scientists must burrow into the planet to restart it. Absurd premise but much fun.
Clue **** Madcap mystery based on the classic board game has all-star cast chewing scenery to great effect. Multiple endings add to entertainment.
Big Steal, The *** Robert Mitchum, William Bendix, & Jane Greer chase each other & a man named Fiske over a pile of stolen loot. Plenty of chases, action.
Before Dawn *** Police hire a (real) psychic to help them find missing fortune that may be in an old haunted house.Interesting crime vs. supernatural.
M3GAN **** Toy designer becomes an overnight mom when her sister dies & uses a prototype android “doll” to help her parent. Doll goes berserk.
Midsomer Murders 7-6 The Straw Woman ***** When local minister is burned inside a ritual straw woman, it’s only the first of a series of terrible burning deaths for Barnaby to solve.
Descent ** Cast including Michael Dorn bores into the earth to prevent Ring of Fire from burning the Earth in nearly beat-for-beat copy of The Core.
Dragonslayer ***** Spectactular Phil Tippett dragon FX highlights story of young man trying to take his wizard mentor’s place & save a village, kingdom, & girl.
Golden Child, The *** Eddy Murphy seems miscast as a finder of missing children battling hellish forces & demons to find the titular child. Rote with good SPFX.
Lost Leonardo, The **** Art buyers locate a painting in the US that may be a missing Da Vinci portrait of Jesus. But after highly skilled restoration, the controversial work gets swept up into the high-priced art world, where it becomes part of a scheme to defraud a Russian billionaire, the highest priced painting ever sold at auction, and eventually, probably the cornerstone of a Saudi art collection intended to bring world respect — while still possibly NOT being a Da Vinci painting. Excellent and interesting doccumentary.
Hawk the Slayer *** Low budget fantasy about Hawk a swordsman looking for revenge on his brother (Jack Palance) who’s killed his girl & taken his kingdom.
Wizards of the Lost Kingdom ** Bo Svenson’s charm is wasted on this standard fantasy heavily padded with clips from other Corman films. Boy with fuzzy teddy-bear & Chewbaka-like friend tries to reclaim his family’s kingdom after it’s taken by an evil wizard. Svenson’s Kor helps. Unmemorable.
Old Dark House, The (Sven) **** James Whale classic give it’s name to the trope of travelers traped in the titular Old Dark House with eerie family. Interesting production.
Ator: TheFighting Eagle ** Miles O’Keefe’s Ator wants to marry his sister, who’s fortunately really not his sister (though he didn’t know this at the time). When she’s kindnapped by spider-loving bad guys, Ator must find & rescue her. Fully deserving of the MST3K treatment it got. 3 (!) more follow.
Blade Master, The (Ator 2) ** Ator is back for another boring, anachronistic (hang glider & nuclear bomb) & unmemorable adventure. More MST3K. Only 2 more to go!
Ten Commandments, The ***** Demille’s remake of his earlier picture exceeds nearly every Biblical epic in nearly every way. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s over the top, & I love every minute of it. Heston and Brynner are worthy foes, the special effects, sets, & costumes still look great in 4K, & I still find it moving.
Sister Boniface Mysteries (S1) ***** This charming Father Brown spin-off features a charming one-nun CSI in a small town where the police actually appreciate her help.
Solomon Kane *** Because every hero seems to need an origin in movies now, we get an unneeded backstory for someone who resembles Solmon Kane more in name than in relation to the classic R.E. Howard puritan monster hunter. Not a bad film, but… Pick another name.
Lost World, The (pilot 1999) *** Henson workshop had a hand in this pilot for the TV series. Good cast, decent CGI for the time. Lead into the series hurts the film’s “end.”
Avatar: The Way of Water **** Camero’s story & themes are straightforward, but you come to his flicks for the amazing visuals & exciting action climaxes & they’re great.
Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time *** Dar & his animal friends fight a wizard whose spells take them all to Earth (& back). Low budget but many amusing & fun moments.
Beastmaster 3: The Eye of Braxus *** The ferrets, a hawk, & a lion are back for Marc Singer’s last outing as Dar, against another evil wizard: David Warner. The story has nearly everything you’d expect in a Dungeons & Dragons-inspired fantasy & is charming despite its made-for-TV roots. Cool rubber monster, too.
This Island Earth (Sven) **** Svengoolie’s version of the film doesn’t look as good as the TCM HD version, but it’s still an SF classic with good to excellent FX. Earth scientists are lured to a research facility only to learn they’ve been recurited to help in an interplanetary war. Classic mutant monster.
Iron Warrior (Ator 3) *** Miles O’Keefe is back as Ator with an actual fantasy story & scenes that make sense. I enjoyed this, more for the effort than the direction. The story has a fairly standard D&D feel to it, but that’s a big step up for an Ator film & production is handsome. Scant hit or near miss?
Fire & Ice **** Ralph Bakshi never had the money to make thigns as epic as he wanted, but the Frazetta influence & designs show through in this fairly standard fantasy story about kingdoms of ice & fire (where have we heard that recently) clashing. Sexy women, buff men, good animation.
Beastmaster **** Prince with super-strange birth story becomes mighty warrior with connection to & friendship with beasts, including a hawk, a black tiger, & charming ferrets. Mark Singer is charming as the title character in this & the rest of the series. There’s plenty of sword & sorcery stuff here, a bit of nudity, & probably 1 more “ending” than it needs, plus creepy bird/bat people who surround you & turn you to bones. Fun.
Deconstructing the Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band ***** These 90-minute examinations of the Beatles’ career & albums always have plenty of cool stuff in them, but I often find myself wishing Scott Frieman would cover more about some of my favorite songs. Still, he always covers the “important” ones, so that’s a small quibble.
Tom & Jerry: Spy Quest **** You wouldn’t think that a team-up between Tom & Jerry and Jonny Quest would be as successful & fun as this — but it is. As a longtime fan of all the characters, I think the T&J bits at the start ring true & the Quest team looks better than they have since the classic original.
Mandalorian (S3) ***** Mando & Grogu spend the season with various Mandalorian factions, including Bo-Katan, leading to a super-exciting finish. Great.
Midsomer Murders 7-7 Ghosts of Christmas Past **** Family members of a man who committed suicide gather for Christmas many years later. But when a note in Christmas cracker predicts that someone will dy by Boxing Day, & an old woman does, Barnaby & Scott must untangle deades of family secrets.
Picard (S3) **** Picard reuinites with most of the Next Generation crew to stop a mysterious threat to the Federation’s anniversary celebrations. Performances are great but characters not-too-smart at key points, thereby extending the storyline. A bold try with strong feel-good moments & a satisfying “end” for Picard and his longtime crew.
Jodorowsky’s Dune **** Cult filmmaker’s plans for making a film of Dune involved creating a cult of his own to make it with him. Fascinating & weird. Super talent.
Hello Down There *** Family film with Tony Randall & Janet Leigh bringing their clan of music-making kids to live underwater, inc. Richard Dreyfus. All-ages fun.
Shadow & Bone (S1) **** Steam-punkinsh European fantasy analog world is split in half by a shadowy, treacherous void. Prophecy says a Sun Summoner will appear amid the magic-wielding Grisha… “Chosen One” trope enlivened by good settings & charming, roguish supporting characters.
Mummy, The (1999) ***** Brendan Frasier & Rachel Weisz shine & Arnold Vosloo menaces in this wonderful mix of classic mummy films & Indiana Jones action.
Mole People, The **** Considered a minor Universal horror film, this story of a lost underground civilization has interesting ideas & great monster costumes.
Mummy Returns, The *** Fine cast is back, but everything-and-the-kitchen sink CGI fest adds annoying “Chosen One” backstories & bad Scorpion King face CGI.
Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, The **** Evie is recast & the kid has grown, but Brendan is back & they wisely decided to try for a different type of mummy–from China. Add in some CGI yeti & 2 armies of the dead, but the real bonus is Jet Li & Michelle Yeoh, who are worth +1 * on their own.
Scorpion King, The **** Strong Sword & Sorcery flick re-tools the Rock’s character from the Mummy series as a Conanesque action hero + magical Kelly Hu.
Midsomer Murders 8-1 Things That Go Bump in the Night **** A spiritualist cult is competing with the local churches, so it’s not surprising when the factions clash. Nor shoudl it be surprising that the first murder in the story isn’t the last & the only person benefiting from the competition is the local undertaker. Barnaby remains skeptical.
Midway (2019) ***** Not only a rousing good war movie, but surprisingly historically accurate in many respects. Knockout special effects. I loved it.
Perry Mason (S2) ***** The murder trial is just as complex but the characters & performances get even deeper in a great 2nd season. Can’t wait for season 3!
Deadly Mantis, The *** There’s an awful lot of stock footage & the characters & romance are tropes, but giant bug is amusing & makes a good watch/re-watch.
Murdoch Mysteries (S1) **** Police detective Murdoch has a gift for solving weird crimes in the late 19th & early 20th century. Historical cameos, interesting cast.
Midsomer Murders 8-2 Dead in the Water **** The body that washes up belong to a man who seemingly slept with everyone connected to the rowing regatta, but whether that’s what got him killed or if it was something else is the mystery that Barnaby & Scott must solve. A good puzzler.
DC League of Super Pets **** Family fun. Superman is kidnapped, Krypto must unite with not-so-super pets to fight an evil Lexcorp Guinea pig. Funny post credits bit.
Quest for the Magic Sword (a.k.a. Ator 4 a.k.a. Troll 3 (?!)) * Ator series goes out with a thud & a new actor in the lead role. Even a story stolen from Wagner’s Ring (& a better print) can’t save this.
Magical Mystery Tour *** This film is just as weird & near-incoherent as you’ve probably heard. Yet, there are some amusing & charming things + great songs.
Destroy All Monsters (Sven) **** Sven having 2.5 hours means that he doesn’t have to cut movies anymore. Unfortunately, he only has access to the inferior International Dub of Destroy All Monsters, which isn’t as good as the Titra/Titan dub or the Japanese original. Still great giant monsters, though!
James Paul McCartney (1973) *** TV special with Paul & Wings doing a lot of their songs, some live, some in music-video style. Some hometown segments. Good music.
Deconstructing the Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour ***** Another deep dive into the Beatles, this one focused on the psychedelic insanity of the Beatles’ hour-long TV movie, looks at the influences, the history, & how MMT was released as 2 EPs in England and and LP in the US. Informative as always.
Cutthroat Island (1995) **** Geena Davis is a pirate queen leading her cutthroats to find a near mythical lost treasure. Plenty of action & great sets & music. Fun.
Despite April being a huge writing month for me (18 Atomic Tales stories, IIRC), I somehow also managed to watch 54 movies/series in the month, too. Which brings the grand total to the year to 203! Not bad for the first 1/3 of 2023.
NEXT MONTH: I’m not even sure where the month of May has gone, aside from finishing up old stuff, some family medical stuff, having an old car break forcing us to get a new one, and our first anniversary trip in 3 years… Oh, wait… Maybe that was enough. But you can bet that, despite all that, I’ve got a bunch of new films and shows coming up, including ANT MAN 3 and SHAZAM! 2. Tune in and find out what else is brewing.
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