July 2023 Mini-Reviews – Eyes in the Night to Shark Week 2023 (M-Th)

So, July rushed right by, not only because I was busy, but also because the month ended up with Shark Week and with a much anticipated actual vacation stretching into the start of August.

However, it was a blockbuster month in terms of finishing up some outstanding series, including the final episode ever of Endeavour, which was the final episode of the trilogy of shows in the Inspector Morse series begun more than 30 years ago.  Was it worth the wait?  Read the reviews below and find out.

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.

Note that some shows I’ve given a parenthetical star rating, either adding or subtracting stars, depending on how your amusement may differ from mine.  I’ve explained the meaning in the reviews themselves.

Eyes in the Night (1942) **** Edward Arnold is a blind detective who pretends to be a woman’s uncle to sort out a shady romance & possible espionage. Superior.
Father Brown (S10) ***** New cast members (replacing departing old ones) & the return of an old character shake up the 2023 season of Father Brown & that seems to bring the series new verve & a good raft of mysteries has me hoping FB continues 10 more seasons. Great, cozy fun.
Car, The (Sven – 1977) *** A demonic car causes havoc & kills a lot of people in a desert town. Has the stars & feel of a TV movie but quite good.
Endeavour: Exeunt (9-3 Finale) ***** The final episode of Endeavour — and of the “Morse-verse” series of shows — wraps up ideas & plotlines that have been around for most of the series, & solves not only a cold case but also several fresh murders, some of whose deaths have been announced in the paper before the actual events. Everybody in the cast gets a send off. The Thursdays get a wedding. Morse brings a lot of justice, some to those who have evaded it for a long while. And we get some resolutions that have been foreshadowed but we maybe didn’t want. In all, it’s a great send-off to a great series of detective series. Even more amazing, every story of this series — all 36 feature-length episodes — was written by the series creator, Russell Lewis. An amazing job, truly well done. Now let’s watch MORSE again.
Deconstructing the Beatles: Abbey Road ***** Last of the series (for now, anyway) has Scott Freiman examining the Beatles’ final album, ABBEY ROAD, over 2 discs. Always excellent.
Cat Creeps, The **** A journalist & his photographer travel to a creepy old dark house on an island to see if an old death is murder or suicide & hunt for treasure. Little seen Universal is another take on Cat & the Canary horror-mystery whodunit. Amusing cast & good production.
JAWS ***** Spielberg’s mega-hit remains one of his best films, with great actors, characters, writing, & a giant shark eating people on Amity Island.
Fabelmans, The *** Spielberg’s pseudo-biography has a lot of interesting points & characters, but lacks the punch to really linger in the imagination. It also, sadly, has the infamous (to me, anyway) double ending that has marred a lot of director’s recent works. Sure, the final anecdote is a fun and memorable one, and well acted, but it really doesn’t add anything to the story of Spielberg’s mother & her strained & strange relationships with his dad & another man. Rest of the family fades to background.
Road to Morocco, The ***** Bob Hope & Bing Crosby end up in stereotypical “modern” Arabia, fall for the same girl, & run afoul of a sheik in one of the series’ best.
Road to Zanzibar, The **** Bob & Bing set their sights on a treasure hidden in Darkest Africa. A lot of funny moments even poking fun at stereotypes. A good one.
Midsomer Murders 10-8 Death in a Chocolate Box **** Barnaby & Jones investigate a murder in a community composed entirely of reformed convicts, including at least one murderer.
Meg, The **** Jason Statham’s buff marine biologist battles a megalodon escaped from a deep water trench environment. Fun multinational production.
Secret of the Blue Room **** First & best of the Blue Room movies (others are remakes) in which men are dared to spend overnight in a mysterious room, at the risk of their own lives. Naturally, someone goes missing & someone ends up dead. Strong cast includes Lionel Atwill, Gloria Stuart, Paul Lukas.
Return of the Fly **** Son of the original fly recreates his dad’s experiment & sabotage gives him the same horrible result. Vincent Price returns, too. Enjoyable.
Ghoulies (Sven) *** Satanic ritual looses weird little monsters to wreak havoc on the locals. Part of the 1980s Gremlins gory knock-off craze but still amusing.
Road to Utopia, The ***** Another of the best Bob & Bing Road Pictures finds the boys headed to Alaska to find gold & mistaken for notorious outlaws. Very funny.
Gorgo **** A giant dinosaur-like beast is found in an Irish isle & taken to London for display, in this Kong-like monster film. Great monster suit fun.
Midsomer Murders 11-2 Blood Wedding ***** As Cully plans her own wedding, Barnaby & Jones discover a the maid of honor at another wedding pinned to a cabinet by an ancient weapon. The mystery that follows combines more ancient weaponry with some Old Dark House material for a very entertaining whole.
Greased Lightning (1977) **** Richard Pryor plays the first black Nascar driver who works his way up from bootlegger to champion despite prejudices. Good cast.
Kennel Murder Case, The (1933) *** Philo Vance (William Powell) tries to solve the mystery of a murdered dog show competitor (& an injured dog) in this amusing series entry.
Renovation Island (S1-3) **** The family seems to have the island renovation under control & concentrates more & more on their Florida home in the last season to date.
Road to Bali, The *** Bob & Bing are off to exotic isles filled with beautiful women in this standard series film. Being in color doesn’t improve this installment.
Shadow on the Wall (1950) **** Witnessing a killing sends a child into the care of Nancy Davis, who attempts to cure her, not knowing that the murderer lurks nearby.
Invaders from Mars (1953) ***** New restoration makes brings the amazing colors to full life in this classic about a boy who sees a spacecraft land but no one believes him.
Jurassic Park: Camp Cretaceous (S1) *** Kids go to Jurassic Park for a kind of summer camp, with killer dinosaurs. Animated series is a strange mix of humor & dinosaur horror.
Poirot (S5) **** Eight Poirot mysteries comprise this series. Production values remain high, mysteries entertaining. All episodes after this are feature length.
Ghoulies 2 (Sven) *** The ghoulies reappear & take up residence in a carnival “dark ride” to cause havoc & kill people. More silly but fun 1980s horror-comedy.
Hooper (1978) **** Burt Reynolds stars as an aging stuntman trying to keep his job against younger competition in a film filled to the brim with amazing stunts.
Unknown: Cave of Bones **** Fascinating documentary about the discovery of a deep, perilous cave in which a non-human branch of the family tree buried their dead.
Godzilla: Singular Point (S1) ***(*) Unique take on the Toho kaiju are the highlight of this anime of the world in peril because of weird problems. Extra star for monster fans.
Midsomer Murders 11-1 Shot at Dawn ***** Murders by remote control are somehow linked to the (wrongful) WWI execution of a local boy for cowardice. Barnaby & Jones must fight their way through decades of family feuding & local traditions related to the war dead.
All the Devil’s Angels (Satanic Sickies) ** After a long layoff, I returned to checking out the first set of Satanic Sickies, adult films inspired by The Exorcist & similar supernatural genre films. In this flick, a doctor supposedly treating people who believe themselves to be possessed is, of course, actually a front for a Satanist cult. The doctor’s accient gives the film a pseud-European feel. The fairly interesting genre plot idea of this film never reaches its full potential because of choppy editing & probably because the producers were more interested in the explicit sex. It could have had both.
Renfield (2023) **** Modern day Renfield struggles with his duties for Dracula vs. his budding humanity & realization he’s a victim. Funny, gory horror-comedy.
Prison Ship (1945) **** The Japanese put male & female prisoners aboard a prison ship, with the intention of getting the US to sink them. Interesting & brutal.
Suburban Satanist (Satanic Sickies) ** This Satanist flick has Big John Holmes & his famous schlong, but only cursory references to a plot & Satan (aside from a devil mask.)
Sacrilege (Satanic Sickies) *** Like most Satanic Sickies, this flick has sex, but its Manos-like plot of a man seeing visions of a strange woman, visiting a mysterious house in the desert, & then dragging his girlfriend into the surreal plot made it more interesting to me. Though the sex was repetitious.
Harper (1966) **** Paul Newman tries to find Lauren Bacall’s missing husband in 1960s California amid lies, double-dealing & the trials of the times. Good.
Invincible: Atom Eve (standalone) **** As an in-between for the next Invincible series, Atom Eve gets a touching & action-packed origin story. If you like the anime, you’ll dig it.
Midsomer Murders 11-3 Left for Dead **** When a reclusive couple turns up dead, Barnaby & Jones must sort out the killing amid local protests about a bypass going through town.
Shark Week 2023 Sunday **** See separate SHARK WEEK 2023 posting for details of the entire week. Sunday includes Belly of the Beast: Feeding Frenzy ****, Jaws vs. the Meg ***, Serial Killer: Red Sea Feeding Frenzy ***, Shark Week off the Hook ****
Shark Week 2023 Monday ***** Great White Fight Club *****, Monsters of the Bermuda Triangle *****, Alien Sharks: Strange New Worlds *****
Shark Week 2023 Tuesday **** Mako Mania: Battle for California *****, Raiders of the Lost Shark ***, Monster Hammehead: Killer Instinct *****
Shark Week 2023 Wednesday *** Air Jaws: Final Frontier ****, Florida Shark: Blood in the Water ****, Cocaine Sharks ***
Shark Week 2023 Thursday ***** Jaws in the Shallows *****, Monster Mako: Fresh Blood *****, Shark vs. Snake: Battle of the Bites **** Last 2 days of SW in Aug. reviews.

So that’s it… Ending in the middle of Shark Week as my wife and I took off for a road trip, the first real vacation we’ve had since the pandemic started.  And we had a ball, and next month starts with a film we saw during the vacation — the first film we’d seen in a theater in more than 3 1/2 years.  To be continued next month.

“But what about the stats?” I hear you say. Total shows/series for the month (counting each night of Shark Week as one apiece) is a mere 44, which brings the total for the year to 364.  Not bad for a “short” month.

NEXT MONTH:  We finish up Shark Week, and I re-start my now-epic quest to find the best Sword & Sorcery movies.  (Epic not only because of how many movies it’s grown to encompass, but also because of how long it’s taking me to finish the survey.)  Can I possibly wrap it up in August?  Tune in and find out!

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